01-14-2023 Eight Hundred Forty Nine Miles and Twenty Degrees

Interstate 5 north of Mt Shasta

We left home on Saturday morning, the 7th of January, in a rainstorm.  We actually hesitated a bit, procrastinating our leaving time a bit more than half an hour trying to decide if we really wanted to tackle the storms that raged throughout California.  It was a bit scary to contemplate just how difficult our trip might be, but it was even more difficult to contemplate unpacking all the food I had put away the previous day in the MoHo.

We had planned our trip for a couple of months, making reservations last October for a week at Catalina Spa and RV Resort at a time of year when we often enjoy temperatures in the 80s and brilliant sunny skies.  In fairness, we have also experienced temps in the 50s and raging floods at the same time of year.  No matter when you go, this time of year, anything can happen. I have to return to the blog records to actually come up with the number of times we have visited Catalina in the last 15 years or so since we started RVing.  This is our ninth trip to this sweet little spot in the desert on the broad slope northeast of Palm Springs up against the mountains.

The morning we left Grants Pass the weather forecasts were scary.  We knew that the snow had yet to close the pass over the nearby Siskiyous, but Mount Shasta, a bit more south and not even as high as Siskiyou Pass had a few inches of snow predicted for the time when we would be traveling through.  Should we go?  Should we wait?  The weather predictors were all making the same noises, it was only going to get worse.  Time to go.

Only a few more miles before this snow on Interstate 5 turns to rain

Flashing signs for high wind warnings greeted us at the California border as we approached Yreka.  By the time we reached Weed where the winds were supposed to be dying down, the snow began, and the winds kept blowing.  It was a bit of a tense drive, but as is often the case, once we passed the exit toward McCloud to the east on Highway 89 and started down the highest part of the pass toward Dunsmuir, the snow began to lessen.  It was replaced with heavy rain.  Anyone familiar with driving an interstate in the rain is also familiar with that slushy goop that gets thrown on the windshield with every passing truck, blinding everything for what seems like a very long few minutes.  By the time we reached Redding, there was no more snow and very little rain, but the winds never let up. 

Hard to get photos while driving along the interstate near the Consumnes River

We arrived safely in Lodi, settling into our site at Flag City RV Park just before the rains started up again.  We had some lovely plans for Lodi, after discovering the great wine-tasting venues in the area last winter.  We reserved two days at Flag City with a plan to relax a bit, take it easy, and spend the next day checking out a new winery and revisiting a favorite.  Supper was easy, with bbq ribs brought from home and expectations of a relaxing evening.

By nine we were awakened by a howling raging noise.  The winds in this part of Central California were blowing at a steady 40 plus mph and gusts in the 60s.  We brought in the slide, hoping to spare any possible damage to our slide cover, and slipped into an uneasy sleep, wakened often by intense rocking and deafening noise.  It literally felt like the rig was going to blow right over sitting in place in the RV park.

I woke at 4 or so, wondering why our little heater wasn’t working, and discovered that there was no power to the rig, and no power to the park. I turned on the furnace which works just fine on our house batteries and propane and turned on the computer to see what was going on.  There were lots of weather warnings and notifications that hundreds of thousands of people in the area around Sacramento and the Bay Area were without power.  Maybe staying in Lodi wasn’t such a good idea.  I also read that while the winds toward the south on Interstate 5 were predicted to be strong on Sunday, at least the next huge round of storms wasn’t to come in until Monday.  We decided to pack up and get outta there as quickly as we could.

The host at Flag City was sitting in a cold office with no lights and a phone rapidly losing power when I asked if we could cancel our reservation and get a refund.  He said sure, but it would have to wait until there was some power to do the transaction.  No problem, we packed up and headed into the strong winds coming from the south toward Bakersfield.

Flooding along Interstate 5 South of Patterson

I have very few photos of these first few days of our trip.  I usually drive in the mornings, and that seemed to be when the worst of the winds buffeted us along the way.  My arms were sore from trying to hold the wheel and by the time Mo took over for her shift, I had no interest in trying to take photos. 

Northbound Traffic on I-5 near Lost Hills.  We were happy to be traveling south

We called Orange Grove RV Park east of Bakersfield along Highway 58, and they did have a space for us so I made a reservation over the phone.  I asked if they had power, and sure enough, they did. Oh goodie, we can pick some fresh ripe oranges. By the time we reached Highway 58 traveling east, the flashing signs over the highway were in large print with exclamation points.  “High Winds, Dangerous Weather, Do Not Travel”. Once again I checked all my various weather apps and came to the conclusion that we needed to get over the pass on Highway 58 at Tehachapi before Tuesday.  We couldn’t wait because it was going to get worse, with snow and ice in the forecast.

I managed to check the internet and found the one RV campground still open in Tehachapi had a space for us, so we made another reservation and I called Orange Grove and canceled the one I had made only a couple of hours earlier.  They were great, and I had my refund within minutes.

Mountain Valley RV Park Tehachapi California

The rains held off just long enough for us to settle in at Mountain Valley RV Park before dark and take Mattie for a nice little walk.  She is such a great travel dog, riding quietly all day without complaining. Once again we had an easy pre-cooked supper brought from home before settling in to wait out whatever the night might bring in the way of weather.

By the next morning, the skies were cloudy but there was no sign of rain or snow, and the winds were a very reasonable 13 mph.  After fueling the previous day at Bakersfield Costco, we had enough fuel to get us all the way to our destination in Desert Hot Springs.  Once again I was driving, and Mo took a few photos, but in a moving vehicle, it is impossible to capture the wild open beauty of Highway 247 between Barstow and the Lucerne Valley.

Highway 247 south from Barstow

Desert playas are fascinating landscapes near Lucerne Valley

It is all so very familiar and feels so welcoming as we approach Yucca Valley, rolling down the steep grade into town among the huge granite boulders.  The suburban sprawl of Yucca Valley was a bit of a shock after our three-year absence, but the traffic was bearable, and we followed the familiar turns toward Indian Canyon Road, Dillon Road, and finally the home run into Catalina Spa. 

