Saturday, July 19, 2014

A change of plans—saying goodbye to the Big EZ


June 24, 2014-July 19, 2014
Corvallis, Oregon

A lovely heirloom rose grown by my friend Marilyn
It has been a while since I last posted and there is good reason, at least in my mind, for the lapse. Our plans to stay on the West Coast this coming winter morphed into something else. August will mark the end of three years of full-time living in the motorhome for us. As much as we have loved almost every minute of it, there have been other adventures calling us too. Having two dogs with us has made it harder to pursue things such as flying off to Mexico as we used to do once or twice a year, or flying back to the West Coast from Florida to spend holidays with our kids and grandkids. The more we envisioned spending winter in a campground in Southern California, the more we started to discuss the idea of coming off the road—at least for a while.

We have envisioned all along that Bend, Oregon would be the place we would like to call home when we were ready to give up the motorhome. Two years ago, when we stayed in Bend for about six weeks, we discovered that the real estate was still affordable so we took advantage of it and bought a small townhome. In a perfect world, we could keep the motorhome and the house, but that would leave little money for fuel and campgrounds—let alone some other types of travel we intend to do. So, the plan is to take a year off from life on the road and see what it is like to live in this great town. (Admittedly, we are already planning winter getaways as we have not endured cold weather in a long time. . . .)

A little glimpse of our new home in the Old Mill District of Bend
Once we decided to make the move to Bend later this summer, I advertised the Big EZ on RV Trader and a few other websites. The response was almost overwhelming. We had a buyer within a week,  much sooner than we were prepared for so we had to get into action and start packing.

packing up with vic
Vic giving me a look of disbelief as we packed up all our belongings in the motorhome

final cleaning
The cleaning for new owners never seemed to end as we found ourselves continually
 wiping everything down as we made the 900 mile trek to Billings

We both felt great about the new family who would be the second owners of our motorhome.They are a family of five who are very enthusiastic about creating memories together by camping and visiting many National Parks. The only big challenge in the sales agreement was timing and distance as they live in Iowa. The new owner Brent never even came to see the motorhome in person. I made a video of the exterior and interior and that was enough to convince him this was the motorhome for his family. We settled the distance issue by agreeing to meet each other halfway in Billings, Montana for the exchange. We drove the motorhome about 950 miles to meet the new owner, Brent, at the KOA in Billings.

pam and brent at airport2
Meeting the new owner Brent was even better in person as he showed incredible patience
with our two-hour review of all the workings of the motorhome

vic and new owner going over parts2
Vic explains all the extra parts he had stashed away for emergency repairs

Happily, we flew back to Portland from there so only had to do the drive one way. Brent even drove us to the airport in the motorhome. It was pretty emotional to walk away from such a beautiful part of our lives, but we know we can create these kind of memories again if we find we miss it too much.

brent the new owner2
Brent, the new owner, drives the motorhome for the first time

goodbye to our mh
Saying goodbye to the Big EZ at the Billings airport

All these happenings have brought us to a fork in the road called Thank God We Have Generous Friends as we are staying at “Chez Cooks” in Corvallis until we can move into our Bend home in August. (Our plans had been to be stay at in the motorhome where we have parked behind their house the two previous summers but this time we needed a bedroom too!) The ironic part is they have their home on the market and are moving to California just a few days after we head to Bend. I guess we feel like kindred spirits facing such big changes in our lives.

DSCN3665
Last photo of the Big EZ at Chez Cook's RV pad

While staying here we are catching up with our annual doctor and dentist appointments, visiting with old hometown friends, and taking short trips to some of our favorite places such as the nearby coast in Newport and Lincoln City.

A memorable gathering of friends for dinner

Vic and the pooches pose for a moment during a wonderful walk
along Nye Beach in Newport

Tomorrow we are heading off to Astoria, a three-hour drive from here, to spend time with my oldest son for five days. When we return, we plan to do some kayaking on the local rivers and get in some wine tasting excursions in the luscious Willamette Valley.

clinton campground
Our last lovely campsite in the Big EZ along the Clark Fork River
 in Clinton, Montana before meeting the new owner in Billings

Now that we no longer have the Big EZ, I plan to bring the blog to a close around the time we actually move in to our new home. I am not quite ready to say goodbye. Our big transition will seem more real when we actually take up residence in the house and start planning new adventures as retirees in Bend.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Going for the Brass Ring in Santa Cruz


June 15-19, 2014
Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
Felton, California



Last June we took a day trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk when we were staying at the Coyote RV Resort in Morgan Hills. The Boardwalk is over a hundred years old and was a big highlight in Vic’s youth in the 50s and early 60s when he lived an hour away in Santa Clara, California. We are not usually too fond of amusement parks, but we were quite impressed with the restorations and updates that they have done over the years to this park. We commented last year how much fun it would be to take our grandsons here so this summer we made our idea a reality.



