Saturday, April 26, 2008

Coos Bay, Oregon

I don't know when this blog and its photos will be posted, because we don't have internet access at Sunset Beach State Park in Oregon, but I need to report on our wonderful day on Friday, the 25th of April.

Thursday we drove here from Klamath. It was a beautiful drive through the Redwood forest then up US Hwy 101 along the Oregon Coast. We even saw some cranberry bogs. As we entered Oregon, we stopped at the Visitor Information Center. There we encountered the most informed and helpful person we have ever met in such a facility. She asked where we were headed and gave us every possible pamphlet and booklet covering everywhere we will be in the state. By the time we left, we were excited about what we would learn and where we could go while we are here.

Sunset Beach State Park is beautiful. The hedges between spaces are well-trimmed azaleas. We walked to the protected beach and watched the seagulls before dinner.

All day Friday was a delight. First thing, we were able to do our 3-mile run, the first in over a week. And this is the first time we were able to run along a sandy beach for that run. Anyone who remembers watching the movie Chariots of Fire, will have an idea of what that feels like. It was great.

Louis J. Simpson was a pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder in the Oregon area. He built a summer home on a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean 13 miles southwest of Coos Bay, called Shore Acres. He suffered financial losses during the Depression, causing both house and grounds to fall into disrepair. In 1942, Simpson's beloved Shore Acres was purchased by the state of Oregon for use as a public park.

We toured the formal gardens on the site. Even in late April (which for us is early spring) they are beautiful. The Japanese-style garden surrounds a 100-foot lily pond and has many varieties of azalea and rhodendron.

Shore Acres State Park is one mile south of Sunset Beach and one mile north of Simpson Reef. This lookout is also named for the lumberman. This lookout gives the opportunity to view offshore rocks, islands and reefs that provide breeding and resting areas for sea birds and marine mammals. We saw (and heard) California Sea Lions and saw Harbor Seals today. The public is not allowed to go out to the islands, but the overlook provides a good view, close enough to hear the see lions barking.

We also drove around Charleston, North Bend and Coos Bay and had a great seafood lunch at Captain's Choice Restaurant in North Bend. Coos Bay is the largest deepwater port between San Francisco and Seattle. However, we saw only small fishing boats today.

After days of rain, today was sunny and a wonderful day of exploring.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Change in Plans

Today was supposed to be a travel day, but we woke to rain and the prediction of more rain for today and tomorrow. So we have decided to stay here in Klamath till Thursday. We couldn't see any point in breaking down in the rain, driving in the rain, and setting up in the rain when we couldn't go enjoy the ocean we were driving to. And there is a chance we would have encountered snow along the way! When we went to pay for two more nights, the woman in the office asked where we were going to work in a fish hatchery. When we told her "Astoria," she said, "well, get used to this weather." We'll see over two months, I guess.

We are using this day to work out, catch up on finances, blog and print photos. We are so glad we decided to hike in the Redwood forest yesterday! It was a beautiful hike—cold, since the temperature was only in the mid-40s. But the beauty of the Redwood trees, ferns and all sorts of other greenery everywhere is hard to believe. The trees are so tall it is impossible to capture it in a photograph. We tried, though, as we hiked three and one-half miles on the South Fork, Rhododendron and Brown's Creek trails just north of the Prairie Creek State Park Visitor Center.

The hike begins with a steep uphill climb, rising 650 ft in the first section. That brought us to where we could look down on some trees, not just up. Everything—trees, leaves, trail—was shiny from the rain overnight. The silence is amazing, broken only by a small gurgling creek and a few small birds. We did not encounter any other hikers on our trail.

In places where a Redwood tree has fallen, other bushes and trees begin to sprout along the trunk. Ferns grow in the hollow spaces of dead trees. Everything is so lush and fertile and green, unlike the fragile high altitude environment we are most used to in Colorado.

Our first day here, we noticed a Big Sky Montana trailer and saw the owners also belonged to the Montana Owners Club, an on-line association of RVers. When we talked to David and Jo-Anna, we learned that they are headed to Alaska this summer, so we got together yesterday for a glass of wine and good conversation about RV travel and the wonderful travel to Alaska.

