Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sleeping Arangement 2.0

I wrote a blog on September 16th titled "New Designs and Improvements" that show-cased fixing up our twin bed set-up in our new-to-us 2017 Zion. (See here) We have continued to take shake down outings to make sure all systems work.  In fact we took four trips, 3 to the coast and 1 to south-central Oregon.  On each one, the twin beds where one of the unsolved issues. Still Jeanette has plowed on, and we now have Arrangement 2.0.

The floor plan on our Zion has a side mounted couch in the rear drivers side, which can be used as one of the twin beds.  But, it can be also be folded out and presto you have a small double bed.  As we began to work with this new bed arrangement, we realized the couch on the passenger side was kind of wasted space, but could work for storage.  Next was a trip to Lowe's where we bought and assembled this 8 bin storage module. By removing the seating cushion we had a nice solid platform to mount our storage module.  Storage is always an issue in class B vans, meaning there is never enough.  That issue is now also solved.

The main issue was the bed.  We gave the new double bed a trial run in our drive way last night.  A success! We both got a good nights sleep. We can now move forward with plans for California and Arizona.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Whte-breasted Nuthatch

I can recognize the call of a White-breasted Nuthatch almost instantly from years of watching and photographing them, yet nowadays I rarely take the time to actually find them.  I add them to my bird list and travel on, listening and looking for the next bird to count.

Today was an exception.  We were birding at the Fairview Drive Wetlands, and passing through some cottonwoods and maples I thought I heard a single call.  Without a repeat to verify its presence I hesitated to add it to my list.  On the return route, I heard it again, only this time it repeated.  I decided to stop and make an honest effort to find it.  I badly needed a photo to add to my list for the day.  I searched but did not have a clue.  I next resorted to my iPhone, and using an App played out its call.  Perhaps curiousity got the best of him, he suddenly came into view.  I grabbed my camera and got off one shot before it vanished around the back of a tall tree.

I was super excited because this wetland habitat was not where I would expect to find a White-breasted Nuthatch.  I count on finding them in oak trees in drier conditions.  I reflected that I didn't think I had seen them here at Fairview Wetlands before.  When I got home and added this photo to the bird list, I checked the eBird Hot Spot, and low and behold it has never been reported before at this location. So, not only was it a first for me, but a first for the location.  Here is a link for the bird list.

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Close observers of this blog are aware that our style of overnight stays has changed over time to almost an obsession with free locations. In the RV world it is some times referred to as stealth camping, dry camping, or boon docking. Basically we like to use places where we can park for free overnight.  It's not really camping, we don't build a fire, set up chairs, or have a barbecue.  We just have four wheels touching the ground.  We are completely self-contained. We don't need restrooms, electricity, or water. We are quiet, and in the morning we move on to our next adventure. We have used retail parking lots, rest areas, national forest lands, and - - - Sno-Parks.

Coming home on Tuesday over the Santiam Pass, we stopped to give Buster a break at the Maxwell Butte Sno-Park.  This is where the two sign photos were taken.  In years gone by Jeanette and I did a lot of Cross-Country Skiing, so we have experience with a good number of Sno-Parks for ski trips.   In our present more sedate life style of RV travel, we have used a number of Sno-Parks for overnight parking.  In the winter, Sno-Parks can be busy places with skiers, snow-mobiles and snow-plows coming and going.  But once the snow is gone, these parking lots are for the most part deserted, and stay so through out the summer. The winter season is on its way now and come November 1st a Sno-Park Parking Permit will be needed to use the parking lot.

If you are interested in exploring this more, here is a list of 19 Sno-Parks from the Destinations section of Cascade Ramblings.  Click here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Testing Trip

We have been having conflicting feelings in regard to a winter trip to the south land of California and Arizona.  There are lots of worries about our competence to travel with advancing age, Buster's new travel anxiety, and the Zion's ability to carry us for months on end. A call from our friend Glenn revealing his location, prompted us to make a rendezvous at Summer Lake.  A quick trip to test out all systems before a possible departure in a couple of weeks sounded like a great idea.

Greenwater Park Rest Area
We made a quick pack-up and left Salem Saturday afternoon, making our stop for the night just outside of Oakridge at Greenwater Park Rest Area. This is a great stop for those traveling Highway 58 over the Willamette Pass.  The Greenwater Park is also an eBird Hot Spot, so we always make a bird list when we stop. We had a quiet night, with good cell service, and antenna TV.

campsite on Anna River
Our meet-up spot for Sunday was the Summer Lake Rest Area, an all time favorite of ours. An in-route call from Glenn let us know that he had spent the night there and was now set up in a campsite in the Summer Lake National Wildlife Area.  After a stop at the Summer Lake Store for gas we traveled on to find Glenn in a nice area along the the Anna River.

Jeanette & Glenn
Camping with Glenn is always great fun and we enjoy birding together. In the afternoon he took us on a little driving route and we got in a great bird list, which you can see with photos here.

