#307–The Grand Tetons

Grand Disappointments

We arrived about 11:30 a.m., and our first day gave us a lot to be disappointed about. In Yellowstone there are lots of places to go and lots to see. In the Tetons, it is mainly the impressive mountains that rise up thousands of feet from the flat landscape. So very impressive! Well, not so impressive when hidden by wildfire smoke. That first day, there was not even a hint of any mountains within the smoke. I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to seeing these mountains. I hadn’t seen them since I was a teenager. I’m glad we didn’t pay for a cabin with a view. We stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge, which has many, many cabins as well as condos and rooms in the lodge.

I bought this sticker in the Colter Bay general store. It is now on my fridge. On this trip, I was never disappointed by a bison.

Well, our “classic cabin” was the second disappointment. It was tiny and would have been small for two people, let alone the four of us.  We were all there together with two queen beds and one rollaway—almost wall-to-wall beds when the rollaway was set up. (And, of course, no chance of seeking any change in accommodations.) There was only a tiny kitchen space, that included sink, small fridge, and a coffee maker squeezed between the bathroom and a big-box like closet. No microwave—no way to heat anything except water in the coffee maker. No table, only one chair, and our reservations were for three nights. We so missed our spacious digs in Gardiner.

We headed for the lodge to have some lunch. That was the third disappointment. The cafe was closed except for takeout, and that was not very good. So, we tried to make reservations for that night in the more upscale restaurant and were told they were filled that night and all day the next day. That’s when we learned that we needed reservations there for all meals—even breakfast. So, we made reservations for dinner the night after next and for the morning of our last day.

The lodge building was impressive with the tallest windows I think I’ve ever seen to view the mountains. And the grounds were nice. We spent the afternoon walking around the whole area and browsed and bought some gifts in the marvelous gift shop. That first night we gave the takeout cafe another chance and this time, it was even more disappointing––totally awful for me and not much better for the others.

FFOB—at Times a Cuss Word (my very own four-letter ‘F’ word)

Next morning, I got up very early and bundled up because it was cold and went outside. There were two Adirondack-style chairs in front of our cabin, and I used one. I had my laptop and got started. I had received a request the day before for two articles regarding the Florence Festival of Books and they were needed right then, of course. It took awhile, but I found two articles from 2019 that I could use. I reworked them, and sent to Aleia at the Florence Events Center to put in the Center Stage publication and to send to the newspaper regarding the FFOB. Every day, I checked my email, whenever we had a signal, and there were always questions I needed to respond to from both FFOB committee members and participants. Even in the Tetons, I couldn’t get away from FFOB stuff.

Great Expectations Fulfilled

With nowhere to go for breakfast, we had PBJ sandwiches for breakfast. At least, the others did. I had a mandarin orange and a Clif bar. It was still early, so we took a scenic drive and the mountains were there—in all their splendor. Thank goodness! Most of the smoke had dissipated during the night and they were fabulous. I was so pleased!

The Tetons are impressive!

We loved being able to see the mountains.
I took this from the Cottonwood Creek picnic site.

We drove all over the place and enjoyed the lakes and mountains. We stopped at a general store at Colter Bay and stocked up on food. Then we could have a picnic lunch. We stopped at Cottonwood Creek picnic area. Fabulous views all day. We came back to our tiny room. Everyone took a nap except me, I went outside back to those comfy Adirondack chairs and read and enjoyed the many photos in two of the books I had gotten at museums in Montana. The day before Jayne in her walks around the area had found a picnic table on a little knoll near the lodge with a great view of the mountains. So, we packed up some of our food, walked to this fabulous site, and had a picnic dinner with a great view of the lake and mountains. It was a bit breezy, but that was okay.

The shuttle boat took us across Jenny Lake to the lower slopes of the Tetons.

The next day more of the same for breakfast and then we packed a lunch and headed for Jenny Lake. The mountains were still visible in all their glory. We boarded a shuttle boat that took us across the lake and then we hiked up the lower slopes of one of the Tetons. Harry and Jayne went farther than Edna and I. Edna would’ve gone on, but her sandals had became a problem. So, we took a loop trail back.

We saw squirrels and a deer came walking along the narrow trail heading right at us. Just as we were about to move off the trail, it moved. On we went. We crossed some bridges over lovely creeks full of water. I was on the look-out for pikas, a small, rabbit-like mammal as cute as can be that lives in the rocky talus slopes at the base of mountainsides at high elevations. This was their prime habitat. When we got back to the boat landing, I talked to the fellows running the shuttle boat about them. And they had seen some the week before and saw a few bears just a couple days earlier. Hmm!  We didn’t see any pikas or bears.

One of the streams we crossed during the hike.

That afternoon, we headed into Jackson or as tourists call it Jackson Hole. It still is an adorable town, but very, very, very crowded with tourists. We could hardly wait to get away from all the people. We stopped at a park on the edge of town where there were few people and had a picnic lunch. An elk came into the park and kept an eye on us nearly the whole time we were there as he wandered about.

Surprises in Bronze

On the way back, we stopped at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. We had noticed it coming into Jackson and decided to check it out after lunch.

The museum specialized in bronzes. Bronzes of nearly every wild animal imaginable. It was fabulous and such a wonderful surprise. And they had two special shows with wildlife themes. One was of Andy Warhol art involving valued wild animals and the other of Ai Weiwei with his Chinese Zodiac heads done in Legos. Both shows were quite amazing and also such a surprise! This museum was definitely worth a stop.

Most of this building is underground and many bronzes were also on the walkways leading from parking to the building. This museum was simply full of surprises.

Ending in Style

We ended our Teton trip in style. That third evening in the Tetons was our last evening to all be together. We dressed up a bit and dined in a really fabulous dining room, the Mural Room, and had a fabulous dinner. Everything was delicious—the perfectly cooked red trout, the roasted broccolini, the mashed Yukon gold potatoes with bacon—that I ordered makes my mouth water just to think about.

And the next morning, we were back in the same dining room having a fabulous breakfast buffet. And the mountains seen through those extremely tall windows were still gorgeous. It was totally wonderful. A great way to end our time in the Tetons!

After breakfast, we packed up and went our separate ways after heartfelt goodbyes. I headed over Teton Pass and my car had to really work as it made its way up the steep grade over the 8,431-foot pass. Then down through Swan Valley and west to Idaho Falls to the freeway that crosses the width of the state near its southern border.  The highway bypassed Boise and ended up in Ontario, Oregon, where I had reservations for the night.

All day the weather had been pleasant, the wildfire smoke almost gone, and the traffic moved with no problems. I was impressed by the rest stops in Idaho. Each one had an impressive and unique building with plenty of grassy areas. The motel in Ontario was expecting me and the room was very nice. I enjoyed the privacy, with only me in the room, after three nights of four people in one room. I slept very well.

This is just one of several very impressive rest stops along the highway in Idaho.

The trip across Oregon the next day was also uneventful. I no longer had to pump my own gas, but I did have to learn to slow down. I had gotten used to 80 on the major roads in Montana and Wyoming and 70 in Idaho. I was back in Oregon where the speed limit was 55! This time around, I did not get lost in Bend. And without the wildfire smoke, the mountains and forests were beautiful from Hwy 20 and Hwy 126––except for the 27 miles or so that were burned in the Holiday Farm Fire that began last year on Labor Day. That fire burned for weeks, burning 173,000 acres and 1,100 structures and wiping out most of the town of Blue River. A year later, I saw some rebuilding evident as well as lots of logging of burned trees.  It is still a sad, sad sight.

When I got to Florence, I did major grocery shopping, since I had been gone two weeks and had very little to eat in the house. When I got home, the best part was the grand welcome from Groucho. He didn’t quit purring or let me out of his sight for days.

The whole trip—the Montana portion and the visits to Yellowstone and the Tetons––was marvelous. The best part was reconnecting with family––immediate family that I hadn’t seen since the pandemic began and cousins I had not seen in 29 years. It was, indeed, the  trip of a lifetime—one I will always remember.

