Looking Back: Exploring St. Augustine, Florida in February 2018

While planning our travels through the Florida Panhandle in the winter of 2018, I knew I wanted to spend time in St. Augustine which is located on the Atlantic Coast of Northern Florida. The draw was visiting the oldest city in the United States with many sights to see and learn about. We were able to find a great RV park near the coast and booked a stay for two weeks. I am glad we stayed for that long as there was enough to keep us busy. St. Augustine definitely won my heart, becoming one of my all time favorite cities during our RV travels.

So you might wonder why I am writing about our time in St. Augustine two years after our visit. At the time, I was trying to catch up on my blogs and make them more current, so I made the decision to write about this city later. Especially since there was so much to write about! Now seems to be a good time as we are staying a little longer in California before continuing our travels. It will be fun to revisit our time there and hope you enjoy the journey as well.

Old Town Trolley Tour passing the famous Flagler College building

St. Augustine has many facets. It is a city with a lot of tourist attractions that draw a crowd and also full of historical buildings and artifacts. In this post I thought I would write about three great ways to explore: 1) trolley, 2) cruise boat and 3) on foot. We decided to start out with the Old Town Trolley tour that gave a general overview with 23 stops along the way. Since it is one of those hop on hop off trams, it was easy to spend time in various locations and then catch another one and move on. The trolley went past a number of historic buildings including Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. (More to come on this fort in a future blog post).

Castillo de San Marcos

We also passed several historic churches with my favorite the Memorial Presbyterian Church, one of the most stunning churches I have seen on our travels. The building was completed in 1830 and worship services have been held here ever since except when the Union Army occupied it during the Civil War using it for military purposes. One afternoon I attended an organ concert here and it was magnificent.

Memorial Presbyterian Church
Memorial Presbyterian Church entrance
Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine – The building was completed in 1797 but the congregation began in 1565 making it the oldest Christian congregation in the U.S.

The trolley took us along the historic sea wall next to Matanzas Bay. St. Augustine is known for beautiful water views. Two marble lions, copies of the Medici lions in Florence Italy guard the Bridge of Lions 🦁 that crosses the bay and intracoastal waterway.

When the Spanish occupied St. Augustine they built a stone wall around the city to fend off attacks by English invaders in 1702. A reminder from this time period is the City Gate which we drove past. It opened in 1739 as the only access through the defense line in the north side of the city.

Historic City Gate with stone pillars from 1808

As the trolley wound its way through the city making its stops, Mark and I had to chuckle when we arrived at the St. Augustine Distillery and everyone emptied the tram! The Distillery offers an excellent free tour and we decided to be part of the mass exodus. Although I don’t favor hard liquor and Mark has minimal interest, we liked learning about the Distillery’s history and seeing the big copper stills where they make their spirits. In the tasting room, our tour guide also concocted two different drinks of the day, the “Florida Mule” and “Rum Tiki Cocktail” and then gave everyone a taste of each. Then it was on to the gift shop with more tastings available prepared by several staff members.

Back on the trolley we stopped for another tour at the Whetstone Chocolate Company where we donned hair nets and for Mark, a beard net.

Mark all ready for the chocolate tour

As a chocoholic, it is hard to pass up this kind of tour and it was a fun journey to learn about the history and process of making chocolate. We had tastings of different kinds of bars as well as cocoa nibs. We walked through the factory watching chocolates being processed like the hearts wrapped in red paper pictured below.

St. Augustine is one of the nicest cities for walking and I spent several days exploring historic streets, buildings and museums. We found the best breakfast place to fuel up for some exploring – Maple Street Biscuit Company. They specialize in freshly baked buttery biscuits crafted into all kinds of sandwiches. My favorite was the “Sticky Maple” which consisted of a fried chicken breast with smoked bacon sitting in a pool of real maple syrup. Oh my, I thought about that biscuit meal for a long time after, it was that good.

The cafe has a unique way of identifying your order which is taken at the counter. Each day they have a different question on the board and your answer is what they will call out when your meal is ready.

“A book, your biscuit is ready!”

The main thoroughfare in the historic district is the narrow, pedestrian St. George Street that is filled with boutiques, bistros, gift shops, galleries and historic homes. It is quaint and atmospheric and gave me a feeling of being transported to a different time and place. Side streets off the main thoroughfare lead to interesting shops like the Casual Warrior’s Kimono-Ya which carried kimonos and accessories for women and men. For those that want to dress up like a pirate, clothing and accessories could be found at the Skull and Crossbones Pirate Store. Then there was the St. Augustine Textiles which specialized in colonial clothing for reenactments.

Shiver me timbers, it’s a pirate store

In one shop we found a cigar maker busily rolling tobacco leaves. Mark bought a cigar but now is unsure whatever happened to it. I think I remember him smoking it at our campsite, but it might have been his intention that never really happened. Perhaps one day the cigar will turn up in some hidden location in our tiny abode.

JC – the Cuban Roller of Cigars

Cobblestoned Aviles Street is considered the oldest street in the U.S. and also has shops, restaurants, galleries and several museums like the 18th century Spanish Military Hospital Museum. I took a tour to learn about colonial herbs used in medicines and observed demonstrations of some scary looking medical equipment.

Entrance to the oldest street in the U.S.
Aviles Street with the Spanish Military Hospital Museum
Touring Aviles Street in style

One afternoon I took the St. Augustine Scenic Cruise on Matanzas Bay to see the city from a different vantage point. I have said this before during our travels that when some kind of boat tour is available I will definitely be on board. This was a relaxing and lovely time on the water.

Cruising under the Bridge of Lions

We passed the Castillo de San Marcos fort as well as other landmarks like the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

View of Castillo de San Marcos from the boat

I hope you enjoyed a look at a little of what St. Augustine offers. Stay tuned for more on exploring this magical place!

Two Years on the Road – Notable RV Parks, Part II

Our small trailer is dwarfed by a huge oak at Bay Breeze RV Park in Alabama.

