What’s in a Name…

Names are important. Almost everyone knows Eeyore the Donkey. If you read this blog, you also know Bone. He’s being a bit sartorial here, all dressed up in his kilt. He’s also known for running around naked.

I’ve been tardy in the world of blogging lately. My apologies. Other things have demanded my attention: Important things like learning to back up a trailer (a work in progress), or make the trailer’s hotspot work so we can have decent internet, or figure out what the hundreds of buttons (a slight exaggeration) in our new Ford 150 do.  And a gazillion other things. Like the naming of the trailer…

I asked Eeyore to help me back up the trailer last week in my first ever campground backup spot at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. This was his reaction. The Olema campground host was hardly more helpful. “I’ll be glad to come out and yell at you when your wife gets tired,” she told me.
A partial view of the buttons on our truck, lit up at night. They are hard enough to figure out in the day when you can see their labels.

Names are important, right? They provide recognition. Everyone, or just about everyone, recognizes Eeyore, for example. And if you read this blog, the odds are, you know Bone. But did you know Bone and Eeyore are the best of buddies? They’ve been traveling with us together for over a quarter of million miles on North America’s highways and byways over the past 20 years. They became good friends when Eeyore saved Bone from hanging in Tucson. He’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with ladies of the night.

Naming characters like Eeyore and Bone is natural, but how many of you also name your vehicles? We always have and recently we were faced with the challenge of naming two: our new Ford 150 pickup and our new Imagine trailer. The truck was easy. It is big, strong, and white like a polar bear. Iorek (pronounced Yorek), a king of the polar bears in The Golden Compass, immediately popped into our minds.

Iorek the bear in a free, downloadable photo from his role in “Golden Compass.” He was also quite gentle in his role when it came to Lyra.

The trailer has proven to be more difficult. We wanted something that suggested wandering. After all, this blog’s title is Wandering Through Time and Place. My Pacific Crest Trail backpacking name was Wanderer. One thing was clear. The name for the trailer had to represent a strong, independent female personality who loves roaming to provide a fitting partner for Iorek. The two of them are hitched.

Peggy suggested that maybe we should just go with Wanderer. But we wanted something more exotic. Remember, our first travel van was named Xanadu after the ancient summer capital of Kublai Khan. The second was Quivera, in honor of a mythical Native American city of gold that the Spanish Conquistadors could never find because it moved around— a lot, apparently.

“Go for a character out of Greek (or Roman) mythology,” our son Tony urged. And certainly there were strong Roman/Greek goddesses who wandered. Think of Diana, the Roman Goddess of the Hunt (Artemis in Greek Mythology), who spent a lot of time traipsing around in the woods. Like Peggy. My kind of woman. Or Persephone, who split her time between Hades and the outer world, creating the seasons as she moved. Then there was Medusa. But her nasty habit of turning people to stone disqualified her. She was a sweetheart in comparison to Pandora, however, who opened her box and set free all of the horrors of the world. What are a few stoned people in comparison to that? The treasure trove of Greek and Roman mythology encouraged me to check out mythological figures in other cultures. I found a number of promising leads but none quite clicked with us.

We were also open to historical figures. A ‘legendary but possibly historical character’ out of Ireland’s ancient history caught my attention. Muirisc was given land by her father, the 66th high king of Ireland, between 300 and 200 BCE, in what is now County Mayo.  According to Wikipedia, “She was known as a sea captain and a warrior who ‘ruled o’er hardy sailors and great men’ and was famed as much for being ‘daring’ and ‘bold’ as she was for her beauty.”

A wandering sea captain queen famed for her beauty, daring, and boldness— How could Iorek help but be charmed? But I don’t think “being ruled o’er’ was part of his agenda. (I’ve never been much on that, myself.) And he had someone in mind. “Serafina” we heard him whisper. She too was a queen, the queen of a clan of witches that live around Lake Enara in Finland. Like Iorek, she knows about extreme cold weather, and also like him, is a character in the Golden Compass. Both shared responsibility for helping and protecting young Lyra in her battles against totalitarian evil. They were a team.

It was hard to argue against Iorek’s logic. He’s the one, after all, who has to pull her along the highways and byways of North America. Plus, I like the way her name rolls off the tongue: srr-aa-FEE-na.   And maybe, just maybe, she will jump on her broom and park herself in campground spots that are particularly tight!

Imagine Serafina.

The Imagine 17MKE… Our New Tiny Home: Plus Halloween

Our new 2021 Ford 150 and 2022 Grand Design Imagine 17MKE. Are we ready to hit the road, or what! We are camped in Bend, Oregon as I write this blog. We came here to pick up our trailer from Blue Dog RV in Redmond, just north of Bend.

It’s not hard for Peggy and me to imagine a life of wandering. After all, we full-timed it for four years in our two Pleasure Way vans, Xanadu and Quivera. The first time we took a year off from work and travelled in Xanadu. The second time, we celebrated Peggy’s retirement with three years of exploring North America in Quivera. We are veterans of the open road, you might say, with a quarter of million miles crisscrossing the continent behind us.

