Sunday, December 23, 2012

It takes all kinds!

One of the pleasures of our travels have been staying as such a variety of places.  We've stayed at RV Parks that have been small family-run enterprises that were filled with activities for both the young and the not so young. Some tree-lined with gravel sites and some commercial ones that were very large with paved sites and little shade.  We've parked along rivers, parks, beaches, at a farm, at a service dealer's parking lot, next to a friend's home and in cities.  We've been able to listen to a jam session, a DJ, a bingo game, the rain and thunder and a great frog concert.  We've sat around wonderful log fires, watched tug boats along the shoreline, watched a light show, seen beautiful sunrises and sunsets, watched fireflies darting about, and had great conversations with fellow travelers.  Each special and unique.  However, all that said, I have to say that the park we selected in Ashland OR was the most unique one yet.

For those of you from my era, do you remember the 60's "hippie communes"?  "Love, Peace & Brotherhood".  Well, the Jackson Wellsprings RV Park is the closest thing to one that I have come across since then!  Now, I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just sharing that it's unique (in this day & age especially).  When I was researching places to stay for the few days we were planing to stay in the area, I had come across their website and it appeared like a nice modern park that had a great hot springs pool.  Soaking in a natural pool sounded good to me, so I gave them a call!  When I told her the type and size of our motorhome & toad, I asked her if that would be any problem, she said it wouldn't and to come in at any time before 11pm.

When we drove in on Monday, we were greeted by the camp hostess and told that the office wasn't open until 6pm, but that we could go ahead and park at our site until then.  She showed us our site and also explained that it was "ladies night" at the pool so I would have to be the one checking us in.

The site was a bit of a challenge, but Jack managed to pull it off ok.  The grounds were pretty rugged, to say the least.  Hard to describe.  More like a very large dirt area that had been leveled (at one time, a long time ago) and turned into a parking lot of sorts for the various modes of living accommodations.  Cable, power and water was strung up at each site, but even that was pretty hap-hazardly done, but nonetheless, it was available.  Our neighbors were friendly, at least the ones we saw.  "Sun Eagle" came by a couple of times to briefly chat.  Around us were trailers, some very old, some a bit newer, there were a few converted buses, old motorhomes, a yurt as well as some small cabins.  They were in the process of building or remodeling (I couldn't tell) the main lodge.

At 6:30pm I ventured over to the office to meet up with the personnel and see what was going on.  "Wisdom" was very nice and after taking payment shared about the hot spring.  She said it was "bathing suit optional" with lockers available in the adjacent room, and to "enjoy!"  I decided to join the other ladies and give my body a much needed relaxing soak.  At any given time, there were about 25 females from about 12 to 70 years old chatting, sitting, or just relaxing underneath the winter's sky.  While the building had sides and nice shower rooms, it didn't have a ceiling, so traversing from one area to another proved to be quite brisk!  Some hardy ones even went into the non-heated swimming pool!  "Not I" said this So Cal Chick!  After my soak and star gazing I did my best at finding my way back to our site.  There were no lights once you got beyond the lodge and with my tiny flashlight, all the various pathways looked pretty much the same.  After a few wrong turns, I finally spotted our rig!  How could I miss it, it was the biggest and brightest in the area!

This unique park brought us lots of giggles and fun stories to share with our families and one more experience to add to our just never know what the next stop will bring, and that's the joy of this, after all, isn't it?

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can on my Flickr account at:

...on the road in Oregon,   Marie

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A house is not a home

We've been shopping.  Well, kind of, anyway.  It's been a full year now that we have been "on the road" discovering the beauty of some of the states in this country of ours, and according to our plans, we should be looking to see where we would like to "settle down" at now.  The "now" has been moved a bit...for a couple of reasons.  One, is because we still haven't seen all the states, National Parks, special sights, etc that are on our lists, another is that we are still  having to much fun to stop just yet!  However, that said, we still wanted to take a look around the south-eastern portion of Oregon while we were near that area, as it has been on my list as a strong potential place to live.

I've shared with a number of my friends and family that we want to get away from the congestion of San Diego, to a much smaller town.  One where we can walk around town, knowing the various shopkeepers, our neighbors and community.  To be civic minded and involved socially as well as philanthropically.  Little traffic with more trees & art.  I like "college towns" because there always seems to be a feeling of energy about.  More activities, art, music, theater to say nothing about all the classes one has access to!  All this and "perfect" weather too.  Not to much to ask for, right?  Of course, "perfect weather" means different things to different people.  For instance, Jack's cousin thinks perfect weather is four very distinct full seasons, while Jack thinks anything below 60 degrees is to cold, and I think anything above 80 degrees is to hot!  So, as you can see, this "perfect place" is getting harder and harder to find!

