The Penalty Box

Randy’s bladder has us in the penalty box. We were suppose to be on a road trip this month but are back in Boise for Randy’s cancer treatments. Even though we enjoyed living in Boise for many years, we don’t really want to be here so it feels like we are in the penalty box.

Randy marked the half way point in his first treatment cycle today. His treatments are interesting. They insert tuberculosis in saline into his bladder with a catheter. He keeps the fluid in for 2 hours and then voids it in the normal way. Side effects are generally flu like symptoms with a very slight chance of getting tuberculosis. There are some minor precautions to take so that I don’t get tuberculosis.

Overall he has done well with no side effects except a slight headache. His cancer was found very early so he doesn’t feel sick. Life is pretty normal except we are in our penalty box.

fullsizeoutput_3de2As we needed to stay home this afternoon for Randy to flush out his system by drinking lots of water, we took advantage of the hot weather to shampoo our carpets. It was nice that everything dried out quickly and we could turn on both air-conditioners!

As always, we are very glad to spend time with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson while in Boise.

fullsizeoutput_3dcaWe have been able to take Archer to the zoo, Chuck-E-Cheese and the playground. No telling what else we’ll experience with him this summer so that is a benefit.

We are spending time with our friends and that is definitely a benefit.

I’ve been able to connect with several of my teacher friends who are usually challenging to schedule when we are here in the spring and fall so that is a benefit.

We are grateful for our church family and friends everywhere who have been supportive with prayers and good wishes as we go through this process. We feel that benefit.

So we are in the penalty box – but a penalty box with benefits.


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Water Falling

We have had lots of experience with water falling over the past month! Like many places, Oregon has had even more than its normal, generous annual rainfall. We dodged raindrops most of our first weeks here.  The weather has been better lately and we’ve been able to get out more.

The water falling makes everything green, green and more green – with some color for good measure!  Rhododendrons are prolific in the area and have been beautiful.

P1100865These pictures are from Shore Acres State Park, once a private estate.   The grounds are now available for strolling and special events.

fullsizeoutput_3d51At our site, the salmonberries behind us have grown several feet in the past month. If we were here another month, the back end of our trailer might disappear!


Our bikes, covered and unused because of the rain, have sprouted their own berry shoot!


We have enjoyed hiking through old growth forests that are moss and fern laden.



Even dead trees grow again in an old growth forest!


Water falling means muddy trails.  We tried to avoid it, but Elko didn’t bother!

Of course all the water falling from the sky made for spectacular waterfalls!  We went on two hikes to see some remote falls. The first hike took us to Golden Falls and Silver Falls.P1100814

Golden Falls


Looking down from Golden Falls


Silver Falls

fullsizeoutput_3ceaEven though Oregon State Parks are generally superb, these restrooms at the Golden and Silver Falls Trailhead were the worst we have ever seen! I thought they might be from a third world prison and Randy said they were worse than the restrooms he saw in India. The area is remote but sheesh!

fullsizeoutput_3d32The second remote hike was the Sweet Creek Trail with eleven waterfalls in 1.1 miles.  This was one of the best hikes we’ve ever been on for its sheer beauty.


fullsizeoutput_3d53At the Sweet Creek Falls viewpoint I asked Randy to take the picture because he was in the corner nearest the waterfall. He climbed the fence to get even closer.    I don’t usually get nervous when he does things like that because he does things like that all the time.   However, this time I was very nervous because the rocks were mossy and wet.  I hadn’t wanted the picture that badly!


Randy’s Sweet Creek Falls photograph

fullsizeoutput_3d50As we finish out our month volunteering near the Oregon coast, we have learned we enjoy cleaning yurts and will look to do it again in future volunteer gigs.  We weren’t really “on the coast” so we had to specifically drive there if we wanted to go to the ocean. It was always worth it!



Oregon’s rugged coast.  A sea lion colony is in front of the largest rocks.


A closer look at the sea lions.  We’ve enjoyed the wildlife.

fullsizeoutput_3d56The human wildlife has arrived in the area for the Memorial Day Weekend!   There haven’t been any RVs around this lake until the last few days.  The sand vehicles run at all hours of the day and night.  People seem to be having fun!

fullsizeoutput_3cf2During this past week we celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary and our third anniversary of living as full time RVers!


Remember the pesky bird foe from the last blog post – the Steller’s Jay?   –  We got him!

Next foe up is Randy’s traitorous bladder.  God willing, we’ll get it too.  Treatments begin next week in Boise.

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Friends and Foes

First the friends…..


When we came to the Oregon Coast we knew we’d be seeing our friend Beth again. We catch up with each other frequently on the road. We saw Beth at her volunteer site at Beverly Beach State Park and met her guy, Art.

fullsizeoutput_3cfaWe’ve been able to see Beth a few more times, including when she and her friend Kathy came by our place at Umpqua Lighthouse State park.

