A Trip to Oregon… and Back Again

Our 2014 trip to Oregon, we’ve now done it for three summers running, was a big one. Gone nearly two full months, we left in the Jeep and returned with the Jeep and an R-pod trailer. There were many highlights from our two months away, these are just some of them. Adventures listed, of course, in totally random order.

And, by the way, looking at the photos from our trip recently I was struck by how wonderful an experience like this is.  We love being together, love seeing new places, love the strange and random and cool and gorgeous and amazing sights along the way, love seeing the world and meeting new people.  We have the same adventurous and fun and silly spirit, my honey and I. This was an incredible adventure and a gift we were lucky to share with each other.  Life, ours, is stunningly beautiful.  Both the adventures on the road and also the adventures we have on a daily basis at home.  It’s all a miracle to me.  Deep and full and filled with so much light, beauty, and love.

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OK, OK… enough of me waxing on about life, etc.  Here are the details of the trip, as I said, in no particular order.

We love our jeep! Not one problem with it and it pulled like a champion! Man… what a great ride. What a beast. It averaged 30 miles per gallon going out and after we got the trailer we averaged somewhere between 14 or 15. Amazing.

Love LilyPod! It’s what we named the trailer. It has a picture of a frog lounging on a lily pad on the side of it so it seemed fitting to name her LilyPod. Lily for short. She’s an amazing rig and we couldn’t be happier with her.

7190 Miles travelled… whew… that’s a lot of miles.

13 States visited, a couple of them more than once, in order – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois

Drive to Oregon done over seven days. Six nights of hotels with dogs, lugging in luggage, and ice chests, and electronic equipment and cameras.  It was also filled with interesting sights and lovely countryside.

Not long after we got to Oregon, and after our camping trip to Davis where I did use a big camera, I decided I wasn’t going to use the big cameras anymore during the trip. I decided to use only my iPhone, try to be more in the moment and not behind the lens. It was a nice break, and I was still able to capture some pretty cool pics with the iPhone camera.

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We met people with Rpods at gas station near Kennewick, on our way to Oregon, who let us look inside their trailers and gave us some tips, including sway bar (which we are so glad we got!). We all talked to each other for a good half and hour or 45 minutes and we exchanged info with them.  Very nice people and a great experience.

K’s work computer bag fell out of the back of the Jeep at a gas station after we left Kennewick and we didn’t know it. Some good samaratin saw it happen and turned it in to the gas station attendant who searched the bag, found her number, and called her, thank goodness!

1 night spent at Mom’s before we got the trailer.

We had an 11:00 AM appointment to pick up the trailer the day after we arrived in Oregon. They gave us a tour, quickly showed us the mechanicals, helped to set the brake controller, and took me for a little test drive around the block with Jeep towing trailer before they unleashed us, rookies, on the world. We had a day and a half to get it all outfitted and ready for camping before we left for Davis Lake.  In retrospect it was all a bit rush rush, but it worked out OK.

Dry camped for three nights at Davis Lake. It was hot, but cold at night, and we loved every minute of it. The dogs adjusted to the trailer right away. We loved Lily immediately.

Davis Lake was a lot of fun, camping with my bro and Vicki and Mom and all the Hale kids and their families.  Once we were there and set up, we got to stop and be mellow and relax for the first time since leaving home.  Plus, as a bonus, it’s beautiful there.  Central Oregon is amazing.  And to me, it smells like vanilla.  Always this undertone of it in the air.

Inner tubing at Davis.  We bought float tubes and took them to Davis.  I went down the creek with K and Vicki and also with Mom.  We did it a couple of times.  Once K and V and I floated all the way down the creek and out into the Lake.  We had to paddle a lot there at the end and then walk back quite a ways, but it was a kick in the butt.  Fun times.

No fouling! Meaning, avert your gaze if you don’t want to hear this, we don’t poo in the trailer. It’s a steadfast rule. In England there are signs all around to remind people to clean up after their dogs. These signs have a dog and a pile of poo with a red circle crossed out and they say no fouling. This has always cracked me up, so we incorporated the saying for the trailer. No fouling. Period. It makes us laugh. And, as the person who hooks, unhooks, and is responsible for making sure all the waste, black and gray, gets cleaned out, I appreciate this rule.

Countless high fives. K and I love to high five. Who knows why. She kind of started it, and I once gave her a bad time about it, while chuckling of course, but we do it all the time. Any time any little thing goes well, or is fun, or is cool, we high five. I can’t even count the number of high fives we did during the trip. And that, my friends, deserves a ::: high five :::

Stopping at rest stops for lunch every day.  On the drive down the Pacific Coast and then east we would stop at rest stops or truck stops or pull outs on the side of the road, and make sandwiches for lunch every day.  It was very relaxing. We didn’t eat restaurant food at all, during travel days, except when we were in the wind delay in Wyoming and then for dinner the last two nights (we were just plain ready to be home, though we still made sandwiches in the trailer for lunch those days).  Being able to just pull over, make sandwiches, and relax for lunch was a fantastic bonus that having the trailer gave us.

My honey drove the trailer in Nebraska and did small 1 or 2 hour stints every day from there to home… So proud of her for driving! Driving the trailer, for novices, is/was intimidating. It’s a whole new ballgame to pull something that’s big, bulky, and weighs 3300 pounds. The whole driving experience is different, and it’s at tad scary. My honey was nervous about it so for the most part I drove. By the time we got home, having driven all those miles, I was feeling pretty darn comfortable, though still cautious, about pulling it.  But, after our stormy night at the Walmart in Laramie we decided were going to cut a day off our plans and try to make it home early.  Longer days driving meant I needed a break. I could do six or even seven hours by myself, with a break for lunch, but driving 8 or 9 hours a day… tiring. Thank goodness for her. She came through in a big way and despite being nervous about it, she drove like a champion.

