Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happily Ordinary Days

Jim 076 Continuing our nearly breakneck snail’s pace, we managed to get more than half the Castle waxed and polished in just two days!  On Sunday, as I previously reported, Jim kept up with a dozen or so football games and I waxed and polished all of the compartment doors on the Castle.

We had a break for some grilled bison burgers and fresh corn on the cob which was wonderful!  Of course, I had to be done with my work in time to watch the Denver Broncos  beat the Raiders!

Yesterday we both got in the act on the waxing and polishing.  It seems this task is always a magnet for the men who are out and about in the park.  When I was out on Sunday, two or three guys came by to check out the buffer.  I think they were a little surprised to see “the little woman” doing outside work.  And yesterday, the neighbor had to come over and compare notes on what products we use, etc.  It’s fun to visit and get to know people around us.

We finished the front and one side of the coach before we both gave in and decided we were give out.  One of the places we wanted to re-visit is the Edgefield Winery which is just up the road.  In addition to the winery, they also distill liquor, brew beer, and have several restaurants and shops on the property, as well as lodging.  It’s a popular place for weddings and other events, so it’s always busy.  One of the restaurants is where we went with Dortha, Mark, Deb and Rod, called the Power Station.  Reason for the name – when the property was the county poor farm, this was their power plant.  Now they serve sandwiches, pizza, soups and salads, along with their wine and brew.  We decided to have a late lunch there, which was very relaxing.

We weren’t finished relaxing though, so when we got home we did more of that.  A new neighbor knocked on the door, and when I went out to talk to her, she said she just had to come over and meet us, because they are picking up their 2010 Phaeton in Fort Worth in a couple of weeks, and wanted to see how we like ours.  We invited them in to see the place, and talked with them for quite a while.  Welcome to the Tiffin family, neighbor!

Today we’ll do some last minute shopping and start winding down our time in Troutdale.  This has been a good place for us, but we are both really excited to be heading to the coast for the next few months.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friends Connect

Jim 072 We’re going back a ways in time to start off today.  Jim and I both worked in a power plant when we met and quickly figured out we should be together for the rest of our lives.  Since there was a rule about being related and working in the same department, I quit and got a job at the local school district.  About a year after I started that job, I applied for and was hired for a promotion to an executive secretary, supporting the head of a division.  I worked for Joe for the next 8 years, and during that time, he supported my every effort to improve my skills.  That included getting my associate’s, then my bachelor’s, and starting on a graduate degree.  We ended up being friends instead of just boss and employee.  Joe is originally from Oregon and eventually moved back here.  Over the years, we gradually lost contact with each other.

When we first arrived in Troutdale, Jim signed up for a Facebook page, and found Joe on there.  It turns out he now lives in the Portland suburbs.  We contacted him, and last night we went to his house for dinner.  We so enjoyed catching up with them, and hope they can make a trip out to the coast when we get settled there. 

Our “to-do” list is getting accomplished, with an item or two getting crossed off every day.  Now, if we could just stop new items from getting added….  Today, while Jim is engrossed in football, I will work on my part of the Castle polishing job.  My half is the bottom, and I’ll save the top for him to do tomorrow.  

We’ve been enjoying beautiful weather the past few days, but from the weather pages, it looks like today may be one of the last sunny days for awhile, rain is coming!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Search and A Clean Car

Now that we’re slowing our pace, our days are not quite so adventure-filled, which makes coming up with exciting journal updates somewhat challenging.

A few years ago,  my sister Ann and her husband Bob lived in Salem, Oregon.  On a couple of our visits to them, we toured several wineries in the vicinity.  One of our favorites was run by a fellow who made an especially tasty peach wine.  We wanted to make another visit to this place, so yesterday we decided to see if we could find it.  I’d also looked up a few other wineries in the area, since we weren’t sure if the one we wanted to visit was still there.

Our first stop was right in Salem, at the Honeywood Winery.  They had some very nice fruit wines, including a pear and a peach wine – we got one bottle of each.

