Old Lady Purse Fight

Being cheap can be a good thing many times, but there are other times that it can cause you to make less than rational decisions.

I tell you this because I had purchased some dental floss way back in Oregon and it turned out to be somewhat defective. It just wouldn’t feed out properly. Each night, I would pick it up, try to get the floss out, realize it was stuck, cuss at it, open it up, get some out and then try to fix it. Then Susanne would come in and do the same. We both were mumbling at it.

“$#%$# floss!”

“grrrr……there must be a way to fix it”

“damn stupid floss, I will fix you!”

The offending dental floss

Of course, since mumbling was involved, this upset Sadie. We could have just thrown the damn thing out, but we were too cheap. So now we just leave it open and pray for the day when we are done with it. Thankfully we are almost done with it.

Now on to chapter 3 of the Grand Adventure. As you may or may not recall, when we had visited our friend Billy Mo’ in New Mexico in July, we had met a couple of his friends, Geoff and Carolyn, and hit it off right away. They have a house down in Mexico and like to go down there for the winter and were looking for someone to house sit for them. They have an old dog and a semi-friendly cat and their daughter (Amelia) lives downstairs with her dog Leo. We talked about it and decided we could commit for at least 3 months of house sitting with the option to stay until May, since that is when they plan to return from Mexico.

It’s a super nice house right in downtown Ft. Collins, so we were pretty excited to get back to Colorado for a while.

We headed out from Santa Barbara and decided to break up to the drive into a two-nighter with the first night in St. George, Utah and the second in Glenwood Springs, CO. The drive to St. George wasn’t bad and the La Quinta there was decent…despite being located next a super scary gun shop. Ugh.

The next day was shorter (6.5 hrs) so I scoped out a hike to do just outside of Grand Junction so that the entire pack could stretch their legs and get some fresh air after being cooped up in the car for two days. We found the trailhead for “Palisades Rim Trail” and headed out. It was a gorgeous sunny day in the high 50’s, but with the intense Colorado sun it felt much warmer. It was about a 4 mile hike through some beautiful canyons and some great views of the Book Cliffs.

Enjoying a nice walk in Grand Junction

We had a nice room at the Fairfield Inn in Glenwood that was a full-on suite. This made Sadie very happy as she was then blessed with her own couch. She does love her comfortable furniture. We had prepped our dinners before leaving Santa Barbara and we were grateful. It was nice to just hang out in the spacious room with our own food and wine and dog.

The drive to Ft. Collins was easy, despite Google trying to take us on some crazy route that would have been 5 hrs vs. 3.5 hrs. What the heck is wrong with Google maps!?

Our home away from home for a while

We got to the house around 12:30 and started unpacking. It is a very nice craftsman style home right close to downtown Ft. Collins. It has a great backyard and is close some good walks and great bike rides.

We have committed to house sit through at least the end of February, but the way things are going in New Zealand, it may be that we stay until May when Geoff and Carolyn come back. I will say, the vibe of Ft. Collins is great and I can think of a lot worse places to be hanging out while we wait on this crazy slow process called immigration.

Our duties are pretty simple. There is Sara, the very ancient cattle dog that we need to take care of. There is Kitty, a former barn cat, who comes and goes as she pleases, and is less than thrilled by the dogs. She hisses on at them on a regular basis to let them know just how she feels. They walk a wide swath around her. She occasionally hisses at the humans as well. We walk a wide swath around her. There is an apartment in the basement where Amelia, their daughter, lives with her dog Leo. We can coordinate with Amelia if we ever need to go somewhere for a while and when she is off at school we take care of Leo.

The pack settling into the new situation

The dogs seem to get along, mostly. Sadie continues to be a crabby old lady who snarls at any dog that gets too close to her comfortable chair. Sara is pretty old and decrepit, but gets pretty pushy when there is attention to be had. Leo is a sweet younger dog that just wants Sadie to play with her. Sadie snarls at him and tells him that he not allowed to have fun. But in the grand scheme of things they are doing well together after just a couple of days.

Sadie had her first encounter with cat the other night on the back stairs. That cat gave her a big nasty hiss and Sadie wisely beelined it out of there. None of the dogs wants anything to do with the cat. I think they know she means business if they get too close.

Leo
Sara

Susanne takes Sara out in the morning and I take Sadie. We have to split duties because Sara is soooooooooo slow and about once around the block is all she can muster with her old bones.

One day when we came back, Sara got in Sadie’s face and Sadie got all crabby and then Sara got all crabby and then they started snarling and getting even crabbier with each other. It was two old dogs getting crabby over nothing; it was kind of funny. Reminded me of two old ladies swinging at each other with their purses. In the end, they both retired to living room and fell asleep.

Anyway, we are happy to be here and happy for Geoff and Carolyn’s amazing generosity to let us enjoy their beautiful home. It will be a nice place to hang out for the winter.

Beach Turkey

Ok, I have fallen way behind on the travel blog, but my excuse is that we had a lot of driving and I was lazy. After Chapter 1, we had a big reconfig to drop the trailer off, get some life stuff taken care of in Flagstaff, and then hang out in Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving before we headed to our house sitting gig in Ft. Collins.

After driving back and forth across the west, it was nice to get to Santa Barbara and hang out at my sister’s house. They were all in Michigan for the holiday, so we had the place to ourselves.

