Sunday, December 25, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Early December update

My goodness it's been a long time since we posted anything! That's a clue as to how busy we've been! I can't blame it all on Shiner, though she has occupied quite a bit of our time. She's grown a lot -31 pounds now, so with the potential of being 60 pounds or more when grown we are trying to focus on training now, while she's small enough to manage. Molly is accepting her as part of the family now, and disciplines her when necessary - which is fairly often! Her baby album is expanding, so if you want to see some of the latest pictures take a peek. The newest pictures are at the end of the album.

Shiner has also spent a lot of time helping Steve supervise the porch construction. I keep calling it a deck, and get corrected - in Texas, it's a "porch".

Here are a few shots of the construction. It was very impressive to watch the development, and learn a little from the builders along the way. We are planning to do a lot of the finish work ourselves, and we don't move as fast as they do, so the screen, skirting and staining won't be finished until next year. In the meantime we have it to enjoy, sans screens. Steve can move some of his BBQ gear up to the "cookhouse" area and get a feeling for the layout before he build counters, and we can enjoy the covered area even when it rains.

Yes, it does rain here - finally! After an lengthy drought we've finally accumulated several inches of rain. Everyone is happy about that, but not so thrilled at the chilly temperatures we're having at the moment. To Texans, anything below 70 is cold, and our high today is 60. Frost is on the way too, so I guess I'd better get those green tomatoes picked.

Even with the cold and wet weather slowing us down outside, there's plenty to do inside. New trim is needed around all the lovely new windows we had installed while they were building the deck, and once that's done, drapes to hang in the living room. AND, we're still waiting for that grandbaby to be born! There have been baby equipment to assemble, crib sheets to sew, and other grandparent type activities on the to-do list. We're going to have to hit the road again so we can rest!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Puppy notes

Dr. Jordan gave me this Halloween scarf
Shiner is growing like a weed, as they say. When we brought her home she was wearing a collar that measured  10 inches. Kendra gave her one of her custom, U of O Duck collars (so she'd be properly attired for football season). It's now at its full extension,  a little over 12 inches, and she's about to grow out of it! She gained two and a half pounds in the first ten days we had her. We haven't weighed her since, but I'm sure she's gained another 3 or 4 at least. She weathered her first vet trip with little strain. There will be several more to get all the puppy shots finished up, so it's a good thing it wasn't too traumatic for her.

She's become quite the little helper with ranch chores, showing a particular affinity for anything with a long handle. She rode Steve's shovel all the way around the house one day, and then "helped" me rake mesquite pods the next day.
Now, when we have similar work to do, she gets to watch from the dog run. She seems to like the little fenced yard, and watches happily while chewing on whatever is handy while we work.

It's so much fun to watch any young animal explore and learn about the world around them, and Shiner is no exception.

She doesn't seem to be afraid of anything, but is sensible enough to sit and watch a new situation until she's figured it out.... except when Ryloo, Kendra's 60 pound German Shepherd arrives with a blast. That sends Shiner bailing through the dog door for the safety of the house, at least until she's sorted it all out, then she comes back out and happily attacks Ryloo as they dash around the yard. 'Quite a pair they are!

She also loves to play tug-o-war with Glory. Shiner can hold her own now, so it won't be long before she's dragging Glory around.

She spends quite a bit of time just sitting out in the yard, watching the neighbor's goats, and the birds (which she has to take a run at ever so often, so she can see them fly), and the squirrels. She likes to follow the scent trails of the little critters too, munching wildflowers as she goes.... the purple ones are her favorites! (Yes, we have a few fall wildflowers, thanks to the rain we got last month.) Shiner's tracking instincts are apparently quite strong. If one of us disappears, to go do a chore or pick up the mail, as soon as she notices she sticks her little nose to the ground and off she goes, following our every step until she finds us.

Molly is accepting the little nuisance with more grace than we actually expected. It helps that she's not especially protective of food and space, so she shares readily. She isn't too fond of a barking pup in her face though, and has mentioned that to Shiner a time or two. I think Shiner will eventually get the message.

We finally have work started on our new deck, which is giving Shiner a whole new world to explore. They drilled holes for the cement piers yesterday, which involved mud (a favorite puppy environment), hand tools, colored string, and leather gloves. A veritable wonderland for Shiner! We're trying to keep her out of the activity, but it's not easy! Being a puppy parent is a full-time job!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A new project on the ranch

Shiner, at about 6 weeks of age
We've been plenty busy since landing back home. There are all kinds of chores to attend to when we first get back, plus the additional things we wanted to take care of because of the increased fire danger. Just to make things a little more interesting we decided it was time to adopt a puppy.

Molly has pretty much retired from the strenuous activity of hiking and patrolling the property, so we figured we'd better get a new dog trained up while she's still around to help with the project.

After checking all the local adoption agencies we decided on this little sweetheart. She was about 6 weeks old when this photo was taken, and weighed about 8 pounds. She's just barely 8 weeks old now, and weighs 14 pounds!

Her name at the agency was Amber, but we promptly changed it to Shiner. . . . our favorite Texas beer! And her coloring is perfect as it matches their packaging! There are billboards all over made just for her.

After filling out extensive paperwork and an interview with an "adoption counselor" we picked Shiner up from her foster home Saturday evening. The days since then have been spent keeping a close watch on her. She's just barely 8 weeks old, so not really housebroken yet, though she's good at staying in her little crate all night and for naps.

She's a brave little thing too. We had a horrendous lightening and thunder storm her first night with us, and she didn't show a bit of fear. She played around out in the shop with Steve while the storm was crashing and banging and didn't blink an eye. She's having a great time exploring the property and testing just about everything with her little sharp teeth. She's figured out the dog door too, but I'm waiting for her to discover the squirrels. Maybe with Shiner to keep them busy they'll eat less of my birdseed.

We took Shiner in for her spay surgery Tuesday, which slowed her down a bit that evening but by the next day she was back in high gear. Molly has finally figured out that the little creature is staying, so is starting to communicate with her in slightly more civil terms. She's not used to having a young upstart in her way. By about the fourth day Molly had started showing some mothering behaviors, and is getting a little more tolerant, but also correcting her when she needs it. Gotta teach these young'uns some manners!

