Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Highway 101: Up the Pacific Coast Highway

     NOTE:  This blog chapter encompasses several weeks of travel from San Francisco up through Oregon via the Pacific Coast Highway US 101.   Leaving Petaluma we headed north on US Hwy 101 towards the Pacific Coast.  We weren't due to arrive at my sister's house in Salem, OR till the 16th so we were in no hurry  The more scenic opportunity is California Hwy 1, but this road is very tight and doesn't often accommodate longer RVs and tow vehicles.  We headed out knowing that a strong storm was coming off the Pacific with heavy rains and wind.  We got as far as the redwood forests near Garberville.  We found (another KOA) campground to hole up in and wait out the forecast 8-12" of rain.  Highway 101 thus far has been very scenic with miles of mountains and views.  We did take advantage of a few breaks in the rain our first few days to drive around and explore some of the redwood forest. 
      The rains came.... and came... and came.  We got over 10 inches during our time there.  The river rose and dropped several times during our visit, thankfully never into our campground.  We feasted on Gumbo, Angel Hair Pasta Alfredo, and Chicken Sopita Soup for dinner; French Toast, Avocados, Clementines, & Muffins, and Blueberry Pancakes for breakfast.  We even had a 'date night' out for pizza.  I wouldn't recommend this as the pizza in the village of Garberville was NOT worthy.  Dharma would probably disagree with me on this.  We watched lots of TV, did a Stephen King marathon (The Stand), and took many a nap.  Dharma and Bodhi loved the 'Mommy Daddy' time, but got a little stir crazy with the close quarters after a few days.  After 6 days of waiting out the 'Return of the Flood' we once again ventured north. 
      Our next night found us in Crescent City, CA boondocking along the North Pebble Beach Road right on the beach.  Just drive to the area just north of the harbor and catch Pebble Beach Road.  Turn to the north.  You can reach it by GPS or head west on 6th street and you'll get there also.  Once you leave the houses and arrive at the fields bordering the bluffs there are several large pulloffs that can be used for an overnight stay.  This area is out of town and not posted against camping, plus we had sheriff's patrols to keep us safe several times. 

       The pulloffs provide you with a 'ring side' view of the ocean with some spectacular views as well.  Sea Lions and seals frequent this area, but we slept so soundly to the sound of the waves it didn't really matter. 
      The next day we continued north along the PCH into Oregon and Cape Blanco.  We decided to stay here two days as veterans are allowed 5 free days camping.  This is a perk that Oregon State Parks provides, very nice!  Each campsite was long and spacious with electricity and water.  There is a RV dump, but due to maintenance was unavailable on our visit.  The park also has a horse campground and several small cabins if you so choose.  Even if you pay the cost is only $18, pretty reasonable. 
NOTE:  If you have not been to Oregon before there is NO SELF SERVE GAS.  Every station has cash vs. credit card prices and only their attendant may pump the gas.  A law was passed in 1951, supported by a whopping 17 declarations rationalizing the prohibition of "any person other than the owner, operator or employee [of a dispensary where class 1 flammable liquids are dispensed at retail]" from using "pump, hose, pipe or other device for dispensing the liquids into the fuel tank of a motor vehicle or other retail container." Violating this law can get you slapped with a $500 fine.  It does, however provide also provide about 2500 more jobs for the state. 

     After breakfast the next morning we headed down to the Cape Blanco lighthouse area.  Much of this area is closed due to the offseason, but the views were still pretty spectacular.  We then headed into the village of Port Orford for some souvenir hunting, lunch, and then visited both the harbor district and the Port Orford Heads; a series of jutting peninsulas and cliffs into the Pacific. 
We returned to camp just in time for me to try out a new dish tonight, Chicken Tandoori.  This turned out to be a LOT MORE SPICY than I anticipated.  Two or three bites each WAS PLENTY!  We finished up with our salads and a delightful peanut butter & jelly sandwich 
      The next day we continued North arriving in Coos Bay/North Bend.  We camped at The Mill Casino.  We were going to boondock in the large lot, but since we paid nothing the past couple of days my Valentine decided that we should spring for the $24/night full hookup site.  Ok, it's her day; we'll be frugal later.  Tomorrow is Valentines Day and we planned on hitting the Valentines Buffet inside anyways.  Incidentally the new solar panel system is working as advertised even with the marginal weather.  We have not used it since Quartzite, but the panel has kept the bank fully charged regardless. 
      We traveled west to where the bay meets the Pacific and then down to Cape Arago.  We visited the lighthouse and then a bit further to the end of the cape where we witnessed literally hundreds of seals and sea lions lounging on the sunny rocks of an offshore reef.  These critters inhabit much of the Oregon Coastline and are easily spotted either through glassing the rocky reefs or simply listening for their constant bellowing. 

