Today, we're headed north of Anacortes to an area along the water. We have only stayed at a pay state park twice since we left a month ago. Tonight we reserved a space for two nights for half price. $15 a night is doable.
We arrived in Anacortes the day after Thanksgiving. It's our "home town" on the mainland where all our supply runs begin when we're living out on the island. It's a twenty minute boat ride to and from the island. Thanksgiving night was spent at a State Park near Deception Pass just outside of Anacortes. We've been boondocking since then near a marina.
We get to move out to our home on Decatur in December. The move back date is not set in stone yet. It could be the first week or the second week of the month. Fingers crossed it's sooner than later.
Today, we're headed north of Anacortes to an area along the water. We have only stayed at a pay state park twice since we left a month ago. Tonight we reserved a space for two nights for half price. $15 a night is doable.
After two years at the University of West Virginia, my mother and her good friend from childhood, Frankie Lee, transferred to Colorado University in Boulder. My mother said they picked Colorado because they saw where people could own white rugs. They came from coal country where that was unheard of. It was 1944.
My mother triple majored in Chemistry, English and Math. It was called a Distributive Major. She met my dad the next year in a Physics Lab when she was twenty-one. Their first conversation involved a hygrometer. I had to look up the word. It's an instrument used in meteorological science to measure the humidity, or amount of water vapor in the air. My mother describes herself as having been very shy. She recalled walking across the room to the hygrometer and was aware my dad was following her. She was having trouble reading the instrument and in describing her troubles she said the wrong word. She used the word discriminating in trying to explain she couldn't see where the bubble was. As soon as she heard her own voice saying "discriminating" she knew she used the wrong word. My father didn't skip a beat and replied, "My mother always told me to be discriminating," referring to choosing the right partner.
Their first date came later. My dad's roommate, upon hearing him talk enthusiastically about this beautiful girl he met in Physic's class, told him he knew of her and that she was a real keeper. The first date was a Fraternity party way up Boulder canyon. My dad picked up my mother in a two door Ford coupe that had a rumble seat. She said at least three other people were crammed into the front seat with her and my dad, and the rumble seat was packed with at least that many. "It was great fun," she said. They married nearly four months later.
At that point in her life my mother had never had an alcoholic drink. Her father, a self made man, who put himself through law school, had an abusive step father who was a drinker and it turned him off to alcohol the rest of his life. Not growing up with liquor in the house, the first time my mother had a drink was on Thanksgiving at my dad's cousin's house after they were married. My mother couldn't believe people served beer with their meal. It was not love at first taste, but over time she learned to not dislike it. My father grew up with tales of drinking "hot toddies" when he was four or five years old.
To those who celebrate Thanksgiving (we do not) we hope you have a memorable day in the way you want. Our other hope is to see the sun, but it may have us waiting until tomorrow.
I saw four rainbows today. One was a double and then I saw two single rainbows all in the span of four hours. I was telling my friend about how easy it is to see a pattern in numbers. For me, it's the appearance of the number four. I posted a blog four days ago titled 24 days of Travel, and the next day I coincidentally counted the number of days until we can move back out to our island home and it was 24. The following day was November 24th. We put in four offers on places before the fourth one was accepted and we bought the house on Decatur Island. My P.O. Box ends in the number four. My license plate ended in the number four. My UPS/FED shipping box number ended in four. My street address ends in four. Interesting coincidences.
On the local news yesterday, it was reported that the last two weeks of November are the rainiest time out of the whole year in this area of Washington.
Sunshine is coming beginning tomorrow, and the weather report is showing some all day sunshine for next week. I'm all smiles over that. A small, confined area in nothing but rain is a challenge I'm ready to put behind me.
All day long, we drove in and out of both sunshine and rain.
Yesterday we were parked at a State Park on the Long Beach Peninsula where it rained day and night. Our solar went out for the first time in 3 and a half weeks.
Vehicles were driving on the beach on the peninsula.
Yesterday was day 24 of our travels and today marks 24 more days of travel before we can move back to our house on Decatur Island for the winter/spring.
The sun is making a rare and oh so welcome appearance today. Colors are brilliant under the light. More rain is coming tomorrow and for much of the week, but today is delicious. I can hear sea lions from inside the RV. We'll be heading to Long Beach, Washington shortly for propane and water. It's about a half hour away. I'll look for another place to camp for the night over there.
The Astoria–Megler Bridge is a truss bridge spanning the Columbia River from Astoria, Oregon to Point Ellise, Washington and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. We boondocked for the night right across from a trail that runs along the shore called the Riverwalk.
Cooper got his run on today!
