Sunset House at Christmas

Sunset House at Christmas
Sunset House at Christmas

Thursday, March 31, 2022

03-31-2022 Marching Forward

March is a month when everything is changing. Some days feel like winter, and other days are like spring. Sometimes winter and spring can happen on the same day. The remarkable differences between February and March, however, are the flowers. Mid-month primroses are in full bloom, and the daffodils begin to appear and are in full color by the end of the month.

Mo's birthday is the first of the month, and she usually decides on some kind of travel destination to celebrate. We had only returned a few days earlier from our trip to California, so this time a local celebration was her choice. We went to see "Dog", a charming and entertaining movie.

Dinner at the Taprock Grill ended the day perfectly. Even with the rain, the view of the river and the Caveman Bridge was delightful.

The rain made days indoors a priority, with puzzles and quilting filling my time. I tried a new technique called "Quilt as you Go" for the first time and enjoyed making cute little mugrugs. I gave a few to friends and family and kept one for my bedside table, and it was an excellent way to use up fabric scraps in my stash.

I spent a considerable amount of time working on our trip plans for this coming August. We are doing a tour of New York City with Adventure Caravans. Traveling cross-country to New York requires more planning than ever with the complexity of reservation requirements. RV Trip Wizard is an app that I use since "Streets and Trips" is no longer available. I am getting used to it, and the annual cost isn't bad, but remember the old days when we could own software on our computers instead of online??

Prepping for our New York trip with a New York puzzle

While I am fiddling indoors, Mo usually finds something to do in her shop, where a small heater keeps things comfortable. Her big project was cleaning up a beautiful solid oak drop leaf table that she plans to sell. It is another lovely piece of furniture that we couldn't fit into Sunset House.


In addition to flowers, mid-March is when the grass grows in earnest. Mo had to mow the pasture twice, and I cut the small front lawns a couple of times, much earlier than in years past.

Daughter Melody drove south from Eugene to spend a day with me. Even though we talk and text often, it is a treat to see her in person and get a real Melody hug. Plus is gave her an excuse to take a little trip in her new car. We spent girl time at the Red Lily Vineyard on the Applegate Wine Trail.

The wine is superb, and the Tapas Board a real treat. Even with the sun shining, the March breezes kept us indoors. Those March breezes kicked up quite a storm and blew down power lines across our route back home. I later discovered that it was several hours before the road opened, so our choice to take the long way home through Jacksonville and Medford was good.

Mo and I filled up a few days with a Costco run to Medford, doctor visits, and family visits. After two years of Covid restrictions, I finally got my Coconut Shrimp appetizer fix at Red Lobster in Medford. Even with the virus waning, there is still a shortage of wait staff in most restaurants, and more than half of the restaurant was closed to customers.

Week four brought friends and a camping trip to Brookings, which I wrote about in the previous post. We returned from this trip just in time for a planned outing with Daughter Deborah.  It was spring break and she had a week away from work to do something special. 

She wanted to go wine tasting on the Applegate.  Once again we went to Red Lily for excellent wine and the Tapas Board.  ( This is getting to be a habit!).  The day was beautiful, with sunshine and blue skies. It was still not quite warn enough to sit outside but the tasting room is comfortable and lovely. 

Continuing along the wine trail toward Jacksonville, we visited a winery called "Dancin".  The grounds were gorgeous, and by the time we arrived, the tasting area was quite crowded.  We were informed that we could have a table for just 45 minutes before the next reservation arrived.  We didn’t need any longer because the wine didn’t appeal to us.  Possibly our choice to taste the pinot noir was a mistake, and someday we may go back and try their more prestigious whites. 

We continued along Old Stage Road in Central Point toward home as we attempted to find the Hummingbird Estate.  This last minute choice made our day perfect.  We loved the wine, the view was gorgeous overlooking the Rogue Valley, and the daughter of the owner of the vineyard was delightful. 

She told us stories about their purchase of the vineyard, their winemaking, their young vines, their family, and the history of the house, built in 1926.  Deborah loved the idea of supporting such a lovely local vineyard, bought several bottles of wine and joined their wine club! 

We still managed one more camping trip in March.

The Rogue River winds through our valley on its meandering journey from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean. We are lucky to have several beautiful county parks within a short distance from home. A neighbor who lives down the street from us often talks about camping at Griffin Park. I checked for sites to no avail and then discovered that with a bit of effort, reservations are canceled, and suddenly, a site was available. We snagged site 3, facing the Rogue River, for 3 lovely days at the end of the month.

With only 16 miles to travel and not much to do in the park's vicinity, we decided to go without the Tracker. I wasn't sure we could fill three entire days without exploring somewhere, but it was a perfect choice. We settled into our site on the first cloudy day, knowing the sun would be out in full by the following day. 

Mo managed to pack enough wood in a tote for three campfires, one for each night, and the little WeberQ BBQ fit in the aisle of the MoHo for the short trip. When we talked about taking the car, my first thought was how we would manage to haul the BBQ and the firewood!