      I have to admit I am still learning the new lens.  All of these shots today were Barb's.  She is learning very well and going off with her own ideas very nicely this trip. We finished off our day by letting Dharma romp on the beach, unsuccessfully chasing seagulls for a bit and then a delicious lunch in the village of Charleston on our way back to the RV.  A little dining out for Valentines Day this evening and then some casino time for Barb. 
      The next day we set out, stopping at the Sea Lion Caves and Heceta Head Lighthouse just north of Florence.  I was much pleased with my improving technique with the new BEAST LENS this day.  I made some shutter speed priority adjustments and removed the polarizer.  After all, when photographing wildlife at a distance depth of field is only important for your main subject.  Of the next five shots, the first two are mine.  They were taken from approximately 120 feet up the cliff leaning over a railing; no tripod.  Barb continues to get better with each day.  She did a wonderful job with existing light in the caves down below, considering she shot in 'No Flash' Auto Mode. 
      We finished up the first half of the Oregon Coast by visiting the scenic seaside town of Newport.  This is a pretty upscale community with many amenities, shops, and cafes for the tourist dollar.  Boondocking here is not an option.  We camped at the reasonably priced Newport Harbor RV Park. Cost:  $25/night.  I was a bit surprised to find the office closed when we arrived Sunday, but there was a sign saying to set up where we liked and come by the next morning to check in.  It is also within walking distance of most of the nearby sights.  If using this RV park I would recommend parking only in the lower lot as the upper two lots have VERY tight turns without much room. 

      While in Newport we visited the Oregon Coastal Aquarium and did a little sidewalk shopping time.  There are still plenty of harbor seals and sea lions to see within the Newport harbor. 


      You are never too old to enjoy an aquarium.  The Oregon Coastal Aquarium showcases marine species from the entire realm of the Eastern Pacific/Oregon Coast.  The only species I missed were King Salmon and Dungeness Crab, probably because they were committed somewhere else as a menu item.  There was a giant octopus, but (he?) was way too shy to cooperate.  At $19.95 for adults, this is a worthwhile stop.   

      In the middle of this trip we detoured to my sister's in Salem, OR for a week to visit.  That was another chapter for this blog.   After a week we left Deb's and once again ventured out to the coast and up to Tillamook.  It is the home of the Tillamook Dairy, famous for it's delicious cheese and ice cream. We boondocked at the Tillamook Airport (Air Museum) RV Park, located off the end of the short runway.  This area has about 30 nicely graveled and level campsites with firepits and picnic tables.  There are several water spigots, but no electricity.  You gotta love solar!  They do have plans to put in more utilities in the future, but for now the price is right.  We were the first customers this spring so he cut us an exceptional deal....cost:  $10 for 4 days.  The airport is left pretty much open at night so there is a soda machine and bathrooms if needed. 

      Our first day we set sail northward to Girabaldi. Cannon Beach, and Seaside.  It was a beautifully sunny day.  We visited the Myrtlewood Gallery and Factory, Hug Point, and Cannon Beach. 

Of course we took Dharma along and she enjoyed a run on the beach.  She loved the outgoing tide, the seagulls, the vastness of open sand, and was even curious of the anemones we found in the tidal pools. 
NOTE:  We finished off our day with lunch at Mo's in Cannon Beach at Tolavana Park.  If you are in Coastal Oregon area you MUST eat here.  They have 7 locations throughout the Oregon Coast and Portland. They have a full menu of delicious seafood at reasonable prices, but their clam chowder is the best (I just can't bring myself to say "to die for"). 
       The next day we set out for local sites.  First off we toured town photographing some of the many quilt squares adorning homes and businesses in Tillamook.  It is all part of the Tillamook County Quilt Trail  This local tradition spans 30 blocks (quilt squares) placed throughout downtown Tillamook.  Some of the quilt blocks are 4' x 4' and some are 8' x 8'.  An expansion plan in 2010 resulted in 50 more on a waiting list waiting to join.  Total number at this time is 81, with more to come. 

      Afterwards we toured the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  This is the most famous cheese west of the Mississippi.  They also make sour cream, ice cream, butter, and yogurt.  All their products are delicious.  A personal favorite of mine is Marionberry Pie Ice Cream.  I DO NOT visit the Pacific NW without buying some.  It never lasts long.   This trip I also sampled the Salted Butterscotch, Salted Caramel, and Rocky Road......DELISH!  This is self guided tour which makes things pretty simple.  Afterwards, there are samples, shopping, and of cream!
      Above is the dual assembly processing and packaging line.  Today they were cutting up 40 pound blocks of Pepper Jack and Sharp Cheddar.  They ended up as 1 pound packages sealed and wrapped for market. 
        Above is the initial cheese sorting.  This is done after the cheese is created.  It is cut into large blocks to be processed for aging.  Today's line consisted of medium cheddar in 40 pound + blocks that are vacuum sealed and then sent to the warehouse for aging.  When properly aged they will re-enter the factory on the Processing/Packaging line. 
        We also took a drive up to the Tillamook Country Smokehouse and picked up some pepperoni sticks (road food).  Then we drove out to Netarts and Oceanside on our way to Cape Mears.  It was a drizzly, overcast day, but the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy some more beauty of the Oregon coast and run her majesty as well. 
      The rain closed in on us once again so we hunkered down in Tillamook for an extra day, taking advantage of the time to do some laundry and refill propane.   
      Leaving Tillamook we continued our journey north along US 101 across the Columbia River Astoria Bridge into Washington State.  Boondocking one more night enroute we reached mom's (and my boyhood) home in Tumwater, WA.  We plan on 'moochdocking' here for about 10 days.
WiFi courtesy of our Verizon MiFi Hot Spot



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Is it still considered 'Moochdocking' if it's your sister?

