Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lots of Rose Parade Activities

Friday was a driving day: a little over 200 miles, from the foothills of the Sierras back into the hazy air of the central valley.  Here are two photos taken about 15 minutes apart.  In the valley:
After climbing the “Grapevine Hill” on Interstate 5. 
Isn't the sky color a nicer blue?
 
The road got better, and the litter alongside the road decreased somewhat as we left the valley, but the most noticeable change was the clarity of the air.  We aren’t into the LA basin yet, which has the dirty air reputation.  We have stopped for the week just outside the metro area, in a fringe suburb called Castaic.  Our tour group is made up of about 55 individuals from all over the country.  We had an initial meeting Friday night and got our updated agendas. 
 
Saturday morning was spent at a warehouse in Azusa where 5 floats are being prepared.  If you watch the Rose Parade on New Years Day, watch for NBC’s “The Voice”, the 2 football teams (Stanford and Michigan State), plus China Air and Indonesia.  All visible surfaces must be covered with natural material.  We saw people using parsley for the green of the field on the football float, pinto beans for an animal, half a hot red pepper for a plant, and halved brussel sprouts were being prepared for use somewhere.  Paige and Nancy glued shredded coconut flakes to make the yard lines on the Michigan State float. 
 
Meanwhile, Bob helped to unwrap over 30,000 red carnations whose petals will be the red color on “The Voice”.
 
 
The floats are operated by a driver in the rear, who is assisted by a spotter in the front.  There is not much room for either
 
Lots of work remains to be done before float judging takes place next week.  It’s hard to believe they’ll have everything done in time – there was so much detailed work to be done!  They’ll start working 24 hrs a day soon.
 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Yet Another “Small World” Story

When we planned our trip from Reno to Los Angeles, we knew it would involve two days of driving, so we planned to split them up at the Escapees Park of the Sierras, near Coarsegold California with a couple of days off where we planned nothing at all except recuperating from Amazon and spending Christmas.
 
Wednesday we found a pleasant resort-type restaurant for an early dinner then a Christmas Eve service at a small church in Coarsegold.  With only one exception, all of the music was performed by someone under the age of 25, and they all did quite well.
 
After phone calls with all the kids and grandkids, we spent Christmas day wandering through Yosemite National Park, since we were so close and neither of us had been there before.  Water flow is low this time of year, but there is still a little flow over the waterfalls:
 
The granite cliffs are so dramatic that our photos can’t do them justice:
          
 
We made it back to the park with enough time to rest up before a group dinner.  We were directed to a table where a couple of other non-residents were already seated.  As we walked up to the table we recognized Dave and Nancy Hilmo, who are also former Minnesotans, also Nomads, also recuperating Amazonians, and also planning to go to the Escapees Rose Parade Tour later this week.  We are starting to get used to some “small world” coincidences, but this many all at the same time is something else.  They spend their summers at Dakota County’s Lebanon Hills park in Minnesota, where we first met them.  We have not yet worked a Nomads project with them, but we have met at other activities a couple of times.  They had worked for Amazon in Kentucky last year and had been planning on working in Nevada but had the opportunity to help set up a new Amazon Fullfillment Center in Tracy California (near San Francisco) which just opened.  We had a great time talking about all the things we have in common with them and look forward to seeing them again at the Rose Parade Tour.
 
We plan to stick around here for Thursday, de-Christmasing, laundry, cleaning, then resting, and meet up with the other Tournament of Roses tour people outside of Los Angeles later on Friday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

California Here We Come (Back)

Monday morning we pulled out of Reno before 9:00 AM.  That would normally be quite early for us, but it is much later than our leaving for work the past six weeks.  The weather was great, so crossing Donner Pass was not difficult at all. 

Interstate 80 brought us down the western slope of the Sierras into California’s central valley.  We went from high and wooded scenery to low and flat in a very short time.  After a left turn near Sacramento onto CA99 we continued south through Manteca, Modesto, Merced, and Madera.  We don’t know anything about these communities, but liked the series of “M”-names.
 
To the east of Madera and north of Fresno, we left the valley and climbed back into the foothills of the Sierras where the Escapees have a co-op RVpark outside of Yosemite National Park.  We put our coats away now that the cold is behind us.  Overnight temperatures were in the balmy 30s with forecasted highs in the 60s.  It took no time at all to get used to these temperatures.
 
