Wanderlust

Wanderlust… The call of the open road… Mid-life crisis… Insanity.
Maybe.

Mostly for us it was a chance to see, feel, and experience the wonders of the world without the stress of time constraints. We packed a lot into our lives; years of intense hours of work and stress; years of volunteering; years of frantic vacations wedged into the whirlwind. We hit a wall. We talked about retiring. We loved the Pacific Northwest and felt it was the place we wanted to be. Vacations to other perfect places did not sway us. Friends questioned our sanity in choosing a place so grey and dreary during the winter. But we had a desire to find a nesting spot where we can buy or build our home to live out our days. The urge hit us early as the clock seemed to be ticking. We could no longer do everything we wanted to. Health histories on both sides had indicators of shortened lifespans. We had saved money for retirement all our years. It was time.

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Critter Alert

So, here we are, temporarily grounded in Maryland watching it rain ice balls. We’ve been to our Phoenix once already to push more than ten inches of snow and ice off the roof. Belly crawling on the roof in freezing slush was NOT the highlight of our RV life. The really nice snow removal people loaned us a ladder so we could get some of the snow off from the sides but some required a delicate touch, hence the need for Holly to wallow in slurpy type slop on the roof – so wet, so cold… ewww, so dirty. Our baby needs a bath.

After the roof cleaning, we noticed our tires had sunk a couple inches into the mud… and froze there. We may be bringing a shovel and plywood to help us get her out when we go to exercise all the systems. We ran the generator but need to take her out for a battery charging “spin”. That won’t be for another week or so because they piled a huge mound of snow in front of our motor coach. They have to move the snow so we can dig out the coach so we can take it for a ride to keep all the parts happy.

Finding that we are stuck was not the “lowlight” of that day. We spoke to someone else with a vehicle stored there and they told us the place was overrun with mice. Like, inside all the cars and RVs. They said if we peered in the vehicle windows, we’d see torn up paper and stuff where the critters are nesting. GREAT!

This led to some internet searching and then the production of mouse deterrent sachets. At least we hope they are mouse deterrents. Quite a few different people swear by them and we figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. We had most of the necessary supplies and we don’t mind the coach reeking of peppermint so we kicked into production mode. We made another trip back to the Phoenix and tossed sachets in the outside bins and throughout the house. The internet comments said this won’t get rid of mice that have already moved in but should make it stinky enough that new nest hunters move along and find other accommodations. We found no sign of mice so far so we hope we stunk the place up in time. For those wishing to give this a try, the directions follow.

Sachet Materials

Sachet Materials

Ingredients:

– Peppermint essential oil (full strength concentrated oil, NOT extract, can order online or get at health food store)
– Corncob critter litter (from the pet store or Walmart pet section)
– Fabric squares or old socks (I had quilting squares on hand, they made lovely sachets)
– Tacky glue (most craft stores sell it – good for fabric) or you can use a sewing machine

Corn Cob Litter

Corn Cob Litter

Procedure:
– Dump several cups of corn cob litter in a zipper baggie
– Add enough peppermint oil to give it a very strong smell, putting drops of oil right on the litter then mix it around several times
– Close the baggie and let the litter “marinate” in the oil. Mix it periodically if you get the chance. Add more oil if it doesn’t make your eyes water yet.

Scented Corn Cobs

Scented Corn Cobs

– Put glue on three sides of the inside of one fabric square (this side will NOT be seen – the decorative side faces out for both squares) then position a second square over it and press together, smoothing the glue seam (glue will ooze through so do this on waxed paper)

Gluing three sides to make a pouch

Gluing three sides to make a pouch

– Peel the pocket you just made off the now gooey wax paper and set it on a clean piece of waxed paper to dry completely.
– Take dry pockets, fill with scented litter (don’t overfill), then glue the last side shut, smoothing it into a straight line before setting it back on waxed paper to dry

Filling the sachet

Filling the sachet

– Let dry completely, check for any leaks (glue them if needed) then toss them anywhere the mice might be thinking of sneaking in

If you are using old socks, you can probably just fill them and tie them off with string and be done with it. If you have a sewing machine, you can skip the glue and drying time and crank these out in a heartbeat.