It’s funny, the world is big, and we can go anywhere, but there is something also very comforting about returning like migrating creatures to a familiar spot.  Birds return to the same locations year after year, so we can too.  I like adventure, but familiarity after the basic adventure of traveling through historic Atmospheric Rivers, Bomb Cyclones, power outages, flooding, and record-breaking winds was enough for us.

Site 29 in the “lower park” for 30 amp rigs

We were grateful for an easy arrival, and an easy setup except for the problem that never seems to change at this park.  The sites are most often NOT level.  We backed into our spot without a bit of problem, but leveling the rig was a lot of work.  Our levelers worked fine but even with the rear levelers fully extended, it wasn’t enough to get the back end of the rig up high enough.  We moved around and juggled and with the help of some yellow blocks managed to get level enough to survive, but definitely not optimum.

When I talked to the park site manager, Christina, about this problem, she said that the biggest issue they are having at the park is getting adequate help.  “No one wants to work” is the familiar refrain.  My guess is, it isn’t that they don’t want to work, they just don’t want to do low-paying labor jobs.  So after our three-year absence, the sites are still sandy and often uneven, although the roads have been freshly paved and the sites at the “upper park” for the 50 amp rigs have nice new asphalt walkways.  But the area where one is to park a rig is still bumpy sand.  Seemed quite strange to us.

“Are we there yet, Mom?”

We drove 845 miles and three days to gain 20 degrees in daily high temperatures and a gorgeous 95-degree swimming pool.  An uneven site is a small price to pay for such delight.

We love getting into the pool early enough to watch the sunrise from the water

11-30-2022 Home in the Fall

The colors on our maple didn’t turn until mid November this year

As you no doubt are aware, if you follow the blog, I am writing backward.  Well, maybe not writing backward but definitely going backward in time to last fall.  It is much easier to do that sentimental, stream-of-consciousness kind of writing that I did this morning when writing about December.  If I am in the mood, that is the kind of writing that I enjoy the most, when it just flows.  Now I must get down to the brass tacks of documenting the weeks between our return home in mid-October and the beginning of the December blog.


Even on cold foggy days in November, the leaves were still on the trees

Why is this so hard, I wonder? Maybe because after a long journey, the return home feels a bit like the same ole same old stuff.  Looking at the calendar, what stood out the most was the medical appointments.  My regular doctor for another shot in my locking trigger thumb, my annual visit with the Neuromuscular specialist for the IBM, the skin doctor, the dentist for an overdue cleaning, and joy of joys, repeated trips to Rite-Aid for various vaccinations.  A flu shot, another pneumonia shot after one ten years ago, a Covid booster, and the dreaded shingles shot.  Not a single bad reaction to a single one, even the shingles vax only gave us a tiny bit of a sore arm for a day.  Felt pretty lucky with that after some of the horror stories I had heard.
The trigger thumb doctor is great at the cortisone injections but said it was time for me to see the hand specialist and schedule surgery.  Oh, Joy.  Hopefully, I can get it done in between cruises.  I have two coming up this year.  Hard life, I know. The Neuro doctor is well acquainted with IBM and wonder of wonders is right here in Grants Pass.  IBM groups throughout the world spend a lot of time complaining about how even the best specialists don’t know what they are doing more than half the time.  My guy is so cool and studied IBM specifically, so he knows to NOT prescribe any kinds of creepy steroids or auto-immune drugs and simply tracks my progress from year to year.  Good news.  Progress is very slow and on the IBM Functional Rating Scale of 0 to 40 with 40 being the best and 0 being basically completely incapacitated, I am now 30 out of 40, and last year I was 31.  So that means it is going slow and once again he said I probably wouldn’t need a wheelchair until I am 100 or so.

The zinnias didn’t freeze until the middle of November

When we got home, fall seemed a long-forgotten memory from driving through the northern part of the country that we only imagined.  The temperatures here in GP in mid-October were in the low 90’s.  At least it cooled to the 50s at night, and the days were shorter so it didn’t feel quite as bad as it can in summer, but it was still really hot.  We settled into being home, thrilled at what great condition the property was in with help from caretaker daughter Deborah, and friend Gerald who kept the sprinklers checked and running, made sure the salt was filled in the water unit, tried valiantly to damp down the activity of the many ground critters who love our lawns and gardens, and mowed and trimmed the grass. 
As you might remember, the MoHo overheating problem was never actually solved during the trip, and Mo said that once again as she drove over the passes, the temperature gauge heated up every time, even though she wasn’t towing the baby car on that solo trip home from Portland. (Remember in that last blog post for October when I said Mo stayed in Portland with the MoHo while I drove home alone in the Baby Car?)
Mo and her brother did some work on the rig, with Dan making a new harness for the hydraulic jack motherboard which had come loose back in Illinois somewhere.  We spent the last part of the trip trying to get level with blocks and really missed our jacks.
The first couple of weeks after we got home, Mo spent a huge amount of time on the internet searching for the right parts and then even more time installing those parts.  Wonder of wonders once again, Mo to the rescue, and she figured out the overheating problem.  She finally decided that even though we had a new thermostat installed at the beginning of the trip, maybe it was faulty in some way so, after much hunting around, she ordered a new one.  When it came and she got the old one out, they didn’t match!  Seems as though it was the wrong thermostat all along.  We made some test runs over the passes, and so far so good!  The rig hasn’t overheated once since Mo finished that repair.
Mo also figured out that she needed to replace the solenoid for the unit that operates the hydraulic jacks.  Sure enough, after she did that the jacks worked fine, and have worked perfectly ever since.  I am so grateful that Mo is a darn good fix-it kind of person and usually can figure out what needs to be done.

Maryruth and Gerald entertained us for a lovely dinner in October when we returned home


I usually begin decorating for Fall on September 1st, no matter how hot it might be.  The summer flags go down and the fall flags go up.  Not this year.  With it already being mid-October when we got home I had my work cut out for me getting out all the Halloween decor in time for my evening hosting the Grants Pass Book Club.  I love fall and have learned that I can put up everything for fall and Halloween and only have to take down the 100 percent Halloween stuff to keep the rest up until time to decorate for Christmas.  Yes, you may have figured out by now I might be a little bit nuts when it comes to this stuff.