We also met some new friends here at our park. Sharon and Stu lived in Boise for many years and are new full timers. Sharon made a point of speaking to me because of our Ada County Idaho license plates.

fullsizeoutput_3cc2Boise friends take a close look – some of you probably know Sharon and Stu. It was AMAZING how many times our lives might have intersected in Boise but didn’t. We lived in the same part of town. Their daughter went to a school I taught in. Sharon was a nursing professor at Boise State when Natasha was in the nursing program. Their girls went to the same high school as our daughter. We know some of the same people.

Funnier still is that they are annual lighthouse keepers at the Dungeness  Lighthouse I wrote about a few weeks ago in the blogpost The Spit, Slobber and Slime. They remember meeting our friends Mark and Teri on the spit in early March. It was so enjoyable to meet Sharon and Stu and compare lives over several evenings.   Hopefully we’ll have chances to catch up with them again on the road as well.

And now for the foes…..

Stellar’s Jays are common here. They are beautiful but seem to be ornery. They are never around when I have the camera but are always flitting about when I am without it. I am on a campaign to get a good picture before we leave, but so far the birds are winning. Devious foes….


Randy’s Samsung takes better pictures than my iPhone, but still not as sharp as the camera!


Slugs don’t do anything to bother me except exist.  Foe enough….


Not sure why my dad calls my mom “newt” as an endearment….

Randy spotted this Rough-Skinned Newt along our lake trail, a foe to humans and animals alike. These newt exude a strong toxin from their skin that acts as a warning to other animals. Touching one of these newts can cause skin irritation and even death if one is ingested.  Although I am not the least bit concerned I  will ingest one, I’m still not interested in tangling with this foe!

fullsizeoutput_3caa We went to the Darlingtonia Wayside, the only Oregon State Park dedicated to protecting a plant species. This botanical preserve is set aside for observing the carnivorous plant, darlingtonia californica. It is a foe to insects (and not humans) so we felt comfortable walking the boardwalk amongst the carnivores.


Darlingtonia californica are 2-3 feet tall.

These plants feed by attracting the insect prey with blooms and confusing them in a maze of transparent areas. The insect falls, is trapped, digested and absorbed.  Darlingtonia, also called Cobra Lilly and Cobra Orchid, live in bogs in northern California and southwestern Oregon.


We have passed the halfway point in our month on the Oregon coast. Hopefully we’ll meet more friends, see no new foes, and finally get a good photo of those pesky birds.

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Places That Matter

As we meet people curious about our lifestyle, we are often asked “Where is your favorite place?”  There are too many variables for that question to have a simple answer. We have been blessed to see wonderful places reflecting geology, history, science and personal achievement. But I do have a very short list of “places that matter,” those I wish everyone could visit because of the impact they had on my soul.

wall pictureThe place that may always top my list of “places that matter” is Manzanar, the WWII Japanese Internment Camp Historic Site near Lone Pine, California. I wrote about it in the Highs and Lows blog post from November, 2014. It is interesting that my write up on Manzanar was really quite brief given the profound way that I remember it.

P1020221Another “place that matters” by my definition was Little Big Horn Battlefield. I wrote about our visit there in Montana Days Off – Week 2 from September, 2015. Seeing grave markers at Last Stand Hill and then scattered in pairs across the vast battlefield was sobering.

fullsizeoutput_3d17This week we visited another “place that matters.” We traveled to Bandon, to the Washed Ashore art gallery and workshop. The organization’s mission is to build and exhibit art to educate about plastic pollution in our oceans.


These volunteers are “regulars.”

Since 2010, more than 10,000 volunteers have cleaned 300 miles of Pacific coast beaches, collecting more than 38,000 pounds of petroleum based debris, generally plastic. Ninety five percent of the debris was used to make more than 60 sculptures.



The clear plastic water bottles with the blue rings are from the Beijing Olympics.


fullsizeoutput_3d0dIt was immensely sad that so much recognizable garbage ends up in our oceans. It was also inspiring that one woman, Angela Pozzi, concerned about the beaches near her hometown of Bandon, Oregon started this mission of awareness to change individual habits.


Jelly fish made pretty much entirely of plastic water bottles….

P1100757A few of the sculptures are on display at the exhibition hall in Bandon. Others are on display throughout the country. Right now they are in Ames Iowa, Tacoma Washington, Washington DC and Richmond Virginia. Their website at gives current information.  I encourage you to visit in Bandon, or see the exhibits around the country if you ever have the chance.

fullsizeoutput_3d15At the Washed Ashore exhibit hall I learned about 28,000 plastic ducks, turtles, frogs and beavers that were lost at sea in 1992. In the intervening years they have been found all over the world giving scientists valuable information about currents and the connectedness of our oceans.


fullsizeoutput_3d14The book about the toys and their movement, Moby Duck ,will be on my summer reading list!  There was also an NPR Interview with the author, Donovan Hohn, if you are interested…. but not THAT interested!

