Sunday, September 25, 2022

Guess Where This Is

Our latest travel adventure. More on this intriguing location coming up.


Saturday, August 6, 2022

It Doesn't Suck

Typical of the scene we see from our kitchen window and through my office sliding glass door.
Photo credit: harrison-haines-3536248.jpeg
Mornings and evenings I marvel at the hummingbirds, amused by the fierce territorial fury of these tiny creatures. There are multiple "flowers" full of the "nectar" yet they are unwilling to share. They chitter angrily at me if I'm too near. and I chuckle, wondering if they know my very presence is often necessary to keep their flower "full." There are hummingbird friendly-flowers in the yard, there will be more next year.
Daylilies, purchased from the O'Dell garden club's fund-raising plant sale.
I fill the birdbath, another excellent kitty torture device, water my plants, pluck a few weeds, take a look around to see what's blooming, note whether it's time to harvest more tomatoes. I remind myself to finish dead-heading the lavender, whose spent blossoms sweeten our home when I bring them in. Doves coo their who-who call while I wander.

While I miss this hiatus from the novelty of exploring new places around the world, I love the structure and stability of watching the patterns of change that it takes staying in one place long enough to observe. Whether in the boat or in a vehicle, to me their role was to transport me to the wonder of the world around me, and while I may luxuriate in a well-insulated, air-conditioned home when temperatures soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the outdoors still calls to me, and it is there where I feel most at home. 

Here, the great Columbia River wends its way through the Gorge. Mount Hood soars to the southwest of us, Mount Adams to the Northwest. Their towering peaks collect snow in the winter and as the weather warms, their melt waters the brilliant profusion of wildflowers—sunflower-like yellow arrowroot balsa and the indigo and white spires of lupine—the most iconic.

Shiva, my work buddy.
By day, Monday-Friday "9-5" (theoretically, but generally more) I do my best to help landlords and tenants facing eviction find a path forward. I told the Executive Director, who hired me, that I was "uniquely qualified" for the position, thanks to ample meditation training and experience,  and also because I've been both a landlord and my life path altered due to an eviction. I understand the importance of a stable place to live, and the dreams that property income can enable as well as the headaches that come with the responsibilities.

The sun dips over the ridge to the southwest of our backyard.
The work I do reinforces to me how lucky I am to live this life.

I also remember it is summer, and summer is fleeting, so it's time to stop writing (and for you to stop reading) and get out and enjoy the day. When the darkness of night and the grayness of late fall set in, that is the time to reflect and write more. 

Sunset view from Sorosis Park, looking east up the Columbia River and Gorge.
Get out there and make hay while the sun shines!

Location Location

The Dalles, Oregon, retains the determiner in English for its derogatory descriptive French noun, "The Ditch." Yes, it sounds better in French, and it's a far more interesting place to live than its same implies.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

A Little Misadventure

Our RoadTrek posed in front of Mt. Adams.
With the weather forecast to hit into the 'teens (114F) in The Dalles, Wayne planned a great escape, up, up, and away into the higher altitude of the Mount St. Adams area. The goal was to find a place cool enough, beautiful, with good hiking, and a free, level, readily available campsite—on a Saturday. 

Big Spring. Around 4,000 elevation. 
This spot looked worthy of a stop along the way—a babbling brook descending from a little waterfall. threading its way through a vibrantly green wooded area. The problem? The mosquitos loved it too. They were hungry. We were fresh meat. Sharing this photo was worthy of the bite I got for it, but not worth hanging out longer to be the main course for a mozzie feast, with mommies thirsting for their blood meal to create future vampirish progeny.

Besides, the longer we dallied, the less likely we were to snag a campsite.


