Saturday, October 29, 2011

Our Favorite Emergency Campground

For those of you who are not campers, you may not know that WalMart allows campers to spend one night in their parking lot at no charge. It is not the fact that there is no charge that is important to campers like us. What is important is that sometimes there are no acceptable campgrounds in towns we are passing through. Or we get to a campground and it doesn't feel safe.

That is what happened to us in Salina, Kansas, our fourth day out for this trip. We checked in to a campground that then began to feel very iffy to us. We felt very weird and I have a rule that if I don't feel comfortable walking the dog at night in a campground, it is not the place for us. So in Salina, Kansas, we left the campground and stayed the night at WalMart.

Tonight we had a similar experience. We had planned on a particular campground in Mississippi but when we arrived, there was no way we would stay there. So we sought out the nearest WalMart, spent some money on groceries, and tucked in next to a very large motor home with the same idea. In the morning, we will go back into the store to the McDonald's and have breakfast. Then it's on the road back into Florida to see my daughter and grandchildren.

Whatever you may think of WalMart, we can tell you that the store parking lot is a sight for sore eyes after a long day on the road. Thanks Sam Walton.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Since High School

Since high school, I have loved tiaras. I don't know why. Maybe because I have always wanted to be royalty. I wore a tiara to my junior high school prom and I wore a tiara to my high school prom.

My bridal veil was held in place by a pearl encrusted tiara.

My avatar on Etsy is a tiara.

While in Portland, Oregon, Janet and I visited a fabric and notion store that was over an acre and a half in size. The fabrics were wonderful and the notions were endless. However, when I discovered the tiara department, I was in heaven. There were cases and cases of different styles of tiaras and I could not resist drooling over each and every one.

Finally Some Photos

We are finally at a campground whose internet connection works with my picture transfer software. Just a couple of photos for now.

This was taken in one of the wine caves in the wine country in California. We happened upon this vineyard in Hopland, CA. Not in Sonoma; not in Napa. But in a beautiful section of road as we explored this area.

The same vineyard also had olive trees on the property so we did wine tasting and olive oil tasting.

Driving along the Pacific highway, we stopped at Patrick's Point, a recommendation from my friend, Nancy. Although it was a rainy day, it was gorgeous.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Great Southwest

We are sitting outside the camper soaking up the coolness here in Bernalillo, New Mexico. We woke this morning to the sound of church bells and roosters crowing and I thought we were back in San Miguel, Mexico. Almost, but not quite. We decided to go into town for breakfast and on the way, I thought I was back in Cuba because the houses with the gravel and dirt yards are so reminiscent of the houses in the Cuban countryside. I can hardly believe it's been almost a year since I was there.

We are waiting for Yvette for to visit us at the campground. Yvette was a good friend of my children when they all took piano lessons from her mother. Yvette would frequently come home with us after a piano lesson and have dinner with us or spend the night. I haven't seen her in over twenty five years and Janet has never met her so it should be great fun.

I am fascinated by the names of some of the towns here in New Mexico. In particular, I love the name Algodones. That means "cotton" in Spanish and I think maybe the town is named such because of the cottonwood trees. I don't know. Then there is Quemada, "burned". Interesting to know why that name. We plan to stay here for two or three days and visit the town of Corrales, the town Yvette lives in. There are art galleries and other places of interest there. Plus, we saw a thrift shop in Bernalillo that deserves a visit tomorrow.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

An Eventful Day

Barstow, California.......weird gas station where instead of paying at the pump, you pay at an ATM on the pump island that controls all the pumps. You have to use debit and they charge you 35 cents to do so. What a rip!! Don't buy ARCO gas, a division of BP.

Next gas stop, a slime ball tried to tell us our tires are going bad and will blow out in the next twenty miles. Never mind that he sells tires as well as gas. 300 miles later, we're still going strong. Darren checked them thoroughly before we left Ocala.