This campground is unique – no flat sites all in a row.  There are winding roads/sites through the hills here.  We’re on top of a small hill with a terrific view all around of the hills and valleys.  We have a nice patio with picnic table and swing where we can sit and enjoy the view.  No neighbors right next to us but within sight.  We were also told there are a couple of other former Amazonians recuperating here.
 
Later today, we will pick up our mail and explore a couple of small towns near Yosemite and see how much of the park is open this time of year.  There is a Methodist Church nearby with a Christmas Eve service at 7 pm which we will attend.
 
Tomorrow there will be a Christmas Dinner at 4 pm in the community room of the park.  They are serving turkey and prime rib.  We’re looking forward to that since we won’t be able to be with our family.  It’s a very friendly and welcoming group here.
 
We’ll be here until Friday when we leave for the LA area and the Rose Parade festivities.
 
Again – Merry Christmas!!
 
 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Amazon WrapUp


Saturday was our last day of helping this company through its peak activity.  About 50 of us on Shift#3-Days met in a training room at 4:30 where the full time managers shared some interesting information about the Nevada operation for just this year.  For anyone nuts about numbers, here are a few tidbits I picked up at the meeting:
            - 406 CamperForce people accepted employment, mostly retired seniors
            - 136 of them had worked somewhere at Amazon previously
            - We worked only 6 weeks while others have been here since September
            - Although some left for medical or weather issues, 117 stayed through the end
            - Many records were broken this year
                        - Inventory peaked at 11.8 million pieces, now down to about 9 million
                        - Us stowers put away 449,000 pieces on a single day in Nov (where??)
                        - Output peaked for a single shift at 264,000 pieces pulled for shipments
 
Will we do this again?  Paige says it’s like childbirth – ask us again in a few months.  It wasn’t hard work (other than lugging huge, heavy textbooks from the aisles into the bins).  There were long days, leaving at 5:30 AM before the sun came up, and returning about 5:30 PM after the sun had set.  The work becomes a bit mind-numbing: find a bin with any space and fill it with something.  Most important things to bring are good shoes and a sense of humor.  It also helps to have the flexibility to reach from ankle level to shelves at 6 feet from the floor.  We have heard rumors of pressure to meet “production standards” but that may be more common in other warehouses.  The people here in Nevada seemed to really appreciate our being here.  Nobody made a big deal about our rate, since our attendance and focus were better than most temporary help.
 
Amazon has paid our campground fees while we were working, and pays for today as well so we can wrap things up.  We have been invited to a local family’s home for a brunch after church today.  Then we will do laundry and clean up the rig for tomorrow’s departure.  Tonight we’re going out to dinner with Bill and Ogie and then to a performance of the Peking Acrobats at the Grand Sierra Casino where we’re staying.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed having them here with us!  We’ll be seeing them in late January again when we work with them at a Nomads project in Phoenix.
 
We plan to head west, over Donner Pass, into California where the temps are higher.  We hope to spend the next few days at an Escapees park near Fresno, then continue south toward Los Angeles for a 6 day group tour of the Tournament of Roses Parade and associated activities.  In the meantime, just taking today off to recuperate from all our aches and pains is a pleasure!
 
 
                Merry Christmas to all our family and friends!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recuperating, Temporarily

Five weeks down and one left to go here at Amazon, Fernley NV.  Last week was another 50-hour one but with no scheduled overtime for next week, we are now in the middle of a 3-day weekend.  This break is so needed to get over the aches and pains of working 50 hrs in 5 days.  During the workday, there are 2 20 minute breaks and lunch of 30 min between 6:30 am and 5 pm.  There is no place to sit down in the facility so you’re on your feet the whole time.  Whine – whine!
 
As far as last week’s work went, there is not much to report; being gone from the RV from 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM doesn’t leave much time for social activities.  Sunday was different however, with a morning church service, afternoon laundry, and an evening visit to a neighborhood Christmas lights display.  One house in particular had their lights synchronized to carols being played on an FM frequency.  They were also taking donations for charity.
 