Okay, it was really more of a dragging noise. The rough gravel road prompted the metal bar supporting our water tanks to choose that moment to hit the ground.  The dusty gravel road wasn't a good place to fix it. We were less than two miles to the campsite. Wayne crossed his fingers and drove.
Council Lake, Gifford Pinchot Forest, Washington.
We snagged the last RoadTrek-suitable ast campsite. Wayne crawled under the RoadTrek with a pile of line and the mosquitos took full advantage of Wayne's prone position while he firmly secured the water tank into place. We also drained the water tank before we took off again to minimize the weight held in place only by rope.
Wayne's McGyvered solution. Not a thing of beauty but. it held.
We walked along the lake for a bit, enjoying the lush forest understory, rife with lilies, huckleberries, ferns, bunchberry, salmonberries, elderberry, and much more than we could identify. I even spotted a last, fading trillium.Sups abounded, making their way from shore to the massive party float, while fishermen blamed the partiers for scaring the fish. A pair of eagles exuberantly swooped in intertwining loops, their duet on par with a Blue Angles show,. Was it a courtship dance? Regardless—a glorious sight! The ospreys, with their less regal wingspan, nonetheless flaunted their fishing superiority while they uttered their deceptively innocent-sounding "cheep"s.
Crawfish molting, we believe. But where was the crayfish?
We settled in for an easy supper of leftovers from the night before, huddled up to watch "King Richard" and called it an early night, though we made sure to check out the stars from a nice log alongside the lakeshore. Best Milky Way I've seen since two years prior when we left St. Helens, when we headed up to a dark skies spot in the Mt. Hood forest. We miss the uninterrupted spectacle of the universe from a boat.
Our view wasn't quite this amazing, but it was still worth every mishap of that trip.
Photo credit:
The next morning I ambled up the Boundary trail to Council Bluff, to the territorial view other campers promised a territorial view: Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens (through the trees), and Mt. Hood. Round-trip, the trail is 3.2 miles.
Boundary trail Council Lake overlook
with 12,281 foot Mt. Adams towering in the background. 
Breaking spider webs along the way, I had the trail and the viewpoint to myself. The trail climbed 950 feet, to a viewpoint at 5180. Despite a string of hot days, the view was still relatively crisp. Click the arrow for a 45-second panoramic view.

Our next stop was an old favorite, Lewis River Falls. We took a route in we'd never taken before. We wished we hadn't.
Five miles with more potholes than road.
Wayne slalomed through them expertly but had to slam on the brakes, hard, a couple of times. Between that and the hot weather, our brakes jammed, rubbed, and started smoking. 
Mt. St. Helens overlook near Old Man's pass.
We stopped to let the brakes cool off a bit. Not too much of a hardship to stop here while to give our brakes a breather.

New development in the Lewis Falls area.
We didn't stop at Lewis Falls after all—our whole reason to endure five miles of potholed road. There's no cell phone signal, so parking reservations need to be made ahead of time.  We briefly considered risking it, but the couple removing an $85 ticket for their lack of permit changed our mind, pronto! We found out the forest service felt compelled to adopt the policy because the area was getting trashed from too much "love."

Wayne descended most of the way to Carson in first gear, to minimize brake use. Then, they were ok. We made it home without a tow. Our local Les Schwab service department ran diagnostics so we can prevent it from happening again.

We crossed the Bridge of the Gods (click the video for the view off the bridge) to cool off ourselves.

We were not the only ones with that notion.
Hot spot to cool off in Cascade Locks.
We made it home.
Home, sweet kitty.
Shiva was excited to see us. Or so we tell ourselves.

Location Location
Council Lake and Council Bluff are in the Mt. Adams Recreational area of Washington State's Gifford Pinchot National Forest, in between Randall, Trout Lake, Cougar, and Carson. We'll be back. Err, we will replace that rope tie holding our water tank in place with a little something more substantial first.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Tourist in My Own Town on the 4th of July

In a town whose biggest business is cherry harvesting, a tractor belongs
in the Independence Day parade. The Dalles, Oregon.
Until this Fourth of July, the last parade we saw was an equally patriotic Anzac parade in Winston Australia over five years ago, in April 2017. Unlike the Anzac predawn ceremony in New Zealand, we lucked into the one in Winston. 

The Dalles Riding Club in the town's Fourth of July parade. Four-H was another parade participant.

