Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Week in Tulelake

The time has come to start our southward migration. Although we could have stayed longer in Sutherlin, we decided to slowly start moving. Our first stop was in Redding where we had a minor adjustment made to the custom motorcycle seat we had made there a month ago. On the way down past Shasta Lake we came upon a forest fire that had just started. Already huge trees were ablaze right along the highway. They had already closed the northbound lanes of the interstate, but we managed to get through on the southbound lanes with no problem. It was as close to a forest fire as we ever want to be.

Our appointment was for Monday morning but we arrived Friday afternoon and spent a couple nights in a nice RV park just north of town. The weather was so different just 200 miles from where we left. The highs in Sutherlin were in the 70's and it was still over 90 in Redding. We quickly decided we did not want to move further south yet, so after the seat was adjusted on Monday morning, we headed for Tulelake, CA.

Tulelake is a tiny farming community in the Klamath Valley, just 4 miles south of the Oregon border. It gets its name from Tule Lake, an ancient shallow lake that was mostly drained in the early 1900's by the Bureau of Reclamation and turned into rich farmland. This huge, shallow, marshy lake was a major stop on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds, and they reduced it to approximately one sixth of its original size. Steps were subsequently taken to accommodate the birds, and there are now several wildlife sanctuaries in the valley. They have even worked out a beneficial system where various fields are flooded periodically to rejuvenate them, and the farmers in turn grow grains in such a way as to provide food for the birds.

There really are a lot of birds on the lake. They estimate that about 250,000 ducks are in residence at the moment, but on an annual basis over 2,000,000 migrating geese, ducks and others call this area home for part of each year. It is interesting to see how it has all worked out to the benefit of the farmers and the birds. We visited the Visitor Center at the Wildlife Refuge, and hiked the nature trail through the marshes as well as the trail up Sheepy Ridge to the observation hut that was built by the CCC in the 30's.

The other major thing of interest in the area is Lava Beds National Monument. We first visited here about 35 years ago. It is a major volcanic area with much to see and do. We visited splatter cones, vents, lava flows, and the most interesting features, lava tubes. There are dozens of lava tubes open to explore. Some of them are over 3,000 feet long. You have to take your own lights and be willing to walk, duck walk, or crawl on hands and knees to get through some of them, but they are interesting and fun to explore. While they have not changed in 35 years, our stamina certainly has. Duck walking is not nearly as easy as it was back then. Still, we had fun exploring.

We also visited a separate area of the monument that used to be an island in the center of Tule Lake. It has one of the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the country. It was apparently used by some very ancient people as many of the glyphs are thousands of years old. There are approximately 5,000 drawings along a quarter mile band where they visited the cliff face in their canoes.

The other thing of interest in Lava Beds is the history of the Modoc Wars. The Modoc were one of the last Native American groups to be rounded up and forcibly moved off their ancestral homelands. However, they did not go without a fight. The last battles were fought in an area of the lava beds named Captain Jack's Stronghold. The volcanic formations provided an almost impenetrable fortress for the Modoc to hold off the soldiers. They were captured only after they left the stronghold, and they were relocated to Oklahoma.

We have been very busy this past week, but it is time to move on. We have been staying at the Butte Valley Fairgrounds RV park in Tulelake, which has been a very laid back and pretty place to stay. Tomorrow we plan to move south toward Nevada, but not very quickly. It's still way to hot further south.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Some Long Range Plans

People often ask us, of all the places we have been, what area have we enjoyed the most. This area has to be close to the top of the list. Sutherlin, OR is a small town of about 7,000 and Roseburg, which is only 10 miles away, has a little over 20,000. Roseburg has everything we need including Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Joanne's and every other chain you can name. Even more importantly, it has a major VA medical center.

The weather in the area is as ideal as any place we have been and there is so much beauty around us to see. There are many lakes and rivers nearby, the beautiful Oregon coast is only 60 miles away, there are countless miles of scenic and well maintained roads for motorcycle riding, and the weather is temperate year round. Even the annual rainfall is less here than in other, wetter parts of Oregon to the north.

We have often mentioned that we belong to the Escapees RV Club. They are headquarted in Livingston, Texas and cater to full time RV'ers. The club was started by a couple who were full timers themselves. They saw a need for an organization to provide services to people like themselves. One of the club's services we use is their mail forwarding service, but we also take advantage of some of the other benefits as well. They own and operate eight RV parks across the southern half of the US. These RV parks are always nice and very reasonably priced for members. We have stayed in many of them.

During the early years of the club they also started several RV Park Co-ops. These were RV parks where the lots were "sold" to individuals. They were chartered much like condominiums in that the park is owned by the lot owners. Each park has a board of directors and makes their own rules to operate the park. The original idea behind the co-ops was to provide an opportunity for a "home base" for RV'ers who would stay on their lot for a few months at a time, and put their lot in a rental pool for use by other Escapee members when they were off travelling somewhere else.