You'll notice I haven't mentioned what breed Shiner is. Until we read the adoption posting we'd never heard of it. She's a Blackmouth Cur. They are a popular breed in the southern states, being skilled at both hunting and herding. Some, like the type that sort of originated in Texas, are on the large side as they were bred to herd cattle. They have an interesting history, dating back as far as the Celts who selected breeding pairs based on behavior traits they needed for stock management. (More on their history here)

Shiner's mother was abandoned, probably when her owners discovered she was pregnant, as she was found walking down the side of the road with her ten scrawny puppies in tow. A woman rescued the and took them all to the Austin Pets Alive shelter. One family fostered them until the pups could be weaned to a bottle and then they were distributed to several different foster families. Because of her history we'll never know what breed Shiner's father is, but judging by photos of other BMC pups, she may not be a mix. The puppy photo on the wikipedia page looks just like her, and you can get an idea of what she'll probably look like when she's an adult.

The shelter does a wonderful job of preparing the dogs for their new owners, as do the foster parents. They have inoculations, treatments for parasites, and their spay/neuter surgery all included in the adoption fee, which is less than the $250 they calculate each dog costs them. At that rate, the ten pups and mother that were abandoned cost the shelter $2750. I hope the person who dumped her feels good about his decision.  Fortunately, most of the pups and the mom have been adopted. We met some of the other foster families when we picked her up after her surgery and got caught up. Unfortunately many dogs aren't so lucky, and the pens and kennels at the agency are full of sad looking little animals in need of a home.

Shiner seems to like it here. Enjoying all the space, the variety of things to chew on, and the birds and squirrels to chase. I'll add pictures to the Shiner album as she grows, so you can see the progress. The way she eats she'll be growing fast I'm sure!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back in The Republic

So there we were, barreling down the interstate, worrying about how dry things are and all the resulting fire hazard. We were barely across the NM/TX border when the clear blue sky suddenly filled with dark thunderheads.  A few miles into Texas, as we passed through the check-point, we saw lightening strikes arc from the clouds to the ground, and a few drops of rain bounce on the windshield. The few drops quickly turned to huge bullet-size dollops that pounded on the roof and bounced on the asphalt. Ah, false hope, the rain soon stopped, though we continued to see lightening, and hear it as static on the radio. Rain is what this state needs most, and we definitely do not need dry lightening. The drought monitor map illustrates the conditions here. Though the drought is not yet a record, it's heading that way.

We were heading for Balmorhea (pronounced Bal-more-A) State Park, where we stayed back in December - a chilly time of year! (see that post for more on the park). It seems funny now to look at the photos from that trip, when we were wearing fleece and gloves, and none of the trees had leaves. It was in the low 90's when we arrived this time, and everything is green, with a few black-eyed Susan's blooming here and there, and ducks happily paddling  among the green reeds in the pond.

It was sunny when we arrived in the park, but there was a storm building to the south and soon the indigo clouds moved in to fill the sky, promising rain but delivering only shade, and a little wind. As the sun began to set a rainbow appeared off in the distance, where someone else was getting a little moisture. 

After dinner we took our usual walk around the campground, stopping to talk with a couple whose rig seemed to have sprung a giant leak.

Water was gushing out of one of their storage compartments, while the owner crawled around on his back under the torrent looking for the cause. Steve jumped in to help with diagnosing the problem. After extensive examination of pipes and joints it was determined that the problem was a hose clamp that had broke loose. Once the clamp was replaced the problem was solved, except for a very wet storage compartment. Only time cures some problems!

sunset at Balmorhae
The repair job was completed well after dark. And just in time, as we hustled back to our campsite a brief but icy shower dampened the area.

The wind that brought it in had completely died down by the time we went to bed and there was hardly a breeze at all. Talk about variety in the weather!

We pulled up stakes early in the morning and arrived back here at the ranch by late afternoon. It had rained here too! Our. little weather station indicated about an inch and a half. Not enough to declare an end to the drought, but enough to dampen the dust.
Now begins the work of unloading and refurbishing the RV, planting the fall garden, and reconnecting with friends and neighbors.

As much as we love being on the road, it's nice to be home too. We'll be taking short trips in the area, and reporting on the antics of wildlife in the hill country, so stay tuned!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Rockhound State Park, NM

We're moving pretty fast so we can get home and keep an eye on things. After the house fire in the neighborhood a few days ago we decided it would be best to get home watch for sparks!

Our usual daily dose of 40 or 50 miles a day just won't do so we're moving along more quickly than we usually do, 200 to 300 miles a day is enough though. There's a limit to how long we can sit in one place!

We've traveled this I-10 route several times, and there are only so many places to stay, so we find ourselves returning to some of the same parks again and again. It's not a bad thing, but we always wish we had more time to explore.

Florida Mountains, from our campsite
Rockhound State Park is definitely a place we intend to return to and spend several days. We need to be selective about the time of year, however.

We were here in November last year (see that post for more details on the park) and it was so cold and windy that hiking and exploring didn't seem like inviting activities.

On this visit it was 90 when we arrived, which is tolerable, but not really good for hiking either. The host said October is their peak month, when campers line the road waiting for a space to open up. 'Seems we'll need to schedule around that too! There are only five reservable sites here, so timing is important if you just drop in.

Although at first glance this park may not seem as picturesque as some, it has its own kind of charm. The prickly pear cactus, ocotillo, yucca and other desert plants thrive in this part of the Chihuahuan Desert, and there's a nice botanical garden trail in the campground built around some nice specimens. The silhouettes of the yucca against the colorful sunsets make for a great photo op too. 

This park is a rockhound's paradise, and unique as visitors are allowed to take home up to 15 lbs. of rock samples, as opposed to the usual ban on collecting anything. The primary collecting area is in the Spring Canyon area, a separate unit of the park.

Stopping about 4 P.M. (just in time to miss the visitor's center again!) we selected a site oriented so the trailer shaded the patio area, and gave us a nice view of the rugged, cactus covered slope behind the campground. The slope rises to a rocky ridge which sports a variety of antennae. 'Could be that's why we have excellent cell coverage in this park!

After dinner and a beautiful sunset the temp had dropped to 79, perfect for star gazing, and this is a perfect place to do it.

This time of year the Milky Way is directly overhead, and the Big Dipper tips over the nearby town of Deming. While not an imposing burg during the day, the greater Deming area sparkles in the valley below like blazing jewels. The lights are far enough away that they don't detract from the stars, and it was hard to decide which to watch, the shooting stars and flashing aircraft or the twinkling lights of town. A coyote serenaded us for awhile, but wandered off when no one else joined in.

