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Archive for June, 2006

Happy Anniversary To Us

Today is a significant date, to us. June 23 is the day we sold our house in Vermont and began living in our 1977 Argosy 24 full-time! We bought the current Airstream in October, and began documenting our travels at that time.

So we’ve been full-timers for a year now. (Feel free to send anniversary cards with checks, or valuable pieces of jewelry to PO Box 74, Ferrisburg VT 05456.) 😉

So, a status report: In case it wasn’t obvious, everyone continues to do well. We still have no firm date for discontinuing our travels. What began as a “six or seven month” trip has evolved into a lifestyle that we all really enjoy. Homeschooling has gone very well. We have weathered several minor crises and figured out how to make everything work for everyone, emotionally, physically, financially, and logistically — most of the time.

In short, life “on the road” agrees with us. The major change we expect will be a slowing-down of our travels next winter. Part of our mission has been to explore new places we’d like to live, or at least spend more time. Having crossed the country three times so far, we now have a short list of places we’d like to re-visit and spend weeks or months next winter. But we’ll still continue to go back to Vermont regularly, and maintain it as our home base.

Terry posted a comment on our “Bend, OR” blog entry a couple of days ago, asking about the rumor regarding Project Vintage Lightning. The word is out on the Internet that Matthew McConaughey will be our client on this project. He already owns one Airstream, an International CCD 28, but he has purchased our 1952 Airstream Cruiser and the rebuilding and customizing process will be documented in Airstream Life magazine over the next several issues. We are all looking forward to it, as Matthew is a great guy and looks to be a lot of fun to work with.

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George Sutton giving Eleanor a tour of the new service building

Last night we camped in the dealer lot at George M Sutton RV in Eugene. George gave us a tour of his new service center, opening across the street. The new service center isn’t ready yet but it’s definitely a huge upgrade, with lots of indoor service area, courtesy parking, staging areas, a retail store, etc. Then we met up with our friend Dan Patch for dinner. He’ll be catching up with us at the International Rally on Monday.

It’s been too long since I posted a Sign of the Week, so here’s one for you. Spotted on the ferry near Little Talbot Island State Park, in Jacksonville FL.

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Lava tubes and vintage trailers

As we approach the big rally, we are seeing more and more Airstreamers, and as a result our days become odd hybrids of tourism, work, and parties. Today was an example.

After a few hours of work on the computer (while Emma was sleeping), our first stop was the Lava Lands Visitor Center at the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument. This site is adjacent to the Deschutes National Forest, where we visited a waterfall the day before, and hence it is under the $5/day access fee program that I ranted about yesterday — even for the Visitor Center. It’s not a “National Park” in the sense of being under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service like Crater Lake, but we collected a stamp for our National Parks Passport book anyway.

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Lava Lands, looking west. Click for larger.

At Lava Lands you can hike a short paved trail up and around a 6,000 year-old lava flow that covers hundreds of acres along the Deschutes River. The views of the nearby mountains (Mt Bachelor, North Sister, Broken Top, Middle Sister, and South Sister) are very good. Those mountains top out around 9,000-10,000 feet.

We are big fans of caves, so we wanted to check out the Lava River Cave, which is a nearby “lava tube” about 3,000 feet long. This is one of the longest in the world. They are formed by lava flows that cool at the top and leave a river of lava flowing underground. As the lava level drops, an empty tube is left behind.

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Eleanor and Emma following a few people out of Lava River Cave.

If you go, be aware of a few things: the hike is tricky due to a very uneven floor, the interior temperature is about 40 degrees, and there is no lighting at all. You can rent a lantern at the entrance, which I highly recommend. We used headlamps and they turned out to be inadequate to really see most of the features of the cave, even though we’ve successfully used the same headlamps in smaller caves back east. The hike all the way to the end of the cave and back takes about an hour or more. We were pretty cold and tired by the time we got out!

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But in the busy world of Airstream society there is no rest. We had just enough time to get some groceries before heading 20 miles east to Sisters, where a large group of Vintage Airstream Club members were gathered for a “rendezvous.” (They called it a rendezvous instead of a rally because, they said, “We only want two rules: (1) Have fun; (2) Cold beer.”) We were introduced and spent the rest of the afternoon talking to very enthusiastic people about Airstream stuff, over sandwiches and soup.

