Thursday, August 9, 2012

A gathering with friends on Mercer Lake

Aug. 2-4, Florence, Oregon

We had a challenge in planning our itinerary this week as we knew we would be in Manzanita July 29-Aug. 2 and we had reservations at Ft. Stevens in Astoria Aug. 5-9, a Sunday through Thursday, much easier to score than a Thursday-Sunday this time of year. That left us free with no specific plans for August 2-4. Lucky for us, another tradition fit right into this time slot-- staying with friends at a lake house in Florence, Oregon. The challenge was one of geography. Florence happens to be four hours south of where we were staying. We both agreed that the drive in the motorhome down 101 South to Florence was not something we were looking forward to doing again; one time last summer was enough as the winding curves, narrow roads, tunnels, and bridges made for an edgy drive. Fortunately there was room at the lake house for us and the dogs and two other couples. Plan B: we found an inexpensive Passport America park ($11 a night!) in Tillamook, where we would have full hook-ups to run the residential refrigerator, and, for the first time in nearly a year, left the Big EZ behind while we traveled to Florence by car. After a year of traveling with everything we need, it felt weird to make packing decisions about what to bring for only a few days.  By the time we left, the Jeep was packed with all of our kayaking equipment, two large dog crates, dog food and dishes, wine and food to share, and layers of clothing in preparation for the varying temps one can encounter at the coast. Good to go.

We traveled south on my birthday with plans to open a special bottle of library wine that I have been storing for almost five years. It was a 2002 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir from Dundee, Oregon, and I was getting worried that it might be beyond its time. Well, it wasn't. What a luscious treat it turned out to be. We had tasted the wine at a private tasting arranged by our friends Dona and Tony and were blown away then by the earthy (forest floor) layers one could taste in each sip. While our friends bought cases of the 07 Pinot, we chose to get just one bottle of the 02. It was so worth it.

Even better, after arriving at the cabin, the "boys," Mike and Vic, agreed to go shopping and do the cooking while Mo and I uncorked the vino and perched in Adirondack chairs by the firepit.

I shared with Mo that my aunt had called me in the morning and told me to look for a sign from my mother on my birthday.(She passed away last year.) I teared up when my aunt said this to me as there is no day of the year that I miss my mother more than on my birthday. It turned out the signs were all around me: the first was a song I rarely hear, especially on the radio: “Born Free.” My mother dedicated this song to me when I was only about twelve as my astrological sign is Leo the Lion and she always that my spirit was one that could not be contained. She even had my stepfather learn the song on his guitar so they could teasingly sing it to me. The second sign was a bit more blatant, but, ironically, easy to miss. My mother always gravitated to homes that were on a lake or river. She would have loved Mercer Lake with the deck overlooking the lake and a small beach perfect for doing something she loved: taking a swim in the morning or early evening. While Mo and I sat around the fire, a full moon slowly rose above the horizon, casting an incredible reflection on the lake. The current and ripples on the water made tiny sparkles twinkle across the lake. Perhaps the library wine contributed to the illumination of moonglow, but we both agreed that this light show was another sign from my beautiful mother.  She loved to sparkle!  (Tried to take photos, but alas, they didn’t capture the heavenly light.)

Day two of our lake house escape brought the arrival of Bruce and Sharon, our close friends who now live in Mexico most of the year.

bruce on decksharon in hat

The six of us have stayed on Mercer Lake in the summer for the past four years, so we were thrilled to be here together again. A fun addition was the use of our kayaks on the lake. Mo and I took about a two hour tour of the lake the day before and Mike and Vic were able to do the same. They were amazed at how much farther you can travel with the turbo flipper pedals vs. paddling the whole way. Bruce and Sharon had a chance to go out in the kayaks before we all went to dinner at the Waterfront Depot in Florence.

While they were kayaking, I spent time getting the dogs in the water. Jetta is an avid fetcher and will even go off the dock if there is something she wants to fetch. Rico, on the other hand, is not into fetching or going over his head in the water. I made a baggie of high value treats, salami and cheese, to lure him into deeper water. It worked and it turns out he is a stronger swimmer than Jetta, but he still didn't want to be in deep water.  After Bruce and Sharon returned from kayaking, I had the idea to get both dogs in the kayaks.  We just toured them around the dock for a little while to get them used to the idea. Rico was happy to stay in the kayak, but Jetta kept wanting to jump into the water—something we will have to correct if we want to include them in some boating adventures.

dogs by kayakboth kayaks with dogsjetta on kayak1jetta swimming

Dinner at the Waterfront Bistro was a rare splurge for us, but my birthday was a good excuse. To cut down on the overall bill, I brought two bottles of wine to dinner which cost us a corkage fee of $10 per bottle. Bruce teased the waitress about our bottles only requiring a screw-top fee, which was true, but the fee was the same. We indulged in grilled oysters, calamari fingers, and Sicilian cheese for appetizers; razor clams, crab-encrusted halibut, flat iron and New York steak for dinner entrees; and three different desserts to share amongst us afterwards. This was the second time the six of us ate here and it has yet to disappoint. Great service, atmosphere, and food--and lots of jollies and moments of deep appreciation for one another in our conversation around the table. When we returned to the cabin, it was Saturday night week two of the Olympics so we all piled onto one big sectional and watched men's swimming and women's diving until our eyes grew heavy.

Day three at the lake: a lazy morning with a light mist of fog over the lake. Why does a cup of coffee taste so much better on a deck outside overlooking a lake?  I decided to make a brunch spread for those who wanted to graze as the morning transitioned into early afternoon. Just before noon, Vic and I went kayaking until we rounded the bend out of our protected little cove and hit the chill of the ocean air flowing across the lake. I was unprepared for the 60 degree air in a wet bathing suit. (The  weather inland on the lake has been incredible—in the low 80s, but just a few miles toward the ocean it is often 10-15 degrees cooler with more wind.)  After heading back, Bruce and Vic took off in the kayaks for a grand tour of the lake while I hung out with our dogs and their buddy, Fenway--aka Fenny.


The three gamblers in the group eagerly offered to make a grocery run with a quick stop at the Three Rivers Casino. The commitment was to bring back filet mignon and lobster if the winnings were big, and hot dogs if not. Fortunately, we did not have hot dogs for dinner, but they said they broke even so the result was a delicious dinner somewhere in the middle: tri-tip, salad, and corn-on-the-cob.

They also brought back two bundles of firewood so we all enjoyed a gathering around the fire before dinner.  It turned out the coast was the place to be this weekend as temperatures back in the valley set record highs, exceeding 100 degrees, making the crisp night air all the more welcome.

Day four meant departure day, on the early side for us as we strove to make it back to Tillamook, a three+ hour drive, for the 11:00 a.m. checkout time from Big Spruce RV Park. Goodbyes are always tough for me. Fortunately, I knew we would see Bruce and Sharon again in less than a week and left with high hopes that Mike and Mo would visit us during our upcoming month-long stay in Bend.  I could be heard uttering one of my most useful affirmations as we left: "I can say my hellos and goodbyes to people, places, things, and events."  Yes, I can, but it is often not easy to accept the wave of sadness that sweeps over me when it is time to move on which happens quite frequently in this lifestyle! I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my mom’s favorite songs “For the Good Times” by Ray Price: Don't look so sad, I know it's over. But life goes on, and this old world will keep on turning. Let's just be glad we had some time to spend together.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. This post is a lovely tribute to a wonderful mother and to good friendships. Happy Birthday! What a great multi-day party. Thanks for taking me along.


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