Friday, November 23, 2012

November - a very short month!

I admit I knew when we were sitting in Wallowa Lake State Park that we were going to have to hit the ground running when we got to McMinnville.  We had so many things that needed to fall together during the month of November.  It was a true gift to arrive a week early.  We needed that extra week!

Among many other things, our list of "action items" included:
  • Participate in and celebrate my Dad's 80th Birthday!
  • Visit Camping World for more warranty work (don't get me started...)
  • Find/Purchase a new tow-able car
  • Get the new car and motorhome equipped for towing
  • Find/Purchase a new mattress
  • Dental Appointments
  • Eye Exam Appointments
  • Find Church to attend in McMinnville
  • Participate in and celebrate Thanksgiving with Skeels family
  • Visit as many friends as possible

It's November 23rd as I write, and I can report that we've made some good progress, but have a little ways to go.

We had a great time celebrating my Dad's 80th Birthday.  We went out to dinner as a smaller family unit on his actual birthday, and then had a much larger party for extended family and friends for following Sunday.  What a great time that turned out to be!  I got to spend some quality time with my sister as we baked pies and a cobbler for the party, and it was great see friends and family we haven't seen in a long while!

We've been able to see a few close friends so far, but haven't nearly got to do the visiting we'd hoped.  We're hoping to do more before the month is over, but it's getting frustrating ... It feels that McMinnville is a lot further away than it was last July ...  Must be because daylight hours are shorter, and the rain and wind storms much harder!  By the way, we thought our coach was going to fly through the area during the wind/rain storm just before Thanksgiving.  I haven't been that scared in a long time.  In the dark, it sounded much worse than it was!

We spent another day at Camping World having more warranty work dealt with on the 31st of October.  The repair list had got shorter, but sometimes seems it will never end.  The first year warranty period is almost half way gone.  We can only dream of the day we won't need to go back there again...  After this October appointment, we had to continue waiting for new fireplace pieces.  The fan rattles and the remote died.  If you are going to have an extra source of heat, you really don't want it to rattle the whole time you use it!

We received a call mid-month saying the parts were already in.  Consequently, we went back for a second visit Tuesday before Thanksgiving...

All this continual packing and moving has felt bothersome for me.  I guess I hadn't realized how much packing and moving for short term periods there would be in this lifestyle.  I expect I'll just get used to it over time.  I need to just "buck up" and look at packing and moving as a necessary inconvenience which, prayerfully, won't be as frequent once we get past all this warranty work and have established a new "normal" in our life.

Let me insert something here about dealing with all this warranty work:  Let's just say, if you can find service people with good communication, good skills, good communication, who don't tell you want to hear and then send you away to get you out of their hair, and with good communication skills, hire them!!  We're still looking for more of those people in the RV service business ... 

In case you feel that's too vague, here's one of our many, many experiences:  We had a closet door latch which wouldn't latch on the 4-door wardrobe in our bedroom.  It came unlatched during travel and wouldn't latch again.  It's important to latch doors, as doors can slide back and forth in travel, potentially causing damage.  Doors always need to be latched.  Feeling I could perhaps figure out the problem, I took the latch off while we were at Wallowa Lake (just two little screws).  I failed trying to fix the latch, so I went to the hardware store and looked for a replacement latch, with no success.  Steve helped me, and we got the latch to work again.  I put it back on the door, and after 3-4 latches, it quit again.  Though it could be fixed with a screwdriver each time, it didn't seem realistic to expect we should be satisfied with this situation.  I mean, it's only a latch needing to be replaced! The results - more warranty work.  They won't just mail you a new latch.  You have to go to them and let them fix it when it's on warranty.

Our service people said they could not reproduce the error.  Therefore, to them, it was not defective.  (This alone is SO frustrating to me!)  However, because I had said it was defective, and I believe they are tired of seeing and listening to us, they replaced it.  The cost was $10.99 for the latch, but we'd have to pay for it.  I said OK.  When we picked up our coach, the bill was $70.  Seems there was a bit of labor costs involved as well.  They later waived this charge when we complained, though they claimed they'd told me of the labor cost on the phone.  Like I would've missed that?  I'm just saying that. once again, good communication could've saved a lot of frustration.  We've experienced this over and over with mostly much larger tasks.  I'll move on now ....

Steve and I joined the "Family Motor Coach Association", which gives us access to the lists of vehicles which can be towed "4 down", meaning 4 wheels on the ground - the most common way of towing an extra vehicle.  We'd both been studying the lists, and talking about what kind of vehicle would meet our needs and "float our boat" for the next 10+ years.  It took a lot of evaluation of needs/wants, but we finally came to a decision that we really wanted to find a vehicle about the same size as our 2002 Buick Rendezvous - a cross-over utility vehicle (CUV) is what they are calling them now.  We wanted to be able to drive distances in it comfortably, have room for Parsley's cat carrier and litter box, and feel good about it's "driveability".  Also, we wanted to feel like it was a car we could be happy with for a long time.  We've always kept our vehicles for 10-13 years.  Also, we really like buying new - because of the warranties, because of the comfort of knowing the true history of the car.  Just a personal thing - if we can swing the $$.

From the list of tow-ables, we narrowed down our search to perhaps 6-8 vehicles.  We needed to go look at them to narrow down our list.  We pretty much assumed that we could eliminate some just by sitting in them.  They might be too big, too small, not comfortable enough, or whatever.  Then we'd get serious on whatever vehicles were still on the list.  We didn't waste any time getting busy with our vehicle shopping.

We started in Beaverton - Buick/GMC, Chevy.  We have always thought ourselves to be "Buick people", and it was difficult to come to the decision that the Enclave was just too big for how we now believe we will use a vehicle.  The GMC Terrain felt just a little too small.  The Chevy Equinox seemed very possible, but didn't have the same feeling we'd felt when we bought our Buick Rendezvous.  It's that thing you just can't put your finger on.  We decided against the Subaru, and the Honda CRV because of their smaller engines.  We really like our V-6's and were hoping for a bit more" pep" than we'd had in the 2002 Buick Rendezvous.  Our list was getting shorter.  We had a Cadillac SRX on the list, but didn't really think we were "Cadillac people".  Funny how we get certain impressions, while never even looking ... Still, there was a GM dealer right in McMinnville, so we'd go check it out.

We left the dealer that evening with a 2012 Cadillac SRX.  God's timing was perfect and there were 3 end-of-the-year SRX's on the lot - two black, one white.  White was the only thing that made sense.  It's hard to find a car wash on the park host circuit ... and State Parks don't allow car washing.

We had a great salesman at Larsen Motors in McMinnville, and even making the deal was a great experience for us.  They gave us what we wanted on our trade-in, and we were satisfied with the price we agreed to pay overall.  We would trade being able to pick color and conveniences for a great deal any day!  We have continued to feel good about our new car since driving it off the showroom floor that night.  It's just the right car for us.  It just feels right for us.

We had Wilsonville Camping World install the towing equipment on the car and motorhome.  We reasoned they'd done lots of these installations.  Experience made us feel better about making these modifications to our new vehicle.  They finished it in one day, however the walk-thru was by flashlight in the dark.  We decided to spend the night and try it again in daylight.  Steve was the first to drive the motorhome with the tow vehicle behind for the 30 mile trip back to our McMinnville RV Park.  No problems!  The hooking up is going to take us a while until we get comfortable with it.  It's scary, wondering if you've done it all correctly!  We are amazed when we watch others quickly hook up or unhook here at the RV park.  They make it look simple.

We had a funny moment on our first towing trip.  We made a planned stop in Aurora at the truck stop to fuel up the coach.  As Steve prepared to take the exit, he turned on the right turn signal.  As he drove onto the off-ramp, he glanced down at the monitor, expecting to see, via the rear camera, the car still safely behind us.  Instead, he saw open road!!  It only took a moment of sheer terror before he remembered we have cameras on the side of the motorhome that automatically switch our view to the side when we turn on the turn signal!  The car didn't show up in that view!  So many things will become less scary with experience.

