Eugene, OR, Armitage Park, #11
Eight years in our bus.
SUNDAY, MAY 17. WE CELEBRATE EIGHT YEARS AS FULLTIMERS IN REDDING, CA.
A few months ago when I devised some sample itineraries, it was my plan to leave in mid-April and drive northeast into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We would take US-50 to Placerville and stop overnight to visit Jan and Scott Walton and the grandkids if they happened to be visiting their dad that weekend. I planned to continue east into Nevada and make a second overnight in Fallon to visit Dennis’s oldest adopted son, David Soden. From there we would turn north stopping in West Yellowstone for a few days and then move up to Glacier National Park. However, we didn’t leave early and perhaps that was a good thing because the weather in the California mountains and in Idaho has been bad.
On the morning of the 17th we still were not positive about what route to take. There was a possibility of snow around Tahoe and there was rain and thunderstorms in Idaho. We were leaning towards driving due north up to Washington before turning east into Idaho. Vacouver predicted rain in the early part of the week but sunshine towards the end of the week. We didn’t want to be on the road during the holiday so we thought we’d visit Dennis’s sister, Joe and Marian Schwary in Vacouver.
Meanwhile I was exchanging messages with Marian’s son and Dennis’s nephew, Kevin Christenson. Last year we all met in Monument Valley for Memorial weekend. He and Jose wanted to spend this Memorial weekend with us and we’d discussed various destinations. On Sunday morning at 7:08 AM I texted Kevin. “Portland has sun next week & Idaho is thunderstorms. Prepared to change plans & go to Portland if you SWEAR that is where you & Jose are going. Getting ready to leave. Let me know ASAP.”
Kevin is nothing if not flexible. He checked to see if he could stay with friends and within the hour he was texting back. “Okay, you have a deal! We SWEAR we’ll go to Portland! Yay! Good times!”
I texted back. “Hoorah! OK. We will make a left turn and go north.”
Kevin replied, “Mom sounded incredibly happy!”
We wanted Marian’s granddaughter, Jewel and her husband, Daniel Riley, to meet us in Vancouver also. However, they live in Phoenix and last minute airfare seemed too expensive. Nevertheless, it would be a good reunion as Marian’s married daughter, Jana and Bob Thorn, also live in Vancouver as well as many of Joe Schwary’s relatives.
So just that fast, we made our decision. It was 62° and overcast when we pulled out at 9:45 AM heading north on US-101 to San Jose and taking I-680 north through the East Bay. We crossed the Benetia-Martinez Bridge, a deck truss bridge that spans the Carquinez Strait just west of Suisun Bay with a toll that cost us $5 per axle or a total of $25. This a marking point where we leave the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and move into the northern part of the Central Valley: the Sacramento Valley.
The Sacramento River is the largest river in California. It rises in the volcanic plateaus and ranges of the southern Siskiyou Mountains with two major streams. The Sacramento flows past Mounta Shasta through the Klamath Mountains. The much larger headwaters rise in the Modoc Plateau near Goose Lake and forms the Pit River. The two merge at Shasta Lake, the giant reservoir made by the Shasta Dam. The Sacramento flows south through foothills and leaves the mountains at Redding. All in all, it flows south for 445 miles to the Delta and San Francisco Bay. The river has many tributaries. Among them, the Clear, Cottonwood, and Thomes descend from the Coast Range through Mendocino and Shasta Trinity National Forests in the west. The Pit River, Cow, Ash, Battle and Butte Creeks, Feather and American Rivers descend from the Sierra Nevada through Tahoe, Plumas and Lassen National Forests in the east.
With a wide natural floodplain the Sacramento was once abundant in fish and had one of the largest runs of chinook salmon in North America. Native people used it’s natural resources and the rivers was a major trade and travel route. Today the watershed is intensely developed for water supply and the generation of hydroelectric power. Large dams impound the river and almost all of its major tributaries. The Sacramento is used heavily for irrigation and serves much of Central and Southern California through giant canals. It provides water to over half of California’s population and supports one of the most productive agricultural areas in the nation.
We merged onto I-80 N at Cordelia passing Fairfield and Vacaville where we merged onto I-505 N with Lake Berryessa and Santa Rosa beyond to the west of us and Yuba City (home of the California Prune Festival) east of us. At 12:20 PM we merged onto I-5 N at Dunnigan. This area is an easy drive on level roads that are in decent shape. I was surprised to see many rice fields and of course, we saw almond and walnut groves. At 1:40 PM, we stopped for fuel in Corning (known as the Olive City). Then we continued north through Red Bluff to arrive in Redding at 2:50 PM.
We stayed at JGW RV Park before and we really like it. It is right off I-5 at exit 673, on Riverland Dr., a frontage road that parallels the freeway and the Sacramento River. JGW is a a beautiful park with large, level sites and plenty of grassy space inbetween. We stayed in R-6 on a bluff that overlooks the river. In front is a gravel picnic area with table, BBQ and bonfire barrel. From there a lawn slopes down to the river amid beautiful tall trees. We like to walk the dogs by the river where we pass a few people fishing and sometimes see a few small boats with fisherman.
We wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate our eighth anniversary as “fulltimers” and decided on Cattlemen’s, a well known California steakhouse. With local antiques and ranching artifacts the atmosphere is welcoming and lots of fun. They serve Harris Ranch beef and there is plenty of food for an excellent price. We ate in a western themed wooden booth and treated ourselves to Bacon Wrapped Shrimp appetizers as well as the classic Prime Rib dinner served with salad, sourdough, ranch beans and potatoes. Our waiter was great and we had a wonderful evening.
MONDAY, MAY 18. WE DISCOVER BEAUTIFUL ARMITAGE PARK IN EUGENE.
We left Redding at 9:30 AM with overcast skies at 67°. Probably due to the gray skies I confess I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery as Dennis drove past Shasta Lake and began the climb towards Mt. Shasta. I recently bought my first laptop computer, the beautiful lightweight MacBook. It is basically designed for simple functions such as writing documents. It has a fabulous keyboard and I find I can type quickly with it. I am just learning how to manage it. For example I use an Apple Pages document but save it as a Word document and then put it into DropBox or attach it to an email to myself so that I can edit it later on my iMac at a later time and use my notes for this blog. Since I don’t want to use our Verizon jetpack while we’re traveling, I was also using our iPad to post our status on FaceBook and make comments in NewsFeed.
At 11:30 AM we pulled off of I-5 into the Klamath River Reststop near Yreka, CA. We mixed up a bowl of tuna and hardboiled eggs, made sandwiches and then walked the dogs so this was a half hour break.
Generally we stay at Deerwood RV Park in Eugene but this time I chose a park new to us but with great reviews. Just before 4:00 PM, we pulled into Armitage Park on Coburg Rd. Despite the overcast gray day we were immediately bowled over by the beauty of this park. We stayed in Site 11 but any site would have been fine. They are all wide with grass and trees that provide privacy. It is a gorgeous RV park.
TUESDAY, MAY 19. WE EXTEND OUT STAY IN EUGENE.
Armitage Park is one of the most beautiful R parks we’ve been in. We are both amazed. There are huge green lawns, towering trees but all spaced out so that they don’t disturb satellite reception. It is totally quiet and they keep on a few small lights at night so that one can sleep with shades up and not be disturbed by lights. And, they charge only $30 a day!
Our plan was to just hang out and take it easy. Yesterday was a long drive. It was cloudy and overcast but not raining with temperatures from low fifties to high sixties. To celebrate our beautiful surroundings I made cinnamon buns to serve with coffee. About mid-morning we set out to explore the park with the dogs. I am such a California girl. Lush overgrown greenness amaze me. Here the lawns and trees and bushes are so profuse in growth and so GREEN. They are splendid.
My first cousin, Janet, and her husband, Gary Hale live near Eugene and I’d sent them an email saying we would be in town. They replied asking if we’d like to visit them in Blachly. We made plans to do so if I could extend our stay by one day. I worked it out and we planned to visit them on Wednesday afternoon. I was delighted to have an excuse to stay one more day in this beautiful park.
Usually when we pass through Eugene I go over to visit my alma mater, the University of Oregon campus. This time I decided to just relax and enjoy our surroundings. Also every other Tuesday Dennis has a staff meeting at 2:00 PM and we’ve arranged for him to continue to do this using a phone set on speaker placed on the conference table. This was his first conference call so it was kind of an experiment. Everyone felt that it worked out very well.
In late afternoon we took a longer walk towards another area of the park used by day campers. I am beginning to remember how beautiful this area is, especially in the spring with the azaleas and rhododendrons. We found a path by the Willamette River where Dennis spotted a giant rhubarb plan growing wild. The entire area is like stumbling into a fairyland with these miniature white flower vines climbing over large leafy bushes. The gorgeous lawns are about 60% clover and everywhere it is dotted with mini daisy-like flowers and tiny purple flowers. There are gigantic deciduous trees with huge leaes: maples, liquidambar and elm? Even though it is a gray day and the skies are overcast, the scenery is spectacular.
After our walk we decided to buy wood and have a campfire. Most places do not allow a fire pit so we wanted to take advantage when we could. We took the car to the camp host and Dennis bought three bundles of firewood at $5 each. We are out of groceries like milk and bread so we decided to drive a few miles towards Eugene on Coburg Rd to a Safeway where we stocked up with four bags of groceries. Since it was getting late we just did corn on the cob and hotdogs with chili beans. I set the table with my picnic tablecloth and used by new collapsible carry basket to tote out plates, condiments, etc. We built a fire and we found out the wood was very green. We never got a big bonfire going but we were able to cook the hotdogs and toast the buns.
We both felt very surprised that we could sit outside for dinner. Our new camp chairs are very comfortable. It wasn’t a clear starry night but it wasn’t cold and there were no bothersome bugs: no flies or mosquitoes! It was pleasant and a good way to start our camping summer.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20. WE VISIT JAN AND GARY HALE IN BLACHLY, OR.