Antennae television in LilyPod.  There are actual cable/satellite hookups on Lily you can use if you have hookups at the parks you stay at.  We actually had cable at a couple of RV parks, though we only really watched TV one night.  Something that’s totally funny though, kind of like finding strange radio stations when you travel, was turning on the antennae, when we didn’t have cable available at all, and seeing what we could get for channels.  Some places, nothing.  Others, strange off channels broadcasting weird stuff.  Kind of cool.  I actually found an episode of Wonder Woman once.  Caught the last half of it, then turned it off.  We didn’t really watch much TV this trip.  It’s more fun to just hang out, make dinner, be together, walk the pups, and read.  Which is what we did most nights.  But the antennae tv, kind of quirky, and cool.

Speaking of reading.  I did lots of it.  Loved it.  The Kindle, for traveling, is awesome.

Convoyed with Mom, the PodMother,  and her Rpod, to Davis lake and the beach.  It was so much fun communicating with walkie talkies back and forth.  PodMother, come in.  Yes, LilyPod?  We’re going to stop up ahead, does that work for you?  Yes, LilyPod, works for me.  We had so much fun with it.  And had so much fun camping with Mom both at Davis Lake and at the beach for a week.  She in her Rpod, figuring it out, us in ours doing the same.  It was great to have that shared experience with her.

Salem, OR for 21 days.  Between Davis and Seal Rock we were in Salem for just about three weeks.  During that time we mostly worked on getting stuff moved out of our big storage unit in Scappoose.  We rented a big ol’ truck, loaded it, took it to Mom’s and unloaded, sorted as we went, sold some stuff on Craigslist, re-boxed some of it, got the rest ready to sell in the big yard sale my Mom was going to have, took what we wanted to keep to a new storage unit we found in Salem, helped set up the sale and run the sale, and then helped load up and take what didn’t sell to the Goodwill.  Crazy.  It took us what seemed like days and days to get all of that done.  It was a lot of work, but worth it.  We really pared down what we have there.  It was cleansing.  And we’re now spending less than half of what we were before on storage.  Some day maybe we’ll get all of that here to Illinois.  I’d like that since a lot of it is books and records, stuff I just can’t get rid of.

Weenie roast with most of the sibs and aunts.  After the big yard sale at Mom’s place we had a weenie roast/s’more making session to celebrate a great sale (all proceeds going to the scholarship fund set up in my grandparents names by Mom and her siblings) and the fact that K and I are now legally married.  We keep saying, third times a charm and maybe this time it will take.  It was a long day, lots of sales, lots of moving stuff and such, but it was a great one.  It was fun, and the celebration at the end capped the day off nicely.  Also great to see the aunts (we missed you Barb!)

Lunch with Thomas.  We got to have lunch with K’s son while we were in Oregon.  He lived and worked in Japan for five years and then was in Portland the last year working at a law firm.  We haven’t been able to see him much, given all the distance, but getting to spend at least a little time with him was awesome. He was just about to leave for Austin, where he’s entering law school, so it was great we got to get together with him before he took off.  Austin isn’t really that far from where we are in Illinois, in the grand scheme, so we’re hoping we get to see him a bit more after he settles into law school.  His words to us were that first year law students don’t have time to do much other than go to school, study, and go to school.  We’ll see how it goes.  We’re just excited for him, this is a cool phase he’s entering.

Visit from Ann.  One of our friends from Illinois came for a visit.  K worked a lot of the time we were in Oregon so I got to be Ann’s Portland tour guide, with some help from our friend Vicki.  It was awesome showing her Portland and hanging out with her for a few days.  Good food, fun Portland sights, great laughs.  Fun times had by all.

Dinner with Maggie at her place and getting to meet her new woman, Colleen.  So great getting to spend time with them.  It was the one day our paths crossed with Maggie as she was in Sweden, visiting family and friends, all the rest of the time we were in the valley (that would be what locals call the Willamette Valley).  She’d just flown in the day before and was jet-lagged, but we managed to have a great meal and some wonderful conversation.   We so enjoyed the evening.

RV Service – Refrigerator fix.  You buy a new trailer, you have a few issues with it.  We were told everyone has something, ours had a refrigerator problem.  It started beeping and wouldn’t stop, as if the door was open, but it wasn’t.  We realized there was a lot of condensation inside.  We ended up driving it back to Salem from the beach so it could be repaired.  The issue… at the factory they hadn’t attached the drip line to the receptacle it was supposed to drain to which created all sorts of water inside and all kinds of condensation.  The condensation messed with the latch making it think it wasn’t fully engaged when it was, hence the beeping.  Easy fix and off we went.

Seal Rock RV Cove for 9 nights.  We had so much fun there, so much so we reserved two spots next summer for two weeks.  It was awesome.  Walks on the beach, great dinners made in concert with Mom, visits from Vicki, who stayed a few days, and from Maggie & Colleen who came over to see us for a day because one visit with them hadn’t been enough, whale watching, and some great relaxation time.  K worked from there (yeah, it’s cool she can work from our trailer at the beach) so there were early mornings (she worked Central Time) and early evenings to bed, but it was all pretty low key.  That part of the Oregon Coast, the central coast, is so mellow and not crowded at all.