The second day was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day, and in the morning, I went for a nice hike/walk along the river. The park is surrounded by BLM land on three sides. Even though houses are nearby, the BLM land provides a bit of a barrier between civilization and open space.

The river was gorgeous. Mo and I walked the path again the next day, checking out how far upstream we could paddle our kayaks before encountering rapids.

I walked around the park road to photograph the gorgeous shooting stars Dodecatheon pulchellum in full bloom. In all my days of wildflower viewing, I have never seen such a huge patch of these flowers in full bloom. I tromped into the grass for closeups in my open-toed sandals.

I realized that I was treading through short stems of newly sprouting poison oak a few minutes later. I am horribly allergic to the stuff and went immediately into panic mode. I know about TechNu but haven't carried it with me since my days working in the California foothills. I walked quickly back to the MoHo, thinking about how to get the oils off my skin. I thought about all those birds and the oil spills. What do the volunteers use to clean the birds? DAWN! I scrubbed my shoes and skin with Dawn and packed my pants into a plastic bag. Success! I didn't get a single blister on my feet or legs.

We invited our friends Maryruth and Gerald to drive out from Grants Pass to join us for an afternoon of dominoes and a BBQ rib early supper. I came prepared with marshmallows, and Maryruth provided the chocolate for the after-supper treat. I purchased the top brand of marshmallows and was shocked to discover that they are about half the size they used to be. If they sell them by the ounce, what is the purpose of making them so small? They were about halfway between a mini marshmallow and a regular marshmallow. I thought about getting the colossal campfire marshmallows. Still, it was impossible to get them into your mouth the last time I tried that! Such a silly thing, yet it made fitting the mallow on the stick very hard and even harder to get the little bit of chocolate into the tiny mallow!   Such a silly thing.

We decided to take another route back home. I got excited when I realized that our trip would take us past the Rogue Creamery. The main store is located in Central Point, but the dairy is tucked away along Lower River Road, a few miles from Grants Pass. I bought some of the world-famous bleu cheese and enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich made with sharp cheddar, a bit of bleu, and honey on sourdough bread. Yum! What a great way to end the month of March.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

03-22-2022 Sharing a Favorite Spot with Friends

Some people I know have many friends they have known since childhood, and some still maintain contact with friends from grade school, high school, and college days. Maybe I moved around too much throughout my lifetime. Still, I managed to keep some treasured friends for a very long time. It is hard for me to believe that Phil and Joanne have been my friends since 1977. Is it possible that it has been 45 years since Phil and I started working together in soil survey?

Phil and I in 1984 in the St Joe NF

Phil was the first person to take me to the field in Bonner County, Idaho, where we dug pits together and tried to put together the puzzle of soil types in those holes and make a coherent map of how they occurred in the landscape. While mapping soils with Phil, I met and became friends with his wife, Joanne. They were around for so many milestones in my life. When they returned West in 2012 after many decades in the Midwest, I was thrilled to have a chance to again spend time with the two of them.

Here are Phil and Joanne with their firstborn son, at my wedding in 1980.  For blog followers who know daughter Melody and friend Maryruth, they are on the right side of the photo.

Phil and Jo have been campers, hikers, and backpackers for years but only recently made the jump and purchased a motorhome. When Joanne called me a couple of weeks ago and said they were possibly picking up their new rig on March 15, Mo and I were excited. First on the agenda would be overnight at Sunset House, where we could compare RVing notes, and they could enjoy their first night in the Unity. Joanne was excited and wanted to head for the coast after their night here.

Great idea, but as most RVr's know, getting a last-minute reservation on the Oregon Coast is nearly impossible. I went to Harris Beach State Park campsite reservations on the web and wasn't surprised to see that all sites were reserved for the next few weeks.

They planned to arrive on Saturday, and on Friday morning, I thought I would check one more time. Sure enough, not only 1 but two sites were available. Even though it was Spring Break, someone had canceled Site A10, front row overlooking the ocean, and Site A7, just across the road from A10. I had 15 minutes to confirm the reservation and took a chance that Phil and Jo would be on board with my choice.

Even though sites in every state park on the Oregon Coast are booked for months in advance, cancellations sometimes appear. It pays to be flexible and vigilant and never give up until the last minute.

Traveling south to Grants Pass from Eugene, our friends arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday. Mattie was thrilled to see Joanne again. When Mo and I traveled to Ireland in 2015, Joanne and Phil kept Mattie for three weeks, saving the trauma of boarding her in a kennel. Joanne and Mattie have a sweet bond. 

The four of us checked out their Unity 25-foot motorhome. We talked about the little details of RV traveling that we so often take for granted. Before supper, there was plenty of time to go uptown to the Weekend Brewing Company, a relatively new spot in Grants Pass. The beer was great, and the location was trendy on this sunny afternoon. Dogs sat indoors with their proud owners, food trucks provided sustenance, and kids and families played on the green lawns in the sunshine. I somehow never thought of a brewery as a place for kids.

