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Archive for November, 2005

Jedediah Smith SP, Redwoods National Park

It was a wonderful day driving down the last leg of the Oregon coast on Sunday. We started off again in the beach near Port Orford, so Emma could hunt for sea stars and we could all get in a good long walk before getting in the car. The tide was higher and we didn’t see the starfish but the beach itself was fascinating, soft brown sand tumbled with giant rocks.

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In the background, the unusual port of Orford. They don’t have a sheltered harbor, so each boat that comes in is lifted by a crane to a giant concrete pier and stored on top.

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We deliberately left ourselves only about 90 miles of driving so we could once again stop off anywhere that seemed interesting. That was a good strategy once again, as the Oregon coast is strewn with beautiful scenes and amazing vistas.

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We stopped for lunch in the town of Brookings, and visited the local seafood shops for some red snapper and Cajun spiced salmon. Those prizes went in the fridge for later. I remember thinking that the Airstream made a nice foreground for the Hwy 101 bridge behind us, with the sun reflecting off the Airstream’s skin and brilliant blue skies above “¦ and I thought “I’ll snap a picture of that after lunch.”

Whoops. I had forgotten the famous Pacific coast fog, which sneaks in and turns warm sunny days into grey cold ones in minutes. Sure enough, during lunch I looked out the window and the photo was gone. Heck, even the bridge was gone!

By the end of the day we pulled into Jedediah Smith State Park and set up amongst the towering redwood trees. This campground dates (as so many state campgrounds do) from around 1930, and so the roads are narrow and the sites are small. A site which is claimed to fit a 30-foot trailer does ““ but not much else. Still, the reward is sleeping with a 500-700 year-old redwood tree on either side of your bed. I wouldn’t want to see a single tree harmed so I could have an easier time parking!

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Emma is impressed by old-growth redwoods but not as much as we are. To her, they are merely big trees. She doesn’t see how rare they are (only 4% of the historic territory of the Pacific Redwood still exists), and she doesn’t recognize how tenuous their existence is. They grow only one place in the world: the Pacific coast, below 2000 feet and near the foggy damp air. And there are only a few hundred acres of them left, 45% of which is national and state parkland in northern California.

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A redwood is one of the living things closest to immortality. They resist diseases, insects, earthquakes, and fires. In fact, they thrive on the occasional fire, using it as inspiration to reproduce. The oldest ones have been growing for 2,000 years. How can you stand amidst these immortals and not be humbled? To them, we are just a blip in their centuries-long lives. Someday Emma will appreciate their message. I will show her the picture of her standing in the middle of three redwoods and suggest that she find them again with her children.

Humbug Mountain State Park, Port Orford OR

[There was no Internet access when I wrote this, so I’m posting it at my first opportunity with the date and time of when I wrote it.]

It’s good to be moving on, especially here on the Oregon coast where it is uncrowded and scenic. When we started this trip we figured we’d settle into a spot for 2-3 weeks, but so far the only placed we’ve stayed more than five days was Denver. For some reason, after a week in a spot, we usually have the itch to explore some more.

So this morning we hitched up and headed south on Rt 101, the coastal road. Our goal was “no place in particular,” the sun was shining, and for the first time in weeks, we have no schedule at all. It’s a nice feeling. We are free.

Our travels today took us past several lighthouses among the dunes, and I couldn’t resist the photo opportunities. Lighthouses are just too easy.

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Then a dramatic bridge, a still lake reflecting the pines trees, a historic house “¦ We let the whole day go like that, covering less than 100 miles but stopping so often that it took until 3 pm to arrive here, at Humbug Mountain State Park.

After parking the Airstream, we still had some light so we took a road less traveled: an unmarked one-lane dirt trail that wound its way up Humbug Mountain from the campground. With absolutely no idea where we were going, we climbed the switchbacks for half an hour, never exceeding 15 MPH. To our left, precipitous drops of 50-500 feet. To our road, a deeply scalloped edge along the crumbling mountainside.

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This went on for several miles, until we finally intersected China Mountain Road, arbitrarily chose to go left, and eventually (a few miles down) found a paved road back to 101. It was a fun detour. Eleanor was white-knuckled half the trip, but Emma was only wondering when we would get to the hike we had promised. I was only disappointed I never needed to engage the 4WD.

Although we are right by the coast, there are few places one can get to the beach because of tall sandy cliffs. During high tide, there is no beach at all. We found some scenic viewpoints but never figured out how the surfers managed to get down from their cars parked by the highway to the thunderous waves below. Then we saw this intrepid fellow cruising on the soft sand in his truck.

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Finally, we found a bit of beach access by the town of Port Orford and did a little sunset exploration.