We always try to get ourselves plenty of time to get from one place to another, so we aren't forced to travel in bad weather or feel rushed. That gives us the freedom to do what we did today. We can just relax and go with the flow.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

California Scenery

        For the past three days we have been traveling through the incredibly diverse landscape of California.  We started Thursday in Castaic (Santa Clarita in NW Los Angeles) and today ended on the north coast of California at Klamath. 


        In the Los Angeles area we had noticed the steep-sloped hillsides and many canyons, covered with green spring growth, poppies and numerous yellow and white-flowering bushes.  Very soon, driving north on I-5, we moved into smooth, rolling hills covered by soft green grass and little other vegetation.  It was a sudden change of topography and plants. 


        Next, we moved into the flat, open Central Valley of California with mile after mile of wheat field, hay field, vineyard, and orchards growing pecans, pistachios and almonds, with some olive orchards as well.  We have long thought each farm field should have a sign along the highway, telling city-dwelling motorists what is growing there.  It sure would help us to know what we are looking at.


        We spent the night at a very nice RV and golf resort in Chowchilla, on California Highway 99.  The town has lots of new construction.  The RV park is two years old and lovely.  Each night's stay includes a round of golf for two at the course next door.  As we walked around the next morning we saw some of the impact of the current housing and credit crisis.  A sign advertised an upcoming auction of 34 houses in the developments around the golf course.


        As we drove north from Chowchilla to Redding, we saw more farm fields.  Then the road began to climb toward Redding and we were among low hills, more dense vegetation and wild flowers.  Redding is an attractive city and we arrived for "Cool April Nights," a classic car show that has been held for 19 years.  We were glad we had called ahead for a reservation.  The weekend included cruising by the old cars, a drag race, pancake breakfasts and a concert.  Nearby, the town of Red Bluff had a rodeo over the weekend.


        The trip from Redding to the Pacific coast showed us another side of California's scenery.  We were in the mountains most of the way, even though we only went up to an elevation of 3,200 feet.  There were pine and spruce trees, heavy undergrowth and steep grades as we drove California 299 to Eureka, then US 101 north to Klamath.  Much of the first half of the trip we could see snow-topped Mt. Shasta.  It is beautiful.


        I've always know lupine as a cultivated garden flower.  We saw whole hillsides covered with it today.  Also numerous red bud bushes and trees, flowering crabapple and apple trees and many unknown yellow, purple and white flowers.  The beautiful drive included several 6% and 7% downhill grades, as well as one 8% grade.  But there wasn't a lot of traffic on the mainly two-lane road without much shoulder.


        For two or three nights, we are staying at Camper Corral in Klamath, at the mouth of the Klamath River, where it empties into the Pacific.  We are here to see Redwood National and State Parks and explore whatever there is to see.


        I wish I could share photos with you, but we carry our bikes on a rack on the front of our truck.  Most of the scenery we see includes bike handles and seats, so it isn't very photogenic. 


        We started this trip March 21 and were snowed on that weekend.  In Arizona and southern California we saw warm weather and even a little bit of summer—80s and 90s.  Today, between moving to the sea coast and encountering a Canadian cold wave, we are back into the 40s—for the high.  In less than a month, we've seen quite a change.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back to Normal--We Hope

Today we were able to pick up our Chevy truck with its brand new transmission, ready to pull our 5th-wheel trailer down the road—we hope. It's been a long week. Los Angeles isn't a bad place to spend a week. We have enjoyed good weather, toured the Reagan Presidential Library and the California Poppy Reserve and eaten good Mexican food. But we felt helpless when we couldn't tow our trailer and travel whenever we wanted to. And this isn't where we planned to spend a week.

But now we are ready to move again—north through California to the Redwood National Park, then on to a couple of stops along the Oregon Coast before we begin our volunteer assignment at Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery in northern Oregon.

We're grateful to the folks at Rydell Motors in Northridge for their good treatment when are truck needed repaired. And we're ready to get "on the road again."

