Family Week in Vancouver, WA
May 27, 2015
Vancouver, WA, One week in 99 RV Park, #80
Eight years in our bus.

We came to Vancouver for a rendezvous with family over Memorial weekend.

Our Canadian trip brought us north and we wanted to stay off the road during the long weekend. So it all worked out for an extended family visit.

Kevin and Jana with their mother, Marian.

Kevin and Jana with their mother, Marian.

The matriarch in town is Dennis’s sister, Marian Walton who married Joe Schwary 43 years ago. Marian had three children by her first husband, Norm Christensen who passed away when the kids were small. We always look forward to seeing Dennis’s nieces and nephew Shari, Jana and Kevin Christensen and their families. Shari and Jana live in Vancouver. Kevin and Jose drove up from Salt Lake City. We missed being able to see Shari’s daughter and Dennis’s grandniece, Jewel Rademacher. Jewel is married to Daniel Riley and they live in Phoenix, AZ. Joe Schwary is “dad” to Marian’s kids and also has family in Vancouver including his married children and grandkids, his sister, Mary Sullivan, and his sister-in-law, Mary Schwary. These are the main characters of the week and most of our time in Vancouver was about socializing with family members. For us it was a whirlwind week filled with dinners and visits with family that we see only rarely.

On Thursday, May 21st, we pulled into 99 RV Park in the Salmon Creek district. It is located just south of the I-205 and I-5 merge. This is a back-to-basics park with gravel roads, cement pads and a few patches of grass on some stites. It’s pretty ugly and surrounded by busy highways but the staff is obliging and neighors are friendly. It will do and we are grateful to be off the road before the Memorial weekend traffic begins.

On Friday Joe and Marian invited us to meet them for dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack, a popular restaurant on the Columbia River situated just under the I-5 bridge to Portland. Joe, 83, and Marian, 76, prefer to be “early birds” and so we agreed to meet them at four o’clock.

Marian had a stroke some years ago and has never entirely recovered. She can talk fairly well but walks poorly and requires a walker or a wheelchair. It’s been two years since we’ve seen them and I was shocked by Marian’s condition. This is the second victim of a stroke that I’ve seen recently. Both women in their seventies and family members. It gives me pause for thought. What can you do? I lecture myself to stay healthy: Go exercise Elsa, and eat right!

We traveled with Joe and Marian before we got our motorhome. We used to ride with them in their Dodge Caravan on one-week holiday tours. They are big characters and were always very funny. They are famous for their fondness for eating out and they always knew the best restaurants in every city we visited. Even though we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum we always got along well. Besides, I think we all enjoy being argumentative.

This is a family of gigglers, Uncle Dennis with his nephew and niece, Kevin and Jana.

This is a family of gigglers, Uncle Dennis with his nephew and niece, Kevin and Jana.

We picked up with the Schwarys where we left off and were soon gossiping and kidding around. Joe and Marian wrangled as always. She has Celiac sprue, an autoimmune disorder and she is supposed to follow a gluten-free diet. But Marian always cheats saying it will be fine and then pays for it later with digestive pain or worse. Joe’s Crab Shack has a large staff of young people who sing and dance around the dining room every half hour to the amusement — or bemusement of the diners.

After dinner we followed them back to their double wide mobile home where Marian collapsed into a large lounge chair. They have two dogs, an older Coton de Tulear like ours named Sadie and a young Maltese/Lapso Apso named Charlie. Of course they both provide a lot of entertainment.

Jose Castillo and Joe Schwary.

Jose Castillo and Joe Schwary.

Shortly after we got settled, Kevin and Jose arrived after their long day of driving from Salt Lake City. Kevin’s sister, Jana also dropped by so there was a great deal of talk and excited greetings. It was fun. Kevin and Jose brought two flats of marigolds and planned to plant them in the backyard around new pots of tomatoes that Joe and Bob Thorn had planted. This was the plan of action for the following day.

Saturday was a very busy day. We dropped by to kibbitz over the garden action. In the evening we dressed up and drove to the home of Keith and Caroline Neubauer. Kevin and Jose are staying in their home and I married them in the Neubauer’s garden a few years ago. Dennis and I met the Neubauer’s at that time and we’ve kept up a little bit on Facebook.

Kevin with Carolyn and Keith Neubauer.

Kevin with Carolyn and Keith Neubauer.