Jim 060 On to the next stop, Orchard Heights, a few miles outside of Salem:

Jim 067 There are still beautiful blooms around:

Jim 069While we were here, we asked about the place we hoped to find, Oak Grove Winery, and found out that the man ho owned it passed away a few years ago, and to their knowledge, no one had taken over the winery.  We made the drive to the address anyway, hoping maybe we’d gotten incorrect information.  No, we hadn’t, we found the property, but it was deserted.  Ah well, time moves on!

We have visited Bethel Heights Winery before.  It’s pretty upscale, with some bottles for sale over $50 each.  Luckily, our tastes are a lot more simple!

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They do have an extensive vineyard:

Jim 074 After our wine tour, we stopped for lunch before heading back home.

Today was car care day.  Jim took the Saturn over to Walmart to have the oil changed.  I guess part of their routine service is to check the tires, when he got home, he found two tires had gone flat.  Evidently they didn’t tighten the Pressure Pro sensors correctly, and they both leaked.  Thank goodness for our air compressor. Once that little issue was handled, we washed and waxed the car.

After all that work, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, until it was time to cook dinner.  Tonight I made a new recipe, Chicken Marsala.  That’s one of my very favorite dishes, but I’d never tried making it before, and it turned out good, I think it’s a keeper.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Catching Up and Slowing Down

We’ve been to Oregon several times before, but we were always in “vacation” mode.  This time, we have decided to slow ourselves down and spend the next two months here.  We will be in the Portland area for another week or so before going to the coast.  We’ve got reservations at a park in Lincoln City for October, and then will pick somewhere along the southern Oregon coast for November.   What this means is that we will be staying behind, while Dortha and Mark, and Deb and Rod move along without us.  We will certainly miss our day-to-day contact and adventures with them, but understand that they need to start heading back towards their respective families before long.

Last night we all went over to the Edgefield Winery for dinner together one last time before the four of them leave for the coast today.  Jim, Rod, Deb, Dortha and Mark were all smiling after we shared a huge slab of chocolate cake:

Ellie 003 We will catch up with you all  again before long!  Please travel safe and have fun!

Meanwhile, we have been doing some catching up with routine matters like cleaning, organizing and grocery shopping.  Sunday morning I went to a local Weight Watchers meeting, then did some grocery shopping.  Jim needed to catch up with his regular Sunday football schedule, so I pretty much left him to take care of that important duty!   I spent time both on Saturday and Sunday getting the dogs looking like Schnauzers again, they were beginning to look pretty fuzzy!  They feel and look much better now.

We all took a day trip to the “Fruit Loop” in the Hood River Valley on Monday.  We visited several farms and wineries, did some tasting and some buying.

Our remaining time here will be a mix of sightseeing and household chores.  We have a lot of reorganizing and cleaning to do, both inside and outside the Castle.  And, there are several places in the area that we want to see before we move out to the coast.  On to the next adventures!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Falls and Fish

We didn’t do a whole lot yesterday except some walking and resting, along with a couple of errands, the most interesting one of those being a quick trip to a Trader Joe’s Grocery.  We picked up a couple of bottles of the well-known “2 buck chuck” wine, which is now actually $2.99, still a darn good deal, since it’s pretty good wine.  I also got a bottle of sweet Marsala wine, which will be used to make Chicken Marsala. 

Today, Dortha, Mark, Deb, Jim and I all went for a day trip up the Columbia River Gorge to see the many water falls and other sights.  Rod wanted to get their rig washed, so he stayed behind for that.  He missed a lot of beautiful sights!

We started out at 10 this morning, and our first stop was at the Crown Point Overlook, which is the highest point on the scenic byway through the gorge.  When we got up there, the traffic was stopped by a flagger, but we hadn’t seen any road work signs.  I walked over to the woman holding the stop sign and asked what the story was.  “Car Commercial” was the answer.  Not only was the traffic on the road stopped, but because of that jam, the parking lot was all jammed up as well.  Pretty soon a park ranger came out and had a little talk with the flagger, and all of a sudden, there was no more traffic jam.

