Monday, July 30, 2012

Living full-time in a motorhome? Questions abound from our hometown friends

marilyns roses
Beautiful scented roses from our friend Marilyn's garden
July 24-July 29, Corvallis, Oregon

The last five days we were able to park our motorhome at our friends’ home in Corvallis, just a few miles from where we used to live. After staying at a park a half hour away, we enjoyed being close to everything we love about Corvallis: the riverfront walk, good coffee shops, twice weekly farmers market, our favorite walking routes, the amazing summertime weather, and most of all, the special relationships with friends we have created over the years.

Our motorhome tucked into a sweet spot near the garden at our friends 's home--thanks Ann and Don!

My pretend garden at Ann and Don's. I love zinnias and these two pots of ours are in their safekeeping. 

Before we arrived, Vic took the motorhome to a weigh station and was able to weigh the front and rear axles as well as the right front wheel and right dual wheels separately—something he had not done in six months or so. It turned out our load was balanced (within 100 lbs.) and we are about 2000 lbs. under our maximum weight, so that was good news. Nevertheless, this little interlude provided a perfect opportunity to go through our belongings in the motorhome and pack some unneeded things away in our storage unit. Since we are underweight, I had fun “shopping” in the storage unit for some “new” clothes and a few other items to add to our travels like a pretty wool area rug for the bedroom and some different linens (but nothing near 2000 lbs. worth!). While we were cleaning out the storage areas, we decided it was high time for some polishing too. Vic was able to wash the motorhome when we were at our last campground, but now he wanted to take on the “no fun” job of polishing the rims. He uses an aluminum polish cream and soft terrycloth rags, and lots of elbow grease. Each rim takes him about an hour to do! I would help but his perfectionism let me off the hook.

With only a few days in town, we also found ourselves with a pretty busy social schedule, trying to get in as much time as possible with friends and my youngest son. We also had thoughts of holding a puppy reunion for our dog Jetta’s two litters, but we only managed to see Rico’s sister Kai, owned by our friends Jan and Butch. Fortunately, we plan to be back in Corvallis in a couple weeks for another five day stint so we have another chance to see those folks (and former pups) we missed this time.

Sitting on a bench together, sister Kai and brother Rico patiently await their picture being taken.

Kai shows us her best pose
kai stretched out
Kai all pooped out after a play date with her brother 

Whoops--our dogs chased Sam, Ann and Don's cat, up into a tree.
Fortunately, Sam was pretty wily and escaped all on his own when the coast was clear. 

One of the biggest challenges of being on the road full-time is missing good times with our close friends. And, of course, not being closer to family, but most of our family is spread out across the country, so we actually have more opportunities to visit everyone while on the road. Vic and I feel blessed to still feel connected to such a vital community and yet we are also grateful for the special relationships we have started to discover in the RV world.

toms cappucino
A perfectly brewed and frothed cappucino made for me by our friend Tom

Coming back to one’s hometown after traveling for a year brings on many questions about how well we like this new lifestyle. I  remember reading our friend John’s blog when he and his wife returned to their hometown after full-timing for a year. He ended up creating a special post in response to the most common questions friends asked about their first year of travels. We fielded similar questions about our experience this past year. The conversations often went something like this:

Do you miss living in your house? I missed the Christmas holidays when I like to decorate, entertain, and spend wintery mornings in front of a blazing fire. Vic, not so much, as his goal in the winter is to be in cargo shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops with no demands of hanging the annual Christmas lights. I also miss the flowers and garden but not the work or expense that went along with them. We both agree that we do not miss the mortgage payments, property taxes, water and power bills, yard work, and constant upkeep of a house. 

Is it hard to be in the same small space together 24-7? This was my greatest fear because I just retired last summer when we started out and had never before experienced being home every day with my husband. My friends tell me the main reason we get along in such a small space is that it is our second marriage—there may be some truth to that! Mostly, we are on the go when we arrive somewhere. When we are in the coach, we find ways to spend time alone just by being in different places sometimes outside or in the back bedroom, or taking a walk or bike ride on our own. We also each have our own smart phones and laptops, so we can get lost in our own virtual worlds. Having four televisions (twice as many as we had in our 2300 sq. ft. home) provides another way to escape from each other. Vic can watch all the What Not to Wear shows that he wants and I never miss an episode of Ice Road Truckers.