The book club evening was fun, and I served a big mess of nacho bar fixings to accompany the hot cider, topped off with a bit of caramel vodka for those who might choose to imbibe.  It was a fun evening, and when it was over, Halloween was upon us. 

Since we live on a rural road, I decided to go over to my friend Maryruth’s home for the trick-or-treating festivities.  Their home is in one of those nice neighborhoods with sidewalks and level walking where people from all over town bring their kids for the evening.  It was great fun answering the door with Marruth and seeing all the little kids in their costumes.  I have missed that part of Halloween living where we live in a more rural area.

Check out all the hot October sunshine pouring in the windows and the green leaves on the trees

I may have mentioned “Fall”, but with temperatures in the 80s and all the leaves on the oaks still bright green, it was hard to realize that it actually was technically fall.  Most years by November 1 the leaves have turned and the colors in Grants Pass are postcard brilliant.  Not so this year.  But the weather played a nasty trip and overnight it went from the 80s and sun to the 50s and rain, but still no frost.
My zinnia bed bloomed fully until the morning of November 15th when a hard frost finally put those brilliant little flowers to rest and they were relegated to the compost pile.  Finally.  Still, the leaves didn’t fall from the trees until early in December, so our fall raking chores were postponed until the weather turned really cold and really wet.  So much for raking this year.  The colors this fall were somewhat subdued, with only a bit of color finally showing up in early December.  I have photos to compare so I do know that it really was a poor year for color in Grants Pass.
Deborah with me in the sunshine at Schmidt Family Vineyard
Lovely place to be on a fall afternoon
Mo and I spent a lovely afternoon at our favorite local winery with Daughter Deborah. 
We also managed to complete two fall puzzles that were fun and challenging.  It seems that as soon as we finish a puzzle and put it away, I get antsy to bring out another one.  Puzzling is the one thing I can do that will take my mind off of all the other things I am supposed to be doing.  I get a bit obsessive, I guess, but it is such a soothing activity that takes my mind away from everything else.  I need that sometimes I guess. 
Thanksgiving this year was hosted by Daughter Melody and Robert at their home in Brownsville. 
Mo and I drove up early on TG morning with an invite to stay in their guest room.  Daughter Deborah drove with her son Matthew and our neighbor Karen (the elderly lady who lives across the street).  Karen is a bit forgetful and gets confused sometimes, but she really loved the trip and spending the day with our family. 
Neighbor Karen, Daughter Deborah, and Grandson Matthew at Melody and Robert’s home
Axel and Py doing what young people do, hanging out in the media room with their phones
We also enjoyed having the grands visiting for the day with Axel and their partner Py joining the family for the festivities. Grandson Xavier had to work, but I got to see one grandkid for the day so that was great.
Mattie was an honored guest as well
Somewhere during the middle of November, Mo said thought it would be fun to spend the night at Seven Feathers on the way home from Melody’s place.  The Casino and hotel are only 45 miles from home but on the I-5 route.  We checked into making a reservation and were a bit daunted to discover that the cost with the dog would be more than 200 bucks for the night. 
Why stay in a hotel when we have a MoHo only 45 miles away.  We decided instead to drive home from Brownsville, rest for a day, and then on Saturday, we drove the MoHo back to Seven Feathers for a great night at the RV Park associated with the casino.  RV people traveling I-5 through Southern Oregon are often familiar with this Casino and RV Park.  It is a wonderful park with a beautiful indoor pool and lovely grounds.
Seven Feathers RV Park is a very  nice park
For less than half of the cost of the hotel, we had a perfectly level spot on cement right near the pool, with full hookups.  In Canyonville, the sweet gum trees at the park had turned gorgeous colors of red and orange and even though the weather was wet, we enjoyed every minute of our stay.  Mo and I drove over to the Casino for a bit of entertainment, where the small amount of money we chose to donate provided us with some noisy colorful entertainment for an hour and a half or so.  We didn’t care to spend the big bucks for the steak house restaurant, and the buffet is only mediocre, so eating our own meal in the MoHo was perfect.
Mattie enjoyed the walks around the beautiful grounds. 
Part of the draw of Seven Feathers for us is the pool.  Early Sunday morning we put on our suits and walked through the chill to the waiting heated pool.  Locked??  It seems that the pool closed that morning for some repairs and swimming was not to be part of our Seven Feathers stay on this trip. 
The drive home was a perfect test for the MoHo, with 4 passes between Canyonville and our home in Grants Pass.  Not once did the temperature gauge needle budge from its normal operating zone.  What a relief after all that trouble and worry on our long trip last summer.
Grandson Matthew is a great roof climber for putting up the lights
During the last days of November, it was time to take down all that orange and gold fall stuff and get started with Christmas.  The weather was warm enough for Matthew to get the lights up before the first of December.  It was good timing because after that week the weather turned foggy and icy and I wouldn’t have wanted him climbing around on a slippery, icy roof.
By the last days of November the leaves finally started to falll
With the outside lights going up I was inspired to begin the inside decorating, beginning with the Christmas Village.  I have been doing this village for about 40 years now, adding more and more in the early years and cutting it down a bit in the last few years since we moved into Sunset House.  Sometimes I think maybe I don’t need to do it, but after it is up I am always glad I made the effort.
In the midst of all the decorating and un-decorating, visiting, making Christmas cards, and reading books for the book club, I kept on writing and writing about the cross-country trip.  It was on November 30 that I wrote that very last blog post and I haven’t had the mental energy to try to keep catching up on the back posts until these last couple of days.  Finally. 
Now, at last, I am all caught up.  It somehow seems an important thing for me to do on this last day of the year.  I can begin 2023 with a clean slate, all caught up and ready to go for the next year. 

12-30-2022 Remembering December

It is 3AM and the words that I need to bring this year to a close in my journal of life are tumbling around in my mind, refusing to gather into reasonable order. It seems that I haven’t written anything since we returned in October from the Cross Country 2022 journey, but of course, that isn’t really true. I wrote and wrote and finally finished the stories and blogged our mid-October return on the last day of November. Just one month ago. “The Holidays” begin at the end of October with Halloween and race along in a jumble of family gatherings, cooking, and for me, a big part of the Holiday season is decorating.

