Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Two Years on the Road

December 12th marked the beginning of our third year since I retired and we hit the road as full time RVers. Most people assume that the biggest attraction of our lifestyle is the ability to move about and see new sights, and those are very important; but as we tell folks, for us the making of new friends and ability to visit old ones is the most important aspect of our lifestyle. In our travels, we've been able to connect with old friends that we first met in the early 70s (Brenda was still in her teens), stay connected with friends we made in the last few years, and make new friends in our travels. Our retirement careers really started off well when we pulled into the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife refuge for our first experience at volunteering. Met by Bob, the Outdoor Planner, we immediately felt welcome and he had us laughing every day. He and his lovely wife, Christine, have become good friends and we look forward to seeing them this spring. You can see by his picture that he was a hard taskmaster and very, very stern. The entire staff was wonderful; Kim and Deb, the two lovely ladies pictured, always had a smile and graciously accepted Brenda's cheesecake offerings. Steve, the manager, and all of the maintenance guys were great to work with, and collectively they're the reason we're anxious to return and volunteer again this spring. We met Dennis and Ann, our fellow full timer friends in early 2006 while hiking Cochise Stronghold in Arizona. Since then, we've met up in Montana and toured Glacier NP, and we're looking forward to seeing them again soon here in Texas. We hiked a lot of trails and drank a lot of beer together (not necessarily in that order), and although we're sad they're coming off the road and settling into a stick & brick house (that's what we RVers call a real house) near Austin, we know we'll pass through their town and see them again. This spring we spent time with new friends Bob and Trixie while in Southern Arizona. Trixie worked with our daughter as a flight attendant for American Airlines so we felt as if we'd known them for years. We had great fun exploring the back roads and restaurants along with their neat German Shepard, Pyro (Bob is a retired firefighter, hence the cool name). Visiting Lee Metcalf NWR this summer, we finally met Kirk and Pam, full timers and volunteers who we've followed for years by their web site. They've set the standard for our lifestyle, with over 8 years and 18 volunteer positions all around the country. You can view their website here. We had a great time showing them some of our favorite Montana places, including this photo taken at the Lost Horse Creek overlook in the Bitterroot mountains. During our month-long exploration of New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, we met John, who each day climbs a tower on the top of a mountain to watch for wildfires. He gave us an interesting tour of the tower, showed us how he tracks and reports fires, and gave us a neat "Smokey the Bear" scarf which doubles as our steering wheel table cover. Brenda of course returned the favor with a cheesecake! In May, we made new friends and welcomed new family as our daughter was married (finally!) in a beautiful service at Newport Beach, CA. We had the chance to meet many of her friends who we've heard about, and learned that there's nothing to compare with flight attendants, music, and alcohol if you want a great party. We spent six wonderful weeks on the Southern Oregon coast where we taught children how to become "Junior Rangers" and gave evening talks & walks at Harris Beach State Park. Angela, our ranger boss, always had a huge smile and an energy level to match. Such a great person - she taught us about the local plants and wildlife; and brought us her own organic eggs and fresh-caught fish! We also made friends with fellow volunteers Patti and Jim, and Hugh and Lynn, who we hope to see this year at Lee Metcalf NWR. Here in San Marcos, we've been visiting with old friends Tom and Janet, and will join them Christmas Day for dinner. Our next door neighbors and new friends Wayne and Cindy will be back from a holiday visit back in New York state just in time for the girls to do their after-Christmas shopping. Our time on the road has been memorable for so many things, but nothing more lasting than the friendships, new and old. We hope to see all of you again soon, and apologize to those we met but didn't have the opportunity to get to know better. For everyone, we wish a happy and successful holiday season and new year!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

San Marcos, Texas

We left Fort Huachuca a few days before Thanksgiving and once again turned east on I-10. Our first stop was Las Cruces, NM, where we always stop for dinner at La Posta, a historic restaurant just down from the RV park in the old town of La Mesilla. It was interesting to us that Judge Roy Bean, who became famous as the "law west of the Pecos", operated a freight line from what is now the restaurant. We seem to run into his name throughout the west; we passed again through Langry later in the trip, where the state has restored the Jersey Lilly Saloon (see our Jan 06 Blog), and last May visited Pinos Altos, a small town north of Silver City where he also operated a freight office. High on a hill west of Las Cruces, we stopped at a rest area where we noticed this huge Roadrunner; it wasn't until we walked up close that we realized that the entire sculpture was made of junk! Looking close, you'll see pots, pans, shoes....all sorts of stuff held together with what looks like chicken wire. See if you can find the spatula! It's one of those roadside oddities that is worth stopping to see.
