Taking Prom Photos

In June, my 16 year old grandson, Zach took Kasi, a long time friend, to the Tenino High School prom. Zach doesn’t drive yet, so we offered to take him to and from the prom. The party was held on a boat that sailed out of the Port of Olympia. They had several hours of cruising, dancing, eating, giggling, and just plain having fun before we had to return to pick them up and get them home.

I was thrilled when Zach agreed to leave a couple hours early so we could shoot some photos.  Buying prom photos is expensive for a 16 year old, so he figured getting grandma to do it for free was a great deal.  Little did he know the hoops I’d put him through.  We ended up shooting at 4 different venues, 6 if you count their homes, and still had lots of time at the dock before they started boarding the boat.  But both he and Kasi seemed to enjoy the experience and cooperated completely.  The weather was perfect – except maybe too much sun for photos, but for cruising, they couldn’t have asked for better.

I’m looking forward to doing more work like this, so if you’re in the Olympia area and would like to schedule a photo shoot, just click the contact link at the top of the page and send me a message.

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Out with the Old and In with the New

Before buying our Rialta in October of 2010 we camped in either a little teardrop trailer or our 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van.  We knew we had out grown the teardrop and sold that right after buying the Rialta.  But the Westy has remained in our garage unused and somewhat neglected.  We knew we should sell it, but since we’ve had it so long, we were not in a hurry to part with her.  That is, until my brother, Bruce expressed some interest in buying it.  I have mixed feelings about selling such an old vehicle to a relative.  I like the idea of keeping it in the family, but I worry something might go wrong and I’ll feel guilty.

Late last month (April 25-27) we packed up both the Rialta and the Westy and took Bruce on a short camping loop to Eastern Washington.  He drove the Westy and slept in it at night, but we cooked and ate together in the Rialta.  The first day we drove south on I-5 to catch Hwy 14 east along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  Our destination was Goldendale with a stop at the Maryhill Museum along the way.  It was a wet and cold day, but all went well and we camped for the night at Brooks Memorial State Park, just north of Goldendale.  It was cool and a bit windy there, but we found a pleasant site right next to the heated restrooms.  As it turned out, we were the only ones in the whole park.

The next day we traveled a short distance north along Hwy 97 to Sportsman State Park in Yakima.  Near Toppenish we stopped at a National Wildlife Refuge to stretch our legs and take some photos.  Arriving at the state park, we found a beautiful green oasis in the midst of a desert town with lots of walking trails and playgrounds.  Although it was a pretty park, we were disappointed to find the restrooms closed.  I can’t understand it – this is a year-round park and although it does get cold in winter, I don’t see why they can’t keep the water on.  The porta-potty they provided in place of the restrooms was a long walk away and very disgusting!

We pulled both vehicles into one pull through site and hooked the Rialta up to electricity.  The VW was not connected to anything.  We paid the normal RV fee plus $10 for the extra vehicle.  Later in the evening a ranger assistant came over to tell us we would have to move the VW to another site and pay another full RV fee as they don’t allow more than one recreational vehicle in one site.  We convinced him that the little VW should not really be counted as an RV as we were not hooking it up to any power, water or sewer, and we were not cooking in it – it should be counted as just another vehicle.  He seemed to buy that and left us alone, but overall, we were not impressed with Sportsman SP and will make it a point to not visit there again.

Upon leaving Yakima the next morning, we made our way over Hwy 12; White Pass.  It was a pretty drive with a bit of everything when it comes to weather.  We had sunshine, rain and even snow near the summit.  Bruce had never been over White Pass before so he enjoyed it quite a bit, as did Dale and I.

When we got home later that afternoon, Bruce decided to stay over one more night before heading home.  By now I think he had pretty much made up his mind to purchase the VW and after dinner we came to an agreement on price and signed all the paperwork.  We’re keeping it in our garage a little longer so he can have time to build a carport to house it in, but probably by about the 1st of June, we’ll be taking her up to her new home in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  I know he’ll enjoy many more miles in this great little rig and hopefully we’ll get to camp with him a few times more in the future.

