Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Gem of the Pacific Northwest and Other Stuff

Since my last blog post, we spent an additional two and a half weeks at Camping World and, finally, had the entire heat pump unit replaced. Camping World went to bat for us because it was going to be a nightmare otherwise and we are grateful they prevailed. And, yes, I did spend our last night there baking cookies for the entire staff—7 1/2 dozen. In the morning, we went inside the store to settle our bill and pass out plates of cookies. We had small, individual plates specifically for the people who were responsible for making the repairs, dealing with the insurance company, and finding the necessary parts. We had large plates piled high with the scrumptious Snickerdoodles for the parts and service department, the store clerks, and the sales department. My sister had commented on Facebook that it would've taken her all night to bake 7 1/2 dozen cookies in the tiny oven in her trailer, and the women at Camping World were thinking the same kind of thing, as women would. We women can relate to the effort of baking cookies, dozen after dozen, in a normal oven. But to bake only a half to three quarters of a dozen at a time? They certainly appreciated the time, effort and diligence. The guys? They were just thrilled to have cookies! Never mind the work that went into it. But they deserved it. Everyone made us feel welcome.

Welcome. That is the feeling I got from the entire Eugene, Oregon, area, overall. On a day I had to go to the laundromat, I noticed the Springfield Mall across the street and down a ways and decided to drive around it. I found that they had two movie theaters. One with 17 screens and one with 12. I suggested to Rob that we go see a movie, since the last time we had was in Asheville, North Carolina. I checked online and saw that Divergent was playing at the theater with 12 screens. Great! We chose a day and time and parked our car outside one of the theaters thinking they'd be right next to each other. We walked inside to discover that they were not next to each other and as we were wondering which direction to go, a young man of about 20 walked by so we asked him. He told us he was headed that way himself and to come with him. He asked us questions about where we were from and how long we'd be in town. He even introduced himself to us, shaking each of our hands, as we walked and made smalltalk. He escorted us to our destination and we thanked him as he disappeared into the crowd. I'm not sure if he was actually headed to the theater or if he just meant to be helpful and neighborly. Either way, he left us with a good impression, and that is the vibe I got from the whole area.

While we stayed at Camping World, we got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales at a local WalMart and we had the opportunity to tour Marathon Coach, which was just up the street. Marathon builds motor coaches for those who have the means to buy them—rock stars, race car drivers, actors and just plain rich folk. Built on Prevost frames, they start at about $1.6 million. They have some truly beautiful finishes, but they are just too ostentatious for my tastes, and I think I'd feel the same way whether I were rich or not. Rob loves the technology, but I'd rather not have to find the iPad in order to turn on a light. You know what I mean?

When we arrived in Graham, Washington, we were warmly greeted by Tina, the RV park's manager, with a hug for each of us. I'd been keeping Tina apprised of our progress at Camping World, calling her to move our reservation out, as needed, and her giving me pep talks when I'd sound frustrated, because every time I called her was after receiving news of additional delays. My last call was to say that even though we'd set the reservation out a few days we could actually 'come tomorrow and would that be okay?' She said, 'get your ass in here, girl!'

Tina's welcome gave us a great first impression of the area. Tina is from Arkansas and is living there only because her daughter and family live nearby, and I attribute her warmth to her origins. We kept busy over the next couple of days meeting and spending time with Rob's cousin Nick from New Hampshire, who was stationed here while in the military and never left, along with his wife Cheryl, and with friends, Dean and Diane, whom we met at Balmorhea State Park in Texas. Dean and Diane were staying at an interesting equine camping area at the base of Mount Rainier. People bring their horses there to camp and ride, and it's free. It's a lovely, forested area, quiet, with the scent of horses and their accompanying manure wafting through the air. Didn't bother me a bit.

After all that visiting, the initial impression wore off. I started picking up on the vibe of the general area and the RV park. We went into a couple of stores in town and walked around the park and although no one was actually unfriendly, I didn't come away with a sense of friendliness, either. It was more of a feeling that my presence was merely tolerated. It is as though people living around here are afraid of strangers—not at all quick to smile or become engaged. Also, in our experience, the paragliding community has always been open and congenial with a ready Hi and How ya doin', especially when meeting others who seem interested in their sport. Not so, in my opinion, when I observed pilots landing the day Rob went to fly Tiger Mountain. The only people involved with paragliding who were friendly was the fellow at Seattle Paragliding whom Rob had made contact with in advance to the get the local flying scoop, and the family sitting near me who turned out to be from the San Francisco Bay Area. Everyone else seemed friendly only with those they already knew. Some might think it's just my imagination but my senses pick up on this kind of stuff and I've learned to trust my instincts. I'm rarely wrong.