Leaving New Mexico, we passed through El Paso, turned south at Van Horn, and passed through Marfa (Jan 07 blog), stopping at Alpine for the night. The next day we crossed the Pecos River and stopped at a scenic overlook high above the river and bridge, then drove through Del Rio and spent the night at Uvalde. On Thanksgiving Day, we pulled into our current location in San Marcos & still had time to visit Cracker Barrel for a nice turkey dinner. Although many of you know my aversion for Cracker Barrel, there weren't a lot of choices (my vote for "Whataburger" was overruled by Brenda), and it actually quite good. We're settled in now and are looking forward to exploring the area and visiting all of the holiday activities. We'll be heading for the San Antonio Riverwalk this weekend. Yesterday we made a trip to Randolph AFB, just outside of San Antonio where Brenda traded coupons for groceries at the commissary. It's a beautiful base, best known for the wing headquarters building known as the "Taj Mahal". It was a beautiful day; high 70s and sunny, and we even had time for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. We're looking forward to more warm days and chances to explore - stop back and see where we've

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Southern Arizona Sights

It's been great weather here in Southern Arizona; daytime temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, with cool nights in the high 40s. In over a month, there's been one cloudy day, and we actually had rain one night! We've enjoyed visiting friends, and of course took our good friends Dusty and Mary Lou, who we first met when we were stationed here in the early 70s, to our favorite steak restaurant, Pinnacle Peak. No visit to Tucson for us is complete without sitting down to one of their 31-oz mesquite broiled porterhouse steaks. We've finally figured out how to share - I remove the tenderloin for Brenda and I get the rest, which leaves me with a paltry pound or so of meat. At least we only visit once a year.
Up the road from us is the small town of St. David, where we visited the Benedictine Monastery's arts and crafts festival. It was a huge affair, with over a hundred vendors, and the weather was perfect for strolling through the booths and admiring the crafts. The grounds are dominated by a huge wooden cross, and Brenda kept reminding me of her favorite psalm, "blessed be the shoppers, for they shall inherit nifty crafted stuff". Or something like that. Interestingly, while most people think St. David was named because of a link to the monastery, it was actually named for David Patten, an important figure in the LDS church.
Those who have followed our travels know that one of our favorite places to explore is the Chiricahua Mountain range, and we spent Veteran's day traveling through the area and enjoying the sights. This is the first time in years that we've visited during the fall season, and our visit to Cave Creek Canyon proved that southern Arizona has colored foliage also. The Arizona sycamores and cottonwoods in the canyon fed by year-around streams had changed to beautiful oranges and yellows; not New England, but then New England doesn't have the red cliffs and mountains in the background. We had lunch at Portal, where the owner picked up the tab for all the veterans that day - an unexpected and generous surprise. After lunch, we drove over the mountains on a good dirt road to the Chiricahua Monument visitor center where, mounted on the wall is slice of Juniper Pinion that was cut in 1997. The rings of growth are labeled with the dates, with the earliest being 1812. Incredibly, when cutting the slice for the exhibit, the saw hit a bullet that was fired into the tree sometime in the late 1800s - imagine the odds of finding the right tree and sawing into it in exactly the right spot! Of course it would be no problem for me - all I'd have to do is buy a very expensive saw, trek into the woods, and cut into any tree.....I'd find a bullet, or arrowhead, or maybe an unexploded hand grenade. From the visitor center it was a long trip home; we traveled a total of 300 miles for the day, most of it dirt road. No wonder our 16-month old SUV has over 30,000 miles on it!
Whenever we're asked the one place to see if visiting Tucson, we recommend the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a combination zoo-museum-botanical garden west of the city. Paths take you through cactus groves and outdoor animal exhibits, into hummingbird and bird aviaries, and into bat caverns. There's no better place to experience and understand the plants and animals of the desert southwest; it's a beautiful place that gets better each time we visit.
