The Travels of Jil and Mike

This is the post excerpt.


August, 2011

Jil and I have long histories of visiting wonderful places on this God given earth. Before we met Jil traveled, mainly by air to parts of Europe, Israel and numerous ski resorts located in the U.S.A. and Canada.

She had never been camping, you see. I had never left the U.S., nor flown for that matter (except in fire department helicopters), choosing instead to travel our great country with the aid of almost every type of mobile shelter known to man.

I introduced Jil to camping by taking her on short trips in my very old but functional 1973 Revcon 25′ class A motorhome. Jil fell in love with camping, but the old rig not so much. It was soon replaced with a travel trailer.

Constantly having to step over two large dogs lying on the very limited floor space of the travel trailer lead to a costly but welcome upgrade- a new truck to tow a new, more comfortable double slide 5th wheel. We wore that combination out and purchased  our second 5th wheel, a triple slide Heartland Big Country 3250TS, then a new truck to pull it up to Alaska and back. Three slides and we still step over the dogs! Oh well.

We started RVing in a Class A motorhome and will probably end our adventures in another one. Our rolling stock consists of a four slide Tiffin Allegro Red that’s short enough to be accepted into most state parks and a Subaru Forester toad. For our preferred method of travel it is ideal. We like to travel relatively short distances and only stay a couple of days in any one place. Set up for the motorhome is much quicker and more simple than a trailer and every convenience is inside our rolling home. One of the downfalls of towing a trailer in hot weather is no A/C running while in transit. That’s not a factor in the motorhome as we can run the A/C units with our generator as we travel.

The events of 9/11/2001 have soured us on air travel. We now travel almost exclusively with Jil as the copilot/navigator and moi as the pilot of 25,000 pounds worth of rolling stock. Scenic byways and country roads are preferred over interstate highways. We were both raised in large urban communities so visiting small towns is a treat. We like to meet those small town folk and visit the places they call home.

Our Trip Home- OMG!

Monday, March 30, 2020

I hope this finds ya’ll well and hunkered down attempting to maintain your sanity during this COVID 19 national emergency. We are doing well as are our neighbors. The virus hasn’t hit Reno hard as yet. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and pray for the best possible outcome for our great country.

I find it difficult to end a travel blog after we reach home- and keep it short, hee, hee. Don’t see the short part happening anytime soon! Don’t know why. So I’ll just let ‘er rip and end the latest saga of our RV adventure. We had booked our site at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort through March 14th but someone was getting antsy to go home. Long term reservations like ours requires cancellation notification a month in advance. Palm Creek does not issue refunds in cases like ours, they say “Have a safe trip home!” Oh well. I understand Jil’s desire to head for home sweet home as she had been through a lot with that broken wrist and the dental work, being sick for 72 hours all the while breaking in our new family member, Ollie the Boxer dog . We packed up and departed on Thursday, March 12.

Of concern of our trip home is weather, bad weather, especially as we near Hawthorne, NV. A wind advisory has been posted for the next few days. We’ll attempt to time our arrival in Hawthorne at the end of the advisory in order to duck the wind. Anther concern is Mr. Ollie’s reaction to riding in the RV. He has lived in it for two months but it hasn’t moved. A couple of slide rooms were moved in to increase access to change out the sun rotted dual tires for brand spanking new ones. Ollie was very curious and a little afraid of the moving rooms but OK with it. As it turns out Ollie travels well but one could tell that he wasn’t completely on board with his house bouncing down the road.

We are basically taking the same route home that brought us here with few exceptions. Its raining as we head north on I-10 taking advantage of the light traffic and the I-202 bypass that skirts downtown Phoenix. Back on I-10 we pick up Arizona State Route 303, US 60, then US 93 in Wickenburg AZ. Six miles east of Wickenburg is the Hassayampa rest area. It’s a nice place to stop to stretch however big rig parking is limited. Signage is vague so it’s a little hard to find. Another take away is the heavy cross traffic getting in and out of the rest area. No easy on and off transition roads here! On this occasion is the entire big rig area is flooded due to the rainfall. We make the best of it, stretching all twelve of our legs whilst avoiding as much of the puddled water as possible.

Big Rig vs. auto- car drivers do not respect big rigs……….

We transition onto US 93 via a pair of those big rig unfriendly roundabouts- and promptly get cut off by a tiny little car in the middle of one- gads!

US 93 takes us through very interesting hills and dales complete with streams, deep canyons and Wiley Coyote rock formations. Also of note is how this road has been allowed to deteriorate as one day a good portion of this route will become the new Interstate 11. We see evidence of road crews creating the new interstate on several occasions- one is near Wikieup.

Our first overnight stop is the Kingman Journey KOA park in, yes…, Kingman AZ. We’ve not stayed here in the past and the park is OK. It’s obvious that it has rained- large puddles are everywhere. Although the park roads and sites are not paved the native soil doesn’t track into the coach. The dogs have a run where they can be unleashed which is a plus. It rains off and on all night……..

Our Subaru can take a beating being towed only a few feet behind the Allegro. I look at the Subaru in the morning and find that the whole car looks like it went mudding. Can’t see through any window and the previously white paint job is now the color of Arizona mud. At least it can’t get any dirtier.

The weather doesn’t appear to be a factor- we depart Friday morning at our normal 0800 hours and head west on I-40, picking up US 93 once again just west of downtown Kingman. We head north towards Las Vegas paralleling the Colorado River Canyon and once again pass by Hoover Dam.

Beauty in the Colorado River Canyon

The vegetation is in full bloom and very green contrasting with the dark rock formations- ahh, more eye candy for this leg of the trip!

Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The wind is picking up and gets strong as we pass Hoover Dam over the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge into Nevada. Strong wind is normal in this area as big rigs are advised at times to slow down and travel the inside lanes in order to protect them from ferocious crossing winds.

As we head towards Las Wages NV on I-11 it strengthens. We retrace our route to Pahrump, NV. As we near Pahrump we are drenched with a desert downpour. Just north of town is our turnoff towards Death Valley Junction on Bell Vista Road leaving all civilization behind. We’ve not taken this route- new scenery will add to our adventure. As we approach town the remnants of a desert downpour lies ahead. We have to cross a deep puddle on the road, the deepest part is blocked by an Inyo County employee and his truck.

Death Valley Junction, CA lies in the Amargosa Valley. The town has an interesting history. Heck, what old town out in the middle of nowhere doesn’t? It sprang up in 1907 at the junction of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad’s spur to the Death Valley Railroad. The Death Valley Railroad carried borax from the Lila C. borax mine located in the hills to the west until 1928. The town was originally owned by Robert Tub who operated a saloon, store and brothel. From 1923 to 1928 the Pacific Coast Borax Company built a Spanish Colonial Rivival whistlestop centered at the hotel, theater and office complex, now known as the Amargosa Opera House.

The town began to decline over the years. However in 1967 dancer and actress Marta Becket stopped at Death Valley Junction to have her car repaired, fell in love with the opera house, leased and eventually purchased the hotel and theater complex. She staged mime and dance shows until her last show in February 2012. Becket passed in 2017. Allegedly the hotel still operates (we didn’t see any activity) with the Amargosa Cafe being the only other viable business in town.

Had we continued west we would visit Death Vally National Park. It’s not on our radar this trip. We head north on CA 127 which in a couple of miles transitions to NV 373 at the California/Nevada border. Our destination is just a couple of miles from the border.

Longstreet Inn’s back yard
The Inn is nicely landscaped

Arriving at the Longstreet Inn, Casino and RV Park, we check in at the Inn’s desk and find our site in the RV Park. The RV park may be gravel but the scenery is spectacular. Adjacent to the RV park is a large parcel of open land where the mutzos have plenty of room to romp and thoroughly enjoy doing so.

Longstreet Inn, Casino, & RV Park’s back yard- the dogs loved it!

The wind is very strong, so strong it’s difficult to open the RV’s door against it. Hopefully the wind will die down some tomorrow or we might just be spending two nights here.

The next morning the wind has diminished some- it’s decision time. Do we go or not go? The wind will mostly be at our back but gusts of 50mph are in the forecast. We decide to go considering the wind will be pushing us the majority of the way……..we should get good mileage!

We drive north through the Amargosa Valley passing Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Had we stayed another day we would have visited that oasis in the desert. Access is via a rough dirt road and we opt not to take the RV on it. We join US 95 once again stopping in Beatty to buy some nuts and honey at Miguel’s shop.

Interesting signage in Beatty

As the road takes us to higher elevations the snow level has come more near the highway. The old mining town of Goldfield is next but we do not stop, neither do we stop in Tonopah. Just down the road from Tonopah is Millers Rest Area. It’s a welcome stop to stretch our legs. On our previous stops very few if anyone is ever here. This time several families are having a picnic in spite of the howling wind and chilly air.

Thus far we’ve had a strong following wind which hasn’t created any unusual problems in steering our big box. Well cowboy, that has changed in a big way. US 95 is no longer primarily a north/south oriented road, it has become mostly east/west. Steady 30mph winds with 50 mph gusts= no bueno. I counter steer to fight the gusts conceding forward progress to safety. I slow down, then slow down again all the while battling the wind concentrating on keeping the big box between the center and fog lines. This leg of the trip has turned out to be a real white knuckler….Gads!

11,286 foot high Mt. Grant as seen from Whiskey Flat RV Park

We are so very happy when we reach the Whiskey Flats RV Park in Hawthorne, check in, set up in our site and relax. It’s a basic RV park in the desert yet has a lot to offer. It’s set up nicely, nicer that most. There’s lot of room to exercise the furry ones as a big vacant lot is right outside the perimeter of the park. It sports full utilities and cable TV to boot. We’ll enjoy our overnight here, then decide if that wind is too much to travel through in the AM.

Well let me tell you Mister, the wind howled almost all night long. On top of that it was hitting us broadside now causing our 26,000 pound rig to rock and roll. Gads! By dawn the wind had diminished to a few puffs. We go!

Approaching Yerington. Notice the amount of snow in the mountains.

Another 130 or so miles and we are home. The mountains are full of snow so we hope that isn’t an omen. Ha! It is……. the weather for the first 120 miles was good, cool but good. We drive through sleepy Yerington connecting with US 95A. As we leave Spanish Springs and head over the hill towards Sparks the clouds get thicker. Driving down the Truckee River Canyon, now on I-80, it starts to rain. Passing through Sparks it starts to snow a little. We are only 10 miles from home now. Passing downtown Reno it’s snowing harder.

Almost home!

Winter is still lingering in Reno!

Despite getting in a “bang” as the Aussies call a traffic accident, Jil suffering a broken wrist and replacement of an unrepairable tooth crown, adopting Ollie, our young Boxer dog, and literally weathering the many storms on the way home, we had a memorable trip. We met lots of nice folks that hail from the across our country and Canada. We had a wonderful time visiting with our friends from Reno and our friends from Washington State. We saw sights we’ve never seen before. What could be better? Oh ya, no broken bones, no car accidents, no broken teeth…… Hey that’s life!

This is one way to attend Mass- selfies fill the pews!

We are good now and that’s the main thing. Now if we could only attend Mass services during Holy Week……… heavy sigh…….

Food for thought during this trying time:

Every Day In Every Way I Get Better and Better

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Jil’s surgeon’s visit went well last week. The cast came off and now she has a removable splint which gives her fingers and thumb a great deal more flexibility. As a bonus she doesn’t have to wear the splint 24/7. Now she can shower in much more comfort- and wash the dishes! Smile! The progress that she has made since the cast came off is nothing short of amazing. The next doctor’s visit will be in our hometown and so will any physical therapy that is needed.

My fire buddy Gerry is really a nice guy. We both held the rank of Engineer of the Fire Department, our duties were driving, pumping and maintaining 1500 gallon a minute pumping fire apparatus, better known as fire engines, which make us water buddies. As it happens Gerry lacks basic electrical knowledge so one day I receive a knock at the door and there stands Gerry. He says he has no 12 volt power in his coach. Uh oh. That means no refrigerator, no lights, no stove, no furnace…… but he still has the microwave, TV and one 110 volt lamp.

I ask what has changed and he says other than losing 12 volt power- nothing. So we start chasing 12 volts. First batteries- test good. Then fuses- all accessible fuses are good. Next the 120V to 12V inverter/ converter tests good. Then the easter egg hunt begins. We find two solenoids behind a metal shield held together with a half a million screws. Hmmm, one solenoid is working correctly, the other not. Ah ha! But why is the second solenoid not functioning? Couldn’t figure that one out, been working on the problem for 2 hours and it was almost dark so we called it a day…… almost. I got back to the coach and turned right back around. Hey Gerry do you have a salesman switch for your 12 volt circuits? Why, yes. Check the switch please. Blonk goes the inactive solenoid, all the 12 volt circuits now function. Hey Gerry, I thought you said nothing had changed to cause the 12 volt circuits to fail? Uhhhh, I told Patti not to touch that one………… Sheesh!

The park had a Mardi Gras Party on Fat Tuesday. The venue had changed from outdoors to indoors due to weather so the event was running about an hour late.

That was worrisome as our new fur baby can be a hellion when we are away. We enjoyed the company at our table, our meal of jambalia about an hour later, listened to a great three piece rag time band and headed home with our fingers crossed. Ollie was a good boy! Thank goodness…..

Our pals Jim and Connie joined us in attending the Palm Creek Car Show. More than 50 street rods were on display. Some were true hot rods, most were mild customs that the owners have made daily drivers.