But wandering with a trailer is a totally different kettle of fish, a virgin experience as our friend Leslie Lake would say. She also likes to note that virgin experiences are few and far between at our age and should be treasured.

I tend to agree but had serious second thoughts when Peggy and I mistakenly turned into a tiny parking lot yesterday and had to turn the trailer around while dodging parked cars. It quickly ramped up from virgin experience to Halloween nightmare. “Turn the other way!” my faithful traveling companion yelled at me from safely outside the truck as I was backing up. “No, the other way!” she yelled. Hmmm. After two or three times of that, pardon my French, I was beginning to wonder how many frigging ways a trailer can turn. And yes, I am well aware that the truck goes one direction and the trailer the other when you are backing up.

Aside from a very steep learning curve, we are really enjoying our new, tiny home and pickup. I decided to share a few photos of the Imagine 17 MKE. We haven’t named her yet, but the truck’s name is Iorik (pronounced Yorik). If you aren’t familiar with Iorik, he was the large, armored polar bear in the book/movie, The Golden Compass.

Murphy bed couch in an Imagine 17MKE.
A Murphy bed was close to a requirement in our new trailer because it frees up valuable living space, which is at a premium in a small trailer. When not down, the bed morphs into a couch, perfect for entertaining guests.
Alaks quilt made by Peggy Mekemson.
We decided to use one of Peggy’s quilts as a backdrop to add color and a personal touch. This is our ‘Alaskan quilt.’
Peggy serves as my model. The kitchen’s counter top is on the right.
African quilt by Peggy Mekemson.
Here is what the Murphy bed looks like when it is down. Here we are using Peggy’s African quilt as a comforter. It’s quite cozy. Note the small reading lights. They work quite well.
Mood lighting over Murphy bed in and Imagine 17MKE trailer.
The bed comes with blue, mood lighting. I don’t expect we will use it much but it is fun. I noticed that Peggy’s brown eyes turn golden under the light! A lioness, perhaps? One can only wonder.
This is our other couch, the one Peggy and I will use most. It is housed in a small slide out that also adds space to the trailer. The middle section can be converted to a side table for snacks. A larger fold up table comes with the 2022 Imagine but will live in our truck unless we are entertaining or working on projects. We are also trying out our various quilts on the couch.
Each unit of the couch can be turned into a recliner that goes all the way back if we want to take a nap. Note the lights on the drink cup. One of them simply lights up the cup holder. The one on the right turns the recliner into a massage chair. The one on the left heats the chair. This definitely isn’t a trailer of yore.
A comfy chair deserves a good book. Baldacci can always be trusted to spin a good tale. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
What I wasn’t expecting in a small trailer was the counter space. A large, stainless steel sink is in the middle. Its cover is made of slotted steel and rolls out, doubling as a dish dryer. Beyond that is our stove and then more counter space. Off to the right is a humongous refrigerator. Solar power runs the refrigerator when we are boon docking. Our TV is above the window.
Our three burner stove. A small oven is under the stove and a microwave above it. Add our Insta-Pot and air fryer and we will be able to cook just about anything on the road.
One of our major concerns in picking out a new trailer was the amount of storage space. Now we are wondering how we are going to fill all of the space we have. (I’m sure we will mange. Grin.) Anyway, I just counted 28 drawers and cabinets. Most are very generous in space. The five you see here are mine. All mine. That’s mine, Peggy. You have your own five.
There is also ample storage in the bathroom, but what really impressed me is that I fit easily into the shower!
Now you’ve seen the inside of our trailer, imagine moving in. Again, think scary Halloween. It’s just like moving into anywhere else when faced with the severe challenge of downsizing. Fortunately our 20 years of traveling in Quivera and Xanadu prepared us for the experience. We simply unpacked Quivera into our truck and then loaded our trailer from that while camped in Bend.
Bend has a lot to offer including great outdoor recreation… and beer. There are several brew pubs but the granddaddy of them all is Deschutes Brewery. Peggy snapped this photo of me at the brewpub celebrating time off from cramming for Trailer/Truck 101. A table of pirates sat next to us, but they had forgotten their parrot…
In the spirit of the season, I decided that this black vulture from the Florida Everglades (photo taken several years ago) would make a good substitute. Happy Halloween!

Our Link to the Stars… Or at Least an Army of Satellites Marching Across the Sky

Our roof now has a new addition, a Starlink satellite.

If you live out in the boondocks, like Peggy and I do, communication can be something of a challenge. Our only solution has been to reach up into the sky and hope that the sky gods are listening. As a result, our house is starting to look like a military installation out in the Nevada desert.

Searching for signals from the heavens. On the far right, a booster to enhance Verizon signals which our son-in-law Clay installed for us. It definitely improved our Verizon service but we still have to depend on a landline for most phone conversations. Next, in order, satellite dishes for our TV, Hughes, and Starlink connections.