Our dental appointments are complete.  The only pain was the bill ... we don't have dental insurance since we retired about 4 1/2 years ago.  We are blessed that it hasn't posed any major difficulty for us financially at this point.  We plan for those visits in our budget.  We also carry our own individual health insurance policies, with higher deductibles in order to keep our costs down.  We are committed to keeping the deductible amounts in our savings account, just in case we need it.  The rest is up to God.

Finding a new mattress has been a high priority on our list this month, however even that task had to be put off as we dealt with the new vehicle, family matters, etc.  Our new friends from Wallowa Lake, the Schaffers, told us about a Newberg mattress manufacturer who they'd been very happy with.  We decided to check them out.  Mattress purchases are costly these days!  It's also a very important choice for me particularly.  I have a bad lower back that has given me lots of grief during and after moving from our Hillsboro house.  The mattress in our new motorhome is a knock-off "sleep number" type bed, and we really hoped it would work.  I was in tears within a couple weeks of trying to make it work - from pain and a lack of decent sleep.  After a particularly bad night, while in Washington, Steve's cousin Steve had helped us find a 3" memory foam topper in Olympia.  It made enough of a difference that I could at least get some sleep again.  While I am still unable to lay on my side, it was a great improvement.  Over time, it seems less and less effective.  For the past couple weeks, I've been sleeping on the couch in the living room, which thankfully lays down into a bed.  While not perfect, it is working better for me.  I miss having Steve next to me though ... the couch didn't work as well for him.

We picked out a mattress at the manufacturer's show room earlier in the month, but had asked that they come see our unique situation before we made a purchase.  Our RV-king bed has to mechanically slide up the wall (like an adjustable bed) quite a ways in order for the bedroom slide to come in.  When both sides of the room slide in, the wardrobe meets the foot end of the mattress.  There's a micro-switch which will not allow the bed slide to move, if the bed isn't raised all the way up.  Our new mattress has to be able to bend well and must be able to be raised as our current mattress does.  Also ... our RV King mattress in the motorhome isn't a 76x80 king.  We are 4" narrower than a standard king, and perhaps an inch shorter.  RV manufacturer's often make these adjustments to improve their layouts.  RV supply companies, like Camping World, sell RV mattresses, but we found them to be quite inadequate for my back comfort.  (When a mattress is delivered flat and rolled up, you have to be suspect about the amount of support it would provide!)  Our mattress manufacturer makes each mattress to order, and for an extra amount makes "custom cuts", so our 72x79" size would require custom cut(s).  The catch is that we can't return it, since it is a custom mattress.  That's why we asked them to come view our unique situation before we committed to the order!

Unfortunately, the guy who was to come see us got sick.  We began to panic as we saw the days of November ticking away.  We have to leave here November 30, and Thanksgiving would mean the mattress factory would be closed for 4 days over the holiday weekend. We were told they'd need 7 working days to make our mattress.  I called and pleaded with the fill-in salesman for help.

I remember pointing out to Steve how God repeatedly seems to have us in these "we-can't-control-this-ourselves" situations.  How would we get this mattress, and could I manage another week sleeping on the couch?  This past Monday the original salesman came to visit us.  He measured the bed, the doorway, the bed lift, etc.  He called later to say the mattress wouldn't fit through the doorway .... but they had options:  1) buy a "split king".  He didn't think we'd be happy if we couldn't sleep right next to each other though; 2) buy a queen mattress to fit in the king space.  He said he'd knew we would want the additional space of a king; 3) the factory guys had the idea of splitting our bed in a different way - about 18" up from the foot of the bed, where the seam wouldn't matter.  We'd never heard of such a thing, yet it makes sense.  The short section of bed can be at either the foot, or the head.  It actually gives us more opportunity to vary where we sleep in the main section of bed - making the mattress wear better.  Thank God!  The mattress is to be delivered 2 days before we leave town.

We found a church we feel very comfortable attending here in McMinnville - Calvary Chapel.  We have attended there except for last Sunday when we had a great time back at our home church - Cedar Mill Bible.  Steve decided he wanted to usher along side his friend, Tom, who'd recently lost his wife to cancer.  He had a great time.  I got to sit with my long time friend, Debbie, and be surrounded by a few of the friends we'd hoped to be able to have personal visits with this month ... which is becoming less likely.  It felt like we were home!  Even our lead pastor-teacher preached the message that morning.  It was a good day.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9-Inch is going to be a huge holiday hit. To make for an even better day, my birthday present - a new Kindle Fire HD 8.9" was delivered to our "home address".  I'm so thankful we pre-ordered it back in October, as I probably wouldn't have spent the money this month as we watched so much of it fly out of our savings account.  However, I am so pleased with how it's going to make life easier here in our motorhome.  I have worked hard to get recipes out of cookbooks and into my computer.  However, my laptop (a larger one) takes up too much kitchen counter space to be able to view the recipe while I'm cooking.  My new Kindle is just the right size to read from, and in it's space useage!  Also, Steve and I have an Amazon Prime membership, which has saved us lots of $$ in shipping charges, as we get free 2-day shipping via  (I find internet shopping a real life-saver in our RV lifestyle.)  In addition, I can enjoy reading books for free as a part of the amazon lending library.  We could stream videos for free also, except we don't exactly have a high speed Internet feed.  We are very thankful for our Verizon Mifi, which gives us our hotspot via our cell phones, but the speed isn't what most enjoy in their "stick houses".  Still, we can do most all the things we enjoy.  With my new Kindle, I can even do a few computer things with the cat laying in my lap.  It was difficult balancing my laptop on the arm of the chair previously.  Isn't it the little things that make life fun?

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my parents place.  It was a smaller group, with mostly just our immediate family gathered, missing only my sister-in-law, who'd had to work.  We have so much to give thanks to God for!  The list keeps getting longer.  God is good ... all the time.

Photo of Harris BeachWith only a week left in the area, I am happy to report that our list of things to accomplish, one by one, have fallen into place.  As much as we've enjoyed being in the area, visiting family and friends, getting some necessary things done in an area where we know where to shop, etc., we are also looking forward to our next assignment just outside of Brookings, Oregon (SW corner of the state).  We will be at Alfred A Loeb State Park, on the Chetco River, for December and January.  We're looking forward to exploring the town and the local area.  We stopped in Brookings years ago, and recall thinking it would be a great town to retire in.  I remember the beach being very different from the Northern coast, but just as beautiful in a whole different way.  We're expecting it will be a mild winter down there.  We expect to be meeting fishermen in the park, as it's said there is wonderful salmon/steelhead fishing on the Chetco River.  We've also heard the park hosts like to do breakfast together once a week - a nice opportunity to get to know hosts in the 3 state parks near Brookings (Harris Beach, Crissy Fields & Alfred A Loeb).  We're praying for safe traveling weather at the end of the month.  Our next adventure awaits!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting through the Columbia Gorge ... to McMinnville

As I mentioned in the last post, we decided I would drive the motorhome from Pendleton to McMinnville, as Steve was feeling extra groggy that morning.  I was short on sleep, but feeling I could handle another day of driving.  Our new friends, the Schaffers, decided to stay an additional night at the casino RV park in order to take advantage of the laundry facilities, so Steve and I were on our own again.  We stopped in to say goodbye before heading out.  I believe we were on the road about 10:00 that morning.

I really have got quite a bit more comfortable driving our motorhome.  It's crazy, but I love turning corners.  I also love those exhaust brakes.  It just all makes sense now.  My main area of concern now is having to turn tight corners in traffic in downtown situations.  As I've mentioned, I'm a planner.  My comfort zone is knowing (being able to picture the roads/intersections in my head) where I'm going and what I'll deal with before I get there.  Obviously, this isn't realistic.  I guess that's why we've always had the Buick be our "lead vehicle".  If there's something difficult ahead that might be avoided, the lead car can notify the motorhome driver.

On this travel day, I was nervous about unknown wind conditions in the gorge first.  We began driving, mile after mile, and the weather was just great!  We saw a large flag hanging straight down somewhere near Umatilla.  No wind!  What were the chances?  Even as we approached The Dalles, the wind continued to be pretty much non-existent.  This was such a huge relief, and made for an easy day of travel.  It was clear we would go all the way to McMinnville.