Glorious Color

The only other time we traveled in California, it was mid-summer. Now it is spring. So, as we drove down the road Monday, we wondered what the bunches of bright orange flowers were that we saw in nearby fields. Finally, there were flowers close enough to the roadway we could pull over and look at them. They were the California poppies that we were on our way to see at the California Poppy Reserve, but didn't expect to see the flowers so soon and didn't realize that is what they looked like.

At first, there were small bunches of flowers. Then they started to line the edge of the road and the edges of farmers' fields. Next, we came to whole fields full of the gold-orange flowers. In places they grew between the sage brush, providing wonderful contrast to the gray-green bushes.

At the Reserve, run by the California State Parks Division, there were ribbons of orange down the valleys, poppies growing with other purple flowers, a whole landscape of gold and orange. We are so glad we were able to see the poppies this week. They are at their height of bloom. The annual Poppy Festival will be this coming weekend.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Saga Continues

Now we know what is wrong with the truck and we have an RV site where we can stay till it is repaired. But it wasn’t easy to get to this point. About 7:30 pm Wednesday evening Jeff called from Rydell Motors, telling us the transmission on our truck failed. They removed the pan (whatever that is) and found metal pieces. Thursday they would order a new one.

I told him we could stay where we were only through Sunday. He told us best case, they would find a transmission locally and we would be OK. If not, it might take a week!

Thursday we did our grocery shopping and looked for another RV park. That afternoon, Jeff said they were working on finding someone to move our RV that afternoon or Friday because our new transmission was coming from Wyoming, of all places, and wouldn’t be here till Tuesday or Wednesday.

We notified the park where we were staying that we would be out on Friday and made the reservation at Valencia Travel Village a few miles north on I-5. Friday, after stewing and fretting most of the day because we weren’t in control of the moving of our RV and we didn’t know when it would occur, at 3:30 pm a former Rydell employee finally arrived with his truck and fifth-wheel hitch to tow us to Valencia.

This is a large, open park right next to California Hwy 126, one mile from I-5. Our site is large and shaded, with quite a bit of highway noise. We will enjoy our time here, waiting and being tourists in Southern California.

Saturday we drove to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. This is the fifth presidential library we’ve seen in the past three years. It is interesting—focused on the close relationship between President and Mrs. Reagan, her style as First Lady, and Air Force One and the role it played in Reagan’s presidency. I feel President Truman’s was perhaps the best library we have visited. We learned so much about the issues he faced and life in America after World War II. We also have visited the libraries of Presidents Lyndon Johnson, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

We had planned to be nearly into Oregon by Wednesday. Instead we will still be here. But, since we have a time schedule for the repair of the truck and we are safely parked for the duration, we hope to really enjoy our time here. During our two months in Oregon, the temperature will probably only get into the 60s most days. So, this is our time to enjoy summer. Yesterday it was 92 degrees, today it is already 95.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This Has Never Happened Before

Today was certainly a new experience. We have never been driving down a city street, applied the brakes and had the truck lock up—not able to move forward or in reverse. But that is what happened today. First we drove 160 miles from San Diego to Northridge in the northwest corner of Los Angeles. That, in itself, was a real fete. It went amazingly well. No real congestion, no problems. Just a long, rather tense drive. We arrived in Northridge at the Walnut RV Park—a clean, well-kept park with lots of long-term residents.

After setting up, we left to buy groceries. Driving down the street, John stepped on the brake approaching a red light and we heard a grinding noise and the truck stopped abruptly. It felt like the brakes on the RV had locked up, but we weren't towing the trailer. John turned the truck off, waited, then started it again. We drove another block or so, then had to brake again. Same problem. John got out and looked under the truck. He couldn't see anything. We punched the OnStar button and asked them to do a diagnostic. Nothing seemed to be wrong. Again, we drove down the street, braked, grinding noise, abrupt stop. John was able to move the truck to the side of the street, into a parking spot. Push the OnStar button again. They called Chevy Roadside Assistance. They called a tow truck, found the nearest Chevy dealer. They even knew what street we were on! Amazing. We just had to give them the address.