Here are some photos I took while on this trip.

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Rancho San Antonio Rialta Gathering

Dale and I have just returned from a great trip to California. The main reason for our trip is that one of our on-line Rialta friends had organized a gathering for Rialta owners at his ranch in the hills of central California, east of San Francisco. Knowing that it would take two days to get to the location, we left on Wednesday, April 6 and drove I-5 to a rest area in Northern California. The next day we had a reservation at a campground called Del Valle that was very near to the town of Livermore, CA where we were all to meet up the next day.

Friday, April 8, at 10:00 am, nine Rialtas met at the Elk’s Lodge parking lot in Livermore and caravanned to the ranch.  It was the first time we had ever seen any number of Rialtas in one place, so we were very impressed by the sight!  Dave Smith was our leader as we traveled the twisty, turning Mines Road. (See the photos below to get an idea of the road) Finally at about noon we all pulled in Dave’s 400 acres of bliss, as he refers to it. And it was wonderful. There was an old ranch house with an airstrip out front that runs along a swimming pond. The Rialtas proceeded to line up, each taking its turn to back up to the lake. By the end of the evening we had 12 Rialtas gathered at the ranch.

The weather that first day was cool. Maybe I should even say COLD as there were periods of snow flurries, but by Saturday things warmed up and we all enjoyed the beautiful sunshine. The first night it was so cool that some of us migrated to the ranch house and built a fire. Pretty soon most everyone was up there drinking wine, eating snacks and swapping stories. It was great getting to know our fellow Rialta owners.

The next morning we gathered at about 10am in front of Duane’s Rialta and the guys started discussing a multitude of topics related to the mechanical operation of their rigs. The gals soon bored of all the technical talk and decided to do our own tour of the interiors of each Rialta. It was fun to see the different models and floor plans, and also to observe various ideas for storage and making the Rialtas more comfortable. We came home with several ideas we’ll want to implement.

In the afternoon we took a hike with ranch owner Dave to see the original homestead cabin on the property. I think we ended up walking a couple of miles through some beautiful hills. You’ll see some photos of the cabin below as well as some flowers we found along the trail and photos of the elk herd that roams the area. During the course of the day we got to know Denny and Sheri Robb and found out they live within a couple blocks of my cousin, Carol in Dorrington, CA.  Since we were both going there after the gathering, we agreed to caravan together when we left on Sunday morning.

A potluck was planned for the evening and everyone brought lots of food and drink. After dinner we had a “class” on solar power as adapted for our RVs. Everyone felt that was most beneficial – thanks Mark! We were also treated to a performance by Joe Eding, who played the saw, violin and mandolin. It was amazing to hear what beautiful sounds can be produced from a regular old hand saw! As we left the ranch house to return to our Rialtas it was just amazing to note how totally dark it was outside and the magnificence of the stars above. We all went to bed with a warm feeling of satisfaction and gratitude.

I took some video of Joe playing the saw, but unfortunately didn’t get the whole song.  However, you can get a good sampling of his work by clicking here.

Sunday started out as a lazy morning as we began the preparations to leave the ranch. Duane set up shop to sell the guys various parts at his reduced costs and also to give away some freebies. One by one the Rialtas would drive away and by about 11, we and the Robbs were also leaving this beautiful spot in the California hills for our trip to my cousin’s home in the mountains.

As we left, we drove another windy road east and made our way to Highway 4 into the Sierra Mountains. A couple short stops to dump our holding tanks and to buy fuel and 3 hours later, we were in Dorrington where we parked the Rialta in Don and Carol’s driveway for a two night stay. I still find it absolutely amazing that the Robbs live only a couple of streets away in this mountain community. Not many residents stay year round like Don and Carol and even the Robbs often spend a part of the winter in Thousand Oaks, CA. This year was a record year for snow in Dorrington with 27 feet total.