Our granddaughter Chloe and I made sachets like these as Christmas gifts several years back (she was 6). She loved picking out the different fabric patterns and scents and then deciding who got which set of “smelly things”. We ordered huge bags of rose petals and lavender blossoms from Amazon and used the corn cob litter with an assortment of essential oils that I had on hand. She couldn’t squeeze the glue bottle very well so I did most of that while she lined up the fabric squares and did everything else. People loved getting them and she loved giving them. We did not make the gift sachets as strong as the peppermint mouse deterrent ones but they were strong enough to scent a drawer.

While I made peppermint sachets, Chloe jumped in to make honeysuckle, lavender, rose and Hawaiian Vacation sachets. She gave her sachets to her mommy and her after school caregiver. She’s such a sweet child and is always thinking of other people and coming up with nice things to do for them. So awesome!

Hooray! Our number just came up on the wait list for the storage place we used previously. It is much closer, has a solid level gravel pad and is more secure. It is more expensive but they treat the area for critters which we’ve just realized is a plus. While I don’t like spraying poison all over the world, I don’t want mice chewing up our house either. We’re leaving the stinky peppermint sachets in place though, just in case.

Now it just has to stop snowing and icing long enough for us to dig our baby out of the mud and get her moved to her new spot.

So if you see a beautiful Phoenix Cruiser rolling down the road with a peppermint cloud wafting along behind it, that’s us. Honk and wave! We’d love to say HI!++++++++++++++++++++++

H

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What a time it’s been

People are wondering where we have been. Well, we were very happily settled on the most northwest corner of Oregon getting ready to enjoy some wicked winter storms and check out the area that so many people told us fits our dream retirement location. There was so much to see and do there that we were making lists and planning to hang out and play tourist for a while.

Then we got the first emergency call from family in Maryland. It wasn’t something we could handle from the far west coast so we packed it all up and hit the road. There was a good bit of urgency to it so we drove almost three thousand miles in under four days. Considering the fact we had previously decided that 3-4 hours of driving in a day was our retirement maximum, we feel we did really, really well. We were also really lucky that gas prices dropped just before we hit the road and the nasty winter weather held off long enough for us to use the northern route. Well, the mostly northern route. We dipped down a bit for the slightly longer, no toll road route. Several western states had speed limits of 80 mph or even higher. We were in the motor home towing the car so we did not drive that fast and our travel time was longer than the mapping programs said it would be.

Once we hit Maryland our son let us stay at his house and we found storage for the Phoenix Cruiser for less than $3.00 a day so we are saving money on housing/camping fees but the weather here is EVIL. When we pull up the weather sites, it remembers we were near Portland Oregon and tells us it is 57 degrees there… compared to the single digits here. It’s so nice that the computer keeps pointing that out. This is definitely not where we wanted to hang out in the winter. Always looking for the silver lining, we are thankful that we are not so far north that we have to shovel several feet of snow off the roof of the Phoenix like some of our more northern friends are doing. Our hearts and sympathy go out to them.

Well, we raced back and here we sit, dealing with social services and trusts and legal issues. It is brutally slow and difficult to get anything done. On the upside, we are getting some nice quality time with our son and granddaughter. Her excitement over our unexpected visit was far more than we ever expected. On the downside, we raced back so quickly that the half a dozen friend and family visits we had planned for our drive back across the country this spring have gone by the wayside. As they say “the best laid plans”…

We decided that our waiting time here is best used doing things we have been putting off. If it was a choice of blogging about our first year on the road or exploring the area we were camped in, the exploring ALWAYS won. Now we have time to work on those blog entries. We are also trying to sell just about everything we have in storage. We stored furniture and such for when we returned to our house, but we aren’t returning to it. We stored books and keepsakes and “stuff” that we just couldn’t part with or didn’t get around to finding homes for but we have discovered that we really like living with less and will never pay extra to have a house large enough to store all that “stuff” again. That means we are paying monthly storage fees for things that we don’t want. One of our tasks while we are here is to sell off as much of the stuff as we can. It is slow work that is being hindered by the brutally cold weather but we are whittling it down, piece by piece.

