Sunday, September 7, 2014

Whoa—been a long time—transitioning to our new life off the road

Sept. 7, 2014
Bend, Oregon

morning coffee by the river

Thanks to a friendly nudge from a fellow blogger I decided it was time to fire up the laptop, search for the Windows Live Writer icon and write an update on our lives since we delivered the Big EZ, our former motorhome, to its new owner in Billings, Montana back in mid-July.

I did not intend to take such a long absence from the blog and blogging in general. What happened seems analogous to the time we sold our home three years ago and started our journey on the road. For at least a year, Vic and I had a hard time looking at photos of our old home and its beautiful gardens without feeling a huge tug on our hearts—even though we were very excited about the decision to travel full-time in our motorhome. Saying goodbye to the Phaeton has brought up a similar feeling; it’s rather hard to look at Tiffin Phaetons towing Jeeps going down the road and to even revisit the blog world that was such a big part of our travels.

So I won’t pretend this transition to living in a sticks and brick home is without its emotions. The good news is we both felt “right” about the decision in spite of being a little afraid of how much we would miss the lifestyle and, most especially, the special friends we made along the way.

I also need to add that my blog reading fell off the same “boat.” Not until writing this have I realized that my resistance stems from a similar tug on my heart. It’s taking me a while to face the inevitable sadness that comes with the realization we won’t be seeing many of you this year. Please know my absence is not a sign of a lack of interest in your lives.

Now that the true confessions are over--my Catholic upbringing still has a hold on me--I am happy to share that we have been in our house four weeks already. This first month has been mostly a flurry of unpacking boxes (sixty from the motorhome alone), painting, organizing, and making lists of all the things we needed to purchase once again for home ownership like a vacuum, shower curtain, light bulbs, houseplants, rugs, a television, a DVR, and the list goes on.

moving van at shop 
We hired a local moving company to haul our belongings over the mountain from Corvallis to Bend, about a 130 mile trip

living room unpacking1

kitchen unpacking1

When we sold our home, we sold about 70% of our belongings; the rest we put in a storage unit. We kept our best furniture and lots of art for the walls. Thankfully, we have not had to purchase any furniture for the house; the bigger challenge was having more furniture than we thought our 1250 sq..ft. home could accommodate. Happily, we have found places for most of the furniture but have had to edit down the art considerably.

Vic’s greatest challenge has been making a one-car garage hold our Jeep, kayaks, bikes, “camping” gear, and all the other miscellaneous things that don’t fit in the house. If you know him, he likes to keep things tidy and organized so it has required many trips to Home Depot to find the right shelves, hooks, and other storage goodies.

new garage1
Our one-car garage overflowing with boxes

Admittedly, we have been rather obsessed with daily tasks of making our house a home. There’s no real hurry but we both have felt a self-imposed urgency. Aside from emptying all the boxes, the next priority was choosing paint (it took me about 20 samples to find just the right color) to free us from the overwhelming shade of blue that enveloped us in the main areas of the house, the living room and kitchen.

living room with blue walls

fireplace with blue walls

Painting is one of the homeowner tasks Vic loves to do and, as you can imagine, because of his eye for detail, he is quite good at it; however, with 15 ft. ceilings, the task was not too easy. We had to buy a a ten foot ladder for Vic to be able to cut in at the top of the wall. It’s amazing how much better these rooms look with the new paint color called jute, a pale shade of khaki green.

As our task list gets a little shorter, we are looking forward to taking more advantage of all there is to do here-- concerts, festivals, art walks, and plenty of beer tasting venues. Aside from working on the house, I have also been a factor in not pursuing many outdoor adventures yet as I have been suffering from a foot injury that caused me to finally see a podiatrist followed by several trips to physical therapy. I sprained my ankle about six weeks ago and did not take good care of it. Whatever compensation I was doing for the weak ankle led to a raging case of plantar fasciitis. I have been told to lay off hiking, biking, and zumba for a while until my ankle is stronger and the throbbing in my foot diminishes. We did, however, just join an amazing local fitness center that has an Olympic size pool, so I can at least get in the water—something I already miss about being on the road—having a pool to enjoy at many of the campgrounds where we stayed.

I am also more than ready to go kayaking. The Deschutes River flows right through town here and they estimate about 1000 people a day use the $1 shuttle on summer weekends to float the river on tubes, kayaks, and paddleboards.

river with activity
Several tubers hook up to float down the Deschutes River near the downtown area

river with paddleboarders2
A young paddleboarder negotiates the river in front of the Old Mill Shops

We also have an abundance of mountain lakes to choose from for kayaking. The only challenge now is that the weather is getting cooler fast. Fall is definitely in the air. We have already had a couple nights with temps in the high 30s—geez! Fortunately, the daytime temps have been in the 70s to low 80s. We aren’t really sure how we will react to the truly cold weather of winter when it comes.

The dogs have adjusted to our home pretty well. They seem to be enjoying the freedom of more space and a yard, but are a little clingy when they think we are going somewhere. Rico even follows me into the walk-in closet when I am putting away clothes. He seems to be less sure about this house thing than Jetta as he spent most of his life in the motorhome (all but a year). It will be very interesting to see how they will react to snow. Jetta has seen a day or two of it in her life, but it will be a new experience for Rico.

One outdoor activity we have been doing is trying out the many dog parks in town. We have learned we much prefer the ones with grassy areas as this time of year things get quite dusty around here. The closest one to our house is pretty good too as it has large wood chips and access to the river for dogs to swim and fetch. There are even off-leash cross country trails for dogs to join their owners while they ski—not sure I would feel that confident to have them in the woods in deep snow.

dog park pine nursery best
Vic and the dogs stop for a pose just outside the grassy off-leash area at Pine Nursery Park 

A concern in moving here was living in a house where the neighbors are not likely to stop over for happy hour, hold potlucks, or sit around a campfire like we have experienced in our motorhome travels. Ironically, I remember feeling quite concerned that our social life on the road would be diminished and that Vic and I would quickly grow tired of each other with few friends around to spice up our life. That concern resolved itself faster than we could have ever imagined. Our best memories of the past three years are of times we spent with the friends we made along the way in various campgrounds. Fortunately, we know quite a few people here who moved from the valley where we used to live and my best friend from high school moved here from the Chicago area three years ago, so we are lucky to have good friends here already. We are also hoping that those of you on the road reading this will be sure to let us know when you are in the area so we can have you over and show you some of our Bend discoveries.

I will close with a few other random photos of our house and life in Bend. Let the Good Times Roll—wherever you are.

pam on frotn porch

bend beer fest
We spent a lovely Saturday afternoon at the annual Bend Beerfest
 where they had over 150  beers on tap for sampling. Good thing we could walk back home!

Sitting on a bluff near our house after sunset listening to a Jack Johnson concert
that was taking place at the nearby Les Schwab outdoor amphitheater 

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.

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.


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.