For at least the last week or so our temperatures have been below normal with lows near zero and highs in the 20s.  Lots of RV parks and lots of fellow campers have had freezing issues with their water and sewer hoses.  We have had only minor issues, compared to many others.  A number of RVers have had enough of the cold and have left for warmer temperatures, foregoing any bonus for completing the season with Amazon.  We’ve gotten to know many of our co-workers so it’s sad to say goodbye.  We plan to stick it out here until the official end next Saturday.  It is much easier now that the temperatures have moderated.  It is still freezing at night, but a whole lot of melting takes place during the daytime.
 
Bob and I spend most of the day doing errands and Christmas shopping.  We usually wait until weekdays do get out and about and avoid the masses, however, it was really busy shopping today.  Apparently the masses are out during the week now also.  Tomorrow will be a quiet day.  We’re going to the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant again with Ogie and Bill – yummmmm!  Getting ready for our last 4 day stint! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Frozen in Nevada

Our 4th week at Amazon is now behind us; only 2 remaining.  Winter caught up to us this week with a couple of snowstorms and cold temperatures.  We’re getting darn frustrated with low single digit temps overnight.  The last 2 nights have been problematic for our poor motorhome; frozen pipes both nights.  Luckily, we had purchased an additional space heater at Walmart on Friday night in case we needed it and we’ve used it in an outside compartment to warm the pipes.  We’ve decided to leave it there until the temps rise to the double digits.
 
Last week was a 5 day, 50 hr week.  Hard work but we’re meeting lots of folks and the extra money will be nice.  We had Sunday and today off and now we’re scheduled for another 50 hr week.  We’ll be done on the 21st which is getting closer.
 
Today we’re having some neighbors at the campground over.  They are from Illinois and have a 2004 Meridian motorhome like ours but theirs has 1 more slideout.  They’re coming over for coffee this morning then we’ll be doing errands until we go to visit Bob’s cousin Vicky this afternoon.  We found out that Vicky and Chris moved here from Ohio about 1 month ago (about the time we first got here).  We’re going to their house today and then out for dinner.  It’s so great to connect with relatives and friends along the way!
 
Last night we went to a Fantasy on Ice performance with Bill and Ogie at the El Dorado casino downtown.  It was a great show and a nice way to celebrate the season.  The casino was beautifully decorated!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Halfway

Another week has come and gone, and so quickly too.  We are now halfway through our 6 week commitment to Amazon; 3 weeks down and 3 to go.  Time flies by when you’re too tired to think about it.  Last Tuesday’s overtime was made voluntary, so we had a 3 day weekend (Sun – Tues) which was appreciated, then it was back to work on Wednesday.  It seems like sales must have gone up, since the “pickers” have been busy taking stuff to ship out.  At least it seems like there is more room to stow new stuff. 

Thursday was a short working day, because of the holiday.  Our Thanksgiving feast was at a buffet in the nearby casino.  We went with Bill and Ogie, who are part of our extended family now.  We missed being with our family back home though.
 
Friday and Saturday were the usual 10-hour days, with one exception.  The “Outbound” night shift is working 12-hour days, ending at 6AM, just when we had been arriving.  The traffic jam in the parking lot was solved by shifting our hours, start and finish, by 30 minutes, so we get to sleep in until 5:00AM, punch in by 6:30, and work until 5:00.  We still fall asleep about 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening so the days go by fast.  We are indoors and the work isn’t physically demanding but being on our feet for long days is draining.
 
We will have only a 2 day weekend now, since Tuesday is mandatory this week.  It should be gorgeous weather to get some more sightseeing done before winter comes as scheduled later this week.  For our readers who are weather fans, we’ve had frosty windshields each morning, with temps in the 20’s, but pleasant afternoons in the 50’s.  In this dry air, it cools off fast when the sun goes down.  However, the forecast starting on Tuesday is for much colder weather, lows in the teens and highs in the 30’s – yuck!  We need to move further south!
 