As we drove through the last section of the gorge, approaching Troutdale, we were speaking via cell phone, deciding how we'd travel through Portland to McMinneville.  We agreed on the Marquam bridge across the Willamette, to I-5 South.  While going over the bridge in the motorhome was scary, it seemed do-able.  The next decision was which exit to take off I-5.  Would we take Hwy 99 through Tigard, or drop down to Aurora, get fuel at the truck stop and then take Hwy 219 to Newberg to connect with Hwy 99.  I wasn't sure I wanted to go further south, and we didn't have to get fuel yet.  We'd filled up at Pendleton as we headed toward Wallowa Lake, and 100 gallons was lasting us just fine.  I figured we would just fuel up at the end of November before heading to Brookings.

The other option, taking the Hwy 99 exit off I-5 was scary, since I just couldn't picture it.  How many times had I ever driven south on I-5 that far, coming from Portland?  I was afraid there would be an intersection, where I'd have to make a tight left turn to head east on Hwy 99.

...That's when Steve's cell phone died.  His battery likes to surprise us.

No more opportunity to talk through the decision.  I resolved myself to just follow Steve in the Buick, wherever he might go.  What other choice did I have?  I kept my eyes on Steve in the Rendezvous and just kept going.

About the time we prepared to take the approach to the Marquam, traffic really slowed down.  Going slow always makes things more simple!  I managed to stay in my lane over the bridge and maneuvered the on ramp to I-5 without any difficulties.  Hurrah!  Next, I wondered which exit Steve would decide to take to get us to McMinnville.  It appeared we'd be doing the Barbur Blvd/Tigard exit.  I just kept following Steve.  Seems there was no intersection to deal with!  No left turn!  Also traffic was nice and slow through Tigard, giving me lots of time to make sure I stayed in my lane and made no quick stops at traffic signals.  God was so good to us yet again!

I know you "man-type creatures" out there are probably thinking I'm some kind of wimp.  How hard can driving a motorhome - or a semi be?  Well ... I kind of am a wimp.  I'm just a determined wimp.  I love accomplishing things I thought were perhaps impossible for me.  And, along with that, I am learning more each day how to trust the God I have chosen to put my trust in.  It's not magic.  You don't just decide to follow God and suddenly have no questions about where you are willing to go.  Each day, each hour, each minute is often a new decision.  Yet each time we get through the next rough patch, I find He is trustworthy.  Not a bad lesson to learn over and over again!

Planning - perhaps. Flexibility - a necessity!

If you know me at all, you know I like to plan.  I like to be prepared.  It makes me feel more relaxed when I know what today and tomorrow hold.  I have some anxiety issues ...  I love lists.  I love my calendar.  I plan out our dinners a month in advance (if I'm on top of things).  Can you relate to that at all?

Part of this new life style for me is learning to be more flexible.  I am having to learn to be more open to whatever happens to come up.  This is not always easy for me, but I'm trying!

Being a park host is excellent training in being flexible with my own plans.  I'm learning to accept each position with the attitude of "whatever you need us to do, we will try our best".  I've done that in other volunteer opportunities quite successfully.  However, this park hosting business has raised the bar!   If I could, I lean toward avoiding any real or imagined difficulties.  I'd like to appear confident in my job, which means I might only want to do what I've already tried.  Fewer risks.  Rarely now are any two jobs the same!  Yes, I'm being stretched - in a really good way.

We accepted the park hosting position at Wallowa Lake State Park for September and October.  We were assigned our camp site (we loved it).  I did not pick it as I've always done when we were just "regular campers".  We were assigned responsibility for selling wood and for cleaning vacated camp sites - both tasks we enjoy - because that's what they needed us to do.  How the job is done varies from park to park.  We began work the morning after we arrived, and worked with 5 other hosts.  Our schedules overlapped and and we covered for each other as work loads changed with the changing of the seasons.  All of that required being available and flexible, getting to know new people and learning to deal and accept individual differences.  At Wallowa, we worked with such a good group of hosts - we all became quick friends, even with different strengths and personalities.  Park hosting is a great way to make new friends!

October brought some changes to our happy little Wallowa Lake family.  Some hosts left at the end of September.  The seasonal rangers were beginning to leave as well.  We had an additional host come join us for a week on a special project (photographing campsites which will eventually be viewable when making online camping reservations).  Steve and Al hit it off pretty quick (the "engineer thing") and we hope to see he and his wife again at another park one day.  We lost a couple other hosts who were ready to move to their next job, or planning to "Winter" elsewhere, leaving only two remaining hosts - the Schaffers and ourselves.

The weather changed rapidly in October.  We began getting freezing temperatures, in the mid 20's, at night.  We were unable to get propane delivered directly to our coach at the park, but had figured out a location we could take the coach to in town, if necessary.  We nursed our 28-gallon propane, using one of our heat pumps (air conditioner) for heat once the temperature got above 35 degrees, when the heat pump began to be effective.  Running a furnace can use a lot of propane up quickly, though at the time we had just one of our two furnaces working.  We went into town and purchased a small ceramic heater for extra help holding the temperature above freezing in the night.  It began to look like we were going to make through two months without buying more propane!

A prior winter photo by Heather Honeywell
Around that same time, our supervising Ranger, Shawn, told us that there would be a point coming soon when Maintenance-Ranger Wes would begin shutting off the water in various loops to avoid freezing pipes at the park.  Our host site happened to be C-1, a part of the first loop they were planning to close down.  To us less rough-and-tough people, it's no fun trying to "dry camp" for any extended length of time.  Keep in mind, this is our house!  We do laundry in it, take showers in it, wash dishes, etc.  We certainly need more than 100 gallons of water for a couple weeks of living!
Steve and I began trying to figure out what we could/should do.  Could we move into another site in B loop, which they'd planned to keep open longer?  While Ranger Shawn assured us that we could leave whenever we felt we needed to, it felt strange to consider leaving the park early.  We'd taken the position for September and October.  We've always met our commitments.  We spoke with our fellow hosts.  They planned to stay to the end.  We were really struggling.  Suddenly, the weather warmed and began to look hopeful!   They wouldn't need to turn off the water unless things got worse again.  We stayed on at the park, though we decided to leave on the 29th, to give us a better shot at being home for my Dad's birthday.  Our best plan was in order.

Then we had our first real rain of the reason.  It poured and poured for a couple days.  A small lake formed behind our MobyHoma.  We breathed in the moisture!  My cuticles began to mend at last!  But, then we saw our first snow.  It was so great to be able to see it come down in the park.  I love snow!  I don't want to have to drive in snow, mind you, but I love it!  We were keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts...  On Sunday, October 21, the temperatures dropped down in the mid 20's again.  We'd seen frost for the first time the morning before, thanks for the moisture left from the rain.  Keep in mind moisture was rare during our time at the park.  We decided not to risk driving into town on icy roads for church in Enterprise that morning.  One Ranger had experienced black ice on her way in to work.

Instead of church, Steve and I did a lot of talking.  We checked the latest weather forecasts and discovered a steady downward trend in the temperatures, both during the day and at night.  Snow was predicted for Tuesday morning, the 23rd.  We talked about our desire to be home for my Dad's 80th birthday, about the amount of tasks we were going to have to accomplish during the month of November, including finding/buying/ rigging a tow vehicle.  We were already aware that it was going to be an extremely busy month.  We were going to have to hit the ground running in McMinnville in order to accomplish everything we needed to .  Then we considered the weather creeping in on us.  When would it be too late to drive out safely?  We decided it was time -- now.  We decided to leave on Monday, October 22nd, prior to the predicted snow event, just in case it didn't end after the predicted day.  This would be one week before our planned date of departure.

