06-20-2018 The Family Gathers

We are home in Grants Pass after traveling once again to the Oregon Coast for a few days.  Mo’s brother Roger passed away last summer and his wife and daughters thought that it would be a good thing to have the family gather at one of his favorite places for a bittersweet good bye.

The Five Oukrop Siblings, Dan, Edna, Roger, Sharon (Mo), and Don at a family reunion in 2012

South Beach State Park is just a couple of miles south of the sweet coastal town of Newport, and boasts 227 sites with electric and water, and 27 yurts, 14 of them dog friendly.  Roger’s wife Nancy started planning the event many months ago, calling on the first day of availability to reserve several yurts and several RV sites, all within close proximity to each other.  She also arranged reservations for some of the out of town relatives without camping vehicles to stay at the nearby Holiday Inn Express. 

When I counted everyone that was present in the family photo there were 41 family members there. The majority live in Oregon, but some came from Illinois, Washington State and Colorado to bid Roger a last goodbye.

The Oukrop clan is an amazing family, and as the years have passed I have seen the family reunions shift as the sons and daughters of Mo’s brothers and sister are now having sons and daughters of their own.  Mo and I are amazed at all the little kids running around that are now part of the ever expanding family.

South Beach is a great location for these kinds of gatherings, especially for a physically active and sports minded family like this one.  The park boundary begins at the southern edge of Newport along the Yaquina Bay Bridge and stretches several miles to the south.  There are walking trails and paved bike trails in addition to miles of sandy beaches. 

I love walking the beach here because unlike most Oregon Coast beaches which are rugged and rocky, this one is broad and flat, separated from the campground by dunes and sea grasses, much like some of the beaches in Florida. 

We traveled I-5 north to Sutherlin and then turned west toward the ocean following the route of the Umpqua River.  Almost every road that crosses the coast range between the valley and the ocean is rugged and curvy, and this was no exception.  It isn’t a scary road at all, just a bit narrow, and with a few surprising curves.  The day was incredibly gorgeous, with temperatures going into the 90’s inland near home and dropping by degrees to the low 60’s as we approached the beach.

We arrived late afternoon, just about the same time as the rest of the group, and were happy to set up camp and then go to town for dinner with the rest of the RV campers.  The Chowder Bowl is a little seafood restaurant in the part of Newport called Nye Beach, and has never been a disappointment.  I ordered the special, chipotle shrimp tacos, and Mo’s sister in law Chere reminded me that I ordered the very same thing 2 years ago when we gathered with family at this same restaurant.  Of course, that time, Roger was still with us.

We woke the next morning to cloudy skies, but the temperatures weren’t terribly chilly, just enough for a jacket for our long morning walk on the beach.  Later in the day, some of the family gathered at the beach as well, and I had a great time trying to photograph the little kids doing all that little kid stuff.

The littlest ones at the beach (photo courtesy of Ginny Taylor Don’s daughter) 

Brother Don and his son Lanson

Lanson’s son Ryder

Lanson’s wife Mandy catching up with her mother-in-law Wynn. They are a very close family.

That evening there was another gathering of people around the motorhomes with shared horseshoes, good food, and campfires. 

On Friday we drove south to the Beaver Creek boat launch.  Brother Don brought his sleek wooden kayak in addition to another tandem kayak and we had our two kayaks. 

The two older boys, Roger’s grandson Logan, and Dan’s grandson Owen won the kayak lottery and we had a great time on the water.

We had kayaked Beaver Creek in the past, but this time it was prettier, even though the wind did come up on the return trip downriver.

Another gathering of food and family around the campfire that evening rounded out the day. Sitting around the campfire it seems that much of the entertainment involves watching the little kids.  I also love watching the mom’s doing their mom thing.  Each of Don’s offspring have 3 kids, and they are all close in age, so I get a big kick out of watching all of them without having to do a thing except watch. I was mother to 4 of my own, all very close together, and I remember how that felt.  Ahhh…so nice to be old.

I enjoyed the chance to get to know some of the family members I hadn’t met before, including Dan and Chere’s son Zach and his wife Amy, with their two boys, and their daughter Rachel and husband Mike and their two kids.

Saturday morning finally brought a gorgeous sunrise with the promise of a lovely sunny day ahead, perfect for the main event for this family gathering.