The last couple of times in Santa Barbara, we had pretty crappy weather by SB standards, but this time the weather was amazing. Mid 70’s and sunny pretty much the whole time. It was lovely. Every time we go to Santa Barbara it is hard not to wish that we lived there again. However, $3 Million will buy you a fixer-upper. Yikes.

We also got blessed with some good low tides which makes for some excellent beach walking. It was low enough that all of the egrets came down to the tide pools to eat various sea creatures. On one day we saw a couple of dolphins out swimming along the shore. Stunning.

We mostly hung out and walked on the beach, and I got some great bike rides in as well. I did not do the usual sufferfest up to La Cumbre peak, but I did my favorite loop around Mountain Drive twice! The hills always feel steep in Santa Barbara, but you do get to ride by all the various movie star’s houses.

Old fat guy alert!!

One day we decided to go down and do some wine tasting at our favorite winery–Margerum. They have a really lovely patio that you can sit at and watch the world go by as you sip some nice wines. We ordered the premium flight of wines and some olives as a snack. The wines were all excellent, but when we got to the syrah, I smelled it and it had a really off odor to it. I tasted a bit and it was awful. I had Susanne confirm for me and she smelled and spat out “It’s corked!” The woman who had served it had finished off the bottle on our pour and was back getting some more.

When she returned, I nicely pointed out to her that the wine was bad. She apologized and went to get another one. I think at that point she realized that she had served the whole bottle to various other people and quickly ran back out and replaced a few other people’s glass of wine. Hugh Margerum (one of the owners) happened to be sitting next to us and heard it all go down and said they do a lot of training with the staff on recognizing the off flavors. It goes to show you, most people just don’t have much of a palate for wine and didn’t even notice it was bad. I guess we are wine snobs and not afraid to act like it.

Wine tasting

We decided to get a small turkey (9 lbs) for Thanksgiving and we were determined to not cook for 50 people like we usually do, since there was just the two of us. Well, Sadie would argue that she deserved a full helping of the food and it should be the three of us. We had turkey, brussels sprouts with bacon, scalloped potatoes and sweet potatoes in cheese and cream, corn bread and andouille sausage stuffing, and some gravy. For desert, Susanne made her world-class flan. It was super yummy and we managed to only cook enough for 8 people. Sadie was happy that she got lots of scraps of turkey too.

On the 28th we headed out for Fort Collins. It was a lovely stay in SB and as always I am deeply grateful for Laura and Frank’s generosity. Sadie loves the place. She seems to feel like it is her second home and she even has her own special chair in the living that she loves. She spent a lot of time out in the back yard soaking up the sun and roasting her old lady bones.

6,435 Miles

We have come to the end of Chapter 1 in the Grand Adventure. It started on August 10th in Flagstaff and has ended up back in Flagstaff after a long 6,435 mile, 3-month loop around the Western United States. When we left it was hot and smoky and now we are deep into fall. Already it is hard to remember everything that we — it is amazing how quickly our memories fade. It is one of the big reasons I like to write travel blogs.

Don’t believe that mileage, it was a lot longer

After we left Aptos, we drove out to the Mojave Desert National Preserve for a couple days via Lake Isabella. We were going to stay out in the Carrizo Plains, but the weather looked a bit iffy so we diverted to Lake Isabella for the night.

This took us up through the Kern River canyon, which was a complete blast from the past. In college we used to go rafting on the Kern River all the time. It was a flood of memories as we drove up into the canyon. I had also forgotten just how narrow and windy the road was. It was a bit hairball hauling the trailer through there. Not Shelter Cove hairball, but hairball nonetheless.

Entering Kern River Canyon — a sober reminder

The lake was ridiculously low in water. The camp area was just on the shore of the lake, but you had to drive down quite far to get close to the lake. We found a spot and set up camp. The lake really looked pretty sad with all the mud and stumps sticking out. I don’t think you could even take a boat on it.

Sunrise at Lake Isabella

It rained a bit that night, but not so much that we had any trouble getting out of the camping spot. We headed out toward Mojave National Preserve, about a 4-hour drive. Our plan was to go to a boondock campsite we had seen when we were there in February freezing our butts off when we hiked up Teutonia peak. We got there and luckily nobody was around and we ended up in a really nice spot just on the slopes of Mt. Kessler. After setting up camp and walking Sadie, we settled in for a nice dinner and some wine. Sadly, we had forgotten to grab the left over pulled pork from the freezer in Aptos so we had to make do with carrot soup and cheese. It was yummy nonetheless.

There was a gigantic fire in this area a few years ago that wiped out a lot of Joshua trees. According to the National Park Service:

“The Dome Fire, in Mojave National Preserve, burned 43,000 acres and over a million Joshua trees in summer 2020. Will invasives take hold there as well, changing the ecosystem forever?”

It was very sad to see for sure. Luckily our campsite had a nice little patch of trees that had been spared by the fire.

Very sad to see all those Joshua trees burned to a crisp

I had wanted to climb up Mt. Kessler, which was right behind us, but after scoping it out, it did involve a cross-country scramble that was not going to be all the fun for Susanne. So, I looked for a different hike and ended deciding on Barber Peak Loop trail which was about 6 miles without too much climbing. It also was looking attractive because that is a part of the Preserve that we had never been to before.