This past summer I was becoming increasingly irritated at the service we received from Hughes. Slow to start with, it was getting worse. Several of our neighbors had switched to Viasat and argued it was much better. I did my research and was prepared to make the leap. That’s when Clay suggested that I check out Elon Musk’s Starlink. If it served our area, I might be able to sign up as a Beta tester. It promised internet services at speeds several times faster than either Hughes or Viasat at a similar cost. Plus it included unlimited data. I went online and discovered that our latitude was one of the first to be served. So I signed up, made a deposit, and waited.

A few weeks ago, a large box showed up on our doorstep. Unlike Hughes and Dish, who sent technicians out, I would be on my own with Starlink. I was a wee bit nervous. As you may recall, things mechanical and I don’t get along. It isn’t that I can’t do them. Owning a house in the woods for 11 years has certainly taught me that; its just that I prefer to do other things like writing, photography, cooking, traveling, reading, watching movies, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, pulling star thistle and scrubbing out toilets— you get the picture. People like Clay and my friend Tom, on the other hand, take great joy in fixing things. When Tom comes to visit, he brings a tool box with high hopes of finding something. Clay insists that I have a list for him. Even Peggy gets a gleam in her eyes when she is holding a power tool.

The big box, other boxes from Starlink, and the stand to use for placing my dish on the ground.

Before the box arrived, our first chore was to download an app to our iPhone and wander around the yard with the camera on and the phone pointed toward the sky to find the best, obstruction-free place to set the satellite. Did I mention we live in the boondocks, in a forest, with lots and lots of trees. South was fine. It’s where our other satellite dishes are pointed. The Starlink dish, however, likes north. Heres what our north looks like:

It includes lots of white oaks and very tall Ponderosa pines.

The app was not happy. It kept telling me to move to another location until I ran out of locations. I talked with my friends Bryan, who lives up the hill from where we live, and Jeff, who lives down the hill. Both had received Starlink dishes a couple of weeks before we got ours. Both told me that the app had told them the same thing. They had ended up placing their dishes in the least obstructed locations they could find. I decided to do the same thing:

And I found this. Call it a window of opportunity. A small window. To take advantage, I would have to place our dish up on the roof.

Now—to backtrack a little— I opened the box. The dish came with a stand, a hundred foot long ethernet cable, a modem and a router. It was designed to be placed on the ground. It even came all plugged together, almost idiot proof. All I would need to do was drill a hole in the side of our house, which was scary enough, but was something I could handle, or sic Peggy on.

Did directions ever come more simple? Find your location, set down your stand, pop in the dish, drill the hole in your house, plug the modem and router into your electrical outlet, log in, and woohoo! You have super-fast (for the boondocks) internet.

It was drilling holes in the roof that I found disturbing. They can be injurious to your house. Water can seep through and and do all sorts of nasty damage. Some people might also question the wisdom of a 78 year-old wandering around on a roof. They are probably the same people who questioned my wisdom in celebrating my 75th birthday by backpacking 750 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, much of it by myself. No, I was not worried about being up on the roof. Try perching on a narrow trail by yourself with a thousand foot drop below you in a strong wind with a forest fire rapidly approaching.

I did what any modern fix-it person does and went looking for YouTube videos. There were plenty, of course. The secret was simply find the roof studs for screwing the mount into and seal the hell out of the holes. Okay, I could handle that. I bought extra outdoor sealant just in case. But I also opted for back up if needed. I called Joel, a roofer and really nice guy who had replaced a skylight for us. He quickly volunteered. He’s also waiting for a Starlink dish. And I checked in with Bryan, our uphill neighbor, who had already installed his Starlink dish on the side of his house and is quite handy. And then I waited again. Starlink had sent us everything we needed for the ground version, but it had another package for roof installation.

It arrived a few days ago and included a roof volcano mount, six large screws and (lo and behold) a tar-based super sticky sealant and directions how to use it. Elon Musk leaves little to chance. Okay, I said to myself— “Self, you can do this.” I gathered all of the tools I would need, loaded them into a garden apron Peggy loaned me, and up I went, like Santa sans reindeer. Peggy held the ladder and did whatever worrying that needed to be done. I am pleased to say that my mounting effort was a success. At least so far. Next, I affixed the cable along our eaves and came to my last scary task, drilling a large hole in the side of our house.

Check out the volcano mount! What fine work. Grin. I’d used a silver spray paint so I would know exactly where to place the large screws. BTW, each end of the cable came with the round thing-a-ma-bob you see here. It’s what required the large hole in our house.
The next major challenge was drilling a hole large enough to accommodate the ethernet cable. Would you trust this man and his big drill? Neither did my wall. I admit, it was a bit too much.

This drill exactly matched the size of the hole I had to create, but my first problem was that I needed to drill smaller holes before the large bit would enter the siding. Whatever. Except the sky was darkening, the wind picking up, and a possible downpour about to erupt. I drilled my smaller holes and quickly realized that my bits weren’t long enough to make it through the wall. Even the big bit. Measurements were called for as to where we would need to drill from the other side. Peggy demanded her turn with the drill and eventually, we had holes on both sides that would accommodate the cord. A wire that I had adapted for the purpose showed our two holes were exactly aligned. Exciting huh? Well, it was for us. Believe me.