Last Monday we did a little local sightseeing.  We had seen a store called Scheels that looked pretty impressive so we stopped in.  It’s a glorified Cabelas (which they also have in the area) with a ferris wheel in the center.  Decorations for the holiday are everywhere along with high prices. 
 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

So This is the Working Life

We have made it through our second week at Amazon which was our first full week of 5 back-to-back 10-hour days, Tuesday through Saturday, and it hasn’t been too bad.  Not a lot of walking, but we have had a lot of standing and bending.  The shelves start just above floor level and go up to about 5 feet so we are picking up products from a cart and putting them wherever we can find room.  Amazon got its start with books, CDs, and DVDs but has expanded into toys, electronics, kitchen appliances, housewares, tools and anything that people want to buy on-line.  They have also expanded into groceries, but we haven’t seen them here.
 
We get up at 4:30 am, drive 45 or so minutes to work, get 2 20 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch, leave work at 4:30 (the sun sets at 4:38 now and will be getting earlier yet), drive 45 minutes home, eat supper, make lunches, go to bed by 9 pm then repeat.  Having an off day gives us the opportunity to see the sun and give our tired bodies some rest. 
 
We got the official word on Saturday that there will be no mandatory overtime next week, so we have the next 3 days off to recuperate.  The peak work load is the next couple of weeks so we will still have 4 days (Wed to Sat) with Thanksgiving day included (just 2 hours shorter).  We got our first paycheck on Friday so that gave us a bit of incentive now.  It’s nice to have the extra money and we’ll celebrate by going to PF Changs for Bob’s birthday tonight.
 
On our day off, last Monday, we got to meet Denny and Diane in Winimuca, halfway between Elko (where they are doing their mission work) and Reno.  It was so good to see them, even if Diane didn’t bake the wonderful coffee cake and pies for us (but, of course, we were happy she did and added those goodies to our lunch everyday!).  We had lunch together and drove around the area for awhile. 
 
We will miss being with the family on Thanksgiving!  But we have Bill and Ogie here and we will go to the nice buffet at the casino we’re camped at for a big dinner with them (after we get home from work).  We have a lot to be thankful for including our family’s support of us!  Blessings to all of you this Thanksgiving!
 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Back to Working

It was a good thing we got our sightseeing done over the weekend and on Monday, because we haven’t had much free time since.  Tuesday we reported for duty at Amazon’s warehouse in Fernley, NV, about 30 miles away.  Of their 20 “fulfillment centers” only three hire RVers for the seasonal crunch; the others are in Kansas and Kentucky.  There are almost 500 RVers here, parked at 5 or 6 RV parks around the area.  They have also hired about 1,000 other temporary workers, many of whom would like to become permanent employees.
 
Tuesday was a full day of Human Resources forms and signatures, compliance videos, and safety classes.  Wednesday we learned more about the nature of our “Stowing” duties and the use of our hand-held barcode scanners.  We scan the product, then the shelf we are putting it on, then enter the quantity.  The product goes wherever it fits, similar to Baldor’s random location process but the products and the bin locations are so small that they end up being packed really densely.   We are busy filling the shelves which are already about 90% filled, so it can be challenging to find a spot.  We love to see the “pickers” come and take items for shipping and give us more room. They expect the sales and shipping rates to take off after Thanksgiving, when our work gets a little easier, but it will be harder for the order “pickers” then.  The process is really pretty amazing.
 
Our normal schedule will be 4 days of 10 hours each per week, but that didn’t happen this week with a couple of half days, stuck between a couple of full days.  The next 2 weeks (through Thanksgiving and “black Friday”) mean mandatory overtime so we will have 5 days (Tues-Sat) of 10 hrs each.  We have found that we have no physical aches and pains after our first week, but standing on concrete all this time means we need good shoes.  Instead, our biggest adjustment is with our sleep schedule, since we have to leave early enough to get from Reno to Fernley, get parked, and ready to punch the time clock by 6:00 AM.
 
We’re looking forward to our “weekend” of Sunday and Monday.  We’ll go to church with Bill and Ogie tomorrow and on Monday we’re going to meet Denny and Diane for lunch halfway between Elko, where they are doing missionary work, and Reno.  It will be a 2 ½ hr drive for us but will be so nice to spend time with them.
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lake Tahoe

As mentioned earlier, we have had a couple of quiet days after arriving in Reno last Wednesday.  We stopped at the Freightliner shop mid-afternoon and got into their schedule for Thursday.  It turns out that we had no major issues.  Routine maintenance and some clean filters took care of the issues we were concerned about.
 
