Monday, March 30, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Walking in My "Backyard"

A city-folk condo with a natural "backyard."
When you live in an apartment style condo, you don't have a real backyard. We have a deck off our living room and bedroom with a small table and two chairs so Wayne and I can get outdoors to enjoy fresh air.

From our lofty perch on the third floor, we have a birds-eye view of a creek with its protected riparian zone several acres in size. We chose to purchase this condo partly for that reason.

Morning coffee on warm days or evening wine with a view.
In the winter, we can see Mt. Baker in the distance. In the summer, the mature trees give us a forest view in the heart of the city. But it doesn't give us room for exercise.

Taking the stairs rather than the elevator helps, but it's not enough to overcome our current sedentary lifestyle. When we can't get out to one of Bellingham's uncrowded parks, we use our "backyard" path and neighbourhood streets for the exercise we need.

The path behind our buildings is very popular with dog walkers as well.

While out, we follow the six foot distancing guidelines. It sets an example for passing motorists and other walkers, though we rarely pass any.

Come along with me to walk through my "backyard."

The beaver dam before relocation was necessary.
Our complex path follows a creek with a natural riparian area. Here cedar, fir, maple and cottonwood trees grow. There are willows, horsetail, grasses, ferns and masses of blackberry bushes.

Small animals and birds frequent this spot of nature within city limits. One year we had two beavers build a dam. To prevent flooding, they and their dam had to be removed. It was fun to watch their activities while it lasted.

A deer in our driveway.
In addition to critters, we have lots of birds. Residents and visitors include seagulls, ravens, flickers, woodpeckers, jays, ducks, robins, juncos, starlings, sparrows and hummingbirds. Now that it's spring, I love to hear them sing in the new day at sunrise.

A Pileated Woodpecker at work.
There are a number of dead trees that woodpeckers and flickers enjoy drilling.

When my mom lived with with us here, we had a bird feeder that was very popular. I think I enjoyed watching the birds even more than she did.

Skunk Cabbage grows in boggy areas each spring.
Each spring one of my favourite plants blooms, Western Skunk Cabbage. It's also called Swamp Lantern, an apt name because of the shape and bright yellow of its large hooded flower.

The common name comes from the bad odour the flower emits. It sounds strange, but the smell is what attracts its pollinators, flies and beetles. Bears and deer (we do get a few here) eat them despite their strong smell.

Here's a peak at my backyard through the seasons.

Winter, spring, summer and fall in my backyard.

How are you handling staying at home? Do you have a backyard to use for exercise and to enjoy fresh air? If not, what are you doing instead? -- Margy

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Keeping Busy

Keeping busy and feeling productive is important for our mental health right now.

Television isn't always the best diversion with the airwaves focused on 24/7 news about the pandemic and stock market. To keep a positive perspective, having other interests is good.

We are self-isolating in Bellingham, so Wayne and I are doing city-folk things. We do watch a lot of news. In the evening, we stream movies and shows on Xfinity and Netflix.  I cook and Wayne does dishes. Spring cleaning is still on hold.

We go out walking, shop (mostly Fred Meyer pickup), read and play iPad Scrabble. I write blog posts of course, and I'm finishing the illustrations in this winter's Snowbird RV Adventure Journal.

Here's my workspace at the dining room table.

Using ink and watercolour pencil on a map illustration in my journal.

Here's a closeup of the journal page. While we travel, I do pencil sketches of illustrated maps that I can finish later at home. I pick images that tell a story about the places we have been and what we have seen.

A finished ink and watercolour map on my journal page.

Here's a closer view and a link to the post about White Tank Regional Park. It's in the Phoenix region of Arizona and we were in early February when the desert flowers were just starting.

A closeup of the illustrated journal map.

If you are interested in reading about our journey, here's a link to the our Snowbird RV Adventure. Having a journal helps me relive those great moments even though we can't be there in person right now.

What are you doing right now to keep busy and productive? How is the self-isolation or quarantine experience for you? -- Margy

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Marine Park

Marine Park is a small park overlooking Bellingham Bay.
Governor Inslee just announced a "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order for the State of Washington. We all have to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We can go out for essential activities like getting food, medical attention, and walking while maintaining a safe social distance.

Wayne and I went walking in Marine Park. It's next to Bellingham Bay with spectacular views of Lummi Island and Downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven. There's grass, tables, trees and few visitors.

The park is bordered by the train tracks linking the States to Canada. Passenger and freight trains pass by so close you could almost touch them. In fact, you have to be careful since the tracks aren't fenced.

A train passing by during a previous visit to the park.