We went over to visit our co-hosts to tell them of our decision.  I said, "We have some news to share."  Sharon said, "I think I know what it is."  I asked, "What?"  She said, "You are leaving the park tomorrow."  I couldn't believe it!  How could she have known?  We didn't talk to anyone else about it!  Seems they'd run into Ranger Wes, who'd shared that he was going to have to turn off the water on their loop, and had already closed the restroom/showers and laundry facility in that loop early that week.  They didn't have a washer/dryer in their Class C motorhome.  Independent from us, the Schaffer's had come to the same conclusion on when they should leave! It was clear God had confirmed that our plans were His also.  How cool was that?!?!

I went on to explain to Bill & Sharon that we thought we'd only go as far as Pendleton, staying at the RV Park at the Wild Horse Casino.  Bill said they'd had the same idea!  Sharon had told me on a previous day that she like the idea of traveling together with us for safety reasons.  After all, we were both headed the same direction.  Bill & Sharon were heading back to Newberg, and we were heading for McMinnville.  However, our leaving dates weren't making that possible.  Until now!  I should mention that Bill and Sharon are very early risers compared to us.  Steve and I are much slower and prefer to stay up in the evening a while longer.  Knowing that, Bill and Sharon were still willing to wait and leave with us between 11:00 and noon once temperatures were above freezing.  The plan was made.

We left Wallowa Lake State Park just after 11:00 on Monday morning.  It was snowing (not sticking) as we drove around the lake on the way out.  Steve (with Parsley) led in the Buick, I followed in Moby, and the Schaffers followed in their motorhome, towing their Volkswagen bug.  We had us a "convoy" of sorts!

I prayed a lot during that 2 1/2  hour drive to Pendleton.  First, I was concerned there might be slick roads along the way.  (Our motorhome doesn't appear to have a temperature monitor for the road.  If it does, we haven't found it yet.) However, things went very well and were pretty easy, at least until we started climbing to get through the pass prior to Pendleton.  We ran into a pretty good amount of rain, which was increasingly mixed with snow.  This was my first experience using the windshield wipers, and I was so happy to see how well they worked.  I knew I could just pull over if it got just too dicey.  However, then I imagined the snow might begin sticking and we could get stuck.  I knew we had to keep going.  I began to pray aloud to God asking that He would get us through these last 30 miles safely.  Hadn't He led us to this day of travel?  He did.  Surely, He would see us through.

There was sunshine on the other side of that pass!  We pulled into the Wild Horse Casino RV Park around 2:00 that afternoon.  We set up and then joined the Schaffers on a shuttle bus to go enjoy the Casino's lunch buffet.  It was so nice to enjoy our new friends, a good meal, and relax.

Steve and I didn't get much sleep that night, but decided the next morning to go ahead and head for McMinnville that day.  If there was excessive wind or other nasty weather in the gorge, we could always decide to stop for another night.  Since Steve was feeling particularly groggy this morning, we decided I would go ahead and drive Moby the rest of the way to McMinnville....

To be continued .....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Relaxing at Last - Wallowa Lake State Park

We are loving our new “neighborhood” here at Wallowa Lake!  Where is that?  We are in the Northeast corner of Oregon, about 60 miles from the Oregon-Idaho border.  We are about 6 miles from Joseph, Oregon, a somewhat well-known art community, and about 11 miles from Enterprise.  It’s something like 75 miles from LaGrande.  The campground brochure for Wallowa Lake State Park says, “Nestled between the south end of a scenic glacial lake and the towering peaks of the Wallowa Mountains, Wallowa Lake State Recreation Area is ideally positioned as a base camp for both wilderness treks and water sports fun.”  That sounds pretty good!  There are fishermen, hikers, bikers, and plain old families who are coming here.
The campground is pretty good sized – 200+ campsites, 121 full hookup, and 89 tent sites.  They have 2 yurts - with wood sides.  We have been hired as Campground Wood Hosts, which is to say we are selling wood to campers (2 days/week), and cleaning vacated campsites (3 days/week).
Even though the State of Oregon Park and Recreation Department officially approves our application to be hosts each year, even doing background checks, each park is run somewhat uniquely under the big umbrella.  However, the parks hire their volunteer hosts from the State “bucket” of volunteers.  Each park varies according to their setting, and their management to some degree.   Even how wood is sold, how much it costs and where the proceeds go, vary from park to park.  At this park, we load individual cut pieces of wood into wood bins that have wheels and a handle for pushing like a lawnmower.  We collect vouchers (paid for at the registration booth) instead of cash, to pay for the wood.  The customer takes a preloaded wood cart and delivers to their own camp site, then returns the cart for the next customer.  We have 7 carts to keep full for the next camper.  The carts are probably 2-3 times more wood for $5 than other parks we're familiar with to date.  Perhaps they can just get it cheaper here?
I have to say selling wood is probably the most fun job for us, as we get the most opportunity to visit with campers.  It's amazing how many people just stop by to chat, whether they need wood or not.  We think there is just something special about people who camp.  It seems most are just a bit more outgoing and friendly.  Perhaps part of that reason is that we all instantly have something in common - camping and enjoying the out-of-doors to varying degrees.  We live in somewhat close proximity to our neighbors by choice.  In the real world, we're always trying to put distance beween us and others.  Not so much when we are camping.  Whatever the thing is, we find it easy to talk with total strangers, something we're less likely to do if we're back in our usual lives.  When Steve and I put on our uniforms for work, we are in essence putting out a sign that says, "Talk to me - we like people."  That's a fun thing! 
When we left Camping World after two nights there at the end of August, we headed first to Memaloose State Park, about halfway between Hood River and The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge.  It was our first opportunity to take advantage of one perk for Oregon State Park Hosts: - a free night of lodging!  Our Devil's Lake Ranger arranged that we could spend the night there for free as we were in route from one job to another!  We can have up to two free nights along the way if necessary.  This is a more recent added benefit for hosts, one we really appreciated having access to, in order to have a shorter day of traveling.  Where would we find to spend a Friday night at the last moment during Labor Day weekend?! 
Steve and I have always enjoyed Memaloose State Park.  Some people might be bothered by trains going through on both sides of the Columbia, or by noise from I-5 up at the top of the hill, but those things have never really bothered us.  The trains are part of the charm of the gorgeous park with all it's trees and beautiful view of the Columbia River.  We assumed our free night would most likely have us camping at the top of the park, up under I-5 - beggars can't be choosers.  However, when we received our site assignment, we were put in a site within a couple sites of where we have reserved space during vacations!  Too bad we didn't have time to enjoy it.  We spent the night and then hit the road about 10:00 the next morning. 
Something really great happened during our trip from Memaloose to Wallowa Lake .  I realized I felt comfortable driving Moby!  It was a good day!