Animals spotted at some point during the trip…  Whales, seals, sea lions, heron, bald eagles, pelicans, sea gulls, sea life (anemone, muscles, star fish, jelly fish, giant kelp), antelope, deer, turtle, cows, horses, llama, bison, prairie dogs.

Heceta Head Lighthouse.  The lighthouse wasn’t all that far from where we were staying so we went there and did the hike up to the lighthouse.  Great little walk and a fantastic view once we were up there.  The Oregon Coast is spectacular.

Cooking over fire, lots of s’mores.  We did a lot of cooking on this trip.  Grilling, yes, but also a crock pot meal while camping, awesome by the way, and numerous other things.  Here’s a little list… Crock pot chili, skewers, stir fry, hobo meals, skirt steak, steamed veggies, rice, corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, salad, edamame salad, cheesy potatoes, spaghetti, eggs and toast, and more.  We ate well.  It was great, and oh so tasty.  Oh, and my honey, every time we made s’mores, roasted a mallow or two after the s’more eating and called them her closers.  I loved that.

Harris Beach State Park – Brookings, OR (2 nights).  This place was great.  Beautiful.  The beach was amazing, the rock formations phenomenal, the campground totally great, and the weather was wonderful.  This state park actually has an ice cream truck that comes around nightly.  We didn’t partake, but how cool is that?  There were also good showers there, which is important when you’re basically living in your trailer for weeks at a time.  We liked it, and would recommend it highly.  There were also some really cool tent sites.  The night before we left we were sitting out by our fire and low and behold another Rpod comes driving by and they end up next to us.  We went out to walk the dogs and when we got back we discovered the people in the Rpod had left us a note asking us to come over and have a beer with them.  We didn’t, as it was late, but did do a lot of hey, hello, and waving to them on our way out in the morning.  We didn’t see a lot of Rpods on the trip and having one pull in and set up right next to us was a novelty.

Richardson Grove State Park, Redwoods, CA (1night).  What an amazing part of the coast.  This place was gorgeous and right in the midst of the Redwoods.  Dry camping, meaning no hookups, and totally cool.  We had a huge big daddy redwood right in our campsite.  It was an amazing place, all shadows and bits of filtered light.

Mountain of death – Cloverdale road, no trailers advised ( narrow, one Lane, steep up and down, bad road, scary!). Peed on the side of the road in Redwoods.  Yes, it’s all true.  We, for reasons unknown to us about the GPS and it not knowing we were pulling a trailer, went on a road we never should’ve been on.  It was one lane most of the way, very hilly, very steep grades (like 18%), very windy, blind corners, steep cliffs on the sides occasionally.  We started out on this road, which at that time was two lane with a large paved shoulder, and thought, this is not bad at all.  A bit windy, and bit hilly, but we can handle it.  Then we saw the sign, trailers not recommended.  We thought, well, there’s not really anywhere to turn around now, we are already on it, and this isn’t that bad.  What a mistake.  We were scared out of our wits for 50 miles.  Who knew.  It’s called Scaggs Springs Rd, and takes you from Cloverdale, CA, which is on 101, over the mountain (literally) to Stewart’s Point on Hwy 1.  The GPS said it was the fastest route.  Maybe if you’re on a motorcycle and like really hilly windy roads.  The only thing that saved us was that there was hardly any traffic on it.  No wonder, but still, it saved us.  We laughed (a bit hysterically) and helped each other through it.  Seriously folks, don’t try this at home.  And if you ever find yourselves there, don’t go on that road, even in a car.  A woman told us, after we got to our campground (Salt Point on Hwy 1), she was the ranger there, that she doesn’t even drive that road in her Prius.  ha ha ha! It was insane.  But, we survived to tell the tale.

Salt Point State Park, near the Ocean Cove General Store, Hwy 1, CA (1 night).  Great place as well.  No real beach, but we had a nice hike down to the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  Really cool topography, similar to Harris Beach (though that was a tad cooler), and pretty empty.  We showed up and found there were actually two campgrounds within the State Park.  It was a Monday so they told us to just drive around and find the one we wanted and take it.  We did.  Bit flat spot, the trailer was naturally leveled on it so we didn’t have to level it and stayed hooked up to the Jeep, no hookups so we just filled up the handy bucket my brother had made for us (It’s a food grade five gallon bucket with a hose spicket on it we can fill up at a campground water station.  Fill up, carry to our trailer, screw on a piece of cut off hose we have, put the cut off end into the clean water tank receptacle on the trailer, turn on the spicket, and empty the bucket full of water into the tank) so we could flush during the night.  A very nice, quiet, place.  Someone did end up coming to to the site next to us.  K talked to them… a little family, Mom Dad and two girls, camping in their Westfalia, and traveling up the coast.  They were out of work drama teachers.  Very cool people.

Speaking of the bucket… we bought paraphernalia for the trailer.  All sorts of doodads and gadgets and thing to make living it in, and working in it for K, more comfy.  It’s now pretty well outfitted and awesome.  From silicon muffin tins to sewage hookup equipment to hooks on the walls to the storage hammock to a menagerie of other “stuff”, Lily is now very well equipped and we are set to go.