We know a  number of people who have either lived in or around the south-eastern Oregon area or have spent time there, that have recommended certain towns and cities for us to check out. The favorite "small town" recommendation was Sisters.  So it was at the top of our list to visit.

As we left Tacoma Washington, we traveled through the Cascade Mountains, through the snow to the eastern side of the of Oregon, a part of Oregon we had never been to before.  The drive was beautiful, but we were glad that snow was light and the roads had been cleared.  Driving this large rig & toad on a slippery mountain road was not our idea of a fun drive!  Our visit to Sisters was delightful.  The town is charming with very friendly people.  We chatted with several shopkeepers and other locals who all shared that "we would just love it there!"  After seeing all that the town had to offer (tiny is putting it mildly!) we drove all around the "neighborhoods".  What a miss-mosh of styles.  Everything from trash to treasure...all on one street!  Sisters is only 2100 population, so not much wiggle room there.  Actually, we felt it was a bit too small for us.  Sweet place to visit tho.

From there we went to Bend.  Nice place to be "near".  To big, to much like every other big town, anywhere, and as Jack said, "still to far north and to cold".  So we continued on south.  We have a friend in Redmond, so we stayed there a couple of days to visit with her, checking that area out as well.  We asked her what she thought of the area and what she's seen so far (she's only been there 6 months) coming from Houston and before from San Diego, so she's had some good comparisons. She suggested Jacksonville that is near Ashland where we were headed next.

We had visited Ashland before, but wanted to see if it had changed much. It hasn't.  It has all that a small college town has to offer.  Jacksonville, on the other hand was a wonderful surprise!  It is smaller than Ashland, with a different personality.  Hard to describe, a bit more cosmopolitan, perhaps.  We really liked it.  A definite possibility.

One thing is for sure...a (stick/stucco) house is not (the only) home...For now, our house is our sweet motor home...and that's ok.
Hwy 140 Through Cascade Mountains

Ashland OR

Jacksonville OR

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can on my Flickr account at:

...on the road in Oregon,   Marie

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Family.  Everyone's got one and every family has it's "characters".

This is the first year, in many, many years, I have had the blessing to be with my family (in Washington vs in San Diego) for Thanksgiving.  My memories of such, were filled with scenes of lots of us cooking together, laughing, playing games and telling stories...something I was looking forward to again.  Some look upon it as chaotic and noisy, but for me, it's pure joy.  Time spent with special people I love.

Another thing I love about Thanksgiving is the food!  Both Jack and I love all the various parts of what is traditionally Thanksgiving Dinner.  Yum!  There's never enough room in my stomach to hold all that I want to savor...but there's always the "leftovers" that are just as good, if not better, the next day.  ;-)  We got to have two of them, as the family here is so large (and some had to work on Thanksgiving) that we celebrated on Thursday AND on Saturday!  Lucky us!

This year's gatherings were the same and yet different.  The same fun loving, noisy group - but older.  All my nieces and nephews are now grown with families of their own.  The teasing and playfulness gave way to a more sedate social style filled with different stories and laughter.  The house now filled with their children teasing and playing together. My sisters and I now leaving a lot of the "work" to the younger ones and their style of putting all of it together.  

As I walked around, watching and listening (aka as taking pictures) to everyone catching up on one another, I still heard the love.  Diverse backgrounds and interests, but with that common thread of love and caring.

Being surrounded by all of this, I was fed.  I have had the joy of spending independent time with each of them these past few weeks and have loved every minute of it.  I've met great-nieces and nephews, some for the first time, seeing their beautiful family resemblances and hearing about their interests.

And we too have the "characters", but isn't that half the fun?  I remember the old days when there was always someone who drank to much or got in a disagreement, but  today it seems more innocent with piercings, colored hair, tattoos and the explanations of why odd jobs vs going back to school.  All taken in stride it seemed or maybe we've all just mellowed.

This year brings new memories to cherish and remember.  New, but with the same joy.
It truly was a very Happy Thanksgiving.

...kicking back in Tacoma,   Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Being "on the road" is wonderful, exciting and joy-filled, but can also take you away and bring you to, family.  This trip has brought us to family back east that we haven't been able to see for years, and taken us away from family we were used to seeing every few months.

Family.  We've all had some - some good and some not so much.  Jack and I are very lucky in that we really like all of our family, getting along with each one, so seeing them is a joy.

