Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Enjoying the bounty of the Willamette Valley

July 21-27, 2013
Corvallis, Oregon
Chez Cook’s RV Pad

fruit medley

The days here seem to be melting away—not in terms of heat, thankfully, but in terms of errands, appointments, gathering with friends, and getting in some daily exercise. Which, as I write this, sounds a lot more like normal life than one of travels and visiting new places. No complaints as I think we are both enjoying this break from spending time in the tourist mode.

Along with checking off a fairly lengthy list of appointments, we are also taking this time to go through all our belongings in the motorhome and donate some things we don’t use or put some items that we think we might use in our “next life” back in our storage unit. I am also trying to use up everything in our freezer, so we can fill it before we leave with some of Oregon’s summer bounty—especially berries. Our vision is to leave here with everything serviced, clean, and ready to take on another year of travels.

We will be in Corvallis until August 17, then we head three hours north to Astoria for a week to spend time with my oldest son. From there the plan is fairly ambitious as we head to Montana and Wyoming taking in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons before making a cross country trek to Niagara Falls, then down to Asheville, North Carolina. We will be spending the winter in Florida again  so we have about ten or eleven weeks to take in a wide swath of country before we get back to a tropical environment. Vic enjoys doing all the planning for this road trip, but we are in agreement that we are going '”reservation free” so we can edit our plans as the mood strikes us at least until we arrive in Florida. Wish us luck with this plan for freewheeling it!

In the meantime, our greatest joy in being here in the Willamette Valley has been visiting with friends and appreciating the ideal weather (especially this week with highs in the low 80s and lows in the mid-50s and zero rain). The humidity has been about 30-35%—so refreshing! We also have a goal of getting out on some local hikes, but so far have only done one to a nice viewpoint quite close to where we used to live. I had not done this hike in years as at one time it was a favorite spot for my high school students to have parties out in the woods. (Remember those days???)

We recently bought the dogs their own little Henry & Clemmies backpacks to carry their water and ours!  I have read that dogs like to feel they are doing something of value and adding a pack makes them think they are working. They also get more exercise when carrying some added weight and we sure know a tired dog is a good dog. Neither dog minded the pack one bit. They mostly just love being out with us so I suspect it will soon be something that excites them when they see us get their packs out.

dog backpack

This hike was just a little less than three miles but it did include some elevation so it was a good way to start the day. The views of the town of the Corvallis are the reward. The photo below is looking to the south. The day was a little hazy but on a clear one you could see the Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, snow-capped mountains to the east.

In the late afternoons or evenings, we have been busy getting together with friends to catch up on their lives. One of my teaching colleagues has a fourteen-month-old son whom I was anxious to see. We spent a pleasant time seeing the baby and their new house while sharing our travel stories and listening to the latest news of life in the English department at the high school where I used to teach.

Another fun visit was to see a friend (and former middle school teacher colleague going back to the 80s!) who bought one of our puppies. Our dog Rico is her dog Kai’s brother, so we always try to get them together for a puppy play date—even though they are already three years old. They raced and raced around her yard together until both they both collapsed. Of course, when I snapped a picture of the two of them, they politely hid their panting tongues.

Another special day for me was having lunch with a friend who turned 70 this year! She surprised me by making reservations at a favorite lunch spot Gathering Together Farm, an organic farm and restaurant out in the countryside. The place has become so popular that it is hard, even on weekdays, to get a reservation. I neglected to take a photo of my friend but I did get one of the café and their new Kiko Denzer earth oven.

gtf lunch2

gtf pizza oven2

The food at what is known as GTF is amazing as everything is local, organic, and fresh. We had a duck confit pizza with housemade mozzarella and a creamy polenta with roasted summer squash and red chard. The perfect wine for this lovely afternoon, a well-chilled glass of Pinot Gris from Lumos, came from a winery just a few miles away. I even know the winemaker as his father was one of my master’s thesis professors. It’s a small world around here.