Weston got stung by a bee on his foot in a parking lot at a Target in California.  We were on our way from Salt Point to San Jose to see K’s parents for few days.  We stopped at a Target right off the Interstate to use the restroom, make a sandwich, and let the dogs walk around for a few minutes.  I went in to use the facilities, came out, and there was K sitting on a curb with Riley right next to her and Weston half in her lap.  She was looking at me with a funny expression and waving me over.  I was sauntering, not really thinking much about it, when her waving me over got more frantic.  I got over there and she told me Weston had been stung by a bee on his foot and wouldn’t let her touch it or look at it.  He was in pain, not putting and weight on it so I picked him up and carried him to the trailer where he laid down next to me.  It subsided and he recovered, but it wasn’t fun at all there for a little while.  Especially for him, poor fella.

San Jose, CA (3 nights in the house).  We actually parked the trailer on the street in front of K’s sister’s place, covered the top of it with a tarp (it was under a tree that was dropping seed pods), and stayed inside K’s parent’s house.  We did laundry, got lots of great visiting in, relaxed for a couple of days not having to drive anywhere.  It was awesome.  It was a lovely time and the pups, who had never been there before, were champs and didn’t cause too much of a ruckus.

RV Service – Brake check & brake controller adjustment.  While we were in San Jose we took the trailer in again, to a place we’d found there, to have the brakes and brake controller checked.  Since the harrowing mountain of death we’d noticed the trailer brakes seemed to be grabbing a bit.  We were worried we’d done them in coming down that mountain, even though I was downshifting like a maniac on those hills, so we thought we’d best get them looked at.  The guy there, Dan was his name, was such a sweetie.  We wished, after we’d left there, that the place was here in Illinois, we’d definitely go there for service.  He was so nice to us, answering all of our novice questions, allaying our fears, and he took me for a test drive and reset the brake controller, which was set a tad too high.  That did the trick actually and we were well on our way again.  He gave us his card and said we could call him and they didn’t charge us anything since the brakes were still great on the trailer and there were no issues he really had to fix.  If you are ever in San Jose, California and need trailer service, go to Leale’s and ask for Dan.

RENO, NV, River’s Edge RV Park (1 night) The place is actually in Sparks, which is like a twin city to Reno.  The best thing about it was that it was on a river and there was an awesome walking path all along the river way.  We were able to take the pups out for a long time, which they needed after being in the car all day.  We set up our camp table and cooked on our camp stoves (which we actually did all the time we were away… we only used the stove top in the trailer to make coffee a couple of mornings).

ELKO, NV, Iron Horse RV Resort (1 night) – It’s supposed to be one of those upscale parks.  Pool, full hookups, laundry facilities, a club house room, etc., etc.  We used none of the amenities and really I think this was our least favorite park over all. It had no trees.  The spaces were wide, but open, there were picnic tables at each space, but again, all open.  We used the picnic table to set up our camp stoves to cook dinner, but that was about it.  Plus a couple across the way from us, in the residential area of the park, had a huge fight and was screaming a lot of the night.  It sounded like bad reality TV.  It was the most expensive and not what we’d hoped.

EVANSTON, WY, Phillips RV Trailer Park (1 night) – This place was a tad muddy, but the facilities were decent and the spaces were wide with a lot of mature trees.  We didn’t have people on either side of us initially and it was quiet there.  The shower facilities were also not bad so we took advantage of those.  It was cold there, in Wyoming.  Very cold.  Made for nice cool sleeping in the trailer.  We had to put on the heavier comforter, but that was OK with us.

Wind delay for four hours at the Flying J. Hung out in the Rpod, listened to the weather updates on the radio, ended up getting a late to go lunch at the Denny’s that we ate in the trailer, watched the big winds whip around outside and felt them rock the trailer, petted the pups.  It was actually kind of fun, and a great part of the adventure.

LARAMIE, WY, Walmart Super Center (1 night)  We had to do it.  We knew Walmart let trailers stay there for free so we had to try it at least once.  We actually liked it.  The weather sucked that night, it was stormy, but we bought water and put some in our fresh water tank to use overnight, and hunkered down.  It was really windy, rocking the trailer all night, and rainy, which was incredibly loud, but very cool.  In the morning we went in, bought cups of coffee and danish, picked up a couple of items we needed for the trailer, and then hit the road quickly, having never unhooked.

Weston sprained his leg jumping into or out of the bed or the dinette.  Poor guy.  He couldn’t get comfortable and wouldn’t put much pressure on the leg.  He’s sprained his leg before (he has long legs for a little dude which sometimes causes him problems) so we knew what was up.  It took him a couple of days, once of which we spoiled him and let him sit in our laps all day.  Whoever was the passenger held him so he could at least be a tad more comfortable.  He was miserable for a time, and is still recovering from it a bit.  It’s much better, as he can jump up on the bed or couch or chairs by himself, but you can tell he’s still hesitant.

As of Laramie the weather turned on us.  Every day there were predictions of severe weather, 60 mph winds, heavy rain, lightening, etc.  We didn’t want to mess with it and were tiring of it pretty quickly so we decided at that point to head home more faster than we’d planned by cutting a day out of our plans, which meant a lot more driving every day.  That combined with Weston’s injury that morning in Laramie and our travel tiredness, we did the unthinkable and stayed in hotels the last two nights.  Crazy, but true.  Our tiredness and the storms won out.  So in Kearney, NE (Microtel) and Coralville, IA (Best Western) we parked in the lots, locked up Lily, got to-go food from restaurants, and stayed in hotels.  Two months on the road, sleeping 43 nights out of the 52 we were gone (which includes the six nights driving out to Oregon before we had the trailer and a night at Mom’s before we picked it up) isn’t bad.  We enjoyed the hell out of it and though we were ready to be home we weren’t tired of Lily, not one bit.