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#306–Onward to Yellowstone

This is my Montana magnet that is on my fridge! Shortly after entering Yellowstone, we entered Wyoming. Nearly all of the park is in Wyoming.

It will be no surprise if I say, that we were not the only ones visiting Yellowstone during the last week of August. On our sightseeing days, my brother Harry and his wife Jayne joined my sister Edna and I in my car because it was a four-door and easier for getting in and out. Yellowstone was so crowded that I asked my brother if he would drive. After living so long in Florence, I’m just not used to such crowded roads, stop-and-go driving, and especially, parking in tight places.

This buffalo seemed to be there just for us to take this photo.

We did learn to get up and out and about early. That way there were less people and more wildlife.

On the way to Yellowstone

I enjoyed the Montana landscape and was getting used to cruising along at 80, the speed limit. Even at that speed, cars passed me!

Lots of wide-open spaces in Montana.

We got to Gardiner, Montana’s nearest town to Yellowstone’s northern entrance, and found tucked off on a backstreet, an old-fashioned motel where we had reserved a two-bedroom apartment with laundry privileges. There was a kitchen, dining area, large living room with three hidden beds, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. We were within walking distance of a store, so bought groceries and fixed our own meals and even did some laundry. We loved the two nights we stayed there.

After we settled in, I spent some time bear-proofing my car. I found half a Hershey bar and part of a granola bar under the passenger seat. I took out the dried food I have in my survival kit in the trunk. And anything else that had had food next to it in the past few days or had some kind of smell. I took the warnings seriously, and I’m happy to report that no bears got into my car during the entire trip.

Trying to see Yellowstone

A white mountain of travertine.

We got a leisurely start to Yellowstone the next morning. Big mistake; so did everyone else. We were all in my car and my Golden Age Passport card, that cost me about $15 almost 20 years ago, got us in for free. We ran into crowds wherever we went and some parking lots were full with cars parked along the road endlessly in more than one direction. We did get to see the black obsidian bluff and a mountain spouting more than one geyser. We went through a museum about the history of Yellowstone at the Albright Visitor Center. I think that ‘s where we saw a scale model of the entire park that was quite fascinating.

The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

Then we hiked to the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs where limestone and water interact to create chalk-white travertine. There was at least one white mountain in the area with no trees growing in the travertine. Most unusual, but the unusual is the norm in Yellowstone.

Actually, I only walked part way and turned back because my left leg was becoming painful. It does that when I stress it. Down the road, I may need a second knee replacement. On the walk back, I chatted with folks from Texas and Maine. Throughout the park, there were license plates from all over.  

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

We took a slow drive due to heavy traffic to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and saw the Lower Falls and had great views of the yellow stone of the lower canyon and the white sides of the canyon’s higher elevations. As we crept along in heavy traffic to and from the canyon, a buffalo was plodding along on the shoulder, just slightly slower than traffic. It did not interfere with traffic. On our return trip a couple hours later, we passed it again—a slow journey to somewhere. We did find a spot off the beaten path to have a picnic and enjoyed the peace and quiet as well as the food.

Earlier the better

The next day we got up early and saw lots of buffalo alone and in large groups as well as a couple of sightings of antelope. And we saw several elk in the road, including some near misses with cars as one young elk dashed across the road. We had no trouble finding parking spaces at this earlier hour. This day, we were in separate cars because later, we will head to the Tetons.

Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest!

As we arrived at our first stop, Harry and Jayne were just leaving. They were ahead of us. We were at the Norris Geyser Basin, “the hottest, most dynamic geyser basin in the park” and walked along a boardwalk to Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest and one that erupts constantly. At least it did while we were watching. It was mesmerizing. We also saw a beautiful and unworldly green pool through the steam while walking along the boardwalk. And in nearly every direction small and large geysers were going off. It was a bit unsettling––especially, the sign that said stay on the boardwalk because geysers may pop up anywhere!

That bright emerald green was a bit startling!

Back on the road we pulled over when we saw a buffalo coming down the road slowly. I got photos of it coming closer and closer until it walked right by the car. It was a real hoot to see in the rearview mirror, the buffalo leading the parade with about six cars driving very slowly behind it. This is one of my favorite memories of Yellowstone.

The lone buffalo was heading down the road.

He kept on coming, getting closer to where we were parked.
Then he was right alongside our car . . . and kept going!

Throughout the park we saw signs of the eight major fires of 1988 that burned 36% of the total park. Trees have grown back, but with a much thinned out forest and many, many trunks of trees littering the ground. Eventually, they will become part of the soil.

On our trip south through the park, we took the route that followed along much of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone is a massive caldera, much of which has filled in with water––Yellowstone Lake. It just seemed to go on and on, providing many lovely views. It is the largest, high-elevation lake at just over 7,000 feet in North America.

Yellowstone Lake goes on and on.

We visited another visitor center near the southern entrance to Yellowstone that also was worth seeing. It covered some of the geology and wildlife that are part of Yellowstone as well as some beautiful artwork. We continued onward to the Tetons only a short ways down the road.

On this trip, we did not see Old Faithful, which erupts approximately every 90 minutes. But I couldn’t resist this beautiful magnet for my fridge. I’ve seen Old Faithful, but it has been many years. It is not the tallest or the oldest or the largest geyser in Yellowstone, but it is certainly the best known.

Tune in next week for our further adventures in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming.

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#305–Montana & Mission Possible . . .

The trip started with everything going wrong—an absolutely hellish experience—but things got better, thank goodness. In fact, after that first day, it turned out to be a most satisfying trip full of wonderful memories and a mission accomplished. Except for my brother going back with my dad when one of his brother’s died, the last time my sister and I had been in Montana was in 1992. That was the last time we had seen our Montana relatives.

What we needed to do and how to go about it

Back in 2010  my dad died, and he was cremated. Mom took care of his ashes until she died in 2017. After her cremation, my sister took care of both of their ashes. My dad’s wish was to have his ashes scattered on the homestead where he had been born and raised. And my mom’s wish was to be with my dad.

i Chuck and Jean Wilson, my parents, when they were much younger. (Photo Courtesy Harry Wilson.)

The summers of 2018 and ‘19 didn’t work out for us to go to Montana, and nobody went anywhere in 2020. So, 2021 seemed the best time to accomplish this mission. The planning began last January. My brother Harry, my sister Edna, and I had numerous back-and-forth emails and decided to go the last two weeks of August. I would contact the one cousin. Drea, with whom I was still in contact in Montana.

After numerous emails over months, it was decided to stick with the August time frame, and include cousin Drea and her husband, Dick, in our plans. She suggested a gravestone, and we agreed. We decided what to put on it, but I needed an address in Montana to send it to once it was ordered. Drea contacted our cousin Jimmy’s widow, Terry to find out who had the homestead, which was part of a much larger ranch today and to get permission to scatter ashes. And to find out about the family cemetery located on ranch property.

Only weeks before we were to leave, I finally talked to my second cousin Jimmy Dean who was now the owner of the ranch and caretaker of the cemetery and got his permission and address. The ranch is still in the family and has been since it was homesteaded in 1908.

My brother who lives near Reno with his wife Jayne, my sister who lives in Bakersfield, California, and I would all meet in Twin Falls, Idaho, and travel together from there. My sister would come up to Eugene where I would meet her. Then we would spend the first night in Burns and next night in Twin Falls. My brother worked out an itinerary and made some of the motel reservations, and I made the Montana contacts and did the rest of the reservations. It was all coming together.  

The proof of the gravestone ordered.

Then problems emerged, I ordered the gravestone, but it wouldn’t arrive in time. It would be a couple weeks after our trip. Dang! So, I had a placeholder made by having a large photocopy made of the proof sent to my by the gravestone company. I put it in a plastic sleeve and added foamboard to protect it and to make it sturdy. It was not quite as large as the real thing, but it would work temporarily.

Then, my sister, who was coming to Eugene by train—the Coastal Starlight––to connect with me, found out only days before the trip that the Dixie fire had burned some of the train tracks and that route was postposed indefinitely. After some madcap, last-minute scrambling, my sister got to Sacramento where Harry and Jayne met her and then they got started on the trip.