The check engine light has been on since Paso Robles, California but Darren, our Ocala mechanic said to ignore it.

Campground shower rip-off: two tokens per customer, six minutes on each token.....not even long enough to get the water hot. We passed on a shower that night.

Road noise sounded like thunder to Cocoa so nobody slept.

The Mojave Desert is ugly and endless. Lots of 3K RPM hills, few gas stops, no rest areas, and glad to leave that part of California. I much prefer the wine country.

Next stop, Williams, Arizona. Beautiful campground, though a bit road noisy. Cold, 32 degrees, 7000 feet, rolling up the electric cord and hose is not fun at that temperature but we were grateful for the coolness and beauty of the location.

Easy grades today and pleasant views in northern Arizona. Still at high altitude but not as many ups and downs. Crossing into New Mexico, gorgeous red rock formations as we push toward Albuquerque.

The Pod is working fine but feeling a little more cramped each day. We have to be very intentional about keeping out of each other's way. As we roll along, we are lusting after fifth wheels with lots of space. Albuquerque will be a two or three day layover to rest and visit with a special friend from years back. Stay tuned.

Posting pictures from the road hasn't worked out. Will put up a bunch when we get back home.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

We've traveled about three quarters of the length of California and now we've turned the corner toward home leaving behind this landscape of many contrasts. Our last foray in San Francisco was to SCRAP, a warehouse of scrap materials from business, industry, and individuals that are made available to artists and teachers at a very minimal cost. It is a treasure trove of bright colors, shiny objects, unusual materials, and a great place to get ideas for creative projects. That, a fine Mexican lunch and a trip to the dahlia gardens made a great ending to our last day in the city with our girls.

Our journey through the Central Valley made us very aware of the food we put on our plates and the people who provide it. Fertile fields of bright lettuces, rich greens, black soil in newly plowed sections; everything from ready to plant to crops being harvested.

Our meals in California have been superb, fresh, and delicious. We have eaten healthier while on the west coast than we can at home and the taste of heirloom tomatoes has reminded me of the real taste of tomatoes I haven't had in a very long time. What a contrast this has been to the Monsanto controlled fields of Kansas.

We've seen the wineries and vineyards from the Willamette Valley of Oregon to the lower central valley of California and now we head to the desert.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Moving Right Along

Wow, we have been putting some miles on the old truck and trailer. I think, to date, we have driven over five thousand miles and are still on the move. Who knew we could do this?? We have driven down the Oregon and California coasts on the Pacific highway. Gorgeous stuff with the ocean and cliffs. We stayed in a campground right on the ocean which was awesome. We drove through the redwood forests and although it was raining, we loved it. We are now in San Francisco and have been here for four days. We camped with Shannon and Elizabeth and have learned to drive into the city without losing our minds. Well, that's probably because we have very little minds left, right?

We are at a campground on the Pacific here in California but had to move our spot because being right on the ocean with erosion to our rear is not our idea of a peaceful place to sleep. We have moved to a camp site on the street edge and it is much better except for the noise. Well, you can't have everything. Yesterday, we went to the Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay and had some scrumptious pie. Cocoa is exhausted. She is still sleeping on the trailer couch. She thinks she never ever again wants to go to a Pumpkin Festival. Too much walking and not enough treats. Plus she met a male dog who was a little rude. More details on that later. So now, we're off for another adventure in the city.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Eureka, We Reached the Pacific!!

When we finally tuned in to the news in Portland, we found out that the Portland Marathon was taking place on Sunday, the day we planned to hit the road. Because several interstate entrances, exits, and bridges were being closed, we decided to forego the wine country and prepare to leave on Saturday.

After a hairy transit of the city involving interchanges for three different interstates, we were on our way to the coast through rolling farmland and then up into the coastal range and down to the shore road at Cannon Beach. It was at mid-day that we reached Tillamook and played tourist at the cheese factory, ending our tour with a delicious lunch. Cocoa particularly enjoyed the sampling room where she snagged bits and pieces of cheese that had falling to the floor. As always on her public outings she received lots of attention and praise for good behavior. She's getting a very large head.