The park is also under the flight path for nearby Bellingham International Airport. It offers commercial service and is home base to numerous private planes.

A private plane passes overhead on departure.

We took advantage of a clearing between rain showers to walk the park's gravel path.

Walking the uncrowded trail through a wooded section along Marina Avenue.

We saw more evidence of spring's arrival. The small plant is Purple Deadnettle. It makes me think of our Powell Lake home. It grows along the lake shore at the Shinglemill Marina. Thanks to a comment by Southern Sunflowers, the large shrub with the beautiful yellow flowers is a Forsythia. I've seen them in other parks and even found one in our condo's natural creek riparian zone.

Park hours are from dawn to dusk. Just before it closes you can see spectacular sunsets.

Looking across Bellingham Bay to the Fairhaven community.

Bellingham has some wonderful places to explore. This is just one of many we hope to explore. -- Margy

Friday, March 20, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Euclid Park

Euclid Park near Lake Whatcom in Bellingham.
Like people around the world, Wayne and I are social distancing.  Rather than cross the Canadian border to return to Powell River, we decided to remain at our Bellingham, Washington, part-time home.  We don't have COVID-19 symptoms, so we can still go out using precautions.

Life has changed a lot. I order groceries and supplies online from Fred Meyer and pick them up in the parking lot already bagged. We stay away from crowds, but do go out once a day for a drive, to walk in our neighbourhood, or visit an uncrowded park.

There are many parks scattered throughout Bellingham and in surrounding Whatcom County. We are taking this opportunity to explore some of them while social distancing from other patrons. Our first outing was to Euclid Park on the shore of Lake Whatcom.

Well maintained and uncrowded trails through a wooded Euclid Park.

We drove there on first day of Spring. It was sunny and warm, perfect to get some much needed fresh air and exercise. Parking is limited in a roadside area on Euclid Avenue north or Lakeway Drive. The trails meandering through the forested park are open daily.

We discovered a beautiful beach on Lake Whatcom at the end of a trail.

The first trail to the left takes you to a pocket beach on Lake Whatcom. A few handmade log benches let you enjoy the view and the crystal clear water. I imagine during summer months this is usually a popular swimming hole for locals. Hopefully this summer it will be again.

Signs of spring are so important right now for our well-being.

It was uplifting to see signs of spring along the trail. I highly recommending getting out in nature right now. Our minds and bodies need the soothing respite it offers.  What have you been doing to help yourself and others at this difficult time? - Margy

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Wayne and Margy's 2019-20 Snowbird RV Adventure

Snowbird RV Adventure Update

Wayne and I want to thank all of our readers for coming along with us so far on our Snowbird RV Adventure. 

For now, however, we are staying home to take care of ourselves and to do our part to help prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus.  Wayne and I send our best wishes to all of you for continued good health, and we mourn the loss of so many people to this terrible disease.

Once the health danger is past, we will be back on the road with more stories to share. In the meantime, you can scroll down to get caught up on our first two trip segments.

Wayne and I planned for months for our first Snowbird road trip in the new RV we purchased last April.

This time of year it gets darker, colder and wetter at our float cabin on Powell Lake. Sun and warmth are calling. Just like the geese, we are migrating south.

An early November departure was perfect. We beat the snow and ice in the mountain pass between Oregon and California, and we were able to skip winterizing our RV. That was a win-win.

We picked a Forest River Sunseeker 2250 specifically for this adventure. We like the small size for maneuverability and easy parking. It's been a perfect rig for us even on long trips.

The overall 24'4" length of the Sunseeker packs in a lot of living space.

We planned a three part trip.

Part 1 - We left Bellingham on November 4. For 43 days we explored and camped our way from Washington State to Southern California. In mid-December, we put the RV into storage in Southern California, went to USC for basketball and then flew back to Bellingham for a break. You can read about this leg of our trip by scrolling down.

Part 2 - Our second leg of the trip started on February. We flew back south to pick up our RV from Pomona Fairplex RV Storage. After a short stay in Pomona to enjoy our old stomping grounds (we lived there for 24 years), we drove to Arizona for more exploring and a stay in Tempe for Arizona State University softball. By late February, we ended up in the Tucson area where we put our RV in storage once again and flew back to Bellingham for a second break.

Camping in public parks gives you more privacy and nature.

Part 3 - Needless to say, the third and final part of our trip that was supposed to start in late March was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Who could have expected a pandemic to catch us mid-way through our Snowbird Adventure.

Private RV parks offer more amenities and full hookups.

