A Year of Exploring Comes to a Close

In Northern California, jumping in fallen leaves even happens toward the end of November!

As 2019 comes to a close, I reflect back on our holiday season here in Northern California. We are fortunate to stay in a nice RV park while taking a break from our roaming and exploring around the United States to spend time with family and friends. Some RV parks have a time limit, so being able to land several months in one place is a real blessing. It seemed once we got here a few things started to fall apart. Our reliable and hard working Ford truck developed several alarming “symptoms” including a worn wheel bearing that turned out to be a potential safety issue. Luckily, it didn’t happen while we were traveling on the winding coastal roads of Oregon or another far flung area. We were able to take the truck to a repair shop we trusted in Modesto and after several days our truck was back to normal. Another major issue was Mark’s teeth which became problematic a few days after arriving. After several visits to two dentists, it became apparent that much more dental work remains to be done. We are glad this is happening while planning to be in one location for awhile. Suffice it to say, that it looks like we will be staying in our spot even longer than intended to get all the dental work completed. But now, on to some fun activities we have enjoyed the past few months.

Luke judges the decorated cupcakes to pick out a winner

The two big events in November were our grandson Luke’s 9th birthday which was a lively bash with friends making pizzas and decorating cupcakes and Thanksgiving. For the holiday, we got together with family at our niece Elaine and husband Philip’s house. Philip smoked two turkeys for the event and they were the best I have ever eaten. I told Mark on the way there that turkey (although good) is usually my least favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal as the sides are so good, but this time the turkey was as good as the sides. Our holiday meals are usually served with a large dish of teasing and I think this time we laughed more than usual until our stomachs ached 😆 😂. An ever expanding coconut cream pie was one culprit.

From left to right, three lovely ladies at Thanksgiving – Niece Elaine, daughter Shannon and sister Barbara. They had no idea ahead of time that they would be color coordinated!

I am usually asked to provide a cheese board and this year I decided to make a little competition out of it. While staying near Medford, Oregon I found out about the Rogue River Creamery, known for making blue cheese. This year one of their cheeses won a world championship in Italy out of more than 3,800 entries from 42 countries. This was the first win for an American cheese company. I put this cheese out as well as others and asked family members to guess which one was the champion.

During November it was a lot of fun getting to see our grandsons play with their basketball teams as the season came to a close. This was our first opportunity to see them play this sport. They love the game and often practice out front of their home. I have even tried to play a few pickup games with them and am glad they put up with my lack of agility!

Grandson Luke
Will Levi make the hoped for basket?

Our grandsons both participated in their holiday church musical, titled, “The Little Drummer Dude.” It was quite a production with kids from the ages of 5 to 15 participating. There was singing, choreographed dancing and they both had speaking parts. We were proud grandparents! Luke played one of the wise men and Levi was in the chorus. I found myself humming songs for some days after the show.

Luke on far right in blue/purple robe
Levi is bottom center with brown striped sweater
Family picture after the performance

In December, both boys had their piano recitals featuring holiday music played at a local retirement home. Levi has only been taking lessons a few months, so his teacher played a duet with him. Luke has been playing about four years and has made excellent progress. It was another proud grandparent moment listening to them perform.

Luke playing “Little Drummer Boy”
Levi takes a bow after playing “Silent Night”

As can be imagined, it is hard to have a Christmas tree in a 21 foot travel trailer. But it was even more fun to help decorate the tree at our grandsons’ house. During travels, their family has collected ornaments from a number of places and it was fun to once again see what they had found.

Gingerbread house decorating (and eating?)

Celebrating the holidays together is often about scheduling and since Shannon and Jonathan were going to Texas at Christmas time to be with his family, we celebrated early. Because our son and daughter-in-law are nurses living in Southern California, their schedules are also challenging, but we managed to all get together one evening and had a great time catching up while enjoying food and gifts. Our grandsons love creating things and enjoyed making something for each person that included puzzles, stories and/or games for us to try.