Kevin had made reservations at a famous German restaurant in Portland that has entertainment with singing waiters. We took Keith and Carolyn in our car and were followed by Kevin and Jose. On our way down NE Sandy Blvd we passed The Grotto, which looks like an interesting place to visit. We arrived at Der Rheinlander near the Roseway and Hollywood districts of Portland. It is a “bustling beer hall dishing up German plates in an old-world setting with a family-friendly vibe.

The exterior and interior certainly looked the part and I was excited about it, as it is very different food from our usual fare. We were seated at a long table in an alcove. The singing was great fun with everything from loud drinking songs and group songs to solo ballads such as “Edelweiss”. Kevin is a fan of country German food and helped us make choices. We started out by sharing a bowl of Rheinlander’s original fondue with garlic, white wine and grated Swiss cheese served with cubed bread. This took Carolyn and me back to our early wife days when serving fondue was all the fad and brides hoped for a fondue set.

Fondue at Der Rheinlander brings back memories of my early married days.

Fondue at Der Rheinlander brings back memories of my early married days.

The menu was mostly variations of sausages, weiner schnitzel and sauerkraut. I did not want to eat sausage since I normally try to save my besieged liver from greasy foods. I was looking at weiner schnitzel choices but got sidetracked by “Feasts”, a Rheinlander dish, which seemed to offer a little of everything. It had sauerbraten, pork schnitzel cordon bleu, bier sausage, caramelized onions, spaetzle noodles, red cabbage & sauerkraut. The sauerbraten was delicious. I later discovered that it is a beef rump roast that is marinated for many days in seasoned vinegar. I was curious about the spaetzle noodles but found them forgettable. (They are a mini version of dumplings and I am not fond of dumplings.) I loved both the red cabbage and the sauerkraut. We had a lot of fun and it was a very entertaining evening.


Monday was our big family gathering for a Memorial Day BBQ. Bob and Jana Thorn live in a very nice two-story house in Vancouver that is backed up on a marshy meadow by Curtin Creek. Jana has had many health issues and she lost her husband to leukemia five years ago. Now she looks radiant and I see that she and Bob are very happy. It was chilly and overcast so I dressed warmly thinking we would be outdoors. But this isn’t California. Jana had long tables set up in her dining room and adjoining living room and they were all decorated and ready to go. It was a potluck and Jana had appetizers and a buffet laid out in the kitchen. Bob did the BBQ honors and everyone brought delicious food. It was celebratory family dinner.

Joe with his sister, Mary, Marian and  Elsa.

Joe with his sister, Mary, Marian and Elsa.

I had a chance to visit with Jana’s sister, Shari, and it was fun to see the two Mary’s as well as Rich and Jana’s only son, James Willits, and his wife, Patricia, and their beautiful four-year-old daughter, Morgan. Kevin kept our table entertained as always.

Tuesday was our next to last day in Vancouver. We met Jana for lunch and had a great time catching up on our news. She’s been through a lot and I admire her very much.

Wednesday was a get-ready-to-leave errand day. Our dishwasher has gotten out of its programmed cycle and quits at rinse or makes an annoying series of beeping sounds when it stops. Dennis tried to fix it and made it worse. He did succeed in getting it to beep the “Star Spangled Banner” but the dishwashing function quit entirely. Over the weekend it didn’t work at all. On Tuesday Dennis called a repair service. Unfortunately they couldn’t send a repairman out to us until Thursday — the day after we are due to leave. We were ready to delay another day when they called us on Wednesday with a cancelation. This technician was very, very nice. He told us that we need a new control board with an upgraded kit with a fan. He would need to order one and that would take five days. Since we don’t want to wait here for five days, we decided we could deal with the old fashioned method. However, as an experiment, our repair guy flipped the fuse box switch that controls the dishwasher and the microwave. The dishwasher program reset and went back to normal! We can order a new control box and call a repair service at the beginning of a one-week stay in a large city — perhaps in Minneapolis, MN. Meanwhile our dishwasher is working normally.

Since this was our last night in town, we met once more with Joe and Marian for an early dinner at Applebee’s. We resolved to see each other again sooner. Two years is too long.

Tomorrow we will drive towards our next big destination, Glacier National Park. It may seem that we ignored the meaning and purpose of Memorial Day. Over the weekend, I saw many cars and flowers in the cemeteries that we passed. On a personal level I wish I had a cemetery to visit but the ashes of my parents are scattered. However, in a few weeks our day will come. Our primary purpose for traveling to Canada is to visit the cemetery and find the marker stone for Dennis’s father, Charles Herbert Walton, who is buried in Raymond, Alberta.

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