Is the coach hard to drive? Well, I can’t answer this one! Vic makes it look easy. Sometimes I freak out as the passenger when there are steep grades, high bridges, long tunnels, or massive traffic. Probably the most challenging time we had was in high winds in South Dakota. A crosswind pushed us into the passing lane on the freeway; fortunately, there was no one beside us. When that happened I read three tips: fill up with water, fill up with gas, and if that doesn’t help, pull over and watch a movie.

How is traveling with two dogs? They are part of our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way, so we are biased toward making it work. When we are actually moving down the road, they just sleep so that kind of traveling with them is easy. We have also raised them to be crate-trained. We have collapsible metal crates that fit beside our bed when we are not using them. At night they sleep in their crates out in the main living area. When we leave them for the day or shorter periods, we also put them in their crates with water and make sure the air conditioning is set when needed. We have been concerned about what would happen in an emergency if we were gone. Some RVers post a sign on their door saying that their dogs are inside and include their cell phone # to call. We do lock the coach, so it would require someone having a key (not a bad idea to leave an extra one at the office or with a friend in these cases) or--better yet—have a key pad at the door. (Wish we did, but we don’t.) The longest we have ever left them is about ten hours. We have looked into boarding them if need be for a few days, but so far we haven’t gone off without them for too long. Probably the biggest plus to having the dogs with us is they give us lots of love, entertain us, and keep us from getting bored with each other.

Isn’t the cost of fuel just too much? Yes and no. Yes, if we think about each mile we travels costing us about .50 cents; however, even though we traveled as far east as Quebec City and as far south as Key West, we stayed in Florida for more than four months. We put 12,000 miles on the coach so far, bringing our average cost of fuel down to about $500 a month. One way we rationalize the cost of fuel is to compare it to what we spent on energy costs in our home where we were tied to just one place. Basically, we made a decision that this experience was something we wanted to do and we weren’t going to let the cost of fuel deter us. I also like the point that an environmentalist friend made that living full time in a motorhome vs. a house results in making a much smaller ecological footprint.  

How about the cost of campgrounds? The cost of campgrounds on a per night basis exceeded what we anticipated. We were not too savvy when we started out about taking advantage of weekly or monthly rates.  We only had Good Sam and FMCA memberships to start (10% discount) and we never boondocked anywhere so we paid an average of $30-35 a night for the first few months along with some premium rates to stay right on the ocean or to stay at real RV resorts. (Many places call themselves this, but few meet the criteria for our vision of “resort.”) In December, we joined Passport America and made an effort to take advantage of a 50% discount at their parks, but we also discovered that the discount is not valid certain times of the year or days of the week.  We also joined Harvest Host which allows members to boondock at affiliated wineries, farms, and orchards. Harvest Host locations have been our only experience with boondocking. Because we never have traveled long days, pushing through from place to place, the idea of pulling into a Wal-mart at two or three in the afternoon just doesn’t work for us—but stopping at a winery in mid-afternoon is an entirely different story—and, Vic likes to point out, more expensive than staying at a high end campground.

What have been your favorite places to visit so far? Livingston, Montana; Old Quebec City; Camden, Maine; Charleston, South Carolina; the Florida Keys; Sanibel Island, Florida; Sarasota/Bradenton beaches of Florida; Florida’s Emerald Coast—Panama City Beach to Pensacola Beach; Fort Collins and Breckenridge, Colorado; Bryce Canyon National Park. Nota bene: Vic says he can’t think of anyplace that we have visited that he didn’t like. All right then. . . .

How long do you plan on traveling full-time? Until we no longer feel inspired to do so. . . . I told Vic from the start that I would give it one school year. Well, we have passed that deadline and have plans for the next year already. I tend to think one to two more years and Vic can easily envision three to four more years. One thing’s for sure: it’s too early to tell. I think we both have learned that we like staying a month or two in one place and that we definitely don’t want to spend anymore winters in Oregon. Unless we win the lottery, we won’t be able to have this motorhome and a house as well, so when the time comes to “settle down,” we’ll probably rent a casita in Mexico for the winter months and give up life in the Big EZ. (Good sign: I don’t like the sound of that last sentence at all. . . .) 


We are off to the Oregon Coast for three different venues with family and friends for the next two weeks and we just made a one month reservation in Bend, Oregon, for mid-August through mid-September. Vic is having fun penciling in possibilities for the road that leads from Bend back to Florida. I made sure to point out that the Pendleton Round-Up just might fit into those future plans, something on my bucket list that will allow me to wear those cowboy boots I have been toting around since last summer. 

