Archive for the '2012' Category

Dec 23 2012

Same Old Same Old

Published by under 2012

In an effort to forestall the anticipated “you haven’t posted anything in a while” comments, let me just say that it’s because there has been nothing of note to write about. We left Jacob Lake on 10/15 and drove to Mesa where we spent a month. We visited with Mom and the rest of the family and otherwise did nothing we haven’t done before. We have been there so much that finding new things to do and write about is difficult.

A month later on 11/15 we began our annual migration to Denton, TX for the holidays. It took about a week to get here but we are in the same RV park we always stay in while in the area. Dayna and Chris have rented out their house and moved into a very nice luxury apartment about 20 miles away, but this park is still convenient for access to things we need to do while here. Like many larger cities, the Dallas area has a limited number of reasonably priced RV parks, and this place is a bargain.

Since our arrival we have kept reasonably busy with Dr. appointments, vehicle inspections, visits with the kids and preparing for Christmas. The only project I have taken on was the replacement of our shower hardware with a nice residential type setup to replace the cheap RV type original equipment. I’ve also been fighting with the repair of our water heater which was damaged when the truck wash guys sprayed the high pressure washer into the electronics compartment. After replacing just about every component without success, we finally decided to replace the entire unit. It turns out that our unit is 16 years old and that parts will probably not be available in a couple more years.

We will be spending Christmas at Jennings of course, as well as New Years Eve. Dianna’s cousin Carrie is coming to visit us on the 27th. She and Dianna will make a girls only overnight trip to San Antonio to see the River Walk Christmas decorations, and to visit the Alamo. Carrie will be here until the 1st of Jan, and we will leave for Arizona on the 2nd.

Happy Holidays to all.

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Oct 11 2012

From the Desert to the Pines

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We left Tulelake on the first of October and moved south to Fernley, NV for 3 nights. It is a small town east of Reno. It was still fairly warm there so we stayed in a nice RV park that offered 50% discounts to members of one of the RV clubs we belong to. While there we drove to Virginia City to play tourist.

Virginia City was the site of the Comstock silver discovery, and one of the richest deposits of silver ever found. It is typical of those mining towns that grew from nothing to 30,000 people almost overnight. When the silver played out around 1900, the town fell into disrepair as almost no one lived or visited there any more. That all changed when the TV show Bonanza became popular. It triggered a tourist explosion that was parlayed into a long term tourist destination that lasts to this day. The town has all the usual shops and historic buildings. We took a short narrated train ride that provided a lot of the history of the town, the mines and the people. All in all, Virginia City was one of the better Old West type tourist destinations we have visited.

From Fernley we headed south through Nevada, stopping overnight just off the highway south of Tonopah one night, and continuing on to Las Vegas. We spent just one night at Sam’s Town RV park. We drove the strip looking to see if there were any new hotels we had not seen, but eventually just went to the Venetian where we walked along the canal and watched the gondoliers. I guess times have been tough in Las Vegas because there is not a lot of new construction.

From Las Vegas we headed north and east through St. George and Hurricane Utah, then east toward Jacob Lake, AZ. We found a very nice spot in the forest about 3 miles east of Jacob Lake, and a mile off the highway on a forest road. We are in a large clearing with pine trees all around and a beautiful view out our back window. We are relying on our solar panels and generator for power, and have plenty of water for several days. Although our satellite provides both TV and internet access, we also have a good Verizon 3G signal that is faster than our satellite for internet.

In addition to the nice location and cooler weather, the primary draw of this location is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We drove the 40 miles down to the Canyon on Monday the 8th, and drove to Cape Royal and Point Imperial vista points. I greatly prefer the views and ambience of the North Rim to the South Rim. The canyon seems more spectaular and there are so many fewer people.

We returned to the Canyon last evening to have dinner at the Grand Canyon Lodge. We were seated at the window and had incredible views of the canyon in the hour before the sun set as we ate. After our meal we walked out to Bright Angel Point where we watched the sunset. It was a special evening. We considered it our 44th Anniversary dinner, and we also wanted to remember Dianna’s Mom on what would have been her 90th birthday.

The drive back to our spot in the forest was slow after dark. We must have seen over 100 deer along the highway, most of whom had no idea when it was safe to cross the road.

On the 15th of October, everything except for the visitor center closes for the season. The visitor center remains open until snow closes the road south of Jacob Lake, something that could happen at any time. The weather here has been very nice up till today. The highs have been in the upper 60′s to lower 70′s, and the overnight lows have been around freezing. Today rain moved in so we will not be doing much until it leaves the area tomorrow night. We are at 7,500 feet and don’t expect anything more than a chance of snow flurries, but at the higher elevations they might get a dusting or some accumulation. We certainly found cooler weather! Chances are we will move further south on Saturday.

