Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Experiencing the transition to autumn in Central Oregon

Sept. 9-18, Bend, Oregon

smokey sunset

With Labor Day weekend behind us, the cycle of another year seems to begin as both Vic and I spent so many Septembers caught up in the hustle and bustle of back to school demands and activities. Last year marked my first year of not having to go back to school in the fall but it had a different feeling as we had just held a celebration of my mother’s life in Northern Michigan and we had just begun our first month of traveling full-time in the motorhome.  This year spending autumn in Oregon makes the absence from the school routine more pronounced as I have not had free time in the fall here since the first year I moved to Corvallis in 1983 with a four-month old and four-year-old. I love the changing of the seasons and while the daytime temps are still in the 80s here, the nighttime lows have dipped into the high 30s and some fall foliage is starting to appear.

One unfortunate part about this time of year in the West is the increased prevalence of forest fires and this year is no exception.  About a week ago, a huge plume of smoke appeared to the west of us marking the start of what is called the Pole Creek Fire, a wildfire that has now burned over 17000 acres with over 1200 crew members working to contain it. The fire is still not under control and the air quality in the whole region has been at alert stages. One evening a few nights ago there was even ash floating in the air in downtown Bend and we discovered a thin coating of ash on our outdoor furniture the next morning. Thankfully, the fire has not destroyed any homes or injured anyone, but some hikers in the area had harrowing stories to tell about finding trails that led away from the fire.

Even with the air a little hazy, it has not deterred us from exploring the trail system around Bend and spending time outdoors watching the sunset or just hanging out on our patio here at the park. Aside from these activities, we have also been busy spending time with friends in the area.  We had a lovely evening with two couples from Vic's “past” eating pizza and salad at their home, and catching up on the joys and challenges of their lives here in Bend. My friend Pam and her husband Scott also returned from a Chicago trip, so we have had a few opportunities to get together with them and their two grown kids who also live here.

dinner at crux
The Bend Trolley making a stop on the Brew and Bite tour

This past weekend we also had visits from two of my former colleagues who are still teaching at Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis. Visiting with them really enchanced my feeling of freedom regarding school as I listened to the latest news of the opening days of the 2012-2013 school year. We have also been in touch with a couple that we haven't seen since they left Corvallis eight years ago, Gina and Bob, who moved to Bend a few years ago. Gina was able to join us for a glass of wine and dinner last night here at our Crown Villa abode where we spent a few hours reminiscing on past adventures and new developments in our lives. She and her husband Bob are avid kayakers and mountain bikers so we are looking forward to having them show us some favorite spots in the week ahead.

pam h on riverwalk

On the subject of kayaking, we have yet to hit the water!  We had been waiting for a pulled muscle in Vic’s back to heal and then he came down with an old-fashioned head cold. The smoke in the air has also deterred us a little as we have heard the Cascades lakes area is heavily laden with smoke. This morning we managed to get in a five mile river walk before the smoke settled in too heavily, so we may do best to get in a morning kayak one day this week. We are sure looking forward to exploring this area’s rivers and lakes. The Deschutes has several places that are calm enough to do short runs and with our Mirage Drives (pedal-powered flippers) we won’t have any trouble traveling back upstream (which, interestingly, is north).
In the meantime, we have have discovered we love staying somewhere for a month or more as the push to see and do everything in the area is eased by days with no agendas—often just hanging out on our patio reading or taking short walks in the park and meeting fellow “campers.”

vic sleeping outside

I have also discovered the simple pleasure of having coffee at the clubhouse and sitting in the jacuzzi in the morning before showering for the day. This park has a very peaceful atmosphere and plenty of shade for respite from the warmer part of the day in late afternoon. One noisy part is the whistle and rumble of a few daily trains in the distance, but one of my first memories as a child was hearing the train near our home in Lake Villa, Illinois, so that sound has long been more of a comfort to me than a nuisance.