We don’t know how long we will need to be in Maryland so we don’t know where we will go from here. We have played with the idea of sliding down to Georgia to finish out the winter if we can get out of here before spring. If we are here at the end of the school year, we will probably scoop the granddaughter up for another excellent summer adventure with Grandma and Papa. We don’t know where that adventure will be yet, as we don’t know how the family issues will play out here and how far we will be able to wander, but where ever it may be, it will, of course, be excellent.

H

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Cape Meares and Oceanside

January 19, 2015

We had wonderful Oregon weather the day we toured Cape Meares. It changed at least every five minutes. We had beautiful blue skies with sunshine, then rain, then partial clouds, occasional wind, soft mist and everything in between. It was as though we were in a weather bubble in a Children’s Museum and someone was gleefully flipping the controls back and forth leaving it on one setting only long enough to view the effect before choosing something else. We may be nuts, but it was kind of fun. We had our fleece and rain jackets so we didn’t care.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares is a State Scenic Viewpoint. It has Oregon’s shortest lighthouse (38 feet) which sits low down on the cape placing it below the fog line. This is the first lighthouse we walked DOWN to. You actually see only the light as you approach and you have to circle down the path to see the house portion beneath it.

Approaching  Cape Meares Lighthouse from above

Approaching Cape Meares Lighthouse from above

If you look below and to the left of the lighthouse, you can see a rainbow. How neat is that?

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse

The park has a few hiking trails and several nice overlooks for viewing the wildlife and surrounding shoreline. This wildlife could include whales (nope, still didn’t see any), sea lions, dolphins and porpoises as well as the shorebirds that nest on the cape and on nearby rocks such as common murres, pelagic and Brandt’s cormorants and pigeon guillemots. They have a peregrine nest on a facing cliff that should be getting put to use before too long but nobody was home when we were there.

We had a beautiful view of Three Arch Rocks off to the south. These are the same rocks we nicknamed the Kissing Turtles because that is what they look like from the beach near our campsite. From Cape Meares, we can see three separate rocks and three distinct arches. It helped that the sun was glinting behind them so it lit up the openings for us.

Three Arch Rocks

Three Arch Rocks

There are two observation platforms right next to the parking lot so hiking is not required to get a decent view but you do have to walk a paved path down to see the whole lighthouse. A short hike back up through the woods behind the parking lot will take you to the other star of the park, the Octopus Tree. This is a very large Sitka spruce that has no central trunk. All the branches reach straight out from the middle, only a few feet off the ground and some go for a distance of more than 15 feet before they take a right angle turn and reach toward the sky.

Octopus Tree

Octopus Tree

Oceanside Beach

We decided to stop for lunch at Oceanside and see if we could find the tunnel we read about. Lunch was at Roseanna’s Cafe. The food was good and the view was awesome. We felt the portions were a bit small for the price but it is a beach resort town. The dessert menu set us to drooling as soon as we got in the door. John considered skipping lunch and going straight to dessert (yes, that would be my corruptive influence), but I talked him out of it. I almost regretted this when he decided he didn’t need dessert. The meal was saved though when I talked him into taking something home for later.

Oceanside looks to be made of a whole lot of beach rentals. I’m sure there are full time residents there but most of the people we saw on the beachfront were not locals. The town appears to be rows of houses lined up one above the other, stair-stepped up the side of the cape, and all looking out to sea. There was a hotel across from the Cafe that had full glass walls facing the ocean. I’m not talking large windows, I’m talking floor to ceiling, wall to wall glass. It was like an aquarium for people. It would be an awesome place to watch the winter storms, and the sunsets, and watch for whales, and just generally hang out and go zen.