All in all it was so great to see Kev, Mom, all the Hale kids, the K’s sister’s family, K’s parents, most of that set of sibs (no Con or Ken… and I’m making the sad face now), some of the aunts, some of the POD, and Thomas. Sad we didn’t get to see my ex work peeps, who feel more like family than ex-work peeps, the rest of the POD, and more family.  Our storage adventures consumed us this time around, but now that it’s done we won’t have to do it again, thank goodness!  Next year we hope to just enjoy our time, not work as hard, and see everyone we’d like to see.  After all, more hugs are always good.

One thing is always certain… we will be back!

The Way to Oregon – 2014 Edition

And they’re off…..

Woo Hoo!

Seems as though we’ve planned for this a long time.  The minute we decided to buy the trailer and put the down-payment on it we started planning.  That was a few months ago.  And now, here we are.  Time always always goes so much faster than you think it will.

Today we loaded up the Jeep just right so the pups had a really comfy area, grabbed our travel cups filled with coffee, fired up the Oregon 2014 playlist, and off we went.   First stop, Peoria, Illinois for a refill, of course.

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Our first day’s adventures found us entering Iowa, where it rained and rained.  It was nice.  I’m not kidding.  Much better with a little rain than 100 degree temps and high humidity.  Early summer in the Midwest is unpredictable.

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After we arrived in Mason City, Iowa, our first night’s stop, we went for a nice little walk along a river to stretch our legs, and the pups legs.  It’s our pattern; drive for 6 or 7 hours, get checked in to our room, find a place to walk, find food, sleep, repeat.

The sights today included deer in a field, corn fields, rolling hills, corn fields, windmills, corn fields, huge legos, and deer on the path we walked after we got here.  Very cool.

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Tomorrow we make our way to Chamberlain, South Dakota.  There will be more music, more singing at the top of our lungs into our thumbs, more laughing, more picture-taking, more fun, and more miles checked off on this crazy journey.

I can’t wait…

 

 

Jumping In

Some of you may have noticed a decreased number of posts in the last couple of weeks.  Or, to be clear, basically no posts in the last couple of weeks.  I finally remedied that today, with a 10 Word Review, but otherwise… nada, zip, zilch, zero.  I love Z words.  I have a great explanation and I’ll make it short, I was otherwise occupied.

It’s been cold in East Central Illinois.  Really cold.  We’ve had our share of snow this year, not to mention the whole polar vortex thing, which basically trapped us in our own home for three days.  We love our house, but being forced to stay home, not fun.  Neither of us like being told what to do, even by Mother Nature.  To remedy this situation we’d planned, to be honest it was long before our version of the Day After Tomorrow happened, a family vacation to the much more balmy Florida Keys.  Can we get a hallelujah?  I thick we can.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…

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… this is where I’ve been, and what I was doing while I wasn’t posting on the blog.  Everyone needs a vacation now and then and this was what mine looked like.

Sometimes you just have to let go, and jump in.

Missing People Just Plain Sucks

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’m sad.  I just finished watching a video about the School of Piano Technology in Vancouver, Washington.  And no, pianos themselves don’t make me sad, just in case you were wondering.  What just made me sad was missing my dad.

My relationship with my dad was… complicated.  My parents divorced when I was a young pup.  Knee high to a grasshopper.  My dad, who didn’t want it, didn’t handle it well.  My mom, for her part, wishes she would’ve done the whole thing differently, but we’re human, and we handle things the way we do.  Better or worse.  Life is messy, and so was this.

After the divorce my brother and I lived with Mom full-time.  Dad had visitation and Mom, who still thought he was a great guy, wanted us to have him in our lives.  She talked kindly and fondly of him and often encouraged us to call him.  Dad, who was a person filled with light and joy by nature, couldn’t handle the separation and his best defense was to ignore that it happened, and consequently, to ignore my brother and I.  Simply put it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than it was to actually be engaged with us on a part-time basis.  The whole situation was made more difficult by the fact that he remarried and after a few short years together they moved to Montana.  Being so far away just put further distance between us.  My dad had a great life there.  He and my step-mom had five children together and were happy.  It was good for them, for him.  But he was still my dad and though I loved him, and knew he loved me, he dropped the ball in the being a parent to my brother and I department.  He dropped it big time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

There were hardly any calls to us, and when we did talk to him it was because Mom had asked if we wanted to call him.  And when, finally, we were on the phone with him, after we’d made the call, he would cry, say he missed us so much, and ask how come we didn’t call more.  We were pre-teens, he was the grown up.  Who should have been responsible for keeping in touch?  Apparently, according to my dad, the pre-teens.  I think I only ever got one or two birthday cards from him.  He never wrote a letter.

Missing people just plain sucks.

When he first moved to Montana we didn’t see him for four years.  Not because Mom stopped us from going, but because Dad didn’t ask us to come.  I remember our first visit there, I was 12 when he moved and 16 when we went for the first time.  My brother and I went by train.  It was strange suddenly being with him, with his new family, and feeling outside of it all.  Feeling apart.  He tried to make us feel like part of the family, but he was a tad clumsy with those things.  I have memories from that visit all clouded by this feeling of us all being a bit uncomfortable.  The weird thing is that when we were with him we were his everything.  In person he was fantastic.  Showered us with attention, talked as if nothing was off, as if we hadn’t just spent four years not really communicating at all.  We were his light, when we were there with him.  I’m sure that then made it strange for my step-mom and for my younger siblings.  Suddenly he was all about us.  Wanting to introduce us around town, spend all his time with my brother and I.  He would say things to us like, take this to your mom, referring to our step-mom as our mom.  It didn’t feel right, to us or to her.  He wanted one big happy family when we were there.  Like I said, he was awkward with things like that.  Then, when we weren’t with him, when we were back in Oregon, it was as if all the lights shut off.  All communication once again stopped.  Like a switch.  A switch I wasn’t very good at understanding for a long long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