We got up in the morning and had some coffee and lazed around for awhile. The day was gorgeous and the wind had died down. It was supposed to be a high of 65 degrees with no clouds….perfecto!

It was about an hour drive to get there with about half on dirt road. Overall, it was pretty easy drive as far as driving out in the Preserve goes. There were a few people in the campground, but mostly the place was quite empty. We set out around 10 am and did the 6 miles. Sadie was happy to be out and about in the desert. Well, except for the one place that had a boatload of cactus and she kept getting them stuck in her paws. Luckily our days in Phoenix had trained us to always carry tweezers when out in the desert. This was a hard learned lesson for me after the time I got a cholla ball stuck in my butt while mountain biking….but that’s a story for another day.

Humbling in its sparseness

I really like the Mojave desert. It is very different than the Sonoran desert which is much more lush and vibrant. The Mojave is very barren and made up mostly of creosote bushes with the occasional cactus. Many people don’t like it; they say it is boring. I don’t find it that way. I find it humbling and subtle. It is that kind of place that can kill you quickly if you are not careful. Not a place to go in the summer. But I like the sheer scale of it.

Things look quite close and then you try to walk to them and you realize how wrong your perception was about the distances. In grad school, I did a lot of field work out in the Mojave and really fell in love with it.

There was a little slot canyon that cut through a big volcanic flow that the park service had put some rings into to help people climb up through a few of the tricky sections. On the web, people acted like this was just the best hike ever. It was too tricky for Sadie so we walked around it. However, I did go back and check it out to see what all the fuss was about. I will say, it was pretty ho-hum. Way overrated in my book. But there you have it.

The heavily overrated Ring Loop trail
Ho-hum, whatever

We headed back to camp and sat outside enjoying the beautiful sunset with a nice glass of wine. It was a great day.

We got up in the morning and headed toward Flagstaff. We had one night in a hotel there before we were going to head out to Placitas New Mexico to visit our friend Bill and where we were going to leave the trailer for the winter. It felt a bit weird to be back in Flag after 3 months on the road. I thought it would be a lot harder than it was and overall we really had a great time fishing, hiking, biking and just generally living a simple life.

We dropped off Clark at Bill’s house, drank a lot of his great wine, and ate some good food. Next up, Flagstaff for a few days taking care of life things like doctors and booster shots. Then it is off to Santa Barbara followed by a 3-month house sitting gig in Ft. Collins. But for now we will just enjoy and remember what a wonderful chapter 1 we have had on the Grand Adventure.

And that concludes Chapter 1.

Our good buddy, Billy Mo
Clark hanging out in New Mexico for the winter

Hasta Luego to Aptos

Well, our time here in Aptos has come to a close. We had a great couple of weeks hanging out with two of the most amazing people I know: Jason and Cynthia. They are fun, kindhearted, generous, and just great to hang out with. We have known them for a long time now and have done a lot travel adventures together. As I pointed out in the “about us,” we are on a quest to simplify our lives. This trip has been great for connecting with some people we haven’t seen in a while and spending time here in Aptos really highlights that it isn’t about stuff, it is about hanging out with people that make you a better person.

We have a lot of fun together. We cook great food. We enjoy nature and beauty. We give each other unending amounts of shit. We support each other. Occasionally we overindulge, but hey, there are worse things, no?

We were a bit worried about how Bodie (J&C’s dog) and Sadie would work out. The biggest issue was that Bodie is an old man and has lost a lot of his senses including his sight. Poor guy. He is unquestionably the nicest dog that I have ever met. Plus, Sadie is a bit of a bitchy bitch at times. We were very diligent and everything went swimmingly well. In fact, on the last night Sadie stealthily went down to where Bodie was and got on the couch. It was super cute.

Sadie and Bodie

Let’s do a quick recap of the fun we have had:

Watching the big waves and surfers in Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz. I love to think that I have a hope of catching those waves, but in my heart I know that it is more fun to watch these dudes on them than get out there and get crushed. I think the knees are just not up for surfing anymore and I was never good enough to do that kind of surfing. But holy cow it is fun to watch!

That’s me out there…..in my mind
50 feet of massive power

Flying in One Seven Delta Mike over Big Sur and Monterey. Wowzaa! See previous post. It is awesome to have Jason fly us around in his plane. It is equally awesome to see how much he loves it. Yeah for everyone involved!

A man on a mission

Hiking in Byrne-Milliron Forest. One day we went up to a unique little redwood grove outside of Corralitos. As one website puts it:

“402-acre property tucked away on the outskirts of bucolic Corralitos lie not just miles of hiking trails but numerous hidden works of art. Jeff Helmer, who been stewarding the Byrne-Milliron Forest Preserve since the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County purchased it in 1984, has festooned this place with large wooden sculptures, small mementos and other tchotchkes, including guest books.”

I love hiking through the redwoods. It always amazes me how dark and mysterious they are. The ferns, sour grass, moss all make it seem from another world. There is nothing like it and it reminds me so much of my childhood running around through the forests of Humboldt County exploring the dark and wonderful secrets within. It wasn’t a hard hike, but it was gorgeous and not crowded. A lovely day.

One of the fanciful pieces of art in the forest

Riding up through Nisene-Marks State Park: There is a state park near Jason and Cynthia’s house that has some beautiful redwoods and a nice ride up to an overlook that gives you a view of the Pacific. It was a lovely ride, hard but not too hard and definitely just fun. I did this ride 3 times because I thought it was so pleasant.