While we waited for all that to clear up, we took a look around at the view of the Columbia River:

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Jim 022There are at least eight waterfalls to be seen along the byway.  Our first stop was Loutrell Falls, where we found the film crew at work filming a Kia commercial.  Turns out they were having a little problem with the vehicle carrying the film camera and needed some jumper cables.  They saw Mark walking by and asked him if he had a set of cables.  Mark to the rescue:

Ellie 042 We all took lots of pictures at each stop:

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And even took some of waterfalls.  This one is Shepperd’s Dell:

Jim 055 Bridal Veil Falls:

Ellie 092 Of course, the most famous of them all, Multnomah Falls, was a must-see:

Ellie 119 At just about every stop to view the falls, we had to walk and/or climb anywhere from just a few yards to 2/3 of a mile or more.  By the time we’d visited 6 falls, we were all getting pretty hungry, so we consulted the GPS to locate a restaurant for a late lunch.  We got directed to a Mexican Restaurant that turned out to be closed, so we ended up with sandwiches at a Subway instead.

After re-energizing, we stopped at Bonneville Dam and looked at the fish ladder, then went into the visitor center where they have fish viewing windows. The salmon are returning now, so we got to watch them on their amazing final journey:

Jim 148 We then stopped at the fish hatchery and viewed “Herman” the 10 foot sturgeon.  By the time we stopped there, my little camera battery had given up, and Jim was still in the gift shop, so I didn’t get a picture of Herman.  But he was definitely an interesting old fish, reportedly about 70 years old. 

Our final stop at the hatchery was the last stage of the salmon’s journey, where they arrive at the pools where they were hatched and complete their life’s journey.  This was taken from right above the last hurdle the fish have to clear to get to what’s called the Crowding Pool.  When there are a certain number of fish in this little holding area, the water level is increased to the point where the salmon can swim into the final pool, where they spawn and then expire:

Jim 171 This was a really interesting and educational stop on the day’s trip.

We headed back to Troutdale to pick up Rod and go to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, since we missed having Mexican food for lunch.  It was a great choice for dinner, and a fun way to complete an awesome day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We’re in Oregon!

Actually, we were in Oregon yesterday, but today we officially moved to an rv park in Troutdale, just outside Portland.  We’re going to stay here for a couple of weeks, then start wandering down the coast.  The park where we’re staying is another very nice one, although the sites are just a little closer together than we like.

Our day trip yesterday took us from Kelso to Astoria, Oregon and down the coast to Cannon Beach.  Jim and I drove our car again so we could take the dogs and not worry about them getting into the picnic bags that Dortha and Mark had in the Jeep.  In Astoria, we stopped to find a quilt shop so I could look at a few patterns. (More about that later).  Then we went out to Fort Stevens State Park to have our picnic lunch and see the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, a British ship that went aground on the beach in 1906 instead of sailing up the Columbia River to Portland as intended.  This is what’s left of the ship:

Jim 015The next stop was Cannon Beach, where we joined  the hoards of people who take pictures of the famous Haystack Rock:

Jim 061 The parking lot was about a half mile from the rock, but we wanted to walk to it, so off we all went.  Dogs on leash are allowed on the beach, so Jazz and Mr. BJ got to go along.

We timed the arrival just right, because at the base of the rock during low tide, there are some wonderful tide pools.

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We got there just at low tide and spent quite a while exploring to see all the creatures:

Jim 081 Once we got back to the rv park, we found that Glenn and Sylvia had arrived and were parked right next to us.  The 8 of us had dinner together and visited until it was time to get some rest.  Glenn and Sylvia were planning to move out to the coast today, while our plans were taking us down to the Portland area.

Since our travel day was only 56 miles, we didn’t hurry this morning, and left just after 10:30.  We arrived at the Sandy Riverfront RV Resort in Troutdale shortly after noon.  This is an interesting park.  It’s the only place we’ve ever stayed where the daily rate is less than a weekly rate would be.  They are also very picky about parking exactly within the boundary of your individual site.  The guy in the office told us if even a tiny bit of your vehicle is over the “sidewalk” it could earn you a $147 fine.  Hmmm….  But other than these quirks, and the close togetherness, it’s a very clean and well-kept place.