In my last blog, I wrote about RV parks that have stood out in some unique way. I wanted to continue this time with a few more of our notable stays.

Camping Next to a Famous Road:

Exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway was one of our favorite experiences during our RV travels in 2018. This road stretches for 469 miles along the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina. It features a number of historical sites, beautiful scenery and amazing views. It is one of the most famous roads or drives in America and is overseen by the National Park Service. When I was trying to find a place to stay in Virginia so we could spend time driving this road, I was pleased to see that Fancy Gap Campground sat right beside the parkway. We would have easy access for exploring in either direction.

A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near our campground

When we arrived to Fancy Gap the campground was almost empty since we came in the fall season. But we soon had a visitor at the site next to us when a Canadian couple arrived. Unfortunately we don’t remember their names, but we do remember their dog who was called D’Artagnan after one of the Three Musketeers. As they were setting up, the gentleman warned us that D’Artagnan would want to come inside our trailer, as he loved to check out new places. Right away, D’Artagnan headed up our steps and nosed the door to get in. Mark opened up to see what was going on, but the poor pooch was not allowed to come in.

One of our all time favorite furry visitors

There is so little space in our 21-foot travel trailer, especially for a good sized, furry dog. But we did make friends with D’Artagnan and I tried to make amends by giving him carrot pieces for a treat. Sometimes I would glance over at their campsite and see him looking longingly over our way, still hoping for an invitation. They only stayed a night or two as they were headed to the North Carolina coast. Soon after they left, I read about a hurricane approaching the coast where they were headed and I hoped that D’Artagnan and his “people” were staying safe.

Best RV Park Transportation:

While exploring Oklahoma City (OKC) in the fall of 2018, we stayed at Twin Fountains RV Park and found something unique. This was the first park that offered transportation from two onsite limousines. A larger one was for groups or parties with the “smaller” one for families. The park would take you wherever you desired within about three miles. OKC has some great museums and one day I asked to be chauffeured to the wonderful National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum which took me much of the day to explore. When I was done I called for a pickup and they were very accommodating. It was the only time of our travels when I was chauffeured any where. Oh, I did forget that I have my own built in chauffeur with Mark as he likes to be known as Beth’s Driver (hee, hee), but it was my first limousine ride of the trip.

An RV Park With the Cutest Decorations:

Bandon By the Sea RV Park is a pleasant place in a good location as it is located just a few miles from the beach and Old Town Bandon, Oregon. Their decorations are what caught my eye as many of their fences are adorned with colorful tea pots. I love tea pots, tea cups and drinking tea, so I thought this decorating idea was really unique and clever and the teapots seemed to be holding up well in the coastal environment. Apparently the owner had a good sized collection of tea ware and wanted to make use of them. If I still had a home I would be looking at getting some thrift store tea pots to decorate my fences!

RV Park With the Best View:

View from our trailer of the surf crashing below

We were hoping for a great view before arriving to Seal Rocks RV Cove in Oregon and were not disappointed. Situated on a bluff above the rocky coastline, we could watch the surf come in and see the sunset at night. We liked it well enough that we decided to stay an extra few days, even though I was eager to see other places along the Oregon Coast. Our site was quite large with a private grassy area to ourselves. For our Oregon exploring, we did have the rainiest weather here, but it was still a lovely stay and the mist and rain added some to the ambience. Yes, Seal Rocks RV Cove would definitely qualify for a repeat visit. We wouldn’t mind more of that ocean view.

A Campground With the Best Forest Trail:

Mark relaxing at our campsite at Lum’s Pond State Park, Delaware

I really enjoy staying at RV parks with onsite forest trails. We enjoyed this amenity at Blowing Springs RV Park in Bella Vista, Arkansas which had a network of trails in a beautiful forest, one of my favorite places for walking. Other places included Abel Mountain Campground in Braintree, Vermont with a trail along a branch of the White River and Timberland Campground in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with a walking path next to the Androscoggin River. Then there was the nature trail at American Heritage RV Park in Williamsburg, Virginia where I had a close encounter with a black snake. My favorite though was Lum’s Pond State Park in Northern Delaware. We really enjoyed this park with spacious, grassy campsites, but I was most pleased with the six mile hiking trail that looped around the shore of the pond/lake through a lush, hardwood forest.

The hiking trail went all around the lake at Lum’s Pond

Lum’s Pond was also unique because it was the only state park we have ever stayed in. Mark is happy to travel in any state or area, but he likes to have full hookup campsites which means electricity, sewer and water. Many state parks don’t have full hookups, especially for sewer but Lum’s Pond was an exception.

A lush forest floor covered with ferns at Lum’s Pond State Park

Camping Next to a Railroad Track:

Walking the track from our RV park to visit the train depot museum

Most RVers don’t like parks within hearing distance of railroads. They gripe about train whistles at night and being unable to sleep. So, I had a little trepidation when I booked us at the Campus RV Park in Independence, Missouri. It turned out that our site was right next to the road and just on the other side was the train track. In our RV travels, this was our closest encounter with a train which did come by regularly sounding its horn. But Mark and I decided it was not that bad. We are actually pretty fond of railroads and often seek out “train stuff” in our travels. Although the campground itself had no appeal, the location turned out to be great. It was not far to walk to the old downtown of Independence which is full of historical attractions. From Independence, the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails left to go west in the mid 1800’s. This is also the former home of President Harry Truman and his library/museum. It was worth it to stay near those tracks and get to explore the very interesting town of Independence.

The Most Musical RV Park:

We love visiting places with music, so while exploring Arkansas we had to spend some time in the small town of Mountain View. This town prides itself on being the folk music capital of the world as they are known for their festivals throughout the year. The town takes their music seriously and local citizens gather regularly for jam sessions in front of the courthouse or a local downtown park. We stayed at Ozark RV Park which has their own morning jam sessions in a little building on the property.