When the tow truck drove into Rydell Chevrolet in Northridge, the service advisor walked up and said, "What is going on? That is a brand new truck!" We agreed—what is going on? We learned our warranty and Roadside Assistance covers a rental car while the truck is being repaired. For the next hour or so we dealt with renting a vehicle. Back at Rydell, we found they had hoisted the truck onto a lift and four or more technicians were looking at it, trying to determine the problem. At least they were taking it seriously. We imagine all of them were eager to see what could go wrong in such a short time.

We returned to the RV park and told them of our problem. The real problem—for them, at least—is that we are unable to move our trailer out of the site we have rented for only two nights. And they have someone coming in to the site in two days, and another person coming in Monday for a month. At this point, who knows what we or they will do about all of this?

At 7:30 this evening we learned that the transmission will need to be replaced. And this truck has only been driven 3,600 miles! The question is, how long will it take to get a new transmission here? And where what where will be park the RV in the meantime? We are in the only park in town.

We feel very blessed that the transmission didn't go out as we drove along the I-8, I-805, I-5, or I-405 through Los Angeles. That would have truly been a nightmare. We travel with two cats, who wouldn't have liked riding in a tow truck. And we would have had to have the RV towed, as well. God was truly watching out for us.

Now we ask, Lord, please help us solve the problems coming up of where and how we move the trailer if the truck isn't repaired by Friday.


Friday, April 04, 2008

New Experiences

No matter how long we RV, we keep experiencing new things. In 1988 we borrowed John's sister's very old tent trailer for a trip to the East Coast. That fall we bought our own Coleman trailer. In 1997 we bought our first 5th wheel trailer.

Still, this past two weeks we have seen so many new things. All across southern Arizona there are RV parks, Park Model Parks and storage lots built to accommodate snowbirds. We are in Yuma, Arizona, and half the town seems to be RV parks and winter residences. The estimated population here in 2006 was 86,000. I wonder how many people are here in February.

In Florence, AZ, between Tucson and Phoenix, we stayed in a park where they are selling lots to RVers, as well as offering long-term space rentals and storage. Desert Gardens RV Oasis is a beautiful park with large sites and excellent facilities. They are truly surrounded by a desert garden. There is a trail that encircles the park that is nearly one mile long and passes through beautiful desert flora. It was a delight for running our three miles. Plus, there is so much oxygen here for running!

Before we checked into the I-10 RV Park in Benson, we used a car-RV wash. While we were waiting in line, a man approached our truck and told us about Western Horizons parks and gave us a certificate for four nights free in one of their parks if we would listen to a 90-minute presentation about the campground network. Since one of the parks was in Yuma, we decided the price was right for four free nights lodging. Saturday morning we will learn more.

There is a difference between RVers who have 5th-wheel and travel trailers and those who have class A motor homes. Part of the difference is the amount of money they spend cleaning their rig. The biggest difference is that motor home owners really like to shine up their rig and clean the windshield. In Benson we watched our neighbor spend more than 30 minutes polishing his windshield and the front of his coach. He used two or three cloths to clean each area. I have never worked that hard to polish silver at our stick house. Since we don't care for our rig that way, I guess we can never buy a motor home.

On the south edge of our park here in Yuma there is BLM land with boon docking sites. A camp host oversees the registration site. Campers can stay 14 nights for $30, unlimited nights for $60. A nearby gas station has a dump station and sells water. We have heard of this camping. Even seen it as we have driven by recreational rivers in Colorado and Utah. But this is the first time we have seen it in the desert. The countryside here may be warm in the winter, but it isn't very pretty. Staying for two weeks where there are no amenities, no trees or other plants, doesn't sound very interesting. At least the RV parks here have landscaping.

Here in Yuma we are right on the US-Mexico border. Thursday night I watched 5 Chinook helicopters looking for illegals crossing the boarder. Among the materials we receive when checking in to our RV park was a notice reading: "While you are here you may experience brief interruptions in your cell phone service as well as interruptions in wireless internet or satellite television. This is due to the highly sophisticated surveillance devices used by the Border Patrol to detect illegal aliens crossing our border." We hear about these issues on the evening news. But, living far from the border, we haven't experienced any of this till now.

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