Up and at'em the next morning we're headed for another of our regular stops, Balmore State Park, Texas. Yeah! Almost home!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Change of plans

We left Indio around 9 AM, and it was already getting warm. Traffic was lighter than we had expected, so we were humming along at a pretty good clip when the cell phone rang.

Our daughter began with, " Everything's OK right now, but. . . . ."  How fast does your brain go into overdrive with those words???

She reported the details of a house/brush fire at a house four lots south of our house.  They got it knocked down and contained so all is well in the neighborhood, but the house itself was a total loss. Three fire agencies had responded, as we're in a rural area and depend largely on the local volunteer department. Our son-in-law went out to check on the status of things, and the fire department stayed around long enough to be sure all the hotspots were out. I'm sure all the neighbors are on extra high alert now. No word yet on what caused the fire, though there was a report that an exploding propane tank helped to spread it.

We decided that with no rain in sight, high winds and lightening storms predicted, etc. it was time to go ahead and head south for home.  So, adjusting our route, we pulled into Rovers Roost, the SKP park in Casa Grande, AZ, Tuesday afternoon. As we exited the freeway we watched the approach of a huge middle east-style dust storm. In the middle-east it's called a haboob (the wikipedia article does a good job of explaining how they happen.) We arrived at the RV park before the storm did, and executed the fastest set-up you ever saw so we could get inside before the dust hit.

We've been in high-wind dust storms before, but this type of dust storm is different. The dust is suspended in a slow moving wall several stories high, and creeps across the plain like some sort of slow moving animal. Even in the middle of this storm the wind wasn't exceptionally strong, you just couldn't see through the dust. Fortunately this particular storm didn't carry as much dust as some, and had passed by in about half an hour.

It was 102 degrees when we arrived, and the rig had soaked up a good bit of heat while we were traveling, so we are thankful again for air conditioning. It is a clue as to the overall climate in these parts when you look around and all the windows are filled in with foil reflectors. 

Fortunately the weather cooled off nicely during the night. The last time we stayed here it stayed hot all night and our air conditioning not only couldn't keep up, it gave up totally and we had to repair it!

This stop completes a loop, as this was one of our stops as we started out on the trip in June. 
Next stop in this dash for home, Rockhound State Park. 

We should be back at the Ranch by Friday for fire watch!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So Cal visit

In sharp contrast to the mad dash down the freeway, Leisure World, where Steve's parents live, is an oasis of calm. All the residents are over 55, so it's not surprising that things move at a slower pace. Aside from that, the whole community is secure, with gated entrances, and all the homes are clustered around large park-like spaces. Squirrels and cottontails bounce around in the flowerbeds, which gives Molly something to think about, and each apartment has a small garden area in front that many residents fill with roses, geraniums, succulents, or whatever their fancy dictates - which gives me something to think about.

The weather in Seal Beach is mild, and this time of year is great for outdoor BBQ's, so we did plenty of that while visiting family in the area. When Monday arrived it was time to hit the road. We never know how bad the traffic will be, so we didn't plan for many miles. As it turned out we had a nice, uneventful trip east to Indio, where we stopped at the Elks' lodge. Perfect timing.... Monday is taco night! Can't turn that down! This is the "off season" in Indio, as it's HOT, so we had our pick of the RV lot. We decided on a spot right next to the little grassy lime tree orchard in the middle of the RV area. The grass and trees made for a nice patio.

Next stop, somewhere near Prescott, Arizona.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

South bound and down...CA here we come!

Monday - departing Eugene
Well, the oil exchange issue only set our planned departure from Eugene back a couple of hours, but it seemed really late when we pulled into our destination: the Elks Club in Redding. 'Could be that we aren't used to traveling 300 miles in one day!

Redding Elks Club
Due to the late departure we arrived much later than our preferred 2 P.M., so instead of cooking we took advantage of their Monday night football get-together and had a hot turkey sandwich and a couple of brews. 'Nice way to relax after a day on the road, and meet a few folks tool.

The Elks' here in Redding in a really nice facility. They have a pool, shuffleboard, a nice club room and lodge meeting spaces, and the location couldn't be better. Backed right up to the Sacramento River there is easy access to the bike/walking path that runs along the river side. It's a really nice walk, and an excellent change from sitting in a truck all day.

Molly and I took two walks along the path and I must pronounce Redding as the friendliest town in California. Almost everyone said "good morning", waved or nodded, and stopped to let all the dogs get acquainted. What a pleasant experience!

Bridges are a big thing here - no surprise since they have a large river to work around. On the river walk I discovered a couple more bridges of interest. The newer Lake Redding bridge, the background bridge in the photo, was built in 1997 and instead of tearing down the old historic Diestelhorst bridge, the one in the foreground, they preserved it for pedestrian use. A rather practical solution!

People we talked to during dinner told us about the Sundial bridge, which is beautifully illuminated at night, and functions as a working sundial during the day. We unfortunately didn't have time to visit it on this trip, so it's on the list of to-do's for the next trip through this area.

Leaving Redding and inching our way toward southern California our next planned stop was San Luis Reservoir, near Santa Nella. There are several campgrounds in the recreation area, but as the temperature was still in the 90's we opted for San Luis Creek campground, the only one that had hookups, so we could use the AC. The website Steve had located earlier listed a fee of $20, when I checked another site on the road I couldn't find a price, but did find a description of the campground stating that several sites would accommodate up to a 35 ft. vehicle. Imagine our surprise when we checked in at the gate and were told the fee was $40! We knew California fees were high, but weren't quite braced for that.

It was late in the day, so we decided we'd take it.... then proceeded to locate a site. I don't know what their idea of 35 feet is, but it's a lot smaller than ours. The spaces were very oddly laid out too, with two RV sites squished in together and the tables and fire rings at the back of the rig, instead of at the side. It would work well if you were camping with friends, but is rather strange otherwise, allowing for little or no privacy. It's only a guess, but maybe the layout and the $40 a night fee have something to do with the fact that, aside from the host, only one site was occupied.

We got a refund on the $40 campground fee and went back to the Santa Nella RV park, right near I-5. $29 bucks a night, full hook-ups, not crowded. All's well that ends well I guess, and now we know why no one on the RV discussion boards has been raving about the San Luis Reservoir as a great place to stop!