Paddle boarding in New Brighton: Jason, Cynthia, and I went out to New Brighton State Beach to get some time on the water. They took their prone boards and I took our inflatable SUP. The ocean was pretty calm, but the inflatable got pretty gooey in the cold water so I mostly just had to kneel. We paddled out to Capitola and back and it was lovely.

Sea otter! (sadly I didn’t take this pic)

We even saw a sea otter along the way; that was pretty spiffy. A bunch of life guards were doing rescue training on the beach in skidoos when we got back. As I was getting out of the water, one asked me if I needed help getting my board up the stairs. Doh! Thanks, but now I feel really old!

Seeing Tom Knight: One of my old high school friends, Tom Knight, lives in Watsonville so we got together for dinner….well kind of. I hadn’t seen Tom in 30 years, so it was fun to catch up. We scheduled dinner at Ella’s at the Airport and Susanne and I met up with Tom and Blanca. Tom has taught 4th grade for over 30 years now and it was really inspiring to hear how passionate he still is to teach these youngsters. He met his wife Blanca while he was spending time in Mexico teaching and we had a super fun conversation reconnecting. The only bummer was that we never actually got to eat dinner because after 2 hours of waiting for food to show up, we gave up and left. It was a super weird experience for sure. Oh well, there you have it.

Hiking Around Point Lobos: The day after we flew down to Big Sur and over Point Lobos, we decided to drive down there and hike around the trails in the park. The marine layer was hanging just on the edge of the coast, so it alternated between foggy and sunny. There were a lot of people, but it still didn’t detract from the amazing beauty of the place. We saw some sea lions, seals, sea otters, pelicans, herons, and lots of other birds. If you are ever in Monterey, this is a definite must see place to visit.

Cooking and Eating Great Food: Wow did we eat some good food. It is almost hard to remember it all. Let’s see:

  • Cynthia’s Mexican shrimp with red chili sauce
  • Grilled pork loin with elderberry sauce (from Wenatchee!)
  • Cheese cake with elderberry sauce
  • Grilled Opah (a fish from Fiji)
  • Pulled pork
  • Flourless chocolate torte with elderberry sauce
  • Coq au Vin
  • Fish Kebabs
  • Chicken Mexican bowl with guacamole, black beans, rice …

It was all amazing and we all cooked together which was fun. You always learn new things when you cook with other good cooks.

Beach Walks: The beach near their house is awesome. It stretches for nine miles and is easy to walk and best of all bests it that dog can run around off leash. When J&C were off working, Susanne and I would look at each as say, “we should go explore something new.” Inevitably, we would decide to just go walk on the beach again. Sadie was more than happy with that! I really do miss the beach.

Lovely sunset
Happy dog
Just another day at the beach

So now we are off on to the next leg of our trip. The current plan is to head toward Flagstaff through the Mojave, pick up our winter clothes, and then drive out to Placitas, NM to visit our friend Bill and drop off the trailer for the winter there.

Both Susanne and I are so grateful for the wonderful friendship we have with Jason and Cynthia and miss them already.

The Team

One Seven Delta Mike

The first time I ever flew in an airplane was with my Uncle Emery in his small plane when we visited Phoenix when I was about 8 or 9. He took me up flying and I just thought it was the greatest thing ever! It was so cool be up off the ground and seeing how different the earth looked from 3000′ above. I have dreamed about getting a pilot’s license, but I guess in my heart I knew that it was probably not a hobby that was for me. It requires incredible attention to detail and quite a bit of money.

Thankfully, our friend Jason decided to get his pilot’s license and now owns his own plane. We have been lucky enough to have him take us flight seeing all over the place here in the Bay Area and once out in Flagstaff. It has been amazing! I love flying with Jason because he is an incredible pilot that instills confidence. And I get to learn a lot of about being a pilot when I fly with him.

Meteor crater in Arizona
Golden Gate Bridge

The weather was looking really good, so Jason suggested that we go for a flight seeing trip down over Monterey to Big Sur and then back again. Sign me up! We walked Sadie in the morning and then headed out to the Watsonville airport where his plane is stored. The weather was quite nice but a bit breezy at times.

Jason bought a Cessna Cardinal, which is nice top-winged, 4-seater plane, from some dudes in Riverside who had totally tricked the plane out with a lot avionics. And according to the always-accurate Wikipedia:

“The Cessna 177 was designed in the mid-1960s when the engineers at Cessna were asked to create a “futuristic 1970s successor to the Cessna 172.” The resulting aircraft featured newer technology such as a cantilever wing lacking the lift struts of previous models, and a new laminar flow airfoil.”

Anywho, it’s a cool plane and really comfortable for the four of us. The back seat is surprisingly roomy and actually provides the best view for flight seeing in my humble opinion.

Susanne, Cynthia, and Jason with One Seven Delta Mike
The tricked-out avionics in the cockpit

We headed out from Watsonville airport and south toward Monterey. There was an air show going on in Salinas, so Jason had to be careful to not fly into the restricted air space. At one point we saw three planes spewing out a trail of smoke; that was cool. I think the thing about being in a plane flown by your friend is you get to listen to all the comms going on. It amazes me how good Jason is at hearing what the tower is asking him to do and communicating back. I guess that is one of the most fundamental parts of flying, especially when you are in busy airspace.