Steve helped direct me coming out of our campsite because we had a good sized tree with big limbs close to us on the downhill side I'd be turning toward.  I didn't want to risk hitting that tree if I cut too sharp!  Naturally, there was a group of onlookers from the campsite across from us.  I was so focused on watching for Steve's direction, it didn't bother me this time.  Once sucessfully out of our site, Steve jumped back in the car with Parsley and led the way.  I remember watching where the back wheels of the coach were as I drove around the park on the way out.  Those paved roads aren't very wide, yet I didn't have any trouble staying on the paved surface.  We had to drive West on I-5 to Mosier, where we took the exit and then headed back East, as Memaloose State Park is only accessible heading West, with no overpass to get us from the park to the eastbound lanes.  I noticed as I turned around on the Mosier overpass that cornering seemed less of a challenge.  Even braking felt more natural. 
Back onto I-5 heading East, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I felt relaxed behind the wheel.  Yes, the circumstances were great: low traffic, no nasty winds, gorgeous blue skies, etc.  Something clicked though.  I think I just got comfortable.  It made for a great trip!  With a rest stop near Boardman for lunch, during which I was able to whip up a quick taco salad from leftover taco meat, I drove as far as Pendleton, where we stopped at a truck stop at the Indian Reservation.  I quickly handed over the driver's seat when I saw it was self-serve!  I assumed my position as driver of the Buick, with Parsley as my co-pilot. 
We pulled into Wallowa Lake State Park around 5:30pm.  It was a good day, but we were tired.  Naturally, at our new camp site, we had a bit of a challenge with the motorhome.  The auto-leveling didn't seem to want to work for us.  We were warned to be careful about manual leveling, as the frame can get twisted if we did something wrong.  That warning was enough to scare both of us.  We don't want to be responsible for twisting our frame, let alone having to deal with the consequences of having done that ... 
Our assigned site sloped downhill slightly to the back of the coach.  I should mention here that that is the difference between camping and living in a RV park.  Sites in an RV park are generally cement, and leveled quite nicely.  There are generally never any trees to get in the way either at RV parks.  Our camp site here is a camp site!  This park was laid out long before people began driving large motorhomes and 5th wheel trailers, let alone RV's with slide-outs on one or both sides! 
We are beginning to deal with challenges better, and immediately assessed that life would not be totally miserable if we just lived with the downhill business for awhile.  I joked that at least the tilt made us move more quickly toward the bathroom and bedroom! 
The wood barn, directly in front of us, was swarming with campers buying wood.  With our big front window facing it, it felt like they were right in our livingroom.  We opted to close the front shades, and turn in early for the night.  Imagine our surprise when a knock at the door had one of our new fellow hosts asking if we were going to clean camp sites at 8 a.m the next morning?  We explained we had been instructed to be at the office for orientation at 10:00, with no mention of working prior to that.  Our fellow host left mumbling.  Not the start we had hoped for! 
The next morning, we managed to get up and made it to orientation on time.  Our host coordinator, Ranger Shawn Dutcher is really great.  Long before we met her in person, we were impressed by her organizational skills.  We'd signed our paperwork while we were still in McMinnville!  We completed our online safety modules while we were working at Devil's Lake.  It made for a more laid back beginning at this new park.
During the beginning of orientation, a funny thing happened.  The host who'd been less than thrilled at our not wanting to join him cleaning camp sites early that morning came in to hand in his August time sheet to Ranger Shawn.  She greeted him with "Good morning, Ed, my little trouble-maker.  What trouble do you have for me today?"  Ah!  It wasn't just us!  We've since had the chance to get to know Ed a bit and find he is a very nice and personable man.  I'm pretty sure he just has a bit of ADHD.  Also, it's possible he didn't realize that it was Labor Day weekend when we arrived and campers wouldn't be leaving on Sunday morning.  The mass exodus would likely be Monday.  Ed is also a very thorough camp site cleaner and perhaps was concerned he might have to clean many, many sites with only one fellow host to help him.  It was just an unfortunate beginning that has long been replaced with good impressions.
Our first day here, while meeting the other park hosts, we discovered God had given us another special gift.  Larry and Karleen are fellow believers, which is nice enough news, however Larry also had been a RV technician for 7 years, having worked at Olinger Motorhomes, who has since become Camping World's RV Sales - Hillsboro, where we bought our coach.  Larry was able to give Steve a new understanding of how leveling systems work.  We learned that just perhaps the post that wasn't coming down on the back passenger side, wasn't actually supposed to!  Apparently they come down one at a time, and the auto leveling system was stopping before it was supposed to come down.  Just possibly, the post wasn't jammed?  Steve got through to our service guy at Camping World first thing Tuesday morning.  Having read all the material we have, and received the great information from Larry, Steve felt confident to go ahead and manually level the trailer, as our service guy said.  A few seconds later and we were level!
There's an on-going lesson we're learning.  Every time we struggle with something, and eventually learn the solution, we learn it so completely that we're pretty sure we won't experience the same stress should it happen again.  We're simply in a steep learning curve these days.  So many things are still new to us.
We are still counting our blessings.  With the exception of driving out to refill our 28-gallon propane tank (we can't find anyone who will deliver), we get to live in one spot for two whole months in this beautiful park.  We are so pleased with our fellow hosts here that a few of us have already reserved this same time next year to work together again!  One of our most treasured blessings are the new friends we are able to add as we spend time working together.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Camping at Camping World?

Yes, we “camped” at Camping World’s RV Sales in Hillsboro (used to be Olinger).  Not exactly glamorous, but we were thankful to be able to sleep in our own bed at night while they again worked on various issues with our motorhome.  Seems this is a normal courtesy for full-time RVers.

We left Devil’s Lake State Park in Lincoln City on Wednesday afternoon, after we’d pretty much completed our work for the day.  Our kind fellow park host, Joe, finished up our last couple of camp sites that weren’t vacating by 1pm.  He’d offered earlier in the day to simply do our job for us that day!  We turned him down, as we told him we didn’t really want to spend any more hours at Camping World than necessary!

The appointment for our motorhome repair was for 8:00 Thursday morning.  We had to arrive before the business closed for the evening so we could get an extension cord to at least support our basic electrical system’s needs.  They locked the gates at 7pm, and we were parked just outside the gates.  We were able to open slides on both sides of the trailer once the gate was locked, as we blocked a portion of the driveway.  We decided to make sure we were up at about 6:00 the next morning so we’d be able to be clean and dressed for the day before the place opened (assuming 8:00 was the time, since that was their earliest appointment.  Imagine how surprised we were to hear cars going by us before we even got out of bed!  Seems several workers show up that early to prepare for the day, moving motorhomes around, doing paperwork or whatever.  Live and learn!

We quickly closed things up and Parsley and I headed to the Buick to wait for Steve to check in Moby.  More than an hour later he showed up!  It had taken that long to go over everything.  Again, I was so thankful to have such an easy-going cat with me!  She’s happy just being with me and looking out the windows.

Once Steve was ready, we went over to my parents’ place where Parsley and Steve spent the morning while I ran errands – Costco, Winco, Trader Jo’s, Penzey’s Spices … It was also nice to be able to see my parents again before leaving for a further distance for a couple months.  They have graciously allowed us to use not only their address as our own, but they let us hang out when we have no where to hang out.

There were a couple other errands I had wanted to run that day, but decided we could live without a couple things on my list.  There's just something very attractive about being able to shop for specific things you know are at certain stores on our old turf.  After the errands, I came back and stayed with Parsley while Steve ran a couple errands of his own.  By this time my parents had left for the coast, where they were to enjoy Labor Day weekend with my sister and her daughter and family up from Andersen, California.  Coincidentally, they would be staying perhaps 15 miles from where Steve and I had been for the month of August.  We missed their visit by perhaps 2 days ...

We returned to the motorhome about 5:30 and set up for night #2 behind their lot.  This time we got to enjoy a visit from our former neighbors, Don and Nancy, who treated us with fresh vegetables from their garden and a yummy pineapple pie!  The food was almost as appreciated as their visit.  We'd wanted to visit at their home, but then couldn't figure out how we could "do it all" in our limited hours being in the area.  We were thankful they were willing to come see us at Camping World!

Once again, we were up early – this time we were up soon after 5:00.  Steve decided to hang out at Camping World in case they had questions this time.  Parsley and I went to have the oil changed on the Buick.

It’s fun to notice people’s responses to seeing a cat riding in the passenger seat (usually in her carrier, with the front door removed).  Steve and I used the drive-thru at Burger King for dinner one night, and the young lady at the window noticed our cat.  It surprised me as it’s just become normal for us to have her there.  One of us rides in the back seat.  The guys at Jiffy Lube either didn’t notice, or didn’t mention it.  Parsley wasn’t sure she liked it there.  Too many strange noises, and she didn’t like the black desk that was looming above her eye level.  I just scratched her chin, which always distracts her from her fears.  She just didn’t come out of her carrier during that visit.
The motorhome was ready for us about noon, and we picked it up closer to 2pm that second day.  Time to head out to Memaloose State Park, in the gorge, between Hood River and the Dalles, where we were treated to a free night, courtesy of Oregon State Parks!

