Dragons — in Oregon!?!?

Some RVers are destination travelers: they know where they want to go, what they want to see. Some jackrabbit from one attraction to another — they want to visit all the oddball tourist attractions or follow their favorite sports team around the country, see national parks or local museums. Others are working, plying a trade, so they move from on job building roads or buildings or pipelines to another.

There’s a middle ground, where an RVer hears about something like the eclipse, then plan a travel route to be in the path of it, or maybe be in Pendleton, Oregon, when the big roundup is going on.

Some of us have favorite spots we’ve found in our journeys and we enjoy returning to them, and if something neat happens while we’re there, well, then… how cool is that?

That happened to us this past August, while we were in Joseph, Oregon. I saw something in the local newspaper about “Dragon Races” and, as it turned out, one of the managers or the RV park where we were staying was on the local racing team. We had to go!

The smoke we’d been trying to escape was getting worse in this corner of the state mostly because a new fire had broken out along the Columbia River to the northwest.

This far end of Wallowa Lake is like the bottom of a funnel, catching everything in it. We worried about the day of the race — too much smoke is never good for anybody. The day started with the bluest skies we’d seen in days, and hundreds of people turned out to see the races.

Dragon boat races are very popular around the Portland area where races attract hundreds of teams. Somewhere along the way, a group of Joseph and Enterprise residents decided to form their own team and the Wallowa Dragons was born. They don’t have their own boat, so they practiced all they could without one, which makes sense when you realize each boat has 20 paddlers, a caller, and someone at the tiller. Just getting everybody into the boat in the right place takes a lot of coordination!

Teams included a variety of folks — all ages, all with varying physical abilities, but every one of them possessing a competitive edge and a great sense of fun.

It took us a little while to figure out they had to row all the way out to the other side of the lake BEFORE they raced back! Talk about using a lot of energy before the real push!

The caller has the important job of beating the drum to keep all the paddlers in rhythm — the more in-sync they are, the faster the boat goes, right? Plus the caller has to have nerves of steel to sit on a little chair on a very narrow boat…!

The tiller makes sure the boat is always pointed in the right direction. The race is run in a pretty straight line, so getting that long, skinny boat out away from the pier and then turned around at the starting line is probably the trickiest part of the job for the tiller.

Sometimes there were long delays, maybe while the timing was figured out and the rankings were calculated from heat to heat, but it gave us spectators time to watch the crowd…

…and the paragliders, who were sailing off the top of Mount Howard nearby…

…and the sunbathers, who might or might not have been interested in the races:

Not only did this day’s races require a lot of coordination within the teams, we found out there was a lot of coordination across the teams. From sharing boats to sharing expertise, the whole experience was a great example how competitors can cooperate to spread their love of a sport. This was the Wallowa team’s second year competing — and they took three silver medals. All because others were willing to help them learn and practice and improve.

We could all learn a lesson from that, don’t you think?

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Pea Body Review

Many thanks to Denise Fleischer for her review of Pea Body at her GottaWriteNetwork blog! You can read it here.

More info on Ellen’s novels and short story collection is at ellenbooks.com — where she’s been doing a series of interviews with other RVing novelists.

Back here soon with some final notes on Bob and Ellen’s Great RV Adventure for 2017 (yep… late as usual!)….

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Our Annual BEST EATS Awards — 2017!

Every year about this time we give a shout-out to the best restaurant experiences we’ve had. Bob’s such an awesome cook (see our Best Of the Best post if you want to make yourself REALLY hungry) we’re spoiled, which means if something makes our BEST list, it’s pretty darned good.

We posted our first BEST list back in 2011 (!) and over the years, the list got pretty long, some of the restaurants went out of business and the quality in others dropped…. We haven’t been back to many of the places where a specific meal or menu item caught our palate, so the BEST list now focuses on places we’ve visited over the last year or two.

Let us know if you’ve been to any of these places or add your own BEST EATS to the comments so everyone can check them out! Continue reading

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The Day the Sun Went Out…

…is also known as the day of America’s solar eclipse. We didn’t plan it this way, but when I saw we were going to be in the path of the solar eclipse, I was tickled. I can remember years and years ago as a kid making the tricky cardboard viewer and watching the shadow of the moon cover more and more of the sun. It was disappointing, but no less memorable.