The picleball club here at Palm Creek hosted a US Pickleball Association tourney. If you don’t think pickleball is a popular sport- well……. 850 contestants and four full days of pickleball for several age and skill groups, men’s and women’s doubles as well as mixed doubles. Everyone had a great time and the champs went home with their trophies.

Meanwhile, Jil and I have had the creeping crud, a.k.a. a very lovely affliction that turned into bronchitis. The symptoms lasted too long, cough, cough, Cough, COUGH! Gads………

We’ve made friends with a lot of folks here at the park. And they are from Canada, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota…… do you get the theme here? Yep, everybody is ducking the cold north and enjoying the heck out of the warm weather here.

Thought for the Day:

The Continuing Saga of……. Pickleball Gal!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I’m sure most of you have either heard or have a bucket list. When life goes smoothly items on that bucket list get checked off as we experience them. Sometimes things don’t go so smoothly, such as our trials and tribulations here in Casa Grande. A traffic accident here, a broken wrist there, and of course our newly adopted mutzo Ollie. The car was fixed, the broken wrist in on the mend and Ollie is a good boy that likes to play- too hard…… way too hard. Anyhow our lives go on and we are thankful for the opportunity to meet nice folks from all over the U.S. and Canada at the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort.

Well, we’ve had a lotta healin’ goin’ on. Jil’s first followup visit was on the February 18th. She hoped to have the splint removed from her now surgically repaired right hand. Heck, why wouldn’t the Doc give her a removable splint since she’s got more hardware in that wrist than an Ace hardware store. The X-ray image of her wrist was encouraging as it is healing nicely.

So, says the tech, what color would you like? I have white, black, blue, red and purple? What? I’ve got white, black……. No, no. I understand the colors….. what do you mean? Well, I’m putting a cast on your arm. What? The PA concurs. Even though that arm has 10 pounds of plates and screws holding the bones together a cast will further immobilize the break and enhance healing. The cast will be back far enough on the hand to allow more movement of the fingers and thumb so Jil can actually use her hand. She chose purple of course! Jil is back to knitting sleeping mats using strips made of plastic grocery bags as yarn, or plarn (plastic yarn). She weaves the mats for the homeless as do many ladies in our community.

Jil also went to the dentist who specializes in crowns “made while you wait” to replace the one that she lost after surgery. No dice on the new crown as the tooth actually had broken off below the gum line. The tooth was extracted with difficulty as the tooth had a root with a knob or ball on the end. The ball wouldn’t let go for nada. The dentist worked up a sweat pulling that tooth! She will have a bridge made and installed rather than undergo more surgery for a dental implant. An appointment was made for early next month to fill the gap, so to speak.

In between doctor and dentist visits we’ve actually been as active as possible. We still walk a minimum of 5 miles a day. We’ve invited our friends Dick and Ellen who live in the Robson Ranch community to join us for lunch here at the park and then a good chin wag back at our coach. We’ve also met with Connie and Jim down at the local IHOP several times for breakfast where we try to solve world problems. We still have a problem or two to solve so we’ll be meeting with Jim and Connie a few more times before we launch towards home the middle of next month.

The park has activities every day of week. We’ve been to two RV shows, the Welcome Back Palm Park food vendor extravaganza, the monthly craft fair, the spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Casa Grande Fire Dudes, and a dance featuring the Hillbilly Deluxe band (who were quite good). A quilt show and wood show displayed the skills of the many talented folks here in the park.

Our neighbor had a friendly gathering of fellow RVer’s one evening. The food provided at the pot luck was really good. Folks played Jenga, a game of skill and calm nerves that requires one to remove a block from the middle of a high stack of blocks, then place it on the top of the stack. The blocks are placed 3 wide in layers and at times the stack would be almost so high that one couldn’t reach the top to place a block on top. Even saw a 4′ stack of blocks precariously resting on only one block times 5 as the stack grew higher.

The Players
The Kibitzers

The one thing that we signed up for and were not able to participate in was the members pickleball tourney. Jil and I were partners…………maybe next time. Next month the U.S.A. Pickleball Association is putting on an open tourney called The Duel in the Desert. That will be fun to watch. As you may know pickleball is a game of skill and the more skilled the player the softer and shorter they can hit the ball into the opponents court, the intent being the opponent can’t drive the ball down your throat when the ball is low. Less skilled players just tend to overpower their opponent because the soft, short game hasn’t been perfected. So when Jil was playing with 3 other ladies one gal continually just banged the ball, often hitting an opponent, a play frowned on by most players. Her flowery words would make a sailor cringe. When asked if she could tone it down a little she replied “Hey, I was in Roller Derby for 12 years. I play friggin’ hard”. Humph!

Do ya think Ollie has been accepted into the family? Do you think he likes this sort of treatment?

We look forward to the first week of March. Jil has a doctor’s visit and maybe will leave the cast behind in favor of a removable splint. Aaand she has another dentists visit where she will get a filler for that gap in her row of teeth.

And now a little wisdom from an old cowboy:

Words that soak into your ears are whispered……… not yelled.

Houston, We Have A Problem!

Sunday, February 9, 2012

Remember this photo because Jil won’t be using her pickleball paddle for a while:

Back on January 30th Jil and three gal friends decided that they were going to put in some afternoon practice for the Palm Creek Pickleball tournament to be held the first week of February. All went well until Jil decided to chase a ball that probably wasn’t returnable. The result is pictured below:

Yep, she broke the radius bone right off of the wrist. A lady was kind enough to transport her back to our RV in her golf car. I saw her sitting in the car as it approached and the light bulb didn’t come on- until I saw her supporting a very deformed looking wrist.

She told me what happened. Of course ya just don’t break your wrist on a fall like that- she hurt her hip, her side, her shoulder as well as hitting her head on that fall. We decided to go to Banner Urgent Care located less than a mile from the park. We were there maybe an hour. X-rays were taken and Jil’s wrist was placed in a splint, her arm in a sling. We were told to contact the Orthopedic docs at the Banner Hospital complex in the morning.

Pickleball Injuries are similar to all active sport injuries. Even tennis pro Raphael Nadal can take a spill now and then.

Morning comes, the call was made- the Docs had access to the images of her wrist taken the evening before. Nope, we can’t fix it says the Ortho Doc. What? Understand that this group of Ortho Docs are the only game in town. Well, who then? Call Doc Myo in Chandler. He specializes in hands, wrists, etc.

We called Doc Myo’s office on Friday. Can’t see you until Monday, dear! Is your hand in a splint? Yes…… Do you have a sling? Yes……. OK, see you Monday! Sheesh! What about pain control? Orthopedic Docs usually say “It’s gonna hurt- suck it up Buttercup”. No pain control prescribed by any of the three Docs consulted.

OK, Jil is in a lot of pain. The urgent care Doc didn’t want to give her pain pills but would prescribe high strength Motrin. She has Motrin so why purchase more? Motrin helps calm the pain but it doesn’t help enough. Aha! Call a friend! Friend has had her share of injuries, maybe she has a few extra pain pills laying around. She has a few- but there are for her German Shorthair Pointer. We’ll take ‘um! Same med as for humans……. I make the round trip in short order and Jil has pain meds enough to last until her Monday doctor’s appointment. She has taken a couple of pills now- and no, she didn’t start barking……….nice try though……..

Monday’s appointment was in Chandler, a distance of 35 miles. Half of that is on I-10, the rest on rural country roads until we come into town. Then maybe eight miles through nice neighborhoods on a nice wide road. Once in the office we fill out 9, count ‘um, nine pages of paperwork. Jil’s writing hand is in a sling- guess who gets to fill out all those forms?

The bottom line from Doc Myo- you can elect not to have surgery but the function of the wrist will never be normal and it will deformed forever OR elect to have surgery, no more deformation and regain 90-95% of the function of the wrist. What do you want to do? Duhhh- lemmi think……… Surgery is scheduled for the next afternoon at the Gilbert SurgCenter just 4 miles from Doc Myo’s office. AND, he prescribed her pain meds.

When one travels with dogs a lot of concessions are made as to where, what and when we can visit and air temperature must be considered. We tried leaving Megan, our neurotic Lab with Jim and Connie on Monday with limited results, electing to bring our rambunctious Boxer put with us. She was not a happy camper nor were the Gales. Even so Jim was kind in offering help in the future if needed but we didn’t want to put him or Megan through another stressful day.

Tuesday we head to Gilbert taking both dogs. The weather is in the 50’s, there’s a park nearby where we can get some exercise while Jil undergoes surgery. Everything worked out as planned. The dogs got some exercise, the car never got too warm and I was able split my time with them and spending time with Jil in the recovery room.

The outcome- Jil’s surgery went well. We were back home at the RV five hours after we left. Jil is comfortable because she received a nerve block that numbed her entire right arm. Numbing the arm sounds great when intense pain is involved but that too has it’s hazards. If ya can’t feel it ya don’t know where it is! Her arm flopped out of bed and scrared her to death because she didn’t know what it was!

She is now in her fifth day of recovery. Her wrist is in a splint and wrapped heavily with an elastic bandage. The only things peaking out are her finger tips. She’s taken her arm out of the sling quite a few times in order to exercise her shoulder and elbow. She’s wiggling her fingers and thumb to keep the swelling down. She’s even taken doggie walks several times each day. Relearning how to open jars, remove bottle caps and just basic things one normally does (like dye one’s hair) with two hands is coming along. The good thing is she is managing the pain with only occasional doses of Motrin/pain killers.

If you know Jil she’s always doing too much too soon when in recovery and pays the price. Right now she’s spending more healing time relaxing and sleeping. Yay! And then she puts in 10,000 steps the next. Phooey. She mentioned to me when she starts to feel the least bit sorry for herself she recalls the ad on TV that shows our soldiers with missing limbs- blown off by IED’s in Iraq, all with positive attitudes-and she experiences an instant attitude adjustment. That ad should sober anyone……

By the way her wrist, her side, shoulder and head were not the only casualty. As has happened in the past when she receives anesthesia one of her crowns came off- never to be found again. We really don’t understand the dynamics of losing a crown because she was sent to LaLa Land, do you? So Monday we have an appointment with a dentist. Sigh…………….at 0700 hours…….. it’s still dark at 0700 hours here in Arid-zona………

COWBOY WISDOM: Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

Life in a True RV Resort

Thursday February 6, 2020

Entrance to Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort
Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort, Casa Grande, AZ

Some of you are probably wondering about Arid-Zona’s weather this time of year. When we first arrived earlier this month we had ice on the car’s windshield in the morning. High temperatures were in the 50’s. That’s pretty much changed as the temps have gone up at night to near 40 degrees and highs approaching 70 degrees. We’ve had a good rain and a couple of showers. The weather is by in large pleasant but the wind can be chilling.

I took the liberty of copying the blurb below from Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort’s web page. The amenities here are impressive. Unlike many self proclaimed RV “resorts” this park truly is. With so many far ranging amenities one can stay busy what seems like forever. Like many have said “If you are bored it’s your fault”.



Resort living means golf and so much more at Palm Creek. There is a vast array of wonderful amenities to tempt you. Centrally located in the heart of the community is Guest Services, the Activities Center, the Ballroom, the Billiards Room, Fitness Center, the Arts and Crafts Building, the main Swimming Pool with a jumbo-sized Jacuzzi, The Bistro, Pro Shop, Fireside Patio and Laundry.

A new Sports Complex complete with a beautifully manicured softball field, sports pool, Jacuzzi, pickleball courts, and Sport Grill await your use in the east end of the resort.

Our onsite Activities Manager is available daily to help you join in the fun. You’ll find shuffleboard, billiards, horseshoes, water volleyball, softball, tennis and a putting green as well as water exercise, weight room, Yoga and Pilates.

Craft classes include pottery, sewing, quilting, oil and watercolor painting, woodshop and carving, lapidary, silversmith, stained glass, computer, crafts, monthly craft fairs featuring vendors from around the state. Palm Creek sponsors all kinds of dancing from Saturday night variety dancing to line dancing and pattern dancing.
Special parties, BBQ’s, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners, New Year’s Eve party, special entertainment and the Palm Creek Chorus and Drama Club will entertain you and spice up your social life!

If you like to play games, we have bridge, pinochle, cribbage, poker, euchre, dominoes, hand and foot, and, of course, Monday night Bingo, just to name a few.

We’ve taken advantage of some of the amenities, namely joining the pickleball club and participating in round robins. One signs up online to play. Sometimes the courts are so busy the club managers ask that a person only sign up for one round robin a day which means that all 32 courts are booked all day long. The 1001 club members are grouped by skill level with 2.0 being beginners and 5.0 highly skilled. Here’s a Youtube video that explains the game:

Jil has taken advantage of the exercise room. We walk the dogs a minimum of 5 miles a day. It’s easy walking- it’s flat as a billiard table here. During those walks we will visit one or two small fenced dog parks and let the dogs romp. We attended a spaghetti dinner put on by the resort- a fund raiser for the Casa Grande Fire Department. The dinner was very good, we met new friends and was serenaded by a bagpiper- all for a good cause. Attendance= 400 folks.

Ollie finally tuckered himself out!

Speaking of dogs, Megan our Lab and Ollie our adopted Boxer are getting along swimmingly. They sleep together, walk together and play roughly together. Mr. Ollie is a terror. The longer we have him the more rough he plays. I guess it’s a young Boxer thing. We have to intercede occasionally to prevent an accidental injury.