Steve was driving from Hillsboro.  We were both very tired after three very busy days with much less sleep than we actually need.  I checked in at the booth at Memaloose and was happy to find they did indeed expect us!  Yet another blessing was that our spot was not up at the top of the hill under I-5 as we expected.  Instead, we were in the middle of the center of the hill going down toward the Columbia River, probably 4-5 sites above our most desirable camping spots!  While we only got to stay for one quick evening, we were very pleased with our location.  We were up, fed, and on our way by 10:15 the next morning.  A relaxing day would be somewhere yet down the road...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Driving the Beast …Birthday fun

We're reaching the end of August, which means we will once again be heading back into Hillsboro to have more of the “bugs” worked out with our motorhome.  That means we once again have to drive this thing!

So far, Steve and I have always split the responsibility of driving.  We take turns:  one drives the Buick with Parsley, the other gets the motorhome – all by themselves.  Steve and I have shared a certain experience.  Each time we take the wheel of our Winnebago Journey 42E, we “white knuckle it” for the first 5-10 miles before we once again relax, realizing we CAN do this!

It’s really a strange thing, if you think about it.  No one really teaches you, aside from verbal instructions and a huge manual of information - most of which I didn't understand - how to drive it!  In my mind, it was as if someone handed me the keys to a semi truck and said, “Have fun!”..... What?!?!  I have to drive this thing?!?

I think, initially, the biggest fear for me was the size of our new portable home.  How could I get that thing around a corner without taking out the curb, and everything on the curb?  How could I keep it in the lane and not cause accidents?

Then there’s the matter of knowing NOTHING about a diesel engine.  And exhaust breaks.  And the side and backup cameras.  What’s with a “tag axel” and why does it have to "dump" before I can back up?  What is a battery boost switch for?  There are many, many other switches and buttons.  My brain screams, “I am not trained to drive this!”  Yet we do.  Fortunately most things are in "auto mode".

I remember the first time I drove alone -- no one else in the vehicle or outside directing me away from fixed objects.  We were on our way to Shelton, Washington and I’d taken over driving when we'd stopped at a rest stop, determined that if Steve could do it, I could do it.  I believe about a half hour up the road, I began to realize clouds were forming in the sky.  That’s when it occurred to me I had no idea where the control for the windshield wipers were should it suddenly begin raining!  I managed to pry one hand off the steering wheel and call Steve on the cell phone to ask him if he knew?  He told me he thought it might be on the left side of the dash!  I spotted it, though I didn’t try it, but at least I had hope should the rain begin to fall.

In a “normal car”, you just know where things will be.  They are most always in a particular area of the drivers seat.  We take it for granted!  The windshield wipers would naturally be found on the turn signal arm, or at least in that vicinity.  Not on Moby.  Though I haven’t tried it, there’s a toggle switch on the dash on the left side that has a picture that might just indicate a windshield wiper.  Where the high/low settings might be, I still have no idea at this writing….

When it comes to buttons and switches, it’s just overwhelming.  Also, they are so tiny in comparison to the surrounding dash!  There are different groupings of switches in various areas of the driving area in the coach.  There are buttons on the side wall, to the left of the drivers seat.  One turns on a map light.  Two others bring down shades on the front window.  There are others on the left side of the dash, in addition to the wiper switch.  In the center of the dash, to the right of the speedometer, tachometer, etc. there is an information center where two small monitors sit.  I know the bottom one is  "slave" to the top, but have never used it.  The top monitor is where our side and rear backup cameras show us what's happening outside the coach.  It also has our GPS in it.  Also a radio.  Steve was reading directions this week and learned we also have a DVD/CD player in there!  Who knew?  Don't know who'd be watching a movie while driving ... but at least I could play a music CD, since as of this writing, I still don't know how to turn on the radio.

A major issue of using some of these toys when I'm alone driving the coach, is that I have to remove a hand from the steering wheel to push a button, while diverting my eyes from the road.  Both those things are still uncomfortable for me.  Perhaps in time ...

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We have found that one of the biggest blessings of this adventure has been the contact we've had with family, friends, making new friends, and chatting with various campers ... especially the little ones.  Children sometimes come to us asking to "help" as we clean camp sites.  Isn't that just the cutest thing?  I had a young lady of perhaps six ask to help me yesterday.  I asked if she could help me find litter?  She nodded, and then quietly looked around.  When she found something in the fire pit, she just pointed.  She was shy, yet bold enough to ask if she could help.  I loved that brief encounter!

We figured out today that during this month of August in Lincoln City we've had nine different visits from family and friends!  Most all were totally unexpected, and so appreciated!  It's meant an awful lot to us that people have gone out of their ways to visit us, whether for a couple days, or a few minutes.  It made us feel so special!

Today is Steve's birthday.  It's the first occasion where we celebrate a birthday outside of the family traditions we've pretty much done for 19 1/2 years now.  While we miss being able to share Steve's birthday with family, we decided it was an opportunity to do something different.  We originally planned to go out to dinner - just the two of us.  However our favorite host couple here at the park, Bill and Judy Brock, were asking us about this place we'd gone to eat at with our friends Brian and Shelley.  We asked if they'd like to join us there for Steve's birthday?  They accepted, and tonight we all enjoyed a wonderful meal at Tidal Raves, and got to know each other better.  Last night they'd come to see us at our motorhome, and after dinner tonight, we spent some time at theirs.  We visited at various times this month, and quickly figured out we had some fun similarities, including both Steve and Bill having engineering backgrounds and careers.  It's always fun to have friends who understand some of the unique qualities of the "engineering brain".  I love my engineer husband, and enjoy his many unique qualities.  Judy understands that and feels the same about her husband, Bill.  Before leaving them this evening, we made sure we have each other's cell phone numbers and email addresses.  We also made tentative plans to try to meet up on the Oregon coast next summer.

We had another fun surprise this week!  Steve went up to the wood barn to put away our tools after work yesterday and heard someone say, "Hello Steve".  It was "Oh-No Phil", a friend of Vern and Londa Sundin's who'd golfed with Steve when Brian had taken Steve along to golf with Vern's gang.  Steve has always talked about this "really nice guy", they call "Oh-No Phil".  His name came from the words he speaks often when he swings his golf club - "Oh no!"  Phil, and his wife, Shirley, are frequent RVers, and had been camping at another park here on the coast with the Sundin bunch earlier this week.  When they heard we were hosting just down the coast from them, they decided to spontaneously drive down and see if they could get into the park - which they did.  The Sundin's hadn't told us, so it would be a fun surprise.  It worked!  Phil and Shirley came to visit this afternoon after Steve and I had finished cleaning camp sites.  We had such a nice visit, and will likely get to see them again one day as they plan to hunt us down again.  What a special thing to make new friends!

God has blessed us with life-long friends, and it is a special blessing to be adding new ones as a result of our new lifestyle!

With only two more days left of "work" here at Devil's Lake State Park, we are getting things put away again, in preparation for our appointment at Camping World.  We're really hoping the pesky things that are not yet working correctly on the coach will be fixed.  We know the part is in for the a/c repair, and also my new closet door is waiting.  We are hoping we'll be able to use the electric controls to move the passenger seat out of the way of the entry area better.  We have had to add to the list that one of our two furnaces isn't working.  Like with the air conditioner, it fires up, then quits.  We'll most likely be needing that furnace at Wallowa Lake!

It will be an adventure spending a couple nights on the Camping World back lot also.  We're glad they are allowing us to do that, as we don't know where we'd stay without our home!  We plan to leave Hillsboro on Friday, spending a night at Memaloose State Park in the gorge (between Hood River and the Dalles), courtesy of Oregon State Parks!  Oregon State Parks lets hosts in transit between jobs stay overnight for free in the parks, assuming there's an opening.  This will be our first experience of that benefit.  Then we plan to arrive at Wallowa Lake State Park on September 1st.  Our orientation meeting is set for 10:00 a.m. on September 2nd.  We're really looking forward to spending two months in such a beautiful area.

I guess that brings my blog more up to date.  I'm hoping to have more time to write next month.  I haven't done so well this month.  I need to be "in my head" to write, and well ... I don't have much alone time anymore.  That's not a bad thing, simply a fact.  Steve and I are having to learn new ways of being together.  It's not natural for us to be together in the same room and not share spontaneously whatever pops into our minds.  Yet, we each need some time to be "in our heads".  We'll figure this out eventually.  It's just yet another adjustment we need to make.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Planning and Learning to Get Real ...