Our plans for the area include exploring the Columbia River Gorge, visiting some wineries, catching up on shopping (especially at Trader Joe’s) and visiting with friends who live in the vicinity.  We may tour the “Fruit Loop” and do some other things as well, we’ll see.

About the quilt patterns, we’re having a quilt made for our bed, and I’m trying to figure out just what I want, so I’m looking at all sorts of materials and patterns these days.  Fun!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mt. St. Helens

Yesterday, as I mentioned in our last entry, was the first Sunday of the “real” football season, so I left Jim to his teams and went about my own business, which included laundry (Yes, I did it all!), cleaning up the car, doing some ironing and visiting the local  mall with Dortha.  We each got a great pedicure, then we  hit a few stores.  She found some great bargains, and I did ok myself.

The guys took time out for dinner and we made plans for our trip to Mt. St. Helens.  Our departure time this morning was a little after 10.  We took 2 cars today so that Jim and I could leave the dogs in our car and the food for lunch and snacks would be safe in Dortha and Mark’s car while we were out and about.  With six of us going, it’s a little more comfortable that way too.

We stopped at the visitor’s center to watch a short film about the May 18, 1980 eruption and take a look through the historical exhibits:

Deb and I were browsing through the exhibits:

Jim 005

And Rod took time to read everything:

Jim 007

At our next stop, we decided to go ahead and have our picnic lunch, to which we’d all made contributions. The skies was very overcast and we could not yet see the mountain.  We figured if we took our time getting up to the Johnston Observatory, we’d increase our chances of having the sky clear up so we could see Mt. St. Helens.  We picked out a table and set out our lunch things:

Jim 014

After lunch we continued on up the road towards the Johnston Observatory.  Jim and I visited here in 2003.  Deb and Rod have also been there before, but not since the Observatory was built.  This was Dortha and Mark’s first visit.  It was interesting to see how much greener most of the area is just since we were here.  The trees have really grown back in most areas, although there are still places that are pretty barren, especially right in the blast zone close to the mountain. 

This was all we could see of Mt. St. Helens when we  first got to the observatory.  We went in and watched another film and the exhibits in this center, which are more scientific and explain more about the blast and it’s effects on the landscape.

Jim 044

The observatory was built around this tree, which somehow remained standing after the blast:

Jim 048

Jim had fun pushing the button to activate this exhibit, which is a large table model of the Mt. St. Helens blast area.  It lights up different areas with different  colored lights as a narrated recording explains the events that occurred on the day the volcano erupted:

Jim 050

Something we noticed this visit which we missed before was a small detail, yet very telling.  If you look closely at the dead tree below, you can see large rocks embedded in the roots.  When the blast occurred, these rocks were propelled at about 450 miles an hour into the blown over tree:

Jim 070

We wandered around and walked up a path to a viewing area, hung around and waited, hoping the clouds would lift. Finally:

Jim 063 The clouds started to disperse and we got a  good look at what’s left of Mt. St. Helens.   Impressive!

It was starting to get late, so we headed back towards Kelso.  On the way, though, we stopped to take a picture of a place we’d seen on the way up.

RV Sites – in a pond? Huh?

Jim 080What a great day!  Tomorrow, our day trip is in the other direction – out to Astoria, Oregon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Traveling Days

We’ve been on the move since our visit to Forks.  We stayed two nights, Thursday and Friday, at the Hoquiam River RV Park in Hoquiam, Washington.  It’s an interesting little town located on the eastern edge of Gray’s Harbor which is just about in the center of the west coast of the state, but there isn’t much to do there, so our two days in the area were spent first on one side of Gray’s Harbor, in Westport, and the second day in Ocean Shores, on the north side of Gray’s Harbor. 

This was a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean on our way south on Highway 101 from Forks to Hoquiam.

Ellie 019It was a 100 mile trip, complicated by about 10 construction zones.  Thankfully, not all of them meant a delay, but about 4 of them we did have to stop and wait a while.

