Sunday, June 16, 2019

Reflections on Our Four Year Nomadiversary

May 31, 2015, we moved into our 35' Thor Tuscany after more than two years of planning and dreaming. Delayed for a replacement part, it wasn't the champagne-across-the-bow launch we'd anticipated, but it was a very big moment none the less!

Our first week in a storage lot - free with FHU's thanks to good friends.
Of course it doesn't seem like it's been four years already - no four years seems that long at our age :-) Yet, when we talk about all the places and people we've seen, it seems like much longer. 

We've done things differently than we thought we would in that we've only dry camped a couple times, and found we're quite comfortable in RV parks. Those too-close-to-neighbors-often-like-a-parking-lot places we thought were horrible have turned out to be just fine for how we travel. Our outdoor time is spent away from home so we don't really care if we have large space around us. We seldom even have our chairs set out, and can count on one hand the number of times we've eaten outside when it's just the two of us. I'm sure this is blasphemy to many, but it works for us. Of course those happy hours and pot luck meals with friends are grand fun outside!

January 2016 gathering at Catalina State Park - Wrights, Banks, Lowes and Ponds.
Travel days started out more ambitious, and quickly reduced to less than 200 miles. They're more likely to be less than 150 now, unless we're trying to get across Texas :-) I've driven all of the 45,000+ miles as I'm still a horrible passenger and enjoy driving. And Bill still doesn't care, and enjoys being chauffeured everywhere. Our Rand McNally has added a couple "adventures" to our travel days, but mostly it has worked well for us. 

We've had some windier-than-is-comfortable-to-drive days, and twice found ourselves on icy roads. Otherwise we've successfully navigated around bad weather on our moving days. A tornado touched down 1/2 mile from us in Arlington, Texas, both Hurricanes Florence and Michael (2018) caught up with us after they downgraded to tropical storms, and I had to evacuate the motorhome from a major fire in Valencia, California. Otherwise we've been successful in our original goal to be guided by the seasons. 

The Rye Fire came within yards of the campground, way too close!
Two things have enhanced our experience - Tessa and the Jeep. Both give us unlimited enjoyment, and have added fun and excitement to our explorations.

Knowing the smartest place to be during set-up and breakdown.
I've said it many times - the biggest, most wonderful surprise has been the number of new lifetime friends we've made in our travels. No matter our backgrounds, we all have this love of travel and the appreciation of how blessed we are to live this life. One of the many things we have in common is strong marriages. Living happily in a small space isn't possible for everyone! Our solo travel friends do it on their own terms, comfortable and happy to live this life without a partner. We've seen and done things we would have missed from reading their blogs and Facebook posts, and have shared so many fun times in their company. You know who you are!

We've been to the east coast twice, experiencing wonderful places we'd only heard about. The west is still home, and for us holds the most breath-taking natural beauty. Although we've traveled mostly different routes, we have yet to visit the "middle" states of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. A summer in Alaska is still in our future as well. 

The East is filled with wonderful early American history. Mt Vernon was smaller than we expected.
I, of course, thought about favorites - campgrounds, eateries, natural wonders, scenic routes, etc. But they're all subjective opinions, different from others who have traveled the same roads. What stands out for me are the experiences. Those moments that had a profound impact on me. Those places that reminded me how blessed I am to live this life.

The sun first rises in the United States - Cadillac Mountain, Maine 
The fog made it magical and ethereal, and a wonderfully unique moment.

In the shadow of the full solar eclipse - Albany, Oregon
Bad photo, incredible life experience. When the stars came out and the temperature dropped 10 degrees, it was a humbling 90 second education on the power of the universe.

Times Square - NYC, New York 
This city surprised me in so many ways, but mostly how much I was affected by the energy of its hum. I could have hung out here for hours and just absorbed it.
Powerful waves - La Push, Washington 
We see a lot of beaches, love watching the surf. These waves were so huge, rising several feet before their violent crash. They were mesmerizing.
Gardens at Manzanar Japanese Internment Camp - Inyo County, California 
The whole place is moving, and the remains of the beautiful gardens tell a story of the tenacity of a people able to find and create beauty in the worst of times.
Wild ponies - Chincoteague Island, Virginia 
Realizing a little girl's dream of meeting the heroes of her childhood stories.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton House - Seneca Falls, New York 
Placing my hand on the same newell post where Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton also placed theirs was surreal. To be in the space where these brave and brilliant women met to change history was....well, it was deep.
Tunnel at Lambeau Field - Green Bay, Wisconsin 
Not something that will resonate with a lot of people, but for Bill and I, when they played the crowd cheering as we walked through the Packers' tunnel to the field, we both had goose bumps. And we aren't even Packers' fans!
Civil Rights Museum - Memphis, Tennessee 
Visiting just after the 2016 presidential election was depressing. I felt like I needed to apologize to all who had fought and died to slow the spread of hate across this county. Still, it's so well done.
Honoring the directions - Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona
Along the gorgeous Hwy 89A is a rest area with missing and faded signs on a concrete medicine wheel recognizing the four directions. Ancient story tellers speak in whispers here.
Wolf sighting - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
We've seen all the big animals in the wild except moose, but this was the biggest wow for me of them all. (I've confirmed it wasn't a coyote)
Original Andrew Wyeth tempura painting - Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine
Seeing Wyeth's paintings in person brought me to tears. A fan for many years, having the opportunity to see them, as well as several mock-ups in his handwriting, was so special to me.
I know there are others, I'll think of them later and regret I didn't include them. But these are the ones that surfaced today.

43 states, visited 94 people from high school away from our annual reunion, 43,700 miles in the motorhome, and 19 NFL stadiums are just a few of our "stats".