It's been a good week here at Devil's Lake State Park. We worked one day, had two days off, then just completed five more days of work. It's time for our "weekend" (Thursdays and Fridays).

We are feeling some muscles that haven't had much of a workout in a while. Poor Steve has been doing an awful lot of lawn mowing! He said it took him a couple hours to remember he didn't really like yard work that much... However, he's been a real trooper. The park is looking cared for again! As I'm cleaning camp sites, I regularly notice neatly trimmed grass and know my Steve has been there.  He's making a difference!

Steve took me up to the hiker-biker camp this evening when we went up to return our cart, to show me how much mowing he'd done up there. It is a very steep area, with camping areas at the top and the bottom. While many of the park lawns are turning brown from lack of rain fall, that area seems to still be growing happily. Steve mowed the upper area, and down the hill as far as he could safely get his push mower.

Have I mentioned we haven't felt a drop of rain while we've been here? It's really been quite the perfect weather to suit our unusual tastes! Ranger Richard told us today that there have been times when the rain levels here have forced them to close down the park - even though it is open year round!

I think when we accepted the job at this park, we imagined Steve would be on a riding mower. Doesn't that sound like fun? I'm sure it must be! However, Steve has a push mower. No self-propelled wheels either (we were so spoiled at our Hillsboro home). Nope. Just Steve, pushing a little gas mower. Steve is a man who prides himself in rarely breaking a sweat. Today I made him change his shirt (after a shower) as it was drenched! I've rarely seen such a thing, especially in such mild temperatures.  We're both getting some exercise, which is good for us.

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It's Saturday now, and I'm determined to publish another posting to my blog!  It's getting harder to make time to sit and ponder life and write out my thoughts recently.  I expect that will be less of a problem when we are further away from friends and family at Wallowa Lake during September and October.  I'll be more glad to have something to do!  For now, it's been a treat having company drop in!  My parents came yesterday, bringing frozen food we've been storing in their freezer.  Howard and Linda Hudson stopped in the day before for a visit in route to the church family camping weekend.  Earlier in the week we had a surprise visit from Dave and Nancy Heaton, long time friends, out on a day-trip on their motorcycle.  This coming week, Carl & JoAnn Isom are going to be camping here in the park for a couple nights.  We look forward to hosting them for dinner.  The following Sunday, we're expecting Brian and Shelley Sundin for another short visit.  It's been a special thing to have company, even now that we are further away.  We don't take our friends and family's special efforts for granted these days.

We've had one recent change to our schedules:  our days off are now Friday and Saturday, which works better as far as covering for off-duty hosts.  It really doesn't matter to us.  Even though we work Sundays, we are able to get away to church on Sunday morning before working.  We appreciate the loosely scheduled work week in that way.  We blindly picked a church to attend last Sunday.  It is Faith Baptist Church, just north of Lincoln City.  They have just completed a new church building.  That could be a good sign.  We found we really enjoyed the service, the pastor, the worship music, and felt comfortable there in general.  We decided we'd definitely be attending again next week.  On our way out, we passed members coming in for the second service, and I spotted a couple of familiar faces!  I told Steve we had to go back in and see them.  It was Doug and Betty Kettle who were long time members of Cedar Mill Bible Church, our home church, and my life-long church family.  The Kettles lived on the same street as the Skeels (my Dad's family) as they grew up.  I'd seen Doug not long ago at my Dad's brother's memorial service.  Now, here they were in Lincoln City and a church we'd picked from a list of churches!  It seems they have a vacation home in Lincoln City, and attend this church whenever they are in town.  Doug assured us it a strong, growing church.  How nice to have one more confirmation that we'd found a good church for the month of August!  It appears that God continually goes before us, paving the way to whatever he has for us.

As we continue to try to figure out our future as full time RVers, we're needing to get our doctor and dental appointments scheduled together and corralled into a couple of months, six months apart, if possible. As a result, we need to plan to be in the Hillsboro/Beaverton area, or at least reachable to that area, a couple times a year. I wondered how we'd work this out. It seems it's just kind of falling into place naturally. I can't make my August teeth cleaning appointment, so I schedule one at the same date and time as Steve, in November. Steve won't be able to make an eye exam at the end of this month, so I scheduled us both to have one in November. So, it appears November is the month we'll be around the Beaverton/Hillsboro family. We might end up back in McMinnville, or we could choose to work at a more local state park ... Champoeg and Stub Stewart could work.

A friend we made while park hosting at Fort Stevens last year emailed us this week.  He is currently hosting down on the lower central coast, at Beachside, a day use area.  He recommended to us that we consider volunteering at a park in the Willamette Valley called Sara Helmick.  It's fairly close to Monmouth.  Apparently it is another day use area, with a beautiful natural area.  The park isn't particularly busy, and the amount of host work is light.  He thought we might enjoy it for a couple months next Spring.  The park apparently is closed off-season, or at least doesn't require a host except from May through September.  Our "wood-buddy" Brian, as we like to refer to him, has signed up for August and September of next year.  That leaves 3 months open as options for us, since they've had problems getting hosts for some unknown reason.  Perhaps, like us, it's because no one really knows about the place?  We're considering doing a couple months.  If we pick May, we'd be close enough to drive up for dental appointments, etc., again, while having no RV park fees.

Steve and I enjoy each other's company.  If we didn't, this RV life would not make much sense!  So far, we find our most enjoyable days of hosting are when we get to share the job.  This morning, even though it's official our day off, we decided to walk the board walk over to the primitive boat launch so we could do some clean up of litter and pruning debris.  It looked messy when we were there the day before.  It's hard to have a day off as a host, as we see things we want to "fix", yet aren't equipped with the right gear to handle the task.  We end up having to mention whatever we see to another host.  It's hard to pass by a need and not take care of it!

If we sign on at Sara Helmick State Park, Steve and I would be by ourselves quite a bit, which is different than we've experienced as hosts to date.  Our company would be day-users, instead of campers.  We haven't been sure we'd want to do a day-use park, because of being "on our own" as far as safety issues.  We felt we'd be somewhat vulnerable.  However, having a friend who's already hosted there without any concerns makes us feel the risk is minimal, at least at that particular park.  The real issue is would we get too lonesome!  We're thinking we'd like to try it out.  It probably wouldn't be too busy at the park during a nice rainy Spring and early Summer.  We might even enjoy having more time to ourselves.  More time to work on hobbies we might pick back up again!  Who knows.  If we don't like it, we don't have to do it again.  What a cool thing to be able to try out new things!  Something tells me we'll be looking forward to a month without so much of a schedule by then.

We have yet another visit scheduled at Camping World in Hillsboro at the end of this month, as we continue to get the "bugs" fixed on our motorhome. We will leave Devil's Lake after our last day of work, and spend the night behind Camping World. We'll be able to plug into 15 amp service (much better than nothing!) and we won't be late for our 8 a.m. appointment the next day.  We'll have my parents house to crash at.  Unfortunately, they won't be there, as they will be off for the Labor Day weekend with my sister and niece and families.  We'd thankful, however, to have a place to be!

We're very excited  to be getting our new closet door - I'm so tired of wrestling the old one that pulled apart due to extreme humidity changes before we took ownership. The part is in to fix our #2 air conditioning unit also. The adjustable bed still has it's issues with the switch working only on occasion. We need to be able to depend on it. We've added some new things to the "fix list". My bathroom sink has a slow leak, that we can't seem to fix ourselves. The microwave fan vibrates - which is making me crazy. I can hit it at times to make it behave, for a while anyway. Our bathroom light fixtures each have a light socket that won't let the bulb screw in ... Just those kinds of things that we're learning as we live in our new home.  We've got to work through all the bugs.

