Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye…

Ellie 005 That’s the phrase that kept playing in my mind today as I stood in the dentist’s treatment room, while the dentist described to Jim and me the extent of the work that needs to be done, and soon, on Jim’s teeth.  Time-consuming and expensive.  But necessary!  So, in the blink of an eye, our plans have taken a pretty drastic turn. 

Instead of staying here at Santee Lakes until the beginning of January and then going to Arizona, we’ll settle in here for the duration, which could be four months or more. Due to the way they handle reservations here, this will mean we’ll move sites several times, but at least we’ll be staying in the same park instead of having to find a different park in the same area. 

Our first move took place this afternoon, and was planned before we knew we’d be staying on here for awhile.  Our new site is much larger, and is on the end of a row, which means we’ll only have a neighbor on one side.  The patio side of the Castle faces East, so we’ll have afternoon shade, and we have a nice, large patio area.  We are further away from the lakes, but it’s just a short walk to to them.

Even though we won’t be traveling for awhile, there is plenty to do around here in the way of exploring, and now that we know what’s ahead for the next few months, we’ll be planning some day trips.

Life is always interesting!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Give Thanks

Ellie 009_1 This is the day we set aside, not only to enjoy the re-creation of the pilgrims’ survival and first harvests, but to reflect upon the many blessings of our lives.

Today, we did not spend face time with our families or friends, but through the accomplishment of technology, we were able to talk to our relatives and friends.  We are grateful for all the techno-geeks who make that possible!  Oh, yes, and the wonder of television, which makes it possible for me to sleep through countless football games, and Jim to sleep through all my favorite TV shows.

We’re grateful for our health, and the health of our loved ones.  We appreciate the friendships we’ve grown through our time on the road, and wish all of our friends and family a blessed holiday season.

We both outdid ourselves with our celebration meal today, Jim put a turkey breast on his gas grill and let it slow “smoke” for a couple of hours, while we watched carefully and enjoyed an early happy hour.

While the turkey breast finished cooking in the oven, I provided the sides, with such traditional items as green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry relish, and acorn squash.  All of our meal was Weight Watchers friendly, including the crustless pumpkin pie we enjoyed for dessert.

Yes, it’s a great day, and we give thanks!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Savoring Santee Lakes

Ellie 015 We are getting our bearings in the neighborhood and enjoying the heck out of the sunshine and warm weather here at Santee Lakes. The above picture is the view just in front of us, and is Lake #7.  With all of the walking trails throughout the park, I could walk for a long time and still not make it all the way around all 7 lakes.  Good thing we’ll be here several weeks!  We will have a move while we’re here, since we came in earlier than we originally planned, our site wasn’t yet available, so we will be in this one until December 1, when we move to our originally reserved site.  That one is not near the lakes, but it is a much bigger space, so we will still enjoy ourselves.

I have started getting caught up on a few items, I got Jim’s hair cut.  Then I cut my hair and got a pedicure.  I still have both dogs to groom, but that will get done either Friday or Saturday, no sense getting in a rush!  People sometimes ask me about cutting my own hair.  After about a year or so on the road, and getting mostly bad haircuts at a cost of anywhere from $15 to $50 each, I figured out that if I was going to get a bad haircut anyway, I could give myself my own bad haircut for free.  I’ve got it pretty well down now, and I can do a fair job.  Now, a pedicure, well that’s a different story!  I don’t mind a bit paying to have a pedicure, and I get more good ones than bad ones.  The one I got yesterday was especially good!

We’ve found a couple of grocery stores and got our supplies in for Thanksgiving.  It will be just the two of us, so we’re keeping things pretty simple this year.  We also have no plans to go out and about from tomorrow on through the weekend! 

A dental visit is in order for each of us, and we took care of locating a local dentist on our plan, and getting appointments set up for next week.  Next on our list is to get our eyes checked while we’re here.

We did take a few more pictures around the campground.  This is our site, you can just see the Castle nestled under the big pine tree.  I was surprised that we got a satellite signal, but it came right in.


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This is another view from the front of our site:

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And one of the resident coots:

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This morning on my walk with the dogs, we saw 9 snowy egrets, 1 great egret and a great blue heron, in addition to all of the various ducks.  If I could identify birds by their sounds, I could list a lot more, there are many different species of birds here.