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What a bonanza of sea life! We found sea caves everywhere, colorful orange and red starfish, green sea anemones, and other creatures. We found a sunflower sea star, too — a creature that looks sort of like a large starfish but it has something like 15 arms. We ran out of daylight before we ran out of energy, so we headed home (soaked to the knees, all of us) and agreed we’d look again in the morning.

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With the long cold evenings this time of year, we are trying to find ways to keep ourselves entertained after dark. Tonight we decided since we were all in wet clothes, we’d get right into our pajamas and have “Pajama Fun Night.” We watched an old campy movie, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” (a musical, with Jim Backus!), I made popcorn, and Eleanor and Emma baked up some cookies. (By the way, if you are wondering where we get these movies: We subscribe to Netflix, but the really bad old movies like this one come from the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.)

Emma discovered that she has a loose tooth in front, which has thrilled her to the point of bouncing around the trailer like a superball. We can clearly see a replacement coming in behind. Her six-year molars are also showing up. She has pledged to tell everyone she meets about these things.

One other thing: our good friends Adam and Susan called today, just to say they’re following the blog and to send us good tidings. That phone call gave me a huge boost, and reminded me to say to all of you that the support we’ve gotten from you is a huge part of what makes this trip fun. It gives us a greater sense of purpose to share the experience with you, and so almost every day I’m eager to write down our impressions of the day. It’s not work to keep up the blog, with you along for the ride. Keep writing and commenting ““ we love to hear from you. Thanks!

Oregon Dunes National Rec Area

OK, the work is done … and so we are off again, checking out the local scenery. There was a bit of sunlight left and it was a beautiful day so we drove 7 miles south on Rt 101 to an access point for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (Siltcoos Beach).

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Fabulous. Just what one needs at the end of a stressful week at work! The light was terrific for photos and Emma was happy to oblige as foreground in most of them, so I spent the next 90 minutes shooting until there was no light left.

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These dunes are huge and gorgeous. Some are over 100 feet tall! You can drive on part of the beach to explore them, and the recreation area even has “sand camping” areas further down the road. I’m going to check those out, and see if we can camp at one of them this weekend.

The beach was dotted with little birds that I would call sandpipers but I don’t really know their name. They are cute little things, scooting along the reflective wet sand so smoothly they look like a bunch of white ball bearings cut loose on oiled metal.

It was a spectacular walk and a terrific way to wrap up a working day. I think Eleanor and Emma agreed.

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The Downtime

OK, I gave you fair warning: this would be a quiet week for the blog. The reason is that once in a while I have an overload of work and can’t maintain the even schedule I strive for. I just posted an essay on Gather about “work/life balance” which you can read by clicking the “Gather” link (to the left), but as it turns out, that essay is really an idealized account of what my life is like.

In reality work doesn’t go on an even keel when you are mobile. We’ve been constantly busy and moving around for two weeks, which meant that a major project due on Nov 20 was looming and nothing was getting done about it. This week it came to a head: I had to set everything aside and get the project done. I hate deadlines for big projects but I’ve never missed one yet and I wasn’t about to miss this one either.

So instead of exploring the central Oregon coast — Haceta Lighthouse, Seal Caves, Oregon Sand Dunes SRA, Florence’s old downtown and river port — I have been hunkered down in front of my laptop, working, working, working.

This is the dark side of traveling and working. Each morning at about 8 a.m., I ride my bike from campsite #140 through the tall pine trees and damp morning air of coastal Oregon. It’s about 3/4 mile down to the “Activity Center” where I can get a desk and free wifi to the Internet. I stay there all day, trying to concentrate on my work, while retirees come and go, playing the occasional game of pool, and working the jigsaw puzzles. Only full-timers roam Oregon this time of year, and we’re the only ones who aren’t retired.

Around lunchtime, Eleanor and Emma show up bearing lunch, and then I’m back at it. In the evening, we hang out in the Activity Center for a while before returning to the trailer for dinner and a movie (last night: Sahara — a bit too violent for small children but fun for adults). It’s a dull life compared to the last month, but a good chance to catch up on everything: phone calls to friends and family; trip planning; laundry.

Eleanor and Emma have had a chance to explore a bit, and they’ve taken some photos that I might get uploaded before we leave Florence. I have learned bits and pieces through them. For example, “sneaker” waves are a phenomenon of the Oregon and Northern California coastline, big surges that come between smaller waves. Here they warn you never to turn your back on the ocean, lest a sneaker wave knock you down. No swimming at most beaches.

The project will be done this afternooon and I’ll be able to resume a more normal schedule which mixes fun and work. Starting on Saturday, we plan to roam down the Oregon coast into Northern California, stopping at Redwoods National Park and Eureka, at least. Should be some awesome photo opportunities along the way: sea lions, rugged coastline, Victorian houses, redwoods, giant sand dunes, etc. Stay tuned.