I appreciate seeing theses “places that matter.”  I just hope good will come from each sad tale.

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Our Namesake Lighthouse

fullsizeoutput_3ccaHaceta Head Lighthouse is the iconic Oregon coast photo-op. We have visited Haceta Head before so we were content this time to see it from the viewpoint. When we did, we heard quite the commotion below us! The sea lions who chose not to venture into the commercial cave just down the road (Sea Lion Caves) were having a grand time.


We could hear them and smell them – even from this distance!


fullsizeoutput_3cc9Haceta Head is one of nine historic lighthouses along the Oregon coast. All are on the National Historic Register and seven are open for public viewing. We are within a short drive of Haceta Head but are only a short walk from our state park’s namesake, Umpqua Lighthouse.fullsizeoutput_3cd6 We walk to the Umpqua Lighthouse almost daily because there is where we have our nearest ocean view and outgoing mail drop.


This is the ocean view across from the Umpqua Lighthouse, the Aquaculture Triangle Oyster Farm is within the jetty triangle.

The original Umpqua Lighthouse was built in 1857, the first on the Oregon coast. Located at the mouth of the Umpqua River, it succumbed to flooding in 1864. The Umpqua Lighthouse was rebuilt and recommissioned in 1894 at the current site, 165’ above sea level.

fullsizeoutput_3cd4Umpqua Lighthouse uses a Fresnel lens built in Paris in 1890 and reconstructed on-site. Fresnel lenses are ordered first to seventh depending on their radius, height, and weight, with first order being the largest.  Umpqua’s first order lens has a radius of 36.2″, height of 101.97” and weight of 12787 lbs.    On our tour we were able to go to the top and view the lens and prisms from just below.

fullsizeoutput_3cd2The Umpqua Lighthouse emits a ‘white, white, red’ beacon in even intervals for about 20 miles seaward. It is the only lighthouse on the Oregon coast that uses red illumination. The original oil lamp light source was changed to electricity in 1934 and was fully automated in 1960.

P1100620In the early days at Umpqua Lighthouse, a “Keeper” was a family man who made $800 per year. His first and second assistants, likely younger and single, made $600 and $550 respectively.  It was an isolated life and keepers and their families were expected to be self-sufficient with only periodic supply drops by lighthouse tender ships.  The tenders dropped food staples, fuel sources and polish for maintenance.

fullsizeoutput_3cd0Keepers and assistants wore smocks so their uniform buttons would not scratch the lens and prisms during cleaning.

fullsizeoutput_3cd1This weight was part of the original rotation system using gravity to turn the lens. A keeper would need to wind it back up several times a night.


We walked over to the lighthouse one night to see it in action.


We are also within walking distance of the sand dunes!

fullsizeoutput_3cb7I am usually content to let Randy drive on these types of adventures while I enjoy the ride.  This time it was less expensive for us to each have our own.


And it was fun!

fullsizeoutput_3cbeIn a closing note, we are doing our best to enjoy our stay here knowing that when we return to Boise, Randy will begin his treatments. In his engineer way, he has done LOTS of research and is feeling good about it. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes.


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We Didn’t Even Clean Our Own House!


Me, my mom, Natasha and Randy in front of our Boise house.

Our house in Boise was usually clean but we didn’t clean it. We kept it tidy and Randy vacuumed occasionally but, when we were working stiffs, we valued our time more than our money and happily paid our friend Theresa to clean. She did an excellent job for 20+ years.


So, how ironic is it that, as volunteer stiffs, we signed up to clean yurts and cabins at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park?

At Umpqua, we have a nice site with so many trees that sunshine is challenged and satellite TV is non-existent. There is no “over the air” TV and limited radio. This is life on stretches of the Oregon coast. At least we have decent Verizon cell and data service so I can listen to the Seattle Mariner games that I cannot watch.

Our campground has 44 campsites, two yurts and two rustic cabins. It also has six deluxe yurts that have a bathroom and small kitchen inside – the only such yurts in the entire Oregon State Park System.


Deluxe yurt $80 per night, $90 for pet-friendly

We cleaned this deluxe yurt this morning and it took 90 minutes with both of us working. There was a family in there for several days and it was likely dirtier than usual but we’ll see if it ends up as our longest clean.

There are also two small yurts that rent for $41 per night. The small yurt below took us about 30 minutes to clean.

fullsizeoutput_3c98Our favorites are the $41 per night rustic cabins – not because they are quick to clean, but because they are so darned cute and they sit above Lake Marie with a nice view.


fullsizeoutput_3c99The other part of our assignment is walking and monitoring the Lake Marie trail.  We walk  the one mile loop once a day picking up trash and generally enjoying the scenery – even though we only are asked to do it once a week.