Ozark RV Park jamming room

In addition, when the right people drop by the park’s office, a jam session is bound to occur. The park is located right next to the Ozark Folk Center State Park which features music shows in their auditorium as well as the opportunity to see old time mountain crafts being made. It was only a short walk through a gate and we were on the folk center property where we watched some great musicians perform in the evenings.

The Quirkiest RV Park:

Beautiful mountain scenery at Pegasus Farm RV Park

While visiting West Virginia we stayed at Pegasus Farm RV Park, which turned out to be the quirkiest of our travels. It started at the entrance where the owner had a sign noting the park was closed. He had warned us stating that the sign was to discourage pipeline workers from coming into the park and asking if they could stay. At our arrival we found there was no office to check in. Luckily we encountered the owner on the way in and after introducing ourselves he pointed out our site “over there.” This was the first RV park with no office and no paperwork to provide information and a map. For the first few days we had no idea where the trash bins were located. The long driveway into the park was another mystery. It was approximately 1/4 mile long and so narrow that only one vehicle could drive up and down at a time. If two vehicles happened to meet, someone would have to back up and some of the RV’s staying at this park were very large. We had this happen to us once at night with two vehicles coming in and another going out. There was a time of confusion before everyone could continue on.

A long, narrow driveway with a blind hill awaited us at Pegasus Farm RV Park

Then there were the spreading of ashes. As we were settling in our first day, I took a walk on the expansive property which used to be a farm and Mark stayed behind to relax outside our trailer. From the site next to us, the owner came over ahead of a group warning Mark that they were there to spread the ashes of a deceased former camper on his “favorite” spot. Although the campground was a bit quirky, we loved exploring this part of West Virginia, with some of the most beautiful scenery of our RV travels.

The Best Laid Out RV Park:

Deer Creek Valley RV Park

Usually I like RV parks with an outdoorsy, nature feel. But Mark and I were quite impressed with Deer Creek Valley RV Park in Topeka, Kansas. It was the best laid out park we visited with large concrete sites nicely spaced and separated with lots of green grass. We found out that the owner had a concrete business which explained why the park looked so good. It was a beautiful place that was a pleasure to stay in. Outside the park gate was also one of our favorite eating experiences at Lonnie’s BBQ, one of the top restaurants in Topeka and only open a few days a week. Luckily we were there at a time when we could enjoy dinner and meet the very friendly owner who walked back with us to the park after we finished our meal. Our stay here also meant the realization that tornadoes are a fact of life in Kansas, so the park provided a storm shelter if needed, the first one we encountered on our travels.

Luckily no storm shelter needed during our Topeka, Kansas stay

Best RV Park at a Coastal Destination:

Sea Lions enjoying the Mosslanding Harbor

We have enjoyed several coastal retreats in our recent travels, but our all time favorite is at Mosslanding KOA located on the California coast south of Santa Cruz and north of Monterey. It is a small, unassuming park with few amenities that comes at a hefty price for the night. But this is okay because as you know, location is everything. It sits right next to the harbor where fishing boats come and go and sea lions can be heard barking at all times of the day and night. I really enjoyed seeing all the wildlife, especially the otters, my favorite sea animal.

Sea otter playing near the harbor

From our site I walked through a gate and was at the parking area and launching spot for whale watching trips. Monterey Bay is known for whale watching and great sightings can be found a close distance from Mosslanding.

Whale tail during one of my whale watch cruises

The small village of Mosslanding has a number of restaurants within walking distance and our go to place has always been Phil’s Fish Market, my all time favorite seafood restaurant with lots of delicious dishes. I usually can’t pass up the Cioppino, one of their signature dishes. Mosslanding Beach is also a close walk, a great place for a stroll and the opportunity to see more wildlife like shorebirds and the snowy egret in photo below, who was catching his own fishy meal from the surf.

Thanks for following along with us and stay tuned for more to come!

Two Years on the Road – Notable RV Parks

Camping under tall pines at Boston Minuteman Campground, Massachusetts

Our nomad lifestyle traveling throughout the U.S. for over two years has meant staying at a number of different RV parks or campgrounds. We have spent time at approximately 105 of these, mostly for a week or two, some for several nights and even a few for a month or more. For me, the RV parks are mostly just a means to an end, a place to stay so we can explore nearby attractions and experience the U.S. Our reservations have always been kept and we have had good stays at almost all of them for which we have been grateful. Although they have varied of course depending on the state and region, most have not been particularly notable. In this post I thought I would focus on some that did stand out. These might not necessarily have been our favorite parks, but they were unique in some way.

A Park With a Swamp:

We loved our time in Louisiana where we stayed at Bayou Wilderness RV Resort for one month. This park was notable in that it had its own swamp. Now I love swamps and this one although small was attractive but unfortunately alligator 🐊 free. (In my opinion, a good swamp needs a few alligators 😊). Since we were there in late fall, the cypress trees had turned a rusty orange color and were dropping their needles.

We experienced two other notable things while staying at Bayou Wilderness. It was the only place where it snowed while there in December. Although the snow only fell lightly during a morning, it did stick for a day. The park owner told us that he had not seen snow there for many years, so a real novelty. The other thing is that this was our cheapest stay at only $480.00 for the entire month.

Most Interesting Park Geologically:

Blue Rocks Family Campground Office

We stayed at Blue Rocks Campground in Lenhartsville, Eastern Pennsylvania for four nights. Our main reason for staying in that area was to visit Hawk Mountain, a well known place for birders to come see hawks migrating. A very good friend of mine and her husband were the caretakers of this sanctuary in the 1930’s and I had always hoped to visit. This was not one of our favorite stays as we didn’t really like our spot, but the massive landslide of rock like a large river through the forest was an impressive sight. These boulder sized rocks stretched for a mile downhill through the Park.