Good bye, Sutton RV

Gotta love those guys at Sutton. What a nice bunch. Today we were leaving, so they hitched us up to their little forklift and hauled us over to dump the tanks. Then they filled our propane, adjusted our tank monitors, and fixed a minor issue with our water heater. In the meantime the entire staff was just incredibly accommodating and nice … and they fed us donuts and hot mulled cider.

AND they offered us tons of advice on places to see along the Oregon coast, directions to everything we might want to do, and, and, and, …. I could go on all day. Thank you Debbie, Crystal, Tom, all the guys on the sales staff, Sig, and of course George and Martha. You guys ROCK!

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Just before we left, George showed me his latest delivery: a “WBCCI 50th Anniversary Edition” Airstream Classic Limited 30 slide-out. Nice rig.

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Everyone we’ve met in Oregon has been exceptionally nice. Last night fellow Airstreamer Jim Jordan (who we know only from the Internet) dropped in and chatted for a while. Today he came back with his wife and we spent another pleasant half hour talking Airstreams. Another couple dropped in too, folks we didn’t even know before but who had heard (via Internet) that we were there. And Dan Patch dropped in again, too, just to give us a nice card and wish us luck.

Everyone has done two basic things: (1) plied us with extensive advice about the wonderful things to do in beautiful Oregon; (2) educated us on the proper way to say “Oregon.” Being from New England, we say “OR-uh-GONE”. Locals tell us that it should be “OR-ee-GUN.” We are practicing but far from fluent in Oregonese.

So now we are in Florence OR, which is by the coast. The weather is very mild here, so freezing nights are a remote possibility but it probably won’t get much over mid 50s either. We arrived after dark, so I can’t tell you much about the place but tomorrow Eleanor and Emma will go exploring while I work.

I’m afraid this may be a fairly dull week for the blog. I expect to spend the next four days plugging away on my computer, in the “Activity Building” of this campground where they have free wireless Internet. But I’ll try to get E&E to post about their adventures. They are planning to visit a haunted lighthouse, see Sea Lions, get salt water taffy, and walk on the beach, among other things.

Emma’s Halloween

[Editor’s note: The following post was dictated by Emma. She is describing her experiences in Denver and Colorado Springs around Halloween.)

Emma says I love you DiDi. We are having a great time.

Me and mommy went to a Aquarium and at the end we got to pet some Manta Rays. We could only touch them with two fingers at once. The little manta rays felt like velvet. I wouldn’t touch any of the big ones because they felt like itchy scratchy velvet. I did not like the big ones feel.

When I was sleeping over at my cousin Hannah’s house, um we got to stay up very late and we watched movies all night. It was so cool. Let’s see, in the morning I wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast. Hannah wanted fried egg and we asked for toast with butter and when our butter with toast was served she (auntie Ali) also gave us some grapes. Hannah couldn’t have fried eggs because my scrambled eggs were all ready made. So Hannah got scrambled too. After breakfast we went back down stairs to play dress-up again.

We went to Chuckie Cheeses for lunch. When we got there we first went on a big slide. It was the best slide ever! And we played almost every game in there. Auntie Ali got us balls to take home.

After lunch we want back to their house to get ready to go trick-or treating. Boo!!! Did I scare you? I was a ghost for Halloween. Hannah was a princess. We had such a great time.
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Fun at the sale

Parking at the dealership is nicer than a few campgrounds I’ve stayed at! All day Saturday we were surrounded by nice people (staff and customers) who dropped in to chat with us in our trailer. It was always a laugh when someone would open the door and see me typing at my laptop, Emma watching a Scooby Doo cartoon, and Eleanor nearby. They’d do a double-take, recoil for a moment, and then say, “Oh I’m sorry — I didn’t know anyone was in here!”

Well, that’s why we put the “OPEN” sign by the door. Can you guess who drew it?

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We gave a half dozen tours of our trailer during the day, and around 1:15 I was briefly interviewed by the local radio station for the live audiocast. We spent the rest of the day visiting with people, checking out all the Airstreams (we like the Safari Special Edition 25), and snagging free donuts.

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Last night a magazine reader and follower of this blog came by and took us out for Italian dinner. Dan Patch, a new friend, lives in this area and we had a great time visiting with him. Toward the end of the evening, I was able to recruit him to write an article for the magazine, too, so I expect we’ll be hearing more from Dan in the future. What a nice guy.

It’s being able to make friends everywhere we go that makes this trip so special for us. Sure, seeing the country is great, but building and solidifying friendships is really where it’s at. One point of the trip for me is to look up as many current and future contributors to the magazine as I possibly can. We have friends all over the country now, and it’s all because of our travels in our Airstream. That’s why I get so enthusiastic about it.

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