When it's safe again to travel, we'll fly to Tucson to check on our RV For now it's safe in electric storage at the Tucson Lazydays KOA RV Resort. -- Wayne and Margy

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1 Begins: Bellingham to McChord Air Force Base

Part 1: Day 1

Please note that the following posts of our Snowbird RV Adventure Parts 1 and 2 have been reordered for easier reading in chronological order. The posting dates do not reflect the actual calendar dates of our trips.

Camped overnight at the Bellingham RV Park.
November 4: Our Snowbird RV adventure began in Bellingham, Washington. We went to Gotcha Covered RV and Boat Storage to pick up our rig. Catchy name, huh? It aptly describes our secure covered parking spot with a power hookup.

We keep our RV ready to roll except for perishables. For long trips we rent a spot at the Bellingham RV Park closer to our condo. Here we can load last minute items, test our systems and get an early start.

Downtown Seattle was a breeze this time.
We timed our departure to get through the big city of Seattle after the morning rush hour. Google maps with traffic help us plan our route and make adjustments as needed.

I also use Google in satellite view to find places to eat and shop along the way. I choose places that offer RV parking or have large lots nearby. McDonalds in Burlington has RV parking so that's where we stopped for breakfast.

Our first night destination was Holiday Park on McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. We like to come here on our first night out because we can easily stock up with fresh food at the Commissary. If you are active duty or a retired veteran with base privileges, we highly recommend military campgrounds and RV parks.

Before we went to the campground, we parked with a view of the runway to watch the C-17 Globemaster transport planes landing. If you like to watch aircraft, bases are a good choice.

We got settled in our spot. On long trips we like to use a variety of RV camping styles. Public parks and some military campgrounds give you more privacy and let you get closer to nature, yet have amenities such as power, water and sometimes even sewer.

Site #30 at the McChord Holiday Park campground is private with full hookups.

After a long day of driving, it's relaxing to sit outside and enjoy a beverage.

Enjoying the outdoors is a big part of RV camping for us.

I take some time to write and add illustrations to my travel journal. That way I can record tips, comment on good sites for the future and to remember the fun times we've had.

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 135 miles
Total - 135 miles

Stay tuned for more of our travelogue blog posts and get some handy tips from two RVing newbies. -- Wayne and Margy 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1: McChord to Armitage Park Campground

Part 1: Day 2

Over the Columbia River entering Oregon on a foggy morning.
November 5: Today our Snowbird RV Adventure started in fog. We didn't have to checkout until 11:00 so we waited for it to lift a little.

The second leg of our trip was going to be a four driving hours plus time for a rest and to get gas. That meant we would arrive at our destination, the Armitage County Park Campground in Coburg, Oregon, at 4:00. We would get to our destination before sunset. Since we are still new at parking our rig, having light to get it in place and set up is important.

This was the first long leg of our trip. We like a break from driving every two hours or so. Sometimes we plan a meal stop (with good RV parking) or use one of the handy in and out rest areas along major highways. That's what we chose today. You can see us parking in a pull-through spot next to the big guys.

Taking a break with the big guys at the French Prairie Rest Area.

Our route took us down I-5 from Tacoma to Coburg, Oregon. We never got away from the fog, but the forward visibility was good. We bypassed downtown Portland using Interstate 205 to the east. Again we lucked out, no rush hour traffic. Planning to drive through large cities on weekends or the middle of the day works better.

We chose the French Prairie Rest Area on I-5 south of Portland for our rest break. There are two drive-through areas and Oregon allows 12-hour parking including overnight if needed. Here's a summary of rest area rules by state.

Site #32 at Armitage Park Campground has full hookups and privacy.

We got to Armitage Park Campground before sunset, just as planned. You can make reservations for any Lane County Park up to two days in advance. We pre-selected a favourite site and knew we had a guaranteed spot when we arrived. Armitage Park is next to the McKenzie River. It has a large dog park, picnic grounds, boat launch ramp, walking trails and campground.

Fisherman on the McKenzie River in Armitage Park.
We love this campground and come here often while attending sports events at the University of Oregon in Eugene. 

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 240 miles
Total - 375 miles

Stay tuned for more of our travelogue blog posts and get some handy tips from two RVing newbies. -- Wayne and Margy

Friday, March 6, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1: Our Run for the Border

Part 1: Days 3 - 4

Trying to avoid snow in the mountain pass like February 2018.
November 6: We started our Snowbird RV Adventure in early November to make it through the mountain pass between Oregon and California before ice and snow.

Last year on our rental RV trip, heavy snow stranded us for a day as we were trying to get north. We definitely didn't want that to happen again. Wayne grew up in snowy Upstate New York, but even he didn't like the conditions. I grew up in sunny Southern California. For me it was even scarier seeing cars stuck in snowbanks.

