Sunday, August 27, 2017

Keeping Disappointment in Perspective

August 22-26, 2017
Boardman-La Grande-Joseph, Oregon

Living this life of beauty and freedom, it's easy to expect most days to be perfect. An occasional rain storm, a day of high winds, too many people at a view point - all part of the gig. But prolonged nastiness, over weeks of time, in several locations, has not been our experience. Until now. It makes me cranky. I whine a lot. 

When it follows us to a place I have looked forward to for years, I am extremely disappointed. I could easily let it ruin the whole experience.

Our perfect clear skies that we so appreciated for the eclipse are gone on Tuesday morning, and the smoke stays with us throughout our 235 mile drive to Boardman, Oregon. The beauty of the Columbia Gorge, the huge river, the unique Dalles, are all blurred by the return of heavy smoke.

Boardman Marina and RV Park is another repeat stop for us, and a favorite for it's location on the Columbia River, and the huge green space at each FHU 50 amp site. 

Not caring about the view with all this grass to play on.

Space 21 is one of the best for size and view, but the sewer connection is too elevated for us to connect. Only an issue for a week's stay so we'd choose this site again.
Wednesday morning we get a short reprieve with blue skies greeting us as we pull out. La Grande Rendezvous RV Park is fine for an overnight. It's a cute little town, and we enjoy a late lunch at Side A Brewing in the old firehouse. The smoke finds us.

Hoppy Adjustment and Brown Out Oatmeal Brown Ale. Brew names are like car paint colors - beer is never just beer, and red is never just red :-))
Driving through Hells Canyon on Thursday is lovely. Following the Snake River through the forested mountain is beautiful as long as we look down. Since I'm driving downhill on the outside of the steep two-lane road in the steepest gorge in the United States I'm looking down anyway! Above us the blue sky is struggling to break through the brown.

If you want to see what I'm looking forward to, take a look at Laurel's posts from their visits to Joseph. Although I'm not expecting the lushness of their May visit, I'm excited to see the incredible mountains surrounding the quaint little town that other bloggers have shared as well. During our five days the mountains are barely visible as more than gray masses.

So we could shorten our stay from five nights to one, we could reroute out of the smoke - we have choices. Part of what makes this such a grand lifestyle is that freedom to change plans. 

Our next stop is to meet up in Idaho with Bill's best friend from high school, I don't want to cancel that. Joseph is still a really cute place with things to see, the lake is lovely and close by, we're already here. I want to see what we can see. We choose to stay and not reroute.

Am I still disappointed by the ugly skies? Of course. Am I letting it ruin the visit? I can't.

The smoke is not some personal attack on my happiness. It really isn't following us (that would be so creepy!). In fact, the smoke is just a by-product of a much worse scenario playing out miles away. Forests are being destroyed, people evacuated from their homes, animals losing their habitat and their lives, firefighters enduring horrible and dangerous conditions to battle the intense heat and hazardous terrain. Smoke is only one factor they're all threatened with.

At the same time, residents (some of them, our friends) in coastal Texas towns are facing epic flooding and destruction. Those who remain cannot escape. Rescue personnel risk their lives to save those trapped by rising water. Power could be out for weeks where the heat and humidity are miserable.

How can I possibly let some smoke (that we could choose to get away from) ruin our days here because it impacts my view?? Perspective is important.

Friday we make the short drive to Lake Wallowa. What it lacks in size - 3.7 miles by 3/4 mile - it makes up for in location. Surrounded by glacier-formed moraines at the south end of the Wallowa Valley, the lake is one of the most beautiful locations in all of eastern Oregon. The state park is very popular and very busy. Private RV parks, horseback-riding, tramway to the top of the mountain, burger and ice cream vendors, and bumper cars give the south side of the lake a summer-camp feel. Parking at the trailhead is full, and several hikers are loaded up with giant packs. Much of the Eagle Cap Wilderness is open and a favorite for backpackers. 

Muted views of beautiful Wallowa Lake
Hoping to avoid town and lake congestion on Saturday, we head northeast into the Wallawa-Whitman National Forest. No idea what to expect, but we're up for an adventure. 

We find a different world of golden hills and weathered ranches. Small stands of trees become thick forests. Wildlife and livestock keep us company along a very dusty dirt road that follows a resilient creek running through all of it. Not at all the "Joseph" of my expectations, and a delightful surprise. 

Down the dirt road, into the hills of gold.....

This 1915 beauty still stands tall.

This boys-club of all bucks crosses the road in front of us, moving fast across the field and up the hill.
Clearly these are cattle fences and not elk fences.
I can only imagine all these windows have seen.

A stoic Red Tailed Hawk keeps an eye on our approach.

Then takes flight.
The unique facial markings give this American Kestral the look of a warrior.
Hanging out with the locals.

Crow Creek

The forest fills in the golden hills, looking completely different from the previous 25 miles.

Delicate late-summer flowers soften the dry landscape.

The gold and green combine in waving prairie grasses along the creek.

We turn around at this old bunkhouse on the Crow Creek Ranch.
Returning on a forest service road, we climb above the national forest for a few miles.
Continuing to keep things in perspective, as the haze lingers and the temperatures rise, we make the best of our last two days in Joseph.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Three Years of Planning Comes Down to 70 Seconds of Incredible

August 17-22, 2017
Albany, Oregon

We definitely get all of the good, and none of the bad, for our total solar eclipse experience.