Our neighbor flying his paraglider

We’ve met a lot of nice people. Most are from the colder climes of the midwest or northwest, some from Canada and a few are from the east or Kali-fornia. Some midwestern state’s folk have distinctive speech mannerisms. It’s a hoot when speaking with a neighbor and guessing correctly that they are from say Wisconsin or Minnesota. No matter where folks are from everyone we’ve met are very nice. Heck, who wouldn’t be especially if one were a Minnesotan spending the winter in a relatively warm climate as compared to their home that has 3 feet of snow on the ground and minus 40 degree temps?

The golf course is central to this huge park. The older section has more amenities, i.e. wood shop, car wash, dog wash, tennis courts, etc. but the RV sites are narrower- sort of cozy. Over the years manufactured homes have taken the place of RV sites and most are of the single wide smaller variety that fit the narrow lots. It makes that part of the park feel a little cramped compared to the newer side of the park.

Older section of RV Park
Newer Section of RV park

The newer side of the park where our site is located has 40′-50′ wide sites so it feels very roomy. That’s where we are located. Almost every site has a cement patio surrounded by crushed rock. The amenities over here are more sports related than the older side and the flora is not as well developed. We only have two smaller swimming pools, (only he says) with spas, a regulation sized softball field, 32 pickleball courts, a small meeting room with a laundromat incorporated in the same building- smile!!!

There are many permanent manufactured homes on our side of the park with more to come. All of them at least double the size of those in the older portion. There are a few new ones for sale and they are not cheap considering one does not own the land that they sit on. Expenses include paying a hefty association assessment and property taxes. Considering all of that they still are selling pretty well and those folks that own them are very satisfied.

We’ve had thoughts of purchasing either a home or an RV site in the sunbelt. Those thoughts quickly vanish. We don’t want to feel obligated to go anyplace that isn’t home because we have money invested. We’d rather stay loose and fancy free, travel when we want and where we want.

I’ll be updating the blog fairly soon. Lots going on here with a few surprises…….

Ridin’ Along In My Automobile

Tuesday January 21, 2020

Just another ho-hum desert sunrise

With Chuck Berry’s classic song dancing around in my head, hence the title of this post, we head out of the park…… Ridin’ along in my automobile with no particular place to go!.. Jil has seen some pretty cool looking lawn art here in the park and she wants to look for some for herself. We head over towards Florence, AZ to peruse the Happy Adobe metal art shop. OK, I stand corrected- we do have a particular place to go……….

Along the way we stop at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. We have seen photos of the ruins and didn’t expect to find them as interesting as they are. The ruins are what remains of the Hohokam Indian’s Great House (Casa Grande) and surrounding compound.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Visitors Center
Jil and Megan exploring Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

It is one of the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America and yet its purpose remains a mystery. Archeologists have found evidence that these ancestral Sonoran Desert people also developed wide scale irrigation farming utilizing canals. Many small Hohokam communities have been discovered along the Gila and Salt Rivers. The ancient people also had extensive trade connections which lasted over a thousand years until about 1450 C.E. when Casa Grande was abandoned.

The name Hohokam is somewhat of a misnomer as it is really more of a term. No one knows what the builders of this complex community called itself. Hohokam is a Pima term meaning “those who have vanished”. Scientists feel that a probable reason for these ancient farmers to have left was an extended drought making subsistence farming next to impossible.

Above photos: The protective roof structure above Casa Grande was built in 1930 to help preserve the ruins. The man lift in the left photo was part of the equipment used by structural engineers to determine the integrity of the structure. The man at right is repairing one of the original remnants of a wall. The worker said he used a mixture of the local dirt, sand and mud- the same materials that the Hohokam used to build the walls.

We continue on to Florence (26,000 souls), the seat of Pinal County. The town is one of the oldest in the county and is regarded as a National Historic District with over 25 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located in an area once inhabited by the Hohokam, ancestors of the O’odham people. Prior to the establishment of the town the Gila River served as part of the border between the United States and Mexico. The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 extended the American territory well south of the Gila.

A fella by the name of Levi Ruggles founded Florence on the south bank of the Gila River. Originally a U.S. Indian Agent he recognized the agricultural potential (remember the Hohokam?) of the valley, found an easily fordable location on the Gila and surveyed a townsite there. He then secured a post office the same year. Silver was discovered in 1875 in the nearby mountains which led to the creation of the famous Silver King Mine.

In 1870 Fred Adams decided to give old man Ruggles a little competition. He founded a farming community 2 miles west of Florence. The town had stores, homes, a post office, a flour mill and water tanks. It was named Adamsville for you-know-who. Adams apparently was unaware of the nature of desert rivers meaning he hadn’t a clue of flash floods. In the 1900’s the Gila overflowed its banks and most of the town was wiped out. The residents moved to……… Florence! The area is now a ghost town.

A canal was built in the 1880’s which enabled water from the Gila to be diverted for irrigation (again, remember the Hohokam?). Farming and ranching played a major roll in Florence’s economy. A current boon to it’s economy are the multiple prisons located nearby. Not many communities have state, federal, county and private prisons in their back yard. Speaking of prisons, a large prisoner of war camp for German and Italian prisoners of war was established just north of town during WWII. Japanese Americans were interned at the nearby Gila River War Relocation Center during that sad time in our history.

Of note:

This is a tough way to have a natural feature named for you: Silent film Cowboy actor Tom Mix died when his car went into a wash, now named Tom Mix Wash, in 1940 just outside of Florence. A riderless horse monument was erected nearby.

McFarland State Park is named for Ernest McFarland (Arizona State Senator, Governor of Arizona and Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court) is a small historic park in Florence that contains the first Final County courthouse. McFarland purchased the property, donated it to the state, and paid for it’s renovation. The park opened in 1979.

The Pyramid Tomb of Charles Debrille Poston (1825-1902), known as “The Father of Arizona” is located on Primrose Hill which was renamed Poston Butte. It was through his efforts that Arizona became a U.S. territory. Click on his name for a good read!

Tomb of Charles Poston First Pinal County Courthouse

That pretty much catches the blog up with our adventures. I’ll be writing about life here in the resort in the coming blogs as well as the status of our car and how well our new boy Ollie is fitting into the family.

An Eventful Two Weeks!

Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort

Sunday January 19,2019

Sunrise in Casa Grande, AZ

We have friends who live in the area and wanted to meet with them. Connie and Jim, our Washington State pals who cohost with us at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, and Ellen and Dick who live down the street from us in Reno. Both couples own homes nearby in which to over winter. We met with both couples and had great visits with each. We’ll be seeing more of them in the near future.

Here we are at the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ more or less minding our own business and wham!- life happens………. Let me explain:

We’d been in Casa Grande for a week and needed to restock our pantry. Off we went to Walmart shortly after dawn which in Arizona comes late. No daylight savings here ya know- and on Mountain Time to boot. The sun is bright and very low on the horizon behind us. We are stopped at a red light in a left turn pocket when this fella on the cross street begins his turn towards us and into the sun. He drives very slowly and deliberately as he angles his car…….. right into the front of ours! Bang!…… Crap……. No one is hurt but both vehicles show damage, like our hood won’t close. The other driver has in his possession an expired drivers license, no vehicle registration and no proof of insurance. Luckily a Casa Grande Fire engine company witnesses the accident, stops, makes sure everyone is OK and directs traffic.

That’s not our car- our accident was not nearly that bad- just added photo for dramatic effect!

Shortly thereafter a Casa Grande Police Officer arrives, determines the other fella’s at fault, then takes the report- which takes over a week to post and for me to retrieve for insurance purposes…. jeez! Anyhow our car is in the shop being repaired and we are driving a rental. The good news is the other fella has a current driver’s license, liability insurance and current registration so all is well there-and he got a ticket for reckless driving. Our insurance company is in contact with his so all is well and our car should be repaired and out of the shop next week. By the way, that low speed impact is probably going to cost the other fella’s insurance company over 3000 smackers. It’s almost unbelievable how much it costs to repair these newer autos anymore. This accident wouldn’t even have put a scratch in the bumper of my ’62 Chevy Impala……………

The morning after the accident Jil is walking Megan when she notices a Boxer dog closely following her. It makes her nevous so she shoos it away. A couple of hours later we both see the Boxer running loose inside the park. The front desk is notified and the Boxer is put into a pet run for safe keeping. The dog is in the pet area for hours so I go down to see how he’s doing. Turns out he is doing OK and someone has left a bowl of water for him to drink. But boy, is he skinny! The fact that he is so skinny, has no ID and still has his manhood is a good indication that he doesn’t belong to anyone in the park. I spend some time with him and give him a couple of cups of kibble- which he inhales. He lays down at my feet as if to say “thanks mister”. He’s really a gentle guy……..

This where things get strange. The office staff decide to post a notice on their Facebook page of the dog’s plight but doesn’t notify animal control. Jil calls the office again to voice her concern about the dog’s welfare- the sun will set in a couple of hours, he has no shelter and the nights temperatures have been near freezing. Oh yes, Jil is assured everything is good. Animal control will be here in a half an hour. We go down an hour and a half later and he is still in the pet area. Concerned for his welfare we load him up in our car and take him to the Casa Grande Animal Shelter.

Our new rescued doggo- Oliver

OK, you’re smarter than the average bear- you saw this coming, didn’t you? Yep, we adopted him! After a 72 hour waiting period and about the same length of time for Ollie to lose his manhood, he is home. We still can’t believe no one came forward to claim him. Megan had a couple of grumpy spells at first then accepted him. Ollie never had a problem with Megan. It’s very apparent that Ollie likes his new digs. He likes to ride in the car, go for walks and to Megan’s chagrin even started playing while off leash in the pet park. And he’s the first to arrive when the dinner bell rings! He’d been with us for four days before we felt we could leave both the mutzos alone in the RV for over an hour- no problemo! Then we took the furry ones on a car ride, left them both in the car for about a half hour as we shopped and still no problemo!

The only issues Ollie has had is he is not leash trained. We are working on that and he has steadily improved. The big one is he is leash aggressive towards other dogs. Working on that one too. He should be OK after some intense learning sessions. Strange thing though, he was not aggressive and more like complacent when I took him to the Vet for a free checkup. The waiting room was standing room only with dogs and their owners and all he did was look at the other dogs, then lay down at my feet- and we waited for an hour before we were seen.

Mr. Ollie enjoying his new bed

Now I know you are saying to yourself, self those folks sure didn’t do much in their first two weeks in Casa Grande. Well we did get around to a little sightseeing. More on that in the next post………..

Sunset at the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort

A New Adventure

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Several months ago Jil and I discussed spending some time away from home, hopefully in a warmer climate. We had spent a few days at the Palm Creek Golf and RV resort in Casa Grande, AZ last winter on our way to the Deep South- and liked it. Palm Creek is a true resort featuring a golf course tennis and pickleball courts, lawn bowling, a ball room, and places where one can woodwork, silver smith, make pottery, and knit/sew. You name it, they’ve got it. It even has a cafe.

After storing our Christmas decorations we hit the road on December 28th, hoping for decent travel weather. We hope the 6 day snow event that occurred during Thanksgiving week isn’t a precursor for what’s to come.

That white “cushion” on the bench is all snow!

We got off to a late start by design as we wanted to do a last minute clean up of the house. We are only traveling 140 miles. Our first stop is the Whiskey Flat RV Park in Hawthorne, NV (3200 souls). It’s a no frills park- we are comfortable here- and it’s location is a good jumping off point for our trip south.

Skirting Walker Lake on our way to Hawthorne, NV

We are off by 0800 the next morning. Our main concern is driving into high altitude and the possibility of snowy and icy roadways. Most of US 95 in Nevada is laid at 4000′ following long flat sagebrush covered valleys. Tonopah is a tad over 6000′. No worries though, a little snow on the ground but the road is clear. This town is the seat of Nye County, her nickname is Queen of the Silver Camps so named for the 1900 discovery of silver, the second richest silver strike in Nevada history.

Continuing south on US95 we come upon Goldfield. Goldfield (268 souls) is an interesting old town. Between 1903 and 1940 Goldfield’s gold mines produced more than $86 million at then-current prices or $1.496 billion in today’s dollars! Due to the remarkable production of gold the town rapidly grew to be the largest in Nevada at over 20,000 souls. By 1923 gold production and the population were in steep decline.

That year a moonshine still exploded destroying most of the town’s flammable buildings. Of note Wyatt and Virgil Earp resided there- Virgil taking the position of Goldfield sheriff. Virgil contracted pneumonia and died here- Wyatt moved on shortly thereafter. As tiny as the town is it is the seat of Esmeralda County.

Our next overnight stop was to be Beatty, NV (1000 souls). We had an early start which meant we arrived in Beatty just after noon and way too early to stop for the night. Beatty is a jumping off point for Death Valley National Park and the the historical mining town of Rhyolite. We found a municipal park, walked Megan, and enjoyed lunch. A command decision was made to continue on. Somewhere in a desolate section of the Amargosa Valley we hook a right onto Nevada State Road 160. We pulled into the Lakeside Casino and RV Park after traveling 277 miles.

Lakeside RV Park, Pahrump NV

Pahrump (36,000 souls) has it’s own story. Originally inhabited by the Southern Paiute, the valley was slowly inhabited by settlers in the late 1800’s. The area has numerous artesian wells; the water they provide is vital to farming. Numerous large farms were established, most over 1000 acres on which cotton and alfalfa were grown and livestock raised. Until the 1960’s there was no phone service except for one radio phone nor paved roads in or out of the valley. Real estate speculation prompted the establishment of paved roads and telephone service.

Snow level just above the highway’s elevation- glad it’s up there and not down here!