The beach is nice but the really cool thing here is a tunnel that a local resident dug and blasted straight through Maxwell Point. You can see the tunnel entrance toward the lower right and Three Arch Rocks off to the left.

Maxwell Point

Maxwell Point

After a small landslide they shored up the one side closest to the town with concrete but the rest of it is rough rock. You have to go when the tide is out but it is a very neat thing to do. We walked through the tunnel, stumbling on rocks until our eyes adjusted, and popped out the other side about six feet above the aptly named Tunnel Beach.

Tunnel

Tunnel

This is a cobble beach where people hunt for agates and stroll down for a close look at Three Arch Rocks where the Stellar Sea Lions haul out and numerous shore birds nest.

Agate Beach

Agate Beach

Getting back to that landslide. We originally planned to go up near Tillamook then follow the Three Capes Loop across the bottom of Tillamook Bay, check out the spit at the mouth of the bay where once a whole beach resort was built then faded away as properties were reclaimed by the sea and thus approach Cape Meares from the north. This would have let us complete the full Three Capes Loop Scenic Drive. We found out that the section of road between Cape Meares and Tillamook Bay was closed indefinitely due to landslides. Checking online we discovered that the road we had planned to drive had shifted nine feet… NINE feet! This was over many years but the majority of the slide was in the last few years.  We read where Oregon DOT explained how they had patched this road and that road after slides as part of their general road maintenance. As we hiked along the beaches with steep cliffs we saw signs of recent and not so recent landslides where chunks of land just peeled away from the bluffs and slumped to the beach. As we wandered the park we spotted abandoned blacktop roads that just drop off into rubble as the ocean eats away the land beneath them. This seems to be commonplace on the coast but is fairly new to us. And it definitely makes us think… and keep a little bit farther back from any edges than we normally would.

It was a good day trip and we enjoyed it but after we returned home we realized there were numerous geocaches in all the areas we had been and we had just forgotten to look for them. Ah well, it gives us an excuse to return.

H

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Hiking Trails at Cape Lookout State Park

January 16, 20 and 21, 2015

Netarts Spit

We weren’t in camp very long before we snatched our camera and headed for the beach a stone’s throw from our campsite.

All I can say is…WOW! Big sun, big sky, big ocean. Absolutely gorgeous. Driftwood abounded on the beach. Entire trees were half buried in the sand. Others rocked, rolled and twisted in the surf. It was fun to watch.

Cape Lookout from north beach

Cape Lookout from north beach

We walked north along Netarts Spit toward Cape Meares. As we walked we got a closer view of a rock formation just off the point. What should we call it? Holly voted for Kissing Turtles, which is exactly what they looked like. We later learned that they are actually called Three Arch Rocks. I don’t know about you, but Kissing Turtles gets my vote.

Kissing turtles

Kissing turtles

On our beach walks we’ve encountered some interesting debris, like this float that looks strangely like Kermit the Frog. If a human turns green when they’re seasick, what color does a green frog change to?

Kermit the Frog float

Kermit the Frog float

We had a lot of fun watching these wading birds running to and fro searching for a morsel under the sand. They ran so fast their little toothpick legs were a blur. They usually went in different directions. But when the surf came too close, they lined up and ran up the beach. Based on my (brief) research, I’m going out on a limb and say these shore birds are sanderlings, a member of the sandpiper family.

On your mark! Get set! Go!

On your mark! Get set! RUN!

North Trail

The North Trail starts at the Cape Lookout State Park day use parking lot and ends at the trailhead for the Cape Trail and South Trail which is on the Cape Lookout ridge. One way distance is 2.3 or 2.6 miles depending on which trail sign you want to believe. Let’s just call it 2.5 miles one way or 5 miles round trip.

One fascinating thing we saw was this tree (among others) that appears to be standing on its tip toes. It’s not as odd or mysterious as it seems. A tree falls and dies. Seeds sprout and seedlings grow on the now decaying log. So do mosses, ferns, lichen, and other plants. The seedling’s roots reach around the log, seeking a foothold on firm ground. Once established, the young tree continues to grow while the log continues to decay until there’s nothing left. The dead tree “nursed” the seed and the seedling, giving them nourishment. These dead trees are called nurse logs. Appropriate, don’t you think?