We are ready for a wedding and Mattie is a witness

Happy Mom Happy Bride

This week between Christmas and New Year feels like I am caught in a space in time. I am ready to move forward toward the new year and yet not quite ready to take down the Christmas tree. The twinkling lights greeting me in the early mornings are so cheerful, and let me forget that it is very dark and very chilly and very wet in the outside world. For me, memories are reinforced by the photos I take and store and label and review. I recently wondered, as I lay awake in bed in the early morning hours trying to compose this post in my mind, if any of my memories of people from long ago are memories of them in actuality, or simply memories of the photos I took of them. It is the photo memories that come to mind when I think of some of the truly deeply loved people in my life who have passed.

We found a cute Christmas decoration for Mo’s workshop. 

My friend Maryruth always marvels at my memory of the dates and years when things happened. I know that isn’t any great memory ability, but simply that I am putting all those photos into chronological order and storing them in so many versions online and off that I hope will never lose them. Is it a way to stave off the loss of memory of old age? If I write enough and take enough photos, the memories won’t fade and the people and places I loved will always be alive. So I write, and I photograph, and sometimes I share the photos and the thoughts on a blog, or on Facebook. But the driving force for this blog has nothing to do with sharing, it has to do with my own ability to remember, and a fear of approaching the eighth decade of my life and facing my own mortality and that of others near to me who have left the planet or are in the process of leaving.

My friend Sandy surrounded by her sisters and Lorrie and Kathy from our long ago women’s group in Northern Idaho

A sweet friend from long ago is in the process of passing with grace and dignity. She is in hospice many hundreds of miles distant, and I will not see her before she goes. Her impact on my life, beginning in 1988, was life-altering in ways I never really understood. After an intense friendship, we grew apart by years and miles and changing life priorities and values. But her approaching death is always on my mind in the early mornings when I wake and can’t sleep.  I know that I need to write about October, November, and December before those memories fade into the past with so many others.

Can I do my simple process of beginning with “now” and going backward in time? It is the only way to corral the words and the experiences of the last two and a half months. Christmas was so special this year, and shared with just a few and yet incredibly precious.

Robert and Melody on Christmas Eve

My daughter Melody has been with Robert for seven years now, and their relationship is a sweet one, they are solid and best friends. Melody wasn’t sure Robert would ever want to marry, but she had come to accept the fact that it might never happen and was OK with it. They bought a home, and they traveled to Mexico, to Italy, to the desert to camp on the ground and search for rocks. Then a surprise. She told me they were going to marry before Christmas and could they say their vows at our home. So Christmas became a surprise preparation for a wedding ceremony, attended by me and by Mo and by my eldest daughter Deborah who lives close enough to be part of Christmas with us.

After the ceremony, a Happy Couple

It was a simple ceremony, quiet and lovely, with only the two of them in front of the fireplace saying their vows as we watched. Melody’s words were elegant and thoughtful and reflective of her deep personality. Robert’s words were simple and perfect; I had no clue that he took them from a song. Robert has a crazy sense of humor, and he chose the perfect words that also happened to be from a song from the ’80s that has been used for something called “rick-rolling”. I had no clue what that was, but Melody burst into laughter and said, “Have I been Rick-Rolled at my own wedding??”

“I am never going to give you up, never going to let you down, never going to leave you and desert you.”

What could be more perfect? I can’t explain rick-rolling but if you aren’t part of that generation X you can look it up on the internet and get a deeper sense of the humor of the moment.

The wedding cake surprise with the topper stolen from my Christmas Village

When Melody first told us, Mo said,” We need a wedding cake!” How to find a bakery willing to do a small cake just five days before Christmas? With some searching and some phone calls, one baker called to say she was booked until late January but could maybe fit in a small cake if it wasn’t too complex. Done. It was fun to surprise the kids with the cake after their vows. The champagne toasts all around were sweet and they did the traditional cake cutting and feeding each other. It was a perfect wedding and my mama’s heart is so deeply happy that this youngest daughter of mine has not only found love but companionship and friendship and someone who is truly her partner in life and living.

A view of a happy bride and some of the goodies before supper

Mattie patiently waiting for popcorn

After the ceremony, it wasn’t long before we were all settled into pajamas after eating our traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder and laughing together while we watched a sweet and silly Hallmark Christmas movie.

Deborah sound asleep on Christmas morning

With Melody and Robert in the guest room, Deborah decided to skip the offer of the MoHo for her nighttime privacy and chose to sleep on the sofa with quilts and a pillow in the light of the Christmas tree. It warms a mama’s heart to see a child sleeping on Christmas at home, even when that child is going to celebrate her 60th birthday before the end of January. Memories. Where oh where does it all go? The lament of almost anyone who has lived this long.

My precious daughter Deborah on Christmas morning

This morning, as I walk the quiet halls toward the living room and wait for the timer to turn on the Christmas tree lights I know that all that decorating that I do will need to be undone. I began a bit early this week, taking down a few of the outside lights, and putting away a few of the inside treasures. I started decorating right after Thanksgiving, taking my time and enjoying the process. I have enjoyed the lights and the treasures around me for more than a month now. There is one more day left in the year.

The Christmas ham went in the oven at 6am

Still, the memories are coming as I write. Christmas Day, with fabulous snack food created by Deborah to add to the yearly ham purchase that provides delight for the day and for many months to come from the frozen leftovers.

We all get excited when something fits

A Christmas puzzle on the table pushed aside the placemats so that we could all play with it. It was a fun way to spend the day, with another Christmas movie and taking time to watch a recording of the original Avatar movie for afternoon entertainment before we went back to the puzzle. Simple things. Simple Christmas. Simple sweet memories of family.

Maryruth and Gerald joined us in the afternoon to help with eating.  Deborah made a fancy crab dip in french bread that was a hit with the crab lovers in the group.

A phone call with the middle daughter and her husband who lives far away in the deep snowy country of Northern Washington. Phone time is punctuated with more sweet memories of our recent time together in October.