There was a wide, flat stretch of beach in Washington and no one was nearby. He got to run full speed. What pure joy it was to watch!
Path to the beach.
Mushrooms were sprouting along the path to the beach.
A dear friend set me straight about something after she read yesterday's blog. Reading between the lines, it's basically cruel to tie the poop bag around a dog's collar to have him/her pack it back to the trash. Here's what she told me, "First, the poop odor permeates the plastic easily, so much so that if I tied the poop around your neck you’d be disgusted and nauseated by the smell. Think of how a dog must feel with having SO many more olfactory units than ours. I can’t imagine what a dog might say if they could...I give this lecture to anyone I see doing this. I think we humans just think it’s in plastic and doesn’t smell but it doesn’t take much of a sniff to see what I’m talking about. I just feel bad for the pup who’s just trying to carry on it’s molecular investigation on it’s walk only to be bombarded by it’s own poop molecules pouring through the plastic."
My friend suggests tying a stick to the leash away from the dog's head and then tying the bag onto the stick. That way it's not in the dog's face while he/she is exploring. I tried that today, but think I'll tie the stick farther from his head next time.
Often on walks, I have my hands so full with my camera, sometimes a cup of coffee or water, and my cell phone (for wide angle pics or video), and often I have few pockets. If I have a jacket with giant pockets, it's easy to carry the bag in that. But I thought I'd come up with a clever way to pack out the bag by having Cooper help, when I was actually just being a poop head.
Yesterday, we stopped in Portland to see my niece (recovering from COVID - testing negative) and two of her children who have also continued to test negative. She gave us some doctor recommended masks to wear under our regular masks and we all wore masks and were outside with social distance between us. (Sad that we didn't get to hug.) She was the first COVID patient at her doctor's office where they now have 30 testing positive. She was diagnosed in October and is just now receiving a medication given for Lyme's Disease that is finally helping with the severe nerve pain. She said each day she would be hit somewhere on her body with excruciating pain and only in the last couple of days was the new medicine prescribed. It provided so much relief. Yesterday was the first day she'd been out of the house since she was diagnosed. Fatigue is a continued side effect.
My niece had a lovely neighbor repair my license plate holder with the help of her 12-year old son who has become quite handy. Turns out I need a whole new panel on the back end of my RV from water damage. It has been one cha-ching after another with this RV. It would take a whole long blog to catch you up. Anyway, they helped get my new plates attached properly. I'd been running on expired paper plates since the 13th. (That's a whole other story.) I picked up the plates in a package my daughter shipped to my niece. In that package we also got a 6 month supply of nearly $500 a month medicine through an income qualified program. Truly a life saver.
The tide was way out when Cooper and I got to explore. The patterns were wonderful. I could have photographed the sand for a long time.
Cooper helps pack out what he deposits, so I tie the filled up poop bag around his collar when we're on our walk and let him pack it around while we explore. He hauls it back to the trash can on our way out. If he doesn't find something wonderful to smell, he always has his lovely aroma filled bag nearby. ;)
I wish so much the beaches were off leash. He wanted to run so badly. Everyone had their dogs on leashes, and signs said leashes only, so I kept him on his. At least he was allowed to walk with me. This was our one half day of sunshine, but drove out of blue skies right into another storm.
UPDATE: My dear friend enlightened me that the poop bag around a dog's collar negatively affects his ability to investigate smells because of the plastic. I never thought about that. I often don't have pockets and sometimes am carrying a cup of coffee. I've never seen another dog carrying his own bag. I'm grateful for the advice. I won't be doing that again. She sent me this link to make her point.
We are currently parked across from scenes like this in Astoria, Oregon.
The kayak scenes were from a few days ago at Ona Beach in Newport, Oregon. Ona is known as a Chinook jargon word for razor clam.
From the Park's website:
"The land was purchased between 1938 and 1968 from private owners, and includes one gift of 10 acres from Lincoln County made in 1963. In the days before the completion of the Coast Highway, the beach between Newport and Seal Rock was used as an access road. Motorists would travel at low tide, following the mail carrier who knew the best way to cross Beaver Creek. The park was first known as Ona Beach State Park, but was renamed in 2013 to honor the first Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission chairperson."
This is our view out one window. We are going to stay the night here and hopefully won't be asked to leave in the middle of the night. That's a risk at almost every place we stay.
There's a nice walking trail around the water. It's raining steadily again, but the morning was dry. Even with the clouds, the dry weather was a tiny reprieve from the constant sound of rain. We saw the sun for almost an hour yesterday. It felt like a magical life line. My mood drastically changed the moment the sun debuted. My niece had me buy some Vitamin D and said to start taking that for the rain induced depression. She said it really helped her.