My hellish first day

I had most things packed prior to the day I was leaving, but left clothes and personal stuff til that morning, so got a later start than planned. Finally, got loaded and put the destination on the map app on my iPhone, filled up with gas and hit the road. I had never used GPS before—one of very few, I’m sure. Two mistakes: I didn’t plug in the phone to keep it charged, and I didn’t realize I could choose the route I wanted. So, it chose a different route than I planned, and the phone died at a crucial time.

This viewpoint of a mountain peak was not even visible through the smoke on the first day of the trip.

On the coast where I live, there had been no smoke from wildfires all summer and the temps had been between low 60s and high 60s with an occasional warm day in the low 70s. As soon as I got over the coastal mountains, I was in smoke, not bad though and definitely warmer.

By the time I realized I was no longer on Hwy 126 but on Hwy 58, I didn’t want to try to go back. It’s really difficult to follow Hwy 126 through Eugene. So, I continued on. It got hotter and hotter and smokier and smokier. I began choking on the smoke and feeling sick to my stomach and was quite hot even though the air conditioning was working. Going through the mountains was truly hellish. The smokiness got slightly better on the other side of the Cascades, but it continued to get hotter. The car showed 99 to 101 from mid-day on.

I seemed to be heading north and entering suburbs of Bend. I had run off maps months ahead and planned to take a shortcut to avoid Bend. And so did the GPS. I got halfway through the shortcut and the road to turn on was closed. At that point, the phone died. Not good! I didn’t have a clue where I was in relation to Hwy 20, which I needed to find. And I hadn’t had lunch, and I was hungry.

So, I pulled into a mini-mall parking lot and plugged in my phone and pulled out my cooler. I had packed everything that might spoil from my fridge at home. After eating some lunch, my phone had enough charge to get me out of the Bend area and to Hwy 20. I was very relieved. It was a long, hot but uneventful trip to Burns.

Dinosaur skeletons on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

When I got to the motel, I had a new set of troubles. They couldn’t find that I had previously paid for my room and wanted to charge me again. This is the motel that had a reasonable rate, but a $59 recovery tax or some such thing tacked on, which I didn’t find out about until days after making the reservation when the confirmation arrived via email. It was also the only motel of the trip that billed my credit card before I arrived. Now they wanted to bill me again. AARRGGHH!! couldn’t believe it. It took 1 ½ hours for them to resolve the problem and give me a room. This on top of being so hot I thought I would pass out as well as feeling queasy from the smoke, I was not a happy camper. Definitely won’t recommend this motel.   

What a difference a day makes

The next day, the weather cooled to mid-80s, the smoke became less and less as I traveled north, and I was more confident in using the GPS. I went straight from Burns to Twin Falls with no problems. I stopped at rest stops where I walked and ate more from my cooler. Followed my GPS without getting lost. And Edna emailed me to forewarn me about which of the buildings to go to at our motel in Twin Falls. I found it, parked, turned to grab some stuff, and turned back to see Harry and Jayne outside the car, welcoming me.

Dick and Drea welcomed us into their home.

What a sight for sore eyes. I hadn’t seen them since I was in Bakersfield in December 2019. Then I met my sister in the room we were to share. Within a few minutes of my arrival, the wind picked up and became quite wild. After awhile, it settled down and it was noticeably cooler. Very strange, but I wasn’t complaining. I’m a fan of cooler weather! I settled in, and then we all went to dinner. A lovely evening even though the noodles place we ended up at had so-so food. It was just so nice to be together again.


My sister and I both inherited the non-geek gene, so from time to time, we couldn’t get the iPhone to cooperate in finding a particular place in town or to figure out why sometimes we had a voice directing us and sometimes we didn’t. We always ended up where we were headed, but sometimes took circuitous routes. It was just part of the adventure.

We had a lovely visit with my cousin Ceil.

Our two cars did not travel together which meant we could stop wherever we wanted to take photos, go to the restroom, explore, whatever. We decided to meet in Rexburg for lunch. Since Harry and Jayne got there first, they decided where to eat and then called us. We hunted around until we found it. Then on to Bozeman, where even though we didn’t travel together, we arrived within a few minutes of each other at this motel where I’d made reservations.

It was a nice place to stay. We ate at a trendy restaurant called Plonk and everything was delish! Wonderful food, wonderful conversation—a great evening. We found that everything was very expensive in Bozeman. I wanted to visit the Museum of the Rockies, which we had seen back in 1992. So, that’s where we spent a good chunk of the day. Their claim to fame has to do with dinosaurs, They have great exhibits and work with excavating and preserving dinosaur bones. Very impressive displays of dinosaur skeletons and you can see the paleontologists at work.

Then we headed to Helena. We were to meet in Three Forks for lunch, but did not connect. So, Edna and I ate from my cooler and her own stash of food. We didn’t starve.

Helena & Great Falls 

Actually, we never made it to Helena. Drea and Dick live closer to Lake Helena. They have a lovely home and had two bedrooms and a fitness room with a hide-a-bed for us. Although, we hadn’t seen each other since 1992, we got along famously. We spent that first afternoon just catching up. And more lovely conversation around the dinner table that evening.They were fabulous hosts.

A Charlie Russell painting of himself on his horse Redbird.

The next day, we went to Great Falls to see Drea’s sister and our cousin, Ceil. We had a lovely visit, but she would not be joining us in going to the ranch, since her husband was recovering from a stroke.

Since we were in Great Falls and I had always wanted to see the C.M. Russell Museum, we did. And it was fabulous. I have never seen so many Charlie Russell paintings and sculptures at one time. He was a favorite of my dad. Because of that, I would get Dad a Charlie Russell calendar every year. We also saw and toured his home and saw his log cabin studio where he painted. I was thrilled to be there. It was one of the highlights of the trip.

That evening, we got to see old video tapes taken back in 1992 of when my Dad, and his sister  (Drea’s mom) and his brother—the only ones of eight children still alive—talk about when they were growing up. We had all been there when it was taped and Dick had done the videotaping. It was great fun to watch and remember. We sat up and talked and didn’t get to bed until after midnight. The next day, we would be heading to Roundup.


On the way to Roundup, Drea and Dick had a few places in mind that we might want to see. One was the Charles M. Bair Family Museum. It was a large, lovely ranch house preserved as a museum of primarily western and native art, of which many were Charlie Russell paintings. Charles Bair was one of the largest wool-growers in the world at one time. Then he went to Alaska during the gold rush and made a fortune inventing a way to extract gold from the frozen tundra. He came back to Montana and continued with sheep and built a fabulous ranch house. It was definitely worth visiting. . . . Gee, three museums so far on this trip. Love it!

Harry in the background with Jayne, me, and Edna in front at one of the old, weathered remains of a building on the old homestead.

Although, Roundup is about 45 miles from the ranch, it was the closest place with a motel. It had three motels, and we picked probably the best one. We had three rooms–Edna and I, Harry and Jayne, and Drea and Dick.  We would be spending two nights.

The restaurants were limited in town; both nights, dinners were so-so. But the breakfasts were wonderful at the Busy Bee Cafe.  It was the typical small town diner where everybody knows everybody, so we instantly stood out as out-of-towners. The cook came out to welcome us the first day and the second day, so did the owner. The food and service were wonderful. Too bad they didn’t also offer dinner.

The Big Day

We stopped at a grocery with a deli and ordered a dozen sandwiches and got some sodas and chips. After a wonderful breakfast, we picked up the sandwiches and headed for the ranch. This was the big day. This was the reason we had come to Montana. Harry had the two sets of ashes. I brought some cups to help with the scattering, and I had the placeholder gravestone.

Edna and I rode with Drea and Dick in their large four-seater pick-up and Harry and Jayne were in Harry’s sporty Accura. Unfortunately for Harry, the road from the nearest town to the ranch was 12 miles and unpaved. I was surprised that Melstone, a town of about 300 population, had no paved streets. That’s how I remembered it from when I was a kid visiting Montana relatives back in the 1950s Some things don’t change.