Site #22
Monday we stopped for breakfast at The Lodge at Summer Lake. Glenn headed for Eugene, and we traveled to Bend where we had at great lunch with my brother Mark and his wife Holly. In the afternoon we got as far as Sisters, and getting tired, we decided to try the Creekside Park Campground. This was a real delight.  There were lots of sites, the camp host was done for the season, but a friendly camper helped us with the registration process.  We selected site #22 which a large green grass area.  With the Senior Discount is was fifteen dollars for a no-hookup RV site.  The park also features free WiFi, dump station, freshwater fill, hot showers, and a dish washing station. And all this is with in walking distance to restaurants.

Tuesday morning we drove over the Santiam Pass and home to Salem, completing a four day three night test trip.  In review, the van performed well, climbing the passes with out effort. We traveled over 400 miles and we found the driving comfortable.  The kitchen arrangement still needs some tweaks. The sleeping arrangement has more adjustments to make. The Buster dog, well he needs more walks during the driving time.  We drove over 100 miles each day, our goal for our winter wandering is 50 miles, leaving more time everyday to walk and bird.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Meeting Stephany Smith

Jeanette & Stephany

This morning while Jeanette and I were birding and walking our dog Buster at Fairfiew Drive Wetlands we met a lady walking her dogs.  Here first question was "Are you Cascade Ramblings?" Well yes, how would you know? Her name is Stephany Smith and she met us a couple of years ago in Tuscon Arizona at Gilbert Ray County Park.  Here is a link to a post for some of our time there. As it turns out she is a regular reader of our blog, and completely unknown to us, has kept track of us and even knew that we had a new van.  Beside the obvious common interest in dogs, and possibly birds, she also has an RV, a Lazy Days.  After several questions concerning our Roadtrek Zion we gave her a tour.  She was particularly interesting in our Pico chairs that fold up into such a small space.

 Jeanette giving her spiel on Pico chairs

Sunday, September 16, 2018

New Designs and Improvements

Jeanette has been busy making new designs and improvements in our Roadtrek Zion.  This finished product in the above photo is some rear storage space.  First she designed and build a shelf made of slats, and then today on a trip to The Container Store in Tualatin we found these three perfect storage boxes. It is quiet a challenge, often daunting, to prepare such a small space as the van to live in for the winter months we plan on traveling around California and Arizona.

In the lower photo is our rear twin-bed set-up.  She has spent literally weeks working away selecting material and sewing to make a comfortable sleeping arrangement.  This project, finished earlier this week, includes two memory foam mats covered with removable slip covers and matching pillow slip covers.  This is actually a second design, the first she deemed a failure.  Luckly she forged on and came up with this beautiful finished set.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Recent Van Trips

I seem to have gotten behind in posting.  I guess in part because we have been so busy trying to get the van arranged to our liking. We have taken a couple of trips to the coast to escape the heat and test out the van. I'm going to post a collection of our two most recent trips   

Fort Yamhill State Heritage Site

On Tuesday August 28th we took off early in the morning for a one nice stay at the coast.  It was going to be in the high eighties in Salem.  Buster's impatience led us to make Buell County Park on Mill Creek our first stop. We had the park to ourselves and got in a good bird walk. Our second stop was at Fort Yamhill State Heritage Site, where we got in a second walk and made up a second bird list. Our third stop was on the Salmon River Estuary at Knight County Park.  Here we had lunch, rested in the shade and made up our third bird list of the day. In late afternoon we drove over Cascade Head to make our night parking at Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site and have dinner at the Hawk Creek Cafe, which for some unexplainable reason was closed! 

Knight County Park

Our second trip to the coast started on Tuesday September 4th.  Our first stop to accommodate Buster was the Riverview Park in Independence, and surprisingly again we had a great bird walk.  We continued on to Corvallis and over the coast range towards Newport, but turning at Toledo to stop at a favorite of ours, Paddle Park on Yaquina Bay. Here we spent some time relaxing at I used my mobile office set-up to catch-up our bird lists and photos. Leaving Paddle Park we drove along Yaquina Bay, and then over the Yaquina Bridge, stopping on the south end at a favorite fish place to purchase a shrimp salad and a crab salad for lunch which we stopped at the South Beach Day Use Area to enjoy. After lunch we continue south on Highway 101 to Walport, stopping at Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Site for a good walk on the beach and a bird list. Our night parking was back in Walport at an undisclosed location.

  Paddle Park

Our second day on this trip we headed north on Highway 101 making a stop at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to park at a very scenic spot that we used two years ago and seems to be mostly overlooked.  Here we spent a good part of the day relaxing, taking short walks, having lunch, and catching up with computer time. Our dinner plan was to stop at Moe's in Otter Rock. Again we found a closed restaurant!  Checked out some spots at Depot Bay and elected to park for the night at Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint.  Leftovers for dinner and a glorious sunset. 

Yaquina Head view point

Sunset at Boiler Bay

Conclusion: Three days and two nights, zero for camp fees, 25 dollars for lunch, 50 dollars for gas. Great weather and scenery.  Biggest disappointment, the Girard On-demand water heater. Unbelievably impractical to the point we will probably be replacing.