Here’s the ironic part. Just as I was finishing up, a Fed-Ex truck drove down our road. It delivered another package from Starlink. It included everything I needed to drill the hole in our wall. At least I was able to use the patches it sent to cover the holes and the silicon sealant.

Star link kit for drilling hole in wall for ethernet cable. Note the extra long bit for reaching all of the way through the outer and inner walls. Number 1 was the bit designed to drill a Starlink size hole. At least I got to use the sealant and the caps.
Here’s a shot of how I often looked when dealing with Hughes. Fortunately, you can’t hear my language. Peggy would agree.
Here’s my standard expression on Starlink. Yes, I have obstructions.My Starlink monitor reported 8 seconds in the last nine hours. There were another 42 seconds of downtime due to other issues. So far, our speeds have normally been 7-10 times as fast as we have on Hughes. There is a reason for the big grin.

This and That… Buck’s Fighting, African Quilt, Gorgeous Bridge, 60th Reunion, Quivera

Black tail bucks check each other out in preparation for mating season. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.
You know it is October when the bucks in our backyard argue over who gets to snuggle up with the does.

This and That is a good title for today’s post. When you have taken a break from blogging, like I have, things accumulate. I thought I would do a little catching up today.

You know it’s October when the local bucks start testing their mettle with each other over who gets to snuggle up with the local does. These two decided to put on a performance in our backyard. They didn’t do any damage to each other, at least when Peggy and I were watching, but it seemed like a great way to poke out an eye. This morning we watched a doe cross our deck followed by three bucks: a spike, a forked horn, and a three pointer. I wondered what the doe was thinking. Was it, “Wow, look at me and all the guys tagging along.” Or was it, “Damn, I wish those idiots would go somewhere else.”  I suspect it was the latter. While mating season is a true passion for the bucks, it’s more like being worn down for the does. At least that’s my assumption after watching them frolic for ten years. Maybe if the bucks had to help take care of the babies…

Bucks in Southern Oregon go at it with their antlers in preparation for mating season. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.
The two bucks went at it with their antlers until the smaller one decided it was a mite too risky.

Several months ago my friend Linda from the blog, Lagniappe, mailed me a fascinating country cloth piece that she had picked up in Liberia, West Africa where we had both lived— me in the mid-60s and Linda in the early 70s. I put it out to admire for a while and then decided it would make a great quilt. Fortunately, Peggy is quite talented when it comes to putting quilts together. The results are quite gorgeous. Many thanks for your generous gift, Linda. And thank you Peggy. It will live on our bed in the trailer.

Using country cloth donated by Linda Leinen, Peggy Mekemson created the African quilt. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.
The African Quilt!
Bed quilt featuring Liberian country cloth. Photo bt Curt Mekemson.
How it will look as a bed quilt.

On our last trip to the Oregon Coast we stayed in a KOA at the base of the Alsea Bridge in the town of Waldport. Peggy and I took a number of photos of the bridge plus we walked across it, admiring the sand at low tide on our journey south and seals on our journey north. I’ve been meaning to do a post on it ever since Peggy and I went kayaking in the area. 

The bridge as seen from below where we were camping near Waldport, Oregon.
Cormorant flies below Alsea Bridge at low tide near Waldport Oregon. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
As Peggy and I walked across the Alsea Bridge going for lunch in Waldport, it was at low tide. The cormorant made a nice contrast to the sand and water.
A seal searches for fish beneath the Alsea Bridge on the Oregon Coast. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.
The tide was coming in when we walked back across the bridge. Several seals were on their own quest for lunch down in the water.

Early in September, Peggy and I went to my 60th High School Reunion in Placerville, Ca. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of old folks there. 

Peggy snapped this picture of the people attending our 60th reunion. I’m standing in the third row with dark glasses on. My friend from the first grade on, Bob Bray, is standing front and center with his wife Linda. Another friend from the first grade, Clifford Drake, is standing just below me to my right.
Here we are in the first grade 72 years ago in 1949. I’m in the middle of the back row with my hands in my pocket. Clifford and Bob are sitting in front of Mrs. Young. Bob is on the right. Clifford on the left.

On Friday, we said a sad goodbye to our small RV, Quivera. We had had numerous adventures in her including making our way across the US several times, going to Alaska twice, and Burning Man at least five times. We retraced my 10,000 mile Bike Trek around North America in her with Peggy driving the whole time so I could take photos and make notes. Last summer, we hightailed it across the nation at the height of the pandemic so Peggy could attend a 70th birthday party organized by our kids on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Three summers ago, Peggy used her as a backup vehicle for me as I did my 750 mile backpack trek down the PCT to celebrate my 75th. Quivera has found a great new home with Terry and her dog Benny in Ashland, Oregon, however. And has many more adventures ahead. As do we. Grin.

Terry and Benny prepared to hit the open road in Quivera.
I’ll close today’s post with this photo of Benny, who had quickly claimed the passenger seat as his own.

