Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the tag “vacation”

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 21 – Cutting Closer to the Bone

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I’ve gotten used to the lack of retail therapy as most stores have limited access, and aimless browsing is discouraged.  I’ve gotten used to the empty parking lots around offices, schools, and churches.  I’ve gotten used to meeting friends on ZOOM rather than meeting them for lunch. I’ve gotten used to take-out food rather than white tablecloths at my favorite restaurants. I’ve gotten used to bringing my own folding table and chair when I visit a park.

I put up with cancelling a trip to Europe (my husband’s bad knee wouldn’t have stood the trip anyway), cancelling a long weekend at a hideaway inn to the north, cancelling the family reunion picnic we had scheduled for my milestone birthday this year, cancelling my grandson’s 6th grade graduation, my other grandson’s high school graduation.  My monthly visits to help look after my toddler grand-daughter have morphed to bi-weekly story times on ZOOM.

County Library: Contactless Holds Pickup and Material Return Now Available

KatieSurprisecropI’m just beginning to feel some fraying in the social fabric. My son refused to get together for a mid-point picnic between our homes, as his son and daughter had recently traveled and he couldn’t guarantee they weren’t infectious.  For the same reason my other son canceled a planned joint camping trip with his brother’s family – an infection in his four-room apartment would be a disaster, and he couldn’t risk it. Still not “serious”, no-one is ill, but when families are afraid to meet, that’s wrenching.

On the other hand, my sister and her husband just returned from an expedition to Yosemite.  They were able to obtain a day pass, they set off at an ungodly hour of the mroning, and by 10AM they were beginning the hike up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. She said “It was like I remember from my childhood – no shuttle buses, but not so many people, and no crowding on the trails.  We picnicked at the top of Vernal Falls and dangled our feet in the pool beyond Nevada Falls.  It was lovely.”

Maybe this is the preview of our future: much- curtailed activity and options for most of us, but for the few who are able to maintain their income stream,  travel safely, obtain the right permissions, and keep their health, a rather pleasantly emptied world.  It’s not the future I want.

Yosemite: Ways to Get a Reservation

Four icons for the four permit types

 

Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 6 (and conclusion)

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We wake up to sunny skies.  With deliberate speed we fix our breakfast (why does hot oatmeal never taste as good at home as in camp?), pack our gear (so much easier when it isn’t raining!) and amble down to the boat ramp at Schroeder County Park to check out the Rogue River flowing peacefully past. 20191023_110409web

Suddenly the peace is broken by a raucous noise reminiscent of several large garbage trucks operating their compacters and power brakes at the same time. But the racket is coming from over our heads!  It’s a giant straggling flock of geese, all greeting the morning as best they can as they soar past only 50 feet or so above us. (the photo is of a second, less large and less near flotilla which went over after I managed to get my camera ready.)

20191023_145043webAll is well as we head out.  We make a brief stop at Castle Crags State Park, as Sis wanted to show me where we would have camped if we had not been so delayed on Day One. When we saw the campsites in daylight, we thanked our lucky stars.  The trailer sites were sliced into a hillside, and not as level as one would like.  We would never have been able to maneuver the Tiny Trailer into one of those sites on our first night, in the dark, in the rain.  We make a brief obeisance to the stately rock towers above us, and move on south.

We are in California now, and looming ahead is the Mt. Fuji of the West, Mount Shasta, alone in the center of the Central Valley, lightly frosted with early October snow, welcoming us back.    We need to get the trailer back to its berth before end of day. And our husbands are waiting. Sis steps on the gas.   20191023_134727doc

End of our adventure.  Sis and I experienced weather, we dealt with sins of omission and commission, we saw places we had never seen.  But the memories that will live longest are those of family and friends who greeted and sheltered us.  Thanks, Bro, and wife C and Dr. Sam!  Thanks family!  Thanks, Sis, my travel partner!  Now onward!

Travels with a Tiny Trailer – Day 5: the Home Stretch

20191022_125051webBack to Bro’s house after our wet, windy, but wonderful weekend at Ft. Stevens State Park.  A night snuggled under C’s cozy quilts, and a day spent visiting nearby relatives.  Then it’s time to hit the road again.

About those bicycles that we never used.  I hate to ask Bro to get up on a ladder to hoist them to the top of the Tiny Trailer, since he has been allergic to ladders since his death-defying dive a few years ago.  But wrestling them into the back of Sis’s compact SUV was such a pain. Then I get a flash of brilliance – why not take the front wheels off the bikes?  Doh!  Suddenly stashing the unused wheels was so easy!  We are packed and ready to roll by the time Bro and his wife C have left for work.