One of out favorite pastimes here has been barbecues on the deck at the Chez Cook house where we are staying. The four of us have a long history of playing the card game Phase Ten and “skipping” Ann or Vic—the two of them particularly like to torment each other. Vic likes to wear his lucky hat when we play cards which he believes boosts his chances of winning.

vic with crazy hair2

The four of us have also been watching episodes from the first season of Mad Men together. Vic and I have seen several shows from later seasons, but never saw the series from the start. Our friends have Apple TV where all five seasons are available for anytime viewing (that’s 65 episodes!). When we go inside to watch TV, Vic has taken to wrapping himself in one of Ann’s quilts as we are not used to the cool evening weather—a sure sign those Florida winters have thinned his blood. 

vic in anns quilt

One last pleasure to share. Back in our working days, we used to go Big River, our favorite restaurant and bar here in Corvallis on Friday nights where we would have a cocktail, listen to music, and enjoy a meal while always sitting at the copper bar. We did a repeat performance of this ritual last Friday night. The only disappointment was they switched the live music to Saturday nights!  Regardless, it brought back good memories of the early days in our marriage.  Here’s to the Good Times!

big river negroni cocktail


  1. Awww...so glad you are getting things checked off the list and enjoying old friends. I like your line about taking a break from being tourists. Sometimes we forget that this is our life and need to slow down a bit. That's some lucky hat Vic has...too funny!

    Enjoy the rest of your stay in Corvallis.

    1. Forgot to say, we stopped making reservations last summer after we cancelled weeks worth to go to the Maritimes...so far, no problems finding a place to stay.

    2. Once again, you are an inspiration. We are hoping to have the same luck!

  2. You have an ambitious trip planned back across the country. Can't wait to go along. We LOVED Glacier. Do you not have reservations at Glacier, Yellowstone or Teton? Perhaps in the fall you won't need them. Is that a stop in Cleveland Ohio I see?

    Sure looks like you have had a wonderful time back in your hometown. When we go back all we seem to do is work to get the "business" done for another year. Good for you!! Hope we see you in Florida this winter.

    1. Having lived in Montana during college years and beyond, Glacier became one of my favorite places too. For me, it is also a spiritual place as you know you are in the presence of something greater yourself when you are there.

      And, yes--Cleveland is on the list as Vic lived there as a child and has many cousins still there whom he has not seen in years.

  3. We clean out everything once a year. Amazing what we thought we had to have and what we actually use.

    That is a big trip. Reminds me of our trip last spring/summer...NV/CA/OR/WA/SD...etc.

    The restaurant looks lovely.

    Oh dear Vic. You look like you are ready for the Tundra...lol

    You two have been living the good life for sure.

    1. I think the fall trip is overly ambitious. We may scale it back as we go; hence, the no reservation philosophy. On the other hand, fall and spring are our time for seeing more of the country as we have enjoyed the winter stays in Florida and summer stays in Oregon.

  4. Interesting post, I don't know where to start with a reply except to say it was a great read. You've got quite an exciting road trip ahead of you this fall that's for sure.

    I loved those dog-packs, I might check into seeing if they have them for small dogs like Molly and Rylie.

    I like the way Vic watches TV - all wrapped up in a quilt, it's nice to be warm.

    1. They definitely have the dog packs in all different sizes. I bet your "mutzos" would like them.

  5. It looks like we are trailing behind you. We are heading to Yosemite national park today then swinging over to the coast and up to Oregon. After Oregon... east. Just drop bread crumbs in order for us to find our way.

  6. I don't know your timeline, but please get in touch if it looks like we are close. We love meeting other bloggers! I will do a better job of posting more frequently once we are back on the road.

  7. Hi there, I wanted to get back to you with our schedule, not sure if we'll be able to meet up again or not...We will be in Columbia Falls (right outside Glacier) 8/19 - 8/25. Then making our way to Bend for the month of Sept. We'll spend the entire month at Crown Villa. Let us know if your path with coincide with ours!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  8. Looks like you are having a pretty good time not being in the tourist mode:)

  9. Love the fruit picture!! Such wonderful produce in that area.

    We haven't made reservations in three years (except Cortez, FL which we do a year ahead!) except maybe a week ahead. We haven't had any problems. I am glad we don't because we so often change our minds...the beauty of this lifestyle:)

    I love the Gathering Together Farm!! What a very unique and cool restaurant! I really enjoy the organic, sustainable foods. That oven is neat. What a nice surprise for you!

    Sound like a wonderful late summer, fall plan.

  10. Wow ... you've got quite the ambitious plan coming up. Sure will be fun, though.


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