We are on our way shortly after 8am figuring all that white slippery stuff was in our rear view mirror. Wrongo Cowboy! As we approach Mountain Springs Pass (elevation 5400′) about 60 miles from Lost Wages, er, Los Vegas (650,000 souls) snow appears on the hills, then on the side of the road, then ICE on the road. Holy Smokes, who would have thunk it? To make matters more interesting the road is under construction and the construction guys had made a narrow obstacle course out of the normally straight road. The good thing was the construction crew also limited the speed to 25-35 miles an hour and had treated the roadway making the slippery roadway more safe.

Oops! Now we are up there (in the mountains) making our way up Mountain Springs Pass

Traffic is not terribly heavy going through the southern suburbs of Lost Wages (620,000 souls), at least by big city standards. Us big rig jockeys don’t appreciate it one bit. I-5 to I-215 to the new section of I-11 brings us to the Hoover Dam/Lake Meade overlook and across the Colorado River Canyon Bridge into Arid Zona, er, Arizona. This time of year brings some rain to the area so it doesn’t look so arid- the hills are actually green.

We are now traveling on US93, the road that will be replaced by I-11 when it is complete. As such, this highway is not getting a lot of attention as the road surface is pretty rough. As we pull into the Kingman (28,000 souls) area traffic is backed up for blocks. The cause- two traffic signals that don’t appear to be synchronized and trucks trying enter and exit the nearby truck stop. We again have arrived at our loosely planned destination early. We fuel up at Loves Truck Stop, have a bite of lunch, walk Megan and are off, this time on I-40 east where we once again catch US 93 south. We stop for the night at the Hidden Oasis RV Park located in Wikieup, AZ (320 souls) after a drive of 211 miles.

The Oasis RV Park and Cool Water Cafe is an eclectic place for sure. Most of the folks live here year round so there are no newer rigs in the park. The folks here are definitely country and they are all nice, respectful and willing to help one another. The co-owner and head chef at the Cool Water Cafe that fronts the RV park is also down to earth friendly. Brenda and her mom offer wholesome vittles but are mostly known for their delicious home made pies made fresh every day. She stated that most of her clientele live in the RV park with some walk-in travelers. Folks, if you are driving through Wikieup AZ be sure and stop in at the Cool Water Cafe- the food and pies are delish!

We drove another 190 miles on December 31. The wind was blowing a little and the road very rough. We almost got in a traffic accident in Wickenburg when a pick up truck pulling a trailer cut us off in a traffic circle. From Wickenburg we head south on US60 to I-17 to I-10 continuing on through Phoenix. The traffic through Phoenix (1.6 million souls) wasn’t horrible but like I said we drive a big rig.

Continuing south on I-10 our turnoff comes in Casa Grande- a 190 mile day. We arrived a day before our reservation began so we spent the night in the overflow section of the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort, our home until March.

Our Trip Home- And Sad News Concerning Our Little, Little Boy

December 23, 2019

It’s two days before Christmas and it’s snowing- again. Thanksgiving week was a duzy as snow fell every day for an entire week. Our snow is often called “Sierra Cement” as it’s water content makes it very heavy- and hard to shovel…..ugh…….

Grandson Jackson visiting from SoCal enjoying the snow

Before you rant about how late this post is let me tell you something Mister! OK, you’re right, we’ve been home since late October but I have an excuse…… I didn’t feel like writing, OK? Had nothing to do with brain cramps nor writer’s block. For various reasons, one of which I’ll get to a little later, I’d chosen to take a little hiatus. So now I’ll punish you with an exceptionally long post- here goes (someone once said be careful what you ask for!).

The weather has not been kind during our two months volunteering at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery as Fall rains had come early. It even snowed on the 3000′ bluffs that abut the Columbia Gorge. Even so we had a great time with our volunteer buddies Connie and Jim as well as Hugh (our Boss), Dan, Alex, Patrick, Kelly, Ann, Scott, Deanne, Trent, Dave and the rest of the hatchery team. As Jim would say “It was a Hoot!” Jil and I decided to leave before the end of the month. We had completed our obligation for the week and had no reason to stick around. We hitched up, picked up, packed up, fired up, slides in, jacks up and said Adios to our friends at the Hatchery. We’ve got all that hitching and pick and packing stuff down pat so it really doesn’t take too long, maybe an hour, to get the wheels rolling.

Our path home will take us through the lower elevations of Oregon, not because of the fall weather trying to sneak into winter so much as there are many more places to rest our weary heads on the I-5 corridor than on the alternate route, The Dalles-California Highway- Oregon 97. We are in no hurry but yearn for home if you know what I mean. Its 619 miles to home and we’ll take a minimum of three days to travel the distance. The I-5 corridor in Oregon also has a whole passel of rest stops and we’ll take advantage of those to stretch and walk our mutzos. The first 150 miles we’ll travel through the Willamette Valley. The next day we’ll transition into hill country, then the Rogue Valley eventually ejecting into the Shasta Valley. After an overnight on the western shoulder of Mt. Shasta we will head for the barn.

Our first stop is the Hi-Way Haven RV Park in Sutherlin, Oregon. The park is unusual as it is built on an old drive-in theater lot. The current owner used to come to the drive-in as a kid, fell in love with drive-ins, eventually purchasing this one. He plays a movie every night on the big screen with sound being piped in through your vehicle’s radio.

We headed south the next morning. It’s cold, like 22 degrees cold, so picking up the hoses is akin to wrestling a frozen snake. We are on our way at 0830- late for us. Our concern are the passes in higher elevations. Most of the passes through the hills south of Eugene and the Willamette Valley are no higher than 2000′. We’ll be cresting the highest point on I-5 just south of Ashland, 4300′ Siskiyou Summit. We are fortunate as the weather holds- no snow……

After the summit we drop down into volcano country. It’s quite a sight coming off the summit, crossing the Kali-Fornia state line and seeing the majestic Mount Shasta in the distance as well as some smaller volcanic cinder cones that dot the golden grassland of the Shasta Valley. In comparison to that majestic peak the cinder cones remind one of gopher mounds…….

Our second night is spent at Abrams Lake Mobile Home and RV Park near the town of Mt. Shasta. The RV portion of the park is small yet offers all the amenities including internet access and cable TV. During the low season it’s first come, first served. Its quiet, well away from major thoroughfares and the nearby pine woods are enjoyed by the furry ones.

The next morning we are on the road at the usual time. It’s in the 20’s again. Brrr….. We’re back on I-5 for a short distance and then jog over on to Highway 89. Passing the quaint town of McCloud we head off through the woods. The drive is beautiful as we pass Burney Falls State Park, head towards Hat Creek and turn on to Highway 44. Highway 44 takes us to Susanville and the 395- US395 takes us to Reno and home.

The Captain- always vigilant………….

We always adopt adult mutzos so one never really knows how old the new addition is nor the history of their health, heck not even who the previous owner was. Adopting a pet is somewhat of a crapshoot, so to speak. That said, this concerns our little, little boy as Jil calls Doyle. He’s really not that little as far as dogs go. He’s just the smallest dog that we’ve ever had. Shortly before our trip Doyle had been diagnosed with diabetes. We started him on insulin injections twice a day and his blood glucose dropped from 380 to 88- normal. Yes! He and Megan had a ball on the trip and especially at the hatchery where they were allowed to run free before our visitors arrived and anytime in areas where the public is not allowed.

Shortly before we came home Doyle became blind. I think he could see well enough not to bump into objects, still running around a little with Megan and had no trouble negotiating the stairs into the RV. He was still happy. When we got home we called the Vet- his blood glucose had gone from the normal 88 to over 500 even on insulin. He had become insulin intolerant. Time is no longer on his side.

Doyle loved snow- but it didn’t love him- at all!

Just a few days after the Vet visit he was still doing well negotiating the back yard and the house as if he could see. Then it happened- he became very confused and couldn’t find his way around the house any longer. I touched his side attempting to guide him through a doorway and he yipped. Oh Lordy…..We sadly said goodbye to our loyal friend on November 6.

So this is a tribute to our Little, Little Boy. He was a little boy with a giant personality. Doyle had more than a little larceny in his soul. He was half the size of our Lab, Megan, but would harass her, ripping stuffed babies out of her mouth and proudly prancing away with his prize.

When Megan would run in the field Doyle would herd her like an Aussie is bred to do. At night he’d join Jil in bed, bury his face in MY pillow and grunt with pleasure, then roll on his back, thrash around and grunt some more- then let out a big sigh as he settled in. He didn’t mind barging in on you at all- bump, bump, push, tug. However, once he claimed his spot and given the lightest of touches- grrrrr. He was a one way type of guy…..

And yes, he was a noisy little guy. His internal clock that’s accuracy is to be admired by the finest watchmakers. He had dinner and snack time down to the second and would let you know it’s time to EAT- yap Yap! He’d bark to be let out, he’d yap when he wanted to go for a walk, he’d yap about most everything. I had wished that he could speak English for I knew he had a thousand stories he’d like to share. Yap, yap, YAP. We miss you buddy.

We have always traveled with our dogs. We’ve had seven in total. We’ll be traveling again, blogging again and when the time comes, bring home another furry friend. But for now our Lab Megan will be the queen of the household.

As I write Jil is already planning a couple of trips for next year. So until our next adventure, Via Con Dios my friends. From Jil and I a Merry Christmas to all!

The Columbia Gorge- From One End to the Other

Monday, November 18, 2019

I know, I know. I hear ya. Where ya been? Well, we’ve had an eventful month which I will share with you in the next, and last, blog that will put this trip to bed. We are home and I’ll do my darnedest to catch you up. As I write our high desert home is experiencing our first winter storm of the season complete with snowfall.

Scenes from the Historic Columbia Highway

The best way to tour the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge is to do it the old fashioned way- by auto or if you prefer astride your trusty bicycle. And the best place to start is Troutdale, OR where one can access the western portal of the Historic Columbia River Highway 30. Quote from Travel Oregon website-“The vista-inspired railroad lawyer Samuel Hill and engineer extraordinaire Samuel Lancaster to “conquer” the wild beauty of the Gorge with a grand scenic drive. It was an implausible plan — a road that would cling to sheer cliffs, traverse rushing rivers and tunnel through hammer-hard basalt — but they made it happen”. The road is narrow with a lot of tight twists and turns, poorly designed by modern standards but hey it was built beginning in 1913 during the Model T Ford era. The road today still exists in fits and spurts all the way to The Dalles. Many portions of the original roadway are now designated as the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, a hiking and biking path. When finished, the State Trail will be 73 miles long.

Vista House/ Crown Point
View from Crown Point/Vista House

The road east of Vista House takes one through beautiful deep fern infused forests offering few glimpses of the Columbia River below, the exception being the outstanding Gorge views from Crown Point’s Vista House, built in 1918. East of there is a whole passel of beautiful waterfalls, Latourell, Shepherds Dell, Bridal Veil and Wahkeena come to mind, culminating with the most spectacular fall, the 620′ Multnomah Falls.

Historic Columbia Gorge Highway Falls/ Multnomah Falls & Visitor Center

And that’s just what can be seen from the old highway. Many more falls are accessed by trail. The I-84 corridor offers many state parks and recreation areas a few of which are located on geological sites mentioned by Lewis and Clark.

The historic highway east of the village of Dodson merges with I-84. In this section of the Gorge the original road only appears as spurs going to and from the small villages and the few towns such as Cascade Locks and as part of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. Four miles west of Cascade Locks is the Bonneville Lock and Dam and our home for two months, the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. Both are a must see. East of Bonneville are two more hatcheries- Eagle Creek and Oxbow.

Cascade Locks- Town, Bridge of the Gods and Cascade Lock

The next place worthy of a visit is Hood River. The wind tunnel effect of the Gorge has made the town a mecca for wind surfers. Downtown has several breweries for those who wish to imbibe. It has a small boat marina and a dock where large tour boat passengers debark. Another must see while in Hood River is the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. All of their exhibits are fully functioning- the planes fly and the cars are roadworthy.

The nearby beautiful Hood River Valley is a must see. Apple and pear orchards dominate the valley where fruit stands are the norm. Alcapas and lavender are also raised in the valley. A a relative newcomer are the many vineyards that have been established. Adding to the beauty of the valley are grandiose views of 11,200′ Mt. Hood.

White House Farm Located in the Hood River Valley

The last intact segment of the old highway begins at Mosier, heads up into a fir and oak forest passing through pasture/orchard highlands where one can stop for another spectacular view of the Gorge at the Rowena Crest viewpoint. It becomes obvious from this vista that the eastern end of the Gorge is much dryer than the western portion.

Neat looking Mestablishment in Mosier
Interesting Signage in Mosier

Heading down the winding section old highway known as the Rowena Loops we find The Dalles, the eastern terminus of the Historic Columbia River Highway. The Dalles was long a Native American gathering place, another Lewis and Clark encampment and later a staging area for Oregon Trail pioneers readying for the treacherous trip down the Columbia’s rapids. A must see while in The Dalles is the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum.

Rowena Loops

The Dalles was long a Native American gathering place, another Lewis and Clark encampment and later a staging area for Oregon Trail pioneers readying for the treacherous trip down the Columbia’s rapids.

A must see while in The Dalles is the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum.

The distance between Troutdale and The Dalles is not great at less than 80 miles but there is so much to see. One could spend an entire day exploring that section of the old Historic Highway between Troutdale and Dodson. The Dam and hatchery deserves a few hours of exploration and the Hood River area maybe a half a day. Several hours can be spent at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. A couple of days would be well spent touring the Oregon side of the Gorge.