My family in Washington is one that I have only gotten to see every few years.  One would think that with California only a couple of states away, it would have been more often, but traveling around "vacation time" from work, limited us.,  Now that we are retired, it will be different!  The latest pictures I have to share, were taken over three years ago at my sister's birthday.  I'm sure to see many changes.

This year we will be spending Thanksgiving together, along with some extra time for catching up.  I am so looking forward to it!  My two sisters have lots of kids and grand & great-grand kids that will be fun to see and spend time together. 

Our holidays have always been about family gatherings.  All the grown women sharing the cooking and baking - hanging together in the kitchen talking and laughing, sharing stories.  The guys in another room playing cards or watching tv talking and laughing.  All the youngsters running in and out, grabbing a snack, playing games, laughing, sharing.  Huge tables laden with way to much food.  Joy.

There's nothing I love more than to be surrounded by loved ones.  That's something to be thankful for.

...kicking back in Tacoma (for a couple of weeks!),  Marie

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A new look at an old favorite...

I'm  way behind in getting these out, so please forgive me...

In our quest to quickly get out of the storm's way, we headed across into Colorado.  Both of us have already been through various areas of Colorado over the years.  Some I've been without Jack because my son Nathan used to live outside of Denver and I would not only travel to see him, but he would also take me out and about.  Jack and I have traveled through together on various car trips - but - we had never been through the south-east corner of the state before.

Colorado is a favorite of ours, it's a beautiful state with so much to see and do.  It shows itself off with almost every color in a crayon box.  Every kind of terrain, from flat to hilly to jutting rocks and mountains sprinkled with snow.  Lakes and streams and creeks begging to be swam or fished in.

On a stop over, we stayed a couple of extra days to rest from long driving times and decided to go check out a "local attraction", the Colorado National Monument.  As with times past, we weren't disappointed. 

The Monument embraces 32 miles of rugged, up-and-down terrain.  Glorious views that stretch to distant horizons.  There were about 19 areas to stop and get out, take a deep breath and try and take it all in.  Of course I snaped many, many pictures - but they don't do it justice.  It took little encouragement from the trails and stairs to get me to climb, hike and perch myself on one of it's gigantic boulders to just stare out at it's magnificent views.  We've seen Bryce and the Grand Canyon, but this place, although part of the same system that created them, is different still. 

Geological wonders like these captivate me.  There is something about their majesty that speaks to my soul.  I want to slow down, gaze out, and breathe it all in.  The sounds of the wind through the canyons and around the sculpted rock along with the birds overhead singing out, create it's own kind of music.  Looking around and seeing all the various colors of greens, reds, oranges, purples, the blue of the sky, shadow and's like an artist has busy painting it all.

We've never actually been through Colorado in the spring, it always seems to be the fall that leads us there, so we've never seen the flowers in bloom, but can only imagine how that must add to it all.

We traveled much to quickly through these last few states (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Montana) and need to see more of the gifts that they have to offer, so we will return...maybe in the spring.

...on the road,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dream come true

Have you ever had a dream to see something "in person", one that you had for many, many years?  I have, and it was to see Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials in person.  I've read about them, seen special television presentations on them, and seen other people's pictures of them.  I wondered, more than once, if I would ever get there. 

So, when Jack and I started planning our year and the places that were "a must" on our list, I said that these two places in South Dakota were ones that we just had to visit!  As we left California, we headed "towards the sun", so the route started in Arizona and just kept going towards Texas, Florida, etc.  It was only logical to head on up the East Coast through the summer, so routing ourselves back down towards South Dakota was going to have to wait until the Fall.  As we stayed longer and longer in some areas, it cut our timing to get back to the West.  Entering South Dakota we were watching the weather like hawks.  Right on our heels, appearing to come our way, was quite a bad winter storm, one we didn't want to get caught in!

As with this whole trip, we were blessed with good weather,  giving us just enough time to head to Keystone, and have at least one full day to see my two special monuments.  The day greeted us with sunshine with cool temperatures, so we headed up the mountain as early as we could.  Driving up the Black Hills mountain road was a joy in of itself.  Absolutely beautiful.  We even came across a section where rose quartz was exposed through the surrounding sandstone, granite boulders, shale and gypsum beds.  Trees growing out of the boulders.  Color everywhere...