We had a wonderful day with Carol on Monday as we visited the Ironstone Winery and also the Moaning Cave. We took lots of photos of the beautiful daffodils and tulips in bloom at the winery and hiked a short trail at the caves, but choose not to go down into the cave. Maybe next time! They also had a zip line there so we watched a few people ride that, but again opted out. See my photo blog for photos taken at the winery.

We returned to Carol’s that evening to a house filled with wonderful dinner smells as she had set up the crock pot that morning with a yummy pot roast and vegetable combination. After a great dinner, I helped Carol set up an online account for her photos. I hope she’ll remember how to upload and order prints now that I’m gone. I’m only a phone call away, so Carol, if you’re reading this, be sure to call if you have any problems next time you upload your pictures.

On Tuesday we pulled out at about 10am to begin the trip home. We had planned to stop at Castle Crags State Park in northern California for the night, but it was still early when we got there, so we continued on to the Valley of the Rogue rest area in Oregon. The next day was just a 3 hour drive to Eugene where we spent the night with Kurt and Karla and then headed home to Olympia the next morning.

This was our first Rialta gathering and based on how it went, we know it won’t be our last. It was great meeting face to face with people we had only known by name from the on-line Yahoo Rialta groups. We left with fond memories of some beautiful country, pretty good weather, new friends, and a wealth of information gleaned from eleven other Rialta owners.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Flowers in California

In April 2011 we took a week long trip to California. While staying with my cousin in Dorrington we visited Ironstone Winery in Murphys, CA. Most of the flowers on this page were found there, but the first 3 are wildflowers we found along our journey.

All photos were taken with my Nikon D7000 with my 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikon lens except the first three.  The first was with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR at 200mm and the next two were with my Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VRII Macro.

For a complete detailed account of our trip, see my travel blog – Mishaps and Memories.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Officially Retired!

In 2010 I spent another great summer in Alaska and then when I returned home Dale and I did some fall camping and even purchased a new motorhome.  We’ve done a couple short trips and we have plans to do a lot more because believe it or not – I’m not returning to work in Alaska this coming summer.  I worked a total of 17 summers in Alaska as a tour guide and finally decided that 2010 would be my last.  It has been a great experience to be able to work in Alaska and has given me some great photo opportunities.  Dale and I will certainly be back in a year or two, but when we go it will be on our own time schedule, and hopefully we’ll bring back lots of great memories and photos.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my last summer in Alaska.

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Skagit River Eagle Trip

Over the weekend of January 14 -17, we took a trip to the Skagit River to do some eagle photography and to try out a couple teleconverters that I had rented from a Seattle camera shop. We got out of Seattle at about 4:00 pm and headed north, but soon ran into one of the worst traffic jams we had ever seen. The whole interstate was shut down due to a fatality, so by the time we got to our campsite near Concrete, WA, it was about 7:00.

We camped two nights at Rasar State Park which is on the Skagit River. This is a fairly new state park and is still relatively unknown. We had no problem finding a powered site as the park was almost empty. After getting Ramona set up for the night it was so dark and rainy we decided to wait until morning to pay our camp fees. When we walked over to the pay station in the morning, we had a chance to chat with the park ranger. She told us about the many activities that were going on for the annual eagle festival and also suggested we might enjoy the variety of birds further down river on the Skagit flats.

We decided to go up river on Saturday and try the flats on Sunday as we made our way back towards Seattle. Our first stop was a short drive through the town of Concrete to photograph a picturesque Catholic church. From there we headed to Rockport and the Howard Miller Steelhead County Park.

At the county park there were lots of eagle festival related activities planned for the day, including a chili cook-off. There was an eagle interpretive center there and we were about to go check that out when a guy approached us asking if we’d like to take a free float trip on the river. The next thing we knew, we were heading up the highway in a small bus to the start point for our raft trip. It turns out they call these raft rides “trips for tips”. All day long they offer free rides in exchange for tips. Pretty brainy way to fill their boats, I’d say.