That concludes the tour. For you more adventurous folks there are plenty of trails in the Gorge that lead to waterfalls and drop dead Gorge-us vistas to die for.

Busy Days

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Official weather report: cloudy with chance of showers for next 7 days. My weather report: completely overcast skies, no blue showing ever, chance of never-ending rain 100% with occasional downpours for weeks at a time. Honestly, we haven’t seen more than a couple of hours of sunshine in over a week. Everyone is starting to grow webs between their toes, including the muttzos! Sigh……..

Our days at the hatchery have been busy. The “fish guys” have spawned once or twice a week asking for our assistance each time. Hundreds of thousands of Tule salmon fingerlings have been released from the rearing ponds through a complicated series of underground waterways and valving, splashing into Tanner Creek not 50′ from our motorhome. Waiting to feast on them are seabirds, great blue herons and sea lions as they negotiate their way down Tanner Creek, the Columbia and finally to the Pacific Ocean.

Even though some salmon remain, the fall run is over. The coho run will begin shortly and with it more collecting and spawning. Attention turns towards raising the smelt and fingerlings along with incubating the salmon eggs in the incubation building, a.k.a. the egg house.

Jil transfers fertilized eggs into 5 gallon bucket, which is then taken to the incubation building.

Picking Salmon Eggs: About once a week the millions of eggs are “picked”. The eggs that have not survived must be removed to prevent contamination of viable eggs. This goes on until the eggs hatch, but the process of removing the expired never ends until the fingerlings are finally released.

We are beset with the wrath of Fall- 2.15 bazillion falling leaves all sporting seasonal hues. The wind and rain coupled with gravity give the leaves from deciduous trees an incentive to fall creating quite a mess. The pines, cedars and sequoia redwoods like to get in on the action too!

And guess who gets to pick them up? You guessed it! The volunteers, all of whom are north of 70 years old, ’cause nobody (fish guys south of 40) else wants to do it. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s the job of us old timers to pick up every single one of those pretty leaves. So out come the backpack blowers, the trailer mounted vacuum and rakes……. again and again. The trees are still turning and loaded with leaves so this process will be ongoing from now until who knows when. Oh yes, we also pick up and dispose of their fallen branches and limbs………

Us volunteer hosts have also done a lot of ivy trimming, maintaining Mitchell Creek, cleaning light fixtures, removing cobwebs, also cleaning and repairing fountains. The upper and lower trout ponds were vacuumed and the coins from the bottom of the ponds were collected, cleaned and sent to the bank in the name of the State of Oregon.

Fixing broken power equipment seems to be the order of the day as an inordinate amount has broken down. Sink drains have been unplugged, inquiring phone messages returned, and a lot of printing of flyers has been accomplished. We also feed Herman the Sturgeon and his pals. Oh yes, and we also remove the morts (dead trout) from the trout display ponds. I’m sure there’s more that us volunteers have been involved with. We do what needs to be done so that our one million visitors have a pleasant experience here at this very busy hatchery.

Our boss Hugh in waders vacuuming bottom of upper trout pond

We have a safety issue that we hadn’t noticed in our previous stays. It involves the safety of our guests. Cars are driving where pedestrians aren’t expecting them. Hikers are walking into “verboten”areas. They apparently are following their GPS which shows egress down a paved roadway leading to the back of the grounds- i.e., a shortcut. It’s pretty obvious these folks are GPS’ing because they are looking down as they pass the large double stop signs marked with “No Entry” written across them. What GPS doesn’t show is the “No Unauthorized Entry” signs nor the eight foot high fence and locked gate between the wayward hikers/motorists and the exit, so they all have to turn around and go out the proper way.

I ran into an interesting fella a while ago. He had driven his car into the portion of the hatchery that forbids unauthorized vehicles. I was prepared to jump down his throat- “Hey, didn’t you see those big stop signs stating NO UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY? Of course you did- you drove right between them!”…. or something like that. Instead he drove over to me, rolled down his window and said “My name is Anderson and I know I drove where I wasn’t supposed to but I wanted to show my wife where I used to live as a boy.”

Old photo of historic government town of Bonneville- lower right, before new navigation lock.

Really? Yes, he lived across the street as a young boy (he’s now in his early 80’s). His dad was the superintendent. He told me that the Corps Of Engineers had built a small village for dam employees and named it Bonneville, right where the channel for the newest lock is now. In fact, the village was dismantled to make room for the lock and the residents had to find housing elsewhere. Mr. Anderson is a very nice fellow. We had a very nice chat before he and his wife drove off. I’m so glad I bit my tongue- for once…..

Question of the Day from a five year old boy visiting the hatchery: Boy: Do you work here? Jil: Well, I am a volunteer here. Boy: Can I ask you a question? Jil: Sure! (Jil readies herself for a question pertaining to the hatchery). Boy: What do you know about the Titanic? Jil: Not much…………….

Has Anyone Seen Willard?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

We hadn’t seen Willard- but now we have! Our intention was to drive to Willard, then on to Big Lava Flow north of town. We almost didn’t find Willard as the main highway actually bypasses town.

No signs indicate town is that-away, and data cell service is iffy. However the small street sign we passed was marked “Willard Road” so we turned around and headed up that-away. Curiosity got the best of me. This tiny community must have a big history. We saw evidence of water flumes. Hmmmm. Flumes and lumber go together……

Portion of Original Water Flume

Willard is located on an old Indian trail that closely followed the Little White Salmon River. The well worn trail had been used for hundreds of years as a route to the Big Huckleberry Mountain berry fields. Evidence of an Indian camp was found years later near Willard, when the land was being cleared for farming.

Around 1885 a fella by the name of Charles Myers, originally from Ohio, built a semblance of a road here and constructed a log cabin. I understand the cabin passed through a few hands until it became the Willard Place.

Over the years more folks arrived to homestead. The Fishers arrived as did the Oklahoma Boomers, a group of folks from Oklahoma. In the 1880’s Amos Buirgy, his brother Arbon and J.W. Hill built a water powered shingle mill. Oregon Lumber Company a established sawmill (Mill A) in the 1890’s and closed in 1907.

Steel flume replaced original wood Flume that crossed over roadway.

A flume was constructed from Willard to Hood,Washington by the Drano Flume and Lumber Company in 1923 and purchased by Broughton Lumber in 1927. Logs were brought to the Willard mill and rough sawn into boards (cants).

The cants were dropped into the flume for their nine mile long journey to the finishing mill in Underwood/Hood. Up in Willard two steam engines were used to haul logs from the woods to the mill at Willard. The nine miles of tracks did not have a permanent location as they were moved and re-laid as necessary. The Broughton Lumber Company closed in 1986 and the flume was dismantled.

OK, there’s got to be thousands of tiny communities with stories similar to Willard’s- humble beginnings, economic boom and then just fade away.

Fall color in Cedars County Park

We continue up the (wrong) road and come upon Big Cedars County Park. The mutzos need to stretch- into the park we go. Nobody, I mean NOBODY is home. The park is ours. We drive through the empty campground to the nice grassy day area and let the mutzos romp. Megan, our Lab finds the path to Little White Salmon River and takes a dunk.

Back on the correct, very rural road we drive for several miles through what feels like, looks like primordial forest.

I’m driving on the fairly narrow road with eyes peeled for a T Rex, Tarzan, or at the least a bear or an elk. We see none of those but within a few miles we come upon the Big Lava Bed- our destination for the day.

Beatiful Fall Color

The Big Lava Bed originated from a 500 foot deep crater in the northern center of the bed. It’s the youngest flow of the Indian Heaven volcanic field ( at 8200 years old.

The flow traveled eight miles from its source. Lodgepole pine, alder and pioneer plants, hardy species which are first to colonize barren environments, struggle, sparsely growing between and amid towers of rock piles, caves and strange lava formations. We are not into clamoring over the rough and tumble lava beds so we observe from roadside.

It always amazes us on how mother nature is always in flux. She creates new land mass via lava flows. Somehow enough soil is deposited through wind, erosion and water flow into depressions in solid rock to allow seeds to sprout and grow into plants and trees on otherwise barren land. Growth is sparse here in the Big Lava Bed, but it’s here. Sparse enough to be able to recognize growth on the bed and growth on ground more suitable for prolific growth.

Big Lava Bed- Very Rugged

Sometimes the human experience parallels that of Mother Nature. Willard was at one time humanless (barren lava), then Indians used the area as a camp, emigrants came and established homesteads which generated income by harvesting the forest (pioneer plants). Then lumber companies moved in with industrial technology to harvest the forest and move their product to market (trees). The raw material became sparse so the companies moved on, leaving behind not much more than what was found here before the company’s intrusion in the first place (primordial forest).

The other day I was talking with Ann, who is a hard working part time employee of the hatchery and mentioned that we had visited Willard. “My parents live in Willard”, she says. Well, talk about a small world!

Jil’s very proud of her photo taken at the hatchery. It looks like a painting, doesn’t it? Just beautiful!

Exploring The North Shore

Friday, October 4, 2019

The 1800′ Bridge of the Gods located at Cascade Locks ties the states of Oregon and Washington together. This steel truss bridge was completed in 1929.The Pacific Crest Trail crosses over the bridge. Foot traffic crossing the bridge must share the traffic lanes.

The bridge’s toll is $2.00 for autos. We are in the area long enough to warrant the purchase of a toll ticket book which reduces the cost by half. The distance between bridges over the Columbia ranges between 25 and 40 miles so traffic is steady on all of them.

We crossed the Bridge of the Gods and hooked a right onto the Lewis and Clark Highway, Washington 14, the main two lane highway that parallels the Columbia. A few miles later we arrive at Stevenson, WA (1450 souls) the seat of Skamania County.

Our Lady Star of the Sea Church

The town has a nice community grocery store and that’s where we do most of our shopping. We also attend Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church. The church doesn’t have it’s own priests so they travel from Portland.

Downtown Stevenson has much more to offer than Cascade Locks. More variety in restaurants, a pharmacy, a well stocked hardware store, a nice grocery store, fairgrounds, and a dock large enough for ships, including the big stern wheeler tour ships American Pride and Queen of the West.

Queen of the West on left; American Pride on right

The drive east past Stevenson on Washington Highway 14 is very scenic. It parallels the Columbia giving one a different perspective of the high peaks and steep volcanic bluffs across the river as well as a close up look at the Washington side.

Several miles east of Stevenson the rock outcroppings extend clear to the river making tunnels for the roadway and railway a necessity. Visually the tunnels are outstanding. None are very long but going through narrow, relatively low tunnels one after the other is pretty cool!

Two hatcheries lie between Stevenson and White Salmon. Little White Salmon is tucked in a narrows at the confluence of the Little White Salmon River and Drano Lake while Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery is on the Columbia and is closer to the town of White Salmon. We visited both and the two don’t seem to have an abundance of salmon returning from the ocean.

The city of White Salmon (2500 souls) is in Klickitat County. It sits on a very high bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The town is a mecca for outdoorsmen.

Hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, exploring water falls, kite boarding, windsurfing and rafting are all attractions. Husum Falls on the White Salmon River is the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the country. And the views of Mt. Hood are to die for.

From White Salmon one can cross the Columbia via the 4418′ Hood River Draw Bridge. The two lane bridge opened in 1924 and currently handles over 7000 crossings a day. Many of the vehicles crossing are trucks, 8.5 foot wide trucks with side view mirrors that stick out farther- the lanes are 9 feet wide. You do the math….. it’s too narrow for the modern trucking industry but trucks still cross that bridge managing to squeeze by one another.

We enjoy visiting the Washington side of the Gorge as it is a little more accessible to the marvels of nature. Quite a few less traveled country roads follow river canyons that lead lead to beautiful sites such as Panther Falls, the Mt. St. Helen’s Overlook, Goose Lake, etc.

The Oregon side is dominated by high basalt cliffs without intersecting river valleys/canyons so it doesn’t have as many roads to explore. That doesn’t mean there isn’t much to see on the south side of the Columbia as there certainly is.

Next time we’ll do more exploring and fill you in on what’s been going on here at the hatchery.

Just make yourself at home Mr. Doyle!

Meandering Around The Gorge

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Cascades Rapids- 4.5 miles long with drop of 45′

Back in the day the Cascades Rapids was a formidable navigational hinder. It fell 45′ over a 4.5 mile stretch of rock and boulder strewn river. Native Americans would portage around them as they were too dangerous to navigate by boat or canoe.

Cascade Locks- Early 1900’s

Lewis and Clark portaged the cascades twice once in 1805 and again in 1806 calling the lower cascades “The Shute”. It was not until the 1890’s when the Cascade Locks was built on the Oregon side of the river that it became navigable past the Rapids without the need to portage.

Cascade Locks was flooded and became unnecessary and the rapids disappeared under the waters of the new Bonneville Lake.

Just downriver from the dam on the Washington side of the Columbia River is Fort Cascades National Historic Site.

A fort was built here in 1855 to protect the portage road around the lower section of Cascades Rapids. The fort was abandoned in 1861. The small community of Cascades formed around the fort but it was wiped out by the flood of 1894, the largest flood of the Columbia in recorded history.

Discovery Trail- Fort Cascades Historic Site

This area is also historically significant as Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery visited an Indian village near here in 1805. It is from this location that they observed and named Beacon Rock, a “remarkable high detached rock”, one of the most recognized landmarks in the Gorge.