But nothing compared to seeing the monument for the first time!  We were advised by our camp hosts to go up the mountain the longer, more scenic way than the signs send you, and that as we drive through the first tunnel we will see the monument as we exit.  My heart really started beating excitedly as we entered this first tunnel, knowing that I was going to get my first glimpse of the monument.  The little kid in me came out as I had Jack pull over to the side so I could jump out, camera in hand, and just stand there for a moment to take it in.  Pictures taken, now I was anxious to get up to the Visitor Center and see it closer, and in all it's glory!

As we drove closer and closer, I couldn't take my eyes off of magnificent.  When we arrived at the Visitor Center, I was amazed at how big, how beautiful, how large it was!  I had this image in my mind that it would just be a big carved out area where people stood to see the monument.  I thought there would be some gift shops and snack shops, but nothing in compared to what greeted us that day!  Once you park, and head towards the center, you are greeted with wide steps that lead you up to, and through the "Avenue of Flags" to enter the Information Center and Lincoln Borglum Visitor CenterFlags of each state hang overhead as you walk through, creating goose bumps for all that they stand for.  We made a brief stop at the Ranger Station, but enough of all that, I wanted to get as close as I could to see the monument! As I stood there and viewed the monument, I realized I was holding my breath; there's really nothing to compare to having your dream come true.

Afterward, we spent hours going through all the various exhibits & movies, with a stop for lunch.  Even as we ate, our view was of the monument...pure bliss.

We knew that we really only had this one day, so we needed to head to the Crazy Horse Memorial before the day got completely away from us.  Again, I expected something very simple - not the many, many rooms of exhibits, art, stories and memorabilia they share.  But before we went through all that, we "upgraded" our ticket to take a small bus ride up the mountain to get to the actual base of the sculpture.  Wow, what a great treat!  We could see and hear men actually working on the mountain as we stood there.  Cool, really cool.

I thought the sculpture would be further along than it was, but after learning that for the first 8 years the Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski worked on it all by himself!  Even now, they only have 8 workers (6 from his family).  Ziolkowski was so committed to what this sculpture is all about, that he (and the Indians) don't want any government monies.  Every bit has come from donations and ticket sales.  At this rate, it won't be completed until my great-grandchildren come to visit!  One thing in their favor, is now there are more advanced ways to work through the rock, than in the early 1940's.  It was really interesting to walk through his studios, their family home and all the various memorabilia. I learned a lot.  A truly wonderful visit.

Dreams do come true.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

One the road, Marie

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Quick Trip Through Nebraska!

On our quest to head west before the snow "catches" us, we traveled through the state of Nebraska, medium fast.  "Medium fast" is stopping here and there for something interesting, but not spending days at one place (just in case you didn't know!).  We had enough time to spend a few hours here and there, but didn't want to take the chance of taking to much time to put us behind.

One stop was a fascinating stop -  at Bailey Railroad Yard and Golden Spike Tower in North Platte.  Anyone who loves trains (the way we do) just had to make a stop here!  The Tower is 8 stories high that gives you a birds-eye view of the Bailey Yard.  The "Yard" is
where 10,000 cars are handled each day on 2,850 acres of land stretching out eight miles.  That's HUGE!!  It was hard for me to comprehend how big that is and how complicated a system it was.  Cars are moving in and out constantly, going east & west, in and out of the repair shop, and being fueled.  A 23-state rail system!  Lucky for us, there was a volunteer there to answer all our questions!  An "extra view" from this great tower, was a huge corn maze that was set up next door!  Pretty cool to see it from "above"! 

 One stop included a beautiful surprise -  at the Holiday RV Park in North Platte.  We stopped for the night, but got more than "rest".  Driving into the park we immediately saw that the park was surrounded with big, beautiful Cottonwood Trees, all painted in their fall colors of the various shades of yellow.  This was our first real taste of autumn.  Tons of leaves on the ground to crunch under our footsteps, cool fresh air to take deeps breaths of and then it added one more "beauty" - a gorgeous sunset!
One stop was a funny stop - at Carhenge in Alliance NE.  Carhenge is supposed to be a replica of Stonehenge made from 38 old cars, all painted gray and stuck deep into the ground.  It's one of those sites that you just have to "see it to believe it", so it was a must for us!  And well worth it, if for nothing else than a great chuckle for the day!  The story goes, that the sculpture, or more accurate the organizer,  Jim Reinders built it as a memorial to his father who used to have a farm on this site.  He and his relatives (35 of them!) got together and put the whole thing together with a big celebration on the summer solstice of 1987.  People like us stop and view it daily.  They have a souvineer shop with a snack shop on site (of course), but closed the day we stopped.  Darn, I could have gotten a T Shirt!  Oh, well, guess not this trip!  ha ha

And last but not least, one long view - of Prairies and Plains. They both looked pretty much the same to me, and I think that as we drove they would run one into the other and back again. Either way, it was different.  Long, low rolling hills (Prairies?) covered with what looked like sand and little Christmas trees (?) coupled with long, flat (as far as the eye could see) fields (Plains?) of harvested corn, hay or other crops.  Miles and miles and miles of them!