Dan and I rose at 5:30 every morning to take the dogs for a walk on the quiet deserted beach

In addition to arranging all the camping and hotel facilities, Nancy also set up a lovely memorial celebration held at the beautiful Oregon Coast Aquarium in town.  It was a lovely venue, with the event room located at the edge of the bay in a beautiful garden with the big shark tank decorating one of the walls of the room. 

We had an hour to socialize, then an hour to eat some truly good food, and then an hour to share thoughts of Roger with those who loved him and knew him.  As Mo and I were getting ready, we were concerned that 3 hours seemed like a really long time for such a gathering, but it wasn’t at all, it was just perfect.

Roger’s niece Ginny remembering her uncle

Roger’s elder sister Edna spoke beautifully about her beloved little brother

Don gave a moving tribute to his elder brother

When the memorial was over, everyone drifted out into the aquarium grounds to enjoy the exhibits.  It was a wonderful way to let some of the sadness of the memorial dissipate as we walked around in the sun and watched the animals. 

On our final evening at the beach, Nancy and her daughters planned to spread the rest of Roger’s ashes in this place he loved.

We gathered up big bundles of firewood, (no beach driftwood), and with chairs and jackets headed for the beach. 

Some were a bit worried about whether we could actually get a campfire started with the wind blowing so strongly, but a cardboard box full of kindling and fatwood did the trick just fine.  The fire burned like it was fueled by a blowtorch.

Once the fire was going, Nancy and her daughters, Randi, Juli, and Angi, walked down to the water together with Roger’s ashes.  As cold as it was, they walked out into the surf and let the ashes return to the ocean that Roger loved so very much. 

We returned to the bonfire, and just a few minutes later we looked out to sea and there they were.  Whales!  We saw the first spout and then more and more as several whales were traveling just beyond the surf. If there was one thing Roger loved, it was playing in the water.  The whales never breached, but I think they were calling Roger to come and play with them.


April 19 to 23 A Short Week at Newport and South Beach State Park Oregon

Current Location: Old Fort Road apartment Klamath Falls Oregon

Tuesday April 19

It’s a wonderful day to be driving north on I-5. Traffic is light, no rain for the moment, soft sunshine on leaves that are still in that springtime stage of lime green gorgeousness. Mo is doing most of the driving, giving me time to play around with the new phone. I switched to Verizon from AT&T and so far am incredibly impressed with my reception, at least in my part of Oregon. I was able to talk to my daughter all the way around Klamath Lake and over High Lakes Pass.  No more cut off goodbyes!

We left around 10:30 this morning from Grants Pass. The last few days have been really warm with temperatures almost to 90 in Grants Pass yesterday. It felt wonderful after the long cold winter and chilly spring we’ve had. It’s supposed to get up to at least 68 degrees in Newport today and then it’ll start cooling down again but the predictions for rain are only about 20%. We couldn’t ask for much better on the Oregon coast especially in Newport, a bit farther north than our usual haunt in Brookings.

Looks like our route north was a LOT longer than our route south

We decided to try out a different route this time, thinking the drive straight north to Corvallis and west to Newport would be a bit repetitive. Instead, we decided to get off the Interstate new Drain, and take the Territorial Highway through Eugene and on north to intercept Highway 20 toward the west, entering Newport from the northern edge. We were winding and wandering all over the place from the Territorial Highway first to the Applegate Trail and then around on some other back roads until we hit 99 northwest of Vaneta. All the leaves are bursting with spring, and both the wild and domestic dogwoods are especially beautiful.

We thought it might be fun to take a different route to see something new, but realize that were on most of these roads when we did our covered bridges trip in 2012. Although it was a nice break from the interstate, we decided that we won’t take this route back home. It is a simple thing to buzz over from Newport to the freeway at Corvallis and head south on I-5 getting us home in a lot less time.

We stopped in Philomath, west of Corvallis, with a hot dog craving, but we were not successful. Philomath is a really cute little Oregon town but there are not many places to eat. I did find a small donut shop where I asked directions and discovered some good pastries, soups and salads, but that wasn’t right for our mood and we continued west. We didn’t spend much time walking around the town, since it was over 80 degrees when we stopped. With the air on in the MoHo we had no clue it was that warm out.