Shannon with a homemade activity page from the boys
Mark and Levi hamming it up
Matt and Emma – Emma models her eye mask and travel pillow – perfect gift for the world travelers who are headed for a trip to the Middle East in January.

Christmas was spent in Chico with my parents who I am happy to report continue to be hale and hearty! It was a peaceful few days enjoying their company. Thanks to Trader Joe’s for the best ham ever! Mark and I have been happily creating several meals from the remains this past week. And it wouldn’t be a holiday in Chico without homemade berry cobbler, yum!

Christmas Day in Chico with my folks

When you live near the Pacific Flyway you have to go out and see waterfowl each winter. The day after Christmas we headed to Llano Seco Preserve, only about 20 minutes from my parents’ home. They were a bit disappointed there were no snow geese when we arrived, as they had seen hundreds of them there several weeks before. But we encountered the most Northern Pintail ducks I have ever seen on a birding trip. There were hundreds of those, one of the most beautiful species of ducks in my opinion. We also saw an eagle as it flew around landing at different places while scaring other waterfowl. It was a bit of a mystery to us and others visiting that day. We didn’t know if it was a golden eagle or an immature bald eagle with its dark coloring and lack of white head. Birding is like that, you often leave puzzled but glad you came out to be with the birds!

My parents checking out the many ducks

Although we won’t be doing much sightseeing in the next few months, I have plenty more posts to write and catch up on. I have two more related to our Oregon trip and then want to do some posts from travels of the last year or two. I didn’t write about these places due to time issues.

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2020 and a thank you for following along with us on our journey! We have really appreciated your interest in our travels and kind comments!

Good Times and Sunsets in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Entrance to Cannon Beach RV Resort

For those of you following and perhaps tiring of Oregon beach posts and photos, you are in luck as this is the last one! I loved my sunset walks on Cannon Beach and wanted to share some of my photos. This was our last stay and grand finale on the Oregon Coast. We camped at a pleasant and well located RV park and enjoyed perfect sunny fall weather. Cannon Beach is a nice little resort town with interesting shops in gray shingled buildings. One Saturday I headed downtown and found too many people enjoying a fine autumn day. This was the only day on the Coast that I actually spent looking at shops. I have to admit I am not much of a shopper but Cannon Beach is known as a great place to browse and has been compared to the coastal town of Carmel, California, so I didn’t want to pass it up. I decided to not take any pictures of my town exploring, but I have plenty of the beautiful beach area where people were having a blast strolling, flying kites, playing in the surf and admiring Haystack Rock. There was even some sand sculpting going on.

Sculpting a sand ship on Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock is one of the most well known landmarks in Oregon. It looms large at 235 feet and is a popular tourist attraction. Although not as big as the Haystack Rock we saw during our stay in Pacific City, it seems larger because it is closer to the shore and accessible at low tide. With all the smaller rocks around its base it is a great place for tide pooling. Several bird species nest here during the spring and summer including Tufted Puffins.

Surprise, the town of Cannon Beach really did get its name from a cannon! In 1846, the U.S. Navy schooner Shark wrecked while crossing the Columbia River Bar. (I talked in my previous post about how treacherous crossing the Bar is and here is an example). Cannons from the ship were let loose and one was discovered a few miles south of the town when it washed ashore on a beach. Later a few other cannons were also found. In 1922, the city officially adopted the new name “Cannon Beach.”

Tillamook Head Lighthouse is known as Terrible Tilly and is not accessible to the public but can be seen from Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach RV park featured a perk we haven’t had at any other camping spot. The town only has two gas pumps and they are located at this park. I was surprised because with all the tourist traffic I would think there would be at least one gas station. But I was glad about the pumps being available right near us so we wouldn’t have to drive to Seaside, the next town north. Perhaps the best thing about getting gas in Oregon is that they still pump it for you! I have to admit I enjoy being lazy and not getting out of the truck.