We worked our way over Monterey, down past Carmel, Point Lobos, and then into Big Sur. It is an incredible piece of coastline if you have never had the pleasure of seeing it. Very rugged. The view from 2000′ was awesome.

The famous Bixby Bridge on Highway 1

Jason dropped the plane to about a 1000′ and we headed back north toward Monterey. The views were just awesome the whole way. There was a fair amount of air traffic as we approached Monterey and the tower called in to ask Jason to do a couple woopdeedoo 360’s over Carmel Bay to buy some time so a commercial jet could take off from the Monterey airport. That was fun.

The very famous Pebble Beach golf course

We headed back to Watsonville and made a perfect landing. I was going to take some photos of Jason flying, but it had been a lot of work and we decided that beer sounded better so we headed home. Sadie, of course, was rightfully pissed off that she got left behind again. How could anyone treat the Queen that way?

We had yet another incredible dinner and topped it off with cheesecake topped with elderberry sauce that we had brought all the way from Wenatchee. It was truly a great day and if there is anything this trip has taught me, it is that the real value in life are friends and family, the time we get to spend with them.

yummy!

Atmospheric River

We decided to leave Shelter Cove a day early because the weather was really building up to be pretty bad. Since the house didn’t really have a view, we didn’t see any good point in sitting in there all day while it rained. We were also a bit concerned about driving the trailer up and over that road in a driving rain storm.

We were originally going to go visit our friends Donn and Mandy in San Jose, but they both got the flu so we had to cancel that. I looked online and had enough points to get us a room in Rohnert Park at a Fairfield Inn. It was a good location because it would also help break up the drive and get us to Aptos before the atmospheric river hit.

According to NOAA:

“Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.

Whoa. Don’t want to get caught up in that…no, thank you.

We drove to Gilroy, found the RV storage place, recombobulated our stuff and headed to Aptos. The weather was cloudy but not bad so we headed down to the beach for a walk. Sadie, of course, was happy.

Jason and Cynthia showed up around 6, but they couldn’t fly over because the forecast was pretty bad. It was great to see them as always.

Monarch butterfly

We drove out to the monarch butterfly sanctuary to go and see what we could see. It was a tad disappointing as there just weren’t many butterflies around. There were a couple of owls, but they were playing hard to get and at best you could see their butt. Not super exciting. I did get a couple good shots though. It was helpful to try out my 600 lens since I hadn’t really used since it got calibrated. Seems like it is working fine.

That’s a lot o rain!

Sunday the atmospheric river hit. First with huge wind and then rain. Luckily for us, we were just a bit south of the worst of it. It was a good thing we weren’t in Rohnert Park as that area got just absolutely pounded.

Sadly Jason and Cynthia had to go to work on Monday, so we were on our own. After a wet start to the day, it cleared out and got nice. The swell was forecasted to be 20′ in Santa Cruz, so we decided to go check out the swells smashing into the cliffs. We parked and headed out to the path running along the cliff just north of Steamer Lane. The waves were really impressive. In places it was splashing up over the sea wall which was 50′ or 60′ above the ocean. We just stood there and watched the impressive display of power and turbulence. Every time there was a big splash everyone that was watching would go “OOOOOHHH!!! AAAAHHH!!!” It was fun. There were a couple guys that were out surfing in it. Holy cannoli batman! Those dudes are either (a) really good, (b) crazy, or (c) both.

That splash is over 50′ feet high.

We were glad that our timing was such that we were hanging out at Jason and Cynthia’s place during the storm. That wouldn’t have been much fun in the trailer. Hopefully the weather will be good for the rest of our stay.

Soaked to a Squishy

The Kiwis have some great slang…almost as good as the Aussies. When I was doing field work there for my Masters, after a hard day in the field where it was raining all day long, I would often head in to town and go the pub for dinner and a pint. When describing my day to the bar tender, he commented. “Well then mate, you were soaked to a squishy weren’t you?” I always liked that and use it to describe when you get drenched in a rain storm.

After deciding to evacuate from Coos Bay due to the oncoming rain, we got up in the morning, packed up, and headed out. I was hoping to get past most of the narrow windy road before the heavens decided to open up and douse us with “Milford Sound Sheets of Rain.”

We made it all the way to Smith River before it really started coming down. Driving the trailer on a narrow windy road in a downpour is always loads of fun. We stopped in Arcata for some gas and to say hi to my old home town and it was really pissing. There was a time when I was a kid that we had 52 days of rain in a row. You don’t tan in the Pacific Northwest, you rust.

We stopped in Fortuna at the Safeway and headed out Highway 36 to the Van Duzen campground. It’s a gorgeous area with some really cool groves of redwoods. It’s quite narrow in places and required great caution in the pouring rain. We pulled into the campground and tried to find a spot. There was one other RV there and a few other campers. It was a confusing pull-in and spaces were super narrow. We tried one, but it was just too small to get the trailer in. I circled around and we were able to back it into another one.

A giant Redwood tree in our camp site

It was really raining hard and we were both a bit tired. In the mayhem of looking for a spot and spotting me with the trailer, Susanne lost her phone. Ugh. Then, I was blocking the road as we were unhitching and I rushed things a bit, forgot to put the blocks on the wheels and then forgot to unhook the emergency electric brake on the trailer. Doh!