The float was fairly short, but really just long enough. We saw numerous eagles and enjoyed the serenity of the river. The rafts returned to the Howard Miller park where Ramona was parked. No sooner had we got off our raft, then an eagle presentation started up in a building at the park. We attended this and learned a lot about eagles and there were handlers with a Golden Eagle, a Bald Eagle, and an immature Bald Eagle.

After the eagle presentation we headed further east on the highway to Marblemont to eat at The Eatery which is part of Clark’s Skagit Resort. After a yummy meal we started back to our campsite with a few photo stops along the way. It had been an awesome day with beautiful sunshine.

Sunday morning we packed up Ramona and headed west on Highway 20. We stopped just south of the town of Edison to photograph a bunch of trumpeter swans in a soggy wet field, and then in Edison we stopped at the Farm to Market Bakery for a yummy cinnamon bun. From there we drove out to Samish Island. We stopped numerous times to photograph many eagles, hawks, herons and swans. We’re so glad we drive a small rig that we can pull over just about anywhere for photos!

By late afternoon, we pointed Ramona south on the interstate to spend the night in my parent’s driveway in Shoreline so we could return our camera equipment rentals to the shop in Seattle by 10:00 the next morning.

After 2 weeks of rain in early January, we feel we were very lucky with the weather. It rained during the nights, but we had warm sunshine on both Saturday and Sunday. This was a great trip and I can’t wait to spend some more time in this beautiful area. We hope to be up there again this spring for a trip to Winthrop when the highway department opens the North Cascades Highway.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

First Trips in Ramona

We’ve had our Rialta just over a month now and we’ve named her Ramona.  We’ve even ordered a vanity plate for her with her name on it.  Can’t wait to get it!  Although the weather is definitely getting rainy and cool here in western Washington state, we’ve taken her out on a few short trips.

Our first trip was on October 30.  We spent a night at my mother and dad’s house in Shoreline, WA because my brother was passing through on his way to Nicaragua.  When we left there we headed further north to spend one night at Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island.

Driving up through Skagit County was beautiful.  We stopped at a farm stand and bought some cheese and then again briefly in LaConner for a few photos before continuing on to the bridge that crosses Deception Pass.  There are some awesome views from the bridge, so we parked Ramona and walked across and hiked around under the bridge as well.  The state park is not far from the bridge, so we got set-up by about 3 in the afternoon.  We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the beach trail and exploring the public beach.  There is a small lake here that would be great for kayaking, so next time maybe we’ll consider bringing our boats.  Bikes would also be nice for riding on the local roads.

Our next trip was sort of a business trip.  We had a photography seminar to attend in Vancouver, WA on the November 6th and an investment seminar in Portland, OR on the 8th, so we decided to make a camping trip out of it.  We left home on the 5th to spend 2 nights at Battleground State Park, just outside of Vancouver.  On the morning of the 6th we packed up and headed to the photo seminar.  We noticed that our neighbors were also packing up and leaving but didn’t think anything of it until low and behold, we met them again at the photo seminar.  Small world, isn’t it!!  They had driven down from Poulsbo and camped in the same campsite for the same reason.

On the 7th we had a free day so we explored the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side of the border.  I had a chance to photograph several waterfalls, including Multnoma Falls.  We went east to Hood River and drove over Government Pass with a stop at Timberline Lodge.  It was snowing and blowing up there, so after a couple quick photos of the parking lot we continued back to Troutdale where we parked for the night in the Walmart parking lot.  The next morning we left Ramona behind and took the city bus to our investment seminar in downtown Portland.  The bus was a good choice since parking would be near impossible with an RV and very expensive even if you could find a spot.  Once the event was over we took the bus back to Walmart, picked up Ramona and headed home.  All in all, it was a very successful extended weekend.

The best part of both these first trips in Ramona is that we found everything to be working just fine.  We had power for most nights, but used the generator for the first night at Battleground since no powered sites were available.  Even that worked out fine.  We’re so happy we found such a great Rialta so close to home.  We’ve heard of many people who fly across the country to buy one sight unseen.  Our Ramona is just what we were looking for and we found her just 15 minutes from home.

