Sunday, June 29, 2014

At long last, time with the grands and a few other adventures

June 1-15, 2014
Orangeland RV Park
Orange, California

Our two weeks in Southern California flew by. We arrived here in time to see our oldest grandson, Luke, finish off his Little League season by earning third place in a Tri-City tournament. At age ten, he has some impressive batting and infield skills as third baseman. He went 4 for 4 at bat in the first game we saw, and in the last game we watched he made several outs by scooping up all the bunts and getting them out at first base. Fun.

Too bad we didn’t arrive in time to see the younger boys play baseball. Our middle grandson, Nate, age seven, is a leftie pitcher. He can throw a four seam fastball and a change-up but their dad, a former college baseball player, wisely will not let them throw anything else like a cutter, splitter, or curve ball because it ruins your arm.  Our youngest grandson, Tyler, age six, is also a leftie.  I learned that lefties in the pros only play outfield, pitcher, and first base. 

On a related topic, when we first arrived our former home college team, the Oregon State Beavers, were defeated at home by UC Irvine in the regional playoffs for the College World of Series. This was a big upset as the Beavs were ranked number one in the nation. Boo hoo. We had hoped to watch the games as a family while we here as we are all “Beaver Believers.”

Aside from baseball, we were able to attend grandson Tyler’s Super Preppy Summit—a “graduation” from Preppy K, pre-kindergarten. This special event required Tyler and a “friend” to dress up as a super hero of their choice for the celebration. Tyler chose G-Pa Vic to be his caped sidekick.

Another school event we enjoyed was attending a third grade play with grandson Luke performing. His class had been studying California mining history. The play, Gold Dust or Bust, was a comical review of life in a mining town.


We missed grandson Nate’s field day at the park. Somehow all the years of Vic supervising field days as a principal made him a little less than anxious to be a part of this event. Nate said he spent most of the time playing baseball, basketball, and track racing with his friends. Oh, the seemingly endless energy of youth.

One of my favorite times with the boys was our day at the 15th St. Beach in Newport Beach, about a forty minute drive from their home. The weather was absolutely perfect here the whole time—mostly highs in the 70s and low 80s with gentle breezes and sunny skies. Even though the outside air temps have been warm, it does not mean the water temp of the Pacific was warm enough for this grandma to join the boys in the water. The boys didn't flinch a bit as they enjoyed several hours racing around the beach, building sandcastles, and boogie boarding in the water.

newport beach three boys

While we were in Southern California, I planned a solo overnight trip to visit my niece and nephew in the San Diego area.  I was lucky to be there for my niece’s husband’s birthday party so I was able to see everyone in one place. My niece Kelly and I spent the day catching up while prepping for the party. She is planning to open a restaurant and ice cream shop in the small town where she lives (Alpine) and was anxious to share her ideas with me as I was a former restaurant owner myself years ago and her grandmother (my mom) had a very successful restaurant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for over twenty five years. So cute that she wants to carry on the family tradition. I warned her though—grandma made it look easy.

While I was in San Diego, Vic went to an Angels game with his daughter Mindy and all three grandsons.  They went to the game early to watch the team warm-up and the players tossed balls to the two older boys. They were thrilled about catching their first baseballs at a pro game.

Next up was the grand event of the last day of school and the very fun party called “Jump into Summer” their local park throws for the kids the next day. Five hours of swimming,  slip ‘n slides, inflatable houses, and all kinds of free goodies like popcorn, cotton candy, shaved ice, hot dogs, and lemonade.  Luke won third place in the cannonball contest for ages 7-10. (It helps to have your own pool. . . .)  After their fun day, which we only attended for a couple hours, we had a barbecue at their house and all settled in to watch the California Kings clinch the Stanley Cup in the hockey championship game.

Whew!  We only had one more day in Orange County after the “Jump into Summer” event. We used it to give the kids a chance to celebrate Father’s Day with their dad while we got ready for our five day “camping” trip with the kids.

Coming up: three reasonably sane adults, three energetic boys, and two exuberant dogs head north on I-5 in the Big EZ to the Santa Cruz Redwood RV Park.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Celebrating fifteen years of a beautiful partnership

June 25, 2014

* Note: I am way behind in posting about our time with the grandkids in Southern California, but I wanted to jump ahead and acknowledge the significance of today's date in our lives.