We are settled in at the campground.  The casino is a short walk away.  Here is a picture of the motorhome in the campground.
  
We have taken the time to find our way around town and do some shopping.  We have also had the chance to meet a number of our new neighbors, many of whom are already working at Amazon.  They all say similar things: the 10-hour days are a long time to be on your feet, but the work is fairly mindless.  We won’t have to deal with people or computers, just put products on the shelf, over and over again.
 
Tomorrow is our first day of orientation and safety training.  We will learn the final details about start and finish times, break times, scheduled days and overtime days.  We will spend 8 hours tomorrow but our normal workday will be 10 hours.    
 
For our last day off, we took a fairly short drive over the Mt Rose Highway to the shores of Lake Tahoe.
 
    
We have seen lots of lakes to compare this year:
            - Flathead covers more surface area
            - Tahoe is deepest
            - Crater Lake is clearest
We drove most of the 72 miles around the lake, south along the Nevada shore, stopping for lunch at the state line, and continuing north along the California shore before returning to Reno.  The scenery was spectacular.  There were also many homes that were spectacular.  We suspect that there are many celebrities with homes here. 
 
Here is another photo from the overlook at Emerald Bay, with the only island in the lake right behind us.
 
It was another great weather day for sightseeing, with clear skies and daytime temps in the high 60’s.  Even though Reno is over 4,000 ft in elevation, morning temperatures have remained just above freezing. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

into Reno

On Tuesday we took a fairly short drive to the east to visit another National Park; this was to see Lassen Volcanic National Park just north of Chester CA.  For details see http://www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm    This park has all the geothermal features that better known Yellowstone has, except for geysers (none here).  The last major eruption occurred here less than 100 years ago

 
During our return trip back to Redding, we had to stop to pick up some of the huge pinecones that are all over the area.  Paige will come up with some creative ways of using them for decorations.
 
We have a few days of free time before start working for Amazon next week.  We originally thought we might stop in Susanville for a few days, but changed our plans on Wednesday as the motorhome wasn’t running as smoothly as we like, so we continued into Reno.  There is a Freightliner shop there that provides service for big trucks and large RVs.  We had some maintenance issues addressed during this free time and got some laundry and shopping done also.
 
We will be parked in Reno for the duration of our work assignment at the Amazon warehouse about 30 miles down the freeway.  They will be paying our campground fees for the next 6 weeks (we only pay a flat rate for utilities).  Many of our neighbors are also working there; some (like our fellow NOMADS, Bill and Ogie) have started already and others are just now coming in.
 
Amazon has a few campgrounds to choose from when you work for them.  We chose the Grand Sierra Resort which is also a casino.  We walked to the main building today and saw the casino, movie theater (no first runs there!), stores, and multiple restaurants with a buffet, of course.  Not sure how much of everything we’ll use but it’s nice knowing that there are some activities here – maybe I’ll even learn how to use a slot machine sometime!  Last night we realized we must be near one of the main runways at the airport – we can’t quite see the passengers.  There aren’t flights after about 11 so we can get sleep.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Last Views of Pacific

Our stay in Crescent City CA was short – only 2 nights.  We had just arrived when we put our last posting here.  Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with no more fog to block our views.  Here is what we saw:
      
OK there was a little fog near the lighthouse:

Later in the morning we took US101 south along the coast through many groves of huge redwood trees.  It was amazing how large they are!

Sunday we left the ocean behind.  Here is one last look
Then we began the slow trek inland.  It was a long, slow travel day because US101 and CA299 are both quite hilly, so it was slow-going climbing up one hill and relying on the exhaust brake to keep our speed under control on the downhill side.  We hardly passed up any turnouts so that traffic could pass us.

We are spending 3 nights in Redding CA to recuperate.  Today was a laid-back Monday where we did a little relaxing, shopping, ran some errands, and washed the truck.  Tomorrow we will take a clean pickup for a little excursion to the nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Here’s a shout out to Olivia who got her nasty old tonsils removed today.  Hope you recover soon!  Enjoy the popsicles!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Back to the Coast

Once again we are back to the Pacific coast; at least we think so.  We can hear the foghorns and the seals barking this morning, but the fog was too thick to see any water yesterday.  The sun was shining brightly about 10 minutes drive from the coast and our waitress said the skies will be like this until March.  We will spend a couple of days in Crescent City California, which is in the very NW corner of the state. 