Happy trails to you and may you laissez les bons temps rouler or for our Spanish-speaking amigos: que los buenos tiempos sigan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saying adios to Riverbend Resort on Peoria Road

July 18-25, Harrisburg, Oregon

Detering Orchard,  Harrisburg, Oregon--photo collage from their internet site
Staying one month at a campground always seems like such a long time when you first arrive and then suddenly the calendar days fly away and it is time to move on. We actually would be staying until July 29 but there is a Country Coach rally happening here starting on the 25th and every site in the park was booked months in advance. In fact, as I sit here at the computer we are already completely surrounded by several luxurious coaches including a few 45’ Country Coach Prevost conversions—million dollar babies.  Behind us sits our blogger friends from Texas, John and Sharon (of Heyduke fame); together in our 36-37’ Tiffins we feel dwarfed by the shiny chrome-plated tag axles lining the rows.

country coach prevostriverbend rally

John and Sharon’s arrival here last Wednesday came at a perfect time as we have been winding down on our trips to Corvallis to visit with friends and complete our annual medical appointments. As much as we have enjoyed seeing old friends again, it has also been great to spend time with folks who share the same lifestyle as us. We have much in common as neither of us had any RV experience when we decided to become full-timers. They have an edge on us with six months more experience so we appreciate the sharing of their road-tested wisdom. One big plus for me that just happened in this regard is that I am using Windows Live Writer for the first time for this blog—what a difference!  I had heard that most experienced bloggers migrate to this program, but I wasn’t sure how to transfer everything. Thanks to John’s help, it was easy to link Live Writer to my blogger site. I have been especially frustrated with inserting photos and changing the layout, so hopefully my blog appearance will improve as a result.

Summer in the valley is notably a time for festivals. I happened to hear that the Bite of EugennakedAlmondFudgee was going on Friday night and that a Cajun band, Etouffee, was playing from 5-7 p.m. So, off we went with John and Sharon to Alton Baker Park to check it out. I was surprised how wimpy the event was with only about a dozen vendors and only half the band showing up for the performance. With all the amazing restaurants and musicians in Eugene, it was a disappointing venue. Okay, getting a chance to meet Eugene’s reigning slug queen and sampling the Coconut Bliss frozen dessert almost made up for it, but the best part was the perfect summer evening weather and a chance to spend time with our friends.

We were also able to take John and Sharon to our favorite farmer’s market in Corvallis on Saturday which happened to coincide with Da Vinci Days. This time of the year is berry city at the market—the assortment of marionberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries just dazzle the eyes.  I was also thrilled to find two other favorites: padron peppers and zucchini blossoms.  After our stroll through the market, we happened to catch part of a Da Vinci Day parade on our way to Central Park and the art walk area featuring displays of this year’s theme: masks.


We rounded out our little adventure with a stop at the iconic 70s bar of Corvallispam sharon vic at squirrels—Squirrels—for a sandwich and a pint of local brew. This past weekend also included a special visit from both of my children!  My son Brooks came down from Astoria for the weekend, so he and my son Jesse came for dinner Saturday night and then returned again for brunch on Sunday. We are used to seeing each other much more often than once a year and it had been almost a year and a half since we had seen them together. The dogs sure remembered them with lots of excited antics and sloppy kisses. We had two great meals together—made even better by Brooks’ contribution of freshly caught tuna loins—and good conversation about highlights (and sometimes lowlights :>) of the past year. Being away for the year sure has heightened our appreciation for these times together.

We are alsovic picking raspberries trying to take full advantage of Oregon’s bounty while we are here. My goal has been to fill the freezer with berries. Last Wednesday, we picked a five-gallon bucket of blueberries from our friends Ann and Don’s garden and this morning, Vic agreed to go pick raspberries at Detering Orchards with me. I didn’t think about Mondays being a bad day to pick as the weekend crowds seemed to have stripped the plants of most of the ripe berries, but we persevered by going to the most remote rows and filled up our handy dandy bucket again for the cost of $2 per pound.  I also made strawberry freezer jam while I have been here so we are doing well on stocking up for the Florida winter (where I found the berries to be tasteless).  I always thought I would get back to lining the shelves with canned fruits and vegetables when I retired—doesn’t quite work for the motorhome lifestyle, but we at least have a large freezer drawer in our fabulous residential refrigerator for stocking up on such goodies.