It is these rental pool lots that we have stayed in when we have visited in places like The Ranch near Carlsbad, NM, the Jojoba Hills park near Temecula, CA, Park Sierra near Fresno, CA and here at Timber Valley in Sutherlin. The lot owners are off travelling somewhere and we stay on their lots at a very reasonable price.

There are 11 co-op parks in the Escapees system. They are located from Florida to Washington state. Each park has a buy in fee and an annual maintenance fee. The buy in fees range from $2,700 to over $30,000 depending on the cost to purchase the land and develop the park. Most of the parks are $10,000 or less. The annual maintenance fees also range from a few hundred to as much as $3500 in one park, with most being in the $1200 or less range. (Actually, Jojoba Hills near Temecula, where we stayed early this year, is the most expensive one. Its buy in and maintenance is easily twice as expensive as any of the others and skews the averages.)

When owners put their lots in the rental pool, they receive a portion of the rental income as an offset against their annual maintenance. Each park has its own formula, but owners who don't spend much time in their site often have a large portion of their annual maintenance cost paid for.

The most unique aspect of the Escapees co-op system is that you must sell your lot for what you paid for it, plus any assessments for infrastructure. Some parks have also added a small inflation adjustment over the years. Regardless, this approach keeps the cost very low. It also explains why there is a waiting list for almost every co-op. Some parks have waiting lists of over 10 years. The waiting list here at Sutherlin is 2 to 4 years.

Owning a lot in a park like this makes good economic sense. You are essentially guaranteed your purchase price back when you decide to give up your lot, and the living expenses while using the lot are very low. People who live here year round, and there are quite a few who do, pay only their annual maintenance fee, electricity and propane. That rarely exceeds $250 per month. There are not many places you can live that inexpensively. Since this park does not add an inflation figure you do lose some value if inflation is high, but even with that the net cost is remarkably low.

If you haven't figured out by now, we have put our name on the waiting list here in Sutherlin. While we would not want to spend the entire year here, it is a wonderful place to spend some of it. As time goes on we find we like to stay put for longer periods of time. Spending our winters in Arizona near family is something we both enjoy, and spending holidays with our kids is also important to us. And, as I said, there are still many places around the country that we want to visit. How long we actually will stay in Sutherlin in the future is unknown, especially since it will still be a while before we get our lot. Much can change in the meantime.

We've talked at length about where, when and if we might want to eventually settle down. At this point we have no plans to do so. When it happens, we think it will be near one of our kids, but we don't want to live where either of them lives right now. We enjoy being able to spend a month or so with them at times, but North Texas is too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and has tornadoes in the spring. Chattanooga is also too hot, cold and humid much of the year. When health issues force us to make a change, we will deal with it. But in the meantime, we plan to continue our vagabonding ways.

Here is a link to the park's web site: Timber Valley

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Columbia Gorge

Monday we made a trip north to Vancouver, WA. It is located just across the Columbia River from Portland and is about 175 miles from Sutherlin where we are staying. Dianna's Jr. Hi. girlfriend, Sue Spink, lives there. We stopped by to visit her on our way back from Alaska in 2007. Sue invited us to come up and spend the night so she could show us around.

From Sutherlin we traveled north on I-5 through the Calapooia Mountains that run East and West between the Cascades and the Coastal Range from The Umpqua River to the beginning of the Willamette Valley at Eugene, OR. The part of Oregon from Grants Pass north to Eugene is all mountainous and very beautiful, but the Willamette Valley is just a wide flat agricultural plain, much like the Central Valley of California. Nearing the Columbia River just south of Portland the terrain changes somewhat. It's mostly hilly and forested again. The lava flows from ancient volcanoes and the action of the Columbia River have sculpted the area into an interesting and scenic place to see.

Monday afternoon we spent a lot of time visiting before Sue took us to Fort Vancouver on the banks of the Columbia. There is a lot of history there involving the land claims between the US and Canada when the area was first settled. Unfortunately we arrived too late for the visitor center, but it was fun just looking around. We too the opportunity to introduce Sue to geocaching. We struck out on several caches that had apparently been muggled, but we finally found one attached to the bleachers at a little league field. It was the tiniest cache we have ever seen. It was about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch long. It was not a micro -- it was a nano!

We then all had dinner on the patio of a Mexican restaurant on the banks of the river. However, we had our desert first. Like in most of Oregon, blackberries were growing wild everywhere. We took a walk down the beach and found an area with tons of ripe, sweet berries. I do like blackberries! Monday evening I watched football while Dianna and Sue did a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

Tuesday we got an early start for our tour of the Columbia Gorge. We traveled up the gorge on our 2007 trip but were unable to stop and see the sights because our rig was too big to fit in any of the parking areas. Our first stop was at Vista House where we had a magnificent view.