All us hatchery hosts have something in common with Lewis and Clark- we’ve camped on the same grounds along the mighty Columbia River. Yes, Bonneville Hatchery is a confirmed camp site of those explorers. I have reliable information that Lewis and Clark and the Lehr’s have something else in common. While camping at the Indian village across the river they made mention of the huge amount of garter snakes. We have them too. Our Lab Megan was sniffing around in the lawn beside our RV when she jumped straight up! Never saw a dawg jump straight up before. A little garter snake began wriggling off towards the bushes and safety. Since then we’ve seen many of the little fellers and so has Megan- yep- straight up!

Nice Path at Fort Cascades National Historic Site

From 1841 to 1846 the overland portion of the Oregon Trail ended west of The Dalles where the emigrants built rafts or hired boats to travel down the Columbia to Vancouver or up the Willamette River to Oregon City. The river trip was extremely hazardous at best and involved difficult portages around the tumultuous Cascades. Many re-embarked from this site at the Lower Cascades. After 1846 when the Barlow Toll Road was opened across the southern shoulder of Mt. Hood most emigrants preferred the safer overland route to the wild and treacherous Columbia River.

I can’t imagine the hardships of those who traveled the Oregon Trail back in those days of wagons pulled by oxen, the majority of pioneers walking from St. Louis to the Dalles, then rafting down the Columbia to Oregon City. And I know they didn’t have a crystal ball that foretold how we travel today.

Bonneville Dam from Fort Cascades National Historic Site

Stand by for our next post!

Septober in Cascade Locks

No, that title is not a misprint. The mild September weather here in the Pacific Northwest is transitioning rapidly to more October like conditions- hence Septober. Light drizzle for hours on end, an occasional break with decent weather then clouding up resulting in the occasional downpour, after downpour, after downpour. September usually brings around 2.5″ of rain but this month we’ve received 4. 25″- and the month’s not over yet folks.

Osprey and Vulture on the prowl

The average annual rainfall here in Cascade Locks is 78 inches so some rain is expected- but not this much this early in the fall season. In contrast Portland, 40 miles to the west receives 43 inches a year and Hood River, 20 miles to the east receives 30 inches a year. A little more than a week ago a tornado was spotted not far from downtown Portland and another weather cell drew major concern prompting a tornado warning north and east of Vancouver, WA.

Egg Incubation Building

The grounds are large so we have a Toro Workman to get around in. It has a water tank and pump on board so that we can water the many flower pots strategically placed around the hatchery. It also helps us transport trash, tools and whatever else is required to fulfill our duties.

Our normal volunteer job entails greeting and answering questions from our visitors, policing the visitors center, grounds and restrooms for wayward trash, disposing of fallen tree limbs, emptying trash cans, maintaining Herman the Sturgeon’s house, keeping the trout ponds free of debris (and dead trout, a.k.a. Morts). We also feed Herman, the larger rainbow trout in his pond and the small sturgeon (4 footers) salmon jacks- yearlings that have returned to the hatchery but are too young to spawn. The ladies return phone inquiries and keep the large assortment of brochures and leaflets stocked in the visitors center. Our boss Hugh makes a list of “extra” projects that need to be addressed. When we get a chance we try to check off an item on that “to do” list.

Mike feeding Herman and Friends

Us volunteers took advantage of the few rainless periods we’ve experienced the last couple of weeks to shorten the to do list. Ivy was trimmed where it had overgrown and flowed past curbing, in all 600 feet worth. Two decorative fountain pools with were drained, cleaned and refilled with fresh water.

Our cohort volunteers Jim and Connie have been suctioning coins and debris from the bottoms of the upper trout pond and the small sturgeon pond (the sturgeon are small, the pond is not) with the lower trout pond left to complete. The coins taken from the bottom of the fish ponds have to be cleaned before the bank will accept them so Jim and Connie have assumed that duty. Jim has also used his talent to repair hatchery equipment.

Jumping Fish Water Fountain

The very popular jumping salmon water fountain sprung a leak causing a soggy mess so the brass salmon sculpture was removed, the leaking pipes repaired and the sculpture replaced. Doesn’t sound like a big job but it is. The salmon sculpture is fairly heavy. It is also top-heavy making it a bit unwieldy. I have to believe it was quite a site watching three men muscle the sculpture back on to its perch while Connie was standing, teetering on the edge of the fountain trying her darnedest not to step on the wet, sticky waterproofing gunk and not getting pushed off of the edge all the while trying to keep the sculpture more or less vertical. It’s a fragile work of art and must be handled with care and that’s what happened- and no one got hurt……..

“Fish Guy” housing on premises- walk to work!

Rain means more work for us. Leaves from the many deciduous trees and needles from conifers tend to slough off. Over a short period of time they create quite a mess on the lawns and paved areas of the hatchery. The solution is to mow the lawns which does double duty in picking leaf and pine needle debris.

Volunteer Ladies walking over Mitchell Creek Bridge

If the lawns are too wet to mow those leaves and pine needles are blown off of the lawns on to pavement then vacuumed up with a trailer mounted vacuum. Since the vacuum can’t get close enough to curbing, the curbs are cleared using back pack gas powered blowers. Paved walks also need to be cleared of organic debris. It’s a half day process for two people blowing and one driving the trailered vacuum to clean up all of the leaf litter. Blowing and vacuuming is done as needed- sometimes a few times a week.

In the meantime the “fish guys” have started working the salmon. The buyers truck has been here five times to haul salmon to market. Salmon have also been spawned several times in the last couple of weeks, the eggs collected, fertilized and taken from the spawning room to the egg incubation building to begin the process of hatching and growing into fry.

Jil in foreground and Anne in background ready to receive eggs
Jil holding frozen salmon in the Freezer Room

Us volunteers sometimes get involved in the spawning process, filling in where necessary. The ladies usually assist hatchery employee Anne. She takes the freshly harvested salmon eggs and combines them with those of six other females’ eggs and fertilizes them with milt from more than one male salmon. Those eggs are placed in a 5 gallon bucket, then transported to the egg incubation room by electric cart where they are placed in trays washed constantly with fresh water. The chauffeurs can be hatchery “fish guys” but many times are volunteers.

Our stay at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery is not all work and no play. More on that next time.

Twilight falls on the railroad aqueduct

Bonneville Lock and Dam

Saturday September 14, 2014

I thought I’d throw in some information of our current location. My next post I’ll include what hosting at Bonneville Hatchery entails as well as historical information of the area.

The Bonneville Lock and Dam is located in the Columbia River Gorge approximately 40 miles east of downtown Portland Oregon. The Bonneville Fish Hatchery is adjacent to the dam. It consists of two powerhouses, and three islands. Bradford Island visitors center is accessed from Oregon and the North Bonneville visitors center is accessed from Washington.

Bonneville Lock & Dam, built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the first federal lock and dam on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The project’s first powerhouse, spillway and original navigation lock were completed in 1938 to improve navigation on Columbia River and provide hydropower to the Pacific Northwest. A second powerhouse was completed in 1981, and a larger navigation lock in 1993. 

Today, the project is a critical part of the water resource management system that provides flood risk management, power generation, water quality improvement, irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation along the Columbia River.

A Public Works Administration project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, portions of Bonneville Lock and Dam Project were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Bradford Island Visitors Center (BIVC) entrance

A lot of folks like to visit the dam. Bradford Island has an outstanding visitors center which is accessed from the Oregon side of the river. In it is a large fish ladder that allows many species of fish to travel from below the dam to the lakes and river above the dam. Folks can either view the ladder outside from above or go into the visitors center where they can view fish through a long viewing window. In a private area adjacent to that window fish counters sit for hours identifying the different species of fish and the numbers of each that pass through the dam.

Back on September 5th the lock operators noticed a problem with the downstream lock gates and shut the lock down. The lock was drained and the problem identified. There is only one lock that allows vessels to pass from river level to lake level. River traffic is at a standstill. That means barges full of wheat and other goods heading down river to market are stymied and barges bringing supplies up river also have to wait. Cruise ships are on hold.

A roadway provides vehicular access over the lock and that is now closed. Bradford Island Visitors Center is not accessible to the public. The dam has another visitors center in North Bonneville, WA but it doesn’t have a fish ladder nor a viewing window. A lot of would-be visitors are disappointed. Now comes the process of repairing the damage. The estimated date when the lock will be reopened to river traffic is September 30th.

The Fish Are In!

Confluence of Tanner Creek and Columbia River. Dark areas in center of creek are returning salmon

Friday, September 6, 2019

Bonneville Fish Hatchery- Week One

The Fall Chinook Salmon run begins in mid-August and continues until the end of September. The Fall Coho run occurs a little later. Our first observation regarding the salmon is that there are a lot of them, and they are stacked thick in the holding pond and channels leading to the “crowder” channel. They are backed up several hundred yards down Tanner Creek as far as the Columbia River. Question- Are the salmon not being worked?. The answer- “There is no contract.” Since then a contract with the buyer has been approved and the buyer’s truck and refrigerated trailer arrived this morning, Friday, a full week after our arrival. Fish are finally being processed, either saved as spawners or sent to the buyers processing plant.

A little history concerning the hatchery is in order: Bonneville Fish Hatchery dates back to 1909. In it’s first year the staff was able incubate and release an estimated 15.2 million fry into Tanner Creek or nearby points along the Columbia. In 1910 the hatchery began receiving new supplies of eggs mainly from locations in Oregon and Idaho with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries contributing 3.4 million of the 10.7 million eggs. A hatchery in Alaska also contributed 1.5 million sockeye salmon eggs.

An American Dipper, a.k.a. Ouzle searching for food in Tanner Creek

“To cope with these rearing responsibilities, the staff worked hard to construct rearing ponds where they could feed the fry until their release into the Columbia. In 1910 Warden Clanton went to the cannerymen and packers along the Columbia to solicit their assistance and secured contributions of $1,500. Using these funds, Clanton had the crews at the Central (now Bonneville) Hatchery construct three ponds, each 100 feet by 20 feet and three feet deep.

Otters Dining On Salmon In Tanner Creek
Ravens- Cleaning Up After The Otters

  The ponds at Bonneville functioned so successfully that the Fish Warden proposed in 1911 that all hatcheries in Oregon construct rearing ponds. The pond system at the Central Hatchery was expanded steadily so that by the end of the year fifteen large ponds held the fry. The crews constructed a new flume to carry water from Tanner Creek to flush these rearing facilities. …” [Bonneville Dam Historic District, National Historic Landmark 1986 Nomination Package]. And that’s how it all began 110 years ago.

With construction of the Bonneville Dam in the 1930s the Fish Hatchery itself had major renovations, realignment, and construction. Of the original rearing ponds only the three farthest to the northeast were retained and were rebuilt as new display ponds. The Incubation Building was built in 1936. In front of the Incubation building are 22 concrete rearing ponds, constructed in the 1930’s. Each pond has a capacity of 300,000 fingerlings.

Egg Incubation Building built in the 1930’s

The facility was remodeled and expanded again in 1957 and again in 1974 the last as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s mitigation of fish losses from the construction of the John Day Dam. In 1997 the Hatchery was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Bonneville Historic District.

Host Site #2- Beautiful spot right next to Tanner Creek

Host Site #2 is our home for two months. It’s located away from the public areas of the hatchery behind the fish ladder, holding pond and channels where the salmon enter the hatchery. Out our right side windows not 35′ away is Tanner Creek. The fish come in from the ocean via the Columbia River and turn right into the mouth of Tanner Creek. They are prevented from continuing up the creek as far as our location by an electrified “fence”. Their desire to continue to the spawning grounds is what brings them here.

View of Railroad Trestle From Our Front Window

For those who aren’t savvy to the workings of a salmon hatchery I’ll do a little ‘splainin’, as Ricky Ricardo once said. The hatchery raises 10-15 million fish a year and may see a return of 1-2 million.

Hee, Hee- Salmon Dorsal Fins, NOT Shark Fins…….

Each female holds 3000-5000 eggs so the number of females required to fulfill the amount of eggs needed to perpetuate the species is small in comparison with the amount of salmon that return to the hatchery. Many less males than females are needed as their milt fertilizes the eggs of more than one female. The most desirable spawning candidates are separated from the crowd and placed in one of two spawning ponds, the rest are sold to a buyer.

The weather thus far has been on the warm side. A possibility of rain is in the forecast for early next week. More about the hatchery, Bonneville dam and surrounding area in future blogs. Until then, Adios!

A Good Night To All!

160 To Bonneville

Sunday, September 1, 2018

We are heading north from Bend this morning, destination Bonneville Fish Hatchery, a distance of 160 miles. The hatchery will be our home for two months. We’ll take US 97 to Madras then US 26 to the outskirts of Government Camp and then OR 35 to Hood River. Once there we’ll head west on Interstate 84 four miles past Cascade Locks, OR to the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery turnoff.

The first city north of Bend is Redmond (30,000 souls). As with her sister city Bend, Redmond has had rapid growth due mainly to the availability of jobs and less expensive housing. In fact, from the 2000 census to the 2010 census the city population doubled. Points of interest include Smith Rock State Park, a favorite of rock climbers, The Redmond Caves, and Eagle Crest Resort.

Madras (2600 souls) is another 26 miles up the road and it is Madras where we join US 26. Madras. The city is the seat of Jefferson County. It lies in rolling hill country dotted with farms and ranches. It’s believed that the name “madras” was inspired by the cloth fabric of the same name. Its is a tidy farm based community.