Tomorrow we're off to Texas; the wet summer has created a pollen tidal wave that has made us both miserable, and we always enjoy the holiday season in the San Antonio area. Being able to pick up and move when you want is one of the great things about our lifestyle. We'll take our time & visit some of our favorite stopovers on our way - come back and see how we're doing! Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Migrating South

We've traveled to our winter grounds, which for the next three months will be the Apache Flats RV Resort, located on Fort Huachuca (Wah-choo-ka) in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It's one of the best military RV facilities we've seen, with concrete pads and patios, picnic tables, excellent exercise and recreation facilities, and a super host. We even have shade trees! The only problem for us is that there is a maximum 3-month stay, so we'll have to look for another warm spot in late January. But in the meantime, we'll enjoy this park and the nearby commissary, great security, and nice views of the valley. Now if they'd just stop playing that damn bugle at 7:00 AM.....
On our way here we spent time in Las Vegas where our daughter Kim and her new husband Bill met us after driving up from Orange County. I didn't take many pictures and don't have much to say - Las Vegas has never been one of our favorite places since we lived there in the late 70s, and has only become more expensive and crowded over the years. Driving down from Reno we could see the city in the distance and what we thought was a cloud of pollution hanging over it; as we found out later it was cigarette smoke - everywhere we went the clouds of smoke made our eyes sting and clothes smell. On a positive note, we had a great time visiting with Kim & Bill, and our RV site on Nellis AFB was right underneath the approach path for the Thunderbird's return home. Kim, Bill, & I climbed up on the roof and had a front row view as they performed their arrival show.
We've had some inquiries on the new mini-blinds since we mentioned them and since we're aware that there are fellow Allegro Bay owners out there, I thought I'd post a few pictures of how they look. We're so pleased with the blinds - wish we would have installed them earlier and don't understand why almost every motorhome manufacturer installs the miserable to maintain & fix day/night shades. The mini-blinds are 1" wood, match the coach woodwork perfectly, and allow air to circulate through the open windows while still having a degree of privacy. I installed them with velcro on the bottom rail and inside the valance, so they don't move or rattle as we drive down the road. They were a bit of a challenge to install, but once I learned to remove the valance frame, install the blinds, and reattach the frame from the outside it went fairly rapidly. We ordered ours from and were pleased with the price and quality.
Brenda is back east making her annual visit to see her mother but will return soon. As usual after a visit with mom, it will take a few weeks of therapeutic neck rubs, hours of Johnny Mathis music, and a few bottles of white zin to get her back to normal. While she's been gone I've done some hiking; one memorable hike was in the Huachuca mountains, a three-mile trek that started at an elevation of 5230' and topped out at 6575'. It was a beautiful day and the trail passed through beautiful canyon country. I'm hoping to be able to walk upright again in a few days - right now I'm on the "Aleve" diet. Once Brenda is back we'll be out exploring - check back with us to see where we've been!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Finishing Up Our Oregon Stay

We've had a great time on the Oregon Coast - wonderful scenery, interesting and enjoyable volunteer work, and great people; but now it's time to wrap up our stay and head for our winter home in southern Arizona. Our last week here was busy; we made a trip to Eureka, California to find a place that could replace Brenda's eyeglass frames, finished exploring the coast, and wrapped up our stay with a picnic lunch hosted by the park. We didn't have much time to explore Eureka, an eclectic town of shabby strip malls, lumber mills, and an interesting historical area, but did manage to take this picture of the former Carson Mansion, now a men's club. Back in Brookings, we traveled the coastal highway and visited some of the many oceanside parks. One overlook in particular was truly amazing; the view of Arch Rock from a wooded coastal trail. We were able to sit on a park bench and watch cormorants fish and listen as the waves crashed....what a relaxing place! State parks and overlooks are located every few miles in each direction from Brookings: we have to say that in our travels we haven't seen any state that has a more beautiful and well developed park system than Oregon. And they do it without a state sales tax!