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude… On the Road Again

Quivera, looking beautiful, was suspicious about about all of the effort we were putting into her— as she should have been. But she has found a great new home in Ashland, Oregon and will be well loved.

I’ve been a fan of Jimmy Buffet’s ever since I went to see him and his band, The Coral Reefer’s, at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in the early 1980s. As I recall, we even had a ‘reefer’ (or three) in preparation for the concert. By we, I mean Tom Lovering, his Aussie buddy, Trevor, and me. It was a guy’s night out. Cheese Burger in Paradise and Son of a Son of a Sailor are still floating around in my mind. As is Margaritaville.

I’ve been thinking about another one of his songs from that era, Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude, over the past three months I’ve been taking a break from blogging. These lyrics in particular struck a chord:

Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder,
So I can’t look back for too long.
There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me,
and I know that I just can’t go wrong
with these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

I could hardly blame you for thinking, “At 78, there is a lot more over Curt’s shoulder than there is waiting in front of him.” But Peggy and I don’t view things that way. Life is an adventure to be lived— one day at a time— for as long as you can. So, when Peggy casually mentioned to me a few weeks ago that she was ready to wander again, I was right there with her. We did that in 1999/2000, taking a year off from work to travel extensively in North America for a year. And we did it again in 2008 when Peggy retired. That time it was for three years.

There is something incredibly freeing about life on the road, as many of you who read this blog know from your own travels. Each day brings something new to see, to experience and to learn. Everyday life and concerns fade into the background. While we have travelled using just about every mode of transportation possible over the years (minus the four-legged type), our North American road trips were accomplished in two different Pleasure Way vans, Xanadu and Quivera.

Our goal this time will be to do a more thorough job of exploring North America than we have in the past— traveling relatively short distances to the next interesting/beautiful location, settling in for 1-3 weeks, and exploring the surrounding country. It will require a slightly different approach. We are buying a small trailer and have already bought a new pickup to pull it. The trailer will serve as our base. The pickup will serve as our exploration vehicle. It even comes with 4-wheel drive and off-road capacity! The trailer is designed for either living in campgrounds with hookups or boondocking (living off the grid) with solar power. 

Peggy is standing in front of our new F 150 which we bought to pull the trailer. It’s big! And even designed to help back up the trailer.

As for our schedule, we have yet to decide how long we will be on the road each outing before we return to our home base. Neither have we decided where each trip will take us but we are thinking warmer when it is cold up north and cooler when it is hot down south. Both Canada and Mexico will be included in our plans depending on conditions. Our goal will also be to avoid some of the worst problems associated with global warming. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as our plans develop. And, of course, you will be invited to travel with us as I blog along the way.

Our new Grand Design Imagine 17-MKE trailer is only 22′ long but it is beautifully laid out and equipped. A Murphy bed (on the end) will give us extra space during the day. This photo is from Grand Design’s website since our Imagine is still on order.

Are Your Ducks in a Row? Are You Ready for Prime Time? Or Are You Rudderless?

Are your ducks in a row? Peggy and I just returned from a trip to the small town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. While there, we kayaked up Beaver Creek in Brian Booth State Park. It’s a beautiful area known for its wildlife. Mainly, we saw lots of ducks. Peggy, who was sitting in the front of our two person kayak, was the prime photographer. She captured these ducks behaving in a fashion that even Miss Manners would approve.
Or maybe an even more important question: Are you ready for prime time? We came on this duck who wasn’t quite sure as she checked out her tail feathers.
She quickly preened (oiled her feathers)as we approached.
And then said, “Okay, I’m beautiful. Take my photo.”
A nearby mallard duck said, “Ha”… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
“I’m the prettiest duck on the river!” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
This duck absolutely refused to allow us to take a close up. I understood. Say you were standing in the creek with your head under the water and your butt up in the air. Would you want your photo taken?
Most of the ducks we approached were trying to hide their heads under their wings. We assumed that it had something to do with the state of the world. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Another example. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Normally we paddle our 12 foot inflatable Innova kayak with a rudder attached. This time, we were up the creek without a rudder. We were rudderless. While Beaver Creek looks perfectly calm, there was a current accompanied by an occasional gust of wind. Big Green enjoyed the freedom while we paddled like mad to keep her going where we wanted. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
There were those perfect moments, however, where we could simply relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery, which was in abundance.
Including impressive wood sculptures, such as this. Peggy insisted that we kayak around it.
She thought climbing off the kayak and on to the sculpture would be a great photo op. Something to send the grandkids. Then, she thought better of it. There was a significant chance that she would fall in the water, which I would have considered an amusing photo. Peggy? Not so much.
Peggy, who is quite tactile, decided feeling the wood was enough.
Circling the driftwood provided several different views, including this garden growing on one side.
I decided it would be interesting to depict the driftwood in black and white. It looks a bit ominous.
Not as ominous as this old dead tree hanging out over the water, however. I thought it might reach out and grab us and we wisely gave it a wide berth.
The riparian habitat next to the river made a fun contrast to the the surrounding forest.
Peggy even found some early fall-colored leaves.
As we paddled back toward our starting point, mist from the ocean added a magical element to our journey. Peggy and I will be back.