Fitting all the stuff for three boys and my step-daughter, Mindy, into our already full motorhome was a bit of challenge but we made it work by piling most of their duffel bags, pillows, and extra bedding on our bed in the back. Mindy also brought along an extra air bed in case things got a little cramped with the three boys in the sofa bed and jack bed. The next challenge was digging out three seat beats that have hardly been used for the boys to be secure while going down the road on our rather long day of 380 miles.





Keeping three guys, age 5, 7, and 10 busy for eight hours in a vehicle is always a challenge. Of course nowadays even their car has a DVD player, but the ability to get snacks, go to the bathroom, and do other activities is a big plus when traveling in a motorhome (for kids and adults). We also tend to stop every couple hours at rest hours for opportunities to stretch our legs and let the dogs have a short romp. It turned out to be a very long day, but everyone hung in there and was excited when we finally checked in to our campground.



The plan was to camp nearby at the Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort in Felton, about ten miles away from the Boardwalk. Choosing a park was not easy as there are few in the area with decent reviews, but this one turned out to be perfect for a family camping experience with young children. The park is built into a redwood forest with plenty of activities for kids: tether ball, ping-pong, horseshoes, and lots of cool trees to climb inside.





We also liked that they had firepits and allowed fires because roasting hot dogs and making s’mores has always been part of our camping tradition with the kids.



smores

Of course, the big attraction to coming here for the boys was going on rides and playing games at the Boardwalk. We bought four all-day wristbands (one for each of the grandsons and one for me!) at a nearby Costco for a 30% discount—score! Since we had three days to spend in the area, we decided for the first day to let the boys have fun playing in the campground, walk the Santa Cruz wharf in search of some good clam chowder—a big hit with all three kids, and then hang out at the beach in nearby Capitola. 







Of course, walking past cute little shops even brings temptations to boys who have money burning in their pockets to find the perfect souvenirs for the trip.



I love that they don’t think they are too “old” to spend time making sandcastles on the beach.








Day two was the Boardwalk day. I think this grandma was just as excited as the kids. I especially like roller coasters and most rides so it was a treat for me to go on the rides with the kids as Vic is happy to be an observer when it comes to most rides.

santa cruz boardwalk collage

Breakfasts at the campground and dinner on the grill were also a big highlight of our time together. I wanted my step-daughter Mindy to have a break from all the normal meal prep she has to do with these guys whose appetites are only going to get bigger. I don’t get many opportunities to cook for them, so I made the most of it by making some of their favorites: homemade pizza, burgers, pancakes.







Our last day in the area, we decided to head back to the Boardwalk for an opportunity to use the “free” attractions that came with our purchase of the wristbands. We were all able to play a rousing game of miniature golf at Buccaneer Bay, a two-story, 18-hole course inside Neptune’s Kingdom, an indoor entertainment center that is part of the Boardwalk. The boys and G-Pa also suited up for a game of laser tag in a 3500 sq. ft. arena complete with sound effects, obstacles, and fog machines. The boys finished their day at the Boardwalk with the rare treat of being allowed to play a few games in what is billed as one of the most high tech video arcades in the country. The good news is the boys were satisfied with just a few games and were anxious to get back to the park for their last campfire.



Day four was packing up and getting ready to roll down Highway 17 to our next destination, Coyote Valley RV Resort in Morgan Hill, a really nice RV park that we discovered last year, about an hours drive away. Our son-in-law, David, made life a lot easier for us by driving to Morgan Hill from Yorba Linda (6 hours) to pick up Mindy and the boys. David arrived about an hour after we got checked in and set up on our site. Since they were planning to drive back on the scenic 101 vs. I-5, it wasn’t long before we had to say our goodbyes with the comfort of knowing it will not be too long before we see them again as we are planning to stay on the West Coast this year.