At Harris Beach SP, it was a time of change; all of the volunteers were leaving on the 1st of October to be replaced by a reduced number for the winter (and fishing) season. Including us, there were 5 couples with RVs in the park, three of us full-timing. In addition, the park operated the rest area located across the highway, and a large number of local folks volunteered there in the visitor center. We all gathered at the rest area on a sunny day for the park's "volunteer appreciation" picnic, where we were treated to sub sandwiches, chips, and small gifts. The park manager, Ranger David, thanked us all for our efforts and made a presentation to a rest area volunteer who had contributed many, many hours. It was a great time to say goodbye to everyone and spend some time with Ranger Angela, who we'll miss - her energy and cheerful personality (and those tasty organic chicken and pheasant eggs) made for a wonderful stay. Thanks Angela, and have a successful fishing season!
Our route from Oregon took us south into California, then back into Oregon where we picked up I-5 South back into California and the Mount Shasta Area. Approaching the' snow-covered 14,000' mountain, it seemed that it was hovering in the distance. We stopped to admire the beauty, then continued on our journey through the mountains, through Reno, and down the barren and largely uninhabited US 95 to Las Vegas, where we'll spend some time with our daughter and her new husband. With a little luck, we'll double our retirement savings in the casinos and send you all a little something.....until then, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Exploring the Southern Oregon Coast

We've been having a great time here at Harris Beach State Park; we've learned more about seals, sea lions, and coastal plants than we ever thought possible. The park has quieted down some now that the kids are back in school, and we no longer conduct the Junior Ranger program. It was a lot of fun for us and the kids seemed to enjoy the activities. One of our favorites was the seals & sea lion class; we played a game where the kids became seals & had to face the perils of predators, food shortages, and people throwing rocks at them, and where we used lengths of ropes to show the size of the different types of seals and sea lions. We're now conducting all of the evening programs, giving nature and wildlife walks, and presenting a PowerPoint show (Yippee!) on seals and sea lions of the southern Oregon coast. Thanks to intense training (and the magic of a volunteer vest complete with name tag), I'm able to show how the Queen Anne's Lace can be eaten as a wild carrot, a plant called "Self Heal" can be used to treat cuts and scratches, and how the leaves from a common Mullein can be used for comfortable shoe inserts. These things can become real important to us retired folks if the price of gas keeps going up. My favorite part of the nature walk is showing people the Cascara tree, a large shrub or small tree that is also known by the Chinook Indian name of "Chitticum". The previous host told the story about a camping trip with a girl scout troop; the first night they brought out the marshmallows and told the girls to go into the woods and get sticks. They did, they toasted their marshmallows and the next morning.....everyone had what we used to call the "green apple trots" and the line for the pit toilets was long and steady. As they found out, the bark of the cascara is a strong laxative; so strong in fact that when used commercially it had to be dried for a year before usable. By the way, the Chinook name for the tree is pigeon english......say it slowly...chit it cum......which is what happens if you ingest the bark!
The park is full of huckleberry bushes, and I've been picking them for cereal and pancakes. They're a wild blueberry and are delicious (Brenda thinks they're just OK). She prefers the blackberries that are also abundant, although they can be pretty sour-lemon tart. We're also involved in reorganizing the Junior Ranger program, converting 35mm slides into digital photos, and the recycling program. In our off time, we've had the chance to do some exploring along this beautiful coast. We've made a couple of trips to Crescent City, about 30 miles south, where the coastal redwood trees are huge and we can visit the nearest Wal-Mart. The area has a pretty lighthouse that can be reached at low tide and is the closest point to another interesting lighthouse, the Saint George's reef lighthouse. This lighthouse was constructed following public outcry over the sinking of the steamer Brother Johnathon in 1865 and the loss of 225 lives and a fortune in gold. Constructed on the reef eight miles off the coast and finished after a 10-year period, it cost over $750,000, making it the most expensive lighthouse ever built in the U.S. at the time. Difficult to maintain and dangerous to those who manned it (waves from a storm in 1952 broke the windows at the 150' level), the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1975 and replaced by an unmanned buoy. It's still visible on a clear day, even from Harris Beach 16 miles away. Surprisingly, the wreck of the Brother Jonathon wasn't discovered until 1993 and over the years over $5 million in gold coins were recovered.