This is one my occasional blogs I am posting as I have taken a break from blogging over the summer. Next up, I will do a post on the impressive Alsea Bridge across Alsea Bay in Waldport. Let me just say here, Oregon takes its bridges seriously. After that I’ll touch on what Peggy and I have decided over the summer. It will include our being on the road much more exploring North America. Change is in the wind.

A Blackberry Surprise… And Tom Lovering

Tom Lovering on his ski boat in the Sacramento Delta. In addition to the ski boat,Tom also owns a fishing boat, a sail boat and miscellaneous kayaks and rafts. His love of water matches my love of the mountains and wilderness.

Tom wanders in and out of these posts frequently. I first met him in 1974 when I walked into Alpine West, his outdoor gear and clothing store in Sacramento. I was planning my first 100 mile Sierra Backpack Trek as a fundraiser for the American Lung Association and was seeking a sponsor. After telling me that the trip was crazy and that people would come off the hike hating me and the ALA, he immediately offered to promote the event through his store. That’s Tom. We’ve been friends ever since and have had numerous adventures together that have included backpacking, boating and Burning Man, among others. He was with me when I found Bone on a backpacking trip in 1978. In the photo below, Tom has Bone woven into his hair on an 18 day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon he led in 2010 that included Peggy, me, and other friends.

Tom shares a hairy moment with Bone. Some drinking may have been involved… Kudos to his hair stylist.
Here, Tom good-naturedly poses with sideshow art that was featured one year when Burning Man had a circus theme.

Three years ago, he and his friend Lita were deglazing a pot that they had used for cooking blackberry jam. Tom threw in a dollop of vodka to make the job easier. Naturally he couldn’t waste the vodka. Much to his delight, the sugar-enhanced blackberries combined with a generous helping of vodka went well together. A new drink was born: Blackberry Surprise! Over the next couple of years, he and Lita made pilgrimages to the Fort Bragg area on California’s Pacific Coast each summer to pick blackberries to mix with vodka as he refined his recipe.

I told him that lots of blackberries grow where we live and invited the two of them up to join Peggy and me in making Blackberry Surprise. To seal the deal, we sent him a photo of plump blackberries a week and a half ago.

The bait. Himalayan blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) are actually easy to find almost anywhere on the West Coast. Originally from Armenia, the plant has wonderfully large, sweet and juicy fruit. It is also incredibly invasive. Our canyon is filled with the plant and I do my best to keep it there. I will say it provides great cover for birds and wildlife.

Tom called immediately. “We’ll be up tomorrow,” he told me. I hadn’t expected the photo to elicit such a fast response.

“Um, Tom,” I replied, “we are having dinner out with our friends Don and Nan.”

“What time will you get home,” he asked. “Eight-ish” I replied. “Great, we’ll see you then.” I could hear Lita in the background suggesting you don’t call someone and show up the next day. Ha. Tom and Lita drove up the 320 miles from Sacramento in their Pleasureway van and were waiting at our house when we got back from dinner.

Tom immediately broke out a battery operated blender with the power of a professional Vitamix that he had invented and whipped us up a generous helping of Blackberry Surprise. We all went to bed happy.

Lita with Peggy in the back of the ski boat on the Sacramento River. The two bonded immediately. I suspect it may have had something to do with their discussion of their choice in men. When Tom and Lita first started dating, her grown daughters immediately jumped online to see what they could learn about him. The first photo they found was the one featured above with Bone in his hair that I had taken and posted on a blog. I would have loved to have heard their conversation. I imagine it went something like this: “OMG, Mother, what have you gotten yourself into!”
The rest of the story is best told in photos. Here, Tom and I are working our way though a patch that had particularly large berries. Many we found were on the smallish side due to the drought.Tom had bulled his way to the top using a ladder to break through the thorny challenge. Peggy, Lita and I worked our way around the edges. (The photos of us picking were taken by Peggy Mekemson and Lita Campbell on their smart phones.)
I reach through the berries for a particularly plump one. My shirt provided a degree of protection.
Peggy and I share a moment. Altogether, the four of us gathered some nine gallons of blackberries working over two mornings. Then the real work started.
Creating the Blackberry Surprise involved several steps. First up was gently boiling the blackberries to separate the fruit from the seeds. Next up, we strained the concoction. I then used our blender to further separate the left overs, using a portion of the vodka to add more liquid. We then strained that. Tom added sugar and once again heated the blackberries. We then added more vodka and bottled the final project. (Tom wanted to strain everything one final time but we restrained him instead, so to speak.)
The next morning we reenacted part of the process for a photo op. “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.” Tom chanted as he stirred away.
Tom demonstrates the importance of sampling the product frequently as it is made. “Ah, just the right amount of vodka,” he declared.
But then he warned of the danger of too much sampling…
A final photo of our booty. Altogether we made some 14 gallons of Blackberry Surprise. (All of the bottles minus the five gallon jug had been filled with vodka when Tom arrived.) I kept approximately a gallon of Tom’s elixir and sent the rest home with him.
Tom took this photo of Lita, Peggy and I as he and Lita prepared to leave for Sacramento with their Blackberry Surprise.

