Friday, October 4, 2019

The Southwest Trip that Wasn't

     On Saturday morning in the Taos, NM, Urgent Care the first customer called up was a man with his young daughter. Their insurance had expired a year ago and Urgent Care wouldn’t see the girl without $130 co-pay up front. He seemed to be known in the clinic and they absolutely wouldn’t see the girl without payment. He stormed out. Next called was an Australian couple where the woman had severe back issues. They did have traveler’s insurance and were told, after checking their policy, it would be $130 to see the doctor, but they’d get that back from their insurance. This post is about why we were witness to this early morning scene in Taos and what resulted from our visit to Urgent Care.

Oldest House in America

The plan for our fall southwest trip was well thought out and meticulously executed. Two days in Santa Fe staying in timeshare, three days in Taos timeshare with time to visit our adopted niece and her family. There would be lots of time for photography. Then we’d move north to Durango, CO, for four days with visits to Mesa Verde and Silverton. Next, we’d swing into Arizona to visit Canyon de Chelly with a Navajo guide and a couple more days in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest before driving back to Albuquerque and flying home. Brilliant! Too bad reality didn’t match the planning.
New Mexico Museum of Art

Trying to make a little art of my own in the museum.

     The first part of the trip ran smoothly, even though we had to run clear across the Las Vegas terminal because we misread the reader board and sat in C9 until they were calling our name for our flight leaving from B9. In Santa Fe we did just what we had planned. We visited the Oldest Church in the US, the Oldest House, numerous shops, the Governor’s Palace for native jewelry shopping, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. We ate well with good breakfasts at the New York Deli and The Pantry (the number one dining spot in Santa Fe). We also found some of the best pizza we’ve ever had at Backroad Pizza,  a Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives selection.
Breakfast at The Pantry

Great Pizza

On our way to Taos after two nights in Santa Fe we stopped to visit our adopted niece Jas Cecelic, her husband Zach, and two-year-old daughter Zea. 

They live in a modified yurt on five acres outside Truchas, NM, at a little above 8,000 feet. Here they have a natural farm supplying local produce to area restaurants and are building their own home. It’s a truly rustic lifestyle, but Jas and Zach are brilliant, well-educated, happy, and dedicated; and Zea is beautiful and so in touch with the environment. We visit every chance we get. In Taos that evening is when things started to slip off the rails. I started feeling badly—cough, sniffles, headache, breathless—and felt worse the next morning. That prompted the visit to Urgent Care I mentioned earlier.

San Fransisco de Asis Church, Taos

A favorite subject for artists such as Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe.

When I got my turn—no co-pay required with my insurance—my vital signs weren’t too far off the norm. The young doctor wasn’t sure what to tell me. I had cold symptoms, but no fever (even though I had had the chills) and heart and lungs seemed fine. Finally, her diagnosis was possible walking pneumonia with a touch of altitude sickness. She gave me three prescriptions and said to rest. We got the meds, went back to our timeshare, and I took a nap. A little after noon I thought we might yet do a bit of sightseeing, so we drove out to Arroyo Seco for cokes at the Merchantile. By the time we got our cokes I was so dizzy I could barely make it back to the car. To the Urgent Care for our second visit. Again, the doctor couldn’t figure out what to tell me. Now I had a fever of 101.6 and was in a drug fog that was closing in. She finally swabbed for flu and got a positive. Her reaction was, “That explains everything. You’ve got the flu!” Drop one of the earlier meds, keep the second one, and use your judgement on the third. Also, add a new flu medication and rest. It sounded fine.
Farmhouse Cafe, Taos

Rural Art, Taos

Too bad it wasn’t fine. I finally dropped the third medicine and some of the fog went away, but the flu medicine, although it seemed to make me feel better, had the side-effect of No Sleep. Saturday night I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep all night. And even though I felt good enough to be more active—out for a light lunch and some photography at the Rio Grande Bridge—Sunday night I got no more than two hours of sleep. Earlier on Sunday we had seen the writing on the wall and cancelled all those well planned stays and tours and changed our tickets to fly home on Tuesday. 

I did make it back to the church twice to photograph it in different light.