After we had scattered the ashes.

We arrived at Jimmy Dean’s ranch house and his wife, Pattie, was there to greet us. We brought the sandwiches etc into the house. Jimmy Dean was still out bushwhacking the area at the Homestead, so we could drive into it. After he arrived, we chatted awhile, becoming acquainted. We had never met Jimmy Dean and Pattie in person, but we were connected by family.

Before long, we were back in our vehicles following Jimmy Dean in his pickup. We headed to the homestead where no buildings were left standing in good shape. The couple that were there were in ruins. We looked around, took photos, got out the ashes, and scattered them. It was a gorgeous day in the 70s, sunny with high clouds and a light breeze—perfect for out purposes. Then Pattie arrived with Terry, Jimmy Dean’s mom. She had been at the 1992 reunion, and I remembered her.

The placeholder gravestone looks small with its rocks to keep it from blowing away.

We went to the cemetery, where we scattered the last of the ashes. Jimmy Dean got a rake out of the back of his pickup and smoothed a spot for the placeholder gravestone. We laid it down and had to anchor it with rocks. That way, it would not blow away. We spent some time there checking out all the gravestones of dad’s parents and brothers and sister that surround where he and mom’s gravestone will be. After awhile, we all headed back to the ranch house, where we chowed down on the sandwiches and chips we brought with potato salad and other goodies that Pattie had prepared. We sat and chatted late into the afternoon. Jimmy got out the cemetery book that went back more than 100 years. And we had at least three copies with us all trip of the book I had written back in 1991.

The actual gravestone has been set in place between two of Dad’s brothers. This photo was taken two weeks after we had returned home about the first of September. (Photo by Jimmy Dean Wilson.)

I had sent Jimmy Dean a copy just before we left for Montana. The book was called “Jean and Chuck, the Interesting Years.” And Dad’s part was his first 18 years growing up on the homestead. I had my copy and Drea had her copy, that I’d sent her and all the relatives back in 1991. More than once I heard someone say, “Charlie said . . . “ when reading from the book. Because of that book and because Drea had just been to Dick’s family reunion, Drea helped spearhead the family reunion back in 1992. And this trip had turned into another family reunion.

That night we had a so-so dinner of pizza at the Mavarick bar and casino in Roundup, one of the only places to eat in town that was open. The next morning after another fabulous breakfast at the Busy Bee, we headed our separate ways. Drea and Dick headed back towards Helena. And Harry and Jayne and Edna and I were off to Yellowstone and the Tetons.

On this first half of the trip, we accomplished our mission to scatter the ashes of our parents. And we got to reconnect with cousins we hadn’t seen in decades and met a second cousin, all of which was quite wonderful.  

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#304–The Florence Festival of Books is back . . .

I’m back to writing my blog post every Friday!!! And the Florence Festival of Books is back––as of last weekend. Much was the same, but much was different. It had the same events—the Friday afternoon panel discussion, the Friday evening Keynote Speaker, and the book fair from 10 to 4 p.m. on Saturday. And all events were held at the Florence Events Center.

William Sullivan and Bob Welch in the background, Friday afternoon panelists and Festival participants, with their books at the Saturday book fair. Sullivan is speaking with publisher Bob Serra of Maple Creek Press (my publisher).

To attendees at the book fair on Saturday, it must have seemed the same except for the masks, which everyone wore. But when they entered the display area and started walking from table to table, they realized that the configuration was different. There was a much wider space for walking around. That’s because instead of four rows in the middle, there were only two and the tables were spaced more widely. Thus, allowing for social distancing for participants as well as attendees.

One third of the tables had been left out. Instead of 80+ participants, there were about 55. I think the break down was 50 authors and 5 publishers. It was hard to keep track. Because of the virus, several participants decided during the last week before the Festival not to participate. That made it so we were able to provide a table for everyone on the waiting list. Then one participant showed up Friday evening that we were not expecting. He didn’t find his name on the list, but he had paid and had his receipt. He emailed me. I emailed Aleia at the FEC and by 8:30 the next morning, when the doors opened for the participants, we were ready for him.

We were thrilled that the Oregon State University Press was one of our participating publishers. It was their first time at the FFOB.

Saturday morning a little after 8 before I headed for the FEC, I checked my mobile phone and no messages from participants. But after I arrived, I checked again and another one was dropping out. He was coming from Portland and had set his alarm for about 4 a.m., but the phone rang even earlier to say his son needed him cause his daughter-in-law was going into labor and they were heading for the hospital. He got up and went over to stay with their toddler. And the baby—a little girl—was born that afternoon.

So, right up to the last minute we were making changes, and all but one were due to the surge of the Delta Variant.

And we didn’t know for sure if we were even going to be able to hold the Festival. As of August 21, we could have a total of 200 people maximum occupancy in the FEC. But that could change at any time. Lane County often made restriction changes on a Tuesday that would take affect the following Friday, and sometimes, the FEC didn’t really get the word until Wednesday. So, when we made it to Wednesday evening with no occupancy changes, I felt we could actually pull it off.

Bob Welch listening attentively to a potential book buyer.

The FFOB Planning Committee normally starts meeting in early April, but this year we spent all of April and most of May debating whether we should even try for a large indoor event during a pandemic. If we did, would any participants sign up? Would they want to stay indoors for several hours surrounded by people not in their bubble? And would the public even attend?  

 We decided to plan for it with Covid restrictions and be ready to pull the plug at a moment’s notice. So, we got a late start with a smaller than normal committee that met at first via Zoom. We got the applications out a month late, and were amazed when we were booked up within a few weeks. and started a waiting list We didn’t expect it, but we didn’t really know what to expect.

In May, I asked two of my favorite Oregon writers, Bob Welch and Bill Sullivan, if they would participate in the Friday afternoon panel discussion. Because of the pandemic, they were not solidly booked up and they agreed to do it. I was thrilled; I was over the moon. I had asked them a few years before, and they were too busy. This was a positive that I could chalk up to the pandemic.

Melody Carlson (left) was our Keynote Speaker. She is one of America’s most prolific and beloved romance writers with 250-300 books to her credit. We felt very fortunate to have her. Vicky Sharbowski (right) is part of the planning committee and a fan of Melody’s books.

Our Keynote Speaker, Melody Carlson, who had been scheduled the year before—the year we had to cancel—agreed to wait a year. What a sweetheart! She writes for children, teens, and grownups—mostly women. She has written between 250 and 300 books, which are mostly romances. She learned as a young mother to write when she could find the time and to write fast. She doesn’t know what “writer’s block” is. She has won numerous awards for her writing in the romance genre. She also has a Hallmark movie to her credit and another in the works.

We felt very pleased to have this all-star line-up, for our 10th Festival of Books. It was a milestone year for us––in more ways than one.

George Byron Wright, a returning participant from Portland, has a terrific set of books that he has written. I have a couple and want to get more.

Then we did everything we always do. We contacted sponsors (without whom the Festival would not happen), sent out press releases to the media in June aimed at participants and again in August aimed at attendees.  We got flyers/posters designed and then distributed by mail from Portland to Bend to Ashland to Astoria to Brookings to their newspapers, libraries, bookstores, and tourist hot spots Then we got them plastered even more so in Florence, Eugene, Reedsport, and Yachats.

Lori Tobias, from Newport, was a reporter for the Oregonian for years and her new book, Storm Beat, is her memoir of being a coastal reporter. She has attended the Festival at least four times and recently did an article published in a couple of places where she interviewed me about the Festival. (See on my Facebook page)
Joe Blakely, a Eugene author, comes most years to the FFOB,
and his books are quite popular.

We lined up and trained volunteers for each of the activities. We had advertising in a regional magazine. We had an advertising package with KCST where they recorded radio spots (by me) and an interview for Our Town by two committee members and were there on Saturday with a live feed, interviewing everyone. We had an advertising package with the newspaper too with ads, articles, and the insert filled with articles writen by committee members (mostly me this year) and the table layout with participants and their table numbers (some of which got changed after it was printed). The insert goes out with the paper the Wednesday before and is our program at the book fair on Saturday.

