Thursday, April 28, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: X you are here!

You are here!
Here's a map of Sunset Bay State Park.  Can you find us?  We're the happy campers in B-4.

A to Z Challenge 2016: W is for Welcome

This month I've been writing about our experiences as camp hosts at Sunset Bay State Park in Oregon.  It's a beautiful wooded park with easy access to the beach, and just a short drive into Charleston Harbor for great fresh seafood if we get tired of cooking.  In a lot of ways being a park host is like being a Walmart Greeter, except we're not putting stickers on your bags as you enter the park.  I'd like to think that the intent of the Walmart Greeter is to help customers efficiently get to where they need to go.  But, since that doesn't happen, they're probably there to watch out for shoplifters.

In the parks, we help campers find a site they've reserved on-line, or find a site for walk-ins that is big enough for their giant, over-sized RV's.  Last night's entertainment was watching the wrecker pull a behemoth RV out of the mud after the owner tried to maneuver the beast into a tight site surrounded by a mud bog.  $250.00 dollars later the driver had learned the lesson emblazoned on the park signs, "Stay on the pavement."  This morning we took our shovels and rakes and filled in the giant ruts he had torn in the grass.

Our job is to help people enjoy the park.  After a month, we have a wealth of local knowledge and freely share our recommendations for the best place to watch the sea lions, where to buy propane, or the best local restaurant for breakfast.  We have met some fascinating people.  Al spent four days here waiting for a package he had ordered to arrive.  He was waiting for a flashlight!  Al is riding his bike to Costa Rica.  Yesterday we met a couple from Germany.  She spoke English well, and her husband just nodded his head and said, "Thank You!" a lot.  They had rented a mid-sized RV and were exploring the southern Oregon coast.  I'm still nervous about RVing in my own country; they're pretty brave to drive an RV on unfamiliar roads.

It is fun to work with people who are on vacation.  Everyone is carefree and happy.  (Well, except maybe for that guy in the mud bog.)  We're happy to welcome them to Oregon's beautiful state parks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: V is for Volunteering

This is our second year as a volunteer for the Oregon State Parks.  Last year I read about an opening for a lighthouse host on a blog, Wheeling It, written by a full-time RVer.  I contacted the park ranger she mentioned in the post and the lighthouse was no longer available, but he was looking for hosts for the Port Orford Lifeboat Museum....and so began our adventures as park hosts.

The Lifeboat Museum assignment required us to work four days a week from 10:30 to 3:30.  Our museum wasn't very busy and we rarely had over 20 guests a day.  We gave a little introduction to the museum and pointed out interesting exhibits.  We also staffed the "gift shop," which was a couple of shelves in the lobby of the museum.  

The museum had an old WWII era dogtag maker and we made and sold dogtags for guests.  It was the spouses favorite part of the job.

We both loved the beauty of the area and having the ability to walk a trail or stroll the beach every day.  It was a peaceful and inspiring break from our regular, ordinary life.
We are heading back to Port Orford next week.  Now, we are camp hosting at Sunset Bay State Park.  Camp hosting is a different type of volunteer experience.  We have daily responsibilities and are on duty five days a week for four hours a day, but those four hours don't start and end on any regular schedule.  I think our job is to help campers have the best possible experience in our state parks.  We're here to help keep the park tidy, offer assistance, and sell firewood.  Everyone is on vacation.  People on vacation are in a good mood.  It's great to help people have a good time.

Ever think about volunteering?  There are a lot of opportunities available.  You can check out volunteer opportunities in Oregon at the Oregon State Parks website here.  There is also a link on that page to the application.  We've met lots of other volunteers who do this full-time.  There are openings with federal parks, Corp of Engineers, and many others.  Some even pay a salary...but I'm sure you have to work a lot harder than we do to get paid!  Think about it; volunteering is a way to give back to our parks systems and protect this resource for the future.

A to Z Challenge 2016: U is for Unexpected Benefits

Unexpected Benefits

Our month at Sunset Bay State Park ends this week.  We have enjoyed our time here and hope we will be invited back.  After volunteering last year at Port Orford's Lifeboat Museum, we happily learned to live with less and coexist in a small space.  We worked together and lived together.  It was a lot of togetherness!  We learned to take time alone and the benefits of silence.