20191022_131329webOur first stop – a quick visit to the local grocery to replenish our stocks of butter, cheese, and wine.  By the time we exit the grocery, the morning  drizzle has given way to sunshine.  We make excellent progress down I-5 through Portland and Salem, and stop for our mid-day refreshment at the Albany rest stop  about 15 miles south of Salem.  Okay, so a highway rest-stop is not exactly a camping haven, but the big rigs kept their distance, and this particular stop does boast the world’s quaintest rest stop visitors’ center.

We follow Bro’s sage advice for our evening stop, and mak our way to  Schroeder County Park tucked away behind suburban streets just outside Grant’s Pass.   This is a lovely park  right on the Rogue River, with lots of trailer sites, and EVERY ONE OF THEM A PULL-THROUGH SITE! No more spending a half hour backing and swerving into the site!  A chance to eat before 9PM!  Truly a Hidden Gem!

We actually got to set up in daylight.  Since it was NOT raining, we left the add-on tent in its wrapper in back  of the SUV, and used the convenient picnic table.  We cooked our chicken on our two burner range, and ate by head-lamp light.  And afterward we built a fire from a bit of shredded newspaper and five twigs.  Now THIS is what camping is about!

And so to bed. The most triumphant day of our trip – on our own, and everything worked!20191022_195634web

Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 4 (cont.)

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After a day  that included a museum tour, retail therapy, and beach walking in late afternoon sunshine, we make our way back to our campsite, looking forward to sitting around a campfire sipping wine while Bro fixes those delayed hamburgers on the Titanic‘s outdoor kitchen BBQ.   We get the fire going strong, the outdoor kitchen is activated, the burgers are ready to go and the wine is poured – and Bro has rolled out the awnings just in case. 20191020_095047(0)web

And a good thing, too.

Almost as soon as we have sat down in our camp chairs, we get another dose of Oregon weather. the sun disappears, the clouds roll down with the event of the day.  This time, it’s hail.  Serious hail.

 

Even Bro’s brave little moppet of a dog is awed by the onslaught.  But thanks to the strategic awning, the Titanic‘s  indomitable propane tank, and (let’s admit) the excellent wine, we are undaunted.  We sip, the burger sizzle, we  eat them inside the Titanic, where we are warm and dry.  The fire is the only thing dampened by the weather.

Will it rain on us all the way home?  Will we be able to reload those bikes we left behind at Bro’s house?   What route will we take back to sunny (we hope) California? Stay tuned!

 

Freeway Free in Oregon: Exploring Astoria

[AKA “Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 4 (cont.)”]

20191020_132703docAstoria is way out on the furthest northwestern tip of Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River. It is the oldest city in the state of Oregon, founded in 1811, and named for John Jacob Astor, the New York investor whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site. (Yes, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York is also named for him.)  In bygone years Astoria was a bustling harbor, with schooner after schooner fighting her way past the dreaded Columbia River bar to pick up timber, fish, and furs, dropping off supplies and merchandise for the well-to-do families of  trappers, fishermen, and lumberjacks.

The Victorian heart of the city was demolished by fire in 1922.  This happened to coincide with the peak population – above 14,000 – so there were resources and energy to rebuild in the Art Deco style of the 1920’s.  Fortunately for architecture buffs, the population began a steady decline shortly after rebuilding, as port activity moved inland to Portland, and northward to Seattle.  The last fish cannery closed in 1980, the last lumber mill closed in 1989, and the railroad service was discontinued in 1996.  This left Astoria with a population of under 10,000, no funding for demolition/modernization in the town center, and plenty of warehouse space for the brewpubs and artist cooperatives which began to move in.

20191020_154102webWe stopped for lunch after our museum visit at the Rogue Public House, a brewpub located in a re-purposed fish cannery out on a pier just down from the museum.  We enjoyed their boutique beer, plus an excellent pizza and salad.  Then we took advantage of a temporary cessation of rainfall to stroll the delightfully un-restored, un-modernized, un-redeveloped downtown.

The downtown is haunted by the ghosts of retailers past:  the signs for JC Penney and Sears still deck the storefronts, though the shops underneath are now boutiques such as Garbo’s Vintage Wear, Purple Cow Toys, and Arachne’s Hand-Crafted Yarns.  Our favorite was FinnWare, a wonderful collection of Scandinavian design and décor, made even more special by a flotilla of Christmasy items sparkling and spinning on display.

We also stopped in at several of the art galleries which line Commercial Street, just to gawk at the creativity on display and wonder who actually puts these things in their houses.  The Riversea Gallery was particularly comprehensively amazing.

20191020_134111webAt one end of Commercial Street is the wonderful wedding cake-like Liberty Theatre, located, of course, in the Astor Building.  (See photo above.) We were visiting in October, so the Box Office was spectrally staffed.