On this date in 1999, I married my best friend, Victor. It has been quite a journey since we said our vows at the quaint Farm Home Chapel in Corvallis, Oregon.

This passage that we chose to have read at our wedding seems even more applicable as the years go by:
The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to another we join ourselves to the unknown. We can join one another only by joining the unknown.... Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you--and marriage, time, life, history, and the world–will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.—Wendell Berry, from “On Poetry and Marriage”

Here are just a few highlights of our life together the past fifteen years.

covered bridge on sheep barn road
Irish Bend Covered Bridge--the place that Vic chose to propose to me on one of our favorite walks 

Our wedding day outside the chapel

pam with boys walking down aisle
My sons Brooks and Jesse walking me down the aisle to give me away. 

We bought our first house together a couple years later in 2001 with plans to live in it the rest of our lives. Funny how things change. . . .

We enjoyed lots of good memories in this lovely place we called home for ten years.

Since our marriage, we have been blessed with four out of our five grandchildren. (The oldest, Chloe, was born about eight months before our wedding.) Hard to remember life without them in it!

Our first three grandchildren: Chloe, Luke and Isabelle
Vic with daughter Mindy and son Todd
A photo of the five grandchildren taken last summer in California

In 2002, we bought a timeshare in Mazatlan, Mexico where we went for nearly every spring break and a few New Years until I retired in 2011. We loved our yearly escape to Mexico so much that we planned on retiring there with our close friends, Bruce and Sharon, before the economic downturn of 2008 changed our minds.

Our Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay timeshare in Mazatlan

Vic's happy place: reading in the pool at Emerald Bay

Dogs have also played a big role in our life together. Two years before my retirement, we adopted Jetta, a two-year-old Portuguese Water Dog. After losing our two beloved Golden Retrievers, Riley and Phoenix, a few years before, we thought we were going to go dog free but our home just felt too empty.

Vic and Jetta on one of her first trips with us to the Oregon Coast

This feeling of an empty home did not last long, especially after Jetta's litter of nine puppies a year later. Of course, we vowed not to keep a puppy.

Vic in the whelping pen getting a good dose of puppy loving

Could you resist keeping this little soft adorable pup who became our Rico Suave?

My retirement from teaching was one of the biggest life changing events in our marriage so far since it inspired the sale of our house and our decision to live full-time in a motorhome. With zero experience in any kind of RVing, we purchased the Big EZ and have spent the last three years fulfilling a dream to explore this magnificent country (and a bit of our neighbor to the north).

our tiger run site

Places We Have Traveled in our Motorhomevisited states map 10 2013

The joys we have shared these last fifteen years would have been greatly diminished without the many friendships we have made both in Corvallis and in our gypsy lifestyle in the motorhome. We have also been blessed to be able to share many special times with family both near and far as we have traveled this road of marriage together.

Here's to many more adventures and the continued fulfillment of our commitment to live a life of generosity, joy, and unconditional love.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A little Vegas goes a long way

May 29-31, 2014
Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort
Las Vegas, Nevada

*Note: This post is behind almost two weeks! We are now in the LA area enjoying a busy time with grandchildren.

Leaving Moab, we faced a long travel day of 465 miles to get to Vegas. Our commitment to see the grandkids in LA by June 1st motivated us to go for it and get this long day of interstate driving behind us.

boring vegas drive

We managed to pull out about 7:30 am—pretty good for us—with a plan to take a break in St. George for a long lunch and fuel stop—340 miles down the road. When we stopped at a Pilot station for fuel, a man came up to Vic and recommended he check the pressure in the driver’s side tire. The pressure was fine, but this fellow noticed that the tire looked funny. He suggested we check the shocks. There happened to be a service station that specialized in truck wheels and parts a few miles back so we headed down there to have the shocks checked. Turns out one in the front and one in the back were badly worn, so we had them all replaced in about a half hour’s time. Stuff happens and we would rather be safe with a much better ride and protect our tires than the alternative.

Thankfully, we only had a little over a hundred miles to go after the new shocks were installed. Our plan was to stay at the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort where we once had a lovely time with Mr. and Mrs. HeyDuke (two years ago). The sites they put you in with the Passport America discount are on the less desirable side of the park, but they are certainly adequate with full hook-ups. The other amenities make this place feel like a true resort with two beautiful pools, a spa, a cute little café, and fancy lobby.