This area is known for its redwood trees for a good reason.  We saw many on our way into town that were huge, and there are many parks nearby to show them off.
 
We came into town on US199 with the motorhome, and toured around the area with our pickup on CA197 and US101. These roads are narrow and twisty – great for motorcycling if the sun comes out. Bob didn’t shed any tears on our drive!

On the news last night they had an article on the recreational crab fishing which starts today.  Sure wish we knew someone that has extra crab!!  There are lots of seafood restaurants around here though. 

Most of this week we will be in northern California, moving slowly toward the east and Nevada.  We have lots of time to go a fairly short distance.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Central Oregon

It is hard to believe how quickly the time goes by.  Especially when it seems like we have not been too busy.  So, what have we been up to?

We had the opportunity to stay at Tumalo State Park just one more day after our last posting, since the place was totally reserved for the weekend.  Last Thursday was a quiet day we spent shopping in Bend.  Since we will be on our feet a lot while we are at Amazon, we both got some good shoes (aka $$$$) with lots of support.  We will be breaking them in over the next few days.

Friday was a “Moving Day”; back across the Cascade Range to the central valley.  Once again we noticed the dramatic climate change from the high desert of Bend and Sisters to heavily forested mountains in just a couple of miles.  The route we used was not the shortest one, since Oregon State Hwy 242 is closed to anything our length because it is so twisty.  Sometime we’d like to come back and ride it on the motorcycle (in warmer weather).  We connected with Interstate 5 near Eugene and drove it for more than 50 miles (the most Interstate driving we have done since late August).  We got off the road at Sutherlin, where the Escapees have another of their co-op parks. 

The weekend was a quiet one.  We try to avoid the grocery stores and touristy things on weekends so that working people with families can use them.  Instead, we spent our weekend doing laundry and going for walks around the park.  We also attended the Methodist Church in Sutherlin.  This was a unique experience – there were 9 people, total, in the church including the minister and organist.  They were a very friendly group that invited us down for a small lunch after church.  Almost every one of them had some connection to Minnesota so conversation was lively.

After the weekend, it was back to being touristy once again.  Monday we went back to the Pacific coast, from Florence down to Reedsport.  Florence has an area called “Old Town” under the US Highway 101 bridge.  It has lots of restaurants and shops.  We stopped at a little restaurant on the corner where we came into town.  Paige had the best ever “crab melt” sandwich!!
  
Tuesday was a much longer driving day.  We went to Crater Lake National Park. 

     

     

This is visually spectacular, but it is a long drive from anywhere.  At 1,943 feet this is the deepest lake in the United States and was formed in a very short time when a volcanic mountain collapsed.  For details see http://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm  

Much of the park is closed for the winter, but the southern entrance and the Visitors Center are open all year.  The parking lot is ready for the snowplows.
The reason for the tall snow poles is that they normally get about 44 feet of snow here during a typical winter.  The water in the lake comes from snowmelt and rainfall.  There are no rivers or streams flowing in OR out of this lake so the water stays very pure.

 

Today we’re going to do a tour of local wineries.  There are many wineries around here so we need to do a little tasting.  Also, today is flu shot day for us.  Want to get that done before flu season arrives.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Northen Oregon

As we had planned, Saturday was spent playing tourist at the Tillamook County Cheese plant:
We got an overview of their importance in the community and had lots of samples of their cheeses and their ice cream.  We took the time to chat with the owner of the RV park, who suggested a couple of local churches for us, and talked with her maintenance man, Charlie, who suggested a number of restaurants and scenic areas.