This happened every time we went to Montana to visit, or my dad and all came to Oregon, which wasn’t a lot.  After I was a bit older I drove out for my little sister’s high school graduation and then for my younger brother’s high school graduation.  Same thing.  Switch on.  Switch off.  It’s something K saw first hand a few times after we got together and she never understood it.  She always said it was so strange that he didn’t communicate at all with me and then when I was with him he couldn’t get enough of me, showered me with attention and affection.  Switch on…. switch off.  It was actually kind of nice to get her opinion about it.  All those years feeling that way, to then have her confirm how odd it was, was comforting.  Made me feel a little less off kilter where the Dad situation was concerned.

My brother and I handled this whole switch scenario very differently.  When we were younger my brother had Dad on a pedestal, way up high, something porcelain and delicate and beautiful and not to be disparaged or messed with.  Dad was the end all and be all to him.  For me that wasn’t the case.  I was angry.  I remember my brother and I having big yelling matches about Dad.  He defending him as I screamed about what an ass he was for not caring, for not talking, for not being there, for basically abandoning us.  I wrote Dad letters I didn’t send.  Made mixed tapes for Dad that, unfortunately, I think I did send.  Embarrassing, and yet not embarrassing.  I was a teenager who desperately wanted her father to love her.  To acknowledge me when he wasn’t right there looking at me.  To be my father, my dad, whether or not he was standing in the room with me.  Because honestly, I adored him too.  I wanted desperately to have his attention.  After we were adults, my brother and I did a swap in this regard.  Me, having come to grips with who Dad was as a person and who he would always be, and my brother having an experience with Dad in regards to my brother’s wife at the time that would make him so angry he didn’t see or speak to Dad for six years after.  Dad didn’t really do anything, but he didn’t stand up for my brother or his wife and my brother couldn’t make excuses for him anymore.  I think all the anger he hadn’t allowed himself to feel over the years came out because of this incident.  And I think the amount we love and adore someone informs the amount of anger we can feel for that same person.  He was bitter and enraged.  For a long time.  Just as I had been bitter and enraged for a long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Later, after we got older and Dad and his second family moved back to Oregon, it was really too late.  They lived not far from Mom, probably only 20 minutes or so, but I never thought of visiting him.  It wasn’t a vindictive thing, it was just that it didn’t occur to me.  He had made himself so absent in my life that he was absent in my thoughts.  By then I would see him every couple of years and that was about all.  I didn’t even think of seeing him.  Didn’t think of making that effort.  Strange.  It’s amazing how someone can be gone from your life for so long that they are no longer a part of the every day culture of it.  You think of them sometimes, and those thoughts and feelings are usually warm and tender and genuine, but during the course of a normal day they don’t even enter your mind.   It’s sad, but that’s what happened with Dad.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Several years ago now I got a call from one of my younger sisters.  She told me Dad had had back pain and had gone into the hospital.  Everyone always teased him about how he whined about his pain or an injury, or whatever.  This time he wasn’t whining.  He went into the hospital and 11 days later, having gotten out and been sent home on hospice, he died in that house 20 minutes from my mom’s place.  I was there.  During those last few days I spent time with him at the hospital, listening to him writhe in pain as the cancer that was attached to his spine grew so quickly it broke his back.  I was there telling stories from my childhood with him and our visits together over the years.  I asked him questions, he asked me questions.  I was there at their house, one that had never been mine, watching the stream of well wishers from their church who brought food and spoke so fondly of him.  I was there to talk to him about music, which was his life’s blood, and laugh with him about some silly thing or another.  I was there standing by his bedside with my brother when our dad apologized to us for not being the father he should have been.  I was there to forgive him and to tell him I loved him.  I was there when his breathing slowed and then stopped for the last time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot after watching the piano hospital video, which made me cry and cry.  I was thinking he was such a joy-filled, emotional man, and here I am, a joy-filled and emotional woman.  I’m blessed to have been his daughter.  He didn’t always do it well, being my dad I mean, but he did do some things right.  Most especially when I was with him.  In person he was awesome.  He was passionate and joyful and silly and fun and so warm.  He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known.  Honestly himself regardless of the situation.  He loved to laugh, and that laugh was so infectious anyone hearing it had to laugh right along with him.  He had music in his blood.  So talented and effortless, able to play pretty much any instrument, though he stuck with the pedal steel guitar because it was the hardest thing to play and he loved that about it.  I loved to listen to him play.  Loved it.  I loved watching his face when he was playing and singing.  I swear light shot out of him in all directions when he was sitting at that guitar.  Getting to see he and his band play together, live, was always awesome.  I loved his mis-matched outfits and his love of sweets and his gray hair and how when he walked places he moved fast.  He never moseyed.  He was blind, but that guy could move.  I remember watching him do single axle jumps while Ice skating and can picture him floating the river with us.  I can see him playing frisbee at my step-grandparent’s house, leaping in the air, and I remember fishing his glasses out of the river after he, my brother, and I went into the water when the raft ripped down the middle.  I love how he loved his coffee, with loads of sugar and cream, and how he was always the first to lend a hand when someone needed it.  I loved how he smiled and I loved his laugh.  I remember being a tiny girl visiting him one night at the gas station he worked at at that time, and how he walked over and bought us hot chocolates at this diner next door, and then lifted me up so I could clean someone’s windshield.  He made things an adventure.  I remember feeling like I was having an adventure almost every time I was with him.  Not many people do that, give that feeling.  He did.  It was a gift.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