Taking a trip inland, we drove north to Gold Beach and turned inland along the banks of the Rogue River, a beautiful and wild river that is a popular Salmon and Steelhead fishery, and is a popular tourist attraction for "jet boat" travel. The road wound around the river with some beautiful views, and eventually we came to the turnaround point, the tiny community of Agness, with it's unique sign. In Gold Beach, we finally found a boat that we could afford; unfortunately, it didn't seem very seaworthy. On the way back, we stopped and took this picture of "whale rock", one of the many memorable rock formations on the coast. The largest island off the coast of Oregon is right here at Harris Beach SP, known as "Goat Island", it is only 21 acres. Local lore is that Mr. Harris, who owned all the land around the area, decided that placing sheep and goats on the island would be a good idea; there was plenty of forage and they would be safe from predators. What he didn't realize was that during the winter strong storms pushed waves up and sometimes over the sides of the island (remember St. George's Lighthouse?), and the sheep were washed off, or fell off the island in panic. Sheep, of course, can't swim because their wool becomes saturated. Goats, however, swim very well and promptly left the island for greener (and dryer) pastures; as a result, the area was plagued by a feral goat problem for many years. The island is quiet now, and during our stay all we've seen are brown pelicans, cormorants, and gulls nesting on the island. We've only two more weeks here and still have a lot to see, come back and visit!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Harris Beach State Park

After a pleasant trip over the coastal range, we picked up highway 101 and headed south along the rugged Oregon coast to Brookings, Oregon and Harris Beach State Park. What a welcome change - after months of 90+ temperatures, the high here has been 75, and most days have been in the high 60s with nights in the 50s. The park, located right on a beautiful stretch of coastline, is one mile north of Brookings, a town of 6000 with a large harbor, good restaurants, and plenty of shopping opportunities (but NO Wal-Mart!). We've enjoyed visiting the Farmer's Market on Saturday; the produce has been outstanding, and we've enjoyed fresh-picked blackberries (they're everywhere!). Although we haven't been yet, we understand that fresh fish can be bought off of the boats each day; tuna and salmon are being caught offshore along with a variety of rockfish and snapper. Surprisingly, it's rained only one day since we've been here and no rain is in the forecast for the next 10 days. Our only complaint is that without warning, sea fog rolls in and sometimes makes for a dreary day, although it can be beautiful in the morning as the sun's rays shine through.
Five days a week, we conduct the "Junior Ranger" program, a one-hour program for children 6-12. The subjects are part of a state park curriculum; some of the classes are "Seals and Sea Lions", "Whales", "Oceans", and "Wildlife". The children are given an activity book which requires them to complete tasks during the day - they have to recycle, help clean their campsite, identify some plants, and follow the clues to discover a park "secret". At 5:30, we reopen the Junior Ranger yurt, review and stamp as complete their "passport", issue them the coveted "Junior Ranger" badge, and teach them the "secret sign". After three courses, they are awarded a certificate (suitable for framing), and a very nice embroidered patch. It's a really neat program for the kids and we've really enjoyed it. As you can imagine, Brenda is terrific at this. I sort of act as her semi-trained assistant and lug around the heavy props (ever tried to pick up a Gray Whale vertebrae?). We've already had some memorable moments, like the kid, who after being taught the "secret sign" and being sworn to secrecy, ran out the door to his grandfather and offered to sell it to him for ten bucks. Two nights a week I conduct an evening program, usually a one-hour walk through the woods and along the bluff overlooking the water. I had to cram to become familiar with the subjects; so far I've led walks to show people wildflowers, birds, and edible plants. Do you have any idea how much stuff grows in this climate? Fortunately, with my snazzy vest and hat, I become an immediate expert and no one seems the wiser that I'm making up facts as I go along.....well, maybe sometimes.
One of our favorite local plant is the Wild Fuchsia, which grows in large bushes and is usually the home for a group of Anna's hummingbirds, which stay here all year. I show people how you can pull apart the blossom and taste the sweet nectar; with all the hummingbirds in the park, we hardly see any at our feeder because of these beautiful flowers. The park is filled with flowers and trees, campsites are large and separated from each other by hedges and brush, and sites have electric, water, and cable TV - and WiFi. We're in a secluded area near the park headquarters and are enjoying being able to open the windows and turn off the air conditioning.