Yes, it’s a good life.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Journey to Southern California

The week in Sacramento was filled with getting caught up in several areas. The first, and certainly a lot of fun, was reconnecting with 3 of my nieces who live in that area. I had two brothers, and these are some of their offspring. We met Kristin and her son Zack, and Shana and her husband, Lee and their 2 daughters Jessica and Erin for dinner on Saturday night. Then on Tuesday night, Celeste and her husband Sean and their sons Austin and Hayden, along with Kristin and Shana and their families, all came to the Castle for a pizza party. Below are some of the pictures we took:

Shana, me, and Kristin at dinner:

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Kristin, me, and Celeste at the Pizza party:

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The whole gang, Kristin, Zack, Jessica, Erin, Shana, Lee, Austin, Celeste, Hayden and Sean:

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Twelve people and 2 dogs in the Castle worked out just fine, and we had a great time visiting!

Wednesday night was Zack’s first band concert at his school, and he invited us all to go. What a great experience! Zach plays the trumpet in the beginning middle school band, and they really are quite good. We stayed for the advanced band and jazz band, and I can honestly say that this is one of the best school bands we’ve ever heard, especially for a middle school. Thanks for inviting, us, Zack!

We also got caught up with some of the regular things like cleaning, laundry, grocery and other shopping. I got my blood work done while we were there. I enjoyed walking along the American River trail that runs just behind the campground. At CalExpo RV Park, we were right next to the harness racing track, so every morning when I walked with the dogs, we got to watch the horses exercising. That was a lot of fun for Mr. BoJangles, who thought he ought to be out on the track chasing them!

More enjoyment came along when we got together with Laurie and Odel, who were also staying at CalExpo Rv Park. In fact, it was Laurie’s campground review that helped us decide to stay there. They come to Sacramento each year to visit family and get caught up on their regular things. We finally caught up with them on Thursday evening when we went with them to their favorite local Mexican restaurant, Ernesto’s. Then we invited them over for Happy Hour on Friday evening.

The weather was great most of the week, with just a couple of cool days. We enjoyed the time there, but of course, feel like we need to go back to really explore. But Saturday morning at “dark-thirty”, it was time to get back on the road and point the Castle south. We pulled out of CalExpo right at 7:15 a.m. in fog so thick that Laurie commented on Facebook she couldn’t tell if we’d left yet when she looked at about that time!

We got out of the fog bank around Stockton, and from there, the first part of the trip south on Interstate 5 looked like this:

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Then we started up “The Grapevine”:

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And got to the summit of “Tejon Pass” (aka The Grapevine):

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Coming down the other side:

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We traveled 351 miles in 7 hours with 9.6 mpg. We spent the night in Castaic and got up early to get across LA on a Sunday morning. I studied our route and decided that I-5 to I-405 through LA, then CA 73 (Toll Road) back to I-5 to I-805 and CA 52 to Santee would be the best way. We were on the road at 6:30 this morning for a 170 mile trip and pulled into Santee Lakes (east of San Diego) just after 10 am, and got 9.2 mpg.

Daybreak on I-5 South:

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The San Diego Toll road (CA 73) with NO TRAFFIC:

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Our drive through LA was totally non-eventful. The traffic was very light and we maintained a speed between 58 and 65 mph all the way across. I discovered a web site sigalert, a few days ago that shows the traffic congestion (green, yellow, or red) and it showed green (no problems) all the way through the cities.

Arriving at Santee Lakes:

Ellie 056 The road to the campground area:

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This campground is part of the Padre Dam/Santee Lakes Recreational Area. It’s an operation of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District and has been created to “demonstrate the promise of water recycling”. There are 7 lakes here, in an area designed for day use. There are bike and walking trails as well as fishing and birding opportunities and picnic areas. The campground area is next to the lakes. We’ll be here for the next several weeks, so I will be posting more pictures as I get to know the area. I already know I like it here, so far!

Friday, November 13, 2009

If It’s Friday, This Must Be California

Where did the week go!  All of a sudden, it’s Friday, and we’re in another state.  But, to catch up with the events of the week…

First, Mr. BoJangles, our 9 year old, black, miniature schnauzer had an appointment to have his teeth cleaned on Tuesday.  He had a bad “slab fracture” on one of his back molars, and that had to come out.  The vet said it was a difficult extraction, so we had to keep a close eye on him for a couple of days.  He had to be fed only soft food, and had a couple of medications to take.  Thankfully, he seems to be back to his old self, eating his regular food and doing fine!

Also on Tuesday, while Mr. BJ was at the vet, we took Jasmine and went to the beach for a walk:

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While we were at the beach, I did a little Geocaching.  This is a fun activity to do with a hand-held GPS unit.  If you’re not familiar with the sport, you can learn about it at the linked website.  Below, Jasmine is keeping a close eye on what I’ve found in the cache (just in case there’s anything there she would like):

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  Later on, when we had both dogs back home, we had a campfire and sat outside to watch the sunset:

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Wednesday morning we went to North Bend so Jim could go to Walmart while I was at the Weight Watchers meeting.  After our errands, we went back home and started preparing for travel.