We got to the rv park, got checked in and set up and headed out towards Westport and the beach:

Jim 030 Jim got there first and took this picture of Mark, Rod and I arriving on the beach:

Jim 011 Near the beach, but just a little inland, is the Westport Light, the tallest lighthouse in Washington:

Ellie 040 After our beach stroll, we stopped and had a seafood dinner at a local place before heading back to the rv park to settle in for the evening.

Friday morning we all caught up with a few things around the house and then headed the other direction to Ocean Shores, which is on the north side of Gray’s Harbor.  We headed right to beach, where Dortha immediately went to get her feet wet:

Jim 017 And Deb started taking pictures:

Jim 012

The surf was really high, but I started right out to get my feet wet too.  Until – a wave came in further and faster than I was expecting.  I started backing up, lost my footing and got knocked down backwards by the force of the wave – and of course, my camera was over my shoulder. We are going to take it to a camera shop as soon as possible, but I don’t have a lot of hope that it’s going to be able to be repaired.  Meantime, I’ll be using my little Olympus camera.

Even though I got pretty well soaked, I managed to get myself dried off and most of the sand brushed off, at least enough to stay and walk the beach a little more, go shopping in some of the local stores, and then on to the casino.  I got a little balance in my day when my name was drawn for a prize.  I had to draw a card each from two different bags and ended up winning $100 cash.  That offset the $40 I lost to the slots, anyway, plus a little.

When we first checked in to the rv park on Thursday, we were informed that Saturday morning the road through town would be a mess because the town would be celebrating Logger’s Play Day with a parade and all sorts of activities.  Since that was our planned travel day, and the road through town is the only one out, we needed to be out of there pretty early to avoid the expected traffic jams.  Somehow we all managed to get up and out a little before 8 a.m. this morning –yes, even Deb and Rod!

We had a very easy 100 mile drive to Kelso, Washington, where we’re staying at Brookhollow RV Park for 4 nights before going on to Oregon.  From here, we’ll visit Mt. St. Helens and the northern Oregon Coast.  This is a really nice rv park with level concrete pads and nicely landscaped grounds. 

Tomorrow is opening Sunday of the NFL, so that is what the guys have planned.  The girls (Dortha, Deb, and I) are thinking of checking out the nearby mall!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Hoh Rain Forest

Today’s plan was to start off with brunch at a local Chinese restaurant.  Well, they do have things like egg foo yong, pork fried rice with egg, and egg rolls, don’t they?  So, it’s not as far fetched as it sounds.  Deb and Rod decided to take their truck today, so we went in two vehicles.  Brunch was great, and then we took off for the Hoh Rain Forest which is part of Olympic National Park.  To make the visit more authentic,  it was raining.

We saw this Roosevelt Elk relaxing on a river bank as we got to the park:

Ellie 018 We then made our way to the visitor’s center, where the trails begin:

Ellie 023 We chose the Hall of Mosses trail which is about .8 miles around:

Ellie 028

This fungus grows on the side of the trees:

Ellie 033

Amazing trees with moss that grows all over them:

Jim 044

We decided this was a unicorn:

Jim 049 Jim was dwarfed by the size of the trees:Ellie 073 The sign below describes the tree in the pictures below it.  I took the pictures about halfway down the fallen tree:

Ellie 116

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Then I turned around and took a picture of the half I’d already passed:

Ellie 115

In the rain forest, even though it was raining, we didn’t feel it much through the tree cover.  Mark, Deb and Rod stopped to chat:

Ellie 081 Dortha and I on the trail:

Jim 061 After going through the rain forest, we wanted to visit a tree nearby that is supposed to be the world’s largest red cedar, at over 173 feet tall and 19 feet in diameter.  It’s located about 8 miles from the park and is known as Duncan’s Cedar:Ellie 122 The tree is mostly dead, but there are a few live branches way up near the top:

Ellie 135 Dortha is tiny next to this giant:Ellie 132When we got back to the rv park, the group gathered in the Castle for a happy hour.  I took the dogs out walking, and while we were out, I picked a bunch of blackberries.  Deb is going to make us a cobbler with them.

Tomorrow is another travel day to Hoquiam, Washington.  More adventure awaits!