raspberriescherry pitter

Today we said goodbye to our friends John and Sharon as they headed just a bit farther south into Eugene and we headed north about thirty miles to boondock at our friends’ (Ann and Don) home in Corvallis. We will be staying in Corvallis until Sunday when we start the beginning of almost three weeks at the coast. The weather here the past few days has been unusually overcast, chilly, and windy but today, and the rest of the week, the highs are supposed to be in the 80s with lows in the 50s. My favorite kind of weather!  Yay for summer in the Northwest.

sharon at motorhome
Goodbye to Ms. Heyduke--safe travels.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Picnics, kayaking, and summer fun in the valley: Part III

July 10-17, Harrisburg, Oregon

Detering Orchard's offerings--just a few miles down the road
Week three in the valley has been a good balance of relaxation and more time spent seeing friends and family as my son Jesse returned to Corvallis last week.  Even though we don't have our beautiful home on Angelica Drive anymore, and even though we are staying more than twenty miles out of town, our time here has certainly had the quality of coming home. Before I lived in Oregon, I called many different places home in my first three decades of life--northern Illinois where I lived most of my life except junior high, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I lived for grades 6-8, Montana where I went to college and returned to as a new mom, Maine where I lived when I first got married followed be a short stint in Florida, North Dakota where both of my children were conceived, Arizona where my son Jesse was born, and then Oregon where I lived for almost thirty years. I never imagined when I first came to Oregon that my time here would last that long--given my track record of constantly searching for the place to be happiest. Raising children and starting my teaching career in Corvallis played a major role in my decision to stay even after a divorce over twenty years ago, but the real draw has always been the quality of life here. Granted we are in Oregon during what most consider the best time of year, but after traveling all around the country we still feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: there's no place like home. . . .

Okay, enough of my sentimentality, and onto the highlights of the week. Kayaking down the Willamette River with our friends Phil and Cheryl certainly stood out as the outdoor adventure of the week.  We were a little worried at first about the swiftness of the river (at least in front of the campground) and cold temperature of the water from the snowmelt, but we chose a stretch of the river that was very easy paddling and the water wasn't as cold we had imagined.  Our run, from the Peoria boat launch to what we used to call Michael's Landing in Corvallis, took us about three hours. Even though our kayaks have pedals, we chose to paddle most of the way enjoying the current which made it almost effortless to go down the river (which actually flows north!).

I had only floated the Willamette one other time many years ago when I remembered seeing quite a bit of wildlife. Not so much on this trip, but we did see two bald eagles, several blue herons, a mother duck with brand new downy ducklings, and one cow with a calf hanging out on a riverbank.

I must also admit that Cheryl and I, having not seen each other in a year, spent more time visiting with each other than observing nature, so much so that I missed a large rock in the middle of the river which ended up bending one of my turbo flippers. Vic managed to straighten out the bent "mast" in the flipper just today thanks to recommendations from a Hobie forum on the internet, so all is well. I was just glad hitting the rock did not fling me out of the kayak, something I would not enjoy in this water, but at least there are no alligators waiting on the shore like in Florida. When we made it to our destination, I waited with the kayaks while Cheryl drove Vic and Phil back to the cars where we put in. A small price to pay for such a fun day --like the rhyme?

I have been blessed to have lunch with Jesse twice on my own, then Vic and I took him out for Mexican food one night. He has yet to get out here to the campground where the dogs will go crazy when they see him. Jesse was living in Florida when we were there, so this has been a good year for getting to see him as compared to my oldest son Brooks whom we have not seen in one year--a record. I think Jesse enjoyed the Florida sunshine in the winter as we did but surviving there in the summer when you are used to the Northwest is pretty daunting. I lived in Miami one long summer back in the 70s and it would not be something I would choose to do again.

My handsome sons!
More good times with friends this week included two dinner invitations and a Stella and Dot trunk show (jewelry that my friend Maureen sells) where I was able to see two of my former colleagues from the English department where I taught. It's weird how after only one year of retirement that all-consuming part of my life seems to have entirely slipped away except for the relationships with friends, and the occasional dreams I have about not being able to find my classroom anymore or losing all the papers I was supposed to have graded.

Maureen, the hostess, modeling her fabulous orange necklace

My former teaching colleagues, Marin and her baby Grayson, and April and her daughter Linnea

Marin and lucky me with 8-week-old Grayson
We were also lucky to be able to see our friend Bruce again (also one of my English teacher colleagues) for a memorable dinner at the Markers outside on their deck with a gorgeous view of the Cascades on Vineyard Mountain. Thank you Marilyn and Tom, and thank you Bruce for being there and bringing that luscious Artesa Meritage wine from Napa.