A river of rock surrounded by forest

The Best Walking Path:

Walking path along the Mississippi River

We were delighted with our stay at Riverview RV park in Vidalia, Louisiana. It wasn’t necessarily because of the park itself, but because we were camping next to the mighty Mississippi River. There is something about this river that is so alluring that I can see why it has been written so much about and immortalized, plus it is the second largest river in the U.S. We loved watching all the barges and tow boats come and go and at night in our trailer, we could hear the hum of their engines passing in the night. There were plenty of places to view the river as a mile and a half long concrete path stretched from the park along the shore, passing under the bridge which crosses from Vidalia to the town of Natchez, Mississippi.

We saw some beautiful sunsets on the Mississippi River

The Tastiest Park:

Our site at Orange Grove RV Park

Place me in the middle of a grove with ripened oranges 🍊 and I am one happy camper! That is what we found at Orange Grove RV Park located outside of Bakersfield, California in a large citrus growing region. This expansive park is a favorite with us for a few reasons. Besides the oranges, it features long pull through spots that are easy to set up in. The camp sites were literally carved out of an orange grove with trees lining each site. In addition, there are orange trees or mini groves along the sides of the park. We also liked visiting the California Fruit Depot, located around the corner. This is a small shop that features samples of almost everything sold including dates, candies, nuts and dried fruit.

After a short shower we were treated to a beautiful rainbow
One of the groves laden with fruit

RVers are welcome to pick as many oranges as they wish, as long as they are picked when ripe. They even have picking tools to help campers get at the highest fruit. The last time I was there I felt almost gluttonous I picked so many, even though there were so many oranges they were falling off the trees. Since we were heading back to our campground in Northern California near where our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids live, they were happy to see us when we gave them a large bucket of oranges to squeeze for juice.

The Best RV Park Name:

We found the most welcoming park in Mobile, Alabama. Every visitor is acknowledged on a sign next to their site, even pets!

Mark and I have a hard time remembering the names of parks we have stayed in. Sometimes they just don’t stick in our minds, especially when we have been to so many places. One name I haven’t forgotten is “All About Relaxing,” a park located in Mobile, Alabama. The owners were former RVers who wanted to create a park with features they appreciated when they were on the road. As the name implies, they made a number of places to just hang out and relax – there was a pool, patio sitting areas, hammocks and a fire pit each night. Everything was clean, cheerful and nicely decorated. Unfortunately, it was freezing temperatures when we stayed in early January 2018 so hanging around outside was difficult and unusual for this time of year.

The Name Rang True:

Bay Breeze is a cute little park located on Mobile Bay near Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was one of the smallest parks we have ever stayed in. We were lucky to get a spot here for two weeks as it is usually filled with repeat visitors who come from the cold north to spend the winter on the warm Gulf of Mexico. In our case, one of the visitors had to leave for an emergency giving us this opportunity. I was thrilled to be staying just feet away from the water. We soon encountered those bay breezes the park mentions in their sign. In January 2018 the South was gripped with freezing temperatures and the wind howled across the Bay with such ferocity that I couldn’t stay outside even bundled up for more than about 10 minutes.

Mark walking on the park’s pier

Repeat visitors talked about how temperatures were usually in the 70’s and 80’s, not in the low 40’s during the day and below freezing at night. Mark put a number of his knitted hats in the office and chuckled the next morning as he saw most being worn and walked around. We were here for two weeks and the weather did improve. We really enjoyed the park, the ambience and the Gulf Shores area where there was much to see and do.

View of the deck and campsites from the pier

The Best Sunset:

Sunset Point RV Park, located on a very quiet bay in Maine came to be one of my all time favorite parks. It was a beautiful location and a short trail went along the shore with places to sit and watch the sunsets 🌅. We stayed for a week but the first several nights the sunset evaded us as clouds and fog drifted in. We did have a few nights of color though and it was as nice as we hoped. We also had a very pleasant campsite and we could order a freshly cooked lobster 🦞 from the owner which was served up to our door at the time we requested.

Most Unusual Neighbor:

Camping next to a small unfenced graveyard

There weren’t many RV parks to be found in the vicinity of Newport, Rhode Island and we were staying during the Labor Day weekend, so I was glad to find an available spot at Meadowlark RV Park in Middletown, a few miles north of Newport. I read online reviews that this was just camping in a field with no amenities, so we were not expecting much. What we weren’t expecting was a graveyard right next to our site. We parked the truck literally within inches of a marker. The graves were not even surrounded with a fence or wall for protection, just a sign noting their historical significance and penalties for vandalism.

I found graves to be quite old in New England and it was no exception here. The gravestone above notes the deceased as Edward Tewes who died in 1776. Could Edward have died while fighting in the Revolutionary War? I did some research but had no success finding information about him. We had a great stay in Middletown and I loved visiting Newport, one of my favorite cities of our travels!

Most Isolated RV Park:

This RV park is out in the middle of nowhere

I decided to book a stay at Rusty’s RV Ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico because it was close to Portal, Arizona, a birding hotspot near the Chiricahua Mountains. I also thought it would be near Chiricahua National Monument, a park I had always wanted to visit but this turned out to not be accurate. But all the great birding did keep us busy. People come here for something else besides the birds – the dark sky. This is reputed to be one of the darkest skies in the country and a favorite location for sky gazers and astronomers. The park is surrounded by wide open spaces with no towns of any population for many miles. Rodeo is so small that it doesn’t have a regular grocery store or a place to get gas. We were told rather nonchalantly that the nearest gas was 14 miles away in the town of Animas, New Mexico which is also a little place although not as sleepy as Rodeo.

While the stargazers didn’t appreciate it, we really enjoyed watching a full moon rise in Rodeo, New Mexico

Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for my next post on more notable RV parks.

Rambling Around Beverly and Hollywood Hills

Standing near the “Pink Palace”

While visiting Matt and Emma a year ago in Southern California, Matt and I took off to explore a few swanky hotels in Beverly Hills. Our first stop was at the Beverly Hills Hotel also known as the “pink palace.” This was my second time to visit here, the first several years ago in early December. Of course, it was not to stay there as room prices vary from about $800 to $1100 per night. After all, I am just a simple RVer living in a small travel trailer 😀 . My rent is often less than that for a month. But the hotel is gracious and doesn’t mind visitors who just want to come in and soak up some atmosphere for awhile.