Grocery store parking lots often have drive through spaces.
Day three was our longest driving time so far, five and a half hours. We got an early (foggy again) start and broke it up into three more manageable segments.

First we stopped at a Denny's in Medford for breakfast. It was next door to a grocery store with excellent parking.

It's hard to pass up their crispy Pancake Puppies with cream cheese icing for dipping.

We stopped at the Weed Rest Area in the pass to take pictures of Mt. Shasta, and finally got gas at an easy off and on station just before Redding thanks to Google maps satellite view.

Mt. Shasta with very little snow for this time of year.

Our destination for the night was the Durango RV Resort in Red Bluff, California. We stayed here twice last year on our rental RV trip. It has lots of amenities and is located within easy walking distance to a shopping center. As a treat, we walked to Shari's for an early dinner. We shared the restaurant with several tables of Cal Fire firefighters. There are fires burning in many parts of California right now.

November 7: After three days of steady driving, we wanted a break. We asked for three nights, but could only get two. A large group was arriving on Friday for the weekend. This is the Durango Resort's busy season for RV clubs.

Site #25 next to the clubhouse is pull in for motorhomes, back in for trailers.

The view of the Sacramento River from the park.
Last year we had a Sacramento River front site. This time we were along the fountain parkway. They also have pull-through sites.

The fountain site is $60 but they have a 10% senior and Good Sam discount, and 15% for veterans.

The second night we walked over to Luigi's Pizza. They deliver to your rig with a 10% discount, but we opted to eat in. We had the beef dip special and an antipasto salad. Next trip we'll try the pizza. It looked delicious heading to other tables!

The fountain parkway at the Durango RV Resort.

Building in extra rest nights after long driving legs helps you stay alert for the next segment of your RV trip. And after all, it's supposed to be a vacation even while you are traveling.

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 347 miles
Total - 722 miles

Stay tuned for more of our travelogue blog posts and get some handy tips from two RVing newbies. -- Wayne and Margy

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1: Red Bluff to Sacramento CalExpo

Part 1: Days 5 - 7

November 8: We left the Durango RV Resort at their noon checkout and began our drive down I-5 to Sacramento, the capitol of California. Along the way we could see the fertile valley between the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California.

There were walnuts, almonds, olives and lots of rice fields and granaries as we entered the Sacramento Delta region approaching the California's State Capitol, Sacramento.

Smoke from a small fire on the horizon.
Now that we are below the pass with the potential for snow, we are making our driving legs shorter and our overnight stays longer.

Devastating fires are burning throughout California. It was one year ago that a fire virtually wiped out the town of Paradise and killed 87. We passed through strong smoke below Red Bluff. Then farther along, we saw a small fire in its beginning stage. Fortunately, this week the winds aren't as strong, especially at ground level.

Our destination was the CalExpo Fairgrounds in Sacramento, California. I used to come to this city several times a year for Department of Education meetings when I was a school administrator in Southern California.

The RV Park is tucked away on the southeast side of the fairgrounds backed by the greenway along the American River with miles of multi-use trails for bikes, hiker and horseback riders.

It's huge with over 500 sites in several areas and they take reservations. Each site is paved with full hookups. Ours was long and wide, and the campground was mostly empty so it didn't feel crowded.

A few trees breaks up the parking lot atmosphere.

We hooked up to power and water utilities. Sewer was available, but we didn't need to use it here. We can travel for about eight days before it's needed.

Full hookups at Site #235. No cable but lots of local air antenna channels.

Then there was time to get some sun outdoors with an early afternoon check-in. We fixed dinner in our rig and watched the news with channels received from our built-in antenna.

November 9: On our second day, we walked down to the American River using the popular network of paved multi-use trails.

The American River before it merges with the Sacramento near downtown.

We saw lots of people walking dogs, riding bikes and sitting at picnic tables strategically placed at the river's edge.

The paved trails along the river are shaded by oaks frequented by squirrels.

November 10: On our last night, we met up with a childhood friend of mine, Carol and her partner Bob. Carol and I were in Blue Birds and Campfire Girls together when were kids in Compton, California. They live in Davis and drove over to have dinner with us at the nearby Red Lobster. It was fun to catch up after all these years.

A nice place to say for overnight or an extended stay.

Fairgrounds are a good place to stay if you are going to a town or city. They are usually large with lots of availability. The sites are basic, but the fairgrounds we've used have been clean and welcoming. - Wayne and Margy

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 135 miles
Total - 857 miles