The only two gas pumps in Cannon Beach

If you need a shovel, paint supplies, boxes of nails and perhaps could use a good meal or beverage, “Screw and Brew,” also known as Cannon Beach Hardware is the place to come. The hardware store/restaurant boasts being Oregon’s first hardware store to serve beer, wine and food. During our travels, we like to try out unusual places and this restaurant sounded the most unique in Cannon Beach.

We came for an early dinner and sat at a table with compartments of hardware against one wall and sporting goods and toys against the other. The store is rather small, but it has two floors and manages to carry some hardware basics such as home improvement and gardening tools, plumbing and electrical parts. I really enjoyed my BBQ pulled pork sandwich and Mark had a meatloaf sandwich. This is actually the second hardware store we have eaten at during our RV travels. The first was in Tucumcari, New Mexico in April when we were passing through and decided to try a place called Watson’s BBQ, also known as a hardware/ranch supply store. That place was even quirkier and had tasty food served by a very friendly owner.

Eating with hardware

I thought I would close this post with some more sunset beach photos. Wishing you all a happy holiday season!

Exploring Astoria, Oregon

The Astoria-Megler Bridge reaching across the Columbia River from Astoria, Oregon to Washington State

After a bit of a break from writing, I am back with more on our Oregon travels earlier in the Fall. We are currently enjoying being back in Northern California and near our former home base. Staying at an RV Park in this area gives us a chance to be near family and friends for awhile. I have several more posts I want to do on Oregon so bear with me. For those that have been following, I have written quite a bit about this wonderful state. For traveling, Oregon is one of the best and in years past, we have done a variety of trips around the state. This is our first time though in an RV taking our time, a luxury we never had when we were working! Come along with us as we explore some of what Oregon’s most northern coastal city has to offer.

Columbia River Maritime Museum

Our first objective when hitting Astoria was a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Astoria sits alongside the mighty Columbia River and this museum showcases life on the River. We found the exhibits to be really interesting and the museum just the right size – not too big or small for an enjoyable visit. We are fond of anything maritime and this is well done. After first watching a great 3D film of unusual deep water sea creatures, we headed outside to tour the Columbia Lightship.

This was the last lightship on the Pacific Coast to guide vessels across the Columbia River Bar, which is also known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” The Bar was a treacherous area with bad winter weather that kept the lightship crew on board for weeks at a time when no supplies could be delivered. Duty on the ship was full of lots of boredom with gale force storms. Nowadays a navigational buoy does the lighting and the ship remains on display at the museum. I had never heard of a lightship and found touring the inside and outside interesting. It isn’t very big and I was amazed at how much is stored onboard including thousands of gallons of fuel, water and over 12 tons of food.

On board the Columbia Lightship

One of the biggest surprises for Mark and I visiting the museum was learning about the Columbia Bar which is noted to be one of the more dangerous river crossings in the world. Where the Columbia River enters the Pacific, waves, wind and current create hazardous conditions and the area is littered with shipwrecks. Since 1792, approximately 2,000 vessels including over 200 large ships have sunk with more than 700 people losing their lives to the sea. Bar pilots now guide ships across the Bar, often boarding by helicopter. Besides photos and drawings, the museum had several videos showing the difficulties faced by mariners attempting this crossing.

Historical drawing of ships navigating the Columbia Bar

The museum has a collection of coast guard boats used on the river and the 36-foot boat in photo below was the standard rescue boat in use for 80 years on the Oregon Coast. Decommissioned in 1988, only one lifeboat (1961) was lost during those 80 years.

One of the more interesting boats on display actually arrived from Japan. After the 2011 tsunami, it floated on the ocean for two years, traveling 5,000 miles and washing ashore at nearby Cape Disappointment in Washington. The owner of the boat did not want it returned, so it was donated to the museum. This was the second Japanese tsunami “survivor” I had seen during our recent Oregon travels. The first was the boat dock exhibited in Newport.