Rob's cousin Nick and his wife, Cheryl, were great sports and took me to the perfect location to photograph the Seattle skyline. I'd been keeping track of the weather forecasts from the time Nick first mentioned the possibility and the day Nick and Cheryl came by for an afternoon visit was the evening the weather was supposed to be clear. I announced that the forecast was still in my favor and asked Nick if he was still willing to take me. He was, we went, and it couldn't have been a more spectacular evening. The temperature was mild and the lights of the city were bright against the night sky. To get to our vista point, we drove down narrow streets in West Seattle through a neighborhood with unique and lovely, little houses with trimmed and manicured landscapes, each with a spectacular view of Seattle and architecture that spoke of the early 20th century. Although there was still light in the sky when we headed out, it was midnight when we got back.

Another photographic boon was the first evening we were here. The setting sun reflected off the glacier studded terrain of Mount Rainier and I scrambled to get my camera as the nearly full moon rose to the left of the mountain. I had my brother, David's, words echoing in my mind—"IF you can see Rainier"—after I'd mentioned that we would stay in an RV park called 'Rainier View.' He was right. One can not see Rainier more often than one can. After the moon arced over the top of the mountain to the right side, I knew I had my shot. The next night, I photographed the Super Moon. I am grateful the weather cooperated.

The weather cooperated in another way, too. The day before we'd planned to drive up to Mount Rainier National Park, Rob came down with a cold. Thank goodness his cold was short-lived because I knew the weather would not, could not hold. Two days later, weather holding, we were on the mountain and it is beautiful. The road takes you a little more than a third of the way up. Any further and you have to hike and climb. Ah, if only we could have the same bodies we had 25 years ago… Afterwards, while standing by The Beast, I stared at Mount Rainier and visualized about how tall Mount Diablo, my hometown mountain, would be next to it. Mount Diablo, at 3,848 feet and once used as the base and meridian for surveying the western United States, is nothing but a pimple in comparison to the soaring majesty of Rainier's 14,409 feet.

We are looking forward to seeing our daughter Susanna and son-in-law Terry, who will arrive in Seattle for our last weekend here. Susanna's maid-of-honor, Susie, lives here and she will be our city tour guide. I'm hoping to see the Space Needle and Pike's Place Market at the very least. We've planned a barbecue for them here at the RV park, mostly so Susanna can meet her 2nd cousin, but I think some old-fashioned dutch oven cooking is in order. It'll be a fun party.

Then on we will go to Sandpoint, Idaho, to visit Mike and Denise, who we met in Savannah, Georgia. I love this life.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the photos.

Josh, who went to bat to get the insurance company to play ball.

Receptionist, Shannon, who is now in Newfoundland working on her Master's in forensic anthropology.

Coaches at Marathon in for repairs or being built.

The upholstery room.

Rob checking out upholstery selections.

Work stations from cabinetry to electrical.

Looks way too complicated for me.

The late Paul Newman's hospitality coach used at racetracks around America.

The interior of Paul Newman's coach.

An example of one of Marathon's spec coaches.

Beautiful finishes.

Another example of a spec coach. The ceiling lighting changes colors.

Meeting the Clydesdale day.

What magnificent creatures!

They were getting excited because they were getting unhitched.

Only the size of small dinner plates.

My favorite Mount Rainier shot.

Okay. I've got shots of the Blood Moon and the Super Moon. Now I just need to photograph the Milky Way.

Rainier at sunset

Rob flying above me.

Pleased with his flight, but the GoPro didn't turn on when Rob pressed the button. Sigh.

Seattle Skyline

Seattle Lights

Mount Rainier by day.

The old filling station in Mount Rainier National Park.

Glacier fields.

Gray Jay.

And he wasn't the least bit afraid.


If only I could have gotten above the clouds, too.

The wildflowers were amazing, too.


  1. Great photos, Mom. I especially like the last one with the wildflowers. The way the clouds, sky, and mountain look beyond the trees is awesome. The whole picture looks like a mixture of photo and painting. Counting down the days til we get to see you. Love you!

  2. What a fabulous story So glad that you are having a great time. The pictures are breathtaking. Look forward to more of your of your adventures PS new email address for me don't ask long story.. its talk soon

  3. Really enjoy the reads and the pictures I can hardly wait for you to see us here in Maine, I really didn't have enough time to get to know you two even if I felt this strange connection to Rob. I feel like I have known him for years and I wasn't even born when he was in NH staying with Gram and Gramps.. Stay safe travel wisely and enjoy everyday to its fullest.

  4. So your "advertising" on the side of your RV works. :) I was driving next to you for a bit on the way out of Hayden, Idaho heading north and thought I should look you up and read about your adventures! I was on my way home to Priest River, Idaho, and I see you are headed to Sandpoint! Lovely photos! And paragliding?! Wow!

    1. Thank you for reading, Mindy Williamson! So appreciated. Come back again.