So-far, so-good with the cabin and yurt cleaning. We have camp-hosted in the past and enjoyed camper interaction but were intrigued by the idea of doing our task and then truly being off-duty. We think we are going to like this assignment and may look to do it again in the future.

So….speaking of the future. We had plans to volunteer in two other Oregon parks this summer but instead we are heading back to Boise in early June. While in Boise last month, Randy had his annual bladder cancer re-check and the darned cancer came back in a new and more serious form.

We are waiting (and waiting) for insurance approval and expect to begin treatments in early June.   It will be a six weeks on, six weeks off, three weeks on, nine weeks off schedule for about two years. Treatment is usually successful, and we have no reason to believe the treatment won’t be approved, but waiting is stressful.

Randy feels fine and has no symptoms.   His bladder needed to heal between the biopsy and treatments so being on the Oregon coast for this month is good.  It is keeping us busy for a few hours each day.  We are thankful that he had a little cancerous spot removed in 2008 and that his doctor has been looking ever since.  Prayers and good thoughts are appreciated.


Until then, we will continue to clean away, make new friends, and explore this area of the Oregon Coast. We will read a lot, listen to podcasts and Mariner games, and go without TV.  We can do anything for a month.

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The Spit, Slobber and Slime

After a visit with family in Vancouver, we took the opportunity to visit our friends Mark and Teri in Sequim (pronounced skwim) on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. We met them while volunteering at Farragut State Park in Idaho and have seen them in places around the west a few times since.


Teri’s hobby is crocheting colorful afghans for critically ill children through the Linus Project.

fullsizeoutput_3c48Mark and Teri are currently volunteering at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Access to Olympic National Park is nearby, but much is still snowed in. Fortunately, we have been there before so it wasn’t a priority this time.

fullsizeoutput_3c58At the wildlife refuge, we walked along the Dungeness Spit. A spit is “a narrow coastal land formation that is tied to the coast at one end.”

fullsizeoutput_3c59The Dungeness Spit is five and a half miles long, the longest natural spit in the country.


A posing of local gulls.  The white ones are the older adults with the darker ones being juveniles.


Three birders looking at birds while I look at them.


There is a large assemblage of large driftwood for miles along the spit.


This is not a dead tree that has managed to remain upright despite the elements.   This is a piece of driftwood that was deposited upright into a hole and has remained there despite the elements.

fullsizeoutput_3c57Near the end of the spit is the Dungeness Lighthouse. Built in 1857, the lighthouse still assists navigation on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A “lighthouse keeper” program allows individuals or families to pay to spend a week maintaining the lighthouse and giving tours to visitors. To be a keeper for a week costs $350 for adults. To “keep” the entire lighthouse costs $2250 per week. More information is available about this interesting “vacation” on the lighthouse website here.

So, that was the spit…now for the slobber and slime!

fullsizeoutput_3c5dWe visited the Olympic Game Farm. There are a variety of animals here including waving bears who didn’t feel like waving during our visit.


fullsizeoutput_3c5fSeveral peacocks were in full fashion mode. We even heard him rattling his feathers, called “train rattling,” which is part of the male’s courting process.


Even the backside is pretty.

The highlight is feeding the large animals that come right up to your vehicle – kind of like a reverse drive up fast food window!

fullsizeoutput_3c5eAlthough each animal is given a specific diet appropriate to its needs, the farm sells very soft whole-wheat bread loaves for $2 to supplement the animals’ diets and visitors’ enjoyment.  We bought two large loaves and could have easily given out more.fullsizeoutput_3c64The llama knew what to expect and how to get it!

These yaks just space themselves in the road expecting a handout – which they get.

fullsizeoutput_3c67The animals get so close so quickly it is hard to take a picture!

fullsizeoutput_3c6eIt is far easier to take pictures of the cars in front of you!   Once you get to the elk and bison section, you are advised not to stop because the animals are pretty aggressive and can damage your car.  Unfortunately, the car in front of this one had stopped!   We didn’t get damaged but we sure got slime and slobber on both sides of the truck!

fullsizeoutput_3c70We were glad we had our big tall truck. It would have been really intimidating to have these two bison reaching their head in for food! The experience was a little bit unnerving at times, but a whole lot of fun!  I thought it would be scary to drive through all the animals but the animals are experienced and Randy said it wasn’t bad.

Lest you think Sequim is all about disgusting stuff (spit, slobber and slime), it is also one of the premier lavender producing areas in the world. There are nine lavender farms in the area which participate in a Sequim Lavender Weekend in July and Tour de Lavender in August.

fullsizeoutput_3c77We were too early in the season for any of the lavender farms to be open to the public but I did take the opportunity to visit one of the lavender gift shops downtown.

We had an nice visit with our friends in Sequim, enjoying the spit, slobber, slime and lavender!

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