Visiting high school pals Peggy and Michelle in Roundup, Montana
No regrets, none. Nothing we'd do differently, not a thing or a place we'd change. The imperfect moments have been part of the journey, how we've handled them have confirmed we made the right choice for our retirement. 

We miss our grandsons, and our sons. More each time we leave from visiting them. We look forward to their joining us for fun times on the road.

A rare capture of the family together (Travis and Emily were on their honeymoon).
Our near future will likely include adding a winter base in southeastern Arizona - we'll look again in November!

And yes, we are continuing our travels, to add more amazing experiences that fill our hearts and expand our minds.

Many thanks to all of you who've come along for the ride, you've made it even better!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Taking Our Time in Oregon

June 4-11, 2019
Winchester Bay - Eugene, Oregon

A short drive north takes us to a lovely park on the water at Winchester Bay RV Resort. The small marina is surrounded by the Umqua River, the Oregon Dunes and the Pacific Ocean. The weather is beautiful with chilly breezes. 

Pretty views from our site.
Wednesday we're off to visit the youngest brother of the friend we just visited in Coos Bay - Pat and his wife Jen live in the little hamlet of Elkton.

The drive on Hwy 38 along the Umqua River is gorgeous! It's also devastated from the massive snow storm on February 24. Crews are cutting, chipping and hauling off massive trees that fell from the heavy weight of the snow. It looks like a hurricane came through here, but there was no wind, just the crazy amount of snow. 

It's a great visit with these two good friends. Their home and garden are lovely. During the big storm they lost power, and Jen's description of the sounds of trees snapping and exploding, and large rocks crashing down hills overnight is terrifying! Power was out for 97% of the residents for 18 days. All from a storm no one knew was coming.

The garden is looking good now that all the tree fall is cleaned up.

Doesn't take long to find the best seat on the deck.

Pat, Bill and Jen
We spend the rest of our time exploring the surrounding area, and taking a day trip to Florence. This is a favorite area with lakes and forests, rivers and wildlife, beaches and marinas. Sadly, our favorite eatery in Florence, The Maple Street Grille, is no longer open :(

The Umqua River

Glimpses of shoreline from the dunes trail.

Finally dropping a hook in the water.

Long lake grass.

A fraternity herd of young bulls at Dean Creek Elk Meadow.

Scottsburg Bridge

Winchester Bay Marina
Eugene, Oregon, is the first large town we've been to in weeks and is a great opportunity to take care of some errands. We also have one planned, and one surprise meet-up! 

Hwy 126 is a nice drive, and we set up at Armitage County Park where the temps are significantly higher. We've stayed here before and like the large spaces, FHUs, and proximity to town. This time it's especially nice because my BFF and her husband are here as well! It just happened our paths crossed - yay! They leave the next day, but we'll catch up with them for ten days in Newport over the July 4th holiday.

Nick and Odie

Bill, Janis, Nick and Jodee - can't wait to spend more time together!
We have to move for our last couple nights - the drive to just past the blue bin on the right is our shortest ever move :-)
Errands are a necessity, but one I'm looking forward to is a massage! Unfortunately, they screw up my appointment and I'll have to wait. Damn! The day gets better when we visit Marge and Linda just out of town.

Marge is mother to our Tombstone friend Donnie, and his brothers Turk and Pat who we saw last week. Linda is their sister! A wonderful family we adore.

Bill, teeny-tiny Marge, Linda
Bill was at Marge's house all the time through high school, and the stories have us all laughing for hours. It's the first time either of us have seen Linda since she graduated a few years before we did. Great fun for all of us to get caught up.

This is not a great week to be inland with a heat wave pressing down on the west. But we're off to Bend for a week, an area of Oregon that's new for us.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sea Grass to Seals

May 28 - June 4, 2019
Bandon, Oregon

A sunny drive north on Hwy 101 takes us to the little town of Bandon, Oregon. Our park is on the south side with easy access right off the highway. Bandon-by-the-Sea RV Park has a few trees, but mostly open-sky sites. Our pull-through site is level concrete with a large grass yard. We're on the back row so we have a nice view of forest. Except for the weekend, no neighbors. Very, very quiet. We like it here.

Its chilly and windy for most of our week-long stay, but the sun is out every day. We spend our time exploring more of the beautiful Oregon coast, or visiting with our high-school friend Turk who lives in Coos Bay. He is the oldest brother of our good friend in Tombstone.

Bradley Lake

Giant lily pads

China Creek reaches the ocean.
After it meanders through the grassy dune.

The hat is good for sun, not so much for wind!

Sea Grass

Devil's Kitchen
Face Rock

From the Coquille jetty to Bullards Beach

More of these pinnacles than we've seen elsewhere.
Turk and Bill in Coos Bay

In addition to the good company, having a local guide means seeing awesome hidden surprises.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

Seal Rock. The pics of the Harbor Seals didn't come out, but these huge sea lions were very photogenic - and noisy!

Nap time for most.
We celebrate four years on the road on May 31 - reflections in a separate post. 

Turk comes for lunch on Sunday, and we just hang out and laugh and share memories. We might be from a small town, but we sure have big stories!

Our last day is cold and windy - so let's go see the lighthouses because it's never more windy there :-))

Coquille River Lighhouse

Before the hat blew 1/4 mile down the beach!

Never too windy for zoomies!
Cape Blanco is a beauty, and the western most place on the Oregon Coast.

Catching the light.

The wind nearly blows my legs out from under me - let's get back in the Jeep!
Good times in beautiful places are always made even better with the addition of old friends. Sure glad we got to spend some time with Turk!