We were both pretty exhausted after all the fun with three energetic boys, but we were anxious to see Vic’s sister, Sandy, and her new Portuguese Water Dog puppy named Seamus. After a couple hours of rest we headed north to Sunnyvale for a good visit and and dinner at BJs one of the popular brewhouses in the area. Our plan was to return to the Sunnyvale area the next day to visit Vic’s mom and his other sister, Mikey, before heading north to Oregon. I can’t help but say that after three weeks in California I am ready for greener landscapes and a slower pace.
 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

At long last, time with the grands and a few other adventures


June 1-15, 2014
Orangeland RV Park
Orange, California



Our two weeks in Southern California flew by. We arrived here in time to see our oldest grandson, Luke, finish off his Little League season by earning third place in a Tri-City tournament. At age ten, he has some impressive batting and infield skills as third baseman. He went 4 for 4 at bat in the first game we saw, and in the last game we watched he made several outs by scooping up all the bunts and getting them out at first base. Fun.







Too bad we didn’t arrive in time to see the younger boys play baseball. Our middle grandson, Nate, age seven, is a leftie pitcher. He can throw a four seam fastball and a change-up but their dad, a former college baseball player, wisely will not let them throw anything else like a cutter, splitter, or curve ball because it ruins your arm.  Our youngest grandson, Tyler, age six, is also a leftie.  I learned that lefties in the pros only play outfield, pitcher, and first base. 

On a related topic, when we first arrived our former home college team, the Oregon State Beavers, were defeated at home by UC Irvine in the regional playoffs for the College World of Series. This was a big upset as the Beavs were ranked number one in the nation. Boo hoo. We had hoped to watch the games as a family while we here as we are all “Beaver Believers.”



Aside from baseball, we were able to attend grandson Tyler’s Super Preppy Summit—a “graduation” from Preppy K, pre-kindergarten. This special event required Tyler and a “friend” to dress up as a super hero of their choice for the celebration. Tyler chose G-Pa Vic to be his caped sidekick.



Another school event we enjoyed was attending a third grade play with grandson Luke performing. His class had been studying California mining history. The play, Gold Dust or Bust, was a comical review of life in a mining town.

DSCN3010

We missed grandson Nate’s field day at the park. Somehow all the years of Vic supervising field days as a principal made him a little less than anxious to be a part of this event. Nate said he spent most of the time playing baseball, basketball, and track racing with his friends. Oh, the seemingly endless energy of youth.



One of my favorite times with the boys was our day at the 15th St. Beach in Newport Beach, about a forty minute drive from their home. The weather was absolutely perfect here the whole time—mostly highs in the 70s and low 80s with gentle breezes and sunny skies. Even though the outside air temps have been warm, it does not mean the water temp of the Pacific was warm enough for this grandma to join the boys in the water. The boys didn't flinch a bit as they enjoyed several hours racing around the beach, building sandcastles, and boogie boarding in the water.





newport beach three boys





While we were in Southern California, I planned a solo overnight trip to visit my niece and nephew in the San Diego area.  I was lucky to be there for my niece’s husband’s birthday party so I was able to see everyone in one place. My niece Kelly and I spent the day catching up while prepping for the party. She is planning to open a restaurant and ice cream shop in the small town where she lives (Alpine) and was anxious to share her ideas with me as I was a former restaurant owner myself years ago and her grandmother (my mom) had a very successful restaurant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for over twenty five years. So cute that she wants to carry on the family tradition. I warned her though—grandma made it look easy.













While I was in San Diego, Vic went to an Angels game with his daughter Mindy and all three grandsons.  They went to the game early to watch the team warm-up and the players tossed balls to the two older boys. They were thrilled about catching their first baseballs at a pro game.

Next up was the grand event of the last day of school and the very fun party called “Jump into Summer” their local park throws for the kids the next day. Five hours of swimming,  slip ‘n slides, inflatable houses, and all kinds of free goodies like popcorn, cotton candy, shaved ice, hot dogs, and lemonade.  Luke won third place in the cannonball contest for ages 7-10. (It helps to have your own pool. . . .)  After their fun day, which we only attended for a couple hours, we had a barbecue at their house and all settled in to watch the California Kings clinch the Stanley Cup in the hockey championship game.











Whew!  We only had one more day in Orange County after the “Jump into Summer” event. We used it to give the kids a chance to celebrate Father’s Day with their dad while we got ready for our five day “camping” trip with the kids.



Coming up: three reasonably sane adults, three energetic boys, and two exuberant dogs head north on I-5 in the Big EZ to the Santa Cruz Redwood RV Park.