With two days to see what’s new in Vegas, our plan for day one was to get in some walking along the strip to wander around in some of the big hotels. Parking is free at all the casinos, but most are parking garages—definitely not for us when we require 9’ clearance with the kayaks on top of the car. We did finally find a large outdoor lot behind the Excalibur Hotel and headed out from there.

There are indoor walkways that connect many of the hotels—rather a good choice for a day with a predicted high of 100. You can also choose the option of riding a free tram partway or ride a longer route on the monorail for a fee. We walked indoors when we could, and outdoors when needed, from Mandalay Bay to Treasure Island and back, a distance of at least six miles. We stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Bally’s, a welcome break from the madness of casinos, high-end designer shops, and masses of people. In spite of our less than enthusiastic attitude toward Vegas, we did enjoy some of the more eye-catching sights along the way.

The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas is a half scale model with a restaurant on the 46th floor

House of Blues has big name performers in the Mandalay Hotel

Hard to tell from the photo, but this Statue of Liberty, in New York, New York, is entirely made of Jelly Beans

The fabulous Luxor Hotel in the shape of a pyramid has many Egyptian hieroglyphs

The pool area at Mandalay Bay has several features including a wave machine and a lazy river

The Big Apple roller coaster at New York, New York includes a 180 degree spiral

The opulent lobby at Paris Las Vegas includes several crystal chandeliers meant to resemble Versailles Palace

Stained glass ceiling between Bally's and Paris casinos

A couple of Transformer characters hanging out on the strip in 100 heat!

This spectacular four story wine tower at Aureole's in Mandalay Bay houses 3200 bottles
which can be searched via a touch screen wine list. 

The popularity of oxygen bars in Vegas most likely relates to the effect of
smoky casino environments, the prevalence of hangovers, and lack of sleep. 

By the time we returned in the late afternoon, we were too weary to head out again for some night life. We both concluded that we already felt like we had enough of Vegas. We found prices to be higher than we remembered them to be when we came here pre-motorhome, but then realized that was ten years ago! Driving around the hotels and the strip wasn’t bad, but walking from place to place in the heat was exhausting.

The question of how to spend day two was a bit vexing. We decided to take a ride in the morning to see the famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop with the guys that are on television. It is located in the old downtown area which also happens to be near Zappo’s corporate headquarters which was having their annual “Shoe Down” sale open to the public.

We actually went to the Zappo’s sale first and were quite impressed with how well it was organized and run for the number of shoppers who showed up.


There were lots of temptations but the recent purchase of my new cowgirl boots kept me in check. Still it was fun to look, especially at these Frye boots they had for 45% discount. Good thing, I have no more room for boots.

Less than a mile away down Las Vegas Blvd., we pulled up to the parking lot next to the Pawn Shop. I had heard that sometimes there could be a line to get in, but not today. We walked right in and were surprised to see how neatly everything was arranged. It didn’t really have the character you would expect from the television show; of course, not having the Pawn Stars around made it seem like just an ordinary store.

Not as thrilling as we thought. Too bad we didn’t have a rare collector’s item to sell as the rumor is there is a film crew on hand with at least one of the stars in the backroom available to come out and negotiate when needed.

We saved the afternoon for a time to relax and enjoy the pool before going out for a night on the town. After reviewing lots of choices we decided to have a casual Italian meal at the Tuscan Grille in Town Square, a lovely outdoor mall not far from the strip and then find some free live music at the Rio or one of the other big hotels.

After a really great meal at the Tuscan Grille, we headed to the Rio. Yikes. The place was amass with people because the World Series of Poker was going on there. Plan B, we headed toward the strip with plans to check out the Wynn or Venetian but lost our enthusiasm pretty quickly. We happily headed back to our cozy nest in the motorhome, both feeling fine about skipping the Vegas nightlife (two nights in a row).

The iconic Caesars Palace lights up a lengthy block of the strip

Staying home gave us a chance to pack up and get ready for another unlovely drive on I-15 to the LA area. Destination: Orangeland RV Resort, a park we discovered last year that we really like. The best part: it is only a twenty minute drive to the home of my step-daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons. Yippee!