Matt walking on the red carpet up to the hotel’s entrance

The Beverly Hills Hotel has been around for awhile, even before the city of Beverly Hills existed. It opened in 1912, created with the idea of a place for people to stay while looking to buy property in the area. It became popular with Hollywood celebrities and other famous types and has hosted world leaders. Many movies have also been made here.

I was thrilled to find fresh blossoms on a stairway

During my first visit, the hotel was wonderfully decorated for Christmas, but this time in January, I found other decorations to delight me. My favorite was the flowers that covered the banister from the first floor down to a conference room, bouquets of roses and other freshly cut blooms.

There are several places to eat at the hotel and we decided to try the Cabana Cafe which is located outdoors in a patio setting next to the pool. The legendary pool opened in 1938 as the “Sand and Pool Club” with real sand to make it feel like a true beach club. Eleven cabanas line the private poolside. Matt eyed the cabanas longingly and said he would be interested in having one if he stayed at the hotel. But, of course they come with a hefty extra price tag as well. No photos are allowed down in the pool area or at the cafe, so I only took one as we descended the stairs.

The ambience came at a price so we shared a more “affordable” pastry basket that cost about $25.00. When chocolate chip cookies cost $12.00 a piece, you can imagine what the breakfasts and lunches were like. The setting was beautiful with the hotel’s color scheme of pink contrasted with dark green and white stripes in the decor and furniture. We enjoyed basking in elegance for awhile.

Matt relaxing at one of the Beverly Hills Hotel outdoor seating areas

After exploring around the hotel we left to find another hotel to hang out in. We had thought about stopping at the Beverly Hills Wilshire, but driving down Doheny Drive we saw signs next to the Four Seasons Hotel advertising the 2019 Golden Globe Awards and decided to quickly pull in. We had the car valet parked and as we got out cameras were clicking, since celebrity types were coming and going for the upcoming awards show the next day and you never know who might be arriving. Plus, Matt has been told he looks a little like the actor Matt Damon 😊 .

The grand Four Seasons Hotel
Matt striking a pose next to Marilyn Monroe
Golden Globe display inside the hotel lobby

We saw they were offering a buffet in the garden but when we tried to go out to see if we could join in, for some strange reason we were not allowed 😃 . Turns out it was for a private party so we headed to the bar area. Matt thought we would get a drink and see if we could spot any celebrities. He soon made a sighting and asked if I recognized him. Sadly, I did not recognize Randy Jackson, a television personality who was a former judge on the hit show, “American Idol,” a show I had never watched. He sat at a nearby table talking to several people. I realized ahead of time that I make a poor celebrity spotter since I haven’t watched many of the “newer” TV shows and although I do go to the movies 🎥 occasionally, I rarely keep up with film stars.

While Matt was checking out celebrity sightings, I was distracted by the beautiful fresh flower bouquets placed throughout the hotel lobby.

Matt saw someone working there that he knew and he offered to take us on a tour of the hotel, but alas we had already asked the concierge desk to get the car, so we had to pass on a tour.

Exploring the Hollywood Hills

Another day we took off to explore the Hollywood Hills. Matt who is an adept driver negotiated well the twisty turns and steep ascents as we weaved our way around, taking in the fancy homes and gorgeous views from high up. I know I could not drive that well in this area, but Matt is used to it and he was a great tour guide.

At one point we drove past a residence and Matt asked if I had seen the gorilla out front. I had missed it, so he did a quick U-turn and went back. Yes, a stone gorilla with piercing, red eyes aglow standing guard out front was a first for me.

Home once owned by my grandfather

Matt had been doing some genealogy research and found the home my grandfather once owned in Nichols Canyon many years ago. This was an interesting stop for me as I had never seen the house before. My mother spent her growing up years in the Hollywood Hills, although I don’t think in this home.

Griffith Observatory

After tackling the hills of Hollywood, we moved on to the Griffith Observatory, one of the most popular places to visit in the Los Angeles area. We parked below the building and got some exercise walking up the hill on the canyon road for a mile to the top. From there the views were magnificent and the building lovely as well. Lots of folks were there as it was getting near to sunset. In the photos below, we checked out the Los Angeles skyline.

From the Observatory is a great view of the famous Hollywood sign seen at left corner of photo

Although a lot of people come for the views, there are quite a few exhibits inside related to astronomy. There is also a planetarium offering shows and telescopes to check out at night.

Matt ponders an exhibit on the sun

It is a must to be here at dark when the views become even more magical with thousands of lights from downtown Los Angeles.

Our next stop after the Observatory was the Glendale Americana at Brand which still had wonderful decorations from the holidays that were fun to see. This is a popular shopping, eating and entertainment complex. Among other things was a huge Christmas tree and delightful water fountain show. I read that they even have snow falling and carolers in the evenings before Christmas. My favorite was the trolley zipping down the street also decked out for the holidays. The very large chandelier at the entrance was also quite cool.

I hope you enjoyed some of our Los Angeles area exploring! Next time I thought I would do a little different post – notable RV parks during our two plus years exploring. Stay tuned!

Exploring Venice Beach Promenade and Canals

Mark and Matt strolling the promenade

Venice is a great place to hang out in the L.A. area and that is what we did one day a year ago while visiting our son and daughter-in-law. Although I am a California native and grew up in Southern California, I had never visited Venice. So I was looking forward to exploring this popular beachside town. We started out with the 2-1/2 mile ocean front pedestrian walk, a fun place where people shop, eat, skate board, bike and Segway. Vendors sell crafts in booths and artists showcase their creations along the sidewalk. The sound of live music adds much to the atmosphere.

A little piano music along the Venice promenade
An artist making name plates shaped like surfboards. We got two for our grandsons

The shop I thought the most interesting was “Titan,” which mainly sells two kinds of things – hats and large transformer models. It was fun to take photos next to several of the metal “monsters.” They were pretty creepy looking!