After an hour or two of strolling and shopping we had had enough retail therapy and headed for the beach.  The sun was actually shining as we hit the sand at the tip of Oregon.  We could see the remains of the Peter Iredale rusting peacefully in the distance, one of the victims of the treacherous Columbia River Bar.

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Will the sunshine stay?  Will we be able to use the outdoor kitchen on the Titanic ?  Or will we head back to that cozy brewpub as refugees?  Stay tuned!

 

 

Freeway Free in Oregon – the Columbia River Maritime Museum

[AKA: Travels in a Tiny Trailer – Day 4]

20191019_143112webIf you are going camping in a tiny trailer, and you left your bikes at home because the forecast call for a 99% chance of rain,  better hope you can find some indoor activity to pass the time!  If you are camping at Ft Stevens State Park you are in luck, because you are only a short drive from the quaint town of Astoria, [more on this later] and its Columbia River Maritime Museum. 

 

The CRMM is an amazing little museum with exhibits including early navigational charts, an IMAX theater showing films from Jacques Cousteau and others, a comprehensive map of shipwrecks at the mouth of the Columbia River, and a sea-sickness-inducing recreation of what it is like to be on a Coast Guard cutter going out to rescue mariners during a Pacific storm.

20191019_123504webIf you are going to spend some time in a small museum on a rainy weekend, it helps if  Executive Director happens to be an old friend from college.  Dr. Samuel E. Johnson and I had more than a few memories dating back to our freshman year Ballroom Dancing classes together. (I took the class to fill a Physical Education requirement; I suspect Sam took it because at that time the ratio of men to women at our college was officially 3.5 / 1, and it was chance to meet girls.)

In addition to being a very good dancer, Sam is an accomplished raconteur and a dedicated evangelist on behalf of his museum.  Sis, Bro, C and I spent a couple of hours being fascinated by a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum, coupled with stories of plans for the museum’s future expansion and enhancement.

If you go, plan to spend a couple of hours exploring, especially if you take in the IMAX film.  You might not get the hands-on tour, but you won’t be sorry for the visit.

Travels in a Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 (cont.)

 

Sis and I spend the morning unloading the wet tent, soggy chairs, and bicycles from the back of the Subaru and setting everything up to dry inside Bro’s garage.  Our plan is to have Bro help us load the bikes on the top of the teardrop when he gets home, so we can take advantage of those bike trails at the campsite.  Except it is still raining.

Bro planned to leave work early for a daylight departure on our two-trailer trek to Ft. Stevens State Park. Somehow that did not work out.  He arrives at 6PM, we finish loading the trailers, truck, and SUV by about 7. It is still raining.  The forecast is for more rain.  We decide to opt out of biking after all.  The bikes stay in the garage.  Everything else fits so easily now!  Off we go in the rain, following Bro’s Titanic.  We arrive at the campground at about 8:30.  The rain continues.  It is pitch dark.  Deja vu all over again.

But this time we have some better options!  To start with, Ft. Stevens State Park’s trailer sites are all pull-through.  No struggles to park! True, by the time we arrive and get set up it is too late and too wet for us to have the planned hamburgers grilled in the outdoor  kitchen of the Titanic.  But in our pop-up kitchen I happen to have all the ingredients for a one-skillet hamburger/noodle casserole which I had planned to offer on our return trip home.  C fires up the inside kitchen of the Titanic, and in 30 minutes we are cozily sitting around the table in the Titanic’s dining area, wolfing down the casserole with the help of a nice bottle of zinfandel from the Titanic‘s wine cupboard.recipe_doc

[You can see from the state of the page how often this recipe has been used.  You don’t need a “thermostatically controlled burner”. Enjoy!]

After dinner and dishes we are not ready to call it a night.  Sis pulls out a game gadget which she brought along just in case.  It’s called “Catchphrase” and is a combination of charades and trivia, driven by a little electronic gadget that one must toss from one team to the next between rounds.  We were in hysterics by the end of the game (how does one act out “Ozzy Ozbourne?”)

Finally we decide it is time to retire to our traveling bedroom next door.  It’s just a few yards to our trailer, and the rain seems not so heavy with a full stomach and recent laughter.  And so to bed.

Coming up in Day 4: Ft. Stevens by daylight, an old friend, a Hidden Gem, and (believe it or not) sunshine!

 

Travels in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 – Going Upscale

 

Sis and I wake up cozy, dry, and rested under my sister-in-law C’s handmade quilt.  After breakfast, C shows us around the new house, ending with the back balcony, which stretches the entire length of the house and is hung with blooming baskets of fuschias.  Looking out over the back yard, C points out the playhouse for the grandkids, the workshop for Bro, the outdoor patio and BBQ, and the storage space for the trailer.  There is a trailer in it. But wait – what about the trailer that is parked in the driveway, the one Bro had to maneuver our teardrop around last night in the rain?

