It seems it was just yesterday that I was writing the 2013 in Review blog. It isn’t until we sat down and look at the last year’s blogs and pictures that we realized how much we’ve seen and done this past year. While we didn’t cover a lot of ground, we made the most of the places we visited for another memorable year.
We had a late start from Wimberley, Texas while waiting for Brenda to recover from extensive shoulder surgery. But as soon as her physical therapy was complete, we packed up and hit the road. We had time to kill before our scheduled volunteer job in Oregon, so we headed into New Mexico and the Sacramento Mountains, an area we’ve visited many times but always enjoy coming back to. So much great history here; battles were fought, cattle and land were fought over, and Billy the Kid lived and died. The Army may have won the Indian battles, but the Apache won the economic war judging by the size and beauty of the Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino Resort. While Brenda tried her hand in the casino, I enjoyed sitting in the main lobby with its high windows overlooking the lake and Sierra Blanca, waiting for her screams of joy as she wins a big jackpot. I’m still waiting.
Our next stop was Silver City, another of our favorite places, but our plans to revisit the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Emery Pass, and the Gila Wilderness were changed by high winds and tree pollen that made both of us miserable. So off we went, north on Highway 180 through the incredible beauty of nearly unpopulated forests and mountains, crossing into Arizona and eventually connecting with I-40. Our next stop was Kingman, where we spent a few days in the local Freightliner service parking lot waiting for a new starter. We made a day trip to Oatman, where Brenda made friends with most of the wild mules that roam the streets. Thankfully, she couldn’t persuade any of them to join our cat on our travels, so once the motor home was fixed, we left for a stay in Las Vegas.
We always enjoy a stay at the Nellis AFB RV Park, and usually avoid the strip – all you have to do is look at the air quality from a distance. On a trip to Lake Mead, we were surprised to see how low the lake has become (and it’s even lower now).
While stationed here in the late 70s, I worked at an Air Force facility on the Nevada Test Site now known as “Area 51”. Although we couldn’t visit, I took Brenda to the nearest metropolis – Rachel, NV, (pop 54 humans), for a visit to the Little A’Le’Inn, where those who believe the Air Force is testing “captured alien space technology” congregate. Alas, the “Inn” was closed and we missed our chance to buy some of those cool alien-shaped salt and pepper shakers, but we did get to stay in the self-parking area.
We continued northwest, with a brief stop in Reno before pushing on to the Oregon Coast. Driving down the highway to our summer location of Humbug Mountain State Park, we were once again stunned by the beauty of the coast. Offshore rocks (sea stacks), crashing waves, screeching gulls – for us it was like coming home. We spent mid-May through October here, teaching the “Junior Rangers”, giving evening talks on seals and sea lions, and exploring the area. Just across the border into California, we wandered through the Lady Bird Grove’s immense Redwoods, and almost fell over backwards trying to see the tops.
We drove logging roads through the miles of forests in the Coastal Range searching for the Cobra Lilly, a carnivorous plant that resembles little space aliens:
Those who follow us know we’re all about food, and the Oregon coast is a land of berries and seafood. We visited blueberry farms, huckleberry patches, mussel rocks, and crabbing docks – good thing we have a large freezer!
In my past life I thought that Blue Crab was the tastiest of the crab; but now I know the one truth about being a crab connoisseur – Dungeness is best! And so I was thrilled when Ranger Greg, our volunteer boss and good friend invited me to go crabbing. On a beautifully calm and somewhat foggy day, we caught enough crab for a couple of meals, and I learned no matter how your grab ahold of a crab, it can (and will) make you bleed. But I had the last laugh – with melted butter and Old Bay seasoning!
While on the coast, we made arrangements to volunteer in 2015 at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area near Newport. With it’s classic lighthouse, beautiful visitor center, and great tide pools we’re looking forward to another great summer.
Spending time in the desert climate was a huge change after a summer on the Pacific coast. Our sinuses rebelled and our eyes watered, but after a while we started to adjust. After a month in Tucson, we moved to the Saguaro Escapee Park in Benson where our good friends Don and Betty were gracious hosts. The Christmas holiday was filled with friendship, good food, and parties. Next year we vow to spend a few months getting in shape – these people are the party champions of the Medicare set!
We’ve had the chance to try a Sonoran Hot dog (bacon wrapped, with avocado, pinto beans, onions and mayo), and found the best ones are from the food trucks -the ones that you don’t look inside of to see how things are prepared. And for what has become a yearly ritual for us long-suffering Cleveland Browns fans, we, along with our daughter, watched the 16th and final game of the Browns’ season. There’s never a 17th (playoff) game for us, but at least we can plan our January weekends without worrying about missing a game.
And so we came to another great year of travel – we’ve laid plans for a great 2015, so stay tuned!