Marilyn on her fabulous deck--with a hazy view of the mountains.
Dinner being served on their brand new handpainted dishes from Italy

Don and Bruce swapping stories before dinner

Another special event this week was hosting a reunion of my film club right here at the campground. Nine of the group made the trip to Riverbend where we gathered together for a potluck picnic under a big oak tree overlooking the river. I lucked out with the weather as it was a hot day but the shade of the tree and the breeze from the river made it quite comfortable and, of course, the best part was visiting with everyone and hearing stories of their travels and other changes in their lives including new grandchildren. The bummer part of the day was watching the peach mascarpone custard I made slide off a cooler into a big blob on the grass. We managed to save most of it, then one of my friends said, "Now it feels like camping." None of these women has experienced life in a motorhome, so I also had to explain the term "glamping," which is worlds apart from those who spread out tarps and stake their tents out in the woods.

We rounded out the week with another barbecue at our good friends the Cooks, where our friend Don made his first brisket on his amazing Traeger grill and Ann made scrumptious blueberry cheesecake squares with freshly picked berries from their garden. After dinner, we broke out the card game Phase Ten with their daughter and her boyfriend. We have played this game many times in the past together and it has become a constant source of laughter over how ruthless we can be with each other--especially my husband who is typically so reserved and thoughtful. We also have a habit of carrying this game into the wee hours of the night but by 11 p.m. we all agreed that this was a round "to be continued" as we still had a half hour drive to make back to our temporary home on the river. (Forgot to take photos again!)

The river has been a perfect symbol for our life at this juncture as our life now seems to be all about going with the flow. In another five weeks we will have been on the road for one year. It is remarkable how much letting go of daily routines, familiar surroundings, and material possessions can change your perspective without you even realizing it as it happens. I heard someone once describe travel as a way of gaining altitude on your life and it has nothing to do with being in a plane. If the second year of our travels could be a book, I would like to title it Zen and the Art of Full-Timing in a Motorhome or Following the Yellow Brick Road.

art from

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer arrives to the Willamette Valley: Part II

July 2-9, Harrisburg, Oregon

Yesterday we completed our second week back "home" and the best part is that summer weather has arrived.  I think in my last entry I shared the Oregon adage that summer begins on July 5, but it actually came a day early on the 4th of July.  We have had temperatures ranging from the mid 70s to the high 80s with lows at nighttime in the 50s or 60s.  This is the perfect weather I have long described to others when they ask about summers in Oregon. Now that we have turned the corner on the weather, rain is typically scarce until early fall. We especially love the cool nights--good sleeping weather--and the fact that there are virtually no pesky bugs to deal with other than the occasional yellow jacket. Even staying at a campground right on the river, there are no mosquitoes or gnats. I  think it is because there is little rainfall this time of year and the water is constantly moving.

The past week has been a little slower pace for us which feels good. We have settled into a pattern of going into town (Corvallis) every other day to visit friends, run errands, or go to appointments. It has been nice to be able to take our time in seeing people rather than trying to cram it all into one week. Last Monday, I drove to Salem to meet a friend for lunch who now lives in Portland. Not having seen each other in about five years, we had much catching up to do both in terms of recent changes in our lives and sharing memories that go back to the time were neighbors twenty-five years ago. Where did all those years go? We were young mothers when we met and now we are senior citizens! Hopefully we are a little wiser now, but it still feels like we are the same girls who would sit out in the sun (with not enough sunscreen) drinking gin and tonics in our backyards together.