Now, thinking about him, the all of him, I’m proud to be his daughter.  I had, long before he died, come to grips with who he was.  The guy who wasn’t the greatest of dads, yet was.  I’d wrapped my head around the fact that he was who he was, and that he would never change.  He wasn’t emotionally mature where my brother and I were concerned, but that was what it was, and it was OK.  I came to a place of accepting him for him and accepting and forgiving myself for putting him in the place I ended up putting him in my life, which was sort of on the side, just out of reach.  And I learned a great lesson from him.  I learned to be there for the people I love.  I learned that the hard way from him, but I learned it.  I think he’d be proud he taught me that lesson, even though I know he wasn’t proud of the way he taught me.  I’m also proud that he passed on his dorky sense of humor, his ability to be light and silly, and his love of all things coffee.  I’m grateful for those gifts, and for the gift of having had him in my life, even the little amount I did.  I’m grateful he gave me my younger siblings; my brother from our mother, and the younger five he had with my step-mom.  They are fantastic, and even though we don’t spend loads of time together, not nearly as much as I’d like, when we do it’s wonderful.   They are, simply, great people.   Each with a great smile.  I have a great smile too.  My smile came from both of my parents.  They both, Mom and Dad, have and had great ones.  Smiles from the inside.  Smiles that light the eyes.  It’s the thing most people notice about me, and it comes from them.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

It just does.

I miss Dad, and I love him, and sometimes, when the light is just right or my mood is, I see him in me.  Smiling.

One Month – 6475 Miles

We’ve been home now for a few days.  Getting home after being away for a month is a process.  Check the house, clean up the yard, re-set your air and take the long hose off the de-humidifier in the basement, spend significant time with the kids and the grand boys, do laundry, and settle back into our life.  All of which we’ve done, including re-organizing our garage and buying our second car, a scooter.

Life is beautiful.

The trip was fantastic this time.  We both kept commenting on how relaxed we were.  No house in Oregon to deal with, other than visiting the rentals, no running around like crazy people.  We made the conscious decision to spend most of our time at Mom’s place helping out on the farm and just being there, hanging out with her.  It was lovely.  Dinners on the patio, sleeping in the tent trailer she’d so nicely set up to be “our space” while we were there, helping her do some projects at the house, going to the movies with her and my bro, playing chuck-it with the pups under the walnut trees, and generally just being mellow.  We spent 13 days driving, in total, there and back which was also fun this time.  And we spent a few days at the beach with the kids and the grand boys who’d flown out so Mary could be in a wedding.  The time at the beach was also wonderful.  Sebastian’s first time seeing the ocean and walking on the beach.  Pure magic.  Every little thing a new and exciting adventure for him, and in turn for us, watching it through his experience.  We got to see some of our friends, and help one celebrate turning the big 5-0.  Some even came to visit us at the farm.  I got to spend time with the other six.  So great to see them all.  It’s not often all seven siblings get together.  I love them.

We didn’t see everyone we would’ve liked to, and we didn’t hit all of our favorite restaurants, but what we managed we loved.  Every single minute.  Somehow the time flies by and though a month was a long time to be away from here, it seems as though it’s never enough time there.  It’s amazing how a person can be ready to go home, but not want to leave all at the same time.

Without rambling on and on too much more I’m going to do what I did the last time we took a major road trip… I’m going to list the highlights.  Fun for me, and hopefully fun to read.  Here goes…