The drive on Monday with very little sleep and Anne helping was a fright (not because of Anne's driving) and it was four in the morning on Tuesday before I got real sleep, two hours worth. In total, I had gone about 85 hours on four hours of sleep before I got on the plane for home. Thankfully, I did sleep on the plane. At home we got in to see my doctor early on Wednesday and the diagnosis was the flu along with a reaction, sleeplessness, to the medicine. Rest and recovery is now the treatment, but there are some lessons from the trip: First, always be prepared for the unforeseen with cancellation information, medical data, insurance, etc. Second, be flexible and prepared to change. And third, always listen to your wife (spouse)—if I had had my way I would have tried to soldier through the trip, which would have been an absolute disaster, physically and financially. As it was, Anne’s good judgement got me the best care we could get (even with the missed diagnosis), allowed us to recoup most of our planned expenses, and saved us from real disaster. 
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rain Storm

    The trip may have not been good, but I hope at least it makes an interesting story.
Rio Grande

Out of Denver on the flight home.
NEXT: Trying to get well.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Travel Trailer Roadtrip

Anne and I planned a six day five night road trip to the southern Oregon and northern California coast for September, after the kiddies were back in school. We left on Monday and drove to Florence, Oregon, in mostly heavy rain. This was going to be a good test for “Morse,” our Mini Max travel trailer. 

Morse named after the Oxford detective of British TV  because we hoped our Morse would be as interesting and competent as its namesake. Looking for some respite from the rain, we remembered that the Gingerbread House in Mapleton had reopened as a restaurant in the past year. It was a good spot for a split of sandwich and gingerbread as well as a break from driving in the rain. 
The soggy Gingerbread House

A quick review of the Gingerbread House would include friendly service, decent sandwich, and great gingerbread.  On our first night we boondocked or dry camped (without hook up) in the RV parking area of the Three Rivers Casino—one night free, up to three more nights with a certain amount of casino play. It’s a good deal if you don’t lose your caravan (that’s what the Scots call a travel trailer) title at the tables—we didn’t. 
The first night of the trip at Florence.

Three times during the night I was awakened by extremely heavy rain showers pounding on our fiberglass roof. Through all that rain we found no leaks. Thank you. Morse.
The next morning after a lucky turn in the casino winning back all I had lost the night before, we breakfasted at the Brown Hen Restaurant in Florence. 
Anne appears in most of the food pictures. Her smile is better than any of the meals.

Always great food, huge portions, and one of the few places left that will only accept cash. Our destination for the day was the Bandon/Port Orford KOA campgrounds—to be our first stay in an improved campground. At Winchester Bay, an active pleasure boat and fishing port, we stopped for coffee at the Winchester Bakery. It was closed, as was most of the other businesses in town. What wasn’t closed was for sale, including the local real estate office. Hard times for small villages on the Oregon coast (and elsewhere). 

By the time we arrived at the KOA (Kampgrounds of America, one of several nationwide systems of campgrounds which includes RV sites, cabins, and tent sites), the rain had passed. We easily hooked up Morse to the shore electrical system and tried to deal with a grumbling fridge and a series of blinking warning lights. 
Bandon/Port Orford KOA

We called the service department at our RV dealer and they gave us an answer to our problems. It turns out their answer was wrong, but it led us to a solution anyway. With things working again we unhitched our Ford F150 tow vehicle and drove back to Bandon (now famous for its five world class golf courses). A little retail therapy at Bandon Face Rock Creamery (the old Bandon Cheese Factory) and two local sweet shops helped us forget about our recalcitrant fridge. 
The counter girl is slicing some wonderful Dry Monteray Jack cheese for me.

Cranberry Goodies Galore

This sculpture in Bandon is made from recycled junk found washed up on local beaches.

We drove out for photos of the Coquille River Lighthouse. 

One of the friendly locals.

And then back into town for a lovely dinner at Angelo’s Italy—wonderful Italian bistro. 

Then back again out for sunset photos of the lighthouse. To get back to Morse who was basking in the electric juices, we drove the old scenic coastal highway for beach photos.
On the Bandon coastal scenic route.

Our night’s sleep was not interrupted by rain storms, thankfully, but it was a cold night because we left too many windows open—so much to learn.
At the KOA we got several “cute rig” comments, and I’m not sure how Morse liked being called, “Cute.” We drove a few miles back to the village of Langlois for breakfast at the Spoon (used to the Greasy Spoon). 