I think Nebraska is one of those states that we can consider viewed and enjoyed!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...on the road through Nebraska,  Marie

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sister Cities - Council Bluffs IO & Omaha NE

We needed to make a stop at a Camper World to have some work done on the rig, and Council Bluffs Iowa was the closest one to where we were at, so off we went!  The first thing one "sees" when arriving to this area are their very large, very strange art(?) posted at the four corners of the entrance bridge.  Wow, they take your breath away...and for us, not in a good way!  All we could voice was "what the??"  I called them "large foreboding Edward Scissorhands"!  When we asked a local what they called them, she said "ugly"!  She thought they were supposed to demonstrate "the conflict between man and machines".  I had to look them up, to strange for words...the artist, Albert Paley, simply calls them "Odyssey".  Go figure.  We soon found out that large "public art" was big (no pun intended) in Council Bluffs.  It was everywhere - some cool looking, some you just had to shake your head over, but notice them, you did!

Their "sister city" is Omaha Nebraska - both cities are connected by a single bridge across the Missouri River.  Omaha is much larger and more in line with what big cities usually look like.  Omaha is where Lewis & Clark began their trip on the Missouri River.  They have a really nice museum there that has a short movie and memorabilia about them.  They also have a Pedestrian Bridge that goes across the river, where you can put one foot in Nebraska and one foot in Iowa!  Of course we had to try it!  Great view and a nice looking bridge (vs Edward Scissorhands).  They too like their large public art, but theirs was aimed more at paying respect than "art for art's sake".  They did a great piece showcasing the labors that it's citizens do to create a city.  It's called "Labor" by Mathew Placzak.  Of course they included a blacksmith, so you know it was well thought out! ;-)

Council Bluffs did have a couple of fun places to visit, one being the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.  What a great job they did with that!  It's housed in an old (1903) Beaux Arts-style Library and covers three floors.  They had it all, movie clips, pictures, dioramas, "talking" filmed characters that was activated when you approached, artifacts, even a model of President Lincoln's private rail car!  I'm sure we were there for hours, but it didn't seem like it.  You know we love trains, and everything that has to do with them, so this was a real treat to see all the various components of operating a train.  I realized something while I was there, something I never really thought about before, and that was that for all the love I have about trains (as far back as I can remember), I've never really ridden on one!  Oh, I've done the short "scenic" train rides, but I have never actually taken a train to somewhere of any length.  I've added it to my "bucket list"!

Jack, on the other hand, has ridden lots of times.  When he was living in Philadelphia he took the train to Washington often.  "Men working on the train" brought back some great memories he had as a child.  His parents built a small beach house in Ocean City NJ that they went to for the summers and  weekends.  When he was around 11, he observed some men working on the tracks in a small yellow car (Chessie System Railroad Speeder) and walked up to them and asked to ride along!  They pulled him into the car with them and continued on with their work.  After that, he showed up every morning with a sack lunch, and they men would pull him on board and he would spend the day with them.  You could do that back in the '50's, especially in a small town like Ocean City!  He shared that story with the museum manager.  When we finished with the museum, I wanted to go across the street to a beautiful little park and take some pictures.  Jack drove the truck around to the other side of the museum, and guess what he found?  The exact same kind of little yellow car that he spent his summer with those workers on!!  He was so taken aback, as he's not seen one since.  I had never seen one, so it was fun for me to finally see this car that he's talked so fondly about.  Now, that's the frosting on a cake experience!
Bayliss Park was across the street and had some black squirrels that I wanted to take some pictures of.  We had first spotted them the day before and I couldn't believe my eyes!  I asked about them, and was told that yes, they were actually very black, and to their knowledge there are references to them going back to the town's beginnings.  I had to photograph one to share.  I soon found out that wasn't so easy, as they are really shy and run like heck anytime a person gets to close.  I got some, but not as close up as I would have liked.  The park also have the common ground squirrel (of course he didn't mind that I came close at all!) but they don't seem to mingle, even tho they live in the same area.
Of course the park also had some great "art"; at least these were functional and pretty!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...kicking back in Iowa/Nebraska,  Marie