Marianne Rudd, a new Festival participant this year, wrote a book about riding this bicycle across the country. It was quite an attraction.

This is what we do every year plus more that we just didn’t have time for this time. This year, we always had the fear that in spite of all our efforts, it may not happen. With the surge of the Delta Variant right in Florence in September, we were worried. At our last committee meeting just a week before the Festival, we voted on whether to go ahead, postpose with date to be announced, or cancel. My agenda for the meeting had a Plan A if we voted to go ahead and Plan B if not. We voted to go ahead.

We also lost a committee member one week before the Festival. Ellen Traylor has been on the committee since its inception. During the last few years, she was unable to attend many meetings because of her husband’s health. The day before she passed away, she emailed me to say she would be unable to attend the meeting via Zoom because she had been in the hospital for a few days, but to let her know what we wanted her to do re the Festival. Then we learned the next morning that she was gone. We were stunned and still find it hard to believe.

This was taken in 2019 of the FFOB Planning Committee. It includes Bonnie MacDuffie, Karen D. Nichols, Maire Testa, Julie Jarvis, Vicky Sharbowski, me, Kevin Mittge, Aleia Bailey, and Ellen Traylor. Meg Spencer was taking the photo. We will miss Ellen on the committee.

In spite of everything, I’m glad we went ahead with the Festival. The crowds were small due to the pandemic, but everyone seemed upbeat. I heard over and over how glad people were to be there. The same was true of the participants. Lots of networking went on. Everyone was just so pleased to be around other writers. And at the panel discussion and the keynote address, the crowds were small, but very involved with the question and answer segments—a happy vibe. So, my takeaway of the Festival was that I loved every moment, sold about 2/3 as many books as I normally do, and thought it was all rather wonderful!

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#303–EcoGeneration––a supercalifragilistic event . . .

Note: For three Fridays in August, I will be taking time off from posting on my blog. I’ll lbe back in September.

Some things are good, some things are very good, and some things are what I call supercalifragilistic good!  EcoGeneration Recycling Take-Backs falls into this third category. This organization helps the entire planet with its plastics recycling program.

This seems to be a very successful plastics recycling group, which is sorely needed everywhere.

After China refused to take any more plastics from the U.S., there were short-lived, good-hearted attempts and slightly longer, half-hearted attempts, all of which resulted in much confusion. But now there is EcoGeneration. I was afraid to say anything about them earlier because I didn’t know if it would last, but this past Sunday was the third such event and the second one that I’ve attended.

Let me point out right here that EcoGeneration does not handle plastics that have the 10¢ return deposit. Those can be returned elsewhere.

In Florence, it is held at Siuslaw Middle School.

EcoGeneration deals with just about everything else. And these folks are serious. Every single item is examined. Let me repeat that, every single item is examined. If you dump out 100 yogurt containers, every, single one is checked. If there is one that is not acceptable, it is returned to you. These folks are serious about what they do. And one volunteer said to me, “And these will be looked at again.” So, nothing gets past them.

Folks just kept coming with their bags all sorted.

Learning Curve

If you don’t have everything exactly correct, never fear. These folks are excellent instructors. I had a bag of yogurt containers last May on my first time. I truly did not think the labels would come off. The young fellow looked in my bag and told me that the labels had to come off. When I told him, I didn’t think it was possible, he patiently showed me how to find the “zipper.” He then unzipped one and slipped off the entire label in less than two seconds. I was so impressed that when I got home, I gleefully unzipped and removed labels on about 60 containers in about 10 minutes. So, this time, when I went to the Siuslaw Middle School on August 1, I had those plus a bunch more and received a totally different response. The volunteer dumped them out, looked at each one, and said, “I wish all recyclers were like you!” The yogurt containers were part of the #5s. That’s the number in the triangle at the bottom of the container.

Masks and social distancing and lots of patience with those bringing in their plastics for recycling.

At the #2s table, all my containers also passed muster. I was on a roll!

But that ended at the #1s table, as some items were returned to me. The clamshells, containers that berries are sold in, and other flimsier plastic containers fall into a different category, although they, too, were marked #1. I learned that not all #1s are the same.

At the last table, they took all my lids. I had a plastic bag with every single plastic lid I’ve used since May 2. That’s when I learned that lids can also be recycled. Even though they took them, they said that they will have to be sorted. They advised me to look for numbers and any paper that may be tucked inside. And I would need to remove any labels on the lids. The learning curve continues.


Now I have a new word in my vocabulary––delabeling. At the May EcoGeneration event, I came home with all of my dozens of milk containers because they still had labels on them. I experimented with various ways to remove them and found a system that works for me.

To me, the secret is to take your time to get it started and then peel ever so slowly. Any stickum left on can be easily removed with Goo Gone.

If you just rip them off with much of the label still attached, there is no easy way to get it all off. Some people soak them overnight. My secret is to use my thumb nails and work very slowly. I work a thumb nail under all along one end loosening it, and then––ever so slowly––ease the entire label off. If a little bit of stickum is still there, I shoot it with my spray bottle of Goo Gone. i work it in with a scrubber until it feels smooth. Then I wash it with soapy water.

I don’t enjoy doing this to a huge pile of items. So, I’ve gotten into the habit of delabeling each item as I empty it, whether it’s milk, peanut butter, or pill bottle containers. After each one is delabeled and washed, it goes into my plastics collecting garbage bag in the garage.


When it’s time to attend the recycling event, I take my three or four garbage bags of containers and sort them. l use my laundry baskets to help sort. And, because it is hard to read some of the numbers hiding within the recycling triangle at the bottom of each container, I have a bright light and magnifying glass.

These berry containers are referred to as “clamshells” and they plus other flimsier #1s can be delabeled and go into a brown paper bag, to be recycled. There is a cost of $20 per bag.

After doing it a couple of times, you just know the numbers for certain containers. So, like with anything else, it becomes easier with practice.

There is a way to recycle those clamshells and other #1s, but it costs money. Up to this point, there is no charge to attend the recyling event, but they do accept donations. The cost to recycle the clamshells and other #1s is $20 per filled large brown paper bag. Next time, I will have enough to fill a brown paper bag.

Many people attend with their bags clearly numbered. The next EcoGeneration event is scheduled for October 3, 2021, at Siuslaw Middle School in Florence––11 a.m. for seniors and noon for everyone else.

It’s not just a good thing, it’s supercalifragilistic! I’ll be there. Hope to see you too!

Note: EcoGeneration works with Lane County as Community Collectors for clean, label-free plastics coded #2,#4, #5. They also collect and recycle within several other streams of waste and collect at various locations in Lane County. For recycling questions, tips, up-to-date events, see Recycling with EcoGeneration Facebook group or http://www.ecogeneration.org.

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#302–New book is here; now the fun begins . . .

The Cancer Blog (TCB), all 1,500 copies, arrived during the first time for me to be away for more than a day in 19 months. Of course, they did. But my neighbors had been forewarned, and they made sure the 33 boxes of books were stacked on plastic in my book storage area. Thank you, one and all––especially Carole.

I am very pleased with my new book.

A few days after I was back, I met with my publisher at River Roasters, and we are both very happy with this new printer—Seaway Printing Company, Inc. of Green Bay, Wisconsin. We love the cover and the look and feel of the inside pages. And the color in the photos is nicely saturated. We are happy campers.

I will be contacting those who helped during my chemo period. These are the folks to whom TCB is dedicated. I will be giving each of them a comp copy. Now that the books are here, the fun begins––marketing. I am a one-woman show––I write, market, and deliver the books. I did some pre-marketing on my blog, my Facebook pages, and the Backstreet Gallery newsletter, but I haven’t been to events—such as Yachats Farmers Market, book fairs, and PowerPoint programs––where I would be passing out info about my new book. That really works, and I’ve missed doing that this year.

I will need to update my business cards . . .

I absolutely need to update my business card by adding the new book name on the back, create an invoice for TCB, write an info sheet about TCB that I will send to the appropriate venues that sell my other books. Some of the venues that have been the most consistent with selling my books, I will give a comp copy of the new one for them to look at and decide if they want to sell it.