Hearing about all the expected traffic and crowds in the path of totality I am dreading the chaos and congestion. Instead there is no traffic on our drive to Albany, stores and eateries in town have no lines, and the RV park is quiet.

After we had to wait for check-in at our last stop because we arrived between 12 and 1, we have to laugh when we again wait for the office to open at Blue Ox RV Park because it's closed between 1 and 2 :-))  The park is well-maintained with asphalt roads and sites, and small dirt space in between. Our level site has FHUs with 30 amp under a tree that we're sure won't get satellite. But it locks on around the branches - more good!

Fluffy Dog's favorite spot during set up :-)
Friday we do laundry and clean the windows. Piper gets a much needed wax job.

Back in SoCal, our grandson Maximus turns one - already! He has the most infectious smile :-))

Such a happy, happy little boy.
Since the crowds don't materialize, we spend Saturday morning in the pastoral beauty of rural Oregon enjoying five of the ten covered bridges of Linn County.

Most bridge crews used hand tools in 1936. Prior to their being laid across the stream, the large chord timbers were shaped with hand adzes.

I love the beauty of the interiors.
Most Linn County bridges are built in the open truss design, but Hoffman's namesake used gothic style windows along the closed in sides.
Gilkey Bridge getting a face lift.

The only red bridge in Linn County (the others are all white), Shimanek is also the longest span.
Built in 1966, this is the fifth covered bridge at this location. The louvered windows are unique, but the 1891 version had a two-hole toilet built into the foundation!

Named for the land owner, John Joseph Hannah, in 1861, the Hannah Bridge crosses Thomas Creek.

With the more common cross pattern, this beautiful bridge has been featured in several commercials.

Thomas Creek 
Gentle ripples along the shore.

So shiny!

The Larwood Bridge is named for Willam Larwood who built a store and blacksmith shop here in the late 1880's, and ran the post office from 1893 to 1903.

Crossing the Crabtree Creek along a small wayside park.
An oddity in U. S. geography, this is the only place where a river (Roaring River) flows into a creek (Crabtree Creek). 

The riffles in the creek make music under the bridge.

Not quite roaring, but the river sounds wonderful.
Sun dapples in the clear shallows.
We finish the day with football, spend Sunday doing the same, and finally find the last pairs of eclipse glasses in town.

Monday is THE day!! The sky is completely clear and the weather is beautiful and warm. I made reservations three years ago, then again a year ago when the first ones were "lost", and I can't believe it's here!

Everybody's ready!
Pretty sweet to step out the front door with a cup of coffee and have front row seats to a phenomenal experience.
I didn't get any filters for photos, and we spend the first hour just watching the eclipse unfold (with special glasses in less than three minutes intervals of course). Our neighbors are all doing the same thing. As the sun darkens, and the shadow approaches, the temperature drops and the air feels different. 

And then we're in the shadow of totality!! It isn't something I can describe - we are both in awe of what we experience. What must the first people have thought of darkness coming and going so quickly?! Seeing stars in the darkened sky where a minute before it was

It is much darker than the cell phone camera shows.
As the shadow moves on we witness the "diamond ring" effect, and then watch as the eclipse undoes itself. The temps rise, the light returns to full strength, and too soon it is all behind us.

Several people pull out later, and we hear that the highways are congested in all directions out of the area. We spend the rest of our day relaxing and every few hours one of us say "That was amazing, incredible, unbelievable, mind-blowing!"

We have a longer-than-usual drive on Monday and the smoke is back. What a blessing that it waited :-)) The good continues as we have another traffic-free drive.

2024 another total eclipse will pass across the eastern part of the country. It's never too soon to start planning!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Don't Publish When You're Tired - You Forget Important Stuff!

August 12-16, 2017 AGAIN

I should know better. My brain doesn't work in optimum mode at night. I didn't include all this!

While we were playing at Mt St Helens, our precious first grandson was celebrating his second birthday in SoCal!

Ezra Michael with Daddy and Mommy.

He's getting so big!
We love you little boy.
The other reason we stopped in Kalama was to see our nephew Bobby, but he ended up having to go to California while we were there. Instead, we met him for dinner in Portland the evening he flew in. He's doing well, and it was great fun to get caught up with all he has going on.

Bobby and Bill
Finally, not as important as family, but we did make one other stop on our Columbia Gorge day that was pretty fun.

McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon, is a beautifully restored historic property. Starting life as a "model" poor farm in 1911, it housed up to 600 residents at a time, and closed it's doors in 1969. Substantial decay and vandalism nearly brought about its destruction in the 1980's, but it was saved by the McMenamin family and restoration began in 1990. Today the property includes a movie theater in the old power station, a working winery, golf course, hotel, restaurant and a wonderful collection of art made specifically for the location. 

In addition to a delicious lunch, we enjoyed wandering the grounds. It was definitely a perfect ending to a great day.

The impressive main building with 100 rooms, restaurant and gift shop.

Excellent vegetable curry.
Elegant but comfortable dining room.

Joe Cotter's murals and paintings capture history with a bit of whimsy.
I'm delighted by the lack of traffic and crowds in Albany! We're ready for the big event on Monday morning :-)))