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Westport, Washington

Wow – after our fall adventures of 2009 I really thought we’d get the Westy out on the road again after the holidays, but one thing led to another and it just never happened.  By January I had to begin my Iditarod recruiting, and at the end of February I few to Anchorage for the race.  I got home in late March, but various commitments kept us from getting out on a trip.  In May we took a 3 day trip to Victoria, but in the car to stay with a cousin, so no camping.  Next thing we knew it was time to head to Alaska again for another tour season.  The poor Westy has just been sitting in the garage, waiting to get rolling again.

Finally in September, 2010 I returned from Alaska and we started prepping to take the Westy out again.  We started with a short 2 night trip to the ocean on September 30th.  We camped at a US Coast Guard campground in Westport, WA, under a lighthouse.  We were the only ones in the campground, but also found that only one site had its power working.  As it turned out, the site with power was probably the best one in the campground since it was right under the lighthouse.  We spent the first afternoon/evening enjoying the beautiful late-afternoon sunshine at the boat harbor.  The next day we took a walk to the ocean and tried to take a bike ride.  I say tried, because Dale’s back tire blew before we even got out of the campground!!  So we drove around and checked out some more sights and took some more photos.

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Christ Church Cathedral

During a recent visit to my cousin who lives in Victoria, British Columbia I had the opportunity to visit Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Victoria. The church is open to the public as long as they are not having a service and they do allow photography.

I set up my tripod and used my wide angle lens to take a series of photos without the use flash.  I set the aperture at f/16 and took three photos of each scene at -2, 0, and +2 exposure values.  When I got home I used Photomatix to blend each set of three images into one HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo.

Here are the results.  These were taken on a very sunny day and the light streaming in from one side of the church definitely affected the outcome even with the HDR processing.  My guess would be that a cloudy day might produce better results.

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On the Road Again

If you read my posts from last week you’ll know that we cut our trip to California short because of some strange noise coming from the back end of the van. After limping her home, we found that the left half shaft was in need of replacement. We had done the right side many years ago up in Anchorage, but just to be on the safe side, Dale decided to replace both half shafts. He bought the parts at our local Napa store and with the help of our son-in-law, Chris was able to install them in about a day’s work. After a short drive around town, he was convinced she was ready to roll again, so we packed her up for a short weekend jaunt to the northern section of the Oregon coast.

On Saturday, December 5th, we headed down I-5 to Castle Rock were we cut over to highway 411 and took that right to the Columbia River. After crossing the bridge we then headed west on Hwy 30 to Astoria. Our first stop was the Astoria Column way up at the top of town. We took some photos there and then headed on down Hwy 101 towards Cannon Beach. My niece, Mindy was spending the weekend at Cannon Beach with her son and boyfriend, so I gave her a call and arranged to meet up with her on Sunday. There are no campgrounds right at Cannon Beach, so after stopping at Ecola State Park for photos, we continued south to Nehalem Bay State Park.

There were almost no campers in the the park but the Yurts were all full. Yurt camping has become a very popular way to winter camp in Oregon and probably other states as well. But we weren’t wanting a Yurt this time, so we picked a spot as close to the restrooms as possible. That’s because we knew it was going to get COLD during the night and the shorter the walk, the better!

When we got up the next morning at 7:30 it was 35 degrees inside the van. We don’t sleep with a heater on, but we do have nice toasty warm down mummy bags that we can draw up around our heads. We stay plenty warm; it’s getting out of them when it’s freezing outside that is the hard part! But when nature calls at 2:00 a.m., you really don’t have any choice but to brave the cold. That’s where long underwear and warm PJs come into play.

After a nice hot cup of coffee and getting packed up we explored the rest of the park. There is a boat ramp, lots of bike trails, and of course beach access. But it was so cold we opted to do most of our sightseeing from the car. We liked this park very much and will likely return sometime when it’s a little warmer.