Our experience at Sunset Bay has been much the same, and we've learned some new lessons.  The spouse was worried about being away from home for two months.  We brought my car in addition to the pickup that pulls the trailer, just in case he needed to return home for something.  Perhaps just having the option to "run home" (an 8-hour trip) eased his mind.  He recently said, "I thought I would need to go home to check on things, but now that I'm here, I don't need to."  This morning he's off collecting shrimp for fish bait and having some alone time.  I enjoy having Stanley (our trailer) to myself.  It's a lot easier to tidy up without having to climb over the spouse.

We spend time outdoors, mostly sitting in our campsite reading.  Although, we both are walking more and riding our bikes.  We've learned that we need more than reading to pass our time camping.  Most of the other hosts have taken up hobbies that are travel-friendly.  Our new friends, Chuck and Jane, can be seen almost every day sitting at the table in front of their trailer working on their projects.  Chuck whittles wood he finds around the camp and Jane makes rag rugs and placemats on a small loom.  Before we leave she's going to give me a lesson.  I made a quick run into North Bend to visit the craft store and picked up a few supplies to get me started on my artistic endeavors.  I'm not sharing yet.  So far I've made prototypes...the nice way of saying I'm still experimenting.  If you are the recipient of one of my new masterpieces, just smile and say "Thank you!"  You can laugh later and I'll join in when I get over my fear of trying new things!

Have a great day.  It is good to be retired!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: S and T are for Stop Thief!

I'm catching up by posting two letters.  S and T are for Stop Thief!  One of our responsibilities in our camp hosting gig at Sunset Bay State Park is to sell firewood.  On the weekends when there are more campers here, we load the electric cart with wood and drive around the campground like an ice cream truck and sell wood.  During the week, we have a cart with wood parked at the entrance to our site. We make a surprising amount of money for the park selling wood.  People are honest.  Most campers knock on the trailer door if we're not outside, but some have just taken wood and left the money stuffed in the cart or our front door.  One time we found a twenty dollar bill under the windshield wiper of our car.  

Last week we had beautiful weather and the park was full.  We sold a lot of wood from the cart in our driveway.  Once the sun went down it turned cold and business picked up.  One guy stopped by and confessed that he had bought wood in town.  He tried numerous times to get a fire started, but it just smoked and never caught fire.  The wood was too wet.  He asked if the spouse would trade his bundles for two of the park's dry bundles. The spouse gave the guy some dry wood and he was so grateful he said he would be a hero to his family when he got a fire going.  The spouse stacked the bundles of wet wood next to the cart and said he'd put it in the woodshed to dry out in the morning.  We covered the wood in the cart with a tarp and closed up shop for the night.

In the morning, the spouse took the tarp off the cart and all the wood was gone.  In its place was a twenty dollar bill for the four bundles of wood.  The spouse looked next to the cart and saw that the wet wood bundles were also gone.  That customer did not leave ten dollars to pay for the wood.  That's karma.  If you steal wood you get wood that won't burn.  Serves him right!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: Q is for Quiet

We have been enjoying the laid back lifestyle at the beach.  It is peaceful and quiet here, and other than our "work" duties, there is little that has to be done.  This time of year it is mainly retired people camping.  There haven't been any rowdy groups to break the calm tempo of life here.

Today we ventured into new territory.  Along with a fellow park volunteer,  we kayaked 4.5 miles from the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to the Charleston Bridge.  Until we rounded Valino Island and could see the Charleston Bridge, we didn't see another human.  It was a lovely break from civilization. The only sounds were the geese taking flight and the thwap, thwap, thwap of our paddles against the water. 

I was surprised that we covered that many miles so quickly.  I hadn't even stopped to eat the snack I had packed!

I took a selfie, just to prove I really am a kayaker, but I don't look especially peaceful and relaxed in this shot!

Here's a shot of the spouse and our friend, Julie, exploring near the shoreline.

What a great day of peace, quiet, and good company!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: P is for Pacific Coast

The spouse and I are spending April and May on the beautiful Pacific Coast of Oregon.  We are volunteering for Oregon  Parks and Recreation Department.  Oregon is blessed to have beautiful state parks and, thanks to the "Beach Bill" passed by the legislature in 1967, the public has "free and uninterrupted use of the beaches."

Most people know that the Pacific Crest Trail, made famous in the 2014 movie "Wild" with Reese Witherspoon, runs through Oregon. Did you know that Oregon also has the Oregon Coast Trail that runs 382 miles along the Pacific Coast in Oregon.