Still hot - and we hate to be sissies, but after a long drive one likes to relax and be comfortable.  Our original intent was to stop at Pyramid Lake RV park. We got an early start so thought we would get there early and enjoy the evening. Then, heading down the highway, I checked the rates page on their website.
$39 a night, . . . OK, it's southern CA, what else can you expect? AND there's a $10 early check in fee if you arrive before 3 P.M. I've never heard of such a thing!! - so on general principles we kicked that park to the curb and decided to just go all the way in to our destination, Seal Beach.

We'd stop at the next rest stop along I-5 and have lunch, we said to ourselves.... except.... the next rest top is CLOSED - NEXT REST STOP 200 MILES  (I'm not making that up!) That's alright. I didn't want to stop here anyway. The air is so thick with smog you can cut it with a knife, and I have an aversion to breathing air I can't see through.

2:30 P.M. -  After a mere 3 hours of kidney pounding travel on I-5 and a few hair-raising near-misses as the auto jockeys dash from one lane to the other, I can report our safe arrival in Seal Beach.

Additional reports when my nerves recover.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Armitage Park, Eugene, Oregon and Go Ducks!

We've been in residence at Armitage Park in Eugene for the past ten days. Time enough to take in two Duck football games, get caught up on the shopping and a few truck repairs, and touch base with several friends.

Armitage is a really nice park, and perfectly located if one needs RV repairs. The park has only 37 spaces, all arranged around a large common green space. The RV area is right next to the day-use park on the river, so there are a lot of options for walking and sight seeing. The folks at Wheelingit  were here just a few days before us and did a really nice, detailed review so we won't repeat what they've reported, but I will add that by next year the older restroom (near the day-use area) is to be torn down and replaced with restrooms that include showers and a laundromat. This upgrade has been in the planning stages for quite awhile, so I hope it really does materialize. I'd love to be able to get the laundry caught up without leaving the campground.

A notable difference this year over our last visit is the absence of Dean, the host who presided over the park for several years. We stayed here several times and got pretty well acquainted with Dean and his side-kick Ginger. Dean kept close tabs on all the campers and with his frequent rounds of all the sites made sure things worked smoothly. He was the perfect campground host, and such a sweet man. He told us about a woman who had asked him for a photo of himself so she could paint his portrait, and I knew instantly when I saw his obituary that her painting was the image they had used in the newspaper notice.

The park staff have planted a tree in Dean's honor, and they're also going to post a plaque naming the dog park for him. I think he would be pleased.

Autumn has arrived here in Oregon. The blackberries are ripening and there are flocks of geese heading south. It seems a little early for the geese, but maybe they know something about the coming weather that we don't.

We're heading south ourselves, for a quick trip to Long Beach to visit family before returning to Texas. We're getting a late start however. Upon close review of his truck repair receipt last night Steve discovered the shop had used the wrong weight of oil in the oil change they did so that has to be remedied before we can leave Eugene.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The right to be left alone. . . .

We like to talk to folks as we travel. Fellow travelers, shop keepers, the maintenance workers in the campgrounds. We listen to local radio as we rumble down the highway. Some of  the news and human interest stories they report are pretty funny, some is sad, some downright frightening. The local talk shows are particularly telling as you get a condensed version of local sentiment from the hosts and callers.

Beginning about three years ago, with a gentleman pacing the patio at Gruene Hall in Texas and approaching us as we sipped out beers, anxious to pour out all his concerns and worries about the country and 'the state of things'. Increasingly now, we have noticed how often people we meet in campgrounds or other public places quickly direct the conversation to things they are worried about. They seem preoccupied, ready to burst at times, eager for a sympathetic ear, or someone who will at least listen to them. In these conversations the topic of oppressive local regulation and the abuse of private property rights keeps cropping up.  We also hear it on the radio and and see it in the local papers. People used to just talk about the weather and their grandchildren, now they're so worried and frustrated they just have to vent.

We keep hearing on the news and the commentary programs how "Federal regulation" is stifling business. Well, that isn't half the problem. In my view, it's local regulation and local pressure on person property rights that is driving people into the ground, and will eventually push them into a rage. 

Just yesterday Steve talked to one of the county workers in the park here about the horror of getting the required building permits for a barn addition. He told about how the stress of the process gave his brother-in-law a heart attack, and caused him too to give up his dream project. We watched a friend here in Oregon lose his business because the city kept upping the demands for issuing permits and finally they asked more than he could afford, so he just quit. The individual examples are endless, but the story line is the same. Local regulation being used to weed out businesses that haven't garnered favor with local council members, or to increase agency revenue.

Andy, fellow traveler who blogs over on MyOldRV, had some thoughts on the subject of excessive and illogical governmental regulation. His post went off in a slightly different aspect of the increasing governmental control we are all experiencing, but it's related. Andy's post was inspired  by an assortment of news items all related to the breakdown of social behavior and the heavy-handed management of agencies involved with the Texas fires. The quote he included  is what tied this all together for me.

“The right to be left alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms.” - U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

I don't usually get political, or rant too much (on this blog anyway) but sometimes things just sort of pile up and you have to tie them all together. I guess that's what this post is, and I don't especially like what the package looks like.
The enforcement of local regulation has been used to issue high dollar citations to children running lemonade stands, and families selling bunny rabbits (enough of them to be able to afford to go out to dinner now and then), and families growing vegetables in their yards. Since when was it the business of local government to keep folks from making a little pocket money or putting food on the table?

The West was settled by people who braved horrible traveling conditions to arrive west of the Rockies. They looked around, saw a need, slapped a board over two nail kegs and set up shop - "2 loaves of bread, 25 cents". That's entrepreneurship. If the bread was good people came back and bought more. If the bread wasn't so good, they went somewhere else to buy it. That's free enterprise in action. No inspectors, no regulations, just people meeting the need and charging a reasonable rate. No one ever thought of fining them a few thousand dollars for not having the proper state and city licenses.
All this licensing and whatnot is to "protect". I know.  I do understand the need for building codes and food safety regulations. I really do. But haven't all the salmonella and E.coli issues lately come from commercially licensed sources? Not lemonade stands!!!

One of the things that pushed me to comment on all of this was a video a friend sent us the other day.
The "War on Desert Rats" in Antelope Valley, CA. As desert rats ourselves it really hit home.