Not all coastal venues will be interested in selling this book. So, I will have to seek out new venues. Since The Cancer Blog has to do with cancer and treatment and healing and staying positive, I will seek out places that have these connections.

. . . both front and back.

I will also seek advice from a friend who is a wiz at marketing through social media, I will check out Instagram since another social marketing wiz advised me to do so, and I am considering creating an actual website, instead of trying to sell books through my blog site.

And I will write a press release and send it out to newspapers, and try to get on at least one local radio show.

While it’s a real thrill to have a new book, it is also the start of a lot of work. It’s time to move on to the next phase. The writing phase is over and the selling phase is about to begin. . . . So, how many copies did you say you wanted?

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#301–Cruising the coast with Teeta in a Tesla . . .

Teeta had a new Tesla and wanted to drive it. So, she picked me up, and I played tour guide for the northern half of the Oregon coast while she drove.

Teeta’s new Tesla was too smart for me.

We planned the trip months ago and I made reservations in March because I know how slammed with tourists the Oregon coast is in July. I made reservations at places I either wanted to stay in or wanted to return to.

Trip to Astoria

We left Monday morning, and Teeta enjoyed the ocean views between Florence and Yachats. We stopped for coffee in Waldport.

The Grandview B&B was charming and delightful.

When we got to Lincoln City, we stopped at Volta Gallery because Teeta loves blown glass and that’s what they specialize in. And she did find something she wanted. Then we visited the glass blowing studio across the highway. More glass to oogle as well as watching the glass blowers.

We could have stopped at a dozen places to eat lunch with an ocean view before Lincoln City, but we weren’t hungry then. We went over to the ocean at Pacific City looking for a place to park with a view of the ocean but no luck. And we needed to make sure we could get to Astoria where Teeta planned to charge her car. So, we headed back to 101. We ate while we drove on to Astoria.


We found the Grandview B&B, which is an historic Victorian with friendly ladies managing it where we had reservations for two nights. It was not elegant, but charming and delightful. And eating breakfast in the only bullet turret in Astoria was a special treat. The breakfasts were very good, and we enjoyed our room. I had always wanted to stay in one of the historic Victorian B&Bs in Astoria; now I can cross that off my bucket list.

One morning, we had breakfast n the special bullet turret.

We found a place to charge the car across from the Fort Henry Brewery, pub, and bakery. We also found an angel who came from the Brew Pub, He was an older fellow, who also owned a Tesla. From his second story perch in the Brew Pub, he saw Teeta struggling with trying to figure out how to use this non-Tesla charger. He came down and helped. It was complicated, but with his help the car got charged.

We ended up having pizza and beer at the Fort Henry Brew Pub, and it was great. I enjoy beer from the tap right at the brewery. And the pizza was very good, but filling. We took half of it with us.

The next day we saw the Astoria Column, but did not climb up because there was low cloud cover and there would be no spectacular view. Then we toured the elegant Flavel House. It is just as fabulous as the last time I saw it. Then we went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum and spent a few hours there.

The fabulous Flavel House Museum.

We really scarfed down our pizza by the time we got back to the B&B. Then we talked and talked. We have been good friends for 60 years, which is very hard for us to believe, since we both feel about 40 . . . most of the time.

That night, we had no reservations and found that our first two choices were filled up or taking no walk-ins. We luckily stumbled upon Fulio’s Pastaria and a table was available. It was a fabulous Italian meal. We had really lucked out.

Off to Cape Foulweather and the Inn at Otter Crest

We stopped in Seaside at the Outlet Stores where we found Tesla superchargers. You can do major charging in much less time on these. While the car charged, we shopped. Of course, we did. It’s one Outlet Store after another. Who can resist!

Then we toured Seaside and Teeta enjoyed seeing the quaint cottages and brilliance of the flowers in the many flowerboxes. We also stopped to see the Lewis and Clark Salt Works that are on a side street—no longer on the beach. I thought we would get out and walk along the Prom, but it was too crowded.

The Lewis and Clark Salt Works in Seaside.

We cruised through the main street of Cannon Beach. There were so many people and no visible parking, so we moved on. We did check out Haystack Rock, as well as the one off Pacific City two days earlier.

Next stop, Manzanita. As soon as I saw a parking place, I said to take it. Mistake. This town was not as crowded and we walked and walked and walked and saw plenty of parking places. We looked but did not see any place to eat until finally a Mexican Café. It had very good food. Teeta also enjoyed the many flowers on our long walk back to the car.

When we got to Tillamook, Tillamook Cheese, where I wanted to stop for an ice cream cone as well as a self-guided tour, was jammed with people. So, we headed for Blue Heron French Cheese just a short distance down the road. We got lots of good cheese to take with us and some still warm small baguettes, as well as a Tillamook Ice Cream cone. And we got to see the petting animals—pea hens, chickens, a goat, an alpaca, and more. We enjoyed this stop.

Wonderful cheeses, plus Tillamook ice cream cones.

We also stopped at Bear Creek Artichokes, between Tillamook and Pacific City, and got some wine and salad to go with our cheese and baguettes for a dinner in. The Mexican food earlier had been very filling.

We arrived at the Inn at Otter Crest by taking the northern route. We took the single lane around Cape Foulweather and Teeta, as well as her car wondered if I knew where I was directing them. Just when I was beginning to wonder myself, the Inn appeared.

I had stayed at Otter Crest about 25 years ago with a group from Oregon Coast magazine. I loved it, and always wanted to come back. Beautifully landscaped grounds, fabulous views from the rooms, and a special tram to take you to your room were just as I remembered. The Inn is composed of 24 buildings on a slope overlooking the ocean.

The Inn at Otter Crest (near the top) is located on the slope of a rugged part of the coast.

Our room did have a fabulous view and was spacious. We enjoyed staying in and having a terrific dinner of all the goodies we had accumulated.

Onward to Yachats and The Adobe Resort

We slept in and checked out at 11. Since they didn’t have breakfast at the Inn, we stopped at The Chalet in Newport. It was fabulous (and we were hungry). I had a Belgium waffle with bacon and an egg on the side. Then we toured Nye Beach, which was quite crowded just like all the other tourist hot spots.

Teeta likes beads and in Nye Beach, a sign saying BEADS caught her eye. So, we stopped at Nye Cottage Beads. What an amazing assortment for anyone into beading.  And Teeta found something she needed.

Nye Cottage Beeds has fabulous assortment.

We also cruised through the BayFront. Too crowded, so we didn’t stop. On to Yachats. We checked into the Adobe early and our room wasn’t ready, so we headed out to explore the town. We got some coffee and checked out the town and then had lunch at The Drift Inn. Always good food there. I had a hamburger and fries and couldn’t eat it all.

We headed to the Overleaf Lodge to charge the car. Then back to the Adobe where we got our key and headed to our room on the second floor. When we used the key card to open the door, imagine out surprise when we found that there were people already in the room. What a shock! We immediately closed the door. Then it opened and a woman came out and we showed her our card with that room’s number. Somebody goofed!

The Adobe Resort is right on the water.

Back to the front desk where they finally figured out how it happened. Then they started looking for a room for us. Only rooms left were two on first floor with no ocean view or one on third floor with view and king bed. We need two beds—I have restless legs and Teeta flip-flops through the night. So, we took the king room and requested a rollaway.

The rollaway was larger than most twin beds. And it turned out to be very comfortable. The room was huge, the view fantastic, and we were happy campers. Both the couple in our original room and Teeta and I in this third floor room got better rooms than we each paid for! Not a bad deal, after all.

We went to the Adobe dining room for dinner, which is one of my favorite places on the entire Oregon coast. I wasn’t real hungry, so I ordered the steamed clams that were on the “starters” part of the menu, had a cup of soup with some bread and that was it. Oh! We did share a gigantic piece of chocolate cake that was delish! Then I was full, very full! Teeta turned in early, but I sat up and watched the waves that were lit by the Adobe’s lights. The rooms are very close to the waves. It was wonderful.