Yesterday I walked a section of the trail.  Here's the rest of the story:

While the spouse and I are at the coast, we've had our mail forwarded to the park. When we get around to it, we drive up to the ranger station to pick it up.  Yesterday I decided to walk.

I asked the spouse, "Is there a trail that leads up to the ranger station?"  He says, "Yeah, just go down by the hiker/biker camp and you'll see the trail.  It goes right to the ranger station."

I head off for a 15 minute hike and find the hiker/biker camp easily.

I cross the little bridge over a boggy area,

and start up the trail.  

The trail is heading up the hill and I chug along easily following the well-groomed trail.  A few minutes later I can no longer see the camp or hear cars from the highway.  I am alone in the forest.

Twenty minutes later I am wondering why I can't see the ranger station.  Ten minutes after that I realize that I am exactly like those dumb people you read about in the newspaper who get lost in the wilderness.  I have no cell phone, I'm dressed in short sleeves and slip-on shoes, and I have no snacks or water.  I am alone in the forest.  I keep walking.

The trail gets harder to see.  A few times I had to make a decision about which path was the main trail.  I can't hear or see any sign of civilization.  The forest is beautiful...except for the spider webs strung across the trail.  I begin to wonder if I'm going to have to eat grubs and worms to stay alive.  I keep walking.  This trail has to eventually get somewhere.  After walking about an hour I can hear cars in the distance and finally the trail breaks out onto the highway.  I have no idea where I am on the highway; there are no signs, but I turn left and keep the ocean on my right.  After a short walk, I begin to recognize some of the all looks different when you're whizzing by in a car!

The ranger station is about a half a mile back from where I exited the Oregon Coast Trail.  I picked up the mail and asked the ranger if there was a trail to the campground.  

"No" she says.  "There's no trail up from the campground to here, but the Oregon Coast Trail goes to Bastendorf Campground."

When I got back to our campsite, I told the spouse that I was taking a nap for the rest of the day and I would NEVER trust his directions again!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: O is for Odor

We are camped in a beautiful wooded campground by the Pacific Ocean.  We have been blessed with sunny weather.  The sky is bright blue, the birds are abundant, and the stars shine brightly at night.  As park hosts, one of our assigned tasks is checking each campsite after the campers leave to make sure everything is tidy.  We usually walk our route several times a day to pick up litter and chat with campers.

"Gawd, what's that smell?" I say to the spouse as we walk along the A Loop road.  "It smells like someone has been smoking weed all night!"

I look over at the folks in the campsite and they don't look like party animals, but since Oregon legalized marijuana, it has become more common to smell the distinctive odor in public areas.

After checkout time, the spouse and I went back to check the site.  The strong odor still lingered.  We looked around for the source of the smell.  No, we didn't find a bale of marijuana...that happens only once in a lifetime, but you can read about that experience here.  We found skunk cabbage!  Lots of skunk cabbage!

This stuff really smells, and it smells just like nasty, day-old marijuana smoke...or, um, I mean as I've been told.

It grows all along the Pacific coast in wet, boggy areas.  

When I made reservations for our camping trip this summer with the granddaughters, I avoided the A loop boggy area. 

I much prefer odor-free camping!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: N is for Nomadic

This month and the next we are living in our 25 foot trailer while we park host at two different state parks in Oregon.   We bought our first RV when I retired almost eight years ago.  The farthest we've traveled from Oregon was to Mount Rushmore.  That summer we covered a lot of ground as we moved about every two days, and explored National Parks with our granddaughters. 

Snow in June in Yellowstone

Last year we volunteered for the Oregon Parks Department for the first time.  We had a one month assignment at the Lifeboat Museum in Port Orford, Oregon.  We'll be there again next month.  

We are not nomadic, roaming from place-to-place or park-to-park is not our lifestyle.   But, as park hosts, we have met many people our age who are.  I have been surprised by the number of retired people who are full-time RVers.  All of the park hosts we have met are retired and many live in their RVs full-time.  They host a month or two at one location and then move on with the weather to milder climates.  Some of these folks have kept a home, but many have not.  I don't see this in our future.  

We like the change of pace of living in a new area.  We like being forced out of our routine.  We try new things, exercise more, and don't have to worry about all those mundane, everyday things that we're required to do at home.  But, after awhile,we like to go home and get back into that routine.  We aren't nomads at heart.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: M is for Murder

M is for Murder

Well, maybe it was only an attempted murder!