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Sep 30 2012

A Week in Tulelake

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The time has come to start our southward migration. Although we could have stayed longer in Sutherlin, we decided to slowly start moving. Our first stop was in Redding where we had a minor adjustment made to the custom motorcycle seat we had made there a month ago. On the way down past Shasta Lake we came upon a forest fire that had just started. Already huge trees were ablaze right along the highway. They had already closed the northbound lanes of the interstate, but we managed to get through on the southbound lanes with no problem. It was as close to a forest fire as we ever want to be.

Our appointment was for Monday morning but we arrived Friday afternoon and spent a couple nights in a nice RV park just north of town. The weather was so different just 200 miles from where we left. The highs in Sutherlin were in the 70′s and it was still over 90 in Redding. We quickly decided we did not want to move further south yet, so after the seat was adjusted on Monday morning, we headed for Tulelake, CA.

Tulelake is a tiny farming community in the Klamath Valley, just 4 miles south of the Oregon border. It gets its name from Tule Lake, an ancient shallow lake that was mostly drained in the early 1900′s by the Bureau of Reclamation and turned into rich farmland. This huge, shallow, marshy lake was a major stop on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds, and they reduced it to approximately one sixth of its original size. Steps were subsequently taken to accommodate the birds, and there are now several wildlife sanctuaries in the valley. They have even worked out a beneficial system where various fields are flooded periodically to rejuvenate them, and the farmers in turn grow grains in such a way as to provide food for the birds.

There really are a lot of birds on the lake. They estimate that about 250,000 ducks are in residence at the moment, but on an annual basis over 2,000,000 migrating geese, ducks and others call this area home for part of each year. It is interesting to see how it has all worked out to the benefit of the farmers and the birds. We visited the Visitor Center at the Wildlife Refuge, and hiked the nature trail through the marshes as well as the trail up Sheepy Ridge to the observation hut that was built by the CCC in the 30′s.

The other major thing of interest in the area is Lava Beds National Monument. We first visited here about 35 years ago. It is a major volcanic area with much to see and do. We visited splatter cones, vents, lava flows, and the most interesting features, lava tubes. There are dozens of lava tubes open to explore. Some of them are over 3,000 feet long. You have to take your own lights and be willing to walk, duck walk, or crawl on hands and knees to get through some of them, but they are interesting and fun to explore. While they have not changed in 35 years, our stamina certainly has. Duck walking is not nearly as easy as it was back then. Still, we had fun exploring.

We also visited a separate area of the monument that used to be an island in the center of Tule Lake. It has one of the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the country. It was apparently used by some very ancient people as many of the glyphs are thousands of years old. There are approximately 5,000 drawings along a quarter mile band where they visited the cliff face in their canoes.

The other thing of interest in Lava Beds is the history of the Modoc Wars. The Modoc were one of the last Native American groups to be rounded up and forcibly moved off their ancestral homelands. However, they did not go without a fight. The last battles were fought in an area of the lava beds named Captain Jack’s Stronghold. The volcanic formations provided an almost impenetrable fortress for the Modoc to hold off the soldiers. They were captured only after they left the stronghold, and they were relocated to Oklahoma.

We have been very busy this past week, but it is time to move on. We have been staying at the Butte Valley Fairgrounds RV park in Tulelake, which has been a very laid back and pretty place to stay. Tomorrow we plan to move south toward Nevada, but not very quickly. It’s still way to hot further south.

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Sep 14 2012

Some Long Range Plans

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People often ask us, of all the places we have been, what area have we enjoyed the most.  This area has to be close to the top of the list. Sutherlin, OR is a small town of about 7,000 and Roseburg, which is only 10 miles away, has a little over 20,000.  Roseburg has everything we need including Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Joanne’s and every other chain you can name.  Even more importantly, it has a major VA medical center.

The weather in the area is as ideal as any place we have been and there is so much beauty around us to see.  There are many lakes and rivers nearby, the beautiful Oregon coast is only 60 miles away, there are countless miles of scenic and well maintained roads for motorcycle riding, and the weather is temperate year round. Even the annual rainfall is less here than in other, wetter parts of Oregon to the north.

We have often mentioned that we belong to the Escapees RV Club.  They are headquarted in Livingston, Texas and cater to full time RV’ers.  The club was started by a couple who were full timers themselves. They saw a need for an organization to provide services to people like themselves.  One of the club’s services we use is their mail forwarding service, but we also take advantage of some of the other benefits as well.  They own and operate eight RV parks across the southern half of the US.  These RV parks are always nice and very reasonably priced for members. We have stayed in many of them.