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In the evening we hooked up with two new friends, Roger and Marion, who have a brand-new Safari Special Edition 28 and are out on a 3-4 month trip in it. We hit a local restaurant in the quaint downtown of Sisters for ice cream sundaes and shakes all around.

This is how it goes during rally time. The trick is to pace onesself, otherwise you end up need a vacation after the rally is over. At our first few major rallies we ran around trying to see everyone and do everything, and ended completely exhausted after a week. There are a lot of people to meet and plenty to do if you use your imagination (and don’t rely on the official program).

Bend, OR

Everyone said, “Oh, Bend is great!” so here we are … and so far it has been a nice place for us. Today’s trip just south of town brought us to the National Forest and a short hike along the Deschutes River to Benham Falls. The hike was great except for a few mosquitoes, and the scenery was superb so I think tomorrow we may hit a few other spots along the river as well.

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Like a lot of other National Forest sites these days, there is an access fee required now. In this area they sell something called the “Northwest Pass” for $30 or you can buy daily passes for $5, which is highway robbery in my opinion. It is not nearly as well advertised at the forest sites that the good old National Parks pass will work just fine if you have the “Golden Eagle Hologram” on the back. The hologram is only $15 more than the basic National Park pass and it gets you unlimited access to any National Forest site that charges an access fee, for a year. You just leave it on the dashboard, hologram side facing up.

After the waterfall hike, we checked out the High Desert Museum ($12 adults, $7 kids). This is a good one, comparable to the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, but with more emphasis on western life than on wildlife. Gordon, one of the volunteers, met us at the entrance to their “Western Life” exhibit and gave us a complete tour of the entire wing, just because he likes to. It was a great experience and extremely educational. That alone was worth the price of admission.

The museum says to allow 3 hours to see everything but we were there for over four hours and had to rush at closing time to see the raptors before they kicked us out. Fortunately, admissions are good for two days.

Our campground, Tumalo State Park, is a pleasant enough setting, but overly popular because it is so convenient to Bend. Even mid-week the place is full and during the afternoon and evening it’s a zoo with kids, trucks wandering through, and parents yelling at kids. The sites are fairly close and competition for a space is fierce. Non-hookup sites are $17 and full hookups are $20 — the sort of weird pricing we often see in State Parks. Of course, everyone wants a hookup site, and of course they are all reserved until approximately the end of time.

Their policy is also that we aren’t allowed to renew our non-hookup for more than one day at a time. We’ve had good sunshine and so our solar system is providing us plenty of electricity to stay for a few more days, but after tomorrow I think we’ll have done what we wanted to do in Bend. We’ll spend one more night and then head west.

Crater Lake National Park

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Crater Lake. Click for larger

I’ll preface this blog entry by saying that I simply can’t do justice to Crater Lake in words or pictures. As soon as I post this I will start uploading selected photos to Flickr, so you can see more. But in short, it is spectacular.

The entire central Oregon area is great: wild rivers and lakes stocked with trout, rafting, hiking, huge forests of lodgepole pine, ancient lava flows, and cheap National Forest campsites everywhere. On the drive up from the Rogue Valley we stopped at waterfalls and gorges, even a spot where the Rogue River goes underground and then re-emerges downstream.

But the crown jewel is undoubtedly Crater Lake. The most convenient campgrounds to Crater Lake are the park’s Mazama campground or, just north, Diamond Lake. We stayed at Diamond Lake, which has both a cheap National Forest campground ($10, no hookups), and a full-hookup RV park. Both feature views of Diamond Lake, and a few very large mosquitoes. The RV park has free wi-fi near the entry building, but I didn’t realize that until it was too late.

Since Diamond Lake is about 5,100 feet, the temperatures are cool and comfortable. Up at Crater Lake, nearly 2,000 feet higher, there’s still a lot of snow left. The park gets an average of 44 feet of snow, so some of the roads were still closed. The park won’t fully open until July. It was in the 50s and 60s while we visited — a nice day for Crater Lake in June.

The short season of the park (unless you are into winter sports) was a small problem for us, since all the hiking trails were closed, some of the facilities were undergoing renovation, and the Rim Drive that circles the crater was definitely off-limits. With few things to do, our visit was basically a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon, and a few hours mid-Sunday. Mostly, we gaped at the view and took pictures.

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Our lunch stop. Click for larger.