Below was taken with my telephoto lens through the RV window as the ship passed by.
It's pouring as I write this. I've been watching through my binoculars and saw some sea lions diving in and out of the water. I caught this image through my window. I've watched several of them swimming in this section from the RV and can hear them talking like when we were in Crescent City. I love that sound. Little joys count for so much right now. Coop and I walked down by the water and saw a lot of sea lions on a closed pier. I wish we could have gotten closer.
Waiting out the rain ...
Cooper and I got out for a walk while it was
between raining and sprinkling, but not downpouring.
This tram system is shut down because of COVID here
in Astoria, Oregon. We're parked right near the tracks and water.
Photos can certainly tell a story. We've all heard how a picture is worth a thousand words. But it can also tell just a teeny tiny portion of the whole story. And it can also tell a story that doesn't exist. We see in photos what is inside of us. We imagine the good or the bad or the magnificent or the mundane. Every picture ignites in us our own interpretation of the world.
In some very small ways, this trip is what you see in the photos. But it's also much more. It's hard to put into words. Nothing in the photos captures these COVID times.
Nothing in these photos captures the constant tug at my heart that I feel as I watch the independence and life force fade away in my mother. Nothing in life prepares us for that. There's a sadness that cuts deep inside me as I'm faced every day with my mother's physical losses.
I wrote a dear friend about some of this today. Just thinking about it makes me tear up. Her mind is strong, but without meaningful or useful sight, it's a game changer in so many important ways. She is so dependent on everything because of her sightlessness. What I really miss is sharing the beauty of nature with her and being able to talk about the sights. It's like I'm traveling alone in some ways, but not with the energy that comes from solo traveling. It's very strange and somewhat draining.
I bought her a portable clock that "talks the time" when a button is pressed, but it needs a new battery and we need a special screwdriver to access where the battery goes and I've lost that. (I lose something every day.) I try to remember to randomly tell her the time during the day.
I can't often put her prescription drugs in her hands because her hands are semi numb (neuropathy from Cipro) and she can't see the pills either. I have to put them directly into her mouth. Sometimes she can tilt the little pill cup into her mouth if I make sure only two or three little pills are in it, but I need to watch to make sure none drop out.
She also has swallowing difficulties so the pills sometimes don't go down smoothly, and if they jam in her throat where she has a diverticuli (sp?) issue, it can slice open the soft tissue and make swallowing painful for weeks. I sometimes need more patience than I have to wait between swallowing the pills. It takes several times to get through all the pills morning and night. Her swallowing reflex takes extra time to work. Two pills have to be ground up each day and put in pudding for her to take because they are simply too large for her to swallow. Sometimes I mix it in peanut butter. I'm tearing up just thinking about all the ways she has lost her independence. Just three years ago, it wasn't like this. I never even imagined it would ever be like this. Of course, I'm very grateful her mind has stayed strong. Her voice still sounds mostly like the mom I've always known. It's just very hard to witness how much the body fails with age.
Update: Woke to this view of the ship under sunlight early this morning. It's not raining and doesn't look like it will today. Tomorrow is a different story.
Our parking spot worked out well. That's always a feeling of great relief.
Went to sleep to, and woke up to, this view.
The day started with a visit from AAA to jump start the motorhome. I'd left the head lights on. I realized this during the night. I asked Google where I was (I ask Google, "Where am I?" more often than you might think) since we were parked high above the ocean on an unmarked pull off. GPS on my phone gave me an exact no name location on a map. I was 12 miles north of Gold Beach. AAA showed up the next morning within an hour of my call.
Note to self: buy some extra long jumper cables. I can jump the motorhome next time by using one of my three solar batteries. This advice came from my son. He and my daughter are my go to people for so many things!
The most disappointing thing today was to get all the way to the Sea Lion Caves just north or Florence, Oregon only to find out they closed yesterday due to COVID. I'd checked their website on the 17th and they said they were fully open and, in fact, boasted about being open 363 days a year.
I know everyone is suffering because of COVID. I get it. But, damn. This pandemic is really tiring. Everything takes more effort, more sacrifice and more time. Just reaching my phone company like I needed today, took 30 to 45 minutes on hold. I tried this morning but the call dropped out. I know others are suffering greatly (my niece is one of them with this virus and it's been nothing short of horrific), and I know it's tiring for everyone, everywhere. It just added to my already cranky mood that I was hoping could be uncrankied with a little sea lion time. So, yeah, I'm pouting a bit.