Transformers at Titan
Trying on hats at the Titan store

In 1905, Mr. Abbott Kinney, developed this area calling it “Venice of America.” It became a resort beach town with a pier and carnival attractions. He also developed the Venice Canals which are a short walk from the beach. By the time the depression hit, the amusement industry wasn’t doing well. Then oil was discovered and the beach was transformed into a drilling field. Pretty soon it wasn’t the lovely beach town any more but polluted with oil waste and called the “Slum of the Sea.” Drilling continued in earnest through 1932 but then dropped off. By the 1990’s the beach oilfield was finally depleted and the derricks torn down. Once again Venice became a tourist Mecca.

Matt debates getting a hat

Venice is also known as a home for bodybuilders and has been called
“Muscle Beach.” One area along the promenade is still set up with workout machines and weights. It was here that Arnold Schwarzenegger (actor, famous body builder, former California governor) came in the late 1960’s after immigrating to America. I watched a video that Arnold did from several years ago talking about his days in Venice. Although he and other body builders liked working out at nearby Gold’s Gym, they often came to Muscle Beach because it was a great place to get a tan to look good for competitions. He reported that they would work out on the machines and then run over to the ocean and jump in the waves to cool off. Although the body building area didn’t look as big or dramatic as I imagined, it was still interesting to see this historic sight. Mark loves him from his old athletic days when he was a budding weight lifter himself and used to read some of Arnold’s books. Plus, I am a bit of an Arnold and Terminator movies fan.

Muscle Beach Gym where the public can get a day, month or year pass to work out

It was like stepping back in time to see the beautiful Venice Canals, a picturesque area. It was also much more peaceful than the promenade and beach area. People have charming homes along the canals and this is one area of L.A. that I think would be neat to live, especially since I love being near water. I would keep a kayak or canoe docked near my cottage and take to the water from time to time.

Today there are six main canals, four that run east to west and two north to south. When Mr. Kinney first developed them they were modeled after Venice, Italy. Gondolas piloted by gondoliers traveled the waterways with more canals than remain today. At first people called this “Kinney’s Folly” as they didn’t think he could make much from the beach marshland. But he succeeded in selling plots of land for homes and drawing many visitors. By the 1920’s when cars had become popular, the canals were seen as outdated and filled in for paved roads.

Venice Canal Association best dressed home contest

Thankfully, in 1993 the canals were restored with walk ways and bridges renovated, a six million dollar project.

One of the lovely canal bridges decked out with flags of the world

I have always been intrigued by the little libraries that have become popular in recent years and are located in front of homes or businesses. If I lived here I would also have a little library like we found on a floating dock. People could easily paddle their craft up and check out a book.

Matt checks out a little library along one of the canals
Hoping for world peace, health and prosperity? Leave a wish on this bridge

As we walked back from the canals we came upon this delightful residence. The owner had decorated her shrubbery and palm trees with hand knitted “socks.” We visited a little admiring her handiwork.

There are plenty of intriguing eateries in the Venice and Santa Monica area. We finished off our exploring with dinner at the adorable and tasty little Caribbean cafe called “Cha Cha Chicken.”

Thanks for coming along with us as we explored Venice. Stay tuned for another post exploring the Beverly Hills and Hollywood area.

Looking Back – Fun Stay at Hollywood RV Park

Matt and Emma at Hollywood RV Park
Emma and our grand pup Harry

Towards the end of the year in 2018, I called Hollywood RV Park to see about making reservations to stay there a week or so in early January 2019. When I reached one of the office staff, she thought for a bit and said she wasn’t sure they would have a space since it was just after the holidays. As we spoke I mentioned that our son Matt and daughter-in-law Emma were staying at this park. She immediately said, “Why didn’t you tell me in the first place! We love Matt and Emma” and started to list all the reasons why. So, it ended up they were able to find us a site after all.

Hanging out with Matt and Emma

Hollywood RV Park is located in the city of Van Nuys and close to Hollywood, Burbank, Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles. When we came, Matt and Emma had been staying there for several months while working as travel nurses in the ER of an area hospital. They really enjoyed this park, the atmosphere, owners and close proximity to lots of interesting attractions. They enjoy the L.A. area, so this was a great fit. We were also looking forward to staying for a short while in the place they were calling home. I know I am writing about this long after the fact, but in early 2019 I was bogged down trying to catch up on blog posts from our travels in the latter part of 2018. But now I am glad I delayed writing about our stay there. It is fun reminiscing about the park, our sightseeing and especially going through all the photos.

Lots of murals to discover at the Park!

Hollywood RV Park caters to people working in the movie industry, travel nurses, hospital patients and overnighters coming to visit the L.A. area. RV parks are few and far between in this part of California, something we have discovered during our travels. In populated places parks are often located on the outskirts, so finding one so close to all the action is rare. Movies and TV shows have been filmed at the park and shelves in the office hold awards (won by park residents), including an Oscar (the real thing) for the music to Star Wars. A number of people live here permanently including a few that were in the movie industry and one original occupant from 1976.

Forklift getting our trailer into place

Checking in was a little different than other places we have stayed. Since the lanes and sites are a bit narrow, RVers do not back themselves in but are moved in by a fork lift equipped with a trailer hitch, eliminating the need for a tow vehicle. A number of times in the past few years Mark and I have had to struggle to back in to tight fits …… well, I say Mark and I but it is Mark who is doing the backing in as I admit I could never do it. So, it was nice to be able to get in so easily! Although the sites are a little narrow, once in we didn’t feel cramped.

The Park is decorated with cute signs as each lane has a name – ours was Hollywood Blvd. There is also a lot of original art work on backboards at the sites and a large painted mural at the end of each lane. This is a fun setting to walk around and look at what has been created.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
One of the cute decorated areas
Matt getting swallowed up!
I was so happy to find a Lucille Ball mural – one of my favorite actresses

The park has a neat club house where you can relax and watch TV as well as see live performances on their stage. More art work can be found on the walls as well as books and information on the history of Hollywood.