On the way to Madras Highway 97 crosses over a deep canyon carved by the Deschutes. Jil has never looked into that canyon so we stopped. The 300 foot drop is dizzying and dangerous. No dogs are allowed past the parking lot, thankfully, or there would be a lot more of man’s best friend in the bottom of that precipice.

We dive down the steep sides of the lower Deschutes Canyon winding down, down until we reach the Deschutes River. In the narrow portion of the canyon is Whitehorse Rapids which continues on for a half a mile.

Fourteen miles north of Madras on US 26 is the community of Warm Springs (2900 souls). The community is located in the lower Deschutes River Canyon on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The Warm Springs Agency represents the Warm Springs, Wasco and Piute tribes.

The agency built a beautiful resort and casino naming it Kah-Nee-Ta for a woman who used to live near the springs. The resort was built 12 miles from town along the Warm Springs River adjacent to the hot springs. It included a small casino, convention center, golf course, olympic size pool, spa and RV park. The tribe council felt that the casino should be moved to the major highway to generate several times more revenue than the $2-4 million it was netting, so US 26 it was.

Lacking the draw of the casino, the resort slowly started to decline. For a reason only know to the tribe council outside influence was not an option for the tribal council. The decision to move the casino coupled with poor management caused the demise of resort 2018 putting 140 agency residents out of work. We passed the Indian Head Casino- it didn’t appear busy at all, maybe because the closest lodging is 14 miles away in Madras……..and Madras is not primarily a destination town. For that matter, neither is Warm Springs.

After leaving Warm Springs the road has us climb onto a plateau where we see Mt. Hood off in the distance. Sage gradually changes to juniper, juniper to pine as we gradually gain altitude. Then comes a thick conifer forest, it’s trees blocking most of the suns light. We summit at Barlow Pass (elevation 4155).

US 26 and Oregon 35 intersect just outside of Government Camp (193 souls). This place is the defecto “mountain town” or “ski town” of Mount Hood. It’s the gateway to several ski resorts. A sign in front of the town’s post office states, “Formerly a camp on the old Barlow Road, the village was named in 1849 when U.S Cavalry troops were forced to abandon wagons and supplies here.

Heading down the southeast shoulder of Mt. Hood we come to a large barren rock and boulder strewn area reminiscent of glacial activity- and it is! The White River Glacier has left it’s mark on the mountain. This is also the headwaters of the White River.

The road takes us to lower elevations but not out of the conifer forest. It does begin to transition to a mixed forest as we drop down towards the Hood River Valley following the Hood River.

The valley is spectacular. Farms and vineyards have been carved out of the forest creating a patchwork of multi hued green. Pear, cherry and apple tree orchards as well as grape vineyards abound. In other areas not suitable for those crops alfalfa and hay are grown. Farm stands dot the road. As we look back we see Mt. Hood standing sentry over us. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than this!

We drop down into the community of Hood River (7100 souls) which is located at the confluence of the Hood River and the mighty Columbia River. The city does double duty as it is also the seat of Hood River County. The hilly downtown commercial district overlooks its harbor and the mighty Hood River/White Salmon Bridge.

We jump on Interstate 84 and head west, the highway paralleling the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. We drive past 3000 foot high basalt cliffs and greenest of green forest. We stop in Cascade Locks to refuel and fill our propane tank, continuing on the last four miles of our journey exiting on the Bonneville Dam/Bonneville Fish Hatchery offramp.

We are fortunate to find our “boss” Hugh on the grounds of the hatchery. He says he needs us to work Sunday/Monday. I said we could relieve the hosts that are leaving on Sunday and work their shift on Saturday so they can take their time packing. He said “that’s not necessary, Mike and Sue love it here”. So we ran into Mike and Sue, offered to work Saturday for them and they jumped at our offer. You see, they were planning to leave between 4 and 5 am Sunday morning and had a lot preparation to do. No problem Mike and Sue- Safe Travels!

These two are playing in our back yard at Bonneville Fish Hatchery

Bend, Oregon

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Monday morning we picked up, jacks up, hooked up the toad and headed south on Cascade Highway NE. At Sublimity (2600 souls) we turn east on OR 22. The 22 follows the Santiam River by Mehama (283 souls), through Mill City (1800 souls). Part way up a steep walled volcanic rock dominated canyon we come to two dams, the Cliff and the larger Detroit which holds back Detroit Lake.

Detroit Lake and Detroit Dam

We pass Detroit Lake State Recreation Area and the town of Detroit (202 souls). It was named for Detroit Michigan in the 1890s because of the large number of people from Michigan in the community. From there OR 22 runs through deep forests mostly following the Santiam River.

Oregon Route 22 merges on to US Highway 20 and steadily climb until we reach Santiam Pass (elevaton 4817), then a long downhill grade until the road flattens out a few miles from the town of Sisters (2100 souls).

Mt. Washington as Seen from Highway 20

Sisters was named after the nearby Three Sisters mountain peaks. Navigating Sisters is a giant P.I.A. as US 20 runs right through the quaint, touristy commercial district. On any given day the narrow route is packed with jay walking people and bumper to bumper vehicles- including big rig trucks. Side traffic darts in and out. Stop and go, really slow traffic is a given. A downtown bypass route is needed.

Sisters- Traffic is Relatively Light Today!

Just east of town tall conifers give way to open sage, ranch and farm country. We get a great view of the local volcanic peaks, seven are within sight. US 20 takes us into the north side of Bend where we pick up US 97, traveling to the south side of town. Crown Villa RV Resort is where we will stay for four nights.

Bend is the seat of Deschutes County and the principal city of the Bend-Redmond metropolitan statistical area. It is located on the eastern edge of the Cascades Range along the Deschutes River. Ponderosa Pine forest transitions into the high desert, characterized by junipers, sagebrush, and bitterbrush. Bend is also Central Oregon’s largest city. The 2000 census recorded 52,000 souls living here. The current estimate is 100,000, nearly double from that of 20 years ago. This place is growing like gang busters! The Bend-Redmond metro population is estimated at over 197,000 making it the fifth largest metro area in Oregon.

Deschutes River at Farewell Bend Park

Bend was named after one of the few fordable locations on the Deschutes River, Farewell Bend. The area was first visited by a fur trapping party in 1824 followed by John C. Fremont and other U.S. Army survey parties. Next came pioneers who forded the Deschutes at Farewell Bend.

The first sawmill was operational in 1901, the next, a water driven sawmill, became operational in 1903. A dam built in 1910 provided the city with its initial source of electricity. It is still produces electricity today supplying nearly 200 households.

The Cascade Range has a string of volcanic peaks that line up like soldiers from south to north beginning in California and ending in British Columbia. Several of those peaks can be seen from Bend.

The best viewing from town is from 500 foot Pilot Butte, itself an extinct volcano. Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor are easily seen from the butte. Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington are also close by.

We usually stay at the Crown Villa RV Resort. It is one of the few self proclaimed resort parks that we consider an actual resort. It was originally advertised as purchase your own lot. However sales were slow so that idea was nixed. Amenities include an fitness center, a gathering room, a lounge, a patio with fire pits and a BBQ, tennis/pickleball court, horseshoe court, pool table, hot tub, steam rooms and a very nice laundry facility. Whew! As a plus the staff is incredibly courteous, helpful and friendly.

Old Mill District- Smoke Stacked Building Was A Lumber Mill, Now A Mall

One place we always go while in Bend is the shopping mall at the Old Mill District. One of us likes to shop at JJill! Sometimes we take the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway and loop through a portion that beautiful country. Little Lava Lake is one of our favorites. Picture a small alpine lake surrounded by fresh smelling pines with Mt. Bachelor looming large in the background. Sometimes we take a drive up to 97 foot Tumalo Falls.

On this visit we decide to go to another one of our haunts, Camp Sherman even though that requires driving through Sisters- ugh! Camp Sherman is a tiny community of 230 souls located very near the headwaters of the Metolius River. That population swells to three or four times that during high season.

It’s a fisherman’s haven, however only fly fishing is allowed and much of the river is catch and release. The folks of the little Camp Sherman Store realize the importance of fishermen to the Camp as they devoted one entire section to fly fishing supplies. Coincidently, the tiny Post Office is attached to the tiny but well stocked store.

Five Miles downstream is the delightful Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. The water supplying the hatchery does not come from the nearby Metolius but from the spring that fed Wizard Falls.

The water is just the right temperature and is pure- perfect for raising fish. Since our last visit several new ponds have been added indicating that they plan on raising more trout and salmon.

The Beautiful Metolius River Runs By Wizard Falls Hatchery

A large settling pond contains the largest fish. I understand that these fish were “escapees” from the rearing ponds at one time. The hatchery employees leave them be, but have added a few fish food machines for those who wish to feed them.

We visit the headwaters of the Metolius on our way back to camp. It’s almost unbelievable that this river originates from springs that magically appear at the edge of a hill. It’s not possible to get a good photo of the springs as lush growth obscures the view, but I gave it a whirl just to contrast the size of the river not 100 feet downstream.

Top Photo: Headwater Spring; 100 Feet From Spring- The Metolius River

That concludes our visit to Bend. We enjoy this diverse area so I suspect we will visit again and again. We’ll be pushing on to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery tomorrow. See you there!

Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All-Your Neighbor Shows Up In His 2.3 Million Dollar Coach!

Four Days in Silverton, Oregon- Part Two

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Oregon Garden is an 80-acre botanical and tourist attraction in Silverton. Opened in 1999, it is home to over 20 gardens including the Rose Garden, Children’s Garden and Silverton Market Garden.

It is open 365 days a year and hosts both public and private events. The Garden is also home to the Gordon House, Oregon’s only Frank Lloyd Wright home, and The Oregon Garden Resort.

The Children’s Garden

It’s dog friendly so all four of us take a walking tour. It’s a must see place if one appreciates a diverse garden as we do.

Silver Falls State Park has quite a history. In 1888 the lumber community of Silver Falls City sat near South Falls. As the land was cleared admission was sold to view the falls. That included attractions such as pushing a car over the falls and even a daredevil riding over it in a canoe. June D. Drake was local photographer who began campaigning for park status, using his photos to gain support.

The National Park Service rejected the area because of the proliferation of unattractive stumps after years of logging. Drake was successful in that Silver Falls became an Oregon State Park in 1933. In 1935 F.D.R. announced that it would become a Recreational Demonstration Area, and sent in the C.C.C. to develop the park’s facilities.

Thanks to the efforts Mr Drake and of the Civilian Conservation Corps the park has a beautiful campground, rustic lodge and assorted out buildings. Silver Creek is dammed above South Falls to form a swimming pond. A convention center is on premises. Evidence of bygone logging has disappeared. Ten beautiful water falls are accessed by trail- some of which can be viewed from the canyon rim. This area is just drop dead gorgeous!

Warning Sign at South Falls (duh)- Precipice of 170 Foot Drop on Right

Like many small towns major roadways converge in the downtown business district and Silverton is no exception. Two major country roads from the north, one country road leading from Salem to the west and the road to Stayton to the south. Boy, traffic can really get heavy!

We chose to walk around the handsome downtown of Silverton one morning before the crowds arrived and before all stores except the restaurants opened. We found quite a few murals painted on the side of its buildings. Murals are thing here in Silverton.

New Sign in Progress

One multi part mural told the story of Bobbie the Wonderdog. He became lost (attacked by 3 dogs and fled) while his owners, the Braziers visited family in Indiana. The family could not find him so it returned to Silverton. Six months later Bobbie returned to Silverton mangy, dirty, scrawny, with evidence he walked all the way home, a distance of over 2500 miles in the dead of winter. After his story was published folks who had fed and sheltered Bobbie wrote to the family about their time with him. The Humane Society of Portland was able use the stories to assemble a fairly precise route that Bobbie traveled.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog

Jil and I have made a command decision. Originally we were going to head into southern Washington and visit Mt. St. Helens. We would have to travel through Portland to do that. We’ve already had a good snootful of heavy traffic. If we don’t go north through Portland, where shall we go? Let’s go to Bend!

Four Days in Silverton, Oregon- Part 1

Saturday, August 24, 2019

As you can see on the map above our travel day is really short. A lot of RV park management don’t appreciate early arrivers so we did our best to not come into Silver Spur RV Park in Silverton too early. We took the dogs over to the big field which is designated as a dog exercise area and let them run and sniff, cleaned up the inside of the RV twice, rotated the air in all ten tires, and waxed the armadillo before we left and still arrived an hour and a half early. Yep, we were chastised for coming in early. We took our punishment and settled in to site B6.

Our route Thursday morning was all country roads- just the way we like it. Interesting to me is the fact that we came in from the south on I-5, exited at the Gervais offramp and took country roads to Champoeg. On the way to Silverton we backtracked to Gervais but on a completely different set of roads. From Gervais we were on virgin roads to us as we had never traveled on them until we got to familiar territory in Mt. Angel.

There are many reasons to visit the Silverton (9200+ souls) area. The Oregon Garden is in town and Silver Falls State Park with its spectacular display of 10 waterfalls is a half hour up the hill. We like to visit Mt. Angel Abbey, a Catholic Benedictine monastery and seminary. Downtown Silverton is straight out of the early 20th century and might take up a couple of square blocks of real estate. The farmland nearby is beautiful.

Mt. Angel Abbey:” The monks of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon form a Benedictine community founded in 1882 from the Abbey of Engelberg in Switzerland. We maintain a monastic tradition that has been a vital part of the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1,500 years.”

Honest Folks, Our Selfies Are Getting Better……..