Watch the "War on Desert Rats" video. At first you may think these are just a bunch of crazy folks with weird, unsafe houses and who cares..... but that's not the point. I looked at the Los Angeles County planning department to see what was behind it. They've produced a very nice two page brochure to explain their Land Use Mapping Process. 

You have to read carefully, as all this governmentese is carefully couched to sound nice and sunny but the intent is there. "We know how you should live. We have a nice, neat design in mind. We do not intend to allow you to interfere with our plans." It doesn't matter if you've owned and lived on the property for 25 years, have no neighbors, and aren't bothering anyone. If you don't fit in the plan, you're out.
Here, from their planning document, is the official way of saying it:
Step 6:
Spot Designations
Small pockets of land use designations inconsistent with the surrounding designations were created when the hazards, environmental constraints, and suitability factors were applied to individual properties. To minimize the potential for incompatible uses, these pockets were reanalyzed to ensure a more consistent land use pattern was developed without compromising the goals of Steps 1-5. Additionally, overarching land use policies provided the framework to eliminate any larger pockets of isolated land use designations incompatible with the Rural Preservation Strategy.

So who actually is doing all this "planning" in Antelope Valley? I think a little detail here would explain by example what is happening in many states.

Antelope Valley is an area in Los Angeles County, so the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is responsible for all of the unincorporated areas of the county (2/3 of the county's 4,000 square miles). The agency has enforcement as well as planning responsibilities, and issues variances and permits. They also have a hearings division, so if you have complaints they'll look into the matter, then ignore you and continue as they were.

Now, the "unincorporated areas", what many of us would call "out in the sticks," are the places people go who just want to be left alone (back to Justice Douglas). They may be a little "unique" in the personality department, maybe they have a business or hobby that requires a little elbow room - like room to store the cars a mechanic is working on, for instance.

This is somehow seen as a threat to the environment. Using 'protecting the environment' as the rational, the planners want people closer to town so they don't have to drive (minimizing road maintenance), closer to public water sources (they really don't want you to have a private well they can't monitor), and clustered in developments of some type so they have "minimal impact on the environment". It's no accident that the video describing the plan development process shows housing tracts, not individual rural residences.

This post describing the situation in New Hampshire accurately describes the impact these idealistic policies have on individual landowners. "We like that view, so you can't cut down your trees", we can however, make sure the value of your property is reduced to the point that you just throw up your hands and walk away. 

"But we have public hearings", the agencies protest, "People have a chance to let their voices be heard".
I attended a meeting of that type with friends in Beaverton, Oregon, regarding road improvements in their neighborhood. Those making the final decision clearly came to the meeting with their minds made up, and nothing the residents said would make a difference. The company producing the plan was missing, or ignoring, information they should have had, and had based their design on assumptions the residents found blatantly ridiculous.... but the plan went forth regardless of their opinions. You see, it's the plan that matters, not people's opinions. WE know what's best for you. So, sit down and be quiet. WE let you speak so you'd think you were involved (that's supposed to produce "stakeholder buy-in").

Land-use planning has become a modern substitute for the bossy neighbor lady hiding behind the lace curtain. It's people who want to manage your life because they don't approve of the way you choose to live. As the  LA County Planning website puts it, they use the plan to identify and mitigate "the intrusion of illegal and objectionable uses." It's a system whereby a small group of individuals with no vested interest in certain properties can impose their will on others.

It's such an institutionalized system at this point that it may seem hopeless, but it isn't. The folks in Maine have had it with the planners and their stifling impact on local economy. They are working to disband or at least nip the fangs of the land use commission via the legislative process (article here). Two out of their three measures where blocked but they are proceeding with a third that may be successful. Think about it - planners exist largely to create beautiful, ideal designs for land use that serve primarily to identify what people CAN'T do with their property. How productive is that?

I guess on the other hand it is 'job creation' of a sort.  County and regional planning agencies generally employ large numbers of people. So they have jobs. They consume a lot of paper and other office supplies, so there's a few jobs there, and then there's the guy who repairs the copier machine, that's another job..... yeah. I guess they're productive after all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Valley River Center, Eugene

 Blue herons and snowy egrets fishing in the pond, mallard ducks puddling about at the water's edge, laughing at each others jokes, Canadian geese flying overhead and calling out to the stragglers, a river otter fishing for his breakfast.

Does this sound like a nature preserve?

Well, it's actually the east leg of the Eugene bike path. It runs along the Willamette River and crosses the Delta ponds.

We're here for just a one night stop, waiting for our reservations to open up at the Armitage Park campground. It sounds a bit strange to some that we are "camped" on the back-side of a shopping mall, but really, the view is better than we've had in many RV parks, and you can't beat it for people watching.

Wild sweetpeas near the path
The bike trail is a wealth of sporting equipment of all kinds. There are bicycles, skateboards, scooters, walking poles, and backpacks of every shape and size.

The bike path is heavily used, by bicyclists as well as walkers, and it extends for a couple of miles in both directions from the mall, so offers a nice opportunity for a long walk,with a nice view, in a really safe environment. It's completely paved, so safe for those who have trouble with uneven ground.
River Otter
VRC allows two nights a month for RV parking, free of charge. All you have to do is register with the security staff who patrol the lots constantly.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

East Lake, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Oregon

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a beautiful and unique area. The 50,000 + acre park crosses hwy. 97, running vaguely NW to SE. The area we're staying in is at the southeastern end, nestled in a basin formed by a caldera. The caldera (a collapsed volcano) holds two small lakes, Paulina and East Lake. Geologists think it was originally one large lake, then became divided by a small cinder cone.

The geology of the area is not only amazing, it's unique. Nowhere else will you find mountains of obsidian, lava casts of ancient trees, lakes with warm springs bubbling at the edges, and a waterfall to top it all off. There are nice hiking trails leading to all these features, so you can take a new hike everyday.  It's hard to really grasp the magnitude of the area without some degree of elevation.

Our first chance for that type of view was a ranger guided hike up the Big Obsidian flow.

The half mile hike is steep in places, and the trail is pure volcanic glass (obsidian and pumice). Those who showed up in stylish little sandals had a bit of a rough time of it, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Ranger Ashley showed the group a selection of modern arrowheads and blades made from several types of obsidian. This formation is black, but obsidian does occur in other colors, depending on the mineral content.