(Interesting article about the sea lions moving to San Francisco here.)
I did have a kind-person encounter today in a grocery store. I'd picked up some items that I forgot the other day, and then forgot to get more ice. (If you're seeing a theme here, you're right. I'm forgetful. Caretaking has a way of doing that. Stress does too.) So I went back for the ice and a man waiting in line insisted I go ahead of him. He said, "We're kind in these parts," and smiled sweetly. I thanked him as much as I could with just words. I actually teared up when I left the store because kindness just feels all too rare these days. I was grateful and sad at the same time.
Another nice thing that happened was when I got gas. (It is so strange to have gas attendants do the work of putting gas in my vehicle for no extra fee or tip, but that's Oregon for you.) Cooper wanted to greet the woman attendant with kisses when I rolled down my window. She smiled and asked if I only had one dog, and I nodded, then she went to get a cookie for him. Happy campers, all of us after that.
I almost missed being able to take a photo of the Heceta Head Lighthouse. (I googled for the name, otherwise I had no idea.) I missed a great pull off and at the last second spotted one more place to pull off across opposing traffic. It turns out this is the most photographed lighthouse in the country. Rooms can be rented at the lighthouse for around $350 a night. The whole house is over $2000 a night. The inn is operated by a concessionaire of the U.S. Forest Service. I'd love to know how that process works and how much the opportunity costs the "innkeepers". I imagine this is done all around this country.
As an RV driver, I make sure I drive like I always want RV drivers to drive and that is to let people pass as often as possible. I pull over whenever and wherever I am for even just one car behind me. I try to let people pass whenever there's a wide spot in the road and I can move over. I do whatever I can not to be that dreaded RV on the road.
Out one window of the motorhome we see the view above and out another window we see the view below. We're boondocking near a little town north of Florence, Oregon. Fingers are always crossed that no authority comes along and wakes us in the middle of the night asking us to leave. We woke undisturbed!
We're heading to Portland under blue skies today to pick up mail forwarded to my niece and say hello to her and children from a distance. We won't be setting foot in her home or leaving the motorhome. My niece thinks she knows a place where we can park overnight. Tomorrow we'll head for Washington. We have one more month before we can get back to our island home. It's rented until then. We are both looking forward to that.
What a difference the sun makes. I don't even recognize these scenes from yesterday!
As we left Brookings, Oregon we were in unexpected sunshine and headed north right into another storm. I stopped in Gold Beach to get ice (remember our fridge doesn't work) and a few supplies. When I came out of the market it was an absolute downpour. We waited in the parking lot for the surge of rain to subside and then headed on up the coast. Not long into the drive, I found a nice pullout with no signs prohibiting overnight parking. Fingers crossed. We have more ocean views out our windows. The rain comes and goes. One car, pulling a smaller trailer is parked at the other end of the long pullout. They look to be boondocking like we are. (My hair is still wet from the storm!)
The view looking north.
There's nothing like traveling in the off season. We camped overnight a couple of minutes from this location and spent the day with ocean views abound. For a while, we were the only RV there. Most travelers stopped briefly to take pics and then were on their way.
The view Cooper and I had from our "office" today.
From our campsite, a trail through the forest led to the beach.
After three days of rain in Crescent City, the sun debuted briefly this morning before the clouds rolled back in. I went to say goodbye to the sea lions and to catch them under the sunshine for my first time. The extra light felt delicious.
I went to sleep at night to the distant sounds of the sea lions in the background.
We then got packed up and headed toward Oregon after a pharmacy stop for a month's supply of my mother's many medications. Then we gassed up (it took a dozen tries with my credit card to activate the pump) and went in search of propane. One location only filled small bottles. I find that out after parking and then waiting in line. The next location was very busy, but after about a half an hour we got it filled. I forgot that in Oregon people are not allowed to fill up their own vehicles with gas and instead must use gas station attendants.
Then it was a hunt for a grocery store. I found a discount market with one RV parking spot left, but I couldn't find one vegetarian item including soup, or just plain vegetable soup, that didn't have meat. Even the baked beans had meat. That was disappointing. But I got food for Cooper and my mom. I can get by until the next stop in a few days. Then we found a place to dump the gray and black water. And it was free! What a sweet find! It was at an Oregon state park where we're staying the night. It's our first park stay (with fee) but it's not crowded and the views are beautiful. We don't have an ocean view (those go fast) and we don't have any services. We're paying for a tent camping spot to save money.