We headed back north on Hwy 101 and as we approached Cannon Beach we started seeing a dusting of snow on the side of the road. You’ll see in the pictures below we couldn’t resist getting a picture of the Westy in the snow. It was about 11:00 when I called Mindy and left a message. We were just entering the Tolovana area when she returned my call. What a surprise to find that they were staying at the Tolovana Inn – we were just passing it when she called, so we turned around and went into the lobby for a brief visit. It was great seeing her again – I think it’s been at least 5-6 years since I’ve seen her last. Her little boy, Cameron is now almost 7! He was surprised to learn that his grandma is my sister and that the man with all the cool trains is my dad.

After leaving Cannon Beach we cut off Hwy 101 to check out the campground at Fort Stevens State Park and photographed an old shipwreck out on the beach. From there we continued into Astoria where we bought fuel and then crossed over the Columbia River to Washington. We decided to take the Hwy 101 route back to Olympia. 101 is much slower than the inter-state and no where near as scenic as it is in Oregon, but we were in no hurry and it’s always nice to see different roads when we can. We got home at about 5:00 p.m.

The Westy ran great – we heard no more noises from the rear axle; so I think she’s ready for a long trip. Then again, with Christmas quickly approaching, I don’t think we’ll be heading out again for awhile. But after Christmas, we hope to try the California trip again. This time, without the cats!

Here are a few pictures we took this weekend. As you’ll see, I love to photograph the rocky coast around Cannon Beach! And messing with the settings on the Nikon D90 gives us lots of different effects. The first set of “haystack rock” pictures were taken close to sunset from Ecola State Park. The later ones were taken the next day from the south side viewpoints at around 10 in the morning.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Camping with Cats

Lots of folks take their dogs with them when they go camping, but taking cats along is a different story.  Dogs are much more content on a lease than cats, and if they happen to get a chance to run away you can be pretty certain they will return.  With cats you can’t  be so sure – they get scared and who knows where they might go.

We have taken our cats camping on several occasions.  Last fall we were camping in our tear drop trailer and the cats slept in the car.  This year we took the Westy and they slept inside with us.  Although they ride very well in the car, living with them inside such a small vehicle for a week turned out to be a bit more challenging that I imagined.  The biggest issue was the mess they made.  Why is it that a cat can never use the litter box without tracking the litter out when they’re done!  Someone should invent a litter that will not stick to the cats feet!  Then there was also the problem with white cat fur sticking to everything.  Our short hair gray cat, PD doesn’t shed so bad, but the part Siamese long hair cat, Foxy, sheds constantly and we found her fur on the counters, the curtains, the upholstery and of course on the carpets.  If we had been gone much longer I think we would have been forced to go to a car wash to use their vacuums to clean the interior!

So if you can get past these couple issues, camping with cats is definitely doable.  Here are some tips to help make it work for you and your cat(s).

The first thing you’ll need is a lease and harness.  We have 2 types of harnesses and believe me, the one with the 2 buckles is by far the better choice.  Both cats have managed to get out of the single buckle harness, but unfortunately, I’ve not been able to locate another 2 buckle variety.  PD is the least likely to wiggle loose, so she wears the red single buckle one, but our “wild one” Foxy is better constrained by the purple one with double buckles.

For leases we bought the 3/8 inch 5 or 6 foot variety available in any pet store and then added a carabiner to the end so we can attach it to a high line.

A high line is a piece of rope that you attach between a couple trees .  With two cats it works best if you can make 2 high lines so they don’t tangle themselves up.  We use some inexpensive 1/4″ rope and stretch it about 3-4 feet from the ground or even on the ground depending on circumstances.

You’ll want to be sure your cat tolerates the harness ok before you even try the lease.  Put the harness on the cat several days before the trip.  He or she will likely plop on the ground and not move at first.  Don’t worry, they eventually figure out they have to learn to move with this odd contraption on and will start moving around, kinda funny at first, and then after a few hours will likely get used to it to where it doesn’t bother them anymore. Once they are used to the harness, you can try the lease, but trust me, cats will never learn to walk on a lease like a dog. The lease is more of a constraining devise, or you can use it to follow your cat as he or she explores, but don’t expect the cat to follow you.  If you try to walk ahead of the cat, you might end up dragging her, so be watchful!