During the early years of the club they also started several RV Park Co-ops.  These were RV parks where the lots were “sold” to individuals.  They were chartered much like condominiums in that the park is owned by the lot owners.  Each park has a board of directors and makes their own rules to operate the park.  The original idea behind the co-ops was to provide an opportunity for a “home base” for RV’ers who would stay on their lot for a few months at a time, and put their lot in a rental pool for use by other Escapee members when they were off travelling somewhere else.

It is these rental pool lots that we have stayed in when we have visited in places like The Ranch near Carlsbad, NM, the Jojoba Hills park near Temecula, CA, Park Sierra near Fresno, CA and here at Timber Valley in Sutherlin.  The lot owners are off travelling somewhere and we stay on their lots at a very reasonable price.

There are 11 co-op parks in the Escapees system.  They are located from Florida to Washington state.  Each park has a buy in fee and an annual maintenance fee.  The buy in fees range from $2,700 to over $30,000 depending on the cost to purchase the land and develop the park.  Most of the parks are $10,000 or less.  The annual maintenance fees also range from a few hundred to as much as $3500 in one park, with most being in the $1200 or less range.  (Actually, Jojoba Hills near Temecula, where we stayed early this year, is the most expensive one.  Its buy in and maintenance is easily twice as expensive as any of the others and skews the averages.)

When owners put their lots in the rental pool, they receive a portion of the rental income as an offset against their annual maintenance.  Each park has its own formula, but owners who don’t spend much time in their site often have a large portion of their annual maintenance cost paid for.

The most unique aspect of the Escapees co-op system is that you must sell your lot for what you paid for it, plus any assessments for infrastructure. Some parks have also added a small inflation adjustment over the years. Regardless, this approach keeps the cost very low.  It also explains why there is a waiting list for almost every co-op.  Some parks have waiting lists of over 10 years.  The waiting list here at Sutherlin is 2 to 4 years.

Owning a lot in a park like this makes good economic sense.   You are essentially guaranteed your purchase price back when you decide to give up your lot, and the living expenses while using the lot are very low.  People who live here year round, and there are quite a few who do, pay only their annual maintenance fee, electricity and propane.  That rarely exceeds $250 per month.  There are not many places you can live that inexpensively. Since this park does not add an inflation figure you do lose some value if inflation is high, but even with that the net cost is remarkably low.

If you haven’t figured out by now, we have put our name on the waiting list here in Sutherlin.  While we would not want to spend the entire year here, it is a wonderful place to spend some of it.  As time goes on we find we like to stay put for longer periods of time.  Spending our winters in Arizona near family is something we both enjoy, and spending holidays with our kids is also important to us.  And, as I said, there are still many places around the country that we want to visit. How long we actually will stay in Sutherlin in the future is unknown, especially since it will still be a while before we get our lot. Much can change in the meantime.

We’ve talked at length about where, when and if we might want to eventually settle down. At this point we have no plans to do so. When it happens, we think it will be near one of our kids, but we don’t want to live where either of them lives right now.  We enjoy being able to spend a month or so with them at times, but North Texas is too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and has tornadoes in the spring.  Chattanooga is also too hot, cold and humid much of the year.  When health issues force us to make a change, we will deal with it.  But in the meantime, we plan to continue our vagabonding ways.

Here is a link to the park’s web site: Timber Valley

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Sep 12 2012

Columbia Gorge

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Monday we made a trip north to Vancouver, WA. It is located just across the Columbia River from Portland and is about 175 miles from Sutherlin where we are staying. Dianna’s Jr. Hi. girlfriend, Sue Spink, lives there. We stopped by to visit her on our way back from Alaska in 2007. Sue invited us to come up and spend the night so she could show us around.

From Sutherlin we traveled north on I-5 through the Calapooia Mountains that run East and West between the Cascades and the Coastal Range from The Umpqua River to the beginning of the Willamette Valley at Eugene, OR. The part of Oregon from Grants Pass north to Eugene is all mountainous and very beautiful, but the Willamette Valley is just a wide flat agricultural plain, much like the Central Valley of California. Nearing the Columbia River just south of Portland the terrain changes somewhat. It’s mostly hilly and forested again. The lava flows from ancient volcanoes and the action of the Columbia River have sculpted the area into an interesting and scenic place to see.