This time, with the handy-dandy solar glasses, we would get to watch the real thing from eastern Oregon. From our side yard (when you’re full-timing, the yard moves around, you know). We had our specs, Bob made his famouns french-pressed organic, free-trade coffee with Ghiradelli cocoa and a touch of honey, we had the TV on, we were ready!

This Portland TV station carried the eclipse live, and we knew we were a few minutes behind, so we could watch the fun on TV and know what was coming (sort of… more about that later):

Remember, we’d been over on the Oregon coast just a week or so before, so we had heard all the hype, seen all of the reports about the prices of hotel rooms and RV park spaces. We were glad we were going to be out of the craziness. As it turned out, they raised the prices out there and nobody came (serves them right, eh?).

In our side yard, I tried to find a great way to capture the fading sunlight. Maybe photographing this pinecone as the shadow faded would work…

What do you think? Here’s the same pinecone, 21 minutes later:

And here it is, 40 minutes after the first photo (and about 6 minutes before the “best time to view” for this area):

We were not in the path of the total eclipse, but experienced a “98.6% obscuration,” which was like being in a bright place and having the lights dimmed. I got chilly enough I went back inside the rig to put my sweater on.

Pardon the awning arm in this shot, but it shows how dim things got, and if you look really closely, you can see that the lights in the lodge across the street came on.

It wasn’t as dramatic as the total eclipse must have been, but it was nonetheless an amazing experience to see the world get a little dimmer, despite the cloudless sky.

Most of the locals didn’t seem affected by it at all.

Wherever you were for the eclipse, I hope you got to see at least an edge of it!

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Allowing for Wallowa

This past August we spent a few weeks just outside Joseph, Oregon, at Wallowa Lake, our second visit to this spot. It would have been our third except we cancelled reservations one year when wildfires kept air quality at lousy levels. Nestled into a canyon at the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness with mountains on three sides and a gorgeous lake on the fourth, this spot has been a popular seasonal getaway for decades.

The odd combination of very old summer cabins that have been in families for generations mixed with new log cabin-styled houses and lodges used mostly for rentals make for a varied neighborhood. Toss in miniature golf, a few ice cream stands, several souvenir shops, a horse riding outfit, a go-cart track, and the Wallowa Tramway, which takes you up in a metal bucket to the top of Mount Howard (which we did a couple of years ago when we last stayed here) and you have all the necessary ingredients of a bonafide tourist spot.

Other than shopping in a few of the stores, we prefer to head out of town to hike. Continue reading

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From Hill to Hill

By mid-August the smoke in western Montana had gotten bad enough we stopped hiking, which always means it’s time to go someplace else. Though it wasn’t much better to the West, we had reservations in Joseph, Oregon, so we steered in that direction and hoped for the best.

Wild turkeys and deer dodged the RV as we drove the backroads, but there was no dodging the road work delays or the tricky detour in Clarkston-Lewiston (with signs that confused the easily-befuddled navigator, Ellen). But as we traveled from hilly country across the rolling grasslands, we relished the open space:

We stopped for lunch In the tiny Idaho town of Potlatch — a place called Dad’s Diner has to be good, right?

And it was! From their homemade soup…

…to Bob’s salisbury steak…

…to my bacon cheeseburger on their homemade bread:

Sadly, Dad’s Diner is on the market… if it’s sold, we’re hoping the friendliness of the staff, the delicious recipes, and the care that went into each order stays the same.

Our bellies full, it was back to the RV for more thrills and chills along this winding, hilly, stunning road:

We were thrilled to see blue skies over Wallowa Lake!

We’d swapped the smokey hills of Montana for the blue-sky hills of Oregon. Ah!

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Huckleberry Found

We’d heard for years about the Trout Creek, Montana, Huckleberry Festival (Trout Creek being the official Huckleberry Capitol of Montana), but 2017 was the first year we were in town for it. It was a big deal. The three-day festival on the second weekend in August is the eventof the year for the town — and probably the county.

We walked through the many vendor booths set up Friday…

…where the entertainment on the stage had already started… Continue reading

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