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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Finding Things Good and Bad

Yesterday we headed west out of Boise on Interstate 84 – a route we have taken too many times before! Our destination is Vancouver, Washington but we had time to find a new route and a new stop-over.

Using a map and the website RV Park Reviews  I found what appeared to be a nice campground in Heppner, Oregon. I also found several ways to get there,  leaving I-84 at Baker City, North Powder, LaGrande, Pendleton or Hermiston.

Exiting at Baker City allowed for travel along an Oregon Scenic Byway. I checked on the ODOT website to see if there were any travel advisories due to weather or length of vehicle and found nothing. We were climbing and the scenery was beautiful. We had increasing snow alongside but the road was dry.

Then we came to Anthony Lakes Recreation Area and the road stopped. The GPS was telling us to go 16 miles ahead but the road stopped into the snow!


I neglected to get my own picture but found this one on the internet. I’m sure people snowmobiling were wondering what we were doing up there with a fifth-wheel!

Randy did a tricky back up and turn around maneuver (he’s good!) and we back-tracked 15 scenic miles to the interstate. So much for finding an alternate route this time of year! The camp-host had recommended leaving the interstate at Hermiston so we travelled the all too familiar miles and just went with that.

fullsizeoutput_3c37When we arrived at Willow Creek RV Park, we found a lovely little campground.  It appears to be connected with the Willow Creek Dam above Heppner but no one is here to ask so it is hard to know.

Willow Creek Dam was quite controversial when it was built in the early 1980s.  Built to protect the town of Heppner from a repeat of the deadly 1903 flood which killed nearly a quarter of the town’s residents, the Army Corps of Engineers used experimental roller compacted concrete.   Initial leakage levels were not encouraging, modifications were needed and an aeration plant was eventually installed in 2004.

P1100430At the campground, we began setting up.  I started opening the slides and heard wood splintering. That can’t be good! I looked to see if the rocking chairs were safe (the last wood heard splintering) but found it was the bed frame this time.

fullsizeoutput_3c30Those of you who have read the blog for a while may remember that Handy Randy redesigned our bed frame a while back.  Now a 12-pack of pop had shifted and lodged under the bed frame and jammed the frame and slide. Fortunately, the slide wasn’t damaged, just the bed frame.

fullsizeoutput_3c29After driving a long way, with bonus time for the detour, Handy Randy set about fixing the bed frame, which of course he did. What a guy to have around!

While he was fixing the bed, Elko and I walked around the campground and noticed that some sites had 50 amp power while ours only had 30 amp.  Randy decided we should move! It was a long day!


Our site with grass!  We don’t get to live on grass often enough!

fullsizeoutput_3c2dThis morning we took Elko for a walk around the area.  We found the ultimate green monster – the dam!  For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, the original green monster is the name of the left field wall at Fenway Park in Boston.

fullsizeoutput_3c3aWe also found the Masonic Cemetery of Heppner, Oregon. I opened my Find-A-Grave app and found that there were 46 open requests, a huge amount for this small town cemetery!

fullsizeoutput_3c38Find-A-Grave allows people to ask for a picture of a gravesite in cemeteries around the country.  I loaded the app over a year ago but hadn’t ever been at the right place at the right time to actually use it. We didn’t see a directory or anyone to ask, so we just started looking around.

fullsizeoutput_3c32I found Grace A. Hayes, born December 28, 1874, died May 19, 1908, and married to Charles Hayes.

fullsizeoutput_3c34The Grace A. Filkins Hayes being sought on the app was born December 28, 1873 and died May 19, 1908 but when I looked at the death certificate the death year was written over and unclear. Interesting and sad that Grace died at age 34 from tuberculosis pneumonia. I submitted the photo of the gravesite with the note about the year of death discrepancy.


Interesting the things you find living on the road!


Sunday afternoon and almost everyone is gone – only one other occupied trailer.

fullsizeoutput_3c3eRandy is on a roll today….. cleaning the truck, the trailer cap, adding water to batteries etc.  As I said – a good guy to have around!  Maybe the ultimate good find!