Teeta at the rock shelter at Cape Perpetua.

Heading back to Florence

The next morning, we went to the lobby area and received a bag breakfast of many items that we could choose among. We went back to our room to eat and then packed up and left at check-out time. Just a few miles south of Yachats is Cape Perpetua. We turned off the highway and went up to the top of the cape and took the trail to the rock shelter. What a fabulous view and the day was gorgeous. Teeta was impressed.

We stopped to see Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Keepers House and the Cape Creek Bridge, but didn’t stay—too crowded.

We stopped in Florence and Teeta charged her car. While it charged we went up one side of Old Town and down the other. I felt just like a tourist, until I saw familiar folks. Then I knew I was home.

My Astoria refrigerator magnet to remember the trip–– Maritime Museum, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, Flavel House, and Astoria Columnm.

The takeaway: For the first time in 19 months, I went beyond Yachats or Eugene and ate in restaurants––lots of them. I also discovered that a Tesla is way too smart for me. And Teeta got to cool off from the hot weather of California, got to see the northern half of the Oregon coast, and got to drive her new Tesla. Most importantly, it was a wonderful trip for two long-time friends.

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#300–In praise of my refrigerator magnets . . .

When some people travel, they return home with art to adorn the walls, crystal or pottery to adorn shelves, or books to adorn the coffee table. I, on the other hand, return home with refrigerator magnets. Okay! I do have some crystal and pottery and books along with lots of pamphlets and postcards. But, nowadays, I’m running out of space. So, refrigerator magnets it is!

Love the historic village and gift shop, which are part of the Kern County Museum.

Oops! I almost forgot, I collect Christmas ornaments, so I do keep my eye out for really special ones. So, ornaments and magnets are on my radar when I’m traveling.

One of the reasons I like refrigerator magnets is that they are seen and enjoyed every day every time I open my fridge. Here are some of my favorites:

For years, on my trips to Bakersfield to see my family, which I did three times a year for many years, I would stop at the Kern County Museum and visit their gift shop as well as the village composed of historic buildings from throughout the county. The village was amazing and one day, just by chance, I saw a house being transported along city streets in very slow motion on the way to the historic village. And I always found something special in the gift shop. I couldn’t resist this  magnet, which just fits my sense of humor.

A favorite painting at the J. Paul Getty Museum in L.A.

The J. Paul Geddy Museum in the L.A. area is perched high on a hill top. It is easily accessible from a nearby freeway and parking is plentiful. Then  you take a tram to the top and have fabulous views of the L.A. area. When I was there, no smog blocked the views. The buildings are stone surrounded by gardens. The whole place is very impressive––outside and the vast amount of art exhibited inside the many buildings. You could spend days and not see everything. I have been there with my sister, Edna, and her ex about a decade ago. Then a few years ago, I visited it again with my friend Theresa Baer who lives in the L.A. area. I got this magnet on my first visit. Both times this painting by Fernand Khnopff titled Jeanne Kefer (detail), 1885, stopped me in my tracks. And I wasn’t the only one. The docent on duty told me that it is one the most popular paintings on display.

One of many windmills seen in Solvang.

Yes, Solvang has windmills. Many of the businesses sport windmills and some others are actually real. Solvang is a tourist attraction, but a delightful tourist attraction. It is built like a fairy tale Danish village with many delightful shops. Theresa and I have been there twice and we would go back in a heartbeat. The Havarti cheese and the chocolate were to die for. We checked out their Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, the Old Mission Santa Ines on the edge of town, and other fascinating and less touristy towns in the Santa Ynez Valley. The visits were great fun, and I have my windmill magnet as a souvenir.

Even though it fell and broke into three pieces, it ia a favorite.

We also went to Barstow, even though everyone wondered why—including the folks working at the Barstow visitor center. They asked where we were headed and were momentarily dumbfounded when we said Barstow. Theresa wanted to get out of L.A. and see the desert, and that is what we did. It was Christmas time and perfect weather. We found many terrific places to eat in town and fabulous places to see such as the NASA Space Museum and the Route 66 Museum both housed in the over-the-top Harvey House train station––all in town. Outside of town, we saw lots of Joshua trees and toured Rainbow Basin one day and spent another day at Calico Ghost Town.  I love my cactus magnet from Calico and was upset when the freezer door slammed open, hit the wall, and my magnet broke into three pieces when it hit the floor. Thank goodness for Elmer’s glue.

In remembrance of some wonderful meals.

When my sister and I spent two weeks driving up the Maine coast a few years ago, my goal was to check out their lighthouses and eat lotsa lobster. I accomplished my goals and I have this red, metal magnet to remember how delish the lobster was. The first evening there, we had the classic Maine dinner—whole lobster, corn on the cob, and steamed clams with blueberry pie for dessert. We had had little sleep on the overnight flight and meals had been spotty, so we were very hungry and enjoyed it all.

A fun way to remember Acadia National Park.

My sister’s goals were to visit the home and museum of one of her favorite authors––Sarah Orne Jewett––and to stay on one of the many islands off the Maine coast. And we did both of those. The island we stayed on was Vinalhaven––truly a step back in time, and definitely not a tourist trap. We couldn’t get over the friendliness of the people. One of our last days in Maine, we visited Acadia National Park and had the traditional tea and popovers at the Jordan Pond House. This clever teacup magnet caught my eye in the gift shop.

My sister and I walked here.

In 2019, my sister and I went to Washington D.C. and saw everything we planned to see and much more. Neither of us had been there before, so we treated it as a once-in-a life-time trip and filled all 16 days with memories. One day, we took a cruise along the Potomac to Mount Vernon. It was exciting to walk around the house where George Washington actually lived. I was amazed that it was not a mansion but a very nice farm house with a couple of special rooms for visiting dignitaries. I couldn’t resist this magnet from the Mount Vernon gift shop.

II’ve had this one for many years. It has a place of honor on the fridge.

And, many years ago, on a visit to Florence before moving here, I bought this magnet, not knowing that it would become my favorite bridge of all the McCullough bridges on the coast of Oregon. It holds a place of honor on the fridge.

I do enjoy my magnets. And I’m sure I’ll continue to add more. . . . Maybe I should invest in a larger refrigerator. Hmm!

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#299–Back in the groove––sorta . . .


My normal summers were busy with trips up and down the coast, delivering books for sales, which I’d already arranged over the phone or by email and had the invoices ready. Sundays were spent at the Yachats Farmers Market selling books, every other Wednesday I was at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum as a docent, and I’d put in three or four days a month clerking at Backstreet Gallery as a member/owner. I also edited the newsletter and press releases and was in charge of receptions every other month at the Gallery.

Not at the Yachats Farmers Market this year. I miss being there.

The rest of my time in summer was devoted to the Florence Festival of Books––regular meetings twice a month and subcommittee meeting more often and, as secretary, I wrote up and distributed minutes and did the agendas. I also wrote many press releases and articles, contacted many of the sponsors, was in charge of the marketing sub-committee, delivered flyers and posters all over western Oregon either in person or by mail to all the venues that carry my books.  

What a Difference a Year Makes, Again

2020 was a lost year. When it came to my book sales, they were down by 87%. The Museum was closed, and the Gallery reopened at the end of June last year at reduced hours and only a few days a week. So, I ventured out very little last summer. 

This summer, 2021, some things are getting back to normal, others not yet, and some things are just the same as before. Book sales are improving, but not enough to justify long trips up and down the coast. The farthest I’ve driven this past year on the coast is to Yachats. Speaking of Yachats, I’m not participating at their farmers market on Sundays this summer because it’s still at a reduced size, and food vendors have priority.

I’m here on duty as a docent every Sunday!

In every other area of my life, though, things are picking up and I’m keeping busy. Instead of every other Wednesday at the Museum like I had done for 18 years, I’m there every Sunday––hardly anyone wanted Sundays. I’m there with Ellen Bloomquist every single Sunday.