The 4th of July we played things low key as we wanted to stay with the dogs because of all the local fireworks.  We ended up going to some friends for a BBQ where we were able to bring the dogs with us.  Jetta, our female dog, gets very jittery around fireworks and thunder and this holiday was no exception. We ended up closing all the windows in the house, turning up the music, putting cotton balls in her ears, and giving her a half a benadryl. She eventually settled down.  We played Hearts, and I tried to shoot the moon three times and finally succeeded on the last hand--rescuing myself from last place. (Sorry Mo. . . .)
Another delightful day this past week was going to Eugene to see another good friend whom I had not seen in two years. She and I were both high school English teachers, single moms with sons, and we lived across the street from each other twice!  She retired two years ago and her two younger sons built her a cottage in her older son's backyard. It is a lovely space that even has a secret garden.  She can walk most places and, best of all, is right there to enjoy watching her four-year-old grandson, Jules, grow up.  We walked to lunch at a place called the Hideaway Bakery where I had a roasted beet and goat cheese salad on mixed greens with wood-fired artisan bread.  Another fun discovery of a great little cafe and bakery.  Sheila also inspired me with her painting which she sells at the Spencer Creek Grange market on Saturdays. Her current art projects involve repurposing items from places like the Goodwill such as old pitchers, mirrors, watering cans, by painting them with brightly-colored images such as sunflowers, poppies, salmon, dragonflies, etc. I am so happy for her new life in Eugene near her three sons. The Eugene Register-Guard did a great feature on her new place and the touching story behind it:

Sheila's sweet cottage
This weekend we had two other special visitors at our "country home." Our friend Don, who is baching it while his wife is in Southern California visiting their new granddaughter, came to visit (and spend the night!) with his dog Charlie, an eleven month old Cockapoo.
Looks like a doggie sleepover
Charles enjoying the couch
I made some local ling cod with mango salsa and coconut rice for dinner, and then we walked the dogs around the park checking out all the other motorhomes and fifth wheels. That night there was a wedding reception happening in the main lodge and we learned they were going to send off sky lanterns at dusk--something I had never seen or heard of.  They were amazing to see--especially over the river. Here is what I learned about them
Traditionally used in Asia for celebrations and festivals, the launch of Wish Lanterns symbolizes the release of worries and problems.Wish Lanterns are biodegradable, non-flammable and easy to use. They create an amazing visual effect that adds enjoyment and wonder to any special occasion.Simply light the fuel cell, wait for the lanterns to fill up with hot air and then let go. You and your guests will gaze as the Wish Lantern floats up into the night sky. Using the power of fire, the Wish Lantern will be in the air for about 12 minutes and go up over a mile in the air.

On Sunday, our good friend Bruce who is in town for a few days from Mexico (and temporarily Southern Cal--another story altogether) drove out for dinner. Before dinner, I talked him into joining me in the pool for a swim as it was a warm day here in the high 80s and even the unheated pool felt just right (but Vic wouldn't believe us). Our original retirement plans were to move to Mazatlan where Bruce and his wife now live. We were just going to be two years behind them, but the economy and drug war had us rethink our plans and Vic's dream of touring the country in motorhome won out. We still miss Mexico and haven't ruled out eventually spending the winters there.

Both Vic and I are learning that staying in one place for a longer period of time is good for the soul. I even have a birdfeeder here that is going through about four cups of sunflower seed a day. I miss my backyard birds and flowers but being out in the country by the river makes up for it. I am discovering all kinds of new little places to visit out here that I never even knew existed when we lived about twenty miles away. With less than two weeks left at this spot, we suddenly have a list of all kinds of things we still want to do--such is life. We are grateful for the time here and the blessing of being able to reconnect with such good friends. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The joys of the Willamette Valley: Part I

June 24-July 1, Harrisburg, Oregon
Willamette River--Riverbend RV Resort

After being gone for ten months, we came full circle in returning back to the Northwest and arrived back in the Willamette Valley a week ago today. We made a choice to stay about twenty miles out of our former hometown, Corvallis, at an RV Park on the Willamette River called Riverbend as we didn't really like the two other options for a long-term stay: the Benton County Fairgrounds or a KOA about ten miles out town near I-5. We chose Riverbend mainly because of its serene location on the river and the drive into town on Peoria Road has long been one of our favorites. The price for a month was also a good deal at $600, and, in addition to the scenic view, there is a pool and spa.

As we approached the valley from our stay at Bandon, we both admitted to feeling a little anxious about our return as we no longer have a home here and that feels a bit strange having lived in Corvallis 28 years and Vic for 34 years. It actually felt good to be a bit out of town and make the trek back into town more of a special treat than a daily routine. Of course, the best part already has been reconnecting with friends for two different barbecues in honor of our return. I definitely felt teary-eyed in both reunions as I was reminded of how good it felt to be with those who know us so well--our families, our histories, our fun memories together--the richness of life for sure. (And I was too caught up in having fun to remember to take photos. . . . )

The park itself was a bit of a disappointment at first--no fire rings or picnic tables on each site and rather narrow spaces.  We managed to talk our way into a bigger pull-through site for the first four days and then scoped out a site we preferred for the duration of our stay as it had more space for an outdoor patio.  After being here a week, I have grown to like the place rather well, especially sitting down by the river.  I even discovered a wonderful firepit by the river which it seems no one uses. The pool is also lovely, although not heated, but the spa is of course and makes the pool feel much more temperate. Overall, it is a peaceful place to call home for a month. 