This place is so QUIET. We can’t believe it. If we are outside and listen carefully we can hear traffic on a highway. But mostly we hear absolutely nothing. The park is mostly empty so there are no cars or trucks or RVs passing by or people walking dogs or kids playing, etc. It is eerie but I love it.
Dennis announced that this was a good day for pancakes and began to mix up a batch. Betty and Jay Crane introduced us to Kodiak Cakes Frontier Flapjack and Waffle Mix. They are little pancakes and really delicious. We put together eggs and bacon, started our fire and ate at our picnic table. What fun!
Today we drove thirty miles east into the coastal foothills to visit Jan and Gary who live in Blachly. It is a remote rural area and I was curious to see her home. I was also anxious to see how Janet is doing. I spoke to she and Gary on the phone and I was able to understand some of what she was saying.
I have not seen Janet since 2007 when we passed through Eugene on the way home from our maiden RV trip. Since May 31, 2011 she has been recovering from an ischemic stroke on the left side of her brain. She has Broca’s aphasia, which affects speaking and expression. She was recovering well and was able to walk until she suffered a second stroke. Now she is confined to her bed.
Janet is the daughter of my mother’s brother, my Uncle Don Wroncy. Our family lived in Redondo Beach and the Wroncy family lived in La Jolla so I’ve known Janet, Joan and “little Don” since we were small kids. We were all beach kids and spent our days playing in tidal pools or catching waves on our air mattresses. Sally and I leaned towards writing, music and art but the Wroncy kids were biology and botany buffs. They always kept snakes and aquariums and creatures that made my sister and I go, “Euuu!”
My Uncle Don was a pilot who flew for Transocean. When I moved to Oahu to attend the University of Hawaii he used to call me and take me out to dinner when he had layovers. He was drop dead gorgeous and his wife was a Lauren Bacall beauty who always looked like a fashion model. She worked for Saks Fifth Ave in La Jolla for more than twenty years. The three kids were classic California youth: blonde and tanned with pointy chins and big blue eyes. Janet is four years younger then me and also graduated from the University of Oregon with a major in biology. During her college years she rented a nearby field, farmed it by herself and sold her organic produce to the university co-op and to other groceries in Eugene. Her hair was her glory: thick, blonde and curly. She always wore it down and it was well below her shoulders.
Gary met her in the co-op and he says that after that, “it was all over.” Thirteen years her junior, he used to design, manufacture and sell bikes. Now he works from home as a CAD programmer for a variety of clients. When they met Janet told him that she wanted to live in the country, have a small farm and a baby. Gary obliged her. They have a son, Forest Wroncy-Hale, who works for Google and lives near Seattle. Janet was a hard worker, an active, outdoor, nature-woman who loved to garden. She was also a marvelous cook. It seems hard that she can no longer step outdoors at will.
We parked by a big two-story shingled house. I learned that it was built by a lumberman in 1900 and then two more additions were built in the 20s and 30s.
Their big lab, Mango, announced our arrival and Gary greeted us. He led us to a large room which serves as his office and Janet’s bedroom. He has a desk with four monitors for his complicated graphic programs. Janet is in a hospital bed in the middle of the room. Gary has set up a huge monitor in front of her bed that serves as both TV and computer. I think it provides Janet’s main form of entertainment. However, since her second stroke it seems difficult for her to manage a remote or the keyboard. Our email exchanges are always written by Gary for Jan.
We greeted Janet and I was relieved that she was able to speak fairly clearly. I could understand about 80% of her words. Often she is frustrated when she can’t recall a word and then she writes synonyms or spells it on a pad of paper. Gary is an expert at translation. He is very handsome, smart, kind and strong. He loves Janet absolutely and there is no doubt that he is a patient and dedicated caretaker.
Janet wanted us to see the “farm” so Gary walked us around the property. They have seven acres and much of it was under cultivation when Janet was able to take care of it. There is a big greenhouse, a large vegetable garden and a big field where I think they once kept sheep. The property slopes down to a creek and ends at a small beach where there is a “swimming hole”. Beyond the creek the land slopes up into the hills. It is the ideal, bucolic environment that Janet must have envisioned when she was younger.
After our walk we gathered around Janet while Gary showed family album photos of the Wroncy family. I saw many I had not seen before so Gary forwarded them to me. We had a lovely visit and I’m so glad we had an opportunity to connect after all these years.
Tomorrow we will drive to Vancouver, WA where we will spend the Memorial weekend with Marian and Joe Schwary (Dennis’s sister), Jana and Bob Thorn (Marian’s daughter), Kevin Christensen and Jose Castillo (Kevin is Marian’s son) and probably several other extended family and friends. Jana is doing a BBQ on Monday afternoon.
We will stay a week and then push east towards Idaho and Montana to Glacier Natonnal Park or perhaps northeast to Vancouver, Canada and then up to Banff Nattional Park. I’m keeping an eye on weather reports….