I exult in the fact that I can see everywhere with a flexible eye; the very notion of home is foreign to me, as the stae of foreigness is the closest thing I know to home.—PIco Iyer

Sea Scouts' parade caption says it all. The Dalles, Oregon.
The Dalles, Oregon is a small rural town, with a population of roughly 18,000. I've learned I need to ask my neighbors the details of local celebrations, where announcements typically do not include where the event is. I guess the assumption is if it's a local event and you're local, you'll just know. Then I find out how much is done by so few folks and I remind myself to be more charitable about how events are communicated and figure rather than complaining I need to contribute.

Much ado in red, white, and blue in The Dalles Fourth of July parade.
Patriotism is palpable in this proudly historic town an hour and a half's drive from Portland, Oregon. Political parties, DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution also participated in the parade.
One of two parade "floats" drive home the towns' Indian heritage. The Dalles Oregon.
The town is chock-a-block with architecture dating back to the 1800s and 1900s as well as petroglyphs and other signs of early Indian civilization. I'm excited to learn more about it.

Antique cars are popular here. The parade is just one of The Dalles venues to show them off.
This sculpture from one The Dalles' plumbing businesses was my favorite business "float."
A number of small businesses that serve The Dalles area also participated in the parade.

This fellow followed the ponies in The Dalles parade.
This helpful fellow's "float" design likely required the least effort, offered the most service and gave me the biggest smile.
The Dalles Grand Marshall, a WW2 veteran "100 years young."
Both my parents passed to TGB (The Great Beyond) in 2018, but I'm sure my dad, who would've been two years shy in age of the parade's Grand Marshall and was also a WW2 veteran, would've cheered the Marshall on. In my heart, both my parents enjoyed this parade with me.  They also would've appreciated that the parade was as short as it was sweet. No problem getting a parking space a block off the route or finding a spot to sit down and enjoy it and no traffic jams leaving it. I heard this year's parade was much smaller than the Cherry Festival Parade and smaller than prior years'  Independence parades. I have no basis of comparison, so I could simply enjoy this friendly slice of small-town life.
Scenic Drive overlook, right be for The Dalles Fourth of July fireworks.
Just as I knew The Dalles parade started at 10 am—but not where—I also knew the Dalles fireworks were at 10 pm and would be fired off of a barge near the dam, but didn't know where best to view them. Once again, my neighbors in the know came to our rescue. Go to the college, they said. As we wound our way up the aptly-named Scenic Drive, we stopped short and followed the small herd who decided that was the place to stop. Good call. 

"We gotta come up here sometime during the day just to enjoy the view,: Wayne said. 

I agreed.

I started to queue up my camera to take in the fireworks show, but after a few shots, decided to follow Wayne's advice and enjoy the view with my eyes, instead of through the lens of my camera. If you're hankering for some fireworks, check out the show from another small town, St. Helens, Oregon, 2019.  If you don't like bagpipes, turn the volume off when you watch!

As I heard this year's show conclude to the strains of "I'm proud to be an American," I confess to cringing a bit. Of late, I've felt far more comfortable in other places than in our own country. At the same time, I want to believe we can be a nation united with room enough to accept our differences, maybe even enough to finally make Puerto Rico our 51st state.

Regardless, happy summer!

Location Location

When The Dalles' legendary hot days hit, we're ready! So far, only a few this year.

The Dalles, Oregon, USA.


Figured I needed to get this out on my last "free" weekday. I start a new full-time job tomorrow! More about that and some recent travels and local explorations soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Summer in the PNW—A Little Different

Crater Lake, June 21, 2022.
Yes, that is a snowman on our first day of summer back in the Pacific Northwest.

Ok, to be fair, we were at Crater Lake, where the lake level is about 6300' in elevation, and the rim, is higher still. Crater Lake averages 44' of snow annually. 

This is also an unusually cool spring.

The Dalles got into the 70s that day, and this week is now mostly getting into the 80s, and is supposed to hit near 100F this Sunday.

We're back from our first foray out since we came here from Florida in December. Yes, we realize we got it backward last year, spending the summer in Florida and leaving when winter set in.