Hanging out at the clubhouse

Each site had a little something nice to offer. Our spot had a Meyer lemon tree that was loaded with lemons. I am always excited to have any fresh picked fruit and I got busy making lemonade and slicing lemons into water.

Entering the park you must pass this guard on his police motorcycle. Looks like he isn’t getting enough of that California sunshine!

Stay tuned for more fun exploring near Hollywood RV park when we visit the beachside community of Venice in my next post.

Touring Bob’s Red Mill and Harry & David

Production facility where the tour is held

If you love whole grains, you would really enjoy visiting Bob’s Red Mill located in Milwaukie, Oregon near Portland. Perhaps you have seen this product line where you shop as they are sold all over the U.S. and even around the world in supermarket chains and specialty grocery stores. We occasionally buy Bob’s Red Mill products and I had been curious about visiting here for several years. Bob’s provides a factory tour to see their production facility and at a separate location nearby there is a restaurant, bakery and store. We started out with the tour which is held at 10:00, Monday through Friday and takes about 90 minutes.

One of Bob’s main interests – piano playing

While waiting for the tour to begin we heard a piano being played in the next room. Turns out that Bob, the Company’s founder loves to play, frequently delighting guests with his songs. He couldn’t stay long though because as he came out of the room and I shook his hand he reported that he was, “off to a meeting.” At the age of 90, it appeared that Bob was still not retired!

As our tour began, we sat in a room surrounded with Red Mill products, information and advertisements. Our guide gave us a history of the company and how grains are processed. In 1978, Bob and his wife Charlee moved to the Portland area to retire and having an interest in milling, opened a business in an old mill building. They began stone grinding grains into flours and cereals and blending whole grain mixes. Over the years the company grew and they moved into a larger facility in 2007. They now have 410 employees working three shifts. On February 15, 2010, Bob celebrated his 81st birthday and announced to his employees that Bob’s Red Mill was now an employee owned company. An Employee Stock Ownership Plan was created that provided an orderly transition of ownership to the same employees that helped it grow.

Sitting on old millstones yet to be restored. Bob’s Red Mill still uses century old stones incorporated into a modern frame

During our tour we were able to look into windows and watch grains like corn and wheat being milled and packaged. They don’t allow photos though of the production floor. Everything looked very clean and orderly. We learned that employees start out as “temporaries” and if they do well can be kept on. Workers wear different colored uniforms depending on their job duties. After seeing the production we went to a room where we could pick out a few samples to take with us as well as visit the tiny gift shop for souvenirs.

Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant, Bakery and Store

After our tour we drove to the restaurant for lunch and a little shopping in their beautiful, modern building. We ordered food at a counter downstairs and ate at a seating area looking out over the store and bakery on the first floor.

Restaurant counter and bakery area

The menu is pretty good and true to their whole grain concept. They offer whole grain hot and cold cereals as well as oatmeal for breakfast and grain bowls, salads and vegan sandwiches for lunch. But they also offer egg breakfasts and sandwiches with meat. Different varieties of bread are baked onsite and sold in the store.

Even the company founder waits in line to order lunch

While we were eating upstairs, I looked down at one point and saw Bob standing in line waiting to order at the counter. It struck me as funny that the founder of the company would wait in line rather than just go in the back area and have someone rustle him up a sandwich or grain bowl. Kudos to Bob for being just a “regular guy.”😀

A spurtle is a 15th century Scottish porridge tool made in different sizes from wood. They sell them in the store so I couldn’t resist getting one, but I haven’t used it yet 😊
The company grinds and blends over two dozen different hot breakfast cereals.

The store sells every product that they make and I found it rather astonishing how many products are for sale here. There were shelves of different kinds of cereals, flours and nut meals, some of which I had not heard of before like kamut, garbanzo fava, amaranth, teff, cassava and coconut. There were baking mixes, grains, seeds, berries, beans and rices. Besides all the packaged items they also have a bulk area where you can buy a little or a lot to try out. I bought a little teff flour, an ancient grain from Ethiopia. I was tempted to buy a lot of their products, but alas we have limited space in our trailer. I did get some steel cut oats which we often eat for breakfast, an 8-grain hot cereal mix and a kamut hot cereal. Kamut is an ancient wheat grain with probable origins in the Fertile Crescent. I haven’t tried the kamut cereal yet but the 8-grain was delicious! I also got a bag of Scottish oats so I could make oat cakes. Below is a photo of them using the recipe I got at Bob’s Red Mill.

Oat Cakes – not handsome to look at, but rather tasty and nutritious

Located in the Southern Oregon town of Medford is the headquarters of Harry & David, who produce and ship all kinds of gourmet gift baskets full of sweet and savory treats. During other past trips to Oregon, we had stopped at the Harry & David store, but had never done the factory tour. During this trip we made a point to go and it turned out to be the right time of year as the company was busy getting lots of goodies packaged for the holiday season.

The main store

Our tour was to start at the the main store where we would board a large van to be driven to the production facility a mile or so away. But since we got there early we checked out all the goodies and samples the store offered. I was most interested in the “Moose Munch” which is an addicting popcorn coated with different kinds of chocolate, caramel and nuts. There were samples of each kind they sold, yum!

Lots of lovely packaged gift ensembles

The Harry and David Company started when a man named Samuel Rosenberg bought some pear orchards and began marketing them in 1910. In 1914, his sons Harry and David took over and in 1934 began a mail order business. The company still produces special pears called “Royal Riviera” and during our bus ride to the production building, our driver took us by the orchards to see them. From pears the Company eventually moved on to other sweet treats.

This is how it began for the Harry & David Company

We covered a lot of ground on our walking tour as the main building is huge. This is probably the largest food factory type building we have been in. We walked above the factory floor and watched hundreds of people filling and completing gift baskets and boxes. It was quite a sight. Including seasonal employees, approximately 8,000 people are working here.