From the top of the trail you can see Lost Lake and view the rivers of obsidian than make up the flow. The obsidian looks in many places like ropes of taffy, frozen in place, and in others looks like frothy peanut brittle, still others are pure clear glass-like material, the kind the arrowheads are made of. The solid glass-like obsidian is actually fairly rare and so was valuable trading material for the Native Americans in the area. Obsidian from this flow can be traced, through mineral analysis, to tools made by tribes all over the country.

Paulina Lake on the left, East Lake on the right
Our second opportunity for a "birds-eye-view" came at the end of a bone-jarring drive up a washboard gravel road leading to Paulina Peak, a gain in elevation of nearly 2,000 feet.

From the peak we could see the surround volcanic plain, with small cone shaped mounds, all covered with dense forest that at this altitude (nearly 8,000 feet) looks like dark green velvet. Smoke from the forest fire near Bend drifted low between the hills in the distance and although it clouded the view somewhat it also lent some definition to the dark, forest covered hills. Far in the distance we could see Mt. Bachelor and The Three Sisters, all snow capped volcanic peaks.

 There actually isn't as much wildlife around the campground as I would have expected. A few birds, lots of chipmunks and golden mantle squirrels, and frogs. Tiny little tree frogs no bigger than half an inch. In the photo, the frog, looking much like the gravel, is 2/3 of the way to the right of my hand. They come in green too, but I couldn't get any of them to pose for me!

They're all over the damp shores of the lake, and according to the ranger we talked to, they were all over the floor of the visitor's center when they opened it up for the season.

It seems that every year these little guys decide suddenly in late summer, in one mass migration, to climb the Big Obsidian flow. Perhaps to find a nice winter hiding place in the crevices? No one seems to know for sure why they do it, but it's an annual ritual for them.

We took a drive around both lakes to check out a few of the eight campgrounds, and decided we like ours the best. We're staying in Cinder Hill campground. With 109 sites it's by far the largest campground. There are several sites with lake views, but those were all reserved by the time we decided to stay here. Our site is on the back side of the loop, with a view of the bright red cinder hill up on the side of the caldera. Surrounded by mature Lodgepole pines and dense stands of seedlings, the sites are private and lush.

We checked out Little Crater campground at Paulina Lake (51 spaces) too. It's long and narrow, laid out along the shore of the lake. Lots of nice lake views, but the spaces are wide open (little shade) and packed in pretty close to one another. It would be nice if there aren't many sites occupied, but on this long weekend it's a little too busy for our taste. Paulina Lake campground (71 spaces) has more trees, but is located right next to the highway so there's a lot of road noise to deal with. These campgrounds all take reservations for some of the spaces, but also keep a percentage of the spaces available for drive-in registrants.

Other than a couple of nights that dipped below freezing the weather was beautifully clear and warm. The elevation, and the rim of the caldera, have held back the smoke from the fires north of us, so the sky is that brilliant blue that you usually only see on magazine covers. You can tell fall is on the way - a certain crispness in the air, a few leaves turning color, and the rodents "stocking up", until they are as fat as little baseballs. 

For us, autumn means football..... so it's off to Eugene and a couple of Duck games!
Check out the album for additional views of this beautiful area.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

East Lake, Oregon

After leaving Training Camp we stopped for one night at the Crook County RV Park, in Prineville. The stop was planned so we could stock up before heading south to East Lake, but it also provided an opportunity to repair our gas water heater that had decided to give up the ghost during Training Camp. It would ignite, but wouldn’t stay lit. While I caught up on the laundry Steve did some diagnostic work and eventually took the circuit control board to a shop and had it tested at High Desert RV. ‘Nice folks, and very helpful in running down the problem. The circuit board proved to be the culprit, so one new circuit board and $140 later we again had hot water. ‘Good thing, as the campground we’ll be staying in at East Lake doesn’t have electric or water service available.

Crook County RV park is nice. The spaces are generously log, but rather skimpy in the width. Each space has a little postage stamp size bit of grass and a picnic table. Fortunately the park wasn’t crowded, so they assigned everyone alternate spaces, making for a nice bit of elbow room.

This is posted “on the road”, as we’ll have no Internet service there unless we drive out away from the park. East Lake is in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and the campground is in a caldera (collapsed volcano), which really limits cell phone access. We’ll be here for 8 days, so plenty of time for R and R, and sightseeing too. Watch for reports!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tailgate Training Camp, Ochoco Forest Campground, Oregon

This pre-football season four day camp-out has become a tradition for us and our tailgating friends, whom we see only during football season.

We've met in this group campsite for so many years we've lost track (probably about eight years), so it feels like home. It's a great opportunity for us all to just sit back, relax, visit and talk football (among other things). With tents and RVs tucked into the trees, and the huge log shelter available for cooking and dining, we have all the comforts of home.

Smoke from the fires on the Warm Springs reservation hung in the air, more visible some days than others. We did have a little lightening during our stay, which unfortunately started a fire near Black Butte. The forestry service had firefighters and equipment staged around the area in strategic locations so they would be ready as soon as a smoke sighting was reported. They really are organized and on top of the situation here.

We took a day drive to Walton Lake, which was closed last year for remodeling. They have done a beautiful job of improving the camp sites and the trail, as well as adding some nice little paved areas for fishing, so the lake is now more accessible for the handicapped. Several people were fishing when we were there, some doing pretty well too, as the lake was stocked with all sizes of trout earlier in the spring.

Training Camp was as successful as ever, with the guys happily sporting their new party duds, supplied by Dave who obviously had a good time shopping on his last trip to Alaska.

The afternoons were devoted to serious games of "washers" and watching the livestock, who clearly knew (better than the humans) how to really relax.
All in all, we feel fully ready to meet the season head-on, and all we can say now is, GO DUCKS!!!!

You can witness more of the shenanigans in the album.

Anson Wright Memorial Park, Oregon

Knowing we need a few days of rest and relaxation to prepare for Tailgate Training Camp, we met friends from Portland at the Anson Wright Memorial Park campground for a few days. It's a calm, quiet, out of the way campground, and good for visiting with no interruptions.

This little campground  (Morrow County, on SR 205) has a little fishing pond on one end, and a creek running along the road near the tent sites, but the RV spots are all uphill, away from the creek, which is probably why we didn’t have much in the way of mosquito problems. The utilities are rather strangely arranged in some of the spaces, so check it out before deciding which site to select.