We're enjoying the birds at Sunset Bay State Park, even the crows, and there are a lot of them!  Of course, when I wanted a photo of a group of crows (a murder), I could only find these two.  We have learned to never leave anything edible untended.  Our first evening here a crow made off with half of a hamburger bun!

Look at the beautiful blue color of this Steller's Jay.

I couldn't get close enough to this woodpecker to get a good picture.  He was feasting on the swarming ants in the fence post.

We've got A Field Guide to Western Birds and some good binoculars.  I think I might be able to identify a few birds by the time we leave here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: L is for Lighthouses, Laundry, and Lights Out

L is for Lighthouses, Laundry, and Lights Out

The Oregon coast is lined with lighthouses.  Yesterday we visited the Coquille Lighthouse at Bandon.

Today we were back at work at Sunset Bay State Park.  The other set of camp hosts had the day off, so we had to clean up both their route and ours.  Since it is the middle of the week, there were only 8 campsites that needed to be checked out.  We still found time to get some chores done and have some fun.

Last night there was a terrific storm.  There were strong winds and our rain gauge this morning showed we had received an inch of rain.  In the middle of the downpour, the power went out.  A little later the ranger came by to tell us that it was a general outage and power was out across the area.  Our Stanley has battery power for lights, and we have a propane furnace, so we settled in to wait out the storm.  We slept with the pinging of raindrops on the roof and an occasional flash of lightening. 

This morning the trails and roads were covered with debris knocked down by the wind and rain. There was a high surf advisory in effect, and we headed up to Shore Acres to see the waves.

Look how high the waves are above the cliff!

The Cape Arago Lighthouse is the tiny speck in the center of the picture below.    

Here's a closer look at the Cape Arago Lighthouse with the raging surf.  

I did laundry today, not just because it starts with "L,"  but because it's our assigned time to use the laundry center provided by the state park.  It feels like an adventure when I take the shortcut in the picture below.

Another good day in retirement.  We are living a life of leisure!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: K is for Know

What do you is Wednesday.  That means it's time for What the f**k Wednesday.

WTF Wednesday is a semi-regular feature of this blog. It documents the things that have made me pause, slap my forehead and say, "What the f**k!"  Well, that and I just like saying WTF. I'm retired. I don't have to watch what I say anymore. I'm not any one's role model.

On Tuesday, our day off,  we explored Bandon, a small coastal community south of our campsite.  We were searching for junk shops when we spotted this...

Now, ignore for a minute the politically incorrect Indian saluting "How." (Although I think it looks more like "Heil Hitler.)  Who names a deli after an enema?

This made me slap my forehead and say WTF!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: J is for Junk

J is for Junk

Today was our day off.  No selling firewood, picking up litter, or fixing the tire ruts left in the lawn by careless drivers for us today.  Today was for exploring.  We started the day driving the scenic loop to Bandon.  Along the way, we stopped at the Seven Devils wayside and found a nearly empty beach and pounding surf.

I thought the "seven devils" would be rock formations or mountains but, according to the informational marker, the road leading along the coast was named seven devils because of the steep hills the wagons had to cross to get to the ocean.

We continued along the scenic loop to the mouth of the Coquille River to see the lighthouse.

The lighthouse sits on the breakwater leading to the mouth of the river.  You can see the open ocean at the end of the breakwater.

On the land side of the breakwater, there are gentle grass-covered dunes and then a climb down to a beach that is piled high with driftwood.

We left the beach and headed to Bandon in search of antique and junk stores.  Both the spouse and I enjoy exploring junk stores for treasures.  It's not that we need any more junk, we just enjoy the search.  We always try to have a mission.  Today I was looking for the perfect clock for Stanley and the spouse was in search of a digging tool for metal detecting.  Today we found neither!  Turns out Bandon doesn't have a lot of second-hand or antique stores.  We found only one that was open.

I found the perfect vintage looking clock, but when we plugged it in, it was broken. No sale!  We found a few knives for the trailer for $2.00.  It's fun to search.  Here's the spouse having fun...and the perfect broken clock.

Total expense junking:  $2.00!  We ended the day at Bi-Mart and purchased a digging tool.  A pretty successful day...a full day of fun, not much money spent, and only two useful knives to junk up our trailer.
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