California parks were all completely booked and always crammed bumper to bumper. And they would not allow drop in campers. Everything had to be done online and way in advance. That doesn't work for the winging kind of traveling we're doing. The park attendant today said Oregon is having issues with people "boondocking" like we are because some are dumping their black water (sewer) on the ground, so Oregon is trying to shut down all free overnight parking anywhere. More disappointment and this time it's with the human race. Sigh.
It was foggy and cloudy, but dry today. Coop and I went for a nice walk high above the coast. Three more days of heavy rain are to start tomorrow and the winds are to be record breaking in some areas. Oh, joy.
Below are pics of the beaches in Brookings, Oregon.
When we crossed over into Oregon from California I saw a road sign that said something about needing an Invasive Species Permit. I quite literally laughed out loud as I thought about the human race. Yep, we are definitely an invasive species. Not sure what purpose the permit would have, but Oregon would be the state to figure out that! (Upon googling, the permit likely was to do with boating.)
With back to back rain starting tomorrow for three more
days, we may stay put. We'll see how we feel in the morning.
I've long loved the quote by Lao Tzu, "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." I'm not a planner. I'm a wing-it kind of traveler and person. One of the interesting experiences of traveling without goals or an agenda, like we are right now, is how contrary it feels to American culture, and how 'upstream-swimming' it feels to the way of life many of us are taught to embrace.
We're wired to accomplish things each day. We are not wired to "live" each moment for the sake of being alive and simply breathing in and out and taking each moment as it comes. We are wired to get things done; to check things off our proverbial lists. We are doers. We like being busy, even if we also complain. Life's meaning is directly tied to how much doing we do.
Living quietly and slowly enough to wake up and simply be in the moment, though quoted often as something to which we should aspire, often fails to appeal to us in reality. A day off is filled with running errands, cleaning house, remodeling, and 'catching up' in all that it means to us individually. It would not seem right or natural to wake up and just have a day of life in front of us without a to do list. If we do get through a day like that, many will feel like it was wasted. The once in a blue moon day of doing nothing (which even the wording itself conjures up negativity) can be cherished, but only if it is remains 'once in a blue moon' and not common practice.
Life these days for me is not filled with much more than moments in time. I'm trying to value conversations with my mother because she is close to her expiration date. Time is as precious as it is precarious. I don't want to be too busy to listen. Or too tired. I want to be present. It's not always easy. This woman is nearly a century old library of memories, experiences, and observations. When she's gone, that library of first editions closes forever.
Traveling the way I am with my mother is not to be confused with, or even compared to, being on vacation. Rather it is our way of life right now. My mother, at 96, remarkably has a strong mind with a memory that still could beat out the average 30 year old. She is still learning and still finds life has value. But her body is failing her. Her eyesight began to really fade three years ago following an accident where she'd been wheeled into a van and not secured inside, and the wheelchair rolled backwards down the van's ramp and slammed her into the cement. She whiplashed her head onto the pavement and broke three bones in her pelvis region. We will never know if the accident caused damage to her vision or not, but it was the demarcation line between very decent sight to very limited sight.
She has macular degeneration, but at that time, it had not interrupted her ability to read -- at all. She was devouring a stack of library books ten inches high every week to two weeks. As her vision went, she had to switch to audio books.
Then a year ago, her vision took an even more dramatic plunge toward sightlessness. She can see shapes, and colors, and has a strong memory of sight, so she can fill in the blanks when she's looking at something. She can also fill in the blanks in ways that are funny and far from being what she is seeing. It's not the kind of vision that can be improved with stronger glasses, or the best of the best magnifiers or more light. Light can be very irritating, so she often wears sunglasses, even indoors.
Her balance has been greatly affected by neuropathy that we now believe was the side effect of taking an antibiotic called Cipro. Her feet began going numb a decade or more ago from the nerve damage of neuropathy. It's why she stopped driving when she turned 90. She didn't feel like she could "feel" her pressure correctly on the gas pedal or brake.
Add to that, the stiffness and limitations that come from surgery after a broken hip. She needs help dressing and putting on socks and shoes. She needs a constant spotter when standing and walking. While she's made a remarkable recovery, and I credit my daughter with being there every step of the way -- literally and figuratively -- she lost a lot of independence when she broke her hip.
Our RV travels provide a small way to maximize a life so limited by sight and balance (and lack of energy), as well as maximizing mine as a full-time caretaker. A big down side is how much effort it takes to be on the move. Add to that, dealing with torrential rain for days on end. Life is definitely not uninteresting.
Travels With Mom
I'm traveling in a 24' RV with my 96-year old mother who is six months into recovering from a broken hip. And, of course, Cooper is with us. He's my 9+ year old rescue dog. We're mostly boondocking across the west coast of the United States.