NOTE: This is one of the occasional blogs I am posting this summer as I take a break.

Kayaking in Florida One Week and Oregon the Next… A Photo Blog

Two weeks ago we were kayaking through mangroves along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Last week we were kayaking on the edge of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area next to the Pacific Ocean. Are we jet-setters or what? You are looking at Peggy’s hat in the foreground. Our grandson Cody is next. Our son Tony was leading on a paddle board. We were making our way through a mangrove tunnel.
Peggy’s wearing a cap this time as we make our way through Honeyman Lake near Florence, Oregon last week.
We had traveled to Florida to join a celebration and party for our son Tony who was retiring from his position as a Lieutenant Commander and helicopter pilot with the Coast Guard. Prior to his stint in the Coast Guard, he had been a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps including three tours to Iraq. He has earned quite a few medals for bravery, being wounded, and saving lives along the way. The lower one is for being one of the best pistol shots in the Coast Guard. He was captain of the pistol team at Annapolis. Peggy was once recognized as being the best pistol shot among teenagers in America. I’ve been known to hit the broadside of a barn.
Tony arranged a kayak trip for visiting family members at Weedon Island Preserve near St. Petersburg.
Like Tony, his wife, Cammie, was operating a paddle board. Their youngest son, Cooper, was hitching a ride.
Here we are entering the mangrove tunnel that the Weedon Island Preserve is noted for. Our paddles proved to be too long, so we took them apart and operated with half a paddle.
Docked at lunch. Tony is tying a rope to the kayaks to make sure they don’t go wandering off.
One of the things I always love about Florida is the bird life. This is an ibis.
Another view. I think he was stalking something.
While mangrove tunnels and birds caught our attention in Florida, water lilies became our focus while kayaking on Honeyman Lake.
White and pink were the colors of the day.
Peggy caught these three pink water lilies in a row…
While two white water lilies lined up for me.
Honeyman Lake is located at the northern end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area.
Another view of the dunes along the lake.
A final view of Honeyman Lake. I took this photo from where we had parked, Quivera, our small RV. We kayaked down to the opposite end of the lake taking a detour into a feeder creek that provided our up-close encounter with water lilies. Fog over the Pacific Ocean can be seen in the distance.

As noted before, I am taking a break from blogging this summer to catch up on other writing chores, but I am also posting an occasional blog when I find subjects I think you might find fun. –Curt

Hail, Hail, the Gangs All Here… Plus More Baby Fawn Photos

I looked out our door and this young fellow was staring through the glass panel at me.

They’re back.

For about three weeks all we saw around here on our property in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon were the two does that hang out here and their four fawns. We wondered about the absence of other deer. Maybe the does turn into ‘mama bears’ when their babies are so young and the other does, bucks, and youngsters find it wise to be elsewhere. That all changed this week. Four or five other does and a couple of bucks had come by to drink water and decided to hang around.

The young buck had certainly made himself at home. Our cement pad is relatively cool in the shade plus I had watered it down earlier. With temperatures climbing above 110° F, both wildlife and humans were suffering.
I had noted something strange about the pad earlier in the day. It was covered with new scratch marks, some going fairly deep. I called Peggy out to take a look. Had something big been using our patio to sharpen its claws. That was our first thought. The small buck sleeping there provided the likely answer, however. Deer like to make a bed before lying down. They use their hoofs to scratch out a shallow hole in the ground. Apparently, the young buck, or one of his cohorts had been trying to scratch a more comfortable place to sleep on the cement. Good luck with that…
His larger companion satisfied himself with a long, cool drink out of the birdbath, aka, local spring.
Misty, otherwise known as Top Doe, could have told the buck that the small stones we use in the patio are much easier to rearrange. I’m forever raking the stones out flat it seems. I had just sprayed Misty with cool water and her look seemed to be saying ‘more.’ Note; She still has to regain her girlish figure from having her twins.
Misty gives me her “You wouldn’t happen to have an apple, would you?” look. One of her fawns is in the back
Some of the gang. I took this photo from my writing chair in our library.

But enough on the adults. I know that the real reason you are here is to see the babies. The following photos are of Misty’s kids. Her daughter’s fawns were born a couple of weeks after Misty’s and are still too small to hang out with the adults. We tend to see them later in the evening.

What’s cuter than a fawn using mom as an obstacle course?
Answer: A baby snuggling up to mom. The tangle of legs in the background is pretty amusing as well.
Dinner time! BTW, I don’t know if you have ever watched fawns feed. It’s cute, but hardly gentle. As I noted in my last post, there’s a reason why does encourage their kids to start feeding themselves ASAP!
Like these flowers. Mmmm, mmmm good. Except…
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a dozen times, you do not eat fake flowers! They will make you sick. Plus ‘The Peggy’ will be out here and give you a lecture. Believe me, you don’t want a lecture from her.”
“Okay, I’ll just eat these yucky old dry leaves.” Actually, all of the deer chow down on the Madrone leaves. The tree drops its leaves twice a year, including once in the summer. Eating the leaves is thirsty work, however….
“Hey, look at me, I’m tall enough to drink out of the big deer spring!”
“Big deal.”