This is a great area for whale, seal, and sea lion watching. We've yet to spot a whale, but haven't had the time to sit and spend time watching. There are brown pelicans, cormorants, and gulls everywhere, and we watched these sea lions in a local harbor. We're working a little harder than we'd like as we struggle to learn the local wildlife and plants, but we're expecting things to slow down after labor day and then we'll be out exploring. Until then, we're enjoying the mild weather and beautiful views of the water. Come back and visit!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Onward to Oregon

It's been a while since I've had the time to update our travel blog; we've been busy with visiting friends, doing volunteer work, and making our way to the Oregon coast. We arrived back at Lee Metcalf NWR feeling like we'd returned home. It was great to see the refuge staff again, and we were able to park the motorhome on our old pad from last year. This year we were next to another couple, Kirk and Pam, veteran full timers and volunteers whose travels we've followed on their web site, Our Great Adventure. We've emailed back and forth over the past year, and last year suggested that they try Metcalf NWR for a volunteer stint. We had a great time getting acquainted, and swapped many stories (some actually true) of our adventures. Bob, the outdoor planner, volunteer coordinator, and our good friend, put us both to work the minute we arrived ("Hey, it's great to see you, I've got a few projects for you!") and we enjoyed putting on our volunteer shirts and going to work. We spent ten days working, visiting, and having a wonderful time. The only downside was the heat and smoke from wildfires burning east of the Bitterroot Valley and in the mountains west of us in Idaho. The smoke from the fire to the east was often spectacular, and as of today is still only 5% contained. Still, we had a few days of blue skies and clear air, and the view of the refuge with the mountains in the background was beautiful. Thanks to everyone in the Lee Metcalf NWR for making our visit special! We left there with a promise to return next spring, crossed over Bitterroots at Lolo Pass , then drove along the Lochsa River down the mountains into Idaho to spend four days at Orofino and the Clearwater Crossing RV Park. The park is new and very well maintained, and our site backed up to the bank of the Clearwater River where we could watch the ducks and osprey. The area around Orofino was surprising to us; while the river valley was much the same as other mountain areas we've visited, climbing out of the valley we entered a huge area of wheat and barley fields. Sort of like putting Kansas on top of a big, flat mountain. There were farms and rolling fields in all directions, but in the distance the smoke plume from a distant wildfire looked like the cloud from a nuclear explosion. Since we were in the area, we visited the Wolf Education and Research Center, the home of the "Sawtooth Pack", featured in TV documentaries and made famous by the photographers Jim and Jamie Dutcher. We had always looked forward to seeing the wolves, but were disappointed with our visit to the center. Only three wolves from the original pack are still alive; those that we remembered from the shows and pictures are buried in a special area of "wolf meadow", and the remaining wolves were not visible due to the heat and midday sun keeping them hidden in their den. Taking their place to keep us entertained, a doe grazed in the meadow and her twin fawns watched us with curiosity. Later in the week, we visited the Dworshak Reservoir, a 54-mile long lake created by the huge dam just outside Orofino. It's a beautiful lake, with excellent campgrounds and boat marinas developed by the Corps of Engineers. We visited the dam and talked with the staff about future volunteer opportunities, then took a scenic drive across the lake and over a large suspension bridge. We enjoyed our stay in Idaho, but failing to break the bank at the local Indian casino, we packed up and headed west, following the Columbia River Gorge (and terrible headwinds - a 5.5 MPG day) to Woodburn, Oregon, about 40 miles south of Portland. We stayed here last year at the Portland-Woodburn RV Park on the way to Montana. It has everything we needed; on one side is an outlet mall, on the other, a very good Workhorse service center. We were able to get our motorhome's oil changed and stock up on clothes (no sales tax in Oregon!), and drove to McMinnville to see the "Spruce Goose", now housed at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Having lived near the Air Force Museum Wright-Patterson AFB has spoiled us; while the Spruce Goose was interesting, the museum held little else noteworthy, and at $13 each we both felt it was overpriced. Still, it's an amazing aircraft and hard to believe that it was built and flown (sorta) almost 60 years ago. Maybe it was the trip to and from the museum that affected our visit; traffic here is horrible, reminiscent of Southern California. "The Five" as Interstate 5 is called by Californians, runs through here also and is always filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Not as many anorexic blond women in BMWs talking on cell phones as in Southern Cal, though. The weather here has been fantastic; highs in the 70s with very cool nights, but it's time to move on. We're off tomorrow on our trip to the coast, next stop Newport, then a stop at Bandon, then on to Harris Beach State Park. Stay tuned!