  • 6475 miles put on the rental car.  It had 7900 when we picked it up.  We almost doubled what it had.  Nice.
  • Animals spied… Big Horn Sheep, Coyote, Cows, Antelope, Sheep, Cranes, White Pelican, Turkey Vultures, Horses, Buffalo, and your regular dogs and cats.
  • The Boardman Plantation… 24,000 acres of Pacific Albus… wow.
  • Watching Sebastian collect rocks at the beach.
  • Music played on the road… sometimes loud with us singing along.
  • How gorgeous this country is, most particularly Colorado and Western Wyoming… wow.
  • The decision to take the roads less traveled and see places we wouldn’t normally see.  Hwy 20/26 is worth the drive people.  So is Colorado highway 114.  Just gorgeous.
  • Best coffee… Mud House in Springfield, MO and the Coffee Trader in Montrose, CO.
  • The surprising beauty of Northern Nebraska.
  • World’s Largest Fork, Springfield, MO.
  • Huge legs in Amarillo… nowhere to be found.  We looked, but apparently we looked in the wrong place.
  • Walking the fishing docks in old town Newport and hitting the aquarium with the kids, grand boys, and Thomas.  K spending time with both of her kids was a joy to behold.  Amazing what can happen when they both, the kids I mean, are finally living back in the U.S.
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX…. as expected, and not.  Used up spray cans everywhere, people spray painting them as we walked around the big dirt field they were in, big crowds, iconic, cool, strange, a tad zany, and worth it for the photographs.
  • Seeing friends and spending some time.
  • A fun and fine 5oth birthday party.
  • Cake.
  • Sleeping in the tent trailer while it rained.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Strange and beautiful and other worldly.
  • Signs on old bars, restaurants, gas stations, etc. on small highways = awesome.
  • Air conditioning in a car and hotel room when it’s hot as hell outside.
  • How great the dogs were during this trip.  They traveled so well.  The water bowl we were able to have for them in the car helped a lot, as did their comfy beds.
  • Realizing we both like motor lodges better than fancy hotels when traveling across country.  Fancy/expensive definitely isn’t always better.
  • Trailer shopping with Mom and Kev.  We ended up finding the Hood River model of the R-Pod Trailer  we will be purchasing next year.   Whoop!
  • Finally getting to visit Santa Fe, NM.
  • Being able to check off two more to-visit U.S. states on this trip….  New Mexico and Texas.  Had been to airports in Texas before, but I can’t count that as an actual visit to a state.  Leaving only Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Next road trip through the southern states perhaps?
  • Selling Dent, the Toyota Tacoma truck I’d had for 15 years.  Sad, but I was ready.  The sale afforded me the ability to buy a scooter here in Illinois.  Moving forward is a good thing.
  • Yelp.  I use it all the time when we travel to find funky coffee shops and restaurants for dinner.  It rocks.  I recommend it.
  • Spending the day with my siblings.  The seven of us rarely get together and it was wonderful hanging out with them for a drizzly day at the beach.  I’m lucky to have them and to be part of such a great group of peeps.
  • Deciding to not stop and sit in the saddle of one of the World’s Largest Jackalopes in Douglas, Wyoming.  We should have gone back and done it.  We did see it however.  It was big.
  • Deciding not to stop at Hell’s Half Acre because the road construction made it slightly difficult and we were only 40 miles from our destination for the night.  Next time.
  • Time spent alone with my honey.  We love being together, all the time.  It was wonderful getting to have yet another adventure with her.  Nothing like traveling with my best friend and the love of my life.
  • Laughing until we cried several times as we both attempted to take photographs from the car going 65 miles an hour.  Sometimes we got what we were after, many times we didn’t.  Either way we had fun.  Getting it was victory and celebrated, not getting it became a recurring joke.  We find fun in the smallest of things.
  • How many times two people can say, “this is beautiful, wow, look at that” in a one month period.
  • Wandering the Portland Saturday Market with our friend Vicki.  It was raining slightly on and off, but it was also loads of fun.  Plus, we bought soap.
  • Ruby Jewel Scoops Ah Joy sundae.  It is the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had and whenever I’m in Portland it’s a must have.
  • Pasta and dinner with Thomas at Piazza Italia in Portland.  My honey dreams of their lasagna.  It’s perfectly wonderful.  Plus the company of Thomas was so very cool.  What a great kid (sure, he’s 27, but you know… a kid is a kid) he is.  International Patent Law here he comes.
  • Sunshine and no humidity.  The weather was pretty much perfect while we were traveling.  Only too hot and humid a couple of days on our way back to the Midwest.
  • Being so relaxed.  It was awesome.
  • Love of friends and family we got to see, missing the family and friends we didn’t get to see.

It was a wonderful trip this year.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Really great.  So good we’re already planning our trip out next year.

Oregon Odyssey – Day Seven & Eight

Ah road trips, how I love them.  The sights, the experience, the music played along the way.  They are glorious things.

When I was a kid our family did road trips all the time.  It was sort of our thing.  We mostly stayed in Oregon for these, though we did venture out to Arizona once, exploring different parts of the state.  We always stayed in Mom and Pop motels, which don’t exist as much today.  I loved those.  One time we stayed in a motel with a pool shaped like an airplane.  Very cool.  There were always things to see, places to stop along the way, new adventures to be had.  I grew up taking road trips and they got into my blood.

Luckily I met someone who loves to road trip as much as I do.  When K was young her family hit the road every year from California to Oklahoma.  During our drive out this past week she called her parents to confirm that their main route was route 66.  There wasn’t an interstate the majority of the time her family was doing these trips so route 66 was the main route between Los Angeles and Oklahoma.  Awesome.  As we drove out this last week we basically followed what was the old route 66 highway.  Now not even commissioned as a highway, there are still signs along the way indicting where route 66 was and there are long stretches of road you can still drive.  Those stretches take you past, as we saw, old gas stations and motels and diners that have fallen into disrepair long ago, though there are still some establishments up and running today.  It’s a bygone era, but along that route the feel is still there in some places.  It’s pretty cool.

I digress though and will get back to it by saying that we both love a good road trip.  It’s why we’ve decided on this trip every year.  It serves two purposes… we get to drive back out to Oregon and see everyone we love who lives there and who we miss, and we get to have the experience of traveling different routes out with the pups.  It’s tiring, but oh so much fun.

We finally arrived, day seven, after starting in Burns and driving highway 20 through Bend and Sisters, then highway 22 to Salem and the farm.  It was nice to get here.  Another great thing about road trips is the getting to your destination and getting up the next morning not having to drive anywhere.  It’s a good feeling.

We spent yesterday, our first non-driving day, doing some chores like taking our Toyota Tacoma in for servicing so we can put it up for sale, and helping Mom work on the garage at the farm.  She’s wanted to clean it out, reorganize, and paint for some time so we cleared that puppy out yesterday and went in and got the paint for it.  Today, we paint.

The pups adore Mom and my brother, Kevin.  They were very happy to see them and they also love the farm.  What dog wouldn’t.  They’ve been here many times and they basically get to roam pretty free while they’re here.  They were exhausted last night when we went to bed.  It’s nice for them.

It’s so good to be here and we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family while we’re here.  We love this place and the people in it, and we loved the getting here as well.

Pretty soon we’re going to have to start planning our trip back out to Illinois… wonder which route we’ll decide to take this time?

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