“Oh, the one down there is our old trailer. The one in the driveway is our new trailer.  We’ve only had it for a week.  This will be our first real camping trip in it.”

C shows us and a couple of admiring neighbors around the new trailer.  The new trailer is almost 10 feet longer than the previous one. “We call it our mobile honeymoon suite,” she says, smiling, as she points out the king-size bed, the reclining chairs, the fold-out sofa, the full kitchen and bathroom, the pop-out barbeque kitchen outside, and the 2 widescreen TV sets positioned over the two fireplaces.

Our tiny teardrop looks like a tugboat positioned next to this land-based Titanic.  But the neighbors seem equally eager to explore the clever space usage and pop-up kitchen in our mini.  It seems that trailer travel is an equal – enthusiasm activity.

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We plan to leave for Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast as soon as Bro gets back from work – he has promised to cut out early if he can on a Friday, so we can get a head start.  The forecast predicts a 99% chance of rain.

Will Bro get back on time?  Will the rain hold off?  Will the maiden voyage of the Titanic end in a crash?  Will we be able to park the teardrop any more easily the second time?  Tune in next week!

Travels in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 2 (cont. again)

Map1Dry shoes for Sis, a couple of chocolate bars, working lighters for the stove, and a hot lunch in our stomachs – what could be finer than driving up I-5 as the sky clears and the sun shines on us.  Our operating rule is that the driver minds the road while the person riding shotgun manages the heater/AC and the sound track.   I’m driving so we are listening to Sis’s playlist of Scottish reels, blue grass,  and Nova Scotian folk music.  Not my favorite but she put up with my Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, and other 60’s relics for the previous day.  Won’t hurt me to listen to something different.

We sail past Eugene, nod to the State Capitol in Salem, and switch drivers. No sooner do Sis’s hands touch the steering wheel than it starts to rain again.  We hit Portland at the height of rush hour in heavy rain, and trudge our way along with what seems like half of Portland’s population across the bridge to Washington.  Only a hundred miles to go!

Just like the night before, it is dark and raining hard when we pull up in front of Bro’s house.  But this time, Bro comes out and takes over, parking our little teardrop with relative ease in his driveway next to his own trailer.  (Sis and I had a hazy memory of Bro talking about how his new house had ample room for trailer parking in the yard next to the workshop, but we dismiss this for now) .  And inside the house is a warm kitchen, with a pot roast bubbling in the crock pot,  a bottle of wine to be opened, and Bro’s wife C showing us to our room, with a big bed and hand-quilted comforter to look forward to.  Is this heaven, or what!

[Sorry, no pix – we didn’t stop for much between lunch and Bro’s place. But tune in next time to find out about that trailer that is parked in the driveway – more than meets the eye!]

 

 

Travels with a Tiny Trailer – Day 2 ( Cont.)

20191017_105635webHow to manage a soaking wet tent and still wet chairs when the back of the Subaru is already full of the bicycles we were not able to load on the bike rack? We put the dry side of the rain fly over the bikes, pile the tent and chairs on top, close up the kitchen, and fire up the GPS.  Thank goodness, just up the highway in Grant’s Pass we find a friendly and well-equipped  Big 5  sporting goods store, where Sis buys new dry walking shoes, and I pick up a couple of igniters. Fortified against all ills we head on to Washington.

Lunchtime arrives, and Sis is eager to try the stove for the hot meal we did not have the night before.  I’m driving, and  I see a sign for “Douglas County Fairgrounds and Museum, Umpqua River Park.”  “Let’s try this,” I say, exiting with care.  “There are bound to be trees, picnic tables, and toilets at a county park with a fair attached, it’ll be nice by the river, and we can pick up some postcards at the museum maybe.”

So we follow the signs and find ourselves in a very large parking lot.  Behind a cyclone fence we see the fairgrounds, abandoned in October.  We climb the berm surrounding the parking lot and find the river, but no sign of a picnic table or a restroom. Our stomachs are rumbling, and at least the parking lot is level and the sun is shining.

douglas-county-museum-entranceThe Douglas County Museum is at the far end of the vast asphalt stretch.   I hike across the expanse, my need becoming more urgent at each step.  Oh happiness – the museum is open and it does have a very clean restroom as well as  indoor  and outdoor displays of mining and farming equipment,  a large collection of natural history items including a stuffed example of Oregon’s state animal (the beaver), and a charming gift shop.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer, Sis is putting together a delectable hot meal of vegetarian tacos.  We set up our chairs (now nearly dry) and our little table on top of the berm where we can see the river, and despite the asphalt we feel we are finally camping in style.

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