Great-Grandkids Theron, Tearany, and Orion

Videos of the great-grandkids shared by their mom, opening the annual Christmas jammies from Grandma Sue. My now 15-year-old great-grandson said specifically when I saw him last fall that he still wanted his Christmas jammies. He now wears men’s sizes. Memories, as I watch those videos of the kids opening presents, come of Christmas mornings decades in the past when I watched the delight of my own kids opening their presents. More words tumble around in my mind with memories as I try to write about December.

Kristin knows all the ins and outs of shopping at Trader Joes

Early in the month, I spent a sweet day with my friend Kristin, who offered to drive us to Medford for a girl shopping and lunch day. It was simply a little extra treat that she drove her new Tesla. No way to describe that car except when she hit the gas my head hit the headrest. I have no clue that an EV could have that kind of get up and go getting out of the way of oncoming traffic when needed. She let the car drive itself for a bit on the freeway.

Fast charging at Target in Medford

The car took a complete charge while we shopped at Target and has a driving distance of 400 miles between charges. The future is here no matter how we might resist.

Kristin’s bookcase is spectacular

On December 10th, the Grants Pass Book Club repeated a Christmas party at Kristin’s, and it is now a tradition. Eight of us laughed, ate great food, and exchanged wrapped books with only hints as to what might be inside showing on the wrapping paper.

A very challenging Dowdle puzzle

Mo and I fed our puzzle addition with three different Christmas puzzles throughout the month, enjoying almost every minute. Some puzzles are very frustrating, however, and we tore our hair out trying to get the blues to match up in this one.

The fudge is a favorite but the cranberry pinwheels are a close second

I started making cookies late in the month. Simple cookies with chocolate, cranberries, nuts, and peanut butter in various combinations. Of course, Fantasy Fudge is also a tradition that I celebrate. During Covid, it was almost impossible to find the special marshmallow crème ingredient that makes this fudge so creamy smooth, but this year it was everywhere, at double the price from years past. Yes, inflation is real, and I come home from the grocery store often in shock at some minor item that has actually doubled in price. On a happier note, this week with Christmas behind us, I was surprised to see many prices dropping back to something that might be considered reasonable. Oh please. Wouldn’t it be nice if inflation slowed a bit and let my federal pension and social security COLA raises keep up with all the extra costs of fuel and utilities and food? There go the words again, wandering around in my head as I try to write about December.

Maryruth and Gerald are great hosts

On December 22nd, my friend Maryruth had an appetizer party with a fabulous prosecco Christmas punch and 11 people from the neighborhood to share. It was a fun time, made more so for us because Maryruth also invited Connie and Jim, (Connie and Jim are book club friends who met Maryruth and Gerald at my home last summer). Mo and I aren’t particularly fond of parties with people we don’t know so the addition of mutual friends made the evening truly delightful.

The view from site A23 at Harris Beach State Park

Once again, as we seem to do every year in December, Mo and I traveled to the coast for three magnificent days at Harris Beach in the MoHo.  We snagged site A23, with a view of the ocean. In addition to beach walking time, we planned the trip to be sure that we could visit the magnificent Festival of Lights at Azalea park.  This year Maryruth and Gerald joined us in the coastal city, staying at the Beachside hotel with a perfect ocean view.  Their son Terry and his girlfriend drove north from California to spend time with Maryruth and enjoyed the show as well.

The lights were wonderful as always, with an addition this year of another million lights, bringing the total to more than 3 million lights lovingly strung by hundreds of volunteers.

The light show was great, but the best part of the trip was the incredible weather.  Mornings were close to freezing every day and the temperatures never rose above the mid-forties during the day but it was sunny!  No fog marred the morning views over the ocean, and by the time we walked the beach around 11 every day the skies were brilliant and there was no wind to interfere with our leisurely time on the beach with Mattie.

Mattie loves the beach

One of her favorite things is climbing the rocks to a high point.  I think I have at least half a dozen photos of Mattie over the years on this very same rock posing for my camera. 

Mo and I have another tradition with Maryruth and Gerald viewing the Christmas lights around Grants Pass topping it off with hot chocolate from Dutch Brothers. We live in the home city of the original Dutch Brothers which used to be a local Oregon thing, but somehow now is a huge company worth billions. Everything seems to be in billions and trillions these days.

The weather has been wet, with atmospheric rivers sending wild waves of wind and water over Oregon. Our light-viewing tradition was postponed until after Christmas and sadly the big wind event must have encouraged folks to take down some lights. We decided that we would be sure to see the town lights before Christmas next year. The local newspaper prints a map of the best houses for light viewing. I was thrilled when I saw a little red light marker at our house. We made the newspaper of houses not to miss when touring the lights. I did notice cars going by slowly now and then but not enough to be intrusive. After all, we are on a slightly remote almost but not quite in the country road. Still, it was satisfying to see that we made the map. Like the blog, I do the decorating for myself, but I still enjoy sharing it with other people. I would decorate if no one but me ever saw the house and I would write if no one but me read the blog.

Sunshine and green grass in late December

Mo and I shared one magic day of brilliant sunshine and blue skies as the month came to a close. The storm brought crazy winds to Oregon that wreaked havoc on so many areas of the state. Many people in the Grants Pass area lost power but we only had one tiny blink and somehow escaped that particular bit of difficulty. We did have a lot of flying debris from our ancient trees. The Douglas-fir is especially susceptible to dropping branches in high winds.

The lower pasture stays green until June

A few were several inches in diameter and we later realized that the banging noises that we heard at 3 am during the worst of the storm were those branches hitting our roof. When we woke again the next morning, the skies cleared, and we could see debris scattered around the property. In addition, the fabric shelter succumbed to the wind and Mo had to remove the winter cover to prepare for adding a new one.

We decided that it would be smart to let the oak leaves remain in areas of the gravel driveways to kill the annual grasses that sprout every year. I have learned that I can’t mulch gardens with our oak leaves. The first year we lived here I used them in the flower beds and it was three years before I could get anything to grow well. The leaves work great under trees or shrubs, but not in soil flower beds. Once we left a pile of leaves on some grass in the pasture and discovered it only takes a few days for that pile of leaves to kill the grass. Why not let those leaves kill the grass in the driveway and skip the evil weed killer?! I’ll let you know next spring how our plan worked out.