But it's summer here now, and do we ever love summer in the Pacific Northwest, even if my usual answer to PNW newcomers who ask when it will be sunny is "The 5th of July."

More on the trip coming up, but after I get back from another one, which I leave for tomorrow.

Location Location

The photo was taken at the Crater Lake village in Central Oregon. We are at the moment back home—wow! it's so nice to have a home on terra firma to come back to!—in The Dalles, Oregon, about a 90-minute drive from Portland, Oregon.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Life Is (Too) Short

Photo credit:  Amine rock hoovr on Unsplash

My brother Mark was the kind of guy who did everything right. 

Growing up, you could count on him for an adventure anytime an escape was needed, whether it was sliding around the muddy culverts behind our neighborhood for polliwogs, to testing the brakes he installed himself in his car on a curvy country road, to escaping to the coast when everyone else was opening their Christmas presents (which we didn't celebrate because we are Jewish). 

His pranks were diabolically funny, from the smoke bombs he built into abandoned, carved out textbooks, to the shock device deployed through the linked-hand boy scout friendship circle to the orange-flavored Kaopectate that found its way into the campout orange juice. When it was mom's Weight-Watcher's liver night, he developed a special bond with our sheltie. 

Mark never seemed to get into trouble for his pranks, except maybe the time when my friend was staying overnight and he set an alarm for the wee hours, tucked it into a shoebox in our room, wrapped the shoebox with a sweater, fastened it with many loops of twine then knotted the whole bundle tightly. When I couldn't untie it, I hurled it into my parent's room—not a reaction he'd anticipated. That time he got busted. Then again, on the rare occasion that Dad broke out the paddle Mark generally stuffed magazines in his pants. Mark later hid the paddle; Dad never had much inclination to use it anyway.

As an adult, Mark loved his family, Raised great kids. Worked hard and found success with a great career that tested his fine intelligence and broad talents. He lived and played where he could enjoy the great outdoors, hunting, hiking, and off-roading. He cooked a mean BBQ. Neighbors knew if they needed help with a project, Mark would volunteer and get the job done. Mark did his research and ate a healthy diet. Exercised regularly and strenuously. Proactively monitored his health with the assistance of carefully chosen medical care. Mark planned and saved for the future. The list of projects, passions, and travels he wanted to explore in his golden years was long and varied.

When our dad nearly died, Mark flew in to offer the reinforcement I asked for to be Dad's health advocate. We bought dad several more years of life. When Mom neared the end, Mark again flew cross-country so we could say our final goodbyes to her together on Mother's Day. When the time came for our parent's celebration of life, Mark flew cross-country again to pay his respects.

Six months ago my brother uncharacteristically found himself struggling for the right words. He forgot the combination for his suitcase lock. There were a few other odd events that perplexed him. My sister-in-law called to tell me about it. Mark, as usual, tried to make light of it. However, he was concerned enough to return a day early from his business trip and go to the doctor the next day. A week or so later he got the diagnosis: terminal brain cancer.

To date, no one knows what causes brain cancer. In general, it's incurable. There are treatments that can delay death, sometimes for months or years. The treatments can ease the symptoms or can wreak more havoc. In Mark's case, he decided to give chemo and radiation therapy a try. It didn't help.

His wife encouraged me to see my brother "While he was still Mark." I did. Mark rapidly lost his memory, then his ability to communicate, then his mobility. He declined so quickly, that he chose to cut himself off from everyone except his immediate family. He wanted to keep his suffering private. Even in this post, I am deliberately withholding details on behalf of his family. 

His daughter came from Germany with her infant son, Hugh. Hugh's antics were the only thing that still brought a smile to Mark in his last months and days. His other two sons also spent with Mark and supported their mom. When Mark died, Friday, May 13th, we all knew it was a blessing, especially his wife, who remained there to do all she could for him to the very end.

Mark was only 63 years old, my older brother, only sibling, and last remaining close blood relative. He leaves behind a loving wife, three adult children, two grandchildren, and another on the way.