That said, it was a lovely little campground that was quite private and surrounded by gigantic redwood trees. It is very popular in the summer as there is great swimming and a nice beach on the Van Duzen river.

Susanne found her phone in the car under the seat, thankfully, but had to walk all the way out to the kiosk to pay for the site. By the time she got back she had gone from moderately wet to completely soaked to a squishy, even with a good raincoat on. Sadie was not overly thrilled by all the rain and we all were quite happy to get into the trailer, put some dry clothes on and get the heater cranking. Although it was a bit of a crazy day to travel, we both decided we had made a good call to use this as the transit day to Shelter Cove.

Morning mist clearing on Swimmer’s Delight

We ended up sleeping in late. Like 8 am. Which for us is REALLY late. There was water still pounding on the roof of the trailer and I think both of us were happy to just lie there in our cozy surroundings. I started to realize that it wasn’t rain, but just water dripping off the trees. Yeah! I took Sadie out for a short walk and the skies were definitely clearing. It was looking like our plan was a success. I chatted with the park ranger, who was very pleasant and told me all about the hikes I could do. There weren’t too many as the state park up the road was closed and the famous Cheatham grove with it. Plus, it’s California — they don’t allow dogs in the state parks.

Evidently, part of the “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” was filmed there. Besides the “no dogs” downer, it was really wet and soggy and neither Susanne or I felt like being sawed in half by a E-11 Blaster Rifle which is the weapon of choice for the Storm troopers of the Galactic Empire

Please don’t shoot! We come in peace.

We strolled around the campground and enjoyed the redwoods. It is definitely an off-the-beaten-path campground that is worth a visit. We had our coffee and packed up; I managed to fix the emergency break on the trailer which is good because it would have been a big bummer otherwise. Doh. Always go through the checklist when unhitching.

It was only 1.5 hours to get to Shelter Cove. We stopped at a gas station in Fortuna, which had a free RV dump (THANK YOU!!!) and headed south on 101. At Redway you get on the road to Shelter Cove. Several developers really tried to get Shelter Cove to become a destination, but the access is, to say the least, difficult. It has a small airport that is rarely accessible due to the crappy weather and the road is something to behold. I knew it was rough, but had downplayed it a bit to Susanne.

It is very narrow….very, very narrow. And steep. Wenatchee would be proud of just how steep it is. Many of the hills are 20% to 25% grades. It would be a challenge in a passenger car, but it required full attention while hauling a trailer with a big RAM 1500. And there was a surprising amount of traffic which added an even bigger level of difficulty.

If you could only see that this was about 25% grade. Gnarly.

The drop down into Shelter Cove was intimidating. Very narrow and steep. I had Lewis in first gear and that wasn’t enough to hold back the power of gravity. Even with the engine breaking like crazy, you could still smell the brakes burning a bit. We were both glad to get down the thing. Of all the roads I have taken the trailer on, this one and Highway 66 dropping into Ashland, Oregon have been the most challenging. That is ignoring the 4×4 road in which I sheared off the steps on the trailer. So, let’s say in the “paved roads” category, I give the win to Shelter Cove.

We got to the Airbnb and met Jody our host there. The space to put the trailer in was tight, but we managed to get it safely in there and headed down to the famous black sand beach. Sadie was super happy to be out of the car and running around on the beach.

Happy dog!

It is a staggeringly beautiful place. It reminds me a lot of the coastline on the western side of Kauai. Huge mountains just plummeting down into the sea. The Lost Coast Trail is a famous hike along the coast here, but it’s quite hard to get a permit. The sand on the beach is very black and well sorted — the grains are all very uniform in nature. For those that are interested, the sand comes from the erosion of a piece of ocean bottom floor that got caught up in the Mendocino triple junction, the place where three plates come together just north of Shelter Cove. It marks the transition from the strike-slip regime of the San Andreas fault to the subduction zone that makes up the Cascades.

As you walk around on the outcrops there, you can see big pillows of basalt that were formed on a mid-ocean ridge. This then got caught up into a subduction zone, scraped off, and brought to surface now in Shelter Cove. It is way more complex than that, but you get the idea. Crazy unique place in the world in terms of plate tectonics and geology.

Lonely beauty

We went back to the place to move our stuff in. It was pretty basic but fine. No real view as it was tucked back in the trees in a gully. That said, when you only spend $120/night, beggars can’t be choosers.

We drove back down to cruise around Shelter Cove. There isn’t much there. An RV park, which is BTW, for sale. If you are interested in living a quiet life in a beach town with terrified people showing up in their RVs exclaiming just how gnarly the road is, then maybe this is your opportunity.

There were some nice little parks right on the ocean front that we stopped at to check out. One in particular, Abalone Point was gorgeous and had some nice picnic tables to just sit and watch the ocean. So we did.

Taking in the rhythm of the ocean at Abalone Point

It was early (3 pm), but undeterred by that and the desire to make our friends Jason and Cynthia proud, we vowed to uphold the time-honored motto of “drink through it” so we opened up some wine and just watched the world go by. It was really nice.

The waves were pretty violent, so it was fun to watch them smashing into the shore. I would walk down to the edge and try and get some good photos. This made Susanne nervous. Sadie also kept her distance. But all was good, I kept a close eye on the waves and got some cool shots.