The Doug fir on the left and the ponderosa on the right are more than 150 years old.

While Mo worked on the fabric shed, I spent a few hours raking up leaves and debris and basking in the incredible sunlight and the Technicolor green of the winter grasses that love the rains. I treasured every minute of those more than ten thousand steps outside in deep winter. The news was filled with stories of the storms throughout the country. We escaped unscathed with the extra treat of one gorgeous sunny day between storms.

Now, hopefully, this crazy word salad of memories has been expelled, and I can close out December and get back to writing about October and November.

10-07 to 10-10-2022 Family Time in Washington and the Final Run Home

Take a look at Daughter Deanna’s view through their front windows in Lincoln, Washington

Let me say right away that this is a family picture-dense story of our visits as we wound our way home from our 7-week trip across the country.  We traveled many miles to see “stuff”, but we also spent some quality time with family. As many have said in comments throughout this trip, we are so lucky to have a way to not only see amazing sights throughout the country but also visit family and friends along the way.  It doesn’t happen without serious planning and ensuring our route includes these heart-warming stops.

My Great Grandkids: Orion, Theron, and Tearany

With everything falling into place for Friday, October 7 for a visit with my great-grandchildren, we left early from Don and Wynn’s home in Spokane.  The trip on this section of Highway 2 between Spokane and Davenport would be the last of our magnificent trip across the northern part of the United States.  Highway 2 continues west over the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Coast near Seattle and is another stretch with magnificent scenery I have traveled many times over the years.Lincoln is a tiny community on the shores of Lake Roosevelt, the dammed portion of the Columbia River east of Grand Coulee Dam. 

The lake is long and surprisingly deep with the depth of the portion near Deanna’s house more than 200 feet.  The nice thing about this area around Roosevelt Lake is that the cold snowy winters of Eastern Washington are moderated a bit. The National Park Service operates 35 recreation areas along the 660 miles of shoreline and the adjacent hills are dotted with vacation homes for Spokanites searching for a bit of relief from the late winter to enjoy a bit of springtime that comes earlier along the shores of this lake. Lincoln is about half an hour from the closest community of Davenport where Deanna and Keith can get a few groceries and eat at a small restaurant.  The big box stores of Airway Heights west of Spokane are less than two hours away if needed.  The two of them have created a lovely life in this rural spot with a home and small acreage surrounded by open space and wildlife.

The sheep are an interesting addition to their property, coming down from the cliffs nearby to nibble on whatever tasty goodies might be in the yards and gardens of the residents.  A small herd wanders almost daily through Deanna and Keith’s place.  It is fun to see them, and many are wearing trackers. 

The best part of this location for the family is that it is within driving distance from Wenatchee where the great-grandkids live with their mom Tracey.  My grandson Steven lives just an hour north with his new wife Stormi as well.  It is all about family, and when Deanna and Keith decided to retire from trucking, this was the spot they chose to be.  Keith is retired, working part-time locally, and Deanna is working from home.  It is a good fit for everyone. 

We parked the MoHo in the driveway, perfectly level, and hooked up the power to their 20 amp outlet.  The temperatures were pleasant with no need for using the air conditioner so 20 amp was completely adequate for the small amount of time we spent inside.  Most of the day was spent in the house with the family.

Tracey, the kid’s mom

I was excited that we could visit, and even more excited that Tracey did some fancy maneuvering to get the kids out of school on a weekday so that I could get hugs and love from my great-grandkids.  This was the reason Mo and I slowed down and took a few extra nights along our route as we approached Washington State. 

The kids had worked on a painting for me and decided that I wouldn’t have space enough for three so they collaborated on a painting with each kid doing a section.  Happy Birthday to me! I think I spent that day completely immersed somewhere in the middle of New York City. I had completely forgotten that I had a birthday, so this, and the cake Deanna made was a sweet surprise.

We also got to listen to Orion play his flute which he is very good at with some years of band behind him.  He is also now learning the Saxophone for his high school jazz band and played that for us as well. 

We spent the day laughing and playing with the kids and enjoying the view. I don’t get to see these kids nearly as often as I would like with several hundred miles between us.  It was a special day.

Loved seeing how much Orion has grown, now 14 years old and in high school

For supper, Keith made burgers on the grill and we enjoyed the great weather with dinner on the deck

The kids stayed overnight, and the next morning Deanna and Keith cooked a big country breakfast for everyone with all the fixings, including some yummy cranberry muffins.  We had more sweet family time, enjoying the view and taking more photos before Mo and I continued toward more family visits in this part of Eastern Washington.

Deanna and me.  Yeah, we both like to be barefoot.

Mo’s brother Don, whom we visited the previous day in Spokane, bought a recreational piece of property near the confluence of the Spokane River and Lake Roosevelt near the community of Fort Spokane.  He wanted to share his new place with us and show Mo all his plans for creating a family getaway not far from their home in town. 

A few acres near the Spokane River for Don and family to enjoy

Mo and I traveled north along the beautiful road to Fort Spokane, enjoying the amazing views.  Currently, the property is a work in progress but it was fun visiting and hearing Don’s plans for the future.

Theron, Steven, and Stormi

Our day continued with another half hour north of Fort Spokane to Gifford, Washington, where my grandson Steven lives with his new wife Stormi.  It was wonderful seeing Steven again and hearing his stories about living on a small homestead.  Steven is very much into permaculture, organic gardening, and growing as much of his own food as he can on his small hillside acreage with an amazing view of Lake Roosevelt.

Steven’s property isn’t far from the Gifford Campground on the lake. Mo and I took Mattie there for a bit of time at the lake so she could run around before we took the steep road up to Steven’s place.

Theron takes after his daddy with his love of gardening.  He was very proud of his carrots.

Here is a photo of Theron’s dad Steven.   Think they look alike?

It was late afternoon when we returned to Deanna and Keith’s home for a wonderful supper of freshly caught trout on the grill.  Yum.  It was incredibly delicious.