The decision was made to leave on Thursday morning, so at 7:00 – yes, that’s A.M. – we pulled out of Winchester Bay RV Resort for our journey.

We took Oregon 38 and 138 from Reedsport over to I-5 and saw some beautiful fall colors along the way:

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But wait a minute!  What the heck -

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Yes, that is snow – just near the top of Siskiyou Summit, 4,013’ – we drove through a snow storm.  Thankfully, it didn’t last long because we were going downhill in a hurry:

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And soon, we came to a welcome sign:

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And the snow was where it belongs, up on a mountain.  The clouds let us have this quick glimpse of Mount Shasta before it was covered up again:

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We made it to Redding, CA, by around 3:00 and got settled in to our site at JGW RV Park on the south end of town.  This is a great overnight stop.  It was just a little more expensive than we like to spend for an overnight, but it was well worth it when we found out we could wash the rig there.  It sure needed it after a month and a half on the Oregon coast, and the trip through the snow storm!  Our travel day was 328 miles in 7 and a half hours, and we averaged 8 mpg. 

This morning, after we got the Castle and Saturn all cleaned and shining, we left Redding a little after 10.  Our travel day today was easy – 160 miles south on I-5, 9.9 mpg and about 3 hours to the Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento.  Our thanks to Laurie and Odel, (Semi-True Tales) for their review of this park.  It’s easy to get to, relatively inexpensive, considering that it’s in a California city, and will work just fine for our time here.  I have my regular blood test to have done, and we have several nieces here to visit with, we’ll be here for a week before continuing our southbound journey.

I’ve been asked about my camera, so here are some notes about our cameras, since both Jim and I provide the pictures for this blog.  I just replaced my Canon Rebel Xti with a Canon Rebel Xsi, 12.2 megapixels, and an 18-200 mm wide angle lens.  Jim has a Canon 50D 15 megapixels, with a 28–135 mm lens.  We take a lot of pictures to get a few that are really good, but we love to use these cameras.

And one more note about our lives on the road.  When we first started out (almost 3 years ago), we used paper maps and the Microsoft Streets & Trips without a GPS to find our way around.  I remember every time we’d get to a new town, I’d be nervous and uncertain.  Then we got the GPS version of MS Streets & Trips, and started using Google Earth with the street-level view feature to plan our routes and find places.  I can’t begin to tell you how much easier it is for us now that we use these tools.  I can look ahead at rv parks, truck stops, routes and city streets to make it easier for us to get around and feel more comfortable about our travel days.  Life is good!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another Monday


Ellie 058 If any of you follow the weather news, you might have noticed that there was a tornado in Lincoln City, Oregon, last Friday.  It came on shore near Roads End, which was where we did a lot of beach walking.  We’re sure glad we’d already moved 100 miles south!

It rained here off and on all weekend, so not much was happening here, other than quick walks and a lot of football.  I’d hoped to walk the local beach this morning at low tide to see what the storms might have left us, but it was raining again, so I decided to forget that for today.

Jim wanted to go to a laundromat in Florence (about 20 miles north of us) today, and I decided to go with him instead of staying home to clean.  I wanted to visit a local quilt shop there and look at fabric.  Once the laundry was done, we went to lunch and did a little shopping in the local “Old Town” area of Florence.  Then we visited the Fred Meyer store and bought a few groceries before heading home.

This is our last week on the Oregon coast, it’s time to move to a warmer, drier climate.  We still have a few tasks to complete here, including a teeth cleaning appointment for Mr. Bo Jangles tomorrow.  I’m also hoping we can make a day trip a little further south, as far as Bandon, but we’ll see how that works out.  Weather will play a big part in our decision, as we do have some mountains we need to navigate.

When will we leave?  Which way will we go?  Stay tuned, we’ll all find out soon!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Walk on the Wild Side, or Why We’re Still in Oregon

We’ve been watching the weather forecasts pretty closely, noticing that there’s a high surf warning in effect this weekend, with rain and  high wind probabilities around 80 – 100%.  I found a regional publication online that suggested going to Shore Acres State Park near Coos Bay and staying away from the beaches from today through Sunday morning, since the swells could be as high as 35’.

So, this morning, I got out for my usual walk with the dogs, thinking that the clouds would arrive soon and bring the rain.  When we got back from the walk, I put a beef stew in the crockpot and we packed up a snack bag, loaded the dogs and our snacks in the car and headed out south towards Coos Bay.  The predicted rain still had not materialized, so we kept our fingers crossed that we could find a good spot to watch the high waves without getting soaked by rain.