Today I decided to splurge and have Jana’s Mobile Pet Spa come to our site and groom Jetta, our curly-haired Portuguese Water Dog.  Her son Rico has wavy hair and I find him much easier to groom myself—except he doesn’t like me to clip his nails, so we may add that to her list of requests when she gets here.

Typically, I will bath the dogs outside using a hose attached to the water source in the park, but this water is darn cold. We took the dogs to a do-it-yourself-pet bath place a few weeks ago as the dusty trail walking here takes its toll in terms of dirt.  It is surprising how much dustier it is here than in the valley due to the desert rock (pumice dirt) and low humidity (currently 11% today!).  We also find we need to use more lotions and lip balm to compensate for the drier weather. The dogs seem to be doing fine with the dry climate—maybe just drinking more water as we should be doing too.

At the risk of being too random, another topic related to our stay here has been our fairly recent commitment to eat mostly vegan or at least vegetarian meals. Thanks to inspiration from fellow bloggers Karen (RV Travels with Karen and Al) and Sherry (In the Direction of our Dreams) we have been experimenting with changing our diet. The big influence was watching the documentary Forks over Knives and learning about The China Study. Since watching the video, I have purchased a couple of vegan cookbooks, The Conscious Cook and Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, plus I borrowed a third that I really like called The Urban Vegan. I also joined Pinterest just so I could easily pin vegan recipes online that look interesting. The first part of this adventure involved adding vegan items to my pantry and fridge such as Veganese, Grapeseed Oil, cashews (for making cashew cream), Earth Balance butter, buckwheat and soy flour, various dried beans and nuts, egg replacer, and Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. I also decided to try some vegan sausages (Field Roast brand) and cheeses (made from almonds) which really weren’t too bad. The one concession we are not making is giving up seafood, so we have had shrimp pasta, fish tacos, fresh albacore and halibut to keep things interesting. We have not ruled out eating meat and dairy products but only on occasion rather than the rule. I have enjoyed the challenge of trying new recipes as I love to cook and Bend has terrific markets for finding a wide range of organic fruits and vegies plus other goodies. In addition to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, there are two local markets that have become my favorites: Newport Market and Devore’s Good Food Store. Check out the vegie display and stuffed bear that greets you at Newport Market—what a beautiful shopping experience!

newport market vegies
newport market bear

To sum things up, we are spending our days with a good balance of being active, eating healthy, enjoying time with friends new and old, and staying grateful for the many blessings we have in our lives. Our plan is to stay here until mid-October (the rates drop by more than half Oct. 1) and then begin our travels eastward with enough time to visit the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains before making a November trek to Tampa and then the Keys by Thanksgiving. It is hard to believe the holidays will be upon us by then, but for now we are enjoying glorious fall days in Central Oregon.

vic and rico on riverwalk


  1. I was so happy to hear you have been working to change your diet and are experimenting with the vegan way of eating. We've been doing it over two months now and are discovering more and more things to eat that we didn't know about before...like Tabouli (try it if you haven't). Have you invested in a good blender yet? It really helps us to get in more fruits and veggies and we normally have a green smoothie each morning. We bought a Blendtec blender and love it.

    Hope to see you this winter!

  2. What a very lovely life you are living now. So sorry for the smoke hampering your adventures. All those fires in the forests out west make me sad. I know fires are a natural and necessary part of the ecosystem but the loss of the trees and the distress of the animals are what saddens me.

    That sounds like a fast trip east you guys are making, one month to cross the country. Not sure I could manage that so I'm looking forward to reading all about it and about where you'll be in the Keys for Thanksgiving.

  3. yikes no more dinners with you and Vic unless I bring my own meat??? just kidding... enjoy experimenting...

  4. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time!!! Can't believe you haven't used your kayaks yet in the area. Sorry to hear about Vic's back and your new diet sounds interesting, appears to be more work. Good to hear all 4 of you are doing fine. If you need a place to park on your way across, you know where we live.
    Love and miss you, Mike and BJ


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