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Real Life in Boise

When we arrived in Boise exactly a month ago, real life met us head on.  Randy had noticed tire wear on the trailer so our first stop was for an alignment.   The decision was eventually made that we have bad trailer axles and will go to Indiana in June for a new suspension system.

Then real life came to us in the mail! I had not one, but two federal jury summons – the second one reminding me that I hadn’t responded to the first.   We only get our mail every 3 weeks or so and had apparently just missed the first summons when we got it last.

IMG_2205I called in to say I wasn’t ducking them and quickly filled out my jury questionnaire. I didn’t have negative feelings about serving and was glad that my summons corresponded with our month back in Boise.

IMG_2252I served on a criminal trial for two days. It was an interesting and sobering experience – not bad, just one in which I felt the weight of responsibility. That was real life.

We also got to experience the real life dentist, doctor, vet, and optometrist appointments – all those things most people spread throughout the year. We schedule them in bunches when we are back in Boise.

We were able to spend lots of time with family and friends!  That was the best part of our real life adventure in Boise! Thanks to so many of our friends for taking the time to see us or inviting us over.   We enjoyed the visits very much.

We spent quite a bit of time with Natasha and Seth and Archer. We took Archer to his first two theater movies and he even got to stay with us in the trailer for a weekend. We had a blast but were very tired by Sunday afternoon.

P1100346The picture above shows Randy and Archer walking on the Greenbelt along the Boise River. This path usually extends 46 miles through and beyond Boise but is now closed in many areas because of high river flow and flooding.


The ducks and geese enjoy some quiet waters where the path and grass usually are.  This is in the campground about 100 yards from our trailer.


Water levels and flows are exceedingly high.  We can hear the water very easily.

fullsizeoutput_3bf7About 1/2 mile east of our campground the decision was made to remove a bridge that had been there for years because of erosion around the footings. We did’t see the actual removal but watched them moving the 15000 pound crane ballast pads onto flat trucks.


fullsizeoutput_3c0cThere is so much snow in the mountains, and water in the reservoirs and rivers that flooding concerns are very real.   But all that water comes with a chance to see things that are better than normal as well.

We drove two hours east to Twin Falls to see Shoshone Falls.  These falls are one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States and considered to be the “Niagra of the West.”

fullsizeoutput_3c0aThe water flow was very impressive,- approximately19,900 cubic feet per second. To see a video of Shoshone Falls, click here.

Shoshone Falls are 212 feet high and 950 feet wide. The surrounding land was given to the city of Twin Falls by Frederick and Marge Adams in 1932, with the stipulation that it be held and maintained as a public park. There is a small entrance fee to access the park and one vendor shack. It was a very different experience than our visit to Niagra Falls in New York. It wasn’t better or worse, just two very different experiences around two exceptional waterfalls.

fullsizeoutput_3c0dWe also took the opportunity to visit Twin Falls waterfall (the name sake for the town). This was a first for us even though we lived in southern Idaho for 33 years.


Historical society picture from informational placard.

The picture above shows two sets of falls flowing before the dam was built in 1935. Currently there is only one set of falls.


Twin Falls isn’t a twin anymore.

We had some real life repairs!  Remember the broken rocking chair? Randy and our friend Darrell were able to repair the chair and it is now stronger than it ever was.




Randy is sitting in one of the chairs, bundled up in jacket and gloves.  He did not adapt well to cool and wet weather here in Boise after our winter in Arizona.

We have had rain, snow and hail interspersed with some sunshine – typical Boise spring weather but not what we’ve been used to.

It leaves us wondering how we are going to adjust to our summer on the Oregon Coast! We leave today to work our way west. We will clean yurts at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park for the month of May.   We go to Indiana in June and then return to Oregon for the rest of the summer. We will be at William Tugman State Park for July and Jesse Honeyman State Park for August. If you are on the Oregon coast, give us a call!  We’d love to get together.

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