Ok, next you have to see how the cat reacts to the car. For that you’ll need a cat carrying container. We have two types. One is a hard plastic shell with a wire door and the other is a soft sided zippered case with a nice soft fuzzy interior. The cats seem to like the soft cases better – probably because of the fleecy lining and the fact that there is more room to stretch out inside. But we did find one problem with the soft sided cases. When the front door is unzipped, there is no support for the roof and it tends to naturally collapse a little and completely if the cats decide to walk on the top which they do when we let them loose in the car. Even so, I think I’d still opt to take the soft sided cases in the future since the cats seem more comfortable sleeping in them.

We feel pretty fortunate that our cats actually seem to enjoy riding in our vehicles. Some cats go sorta crazy, but keeping them confined in the “safe haven” of their carrier is the best way to get them used to the car. Once they get to where they ride ok, try opening the door of their carrier and let them come out on their own to explore. Our cats always come out and look around a bit, but after a while we find they’ve gone back to their carriers and settled down for a long nap. How is it that cats can sleep so much? I don’t know, but when we’re traveling, I’m glad they do!  If you do let them out of their carriers be aware of where they are in the car.  Ours are prone to jumping up on the driver’s lap with no warning which can be a bit dangerous.

Also, always know where the cats are in the vehicle before you open a door.  I don’t know if our cats would bolt and run so I just won’t take that chance.  When we’re going to be opening and closing the doors a lot, we generally lock the kitties into their carriers just to be on the safe side.  This is especially important when you’re stopping at photo stops along busy highways.  It’s not as dangerous in campgrounds, but even so – I prefer to not worry that they get lose, so when we’re unpacking or packing up the van they are either leased on their high line or inside their carriers.

Some other things to remember to bring along when you’re traveling with cats would be a litter box with litter. Make sure you use the clumping litter and don’t forget the scooper! You’ll need an adequate supply of cat food and bowls for their food and water. You might want to also include any grooming supplies and cats toys that you think you’ll need. We also bought a large dog size nylon collapsible kennel to set up outside the camper to contain the cats. Foxy does fine it that, but PD is constantly trying to dig her way out of it, so we haven’t used it too much.

I always keep their food and water bowls filled and available when we’re driving and of course, the litter box is also available at all times.  At night we pop-up the tent on the Westy and put the cat beds and their food and water up there.  The litter box goes on the floor of the front seat so it’s out of the way.

I hope these tips and ideas will be helpful as you contemplate taking your cat(s) on a camping outing.  But after all is said and done, I have a confession to make.  We had a good experience with the cats on our last trip to the Oregon coast, but after spending a week with them in our small Westy van, we don’t think we’ll be doing it again soon.  The main reason we take the cats is that we hate to ask someone to take care of them while we’re gone, but in reality, I think the cats are probably happier staying home in their comfort zone than heading out into unknown places.  We have a very nice neighbor who has helped us out in the past and in exchange we feed his cat when he’s gone, so it’s likely that the cats will stay home on the next trip.

Thanksgiving on the Oregon Coast

On Monday, we left Eugene and headed west to Florence, Oregon.  Just south of there was an old favorite from years past – Honeyman State Park. Since by then it was already 2:00, we decided to stay.  We set up in the RV area so we’d have power and then took a nice long walk around the campground and one of the dunes trails to get a look at the sand dunes.  Since it was getting dark and we were without the proper shoes, we opted not to walk far out onto the dunes.  The thing that totally amazed us here was the number of ATV riders.  Campers come from miles around to camp in this area to ride their ATVs on the dunes.  Licence plates told us they came mostly from Oregon, California, Washington and Idaho, but I can imagine that during the summer they would come from anywhere in the western US.  Looks like a fun, but very expensive family sport.