We then visited 3 different falls. The first two, Latourell and Wahkeena Falls were really nice, but the best was Multnomah. It is the highest falls in Oregon, and the 5th or 6th tallest in the country at 620 feet.

[caption id="attachment_838" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Latourell Falls[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_839" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Sue standing in front of Wahkenna Falls[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_840" align="aligncenter" width="225"] The visitor center and restaurant at Multnomah Falls. We ate in the view room and had an excellent view of the falls.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_841" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Dianna and Sue walking toward Multnomah Falls[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_842" align="aligncenter" width="225"] The lower falls and the walking bridge above.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_843" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Upper Multnomah Falls[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_844" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Proof we were there[/caption]

After leaving Multnomah Falls we continued about 12 miles upriver where we crossed over to Washington and returned to Vancouver. We said goodbye to Sue and thanked her for a nice visit before returning to our temporary home in Sutherlin. It was a fun trip.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crater Lake

Yesterday we took a ride to Crater Lake National Park. It is another of the places we have not visited in over 30 years. We got a late start so we didn't have as much time to explore as we would have liked, but the scenery was great and we had a good time. We left Sutherlin and headed east on Highway 138 from Roseburg. The highway follows the North Fork of the Umpqua River (the river we kayaked on last week) 75 miles from Roseburg to near its headwaters at Maidu Lake where the road turns south for 25 miles past Diamond Lake to the north entrance of the park.

The trip along the North Umpqua was almost as enjoyable as Crater Lake. There are many campgrounds and hiking trails along the river, and it is as scenic as any river we have ever seen. It made us want to go camping and hiking.

I neglected to fill the bike with gas before we left, and planned on purchasing fuel at Crater Lake. Unfortunately, I did not do my research. When we arrived at the North Entrance we learned that the only fuel in the park was at the South Entrance, about 30 miles away. I didn't want to chance it as I estimated I only had enough fuel for another 25 miles. Our choices were to drive 20 miles east to highway 97 and back, or 8 miles back down the highway to the resort at Diamond Lake where we got to pay the most ever for fuel: $4.99 a gallon. Fortunately we only needed 3.5 gallons to fill up. Can you imagine having to fill up a motorhome?

We continued on to the rim of Crater Lake which lies at about 7,000 feet. Most know that it is an extinct, or more correctly, dormant volcano that collapsed and filled with water from rain and snow. It is the deepest lake in the US, and is absolutely beautiful. We rode the rim road counter clockwise and stopped for lunch at the Rim Cafe before completing the loop. We stopped at several of the pullouts and enjoyed the spectacular scenery. Although the temperature was 70 degrees, there was still snow from last season in some of the protected areas. We got home about 6 PM.

For those who might be curious, the new seat is working very well for me. Yesterday's trip was about 250 miles and we only made a few stops. Dianna is still not completely happy. She had a back ache after yesterday's ride. We're not sure why.

[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Crater Lake with Wizard Island on the right of the photo. It was hazy due to smoke from fires in the area.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_813" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The small island formation is called the Ghost Ship.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="300"] It may be early September, but the snow from last season is still here.[/caption]

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our Motor Boat

In response to our post about Lakes and Rivers, Daryl said he saw a motor in our future. He was right.

I checked Craig's list for several days, looking for a used trolling motor. Most were too small, too old, or not set up for stern mounting. One showed up on the list last weekend in Medford, about 100 miles south of us. It was just what we were looking for so I made the trip down and back on the scooter. I'm sure it looked funny with the motor lashed on to the back. It stuck straight out, not down, but still it had to get a laugh or two from other motorists.

It turned out that the motor was about 3 years old but had never even been in the water. The guy I bought it from had taken it in payment for money he was owed. I only paid about 1/3 of what a new one would have cost.

Rather than purchase the motor mounting kit for our boat from Sea Eagle, I made my own after studying their design. It cost about $20 instead of well over $100, and it looks basically identical. I also had to purchase a battery. While I would love to have picked up an AGM battery, which does not off gas and can be stored just about anywhere, I could not justify the cost. I ended up with a regular Group 24 deep cycle trolling battery from Costco.

We tried out the setup on Wednesday. The boat fits in the trunk of the car and we can set it up or take it down in about 15 minutes. Out on the lake the motor pushes us along at 4-5 miles per hour at half throttle. It appears that the battery would last about 3 hours or so at that speed. That's plenty. I tried it wide open for a bit. We probably moved along at 8-10 miles per hour, but the battery would not last more than an hour at that speed.. We motored from one end of the little lake near us to the other and back, exploring each cove and beaching the boat for a while in one nicely shaded spot.

The nice thing about our setup is that we can still paddle when we want to. We did some paddling, especially when we got into some shallow areas, but when we got tired or when we turned into a headwind, it was really nice to just twist the throttle and let the scenery slide by. I think we're going to enjoy it.