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 thedailybalance.com

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