The Abbey includes a seminary, a guest and retreat house, a library, its own post office. Mass is celebrated once a day and the Liturgy of the Hours 5 times. The church has the largest bells in the west.

New since 2018 is the Benedictine Brewery. Hey, Trappists brew beer, why not Benedictines? This complex sits on top of Mt. Angel, a 450 foot hill, encompasses 340 acres and lies next to the town of Mt. Angel. The grounds are beautiful and so are the services.

Mt. Angel (3200 souls) was founded the same year as the monastery in 1882 by German settlers. The townsfolk built a church which was outgrown after three years. The parish moved into the church built by the monastery but it burned down. A third church was built and outgrown within 17 years.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Mt. Angel OR

The fourth church and current church was completed in 1912. Its soaring 200′ bell tower can be seen for miles. Everything in this town oozes German- the architecture of its buildings, the glockenspiel, the food- everything. During Oktoberfest the population swells to over 350,000!

Nope, the mutzos are not admiring the view of the Willamette Valley from Mt. Angel, they are waiting for their Mom to come out of the retreat office.

Our next blog will focus on downtown Silverton and the Oregon Garden. Until then, Safe Travels!

OK, How Do You Pronounce Champoeg, Eh?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Planning our route from Bastendorff Camp Ground in Coos Bay to Champoeg State Park located a few miles off of I-5 and halfway between Salem and Portland appeared to be easy. We could go up the coast and go inland from Newport or Florence- or could we? I stumbled on to some information that indicated that the Suislaw Bridge in Florence and the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport have had 20,000 pound vehicle limits for several years now. To cross them with our motorhome we’d have to enlist flaggers to block traffic at each end of the bridge and drive slowly down the center. That was not going to happen. I read that Oregon 38 was a good route to take inland so that’s the way we went.

On our way out we bypass the chaotic downtown Coos Bay traffic in favor of taking a more direct route to US 101 through North Bend. We cross the Coos Bay Bridge and continue on to Reedsport (4100 souls) bypassing the Umpqua Light (been there, done that), and Winchester Bay.. Reedsport was developed when the railroad (circa 1912) was extended south to Coos Bay. The flood of 1964 caused the small mouth bass fish hatchery to lose hundreds of thousands of fish to the river. Bass are now the most common fish in the Umpqua. We turn east on Oregon 38. The 38 follows the Umpqua River for many miles so the road is pretty flat. It’s a nice relaxing and scenic drive.

Cruising Along Oregon 38 on the Bank of the Umpqua River

Scottsburg’s (327 souls) importance came and went in the mid-1800’s. It was the location where stage coach travelers coming from Drain transitioned onto riverboats to continue their journey to the coast. It was a seaport located 20 miles from the ocean that serviced the interior of Southern Oregon. The town declined after the 1861 flood.

Downtown Elkton (pop. 195) looks like a good place to stretch our legs. The town was founded in 1850 by the Klamath Exploring Expedition near Fort Umpqua. The purpose of the Expedition was centered around discovering gold in Oregon Territory along the Klamath River as well as possible areas favorable for agriculture and commercial enterprises and the site of a harbor on the coast. After all, California was going through a gold driven boom so why not Oregon? Maps in those days were not always accurate. They sailed by schooner from Sausalito CA overshooting the Klamath, stopping at the Rogue River instead. The Rogue was unsuitable so they headed north, wound up in the more inviting Winchester Bay where they explored many miles along the Umpqua River. What they probably didn’t know was land suitable for a townsite in Winchester Bay was already owned by two fellas, so the Klamath Exploration Expedition bought those fellas out. And the area now known as Elkton was established by the Hudson Bay Company (Fort Umpqua) as well as other emigrants. They did establish the townsite of Elkton, however.

Downtown Elkton Oregon


The city park is right on the bank of the Umpqua and it includes a really nice RV park. It’s nickname is “Bass Capitol of Oregon”. I wonder if that flood in 1964 had anything to do with that motto………

The Umpqua River at Elkton Oregon

One can tell when folks take pride in their community and the folks of Elkton show a lot of it. Downtown is small, inviting and neatly kept. The homes are well maintained with beautiful gardens. Wow!

The last town we come to on Oregon 38 is Drain (1151 souls), named for Charles Drain who donated 60 acres of land to the Oregon and California Railroad in 1871. Drain was the starting point for the Drain-Coos Bay stage line, established in 1876 which ran by road to Scottsburg then by river steamer to Gardiner. We turn onto northbound Oregon 99, then northbound I-5.

North of Salem we turn off onto country roads that take us through beautiful Willamette Valley farmland. Some farmers grow hops, others row crops, some alfalfa some nursery plants.

Ten miles more and we pull into Champoeg State Heritage Area. The heritage area has several historic buildings, the Historic Butteville Store (1863) that is still open for business, wide open fields, forests and wetlands- all on the bank of the mighty Willamette River. Interdispersed with all of that is a huge picnic area, frisbee golf course and a nice campground.

Although the park is a must see we were a little dismayed as to the condition of the campgrounds. The grass at each site was browned out. It didn’t appear that it was irrigated relying on rainfall alone. Obviously no rain has fallen for a while. Nice green grass is a plus in our book. The dump stations were out of order and it didn’t look like the park ranger was in any hurry to have it repaired. Maybe it’s not his call…… We survived.

The most disturbing thing to us was the two unsupervised 2 and maybe four year old children play dangerously close to and sometimes in the roadway. Those kids were all over the campground and mom was no where to be seen 99% of the time. Many of the neighbors did what the mom should have been doing- watching out for the kids safety………

Rows of These Steel Rings Embedded in the Concrete Curb- Horse Tie Outs?

While at the state park we had an opportunity to do some cruising. We shopped in nearby Newburg. (23,000 souls). We also visited St. Paul (431 souls). St. Paul is a farming community established in 1836. A church was built the same year out of logs. On January 6, 1839 Father Blanchet celebrated the first Catholic Mass in Oregon at St. Paul. St. Paul Roman Catholic Church was built in 1846 and is the oldest brick building in the Pacific Northwest. In St. Paul Cemetery lies William Cannon, the only authenticated Revolutionary War veteran buried in Oregon. Two members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition are purportedly buried there. Also of note is the St. Paul Rodeo, one of the 20 largest rodeos in the U.S. and voted by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as the finest rodeo in the Pacific Northwest in 1991.

OK, back to Champoeg. The town was built on the bank of the Willamette River. It grew to be a sizable town. In the 1840’s the question of the disputed possession of Oregon Country between the U.S. and the U.K. began to loom large. A meeting was held at the town to determine if a provisional government should be established. The vote was 52 to 50 in favor. This is the site where Oregon’s first provisional government was formed by a historical vote in 1843. The town continued to grow after Oregon became a state in 1859. But in 1861 disaster struck when the Willamette River rose 55 feet flooding the town with seven feet of water, destroying most of the structures in town. The town was never rebuilt.

OK, ok, back to the title of this post. How do you pronounce Champoeg? Champoeg is not pronounced Sham-poge, nor Cham-pog. The correct pronunciation is Shampooie, like shampoo with a “y” or “ie” on the end.

Doyle- the Captain of the Ship…….

Oh My! This and That and That and That are Beautiful!

Monday, August 20, 2019

Our stay at Bastendorff Campground is fabulous. We are far enough away from the bustling city of Coos Bay-North Bend metropolis and just a few miles from the sites we want to see. Coos Bay, along with nearby Charleston and North Bend at 34,000 souls is the most populous area on the Oregon coast.

There’s not a lot of traffic in the downtown Coos Bay commercial district. An exception is the main thoroughfares leading to the crazy busy US 101. US 101 is the main coast road that extends from the US/Mexico border all the way around the Olympic Peninsula terminating in Olympia, Washington, a distance of nearly 1550 miles.

Bastendorff Beach and Campground- Coos County Parks and Recreation

The campground at Bastendorff, a Coos County Park, is really a nice place to stay. There are lots of trees, RV friendly nicely sized sites, clean and has a beach down the hill from the campground. It’s dog friendly. It has nice views of the ocean. It’s $120 a night cheaper than staying in the RV park next door. What more can I say?

Nearby are three Oregon State Parks, the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Cape Arago Light which are really the draw to the area. Shore Acres, Sunset Bay and Cape Arago State Parks adjoin one another.

The Cape Arago Light stands on an island just off shore between Cape Arago and Coos Bay. The current light is Number 3. The light was moved twice due to erosion of the bluff caused by the sea. This light is no longer active.

Sunset Bay is a beautiful little bay that offers beach access, a day use area and a nice campground. I first tent camped here when I was eight years old. The most obvious change since then is the campground has been improved to include nice RV sites.

On the way to Cape Arago we stop at the Simpson Reef and Shell Island viewpoint. Four species of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) haul out regularly on Shell Island . One can also observe grey whales as they migrate to and from Baja California and Alaska.

Shell Island with Simpson Reef in the Background
Pinnipeds, Possibly California Sea Lions Lounging on Shell Island

Shore Acres State Park has quite a history. Louis Simpson was sort of a party boy when young. Dad sent him to Holquiam OR to learn the business but the partying and gambling continued. He fell in love with Cassandra Stearns who divorced her husband in 1899 to marry him. Dad, Asa Simpson, gave the young couple a new start at his company town of North Bend.

Simpson worked hard, eventually changing the company town into the city of North Bend. To spur growth he gave away waterfront sites for manufacturing plants and other lots for hospitals and churches. He also invested in new businesses. He enticed the railroad to build a line to Coos Bay.

Entry Walk at Shore Acres Garden
Garderner’s Cottage

In 1906-1907, Simpson built a large seaside home for his wife Cassandra. Shoreacres (Cassandra preferred “Shore Acres”), on the ocean about fourteen miles from Coos Bay-North Bend, eventually included an indoor swimming pool, spacious gardens, a modern farm, and a dairy herd. The Simpsons moved to Shoreacres in 1915. Cassandra died in April 1921, the house burned in July. The newly remarried Simpson moved into the gardener’s cottage while the new house was being built.

The Great Depression took its toll on a lot of folks including Simpson who lost business after business to bankruptcy. He lost Shore Acres which was sold to the State of Oregon. The house was in disrepair and was razed. After his death in 1949 his coastal properties became popular state parks: Sunset Beach, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.

The house may be gone but the original gardens thrive and the gardeners cottage is still there. What a great location for a home with acres of trees, a large meadow out front and the rocky seashore for a back yard. One change that we did not anticipate when visiting- dogs are not allowed out of vehicles anywhere in the park, not just the gardens- and there’s plenty of room for them to exercise without entering them. We had to cut our visit to the gardens a little short and find another place where mutzos are more appreciated. Even so the gardens are well worth the visit.

Sir Francis Drake purportedly sought shelter for his ship, the Golden Hinde, around Cape Arago. The headland was originally named Cape Gregory by James Cook on March 12, 1778 after Saint Gregory, the saint of that day; it was renamed Cape Arago after François Arago.

The park road ends at Cape Arago. Several trailheads are located here, a few lead down to the beach. One beach trail even allows dogs but we didn’t want to chance it- a sign stated the trail was steep with drop offs and uneven footing. There is also a picnic area. The views of waves crashing on the rugged, rocky coast are outstanding. There’s enough room on top of the cliffs to walk our mutzos. They appreciate the fresh smell of the sea air and the mowed grass adjacent to the parking lot.

All things considered we enjoyed Bastendorff Park a lot. There’s plenty of room to walk the dogs, great views of the ocean and a friendly staff. The only downside may be the location of the sanitary dump facility. We didn’t use it.

The eye candy along this portion of the Oregon Coast is an equal to any we’ve seen. What’s not to enjoy? We even heard that the seafood served at local restaurants is outstanding. We move on tomorrow………

Off To The Coast!

Monday, August 19, 2019

One of the many chores associated with RV’ing to empty the waste water tanks. Most RV’s have two waste water tanks, one for sink/shower water and one for the toilet. We are not sure when we’ll have the opportunity again. We visit the sanitary dump site located in the park. While the tanks are being emptied we hook up the car to the RV which magically changes the Subaru into a Toad (towed vehicle).

We head north on I-5, turn off on exit 112 and take a meandering path to Oregon 42 near Dillard and proceed on to the Oregon coast. Google Maps made the route from I-5 to OR42 sound a lot more complicated than it was. The Coos Bay-Roseburg highway is rather narrow and “turny” as one youngster aptly described a winding road to Jil and I. We are in no hurry, preferring to slow down a little in order to drink in the beautiful scenery.

Many of the settlements in the less populated areas of Oregon have interesting names. The hamlet of Remote (pop. unknown) was named by pioneers for its distance from other settlements. Drain (1150 souls) was named after its founder Charles J. Drain. Bridge (pop. unknown), named after that structure on which one crosses a river had 40 people living there in 1940- I surmise it is less now as most of the businesses that existed back then have dried up. The towns of Myrtle Point (2500 souls) seems to be thriving but tiny Norway is only a name on the map. Other interestingly named places are Prosper, Cranberry Corners, Riverton and Winterville.

Downtown Coquille, Oregon

We stop and stretch our legs by walking around downtown Coquille (3800 souls), the seat of Coos County. The town lies on the banks of the Coquille River. Both the town and the river are pronounce Ko-keel yet the Indian tribe pronounce their name Ko-qwel. Indians name Ko-qwel was the original and White Eyes changed the pronunciation to suit their fancy.

At one time river boats ran the river carrying cargo and passengers. One story has it that one boat carried 400 passengers from Coquille to Bandon so they could attend a baseball game. Right behind it