“I’ve had it with you. I am going to talk to the all-knowing rooster…”
“Whoa, he told me if I walked up on the porch and looked in the window, I could see the Man. You need to get over and see this, Brother.”
“This is scary. I’m going to tip toe…”
“Do I dare look up?”
“OMG!”
“I’m out of here!”

And to finish off today’s post, a few more cute fawn photos…

And finally, Misty’s daughter brings her fawns by our living room window each evening. Eventually, they will grow into their ears.
And that’s it for the fawn photos this season. Maybe…

Other notes: The fox came by recently, trotting across our deck. A pair of California quail have been hanging around. Three days ago we spotted them with their family of tiny babies, maybe an inch tall. Our lavender is in full bloom, attracting hundreds of honey bees and dozens of bumble bees. We had a population explosion of ground squirrels. I’ve caught 86 so far and transported them across the river to Squirrel Village. They can be quite verbal in what they think about the relocation program. I’ve never heard such fowl language. Not even Rooster can match them.

Peggy celebrated her birthday today. Her brother and his wife Frances drop by tomorrow and we are off to Florida on Thursday to join our son, Tony, in celebrating his retirement from serving as a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard. As you likely know, I am taking a break from regularly posting this summer. –Curt

Oh Deer! There’s a Fawn Sleeping on Our Porch

“Come quickly, Curt,” Peggy had urged, “There’s a fawn sleeping on our porch.” Sure enough, nestled between a chair, our outdoor shoe rack and Peggy’s walking pole was the cute little fellow above. We were inside and took the photo through our glass paneled door.
This photo provides a perspective on where the fawn was located. Sunday evening, Father’s Day, two fawns were sleeping on the porch. It was quite a treat.

It’s that time of the year. Two weeks ago, Peggy and I made a trip to Sacramento to catch up with friends and relatives, some of whom we hadn’t seen for over a year due to Covid. We returned home to find that our two resident does (Misty and her daughter)had both dropped their babies. Two sets of twins were cavorting about our yard and kicking up their heels. It’s an annual event that Peggy and I look forward to eagerly.

Fawns sleeping on our porch was a totally new experience for us, however. Mama deer usually insist that their babies sleep hidden away down in the canyon. The fact that they are camouflaged by their spots and more or less odorless keeps them safe from predators. I think the coolness of the cement and nearby water was more than they could resist on a 100° F day. I am going to water down the area late this afternoon to make it even cooler this evening.

The twins of Misty’s daughter came by Monday afternoon looking for water and a break from the heat under our large Madrone tree next to our porch.
We keep a bird bath filled with water year round for birds, deer, tree squirrels, and other wildlife. It serves as a local watering hole. During our hot, dry summers, we add a five gallon bucket with water. The fawns like the bucket since it is easy for them to reach.
Mmmm, mmmm, good. Nothing like a cool drink on a hot day. Note the water dripping off the fawn’s chin.
Mom, Misty’s daughter, stares in the window at me with a disgusted look because the bird bath is close to empty.
While one fawn was drinking, the other rested in the shade of the Madrone tree.
This is an example of where fawns normally sleep. Note how they blend into the dry grass.
One of them heard me and poked its head up with what seemed like an “Are you looking at me!” challenge.

Naturally, we take lots of photos when the babies are around. Here are a few more.

This is Misty and her twins. She basically hangs out around our property and has been for the ten years we have been living here. Each year she brings her kids by to introduce them.
Both moms showed up with their twins at the same time last week. Here are three of them. They weren’t quite sure what to do with each other.
Like all youngsters, fawns are curious about their surroundings. Mom is insisting that the youngsters begin the process of finding out what tastes good. One hint is what mom’s breath smells like. She encourages them to search for food by limiting their milk supply.
This kid ignored the iris leaves and focused on the grass. If deer liked iris, those leaves would have long since disappeared.
I thought this fawn looked quite elegant.
Here’s a fawn that is pretty much all legs. My short legs are jealous.
Here’s something that the long legs are good for: Scratching an itch.
I’ll conclude today with this series… “Mom says you are going in the wrong direction.”
“Really?”
“She says we have to cross this deck.”
“I don’t think so.” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
“Follow me.”
“Maybe, but my tail is up for a reason!” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) And no, I hadn’t told them that this is the same deck that a cougar came bounding across a few weeks earlier in pursuit of a deer in the middle of the night. Note the ears. Back says I’m concerned. Forward suggests both curiosity and caution.
“Okay, but my tail is still up in the air!” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A close up that I took. Both black tail deer (which these are) and white tail deer, raise their tails and run when startled. Tail up means ‘Get the heck out of here!’

I’m out of here, too. Hope you’ve enjoyed the fawns. This is one of the occasional blogs I will be posting this summer during my break.