As the park is only a few  miles from the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds we thought we’d take a drive down that way.  We stopped at the visitor’s center, then had our picnic lunch at the James Cant ranch house, which was unfortunately not open for tours on this particular day – just our luck. It’s a really pretty ranch, with several original buildings, well maintained lawns and orchards, all backed by dramatic cliffs. It's a beautiful setting, and the ranch house itself is nicely restored. We were able to tour it the last time we visited this area and really enjoyed the displays inside.

It’s a scenic drive through the park, past multicolored layers of volcanic ash and basalt, fantastic eroded cliffs, and some very prosperous looking ranches.

After leaving the park complex we stopped at the Dayville Mercantile for ice – what a great little store! A little of everything, friendly folks, and they really know how to grow the petunias!

Our last night in camp featured a dramatic two hour lightening show, with just a bit of rain. We sat under the awning and watched as the campground was repeatedly lit up like a football stadium, and contemplated how many fires might be started by the strikes.

On the road the next morning I was able to grab an Internet connection and located a news article that stated::
Strong thunderstorms raked Oregon and western Idaho with more than 8,000 lightning strikes Wednesday, igniting more than 100 new fires on the High Desert that for the most part were stopped small.

We saw the evidence of the fires as we drove west under smoke filled skies, to the Ochoco Forest campground, for Tailgate Training Camp. We will, again, be out of Internet access for several days, so updates will be a bit delayed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

YEE-HAW!!! Pendleton Oregon

Pendleton, Oregon –  Rolling wheat fields, cattle ranches and home of the famous Pendleton Roundup. The roundup is a huge rodeo event and pageant, held every September.  We’ll be gone by then unfortunately, but we did have time to visit the  Pendleton Roundup and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame, where we talked with the docents about the history of the event and admired memorabilia of all types.

We learned the story of Warpaint,  the mounted (as in "stuffed") horse that greeted us as we entered. He was a bronc who was famous for his ability to toss riders, and who liked to bite! That’s why he’s posed with his mouth open. The displays included historic Native American costumes and beadwork, rodeo clothing and leather work,  a lot of historic information regarding the rodeo itself, and a full size teepee.

The hall of fame is right across from the rodeo arena, so you can really picture the event. Happy Canyon is the back side of the arena, which fills up with a Native American village and hosts the pageant portion of the rodeo. The bronze in front of the arena is world famous, not only as a symbol of the rodeo, but also as the logo for Pendleton Whisky.

Some folks will think we're crazy, but as we aren’t too fond of crowds we’re just as happy to see it before the festivities are set in motion.

Pendleton, in addition to the rodeo, is a neat western town to visit. The old downtown has some really classic  old cow-town buildings, most filled with modern “saloons”, western wear shops, restaurants and the like. The famous Hamly Steakhouse wasn’t open for lunch, but we were able to go in and got a brief “tour” from the manager – what a beautiful establishment! And talk about historic furnishings. . . the divider between the restaurant and lounge is the tellers counter wall from the last bank that Butch Cassidy and his gang held up, while the bar back itself is Victorian and came from a town in Montana. The whole restaurant is beautifully done, and their prices didn’t look too bad.

I paid a visit to the Pendleton Quiltworks, which has to be the friendliest quilt shop in the state, and picked up a few pieces of fabric for my projects. Meanwhile, Steve chatted with folks a couple of doors down at the Prodigal Son. I joined him later for a cold one and lunch. (We tend to schedule my quilt shopping at stores with a pub nearby.) There was a moment of deja vu as I looked around the room and noticed a large print of Dr. Pierce's Barn, which is in Cottage Grove (where we used to live).

In addition to the rodeo, Pendleton is also famous for the Pendleton Woolen Mill, producers of wool blankets and clothing, so we couldn’t pass up a chance to visit the mill and take their tour. It was very informative and we learned a few  interesting facts – first, all the fabric for clothing is made in the Portland, Oregon, facility which also does all the dying and washing of the wool and finished products. The mill in Pendleton cards the wool, spins the yarn and weaves blankets.  It’s quite a partnership between the two mills. We also learned that some of the looms they use for tapestries are quite old, but have been computerized, and they produce some fantastic products. We saw a few of them on the walls of the mill during our tour. We have a little album from the tour, if you are interested in how the process works.

While in Portland we stayed at the Wildhorse Casino RV park. As casino parks go it’s pretty nice, especially if you can get one of the spaces along the back row as we did. We had a nice, open wheat field behind us and a fairly spacious grassy patio area.  Wildhorse is a Native American casino, and we noticed that, in contrast to many Native American casinos we’ve visited, most all the staff here actually is Native American.  The tribes seem to be doing a top notch job of managing the business too – they were racing to finish at least seven floors of a huge new hotel complex on the  casino, with the goal of being ready for the Pendleton Roundup rush.

Adjacent to the RV park is a beautiful cultural center called Tamastaklikit. We very much enjoyed our visit. Displays and videos cover the history and culture of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Nes Perce and other tribes in the area. There are several examples of different housing types in the outdoor area that often house crafters, demonstrating traditional arts. The young craftspeople we met out in the tule reed shelter were beading jewelry at the time, and were very friendly and conversational.

Our last day in Pendleton was devoted to stocking up (again!) and getting ready for a meet-up with friends at Anson Wright, a county park in Morrow County. ( on SR 207)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Installing EDWIN - another RV remodeling adventure

No, we didn't put my father in the ol' RV.  . . . here's the story.

The one drawback to the floor plan of our Arctic Fox trailer is that there is limited ventilation in the bedroom. When we're out in really hot weather a little cross-ventilation would be nice. I once suggested putting a window in the wall next to the door. The Wagon Master (a.k.a. chief mechanic and RV maintenance guy) looked at me as if I'd finally go 'round the bend and informed me in no uncertain terms "We are NOT cutting a hole in the wall."

OK then . . .'not to be stymied in my search for fresh air, I hit the Internet and after searching several RV replacement window sites, I came up with the Atwood EDWIN - short for Entry Door WINdow.

This little treasure fits the existing door window opening and the window in it opens!! It was really easy to install (I can say that as I actually helped), and appears it will be trouble free. We'll see if it provides adequate air flow when were out on the road. We do leave the door open if it's really hot, but this should be a nice intermediate solution. We also have a foil blanket to Velcro over the window for light and heat control when we need it. Problem solved! 'Wish all our remodeling jobs were this simple! We're still waiting for parts and pieces for the solar project, when we've got all the materials we'll launch into that.

