2017, our eleventh year of retirement and full-time RVing was enjoyable, interesting, and momentous. Momentous because of a reminder of our mortality, when Brenda underwent triple-bypass surgery after a series of minor (thankfully) cardiac “events”. We began the year at the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, during a record period of rain. There were times that it sounded as if we were under a waterfall, and listening to the TV or even talking was impossible. But we found that even after a period of gray skies and rain, a trip to the beach with pounding surf, seals, sea lions, and gulls would make our time here worthwhile.
In April, we headed south to dry out and get warm. We spent a month in Pahrump, Nevada, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. When we lived in Las Vegas in the late 70s, Pahrump was nothing but a collection of mobile homes and brothels. It still has a lot of mobile homes and a few brothels, but has grown to a town of over 40,000 as people try to escape the high real estate prices of Las Vegas. We enjoyed our stay, visiting the sights and traveling over the mountains to shop and dine in Las Vegas, but decided that one month was just about as long as we could stay and be entertained. We were intrigued by the existence of legal brothels, and while we didn’t venture inside (really, we never did!), just the outside views were entertaining enough. Ash Meadows NWR was a place we always wanted to visit, and were impressed by the facilities….but volunteering there (waaaay out there) is not something we’d consider.
We also made a trip, for a reason that escapes us, to Death Valley. Miles and miles of a parched, desolate valley where, if you step outside without lots of water, you’re certain to die a slow, painful death. That’s why it’s called Death Valley. And why we and thousands of others insist on spending time there is mystery. We watched as people walked a mile on a blistering salt lake where the high temperature has been recorded as 128F, just to take a picture of a sign…..what fun! Yes, there are some scenic viewpoints, but only because what you’re seeing is far away and you can stay in your air-conditioned car. Okay, you get the idea – this was our last trip to Death Valley. We hope.
In May we headed back to the Oregon Coast for our summer volunteer position at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings. This was a “partnership” position, where we worked for US Fish & Wildlife but were given a full hookup site in the park. We set up spotting scopes for people to view the marine wildlife, and to “pay the rent”, we taught one Junior Ranger class a week and gave a program or nature hike once a week.
It was around mid-May when Brenda started experiencing what she thought was acid reflux problems. After a few days of it getting worse, I convinced her to visit the local Urgent Care facility. From there it was a whirlwind – fast car drive 25 miles to nearest hospital, 70 mile ambulance trip to bigger hospital, overnight stay and air evacuation flight to Eugene, ambulance again to the Oregon Heart and Vascular Institute, and finally early Sunday morning surgery. Her triple-bypass was successful, the doctors and nurses were amazing, and Brenda’s recovery was beyond anyone’s expectations. We were back on the job two weeks after she was released from the hospital, and she’s never felt better. We’re so fortunate that we access to such great care – and so thankful to all of the wonderful nurses who cared for Brenda as if she were a member of their family. And a special thanks to the Harris Beach staff and volunteers for their concern and caring.
In spite of all of the spring rain, Oregon didn’t get another drop after early May. By August, wildfires were raging throughout the West, and Oregon’s largest was approaching Brookings. The sky was red, ash was falling, and the smoke thick when we received a call from Dawn, our US F&W contact, telling us to evacuate to Bandon. We quickly packed up, said our goodbyes to the great staff and fellow volunteers, and headed north. Fortunately for Brookings, the expected winds didn’t happen and the hundreds of firefighters were able to stop the fire’s advance. Thanks, Dawn, for watching out for us!
After a short time in Bandon, we headed east to visit our friends Don and Betty who spend the summer in Wyoming’s Star Valley. Our route took over roads we’ve traveled before; through southern Oregon and the Klamath valley, then up to Burns and central Oregon, then east into Idaho. We spent a few days in Boise, and then continued on through Idaho to Pocatello and into Wyoming. Star Valley is a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and studded with small towns with interesting western history. We explored the mountains, sampled the restaurants, and even had a chance to watch this moose as he raced alongside the road.
Saying goodbye to Don and Betty, we worked our way up to the Big Hole Valley and down into the Bitterrot Valley. If you follow our travels you know that we can’t pass up the chance to visit the area and our friends from our time volunteering at the beautiful Lee Metcalf NWR. We spent a week visiting, then drove over Lolo Pass to once again enter Idaho. Orofino is a place that isn’t well known, and we’re happy for that. A beautiful RV park, some good restaurants, and great scenery make this a mandatory stop for us. From there, it was north to Spokane and stocking up at the base commissary, and down to the Columbia River back into Oregon. The Columbia River Gorge is an amazing mix of water and tall cliffs. We visited The Dalles, a historic town with an exceptional historical museum. We followed the rriver to Portland, then down into the Willamette Valley, where Mt Hood dominates the landscape. After a stop at the Woodburn Outlet Center to stock up on tax-free clothing, then back to Bandon for the winter. We’ll be here until spring when we start a new adventure, so stay tuned, and thanks for traveling with us!