Back home, I loaded up a large cod filet with spices and lemons, popped it on the grill, and made coleslaw and roasted veggies. We decided it was a great time to open the bottle of Bokish Verdejo that we purchased on our recent trip to the Lodi wineries.

WeatherUnderground predicted decent weather for Sunday and Monday. The days would be cloudy but with no rain. Sun would arrive in full on Tuesday, but that didn't matter. Any day at the beach, even cloudy ones, is good. With the park just two hours west and check-in at 2 PM, we had a leisurely morning before leaving Grants Pass around 11:30. The drive was easy. Anyone who has driven Highway 199 knows it is narrow and winding. There are turnouts, but sometimes they are a bit short. I was in the lead and tried to ensure that any turnout I used could accommodate both rigs.

Pulling into the park just before 2, we settled into our respective sites quickly. Even with the cloudy skies, the ocean view was lovely from the A row. A short walk around the park before dinner allowed me to point out the various trails down to the beach and the Bluff Trail.

Here we are in A-7 with Phil and Jo across from us in A-10

Supper was easy, with pre-cooked veggie taco meat for Phil and Joanne and spicy beef taco meat for us. Homemade salsa and lots of condiments rounded out the meal. Before supper, Mo started a campfire, and by the time we finished eating, the coals were almost ready for marshmallows. Lucky for me, Joanne brought chocolate to stuff into the hot marshmallows to melt into gooey goodness.

Here is a photo of A10 one year when Mo and I took that site

Even with the park full of kids celebrating Spring Break, the park was surprisingly quiet all night. Monday morning, low tide was at 8:30, and Mo and I headed for the beach in time to see one of the lowest tide levels we have experienced at Harris Beach. At first, I lamented the lack of sea stars on the rocks, but I discovered many as we walked north along the water's edge. The sea stars species are at risk, and it was a thrill to see so many of them tucked into the rocks.

Mattie loved her walk, as usual, tearing around in the sand and leaping over the little streams on the beach. She found rocks to climb and enjoyed the ability to run leash-free on the nearly empty beach.

We returned to the park in time to ask a ranger if there was an available site for that night. When we asked on Sunday, they told us to check again around 10 AM on the day we wanted to stay. We were lucky enough to get another canceled reservation site right next to our existing site.

Phil and Jo ran a few shopping errands with our little car before returning to the park to prepare for our afternoon excursion. We planned a walking trip to Chetco Park Trail, where Mo and I had taken Mattie on her first visit to Harris Beach in 2015. The trail isn't long, paved near the entrance, and reasonably smooth and nearly level in most parts. 

The parking lot is a surprise unless one knows where to walk beyond the sewage facility. Near the trail's beginning is a nice new dog park where Mattie could run. We saw many dogs on our walk, but there were none at the dog park when we arrived after our walk.

The views from the peninsula are beautiful, with pristine beaches below the rocks, wide-open ocean vistas to the West, and tiny wildflowers tucked among the windblown shrubs and grasses along the trail.

We ended the afternoon with an early supper at Super Fly Martini Bar, a trendy place Mo and I discovered in December when we visited the festival with Maryruth and Gerald. As before, the martinis were stellar, and the food was delicious. We had excellent service, good hot food, and an atmosphere that wasn't noisy despite the holiday week.

After supper, Mo drove around town a bit, showing Phil and Jo some of the things we love about Brookings. Sadly I got no photos of our lovely walk through Azaela Park, where the rhodies were beginning to bloom. I showed Joanne the Azalea Light Festival pictures from our previous visits in December. Already plans are made for reserving sites for the four of us at Harris Beach during the festival next winter. 

Once again, we concluded our evening with a campfire and marshmallows. Phil and Joanne decided that the park was so wonderful that they wanted to extend their reservation for another night. The following day they walked the beach at low tide, but not before checking with the ranger for a site for the coming night. They were successful!

I learned that even though everything is fully booked, it is sometimes worth it to double-check with the park rangers for possible cancellations or open sites. As I told Phil, I would always have a backup plan if this didn't work, especially in the summer. There is nothing worse than having no place to go and having to settle in somewhere unknown in the dark.

Mo and I enjoyed Tuesday morning with brilliant sunshine lighting up the skies. We took our time getting ready to leave the park. With check-out time at 1 PM, there was no hurry.

I took a bit of time to hike the short but steep trail up to Harris Bluff.  I went alone so I could test myself a bit but I did take the phone.  The view was worth every slow, careful step!

We watched Phil and Jo drive by to their new site before heading up the hill to wish them goodbye and happy travels.

One last note. Mo and I often hook up the Tracker outside the park at the parking area along the upper trail. We learned that it isn't smart to expect that area to be empty, and I had to return to the parking lot adjacent to the dumpsite to have room to hook up. Neither of us is comfortable hooking up in the park roadways. 

Our trip home was uneventful, with some traffic and sunny skies. We were parked and unloaded within an hour of arriving at home. I talked with Joanne this morning. They were happy with their decision to stay another night, even though it meant that Joanne had to cancel some necessary appointments. Her last words to me were, "I can see why people want to do this all the time. I want to run away forever."