A storm is a comin’

We hung out for a couple hours and enjoyed the nice weather. The clouds would come and go, but it was so nice to just sit there and relax and marvel at the beauty of the place.

Happy hour? Sure! Why not!

We were glad to have such good weather as the forecast was looking pretty grim for the future. We thought we might get one more walk on the beach in before it all went into Milford Sound Sheets of Rain, but for now, it was great to just sit there and enjoy.

oooph! maybe that one was a bit bigger than expected!

50,000 Lumens

As we have traveled around, you start to get a glimpse into the various nomadic tribes rambling around the country. They really range in type, reason and activities. One class of nomads are the people who go from part time job to part time job living in their RVs. When we stayed at a campground on the way to Montana one time, we encountered a few people in this class. They camped in the RV park next to truck stop that they worked at.

Another set of people are the retired. They tend be more affluent and have fancier rigs. They tend to congregate and are often in smashed together in RV parks. I think it is the social aspect of these spaces that they like.

Next we have the student/young people/screw the man types. They tend to be in tents and are out seeking adventure between schools (e.g., undergrad and grad), jobs, or just a general disgust for the US system. They are the ones when it’s raining Milford Sound Sheets of Rain that I feel sorry for…having been there myself.

In Coos Bay, we encountered a different set of nomads. These were the folks that were totally committed to fishing, especially ocean fishing. At the Bastendorff county campground, it was clear that this was a place for the nomad fisherman to congregate. An area in the campground had a group of RVs, most with boats, that clearly knew each other well.

Clark at Bastendorff County Park

At this point, I am not quite sure which tribe of nomads we belong to. We have attributes of the retired group and the young screw-the-man types, but we don’t neatly fit into either.

The 15th of November was the last day of crab season and on the morning of the 16th, there was a big parade of RVs leaving the camp. Fishing season was over and the nomads were moving on. Not sure where they went to next, but probably Washington or Canada where the fishing season was still ongoing.

Bastendorff beach. A great place to be a dog!

The first two days in Coos Bay the weather was quite nice and we headed out to the state parks near by to do some sightseeing and hiking. Bastendorff beach was very nice and popular with the locals. Unlike California, most of the beaches in Oregon allow you to have your dogs off leash. This made Sadie happy and she ran around letting everyone know that she was queen of the world.

Cape Arago was at the end of the road and was stunningly beautiful. It is amazing just how rugged the coastline in Oregon really is. Just a little ways down was Simpson Reef, which was a series of rocks with a million sea lions just hanging out there. It was extremely loud from the constant party going on down there.

“It’s a party and I’ll cry if I want to”

The hike along the bluff was pretty nice with quite a few views of the coastline. Generally, it was a pleasant hike, but I will say, the hiking opportunities in Coos Bay are pretty limited. The big attractions here are ATVing around the sand dunes and fishing. The biking is very limited as well as the hiking.

I will say that on the whole the Bastendorff county park campground was pretty nice and definitely nicer than the Sunset Beach campground in the state park. That one was completely wall-to-wall and wasn’t that attractive. At least our site was pretty isolated and we weren’t right on top of other people. The biggest bummer was that they had these street lights in the campground that were ridiculously bright. 50,000 lumens of eye-scorching LED lights pounding down on you all night long. “Why would you do this?” I asked myself to no avail. We had to pull out some card board and put them on the windows that were facing the street light. Sheesh.

The offending street light

We had been watching the weather forecast and all I can say is that it did not look good. Big cold front with lots and lots of rain heading our way. Bummer. That night we talked about it and decided that we would pack up early and head down toward Shelter Cove so that we could do the big transit day when the weather was crappy. We scoped out a couple of possibilities and decided the Van Duzen County Park just outside of Fortuna would work nicely for us. It would get us within an hour and a half from Shelter Cove. Plus, Monday was looking like the one nice day in Shelter Cove, so we thought we’d better get there while the gettin’ was good.

We did a cheers to that and went to bed happy with our plan.

Sexy Potato

I called Susanne a sexy potato and have somehow managed to live and tell about it.

Ok, I guess maybe you need a little context. We have a funny habit of when someone says “I feel like a glass of wine,” the other says “you look like a glass of wine.” Normally, this routine goes off without a hitch and for some reason after all these years we still find it funny.

We were discussing what to have for dinner and I suggested getting some salmon at the little market in Manzanita. Main course set. Now what to have as a side. Susanne said she felt like a potato. I instinctively said “you look like a potato.” As is often the case when you mindlessly say something, you can see the words leave your mouth with no hope of ever coming back. “Oh dog, that isn’t very flattering” I thought and quickly tried to amend my words. I stammered and said “I mean, a sexy potato.” Both my reaction and my amended statement caused Susanne to break out into hysterical laughter. That is how I managed to call her a sexy potato and live to tell about it.

As an aside, if you google “sexy potato” you will find a wide array of sexy potato pictures, costume ideas, and all manner of things related to sexy potatoes. Just thought you needed to know this.

It has been quite rainy and dreary in Manzanita and not very conducive to photography. Hence the lack of photos. We did manage to get a nice walk on the beach every day which made the whole pack happy. Other than that we just hung out and lounged about watching the rain.