        Boondocking is a term that refers to camping off grid (no hookups, electric, water, or sewer) usually on public lands for free or a very small fee.  For me I count this as any campsite charging about $5 or less.  As we have explained many times before Barb and I avail ourselves of this opportunity every chance we get.  You can be amazed at the money you'll save.  In January alone we 'boondocked' 17 out of the 31 days throughout New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.  After money spent on generator gas (when necessary) we figure we saved $415 on campgrounds.  Yes, sometimes it is WalMart, but most times it is a county park, rest area, truck stop, wildlife management area, BLM land, and sometimes just a wide spot off the road, usually for no more than a single night.  I have found that outside city limits no one gives you much trouble if at all.  There are several websites dedicated to helping us find just such a spot wherever we travel.  One other way is to park in someone's driveway, invited of course.  Now if the owner happens to have some water and electric hookups for you to used it isn't technically boondocking's now called 'moochdocking'. 
     We arrived in Salem, OR halfway through our coastal jaunt looking forward to a week long visit with my next youngest sister, Deb.  We don't see each other that much, last time only a day in April 2014 at mom's on our way to Alaska.  I promised her, and myself, we would stop by for a better visit.  After tackling a surprisingly easy uphill backing project into my sister's driveway due to Barb's superb directions, then being 'invited' to hook up to her water/electricity we were set.
      Deb and her family live in South Salem in countryside surrounded by acres of horse and tree farms.  It is certainly far less populated and incredibly peaceful, yet close enough for a commute to town for whatever you may need.   
       Our first evening consisted of getting stuff set up, relaxing, visiting with Deb and my oldest nephew Andrew when he came to pre-set up tomorrow night's meal.  Deb made mini-meatloafs which were delicious, but I really enjoyed the seasoned 'finger potatoes', something I hadn't had in many years.   We had our latest mail forwarding delivered to Deb's as well.  We discovered with the other postal trash that Texas had indeed not forgotten to mail us our bill for the toll road adventure outside of Austin in late November.  Interestingly the 30 mile stretch of toll road would cost Texans $18 whereas for us immigrants the fee came to $26.  Barb got some laundry done as well and we she finished she came upstairs with this huge grin on her face, informing us this was the 'nicest darned laundromat' she'd ever seen! 
     The next day after a trip to Home Depot I got some maintenance done on the RV, retrieved some propane, and got all the road grime washed off the beast from the last 1000 miles.  We have plans to do some sightseeing, but we will thoroughly enjoy our first love together:  cooking.  Deb and I, as well as her son Andrew prepared meals that we poured our love into.......the results were clear. 
       We took a drive up to Silverton to visit my nephew at his place of business, Seven Brides Brewery.  Andrew is one of the Brewmeisters there.  We enjoyed the tour and got a bit of lunch at the Pub.  A fun morning, and a GREAT FRENCH DIP (OR MEATLOAF) SANDWICH AND TUSCAN SOUP.   
      After lunch we took a drive up to the Silver Falls Park area and hiked 3 sets of trails to view some pretty spectacular water falls and just enjoy the beautiful nature that is Oregon. 
      After a couple of days it was my turn to assume the mantle of 'Chef for a Night'.  I had thawed (as a special treat) 4 pounds of Wild Hog Ribs.  This was my first experience at this and I considered it a treat to share this with my sister, who is also a great cook.  The ribs are trimmed, boiled, and then simmered in a marinade of chicken stock, carrots, celery, onion, and cider vinegar.  Then they are rubbed with an oil/dry rub and wrapped for refrigeration overnight. 

      The next night they were roasted in the oven at 250 for an hour.   I served this with smashed sweet potatoes and steamed cauliflower.....voila!   They turned out deliciously although much less red pepper flakes could be used in the rub. Cooking has always been a labor of love for the children in our family.  We often find ourselves sharing recipes or secrets online.  This evening was no exception. 
      We spent a day touring the Columbia River Gorge Country.  We toured the Scenic Highway, Crown Point, and finally Multnomah Falls. 

       It's always good getting together and it had been too long.  Deb and I share similar loves and interests.  We spent much of our week together either cooking, talking about cooking, taking pictures, or editing (and talking about) photography.  The girls even made time to get away from me for a day to do some shopping for Deb's trip to Hawaii in a week to meet her husband and for Barb to get a haircut.  A great week. 
      We head back to the west now, once again joining the Oregon coast heading up to Tillamook, Garibaldi, Cannon Beach, and Seaside on our way eventually to mom's house in Tumwater, Washington. 
WiFi provided (yep) by my sister's Wave Communications Router