Closeup of workers putting together gift boxes of specialty foods
View of just one area of the gift packaging
Pears being readied for packaging – on the right pears travel down a conveyor and on the left are gift boxes

Although the gift box/basket area was interesting, the best part was going to the baking building. The delicious smell was incredible! From windows above, we watched moose munch popcorn being made in big mixers. Large chunks of butter were combined with hot bubbling syrup to make a luscious caramel sauce. Popcorn was then mixed in and dumped onto a conveyor belt where it made its way to be packaged. I could have stayed in the moose munch area for a long time taking in those smells and watching the process!

Moose Munch being dumped out of the mixing vat
Moose Munch making its way along the conveyor

The Company makes an incredible array of candies, cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, pies and fruit cakes. During our tour, we watched them make cinnamon rolls – spreading out the dough, putting the cinnamon sugar on and rolling it back up before putting the rolls in paper cups.

Making cinnamon rolls

At the end we got a little box of delicious shortbread cookies filled with raspberry jam, a nice ending to a sweet day and fun tour of Harry & David.

Thanks for checking in and hope you enjoyed a look at our factory tours. Stay tuned for my next post on our Hollywood visit from one year ago.

Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park

I never forgot my first visit to Silver Falls State Park about 13 years ago. It’s not easy to forget a place where you can see ten waterfalls on one trail. Four of the waterfalls you walk behind, experiencing up close the power of water. Not only are the waterfalls impressive, but the canyon you hike through is a wonder as well with a thick temperate rainforest of huge Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Maple trees covered in moss with a trail bordered by ferns and shrubbery.

This was a wet hike! Not only the trail itself but all the greenery was dripping from the rainforest conditions
The trail follows Silver Creek through a dense rainforest

Silver Falls is Oregon’s largest state park and has been touted as the “Crown Jewel” of the Oregon state park system. It is located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains about a 45 minute drive from the capital city of Salem.

At the beginning of my hike I was greeted by a group of Gray Jays

During our recent trip to Oregon, I took to this trail one day in early November. I wasn’t sure what to expect about water flow since it was in the middle of fall and I hoped the waterfalls still had a good amount of water in them. I was also not sure about hiking the whole Ten Falls trail as it is long and rather rigorous. So far in our RV travels I hadn’t hiked almost nine miles on one trail and I would be doing this by myself as Mark not being a hiker would not be joining me. There are opportunities to see some of the falls by cobbling together shorter trails or driving to a few different starting points, but I really wanted to do the whole trail again and see all the falls.

South Falls drops 177 feet and is the second highest waterfall in the park

Although long, the trail is so beautiful and easy to follow that it didn’t seem that hard and the time passed quickly. I met nice people along the way too, so it wasn’t a lonely hike. Although the falls were not running at capacity as they would have been earlier in the year, they still had a good amount of rushing water. It seems to see really good falls at most parks requires climbing stairs and this park is no exception. I had to hike into a canyon and out of it, with some up and down along the trail as well.

At one time there was a town located above the canyon and near South Falls, the most well known of the falls and the starting point of my hike. Silver Falls City was formed in 1888 primarily as a logging community. A local entrepreneur sold admission to the falls area and there were even some attractions including pushing cars over the falls and a daredevil stunt involving riding over South Falls in a canoe. One of the biggest advocates for creating a park here was a photographer who began a campaign with photos in 1900. But the National Park Service rejected the area for park status because there were so many unattractive stumps after years of logging. When the Great Depression hit, the timber industry was over. In 1933 the state park was formed and in 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps was employed to develop park facilities including trails, bridges and retaining walls. The South Falls Lodge was completed in the late 1930’s and remains open today.

South Falls
South Falls was the first waterfall on my hike that I could walk behind due to the amphitheater setting

I mentioned in my opening paragraph that you can walk behind four of the waterfalls. Behind the North Falls drop is the most impressive opening – a huge cave like overhang. It is definitely a place to sit a spell and just admire looking out at the falling water.

Huge recessed cave behind North Falls
Looking out from the back of North Falls
North Falls drops 136 feet and is the 3rd highest waterfall in the park

One of my favorite falls here is Lower South Falls. Although not as tall as South or North Falls, it drops 93 feet in a wide beautiful sheet. The trail goes behind as well, although the recess is narrow.

Lower South Falls
Walking behind Lower South Falls
Lower South Falls side view

The tallest waterfall in the park is Double Falls which drops 184 feet and is located next to a short spur off the main trail. There was not much water in it, so it fell in a thin stream. In the photo below, you can barely see the top tier of the falls to the right of the main drop.

Middle North Falls at 106 feet is the Park’s fourth waterfall you can walk behind on a narrow trail.

Middle North Falls

A couple of the waterfalls are quite small and not very dramatic, but still worth a stop as I came by. Drake Falls was the only one I did not photograph as it was the least visible of the falls and could only be viewed from a small deck.

Lower North Falls

I finished up my adventure by taking a spur trail to see impressive Upper North Falls. It had a large wide pool in front of the 65 foot drop and there were many slippery rocks to walk on to get closer. I walked part of the way but decided not to go right next to the pool. I’d rather not take the risk of falling and hurting myself so I can be sure and walk to more beautiful places like this in the future!

Upper North Falls

Although I had planned to see ten waterfalls on my trek I actually only saw nine. Unfortunately, the spur trail to see Winter Falls was closed when I visited. The chance to see nine waterfalls in a gorgeous rainforest was one of my best days exploring during our RV travels! If you ever find yourself in the north central part of Oregon make your way to Silver Falls State Park. It is a winner!

Our welcoming committee

I thought I would close with a photo from our campsite in Southern Oregon. We had just arrived when this flock of ducks waddled by to say hello! Stay tuned for one more post about our Oregon travels. Next up – fun food factory tours.

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
Gargoyle

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!