Monday afternoon we spent a lot of time visiting before Sue took us to Fort Vancouver on the banks of the Columbia. There is a lot of history there involving the land claims between the US and Canada when the area was first settled. Unfortunately we arrived too late for the visitor center, but it was fun just looking around. We too the opportunity to introduce Sue to geocaching. We struck out on several caches that had apparently been muggled, but we finally found one attached to the bleachers at a little league field. It was the tiniest cache we have ever seen. It was about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch long. It was not a micro — it was a nano!

We then all had dinner on the patio of a Mexican restaurant on the banks of the river. However, we had our desert first. Like in most of Oregon, blackberries were growing wild everywhere. We took a walk down the beach and found an area with tons of ripe, sweet berries. I do like blackberries! Monday evening I watched football while Dianna and Sue did a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

Tuesday we got an early start for our tour of the Columbia Gorge. We traveled up the gorge on our 2007 trip but were unable to stop and see the sights because our rig was too big to fit in any of the parking areas. Our first stop was at Vista House where we had a magnificent view.

We then visited 3 different falls. The first two, Latourell and Wahkeena Falls were really nice, but the best was Multnomah. It is the highest falls in Oregon, and the 5th or 6th tallest in the country at 620 feet.

Latourell Falls

Sue standing in front of Wahkenna Falls

The visitor center and restaurant at Multnomah Falls. We ate in the view room and had an excellent view of the falls.

Dianna and Sue walking toward Multnomah Falls

The lower falls and the walking bridge above.

Upper Multnomah Falls

Proof we were there

After leaving Multnomah Falls we continued about 12 miles upriver where we crossed over to Washington and returned to Vancouver. We said goodbye to Sue and thanked her for a nice visit before returning to our temporary home in Sutherlin. It was a fun trip.

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Sep 02 2012

Our Motor Boat

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In response to our post about Lakes and Rivers, Daryl said he saw a motor in our future.  He was right.

I checked Craig’s list for several days, looking for a used trolling motor.  Most were too small, too old, or not set up for stern mounting.  One showed up on the list last weekend in Medford, about 100 miles south of us.  It was just what we were looking for so I made the trip down and back on the scooter.  I’m sure it looked funny with the motor lashed on to the back.  It stuck straight out, not down, but still it had to get a laugh or two from other motorists.

It turned out that the motor was about 3 years old but had never even been in the water.  The guy I bought it from had taken it in payment for money he was owed.  I only paid about 1/3 of what a new one would have cost.

Rather than purchase the motor mounting kit for our boat from Sea Eagle, I made my own after studying their design.  It cost about $20 instead of well over $100, and it looks basically identical.  I also had to purchase a battery.  While I would love to have picked up an AGM battery, which does not off gas and can be stored just about anywhere, I could not justify the cost.  I ended up with a regular Group 24 deep cycle trolling battery from Costco.

We tried out the setup on Wednesday.  The boat fits in the trunk of the car and we can set it up or take it down in about 15 minutes.  Out on the lake the motor pushes us along at 4-5 miles per hour at half throttle.  It appears that the battery would last about 3 hours or so at that speed.  That’s plenty.  I tried it wide open for a bit.  We probably moved along at 8-10 miles per hour, but the battery would not last more than an hour at that speed..   We motored from one end of the little lake near us to the other and back, exploring each cove and beaching the boat for a while in one nicely shaded spot.

The nice thing about our setup is that we can still paddle when we want to.  We did some paddling, especially when we got into some shallow areas, but when we got tired or when we turned into a headwind, it was really nice to just twist the throttle and let the scenery slide by.  I think we’re going to enjoy it.

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Aug 26 2012

A Quick Tour of the Oregon Coast

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Yesterday we took a motorcycle ride to the Oregon Coast.  We went with one other rider who lives here in the park and loves to ride.  He has made the trip many times.  We followed the Umpqua River all the way to the coast, about 60 miles away.  We took a side trip to Loon Lake where we had lunch on the patio overlooking the lake, then stopped again to watch elk wandering about in a meadow.

We arrived in Reedsport and turned south on highway 101 to Winchester Bay where we again took a side trip out to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  This area has one of the largest coastal sand dune areas in the country, and the place was crawling with ATV’s.  It was interesting to see and it looks like it gets lots of use in the summer time.

We continued south to Coos Bay where we stopped for blackberry pie and coffee, then on to Coquille where we turned east and rode back through the coastal mountains to Roseburg and back home again.  The total trip was almost exactly 200 miles.   This was our first trip with the new seat, and it worked great for me.  Dianna is thinking she might like to have a minor adjustment to the side of the seat, but we’re going to wait until we are past the break in period before we do anything.

We’ll probably make another trip or two to the coast while we are here.  We would like to explore a little more on our own, and take a few photos.  There was a lighthouse we would like to visit and many other things that we would like to check out.

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