I have to admit I have had a few times when I feel very frustrated about certain things about living this way. I think it's an accumulation of still not having things all figured out. I need to work out how to store those things I use on a somewhat regular basis in a more reasonable way. I get tired of having to move one thing to get to another, or unloading a whole cabinet to get to one baking dish. I'm aware I need to downsize even further. That leads me to deal with the frustration of continually giving things up. I'm to the point of having to let go of some things I have used on a more regular basis.  That's hard sometimes.  Other times, it's no big deal.  But there are harder days on occasion.  What major life change doesn't have challenges?  When in real life are there not challenges?  It seems it doesn't matter the choices, life is just challenging from time to time.  I guess that's the occasion for learning and growing.  I am sure going to be smart one of these days!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Wonderful Volunteer Life!

Though we’ve been at the park for 5 days now, we just completed our second day of “work”.  I use the term “work” loosely, as it is so enjoyable; it hardly seems like actual work!  We are signed on here at Devil’s Lake State Park as “maintenance hosts” which basically means we’re volunteering for a little more than campground hosts.  We (by “we” I mean Steve) could be doing lawn mowing, weed whacking, use various pieces of power equipment, fix broken things, etc.  Steve is actually the only one who is working as a maintenance host.  I am helping out with things that campground hosts would be most like to do, though I’m helping Steve out some also.  It’s the best of both worlds!

Today, the pathways to the 3 different restroom facilities needed some pruning.  You know how things are in Oregon in the summer.  Nothing grows faster than berry vines!  We pruned back, or up, any vegetation that might be in the way of a camper on his/her way to the restroom facilities.  Nobody wants those sticky berry vines around their ankles, or scratching their arms.  Well, the campers are safe tonight!

It was a lovely day to be working outside.  I might say we never had this kind of sunny, but cool weather last winter at Fort Stevens.  Having not been “summer campers” for the most part, this whole experience is new for us.  I understand it is to be way too warm back in Hillsboro today, where I know the Oregon Air Show is going on this weekend.  We knew it would be warmer here today too, but as I told my Mom, our warm 65 degree day must feel warmer…. as it’s a “moist heat”.  You know how people in the desert heat will say it’s not that hot as “ it’s a dry heat”?  Well, here it might be 65, but it feels like 73 or 74.  It’s all relative!  Steve and I actually came in this afternoon because we were feeling a little cool!  At 3:00 in the afternoon!  Too lovely!

While tooling around in our gas powered golf cart today, a young woman flagged us down.  It seemed she had set out an ice cream bucket with some supplements (vitamins), which had disappeared.  She wondered if raccoons would perhaps take them?  I told her I doubted a raccoon would take anything he couldn’t eat, and if he did, he wouldn’t have been so neat and tidy about it!  We decided to go ask the other 2 pairs of hosts in case they’d picked it up thinking it was litter.  We also thought we could let the ranger at the registration booth be on the lookout.  By the time we accomplished all that and came back around to find the lady, she cheerfully thanked us, saying it had been found.  She said, “Thank God!”, and I agreed.

It’s those little encounters we have where someone actually needs our help and we willingly step forward to try to help that makes this job particularly fun to me.  I truly enjoy helping people.  People in those positions are so grateful and thankful.  I suppose we are receiving our reward in full here, but it isn’t bad!  Heaven will be where we are thanked for all the things no one knows we’ve done!  That’s how most jobs are:  If a camper found litter around their camp, they would think poorly of the park.  If there was no litter, they wouldn’t notice and would simply enjoy their camping trip.  We both love sweeping up a broken bottle, knowing that our park comes across as a beautiful, clean park.

Every Wednesday, between 10:30 and noon, we have a tsunami warning system test.  We have a handheld radio we were told to keep inside the motorhome.  It went off for the first time Wednesday, but we were outside.  We heard the sirens go off in the city.  One of our neighbor campers asked what that was.  Imagine how smart we felt when we actually knew the answer!  It's nice to learn some of the "behind the scenes" kinds of things.  Looking forward to more of that!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Devil's Lake State Park - Lincoln City

After a full day of traveling (well ... a six hour day to us is full!), we arrived in Lincoln City at Devil's Lake State Park.  When I checked in at the booth I was greeted to cheers from the rangers on duty.  Seems they haven't had a maintenance host in months, and were working with only 1 of 2 campground hosts as well.  It's nice to be needed and appreciated.  We met the ranger, Janie, in charge of hosts, as we walked through the park a few minutes later.  I knew it was her by her friendly voice, which I'd experienced on the phone.  We arranged to meet with her for orientation the next day.

On that same walk, we met and visited with the hosts who have been on duty alone for the last month.  They were a couple in their early 70's from California, trying park hosting for the first time.  While physically they looked like they were in better condition than us, they were exhausted.  Seems they've been working very long days, doing most everything all month.  They were trying to finish cleaning yurts when we spotted them.  They weren't complaining at all, but just wanted us to be warned.  As I listened to their story, and asked questions, it was clear they just didn't feel they could speak up and say that the long hours were just too much.  They were aware of the huge need and just kept working.  I felt bad for them!  That's not the way a first experience at park hosting ought to be.  I'm certain the host coordinator had no idea they were feeling so overburdened.  She is too busy with her own load to even notice their long hours.  They hadn't yet turned in the time sheets either.  I decided to make certain I asked some good questions of our host coordinator before we began work to make expectations clear.  We are volunteers, after all!

This is a small park, in the middle of town, just a block off Hwy 101. I was sure we had checked this park out, but now realize I was completely mistaken. It's a beautiful little park, on a huge lake with boat launching areas (the park has boat slips for campers with boats).  I guess they are fishing for several kinds of fish including trout, catfish and perch.  We could see small catfish in the shallow water around the boat slips.

We worked our first day on Wednesday, August 1st.  Since we only have one day on before our official two days off this week, we groomed camp sites throughout the park as campers left.  We picked up litter around the boat slips and on the board walk - a path made of composite decking which leads to a "primitive boat launch" just south of the park.  There are several signs along the boardwalk explaining the bog habitat that it's built over.  Really quite interesting!

I think we're going to be happy here.  The expectations were clear - 5 days, 4 hours a day, unless we just wanted to work more.  Steve will be doing some lawn mowing and weed whacking and miscellaneous repairs as needed.  We've both had a list of safety modules to complete online in preparation for our work here.  Safety is a big thing in the Oregon Park systems, but sometimes the training comes after you've already been doing the work.  Naturally, much of it is common sense.  However, there are many issues it's good to be reminded of - how to lift appropriately, how to avoid "sticks" when dealing with litter, what to do if encountering a wild animal, or a pet dog!  The online modules are somewhat well done, and each is followed by a test on the information covered.  We're both close to "A" students.  It's a good test of our brain cells.

We met another fresh-in pair of hosts yesterday.  They are from Phoenix, and have a beautiful 40' Monaco motor coach, which they let us come in and see.  Very nice.  They are looking forward to coming to see our new beast as well.  It's always fun to see the choices others make.  It's like an RV show - always fun to look!

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We left Shelton, Washington only four days ago.  I can't believe how fast the time has passed.  The week of fun with cousin Steve & Desolee (love that name!) came to a peak last Saturday, when most the Kronschnabel and Bang family got together with a "mini reunion" at the Bang family lake house on Spencer Lake.

My Steve's Dad, Don, is 92 years old now.  Steve's Mom, Barb, passed away from Alzheimer's disease in February of 2005.  Cousin Steve's Dad and Mom, Ron and Evie, are something like 89 or 90.  I can't believe how good they all look and appear to be doing!  The parents hadn't seen each other since Barb left this world.  This would be, perhaps, the last chance for the parents to see each other in this world.

A few old photo albums of Steve's Dad where there to be enjoyed, as we were returning them after having had them for a few months.  Do I think it was a coincidence that we had them, and needed to return them this very week?  After all the other events that have fallen into place?  I don't think so!
I tried to get some good pictures, and Desolee was getting lots more.  It's good to have these professional photographers at family gatherings!

My favorite photos are seeing my father-in-law back with his departed wife's Aunt & Uncle after all these years.  Also, the group photos of the grown kids, most of themselves grandparents now.

It was a great week we will always remember.  We are hoping to meet up again with Cousin Steve and Desolee in the not-so-distant future.  Perhaps even "on golden pond" again one day!