 After almost three months on the road we can now honestly say that the window was a good solution, but, we discovered after the first month that we needed to go a few steps further. First, the window glass is smoked, but not textured, so at night with inside lights on you can see into the bedroom, and because the foil blanket I mentioned covers the entire window, and the screen door blocks access to it from the inside, we decided we needed another "light control" solution. We went to a hardware store and bought some "privacy" window film and put that on the window, solving the privacy problem. Then, I made a curtain out of fabric heavy enough to block all the light. It pulls to the side during the day, so it doesn't hinder use of the door, and air can flow around and under it at night if we have it pulled all the way closed. It seems we now have all issues resolved.

When we visited the Northwood factory (see previous post) we inspected several new trailer models, and saw stacks of windows ready for installation - they all looked like the Edwin! Apparently the same company is supplying them now. The new version of our model does have a window in the bedroom, so the airflow is improved, but if you have an older 30U, or some other RV model that needs increased ventilation, this solution might work for you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

LaGrande, Oregon

We planned a stop in the little eastern Oregon town of LaGrande to get some repair work done on our Arctic Fox at the Northwood factory. Our rock cover on the front window has been a problem for awhile now, and we've patched it a couple of times, so we decided it was time to move on to a new one.The factory recommended nearby Eagles Hot Lake RV Park as a good place to stay as it's really close to the factory. It turned out to be a great recommendation. We had no idea what else was around the RV park, so we were in for a pleasant surprise.

The park itself is very picturesque, nestled in at the foot of Craig Mountain  with the old Oregon Trail running behind it and Ladd Marsh Wildlife Refuge  right across the road. The trees in the park aren't very big yet, but the spaces are generous, grassy, and everything is well maintained. Ladd Marsh offers a wealth of wildlife viewing - over 200 species of birds in addition to the occasional deer and elk. There's a creek running right through the park, a pool and spa, and a laundry room. The real treat however is  Hot Lake Springs, spa and bead and breakfast, that is located right next door. This establishment has quite a history.

From pioneer days, when the trail ran along the base of the mountain and travelers stopped here at the trading post, to the 1900's when a luxury spa and sanatorium (hospital) was established, to the current incarnation as bed and breakfast/art gallery/history center.

The draw of the property way back into Indian days was the hot lake waters which were believed to have healing properties. The area was considered "tribe neutral" because of of this special attribute, so even warring tribes could meet here on peaceful terms.Today, the hot waters are piped into soaking tubs in the spring house.

In 2003 Manuel family purchased the property and began restoring it. It was in terrible shape after many years of neglect. Renovations have taken years - they have been open for guests since 2010, but just held their grand opening in early August of this year.

They moved their bronze sculpture foundry business and gallery here from Joseph, and are now in the process of providing space the their gallery for other artists. There's a little gift shop and antique shop in addition to the gallery, so shoppers will be delighted with the range of choices.

Many of David Manuel's amazing sculptures are situated around the grounds, and smaller versions of many of them are available in the gallery.

For a small fee you can tour the grounds, view the beautifully appointed guest rooms, and experience two floors of Native American artifacts, artwork, military and pioneer history. The entire facility is an experience, as there are little cabinets and show cases tucked in every lounge area and available corner, all filled with various antiques and collectables. We spent a little more than two hours there. They have a restaurant too, so it would be easy to make a day of it.

We dropped off the rig at the factory at 7 A.M. With time on our hands until the repair was finished we asked about a good place for breakfast. The Flying J truck stop was suggested, with the caveat "I hope you're really hungry".... it was a good suggestion, as the food was great and plenty of it. Not just fried eggs and ham either - I had crepes with berry sauce - delightful!

Our appointment at the factory went well. The new rock cover's design is a big improvement over the old one, and they managed to find one with graphics similar to those on the trailer itself. We also learned the secret to removing the window screens so we can thoroughly clean the windows, and obtained their expert advice on a few other questions. 'Nice folks, and very helpful! We were back on the road with our repaired rig by 10:30 A.M.

For more views of the Hot Lake Springs facility and grounds check out the album.

Next stop - Pendleton, Oregon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A vacation from retirement

All this touring and visiting exciting places is great, according to the Wagon Master, but sometimes you need to take a vacation from retirement. So, he found us the perfect place.

Catherine Creek State Park is along hwy. 203, near Union, Oregon. The campsites are laid out along Catherine Creek, and there's a nice day-use area just a half mile up the road. There are no services, but there is water available. It's a beautiful area, with camp sites that vary from small, suitable for tents, to several that will accommodate larger rigs. Only a few are right on the creek, and we were lucky enough to arrive early in the day, early in the week, and snag one of the very best.

Catherine Creek isn't very deep - great for kids to wade in as there are several little sandy beach areas. Though we did see people fishing in it, I can't say I saw anyone catching a fish!

There are also a couple of nice trails, one to the day use area - it's a one mile round trip, and another up to the top of the hill where there are a few nice viewpoints. It's a two mile round trip, and does have a few steep areas. Molly and I took that one on our third day there - not too bad for an old lady and an old dog!

We took one afternoon to go into the nearby town of Union where we visited the Union County Museum and picked up a few items at the little grocery store.

MC Ranch branding iron
The museum is really nice, and the loving attention lavished on the collections by all the volunteers really shows. The displays are really well done, and include an unusually wide range of topical material. One whole room is devoted to a "Cowboys Then and Now" collection.

Small "rooms" display items as they would have been used in days gone by. The whole town is a well-preserved turn-of the century treat. The grocery store, situated right on the creek, is well stocked with a bit of everything. The proprietor is a friendly fellow who will happily visit and fill you in on local events.

Four days is long enough to really get settled in to an area, and by the time we left we'd become well acquainted with our host and hostess and two of the other couples camping there. We spent the afternoons trading travel tips, favorite campsites, and learning about the surrounding area from the couples who were familiar with it.

There's no cell service in the park, but you can catch a signal a couple of miles back toward town. We never bothered to set up the TV, opting to take a vacation from everything! All things considered, while the rest of the world was focused on the stock market melting down, world politics, and all the talking heads on TV, this was an excellent place to get away from it all! A few more photos here.

Our next stop will be far more "civilized". We've an appointment with the Arctic Fox factory in LaGrande for a repair, so we'll be staying at a private park nearby.