Waves, currents and boat trips can’t help but conjure thoughts of seasickness and the museum has an exhibit called, “Why Don’t I Feel Well?” The best cure: “Don’t go to sea!” Sensory wrist bands help some, over the counter meds can combat the nausea although they have side effects or eating ginger which has no side effects. I don’t get seasick but have taken candied ginger root on a few whaling trips as a precaution. On one trip in Monterey Bay, California I passed some out to several sick passengers. And what does Mark do to prevent seasickness? He heeds the first recommendation!

I really enjoyed the historic map room! There were many maps from the 1600’s and 1700’s. It was fascinating to see drawings of the world as early explorers and map makers once envisioned it. For example, the map below shows California as an Island.

Historic map from 1656 showing California (far left) as an island

This map shows the Arctic Circle which early explorers believed was navigable by a water route to the pole. Back in those days, a water route was not possible, but today with global warming and the subsequent melting of the polar cap, the dream of those early explorers can now be realized.

Map of the Northwest passage

An exhibit of Japanese flags from World War II made for a heartfelt memorial. Japanese soldiers carried these flags with them and they were lovingly inscribed with good luck messages from family and friends. American soldiers kept them as souvenirs, but later their relatives wanted to return them to the soldiers’ families in Japan. The Obon Society in Astoria has been able to do just that. A short film showcased the return of one flag and it brought tears to my eyes.

Astoria has a solid history of fishing enterprises which are explained at the museum. The city once called itself the “Salmon Canning Capital of the World.” Mark and I found another intriguing exhibit about the harvesting of shark liver. Since liver is high in Vitamin A, it was given to World War II pilots to improve their night vision. It sold for $18.00 a pound which was a lot of money back in the 1940’s. In 1943, 270,000 pounds of liver was collected at a value of 5 million dollars!

Mark and I usually go our separate ways at some point during museum visits, since I spend more time looking than he does. When we met up later he asked if I had seen the infrared room. In this room people can see themselves as rescuers would using infrared vision technology. Usually I am pretty careful not to miss exhibits, but somehow I missed it. Mark took this ghostly looking photo of himself.

After our museum visit we headed for lunch at Curry and CoCo, a restaurant serving an interesting combo of ethnic foods, Thai and Cuban. During our visit we learned that Cuban entrees were being served at dinner time, but we love Thai food which was the main reason we came. The restaurant was gaily decorated inside with painted street scenes from Havana and colorful furnishings.

Inside Curry & CoCo Thai Restaurant

The food was so delicious and it had been awhile since we had eaten Thai food. We had a yellow curry special called Kao Soj and a Pad Thai.

After a stop at Josephson’s Smoked Fish House to pick up some smoked salmon to go (I have become quite fond of this fish during our Oregon travels 😊), we headed to our next destination, a national historic park. As I have mentioned several times in blog posts, we try to catch as many national park sites as we can during our travels. Fort Clatsop was a pretty important place historically as this was the farthest point of the Lewis and Clark expedition (Corps of Discovery) after completing their journey of finding a water route to the Pacific Ocean. After arriving in December 1805, they erected a small fort where they stayed for the winter, leaving in March 1806 to return east.

Sacajawea was an important member of the Lewis and Clark expedition

Fort Clatsop is located in a a beautiful area of old growth forest. The Visitor Center was nice although the film the rangers raved about was dated and silly. The original fort is long gone, but a replica was built on the site in the 1950’s. I think Mark spent a grand total of about three minutes looking inside the rooms of the fort before telling me he was heading back towards the truck. Before leaving he used his usual phrase of, “But take your time.” In those three minutes I was able to get a few photos of him looking around. It is true there isn’t much to see here, but I think Lewis and Clark deserved more than three minutes attention 🙃. From the Fort I did walk a short trail to see the expedition’s landing spot on the Lewis and Clark River.

Fort Clatsop
Interior of the Fort

This is the second national park site this year where we spent less than an hour visiting. The first was at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Southeastern Michigan. I would have to say the River Raisin remains the least interesting national park site we have ever visited. It was so boring that I didn’t take one photo and I always take multiple photos every where we go. Fort Clatsop was more interesting, but not much time needed to take it all in.

Thanks for taking the time to read and stay tuned for more Oregon posts!