With the kids gone and just the four of us, there was time for good conversations about family and life and all the good and all the challenging stuff that life can bring.  I treasured the time with my daughter.  Grandkids and Great Grandkids are great, it is wonderful to see them, but for me, there is nothing quite as special as daughter time. I am darn lucky to have three loving, beautiful, fabulous daughters. The other two are closer in distance but we are all as close as the phone and the internet. 


Daughter Deanna in a moment of talking about our family

On Sunday morning, Deanna went back to work in her cozy home office and Mo and I packed up the MoHo.  We headed south from Lincoln by 8 am, on our way through Davenport toward Highway 395 and West Richland, a town in what is called the “Tri-Cities”, consisting mostly of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco.  Located on the Columbia River, the TriCities have grown exponentially since I lived in Idaho.

Nancy and Mo in Nancy’s kitchen.  Didn’t manage a photo of her new puppy

Mo’s sister-in-law Nancy, wife to her brother Roger who passed a few years ago, lives in West Richland and we didn’t want to miss another visiting opportunity.  We didn’t stay long, but enjoyed the time at her home visiting and meeting her new pup. Nancy has often made the effort to travel south to Oregon to visit with us at Sunset House so we were glad we could stop in to get a hug and a bit of good conversation. 

After our short visit, we continued south toward the Columbia River and west on I-84 toward Mo’s brother Dan and wife Chere’s place in Beavercreek, Oregon, a small community in the mountains east of Portland.  We settled into another level paved site and enjoyed a fabulous dinner that Chere made for us.  Tacos, Tostados, and all the fixin’s including some crock pot roasted jalapenos for a topping and fajita grilled chicken.  So Yummy!  Sometimes visiting friends and family gives us a chance for some great meals.

Chere on the porch of their lovely home in the woods near Beavercreek

In addition, Mo’s brother Dan is a great fix-it guy and he and Mo settled in for the afternoon trying to troubleshoot the overheating MoHo, and the messed up levelers which hadn’t worked since we were somewhere in the Midwest. They were partially successful but needed at least part of another day to continue the work.  We decided that instead of waiting around, I could take the Tracker and continue home first thing in the morning and Mo would come later with the MoHo.

Dan and Mo

The best part of this plan for me was that I got to drive south on I-5 and cross the six steep passes between Eugene and Grants Pass without stressing out about the rising temperature gauge in the MoHo.  I stopped in to visit my youngest daughter Melody in Brownsville, just a hop off the freeway before continuing south.

Melody loves her little dahlia garden

The next morning, Mo and Dan flushed out the exterior of the radiator to see if that might help with the heating problem. Mo then headed south toward home, alone in the MoHo without me or Mattie for company. Even without the Tracker, the temperature gauge rose a bit over the steepest passes, but Mo was able to get home without incident.

Yes, Jeanne, that is the wine you gave us that we saved for a good celebration

That evening we celebrated the completion of our cross-country trip with a bottle of wine on the deck.  Even in October, the temperatures were 91 during the day and evening sunset time on the deck was warm enough to sit outside without sweaters.  Such a surprise.

With this final story, I am at the end of the long tale of our 8,150-mile trip. I realized that in the post where I talked about miles and days, I never added up the states that we traveled from late August to mid-October.  We traveled to 28 states, including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

Just a little side note:  In the next post, whenever I get around to it, I will tell the story of the overheating problem and the fix!  So far so good, and we think the problem is solved.

10-05 and 10-06-2022 Onward to Friends and Family in Idaho and Washington

Now that is a long title that isn’t all that exciting, but I have no clue how to write it differently.  We crossed the country from Wisconsin to the Continental Divide without stopping along the way to visit anyone.  No one we know lives near the High Line, which lies close to the Canadian boundary.  But once we officially entered a part of the Pacific Northwest, the area of Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington sometimes called “The Inland Empire”, that all changed. 

We left early on the 5th, traveling west toward the looming eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. We expected a steep grade and decided that it would be prudent to travel separately so the chances of the MoHo overheating would be less.  I took the photo above with my phone while following Mo in the Tracker.  Yeah, a bit fuzzy and the photos of the buffalo along the highway are even worse.  Still, I knew Mo would love the buffalo photos so I did my best.

No eye rolling allowed, please.  Those black things that look like rocks really are buffalo.  I think my friend Gaelyn takes pretty good photos while driving, but I am not a fan of that process, and obviously not very good at it.  Believe me, I never try it while driving when Mo is in the car.  Not a good thing to do, I know.  Still, I have the photos to prove that there really were buffalo there, and caught some great photos of the MoHo which I would never get any other way.

It was only 60 miles or so from our campground in Cut Bank to Marias Pass.  The actual distance of any part of that pass that could be considered even moderately steep was the last 12 miles from East Glacier to Marias Pass.  I knew that crossing the Rockies in this northern part of Montana was much less challenging that traveling some of the passes through the Rockies in Colorado.  The elevation difference between different passes is considerable. 

Elevations along Montana’s Divide range from a low of 5,280 feet at Marias Pass near Glacier Park to 11,141 feet at the most southerly situated Eighteenmile Peak.

An interesting tidbit from this website about the Continental Divide in Montana: Montana’s Divide respects no geologic structural dictate, but rather snakes at random through the high terrain of the state’s Northern Rocky Mountains. With a spectacular start in the remote western reaches of Glacier National Park, at the 49th parallel of latitude where Alberta, British Columbia and Montana join, the northern most point of Montana’s Divide begins its run to the south at an elevation of 7,460 feet. It leaves our great state about three miles into Yellowstone National Park at 8,320 feet where Montana, Idaho and Wyoming join in a nondescript, flat, difficult to find timbered landscape.

When we reached the top of the “grade”, we parked opposite the Continental Divide marker at Marias Pass and laughed with each other about how easy it had been.  We hooked up the Tracker and continued west on our route toward Northern Idaho.