On Sunday we skipped breakfast in order to have a brunch after an early church service.  By chance, Charlie happened to come into the same cafĂ© shortly after us, so we had him sit with us.  He has a ton of information on the local scene as he’s lived in the area his whole life.  Here  is the entrance to the bay


Monday was our chance to take a motorcycle ride through the twisty roads of the Coastal Range.  State Highway 22 was a pleasant roller coaster of a road through the trees.  We went to McMinnville where Howard Hughes’ wooden airplane, the Spruce Goose, is on display.  We found the display area, but were too cheap to justify the admission charge and it was too late in the day, so we came back the same way.  It was a nice day for a ride in the woods.  Then it was back to the cheese plant for purchases:

Tuesday was a travel day; a little over 200 miles from the Pacific coast, over the Coastal Range, across the broad Willamette River valley, over the Cascade Mountains to the high desert area of central Oregon.  The Presidential Range (Mounts Washington and Jefferson) were much less spectacular than snow-covered Mt. Hood.  We came through the touristy town of Sisters, to a small state park near Tumalo.  After setting up our campsite we had birthday dinner (guess who) in Bend at Applebee’s.

We had visitors from eastern Oregon today.  Carl and Ronda came from about 3 hours away to spend the afternoon with us.  We have known Carl since the late 60’s when he was a new customer engineer for Control Data, and Bob was still in college.  We had a lot of catching up to do since they last stopped in to see us about 15 years ago.  We introduced them to geocaching this afternoon when we found 2 caches hidden nearby:


They had to return to their home this evening in order to meet with some kids in a Head Start program in the morning.  They are on the local fire department in their city, John Day, and will be educating the 4 year olds in fire safety.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Into Oregon

Last Thursday was a day filled with starts and stops; many attempted travel plans along with as many revisions.  The first big “plan changer” was the lack of hot water this morning.  We had plenty of hot water last night, but none this morning.  Our water heater can be run on either electricity or propane, but neither would heat our water today.  We left a voice-mail for a local RV service agency and waited.  After an hour or two without a response, we found an alternate service group that might be able to inspect our system within 2 days and plan a repair later.  While setting an appointment for this second choice, the first one called back.  He was a mobile service and came right to our door.  His diagnosis was spot-on, and he had the repair part we needed on board his truck.  We were fixed by 1:00 PM but had lost a good part of the day. 

We chose to use the rest of the day to pick up our mail which was being held for us at a post office alongside Interstate 5, near Mt St Helens.  Both Microsoft and Garmin suggested we cross the Columbia River into Oregon and take US30 to the Interstate, then cross the river again, back into Washington.  Crossing the Columbia near its mouth means using the Astoria Bridge.  Here is the lower, northern, end:

 
The southern end rises high enough to allow ocean-going ships to pass underneath.  Just our luck, it was down to a single lane for repairs so we had the chance to park near the highest part and wait our turn to use it.  For Bob’s traveling, Oregon is the 49th state he has been in.  Only Hawaii remains, and the bridge there hasn’t been scheduled for construction yet. 

We again crossed the river at Longview Washington and joined Interstate 5 for about 10 miles.  This was the first official Interstate travel since we left Minnesota over 2,000 miles ago.  After picking up our mail, we went to the Mt St Helens Visitors Center which is run by the state of Washington.  We got there 30 minutes before it closed, and the national Seniors Pass isn’t accepted here.  The National Park visitors center was another 45 miles away.  This view is as close as we got:

We returned to the motorhome, back on the coast, by using Washington highway #4 which was a very pleasant alternative to US30.

Before leaving the Long Beach peninsula yesterday, we explored the north end and found the Ocean Park Retreat Center.  This church camp has often hosted Nomads groups but their scheduled project for 2013 didn’t happen due to lack of volunteers.  It sure looked like a nice place to work in the future. 

On Friday we both received our formal confirmations from Amazon that we have been scheduled for the same day shifts starting November 12 so we are now committed to manual labor: four 10-hour days per week for 6 weeks.  This should help pay for the water heater service and the new satellite TV system.  We can play tourist for another 3 weeks, then report for duty.

Once again we crossed the Columbia River into Astoria, then continued south on US101.  Here is a view of the shoreline we had during a lunch stop.
 
We stopped for the night between Bay City and Tillamook. We found a seafood-fix for dinner at the Fish Peddler which is part of Pacific Oyster Co.   It’s right on the ocean and you can watch them clean oysters and clams while you eat.

Plans for today include sampling cheese and ice cream at the Tillamook Cheese Company plant nearby.