The water of the lake is exactly as blue as it appears in the pictures. Photo notes: you’ll want a circular polarizer, and this is the place to set your camera on Aperture Priority mode. I tried to get F13-22 for most of the long shots.

The Lodge at Crater Lake looks like a great place to stay if you don’t have an RV. It’s really a completely rebuilt replica of the original lodge, which was a structural disaster. This one retains the lodge feel with great stone fireplaces and exposed wood everywhere, but with more modern conveniences. Even if you’re not a guest, you can sit out by the lake and admire the view for the price of any drink from the restaurant’s bar.

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Sunday we met a few Airstreamers who, like us, are headed to Salem for the big rally. One couple, Rickie and Yank, are in a Safari 28 formerly owned by John Ratzenberger (of Cheers fame). We’ll try to meet up with them again in the nearby town of Sisters later this week.

I also just heard from Colin Hyde. He worked on Vintage Thunder last year and will be working on Vintage Lightning this year. He’s planning to come to the International Rally for a few days to help show off a 65 Caravel he just restored for a client.

Tonight we are in a state park in Bend. Our plan is to use this as a base for most of the week, since there’s a lot to see and do in this area.

Back in touch

Just a quick note: we’re heading back to the cell phone zone, this time in Bend. I’ll be updating the blog tonight (Pacific Time) with a big entry about Crater Lake.

For, let it suffice to say: Crater Lake National Park is indescribably beautiful! We could not stop taking pictures. I have about 200 to download to my laptop and sort through. Put this one on your “must-see” list — with a few caveats that I’ll describe in the next blog entry.

From a roadside stop along the Cascade Lakes Highway, 30 miles south of Bend…

Building momentum

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we are heading to Crater Lake National Park this morning. It looks like we will spend a night or two just outside the park at Diamond Lake and then head up to Bend for a few days. There’s a lot to do in Bend that we are looking forward to.

The really cool part about our travels the past couple of weeks has been the momentum we can feel building toward the International Rally gathering. The rally events are not what we go for — we go to see friends who will be attending. And as I’ve mentioned before, some of those friends are going to join us for a caravan from Salem OR to Montana.

Carol B just emailed this morning: she’s leaving from her home in Michigan this morning. Rich C called this morning from the road 10 miles south of Salem OR. Brett is flying out on the 29th to stay with us a few days. Adam and Susan are still at work in Boston but they’ll be coming out around July 1. And Rich C has two friends who are flying into Seattle and renting a car so they can follow along (they’ll sleep in Rich’s trailer).

All of us (except Brett) are going to depart the International Rally together on July 4 or 5 to begin the caravan to Glacier National Park. When we get there, we’ll meet Bert & Janie Gildart, too. We are really looking forward to that. Airstreaming is much more fun when we can share the experience with good friends.

Culinary tours

OK, the Summer magazine is almost off to the printer and after a few hours of work this morning I was able to slip away between layout reviews. I had heard of a local creamery that specializes in blue cheese, down in Central Point, and we all love blue cheese, so …

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The creamery store is small and there’s no tour, which was disappointing, but the blues are very interesting. If you don’t like blue cheese there’s some cheddar and muenster, but nothing worth driving out of your way for. Blue is what this place is about. We tried them all and settled on the Oregonzola and a little of the Pesto Curds. We liked the Smokey Blue too but decided one blue was enough for now. They also have Oregon Blue, which is somewhat like a Stilton, and very sharp.

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Thus primed for culinary adventure, we headed over to Harry & David’s headquarters to take the tour ($5 per adult, applicable to purchases over $35 after the tour.) They shuttle you from the Harry & David Country Store a couple of miles down to the facility. The tour is pretty good, especially since they hand out boxes of cookies and chocolate. It includes some of the bakery facilities (baclava, cookies, cakes, popcorn, etc), chocolate facility, call center, and their demonstration rose garden.

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The cookie line. Click for larger

The way they identify different classes of workers is by the colored hair nets. The lady pictured below is a supervisor. Supervisors have to be able to speak Spanish.

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Of course, the tour ends back at the store and then it’s mandatory to buy a whole bunch of stuff … isn’t it? Eleanor had no trouble filling her basket with enough goodies to surpass the $35 minimum (to apply the $5 discount).

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Tomorrow we’ll pack up and head to Crater Lake. I am pretty sure we can’t get online from where we’ll be, but I’ll update as soon as possible afterward.

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