Today we packed up and headed south to Coos Bay. Luckily the rain stopped for us so we didn’t have to break down camp in the rain. Google, again, routed us down some backwater road instead of keeping us on the main highway. It was windy, narrow, with logging trucks and off-camber curves. Nice, thanks, Larry Page. Not only do you shove your way into New Zealand ahead of us, you send me down some nasty-ass road. Lovely. It was about a 5-hr drive to Coos Bay and I would describe it as “busy.” Hauling a trailer down the Oregon coast definitely requires your full attention. Had it been longer, it would have been exhausting, but other than the Larry Page detour, it wasn’t too bad.

The always rugged and beautiful Oregon coast

We had one scary moment coming across a bridge into Waldport when we heard a loud bang! At first I thought that maybe I had blown a tire on the trailer. I couldn’t see anything wrong, so I crept across the bridge and found a parking spot to investigate. Nothing. I must have hit something on the road. We took the opportunity for a pit stop and a few snacks. As I was headed out of the trailer, some dude just started talking to me. He was quite the chatter box. In a short period of time, I had learned a lot about his life. He was in the military; moved up from California 3 years ago; he lived in a 800 sq ft house with his wife and four cats; he had just caught 20 crabs; the guide gave military folks a discount and it was only $150 for two days of fishing and crabbing; he bought his house for $250k, but the VA would only give him a mortgage for $214k of that. Anyway, he was a nice guy that really liked to talk.

We got to the campground at Bastendorff County Park and found our spot. It was nice because we were off away from everyone else in a pretty private spot. Yeah! This is a county campground and it is clear that a lot of people use it as a base for fishing and crabbing. There were a number of very high-end boats in the parking lot and even one dude that had a tent set up like a store and I believe he is selling crabs. I will have to go check that out tomorrow.

One of Susanne Facebook friends has been traveling around doing dog/house sitting with her husband since they retired. It’s one of the things we have thought about doing in New Zealand. The funny thing is that they just happened to be in Coos Bay at the exact same time we are, so we are going to go have lunch with them tomorrow.

Susanne and I had been talking about how when you can step back from the daily grind, life suddenly just pops up opportunities for you. I think this is one of those. We will have to pick their brains on how it has been going for them.

Morning mist clearing

We settled in, cooked some dinner and I anxiously awaited for the Giants-Dodgers game to start. It did. And they ended up losing. That an umpire would make a judgment call to end such a wonderful series was a travesty. Now I have to listen to Donn give me s$%# for another year. Doh. At least now, I don’t have to watch the rest of the season.

Oregon Coast

We had a great visit with Esther and Casey. They are two of the coolest people I have ever met with some of the biggest, warmest hearts you can imagine. I am super grateful to have met them and have them as friends. There are just some people that give you great hope for the world.

Sunset view from Esther and Casey’s deck in Tacoma

Casey has been working on some really cool ideas related to systems, how they operate and how they collapse. He spent a lot of time walking us through it and I really hope he ends up publishing it somewhere. It is very fascinating to start to think about the similarities in the way complex things work from biological, sociological, physics, chemistry and list goes on. We watched a really cool video on youtube that I thought was great and gave a really thought-provoking view of chaos theory.

It is the Pacific Northwest, so it rained all night long. I kind of like the sound of the rain when we are in the trailer; it’s a soothing sound to go to sleep to. It is also nice because you stay all toasty and dry and you can look out at all the people in their tents looking miserable and think “that used to be me!”

We very lazily packed up our stuff from Dash Point State Park and got on the road around 11:30 or so. The drive was about 4 hrs and not too difficult. The worst part was making it through Longview where there were a billion logging trucks dumping off logs at the gigantic pulp mill facilities there. It is impressive to see that much logging activity. Evidently, and according to the thumbnail history of Longview, WA:

“The city of Longview is located at the confluence of the Cowlitz and the Columbia rivers in western Cowlitz County, 66 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean and 67 miles south of Olympia, the state capital. Financed by Kansas City timber baron Robert Alexander Long (1850-1934), president of Long-Bell Lumber Company, it was at the time the largest planned city ever to have been built entirely with private funds.  Longview’s principal function was to support a giant lumber mill that Long-Bell planned to construct on the 14,000-acre town site.  Long did not want a squalid mill town to spontaneously develop there, so he conceived of a beautiful new industrial city, which was planned and built in the 1920s.”

Who knew? And that, my friends is your daily dose of Pacific Northwest history for the day.

We made it to Nehalem State park around 4 pm, found our spot and headed to the beach with Sadie. It was sunny but pretty chilly and, as always, the wind coming off the ocean is frigid.

The beach!

Sadie just loves the beach. You can tell she just gets joyous each and every time we show up. The beach here is gorgeous. Long and wide and easy to walk on. Our friends Doug and Pat used to own a house here and now I can see why. It is a cute little town and the beach is really wonderful.

We got back from the walk and set up the trailer and pretty much settled in for the night. We BBQ’d some chicken and brussel sprouts and enjoyed them with a nice glass of Washington wine. Yummy.

Beautiful and Scruffy….you decided who is who

It was game 3 of the Dodgers/Giants playoff series, so I had to watch since we finally had good internet. It was an amazing game. The Giants ended up winning 1-0 which was fantastic, but the better part was texting my friend Donn constantly through the game giving him a large dose of smack talk. That was fun.

The weather is looking iffy for our stay here, but it will nice nonetheless. Maybe we’ll have to come back and rent a house for a month.

Oh yea!