We found the state park and – well – I don’t know how to convey what we saw.  Unfortunately, pictures really don’t show the awesome power of the show put on by Mother Nature today, but without actually being here, I guess these will have to do.

Can you see the lighthouse in the background?  Yes, the waves were really that high:

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I wish you could really see that these rock cliffs are very high, but were dwarfed by the size of the waves crashing against them:

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We found a beautiful walking trail through the woods that reminded us of the Hoh Rain forest:

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We walked through the forest, which led to another amazing view at the edge of the cliffs:

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Where the waves just exploded:

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We found some colorful mushrooms:

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Then made our way back through the forest:

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And got one more look at the lighthouse with the wild surf in the foreground:

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Before we finally decided to move on. We then parked near a beach where we sat in the car and watched the waves for a while longer.  At one point the waves crashed over the sidewalk at the edge of the beach area right into the parking lot where we sat.  However, the rain stayed away!

We got home to a wonderful meal and the task of sorting through a couple hundred pictures, trying to find just a few to share!

Stay tuned, we still have another day or so of the high surf warning!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life is Good

This hasn’t been a day filled with exciting adventure.  In the sense of activity, it’s been a rather ordinary day.  However, this day has been filled with something far more valuable and important – a sense of wellness, and of the incredible beauty and wonder of where we are, who we are, and our ability to recognize how special that all is.

What did we do? Figured out some financial matters, some travel matters and technical tidbits.  We went exploring and out for lunch.  Then we came home.  Now, in all that, let me see if I can convey, through our pictures, a little bit of the magic.

Starting with where we left off yesterday, going from sunset to moonrise:

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To waves crashing on the rocks:

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Our footprints as we walked together on the beach:

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And discovered an unbroken sand dollar:

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And watched a surfer catch a wave:

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While we felt the wind blowing through the grass on the dunes:

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And experienced the calm peace of the harbor:

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Yes, it’s been a special day.  Thanks for joining us.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Change of View

Today, we did something new for us – we changed sites!  After we’d been here a day or so, I realized that our site here at Winchester Bay did not afford us what I consider to be the best view, although it wasn’t too shabby.  This is looking out the front window at the marina:

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However, there are pull-through sites on an inside row that would give us these views from the side windows and toward the back of the coach:

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That is Winchester Bay and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.  When the tide is coming in, we can hear the waves breaking on the seawall just on the other side of the back-in sites behind us. 

I took three pictures out the side window by our dining table and stitched them together for this panorama:

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Yesterday afternoon, I checked with the office, and cleared it for us to move.  This morning we pulled in the slides and moved back two rows.  Now I can sit on my couch and look out at the bay and river.  If I turn my head slightly, I can still see the marina out the side window on the passenger side of the coach.  We don’t have quite the view out the front now, but the side views (and the sound of the surf) way more than make up for that.

After we got re-settled in, it was off to check out Heceta Head Lighthouse, which is about 30 miles north on Highway 101.  This picture was taken from the viewpoint just south of Heceta Head, and is probably one of the most-taken pictures along the coast:

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Below us at the view point we could hear the sea lions barking.  The sea lion caves are in this area, but today I think they were all out in the water on and the beach.  I’m glad we didn’t pay to go in and walk down to the caves! 

We could see them playing in the water:

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We continued on to the turn off for the lighthouse:

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Got the car parked and paid our $3 fee, and then hiked the 1/2 mile up to the lighthouse.  We were happy to find that we could go inside.  This lighthouse was lit by it’s first order Fresnel Lens in 1894 and is still functioning now.  The tower is 56 feet tall, but sits 205 feet above the sea, and it’s light is visible 21 miles out to sea:

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At some point in it’s recent history, the Coast Guard thought it would be a good idea to sandblast the whitewash off the interior walls.  They thought by getting rid of the 100 or so years’ worth of whitewash, they would solve the problem of moisture in the walls.  Wrong!  Now there is even more moisture seeping in through the bare bricks, causing a lot of work for the volunteers who must empty the dehumidifier at least once a day, if not more often.   Jim took this picture as we descended the steps:

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One more picture from the trail above the light.  I know this picture makes it look like the tower is leaning, but I think it was actually a leaning photographer, or the steep trail she was standing on!

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What  a great visit to a beautiful lighthouse!

When we left there, we came back down Highway 101 to Reedsport, where we took Highway 38 East for a few miles to check out the Dean Creek Elk Viewing area.  We saw a fox, many geese, and a heard of cow elk grazing.  Nice!  Hopefully, we can get back over there at some point while we’re in the area and find some bull elk. 

Back home to watch the sun set and the moon rise.  Well, someone has to do this!