At the Gallery, we’re now open six days a week and later hours on the weekends. I’m busier than ever because I’m the secretary as of last November. So, twice a month, I take notes at Zoom meetings, type them up, and distribute a draft, put in numerous requested changes, and then redistribute. These folks take their minutes seriously! I clerk three or four days a month and continue with the editing. No receptions to plan for yet––perhaps, by fall.

FFOB Still Takes (Almost) All My Time 

After a year off, the Florence Festival of Books is back in my life and back to taking up most of my time—just like it always has. After nine years, I am no longer secretary. Hooray!  But since my co-chair, Meg Spencer, is the Librarian at the Siuslaw Public Library, she can no longer get away for meetings because of cuts to staff and volunteers. So, I am conducting the meetings and still do the agendas and most of the other stuff I’ve done in the past. Just as busy as ever with the FFOB. 

This is the logo designed by Karen D. Nichols for the FFOB.

As an example, here’s how this week is going. Monday, I had a lengthy conversation with the other person working with sponsors, Bonnie MacDuffee. That phone call covered enough to be considered a sponsors sub-committee meeting. 

Then I prepared for and met (at my house) our newest FFOB planning committee member who is now part of the marketing sub-committee. That’s where we needed the most help. After almost two hours, she left eager and motivated now that she has an idea of what needs to be done.  After she left, I typed up her duties with suggested time frames in which to do them and emailed it to her.

Tuesday, I did the agenda and emailed a committee member hoping she can take on some social media commitments. 

Wednesday, I need to start contacting the sponsors I’m responsible for. Then Thursday is our next planning committee meeting. It seems like, every day there is something to do for the FFOB.

,As it turned out, my Microsoft Word just plain quit; I couldn’t open documents or create new ones. I could not access the sponsor letter Bonnie and I had updated. So I edited the Newsletter for the Gallery and a press release; then I balanced my checkbook, did my budget for July and paid some bills. 

On Thursday, Jolene at FTS Computer Repair remotely worked on my computer and got Microsoft Word back in working order. I was so relieved. And our hybrid Zoom meeting, also on Thursday, worked. The sound was a little difficult at times for the folks on Zoom, but the bottom line is that it worked. So we will continue that way.  

Here at the 2018 FFOB, someone may be pitching an idea for a new book to this publisher. Hmm!

There are eight active members on the FFOB planning committee and two past members who will help out when they can. One of the active members recently moved out of state, but still has a home and business here. She can handle the social media, thank goodness, and get the word out on her own extensive mailing list. Zoom works well for her. Two other active committee members work at the Library, and, therefore, have limited time for FFOB this year. That makes three on Zoom, and the other five can now attend in person for our meetings at the Events Center.

The committee is at its smallest size ever and could use more members who live in the Florence area and have time to help plan for and put on the Florence Festival of Books. We won’t overwhelm any new members with too much, and it is fun to be part of such a terrific event. There are many moving parts when it comes to putting on a major event, and we really do need more help.

The planning committee is so pleased that the FFOB has become one of the major events in Florence and one of the most popular book fairs in the state. Mark your calendars for September 17-18. You won’t want to miss it.

Note: Applications open for participants July 12–September 1. Due to social distancing, there will be 48 tables instead of 68. Expect tables to fill up sooner and a waiting list. For more information, check http://www.florencefestivalofbooks,org or call Florence Events Center, 541-997-1994. Applications will be on website.

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#298–I am woman, I am strong, I am resilient . . .

I love the song “I am Woman.” During most of my adult life, it did not necessarily describe me. It provided goals to aim for and made me feel fabulous when I sang along with Helen Reddy. 

I was one of the speakers when Oregon City’s Arch Bridge designed by McCullough was reopened back in 2012. I was asked because, since writing Crossings, I’m considered one of the McCullough experts.

Being a widow for 20 years. I’ve learned that I am strong. I am not necessarily invincible as the song lyrics say, but I am resilient. For the past decade, I have been living a life I never dreamed I could. Fifteen years ago, I had no clue that I could write books that would sell. That I could give PowerPoint presentations all over western Oregon and become known as The Bridge Lady of the Oregon Coast. That I could co-found a book fair that is considered one of the best in Oregon. Who knew!

I’ve been a single person homeowner for these past 20 years. I have learned that I can handle small and large crises. What first comes to mind are a few leaking water pipes within the house over a 10-year period that caused problems that could be solved by spending hundreds of dollars each time. Then there was the major water leak that caused a whole ceiling to collapse. Then I had to bite the bullet and re-pipe the whole house as well as pipes leading to the road and having to come up with how to pay for it. This time, it was many thousands of dollars. I used up savings, borrowed from life insurance, cashed in a money market fund and and came up with several more thousands to turn the downstairs into an apartment. I didn’t have to mortgage the house or borrow from family or friends. But I had shot my wad and had only what came in each month, which was almost enough to live on.

The den was turned into a kitchenette and living room after all the water pipes were replaced. It became part of an apartment with its own entrance.

Without creating the apartment/money source, I would have had to put the house on the market and find a less expensive place to live. The house is paid for but there are ongoing maintenance expenses as well as the annual homeowners’ insurance and property tax. Just this past year, I replaced the 25-year roof in its 24th year, replaced some vinyl floors that needed it, and had an unexpected collapsing septic tank that had to be replaced. There is always something when you own a home.

I have learned that I can handle a lot at one time, like handling declining health and a dire diagnosis of a life-threatening illness while in the final weeks of preparing everything needed for a major event. I didn’t give in to it and end up in the ER until the day of the event. At that point, I knew the book fair would be fine without me and I had lined up volunteers to cover my table. The weeks of diagnosis and testing gave way to five months of treatment, all of which were scary. But I learned that I could handle it. Without a support system of friends and family, though, I could not have stayed in my home alone during the five months of treatment. For that, I am forever grateful.

Wearing my new wig, I’m hooked up to chemo during my second of six treatments.

So mentally, I can say that I am strong. But I can’t say that about me physically any more, which is no surprise, since I will be turning 80 later this year. Some chores, I simply don’t do these days. I don’t scooch along the edge of the roof cleaning out the drains anymore, and I don’t climb all over the various roof levels to clean clerestory windows and skylights anymore. I still wash all the other windows, though.

In the yard, I don’t do as much either. I have had the same yard man for 30+ years and he is doing more and more for me. By making accommodations, I can still do a lot. For example, I bought four large bags of bark mulch a week ago. It was raining, so I left them in the trunk of the car. The next day, there was a forecast of rain in the afternoon, but it was simply cloudy in the morning. So, I really got with it. I used my hand truck (like a shorter wider version of a dolly) and unloaded two bags onto it and pulled it up my driveway, along the road 100 feet or so and then along the lot next to me and into my back yard to the top of the steps leading down to the greenhouse. Two trips got all the bark into place, where I could handle it.

My terraced slope in the back has four levels.or tiers, as I refer to them.

It took all my energy to make those two trips. I came in the house and laid down. And I didn’t get up for 45 minutes. Then back to work. I slid a bag down the steps and drug it to the third tier of my terraced area. This first bag was the most difficult part of the whole project, lifting it over and around all the ferns. With the second bag, I didn’t have to go quite so far. Then the third and fourth bags I slid all the way down to the level of the greenhouse. I was able to mulch the third and fourth tiers of the terraces and the planting areas around the greenhouse. I had no idea, four bags would go so far. I thought I was just going to do the third tier. I was really, really pleased when I got done but also really, really tired. Once again, I came in and laid down. This time I got up after only 30 minutes. Then I had lunch.

Later, I did something I had often watched others do, but had never done myself. I re-caulked the corners of my shower. Only a couple inches on one side and about 15 inches total on the other side. Not a big enough job to hire someone, so I read about what I needed to do, got what I needed, and did it. I had already picked out the bad stuff and prepped it. And it looks great! So, I’m very proud of myself. . . . I do have a shoebox lid that has one end on the inside totally caulked. I had to use something for practice, because I had never done it before. I discovered that it is a lot harder to do than it looks.

Looking back over the past 20 years, I can say that I am woman, I am strong, I am resilient . . . but not totally invincible!

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