Onward down the coast to Yachats where we stayed the night on the beach and listened to the pounding surf of the Pacific all night. Sunday dawned misty and dreary but that didn't spoil the magnificent views or surprises around every bend in the road. Amazing rocky headlands, pristine beaches, crashing surf, and gorgeous trees. We made a side stop in the dunes area where Shirley left her footprints in a dune but could not quite make it to the top.

By late afternoon, the rain ended and the sun poked out infrequently. Tonight we are camped in the magnificent redwoods near Crescent City, California.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dog Days in Portland

Many of you know that Cocoa is in training to be a Service Dog. That designation gives her entree to many places she could not normally go. Yesterday, she was able to sit at an outdoor cafe while Janet and I visited with a new friend; today, she was able to go into Porque' No?, a Mexican taqueria, while Janet and I had tacos for lunch; she also went shopping in a little doggie boutique where she tried on rain gear so necessary in Portland.

Another stop on the day's rounds was a visit to Hammer and Hand, a Portland business specializing in remodeling and in building ADU's, auxiliary dwelling units. We met with one of the co-owners with whom we had corresponded previously and found him to be as gracious and helpful in person as he had been online. He specializes in building green structures using many reclaimed and repurposed materials. His employees are treated as his most valuable asset and it is evident in the atmosphere of the office.

We got much useful information and were treated to a tour of the workshop which I had to drag Janet away from. We will definitely be in touch with him further. It was a refreshing experience which Cocoa enjoyed as well. Even though the weather has been cold and rainy, the people are cheerful and very friendly. The rain experience here is very different from Florida. It is usually a light rain with frequent stops and starts and occasional "sun breaks", as they say here in Oregon.

We re-visited a neighborhood we had thought was unsuitable and found that is had parts that were fine. So we will add it to out list of possibles. Tomorrow we are off to two additional neighborhoods to scout them out and to visit a couple of projects currently being built by Hammer and Hand. If we have time Friday, we may be off to wine country.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

First Impressions

We are officially in Portland, Oregon now and today we were total tourists. We went to the Portland Farmer's Market, held on the campus of Portland State University, right in the heart of downtown and saw an incredible array of gorgeous and succulent fruits and vegetables. We saw poblano peppers being roasted and saw fresh pastries displayed. We bought some local artisanal blue cheese, a loaf of mulit-grain bread made with a number of grains I'd not even heard of, some locally grown fruit, and half a pizza pie.

Cocoa managed very well in a crowded situation dodging people, carts, wheelchairs, and enjoyed all the wonderful smells. There were fish and beef and other good things for a doggie's nose. She really likes being a city dog.

We learned how to operate the Portland parking system as we made our way through town, stopping at various sites. We then had a snack at a bakery in the Pearl district, visited some fancy stores, and finished up with a cruise through Whole Foods, picking up some specialties for our kitchen.

Portland has nine bridges across the Willamette River and as of today, we have traversed five of them. The city is divided by this river into east and west Portland. We saw lots of cyclists today and almost everyone seems to have a dog. It is a "green" city in so many ways; cool and pleasant temperatures are the best of all. There are recycling bins everywhere, even in the fast food restaurants and bakeries. The city is amazingly clean and there are people with brooms sweeping the streets outside the stores, quite a surprise to see.

On an interesting note: in Whole Foods, there is an entire cold room dedicated to beer. This town has several microbreweries that produce specialty beers and Shirley is on a quest to sample as many as possible while in Portland.

So far, we have found the city to be wonderfully diverse with people who are friendly, open to differences, and accepting of every type of personality, politics, or persuasion. Freedom of expression is apparent just by observing the wildly varied attire
of folks strolling about or biking down the street on their way to and fro. Conformity is non-existent here and like the locals say, "Keep Portland Weird".

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