Once again, when attempting to find fuel in West Glacier there was a bit of a kerfuffle and before we knew it we had passed all the recommended stations and were in downtown Libby.  Lucky for us, we had enough fuel to get farther west to Troy, Montana, where we made no attempt to find cheap gas and simply fueled the MoHo at a station that was on the right side of the highway and had large enough bays to make fueling easy.  Funny how after driving several thousand miles the priorities shift from saving money to saving sanity.

Troy was a sweet afternoon delight.  I was again in familiar territory, having driven the route from Spokane to Troy many times for many different reasons in the past.  It is an easy route, quiet, curvy in places, without any significant grades to deal with.  We were content to stop in Troy and enjoy the city park for an hour or so on such a beautiful afternoon. 

The park was lovely, located along the banks of the gorgeous Kootenai River.  The population of the town is somewhere around 800 people, and on that sunny afternoon, it was clear that the city park was the location of much of the social life of the small community. Funny thing about Troy, at 1880 feet, it is the lowest-elevation town in the state of Montana. Troy was registered as a town in 1892 and grew quickly after the Great Northern Railway built a freight station there, leading to a boom in workers, miners, and their families.

The railroad bisected the town and we waited a long time for some train workers in individual cars to pass at a crossing.  There were many people on both sides of the tracks watching the working cars, and it was evident that they appreciated their train workers.  No one seemed the least bit frustrated by the 20-minute wait except us.

Our destination for this first night in Idaho was Bonners Ferry and the big parking lot at the Kootenai River Inn Casino and Spa located on the banks of the beautiful Kootenai River.  We have camped there in the parking lot a few times in the past and when I called the casino to verify overnight parking they were as welcoming as always.  The only request was that we park on the far eastern side of the lot and make sure that we weren’t blocking any traffic.

The Kootenai River Inn and Casino is a great parking lot for a free night on the road

Chat and Georgette, long-time friends who once lived in California, now live in Bonners Ferry on a gorgeous piece of property overlooking the wild mountains east of town. We have camped with them in the past, but sadly this time Georgette was away at a cow dog training event and couldn’t be with us.  Her husband Chet was hiking on that day but agreed to meet us at the Casino for a nice visit and dinner at the restaurant.  I completely forgot to take dinner and friend photos but did manage to get a photo of dog lover Chet visiting Mattie in the MoHo after dinner.

Our night was pleasant and quiet except for the trains.  There was a crossing right near us. Every hour or so the loud clanging of the crossing would wake us and the train would roar past with its whistle wailing.  We laughed at this being the worst train night of our trip. If you decide to park at this casino it might be smart to have earplugs.

Our route the next morning was along a very familiar road.  Highway 95 bisects the state of Idaho from south to north and is a route I traveled sometimes daily in my years mapping soils in Northern Idaho.  The road hasn’t changed all that much and I recognized much along the way.  I found myself remembering soil pits that I dug in various locations in Boundary, Bonner, and Kootenai counties.  There is no better way to learn a landscape like the back of your hand than to travel all those back roads day after day.  Every time I return to this part of Idaho memories surface about my days in the field.  Most of them are good, but other memories come up of fearful lightning storms where I hid for an hour in my eight-foot-deep soil pit with trees falling all around me. Another time when a giant bald-faced hornet managed to get inside my long leather gloves and stung my arm repeatedly.  Such fun and part of the life of a field scientist.

Nothing but a windshield view of Pend Oreille Lake south of Sandpoint since we were moving along quickly

Our first destination for the day was in Dalton Gardens, Idaho, a small community adjacent to Coeur D Alene.  The sweet thing about Dalton is that most of the lots in the town are at least an acre or two.  My friend Laura lives on one of those acres and covers every inch of her lot with flowers.  There are some vegetables there as well, but the most exciting thing about Laura’s gardens are the dahlias.  I grew dahlias when I lived in Northern Idaho, sometimes digging as many as 700 tubers to winter over in my tiny rock-lined basement. 

Laura welcomed us with open arms, and her three young labs greeted Mattie enthusiastically as well.  It only took a minute or two for the dogs to begin running and playing together. In Laura’s complex backyard, Mattie had plenty of places to hide when the bigger dogs wore her out.  Those labs never seem to slow down.

Laura brought out pumpkin pie and coffee while Mo tried to keep the lab entertained with the slimy ball that you see if you look closely at the top of this photo.

We had a wonderful, sweet visit, sharing memories and flower walks.  Laura and I have almost 40 years of history together and even with miles between us, the friendship is enduring.

Laura is holding one of her grandbabies here, and notice the slimy ball in the lab’s mouth

We left Laura’s place in early afternoon, traveling west on I-90 toward Spokane.  It is always a shock to see the Rathdrum Prairie and the Spokane Valley after living in that area before the huge growth that exploded in the 80s.  What once was miles and miles of fields of bluegrass grown for seed has become miles and miles of housing developments, malls, and box stores.  It is a sad sight, but one repeated in so many places.

Mo’s youngest brother Don lives on the south side of Spokane, in a lovely neighborhood with a view toward the Spokane Valley to the east and Mt Spokane to the north.  Mo and I both looked forward to spending a night with Don and Wynn.  There was plenty of room to park in front of their home located toward the end of a cul de sac.  After settling in, we visited a bit with the two of them while waiting for the rest of the family to arrive.

Wynn is a great cook and has a beautiful kitchen, recently redone.  Here she is enjoying the huge bouquet of dahlias given to us by Laura

Mo’s niece Ginny, with her husband Gabe and their three beautiful children, arrived a bit later.  The kids are all well-behaved, however the youngest, Georgia Wynn is a very talkative ball of fire. We shared deck time and talking time before a lovely dinner that Wynn made for us in the dining room. 

After our lovely supper, with good manners all around, the kids decided to head for the basement game room, and Mo and I followed.  Before long the family was engaged in a rousing game of ping pong, with Mo, the one time PE teacher giving everyone a run for their money. 

Here are a few of the moments during our evening ping pong game that created so much happy laughter.

It was a wonderful evening, filled with family, good food, and most of all lots of laughter.  We went to bed tired and happy and ready for the next day that we would be sharing with another great family.  Our planned route of family visits would include the next destination, Lincoln, Washington where I would spend time with my daughter, grandson, and great-grandkids.