The park holds weddings on this lawn along the river.

I discovered a stone firepit for anyone's use just to the right of the picnic table.  Yay!

The last week has been rather rainy here.  We wondered whether we might have returned too early as there is an old adage that summer begins on July 5 in Oregon.  The temperatures have been pretty mild with lows in the 60s and highs in the low 70s, but we have had grey skies and a little rain each day in the past week.  However, we feel grateful to be here vs. in many other places in the country now with such high temps across the nation and tropical storms in Florida.

We had high hopes of kayaking the Willamette but the water is high and rather fast, not to mention cold. I read about an older couple (like us!) who got caught in a log jam in a tandem kayak on the river and had to be rescued.  The water is more treacherous than it looks.  We also have to admit we are more eager to be out on the water in warmer weather. But we have had plenty to keep us busy the past week, including scheduling all kinds of appointments for the month of July with our regular doctors, my favorite hair stylist, our masseuses, the dog's vet, etc.

Another important connection for us is to do some of the things we always loved to do while living here in the summer like go to Starbucks with the dogs and sit outside almost every Saturday morning before walking to the downtown farmer's market. Another routine we used to have (when we had more money) was to go to Big River, one of our favorite restaurants, and have small plates and a drink(s?) at the bar on Friday night. We also are still looking forward to taking the dogs on our favorite walks around town--down sheep barn road (where Vic asked me to marry him!), the long path along the waterfront to Avery Park and back through campus, and the great hiking trail through MacDonald Forest on the Vineyard Mountain Loop.
One of our long time favorite restaurants in Corvallis
Wine tasting booth at the Corvallis farmer's market

These blackberries tasted as good as they looked.

The market is also a dog show--the dogs just can't go in the booths.
Another wine tasting opportunity along the riverfront. 
You see it all at the market--meet Peaches! Her owner rescues Pitbulls and tries to eradicate stereotypes about this breed.
Wild mushrooms are another delight--there are even morels on the left.
All kinds of music fills the market; this is a group we know personally.

Even though the temps were only in the high 60s, these kids were having fun in the riverfront park fountain.
The flowers --and my sweet husband and pooches--never fail to put a smile on my face. 

We have also been curious to see the small changes that have taken place in Corvallis since we have been gone. Nothing major seems to stand out except a few new restaurants which always seems good.  Not sure how the addition of a Panera Bakery went over as Corvallis prides itself on supporting mostly local businesses rather than chains.

A new delight has been taking advantage of stopping along the way to our park at some of the local stands offering everything from u-pick strawberries to homemade maple bars. I love little farm stands--most be a throwback to my youth in northern Illinois, and there are at least five on our Peoria Road drive.  One is called the Country Bakery and is only open Friday and Saturday. For all the years I lived here, I have wanted to stop and check it out and can happily now report that we have been there twice.  The bakery is  part of a Mennonite woman's home way out in the country.  The story goes that she gets up at 1:00 a.m. to bake homemade breads, cookies, cinnamon rolls, pies, and homemade donuts.  The kitchen may be the most immaculate I have ever seen and the outdoor area greets with you a gazebo, rose garden, and benches on a stone path where you can sit and enjoy your indulgences.

There are also two u-pick strawberry farms along the way on our route back and forth into town. I stopped and bought some already picked berries at each place to compare the varieties and all I can say is that no berries in the country compare. They were so sweet and juicy that they had to be eaten within a day or two.  Another treat was the discovery of three different farms along the road that sold grass feed beef, free-range eggs, and homemade sausage.  These are delights that really stand out as part of the quality of life we value so much in this area.

Yes, it's true that Oregon is known for its rain but the lushness of the valley and the profusion of flowers always seem worth it to me. I am such a hopeless romantic. The pastoral settings with sheep grazing in the rolling hills always evokes for me visions described by the ninteteenth century British poets such as Keats, Shelley, and Worsdworth.

 I shall leave you with an excerpt from Wordsworth's "Lines Composed  a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey":

Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur. Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage ground, these orchard tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!


Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear -both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being