While driving along, we entertained ourselves trying to figure out what the difference was between a wine cellar and a winery. We did know that a vineyard is where they grow the grapes, and that most wineries don’t grow their own grapes. Then we saw a sign for a wine cellar and that question entered the mix. I had a good time saying “OK GOOGLE” what is the difference…etc. In no time we had the answers.

It took a bit more than five hours to get from Grants Pass to Newport, where just a mile or so east of town, the bright warm sunshine turned to chilly fog. Ahh, the beach.

The family wagons were all close to each other near the trail to the beach, with reservations handled well by brother Dan, who often spends time at South Beach.

Mo’s youngest brother Don and wife Wynn.  Double camera from the Galaxy Note 5

Mo’s next younger brother Dan and wife ChereMo’s oldest younger brother Roger and wife Nancy

Each family was responsible for a single dinner, with the option of spending a night eating out in Newport. It was unanimous when someone suggested this first night was a great time for fish and chips. Dan and Chere knew a great place in the small old town of Nye Beach, on the west side of Highway 101. In all the times Mo and I have visited Newport, we never discovered Nye Beach. Not only are there some sweet little shops there, the beach is wide and dog friendly and our supper at the Chowder Bowl was wonderful. Fish and chips and chowder were good but I had the special, chipotle shrimp tacos!  ohmygoodness!!!  Heaven in a tortilla for sure.

Wednesday April 20

“Well I’m tired tonight and as usual when I’m tired I have a hard time writing so I’m wondering if I’ll have his herd of time talking as I do trying to write put him tired. But most said you’re better make a list you better make no what did you say mom said you better make your notes tonight so you don’t forget what you did today”

Did you understand that? Me either, but it is what was transcribed by my handy phone assistant as I attempted to verbally write the blog.

We had a great day today. It began early with a beach walk on a cloudy but windless morning. As much as we love Harris Beach and Brookings, the sandy beach at South Beach is long and unbroken by the wild Oregon sea stacks that make the views so spectacular. I love being able to walk long and steady on firm sand without having to turn around until I feel like it. Lots more photos are here.

Mattie had a great time running wildly in the sand. Just south of the trail to the beach, the southern boundary of the state park is marked and we no longer have to keep her on a leash. She bounded and ran, but still really isn’t too happy about the waves if they get too close. She can swim, but really isn’t interested in it.

After our walk, we spent some quality time relaxing and reading at our site until the rest of the crew returned from their town shopping excursion. A kayak afternoon was planned with Mo’s brother Don, and we had researched local kayak locations, deciding on the gentle inland waters of Beaver Creek, about five miles south of the state park.

The put-in was easy, with a nice boat launch and a gentle incline into the silky water. There is a bit of tide current, but it is light, and the current of the stream is light as well, so you can kayak both upstream and downstream without a lot of effort.

We saw some great blue herons, some river otters, and a mama duck with a brood of a dozen babies. We saw a single eagle. I didn’t pack a camera, and used the phone for the photos that I took. It is great for landscapes, but I had a terrible time trying to catch the birds as they flew in the screen.

I think if you click on any of the photos for a larger image, it will take you to my smugmug gallery and you can see the rest of the photos for the kayak trip.

I thought about Direction of our Dreams Sherry a lot on the trip, realizing that she would have kayaked that river in at least twice the time that we spent. Instead, we did and up and down thing, without a lot of time for dawdling. It was my night for dinner, and I was feeling a little stressed.

There was absolutely no reason to feel stressed because everybody is just easy to please they’re not hard to please at all. I had marinated the chicken and made the salad before we left for the kayak, and everything turned out just fine. Best part about taking over one full meal is that I won’t have to cook again! Chere brought a watermelon and Wynn brought a raspberry cake that was yummy. Perfect preamble for lots of laughter as we sat around the fire.

Thursday April 21

While Mo and I were walking and the women were shopping yesterday, Dan and Don and Roger went crabbing. They were out several hours, but our planned crab salad dinner was postponed in favor of my chicken because they didn’t get any crabs big enough to keep.

Mo and I began our day once again on the beach, only this time the sun was shining and the skies were gorgeous. There was no wind to speak of, which seems unheard of on the coast, and I was grateful. We did notice that Mattie was a little bit less wild and crazy on the beach than she was the first day out. She only ran wildly half of the time instead of 100% of the time. We also found some fun things on the beach to look at. There was a truly amazing log that was covered with some kind of shells, each one hanging individually from a long string. They were waving in the wind and sounded like a shell windchime as they bumped against each other.