It’s a funky, new age-type restaurant in the middle of nowhere that serves plentiful, good tasting food. After breakfast we hitched Morse (we’re getting better at this) to the F150 (which we’ve now named “Lewis,” who is great on his own, but goes well with Morse) ready for our drive to Crescent City KOA in California. Our first side trip for the day was to Cape Blanco Lighthouse, the most westerly lighthouse in the lower 48. 

Views from Cape Blanco

Off this road there were several side trips we couldn’t take because of towing a trailer (even a small one). The road was quite rough and when we got to the parking lot for the lighthouse we spent a bit of time picking up in the trailer--they say that when going down the road with a trailer, the trailer is going through a 6.5 earthquake all the time. After taking photos from the view point, we continued on to Crescent City. Past Gold Beach we stopped for photos and a stretch at Pistol River where we used to run our sled dog team along the beach when we lived in Brookings. 
The beaches by Pistol River.

Our team on a Pistol river run, about 1982.

My how Brookings has changed! When we lived there in 1980-84 it was a sleepy coastal town with barely a grocery store. On this day we couldn't find a place to park truck and trailer in the large and very full Fred Meyer’s lot. In Harbor we did find room to park and had a good lunch at the Hungry Clam. 
For a change I gave Anne the camera so I could be in a food picture at the Hungy Clam.

From there it was only about 20 miles to the Crescent City Redwoods KOA, our digs for the next two nights. This was our first back-in camp site and I managed to put Morse on the spot the first try. 
Lewis and Morse at our Crescent City KOA campsite.

Again we were very pleased with the KOA campgrounds.
Day Four of our trip began with a breakfast of fried leftovers and peaches, strange but filling. 

Driving Lewis and traveling without Morse we visited Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. This lighthouse is on a tidal island and in the morning the lighthouse was cut off by the sea. In the afternoon when we returned the lighthouse was accessible. 

We did notice that four or five families or couples seemed to be camped out in the lighthouse parking lot. With their vans, pickups, and large SUVs stuffed with belongings, I don’t know whether to call them homeless or modern gypsies—they didn’t make the parking area feel very safe. From the lighthouse we drove down Hwy 101 through Redwoods National Park, with stops for photos along the way, 

to Prairie Creek State Park and Fern Canyon. It’s an eight mile one lane barely-improved road to get to Fern Canyon, 

One of three creek crossings on the way to Fern Canyon.

but the half hour—that’s right, half an hour for eight miles—drive is worth it. The 3/4 mile round trip hike through Fern Canyon is a lovely walk. 

On the way back to Crescent City we made the obligatory photo stop at Trees of Mystery to say “Hi” to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. 

Dinner at The Fisherman’s Restaurant was the weakest meal of the trip.
The next two days were just driving days highlighted by a lovely but tough narrow drive along the Smith River from Crescent City to Grants Pass. 

Again, there were no places to pull a truck and trailer off for photos. At Canyonville a little north of Grants Pass we stayed at the Seven Feathers RV Resort and Casino. This is a luxury Good Sam campground with all the amenities. 
Our luxury suite in Canyonville.

Two things impressed us here: first, the camp was loud with partying until the quiet hour of 10PM, then it was quiet as a forest night; and second, our Liberty Outdoors Mini Max (Morse) was the smallest rig in the campgrounds and was absolutely dwarfed by the huge rig (fifth-wheeler with six popouts) that parked next to us. Our last day was an uneventful 3 1/2 hour freeway drive home.

     What did we learn from our RV road trip?
—We can solve small problems better than we thought we could.
—The two of us can maneuver fairly well in cramped quarters.
—YouTube videos have definitely been an aid.
—We can’t pull the trailer and stop wherever we want, thus...
—We need to change our travel strategy (especially for photography). Instead of trying to see things on the way, we need to plan to get to a spot where we will stay a day or two, unhook, and then take the truck to get the photos we want.
—And even Anne says she packed too much (we could have fed the whole south Oregon coast for a week with what we had in Lewis and Morse).

NEXT: Santa Fe, Toas, Durango, Canyon de Chelly, and Petrified Forest.