I'd anticipated years of friendly competition with Mark, to see if my lackadaisical, carefree habits or his diligence were the most effective in fending off crotchety old age. Before then. I'd hoped to travel internationally with him, something we never did together unless you count crossing over into Canada (I don't).  In all my years of international sailing, Mark never got the chance to join me on a boat other than a short zip along the Columbia River. That was a good day. 

Our mom lived to 87, cut short because she refused to go to doctors and died of a stroke from untreated diabetes and high cholesterol, a sugary diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. Dad, a WW2 bombardier spent decades beating the odds, despite diabetes, a bad ticker, and a family that most members didn't survive past their 50s. He lived to 94. Both our parents died in 2018. 

In the Jewish faith, it's said "you live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew you." Mark's legacy is broad and rich.

Yet Mark's death still doesn't seem entirely real—more of a dream or crazy prank my brother pulled that when I wake up or get the punchline, we'll all laugh. Instead, I have to accept that he got a big hug from Mom, the kind so long and tight, it's hard to breathe. Dad probably greeted Mark with one of his legendary apple pies. When my time comes to go to the TGB—the great beyond, maybe there will be some colossal prank Mark will cook up, especially for me. 

Like Mark, I too am full of plans for the future that I hope to accomplish, now with an even greater sense of urgency to not delay. I am all the more grateful to my husband for making sure we didn't wait to fill our lives with adventure, nor do either of us consider ourselves anywhere close to done with our adventures yet. 

I urge you to do the same. Let those you love and care about know it by telling them and showing them. Spend your time with them; make good memories. Leave no business unfinished when it comes to love and friendship. Live your life and dreams like there is no tomorrow because you never know when your last day will be. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Diving Back In


(Not actually our pool, which is, however, now fit for human entry, albeit a bit chilly still)
Image from Moerschy on Pixabay.

How did over a month go by without posting?!?

Wayne and I moved into our home on March 25th. It closed on March 14th, but we waited until the wood floors were refinished before we moved in.

Ever since we moved in, we've been busy cleaning up, despite the "professional deep clean" we requested in our closing that the sellers ignored. But then, what can you expect from sellers who show their home for sale in late January with a deflated larger-than-life Santa in their front yard and a pool covered with a brown tarp, and a box of Kirkland organic chicken potstickers floating above the tarp in the pool? Not to mention dodging six hungry chickens whose defecation along with the dogs' littered the yard. I could go on, but you probably get the idea.

One of my latest tasks is finding someone to take this overabundance
of horse poop away so we can address the fence rotting away
from wet, organic matter pressing against it.
The ladder came from my dumpter dive; Wayne working on repairing it.

We wisely focused on getting the guest bedroom ready almost as quickly as our own bedroom; we've hosted three different sets of friends for at least one overnight each already—and a couple of dinners, too. Kudos in particular to my longtime bestie Anna, who generously exchanged her horror for a scrub brush, scrubbing bubbles and a paintbrush. That's after we've spent a substantial amount of time cleaning and painting before she arrived.

The multi-talented Anna not only put Shiva into a kitty nivana,
she takes a photo of it with her other hand.

We also got out kitty up to speed with a new vet, got our Oregon driver's licenses and voter reistration and getting in our ballots by May 17th and registered our vehicles. We've mostly furnished our place, no small feat given that not long ago we didn't own a stick of furniture and most of what we have came from thrift shows, Craigslist, estate sales and secondhand stores. Boring, time-consuming but necessary stuff.

In fact, here it is on the tailend of another weekend, and if I take the time to put together some before and after photos, this post will go up too late for anyone to want to read it.

We're also a the point where the bulk of the remaining short-term work on our place plays more to Wayne's skills than, mine, so rather than just spending money on the house, I just got a job.

Lots more updates, befores and afters coming up.

Location Location

The Dalles, Oregon, roughly an hour and a quarter east of Portland, Oregon, up the Columbia Gorge.

The balamroot in our area is getting an extra long bloom,
thanks to a cooler than nirmal spring.

Our yard is more wild, than flowers, currently, unless you count dandelions.

Dandelion removal is currently my primary gardening activity.
They're prolific!!!