By 10:30 it was time to go out with Don and Dan to see if we would have better luck at crabbing than they had the day before.

We haven’t been crabbing before, and I was looking forward to seeing what it was like.

We were really lucky because the sun was shining when we left, and even though it was a bit chilly for me, we didn’t have rain or bad weather. It was my first time out crabbing. It was interesting, but I don’t think I’ll ever have to do it again. The little crabs when they’re caught or all crawly and wild and look kind of scary. The guys have to get them out of the rings without getting pinched. The worst part of the whole thing was the bait. Normally they use turkey legs which isn’t too bad. The other options are fish heads which the seals eat. The disturbing option was mink. I had no idea that meant little actual frozen mink bodies. That was extremely creepy. However the crabs really seem to like the mink which eventually became unfrozen and we’re even more disgusting than you could possibly imagine. The gulls were also incredibly interested in both the crabs we threw back and the bait as well.  Funny, I had never seen crabs actually swimming in the water.  Creepy.

It is the same reason I don’t really like fishing, the bait thing! Even fishing for trout with spinners and no bait requires actually killing the fish, which I couldn’t do very well. I’m not very good when it comes to fishing or crabbing or hunting. Totally hypocritical I know because I do eat meat and I love fish.

Still, I was very happy to have had the experience of going crabbing at least once in my life. We got lots of crabs, but they were all too small. Dinner once again was not crab salad, but some rather fantastic tacos made by Brother Don’s wife Wynn.

We had been so very lucky with no rain, but as we all gathered at Don’s place for dinner the rain started pouring down. Mo and I realized that we hadn’t put the covers on the kayaks, and for once we were really happy to have lots of brother help around to take the kayaks down, get the covers on, and hoist them back on top of the Tracker.

Friday April 22

Our last full day at the beach was again supposed to be a rainy one. The women had planned a trip north to the Outlet Mall at Lincoln City. I originally opted out, with mall shopping not big on my list of favorite things to do. But with the predicted rain, I thought better of my choice to stay home and by 9:30 we were on the road north.

It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day, with brilliant sunshine and blue skies. I changed my mind about mall shopping when I discovered that there was a Harry and David store (one of my favorites originally from Medford) and a Chico’s. I introduced the women to Chico’s, which they loved, and I think before the day ended I had as many packages as anyone. So much for not liking mall shopping!

When we got back home, with plans for relaxing before dinner bike ride, I was greeted by a very unhappy Mo. Seems as though something had happened in the MoHo and there was water everywhere. All the towels and rugs were spread all over the picnic table and her brothers were attempting to find out why water was pouring out from underneath the rig.

Turns out it was something easy. They had worked on our kitchen faucet, turning off the main water, and then when the water was turned back on, a faucet was open and flooded the bathroom sink and overflowed under the rig. In the process, it filled up the black tank which was also completely full. We unhooked, drove down to the dump, and after dumping all the tanks, everything seemed to be just fine. No more mishaps, in the MoHo at least. We did have a very big carload of wet stuff to haul home to Grants Pass for a full day of laundry when we got there.

Dinner was great, with chicken on the grill and a fabulous salad from Chere and Dan. The campfire was once again ringing with fun and laughter. As you can see, Mattie is a cold blooded little thing, with her southern California puppy roots showing every time there is a chill in the air.  We had to be sure she didn’t catch her fur on fire!

The next morning, Don offered to make omelettes with the leftovers from the tacos, and for the first time on the trip, we had to retreat to the shelter of Don’s awning as the rain started to come down in earnest. Couldn’t have asked for better timing, and we didn’t complain at all about having to drive home in the rain. It isn’t often that April yields up 4 sunny days in a row on the Oregon Coast.

Now, as I have finally completed the translation process from verbally dictated posts to something written, I have decided that maybe that whole process isn’t worth the effort. Reading, I can see that I seem to write a LOT better than I talk! LOL Maybe something in the writing causes me to think more clearly. That might be why I have always kept a journal, a way to keep my thoughts in order. My off the cuff speaking thoughts are really crazy and very repetitive! So much for that. Next blog post will go back to my usual method of typing as I think rather than depending on the phone to figure it out.