On Tuesday morning we broke camp and headed south again on Highway 101.  We stopped at a few scenic spots for photos and in chatting with a couple visiting from Idaho, learned about a nice area near Coos Bay called Charleston.  We checked the map and found there was a couple Campgrounds there, so we headed out and found both the Sunset State Park and Bastendorff County Park.  We opted for the county park since they had cell phone coverage and the other didn’t.  It was also almost empty, so after the noise of the ATV riders yesterday, this was a very pleasant and quiet surprise.  A plus is that we’re parked within view of the ocean, so you’ll see some early morning photos in the gallery below.

The next morning we headed south towards Bandon.  We opted to camp at Bullards Beach State Park, and although there were quite a few campers there already, there was plenty of space and we quickly set up a nice camp.  But by the time we were done, it was dark and we hadn’t had a chance to head out to the ocean, so we talked about the possibility of staying there two nights if the weather looked good the next day, which was Thanksgiving.

The morning dawned sunny and we decided to stay put for one more day.  We planned to head into old town Bandon and also to check out the ocean, but things changed when the weather had made a complete turnaround by about noon.  It started to rain and it poured all day and all night with quite high winds as well.  We were basically trapped inside the Westy for the complete day.  We read for awhile and then watched our movie from Red Box.  The wind and rain was so strong that I couldn’t cook outside so we were forced to use the inside stove.  With not much room to prepare a nice meal, we opted for ham and cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup – not much of a Thanksgiving dinner, but we could at least be thankful we were safe and dry.

By Friday the rains had stopped so we broke camp and took that drive out to the ocean and into Bandon.  It looks like a cute little town but it was too cold to make us want to get out and walk, so we mentally put it on our list to explore next time we come this way.

Now for the complete change of plans.  We had noticed on Wednesday as we made our way towards Bandon that the van was making a strange noise.  Dale was concerned that maybe there was something wrong with the engine and we talked about whether we should continue the 750 or so more miles to the Westy shop in California or should we drive it back home.  I think it was a combination of things – the engine noise, the cats getting restless, and the cold wet weather that helped us make the decision to head home.

As it turned out, we did the right thing to head home.  Friday we drove north on Highway 101 to Beverly Beach State Park were we rented a very nice yurt for $30.  It was nice to have a little more space for a change.  We had a covered porch were we set up the camp stove and ate inside while watching another movie.  These yurts will sleep 5 adults, so there was definitely lots of room.  I think I had my best sleep of the whole trip there.

On Saturday morning we quickly packed up our gear and started the push for home.  The car continued to make noises, but by now Dale had determined it wasn’t the engine, but likely a wheel bearing going out in the left rear wheel or maybe the half shaft.  Either way, we were nervous as to whether it would make the distance.  It seemed to do much better on straight, flat road, so we cut away from the ocean route at Tillamook to take Highway 6 back over to Interstate 5.  Going over the coast mountains was a little iffy, but once we made the freeway, we never heard the sound again.  By 4:30  we were back home in Olympia and decided we deserved a nice dinner out!

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Visiting Eugene

We left home on Saturday afternoon about 1:00 and got to our friends’ home in Eugene, Oregon in time to go out to dinner and watch the tail end of the Oregon/Arizona football game, which Oregon won.  We would have left the house earlier, but the final packing took a little longer than we planned for.  It’s crazy how much stuff you can cram into one of these Vanagons.  And of course, we have the 2 cats with us and all their paraphernalia.  (More on the cats later.)

Sunday was a lazy day just hanging with Kurt and Karla and then a trip to a local park.  The weather has been pretty nice.  Mostly sunny with a few scattered showers.  We had a nice dinner at home on Saturday night.  Then in the evening I helped Karla set up a basic web site for her new business plan.  She plans to start a transcription business.

Monday looks like a sunny day in Eugene and we’ll be heading for the Oregon coast and then continue south.  We need to pack up our stuff and get on the road.  But first, here a couple photos we took while visiting in Eugene.