Tree on tip toes

Tree on tip toes

The picture below is another great example of what a nurse log begat, two trees whose roots intertwine. Very cool.

Nurse log trees with entwined roots

Nurse log trees with entwined roots

We encountered some man-made features too, like this neat swinging bridge over a stream

Swinging bridge

Swinging bridge

and this not-so-neat “detour” around a drainage sluice. The trail runs to the left of the raised area, a “curb” of rocks held together by chain link-type fencing. Not very pretty, but I understand why it’s there – to prevent erosion of the trail and, more importantly, the hillside.

Trail around drainage sluice

Trail around drainage sluice

Once in a while, we got a peak through the trees. One of those peaks gave us this view of several waterfalls cascading down a cliff. Cape Lookout is in the distance to the right. Although the ocean appears to be encased in light fog, it’s really just sea mist blown off the wave tops by the wind.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Cape Trail

The Cape Trail leads you to the point on Cape Lookout a hundred or so feet above the ocean. One way distance is 2.3 miles or 4.6 miles round trip.

The day we hiked the trail was very muddy and slippery in spots. Of the three trails that converge at the trailhead (North Trail, Cape Trail, South Trail), this was by far the most strenuous hike. The mud didn’t make it any easier. I slipped quite a few times and I’m (usually) sure-footed.

There were quite a few places where you got good looks at North Beach, Netarts Spit, and Cape Meares, but it was windy and the sea mist kept us from getting a good, clear view.

We had to stop when we got to Pirate’s Cove where we watched the surf crash into the cliffs below. Our final destination was the top left. The trail did not go all the way down to the water.

Pirates Cove

Pirates Cove

Sometimes, it seemed like the vistas were endless, like this one. The clouds just kept going and going and going. As did the coast and the ocean. Makes you feel kinda small.

Endless vista

Endless vista

South Trail

The South Beach Trail follows numerous switchbacks from the trailhead on Cape Lookout down to the beach south of the cape. One way distance is 1.8 miles or 3.6 miles round trip.

It was a nice cool, sunny day – a good day to take a hike.

The grade on the first mile or mile and a quarter wasn’t too bad and the switchbacks were pretty far apart. It was pretty easy going. But then the trail got steeper, more rugged with lots of tree roots to trip over, and the switchbacks came closer together. The folks maintaining the trail built a bench on a nice overlook where we could rest, especially important on the way back up! As our granddaughter Chloe would say, “This looks like a nice spot to sit and have a snack!”

On the way down, Holly spotted a small stream flowing from the base of a tree. It’s pretty amazing how accommodating nature can be. Instead of fighting for the same piece of dirt, they shared it.

Stream flowing from base of tree

Stream flowing from base of tree

On those occasions where there were breaks in the trees, we got spectacular views of the beach and Cape Lookout. No wonder I keep being drawn to the ocean in these parts.

View of beach and Cape Lookout from South Trail

View of beach and Cape Lookout from South Trail

When I reached the beach, I noticed some trash. Because the North Beach can be reached from the campground, I figured camp hosts and other people picked up trash along there. Because South Beach is more remote, I figured there were fewer people to collect the trash. It didn’t look so bad at first so I started gathering it up into a pile. I planned to put it in a trash bag and carry it back with me. But no sooner did I start collecting than I started seeing more and more trash, too much to stuff in one trash bag, much less lug back up the hillside. In the end, I hauled up about 10 pounds of trash which barely made a dent in what was along the beach. Much of what I found was to be expected – plastic and Styrofoam floats and bobbers, fishing line, plastic bottles (way too many of those), and lots of bits and pieces of hard plastic (some as small as a fingernail, some a large as a picnic cooler). But I also found a golf ball and pancake turner.

Still, the view of the beach and cape were awesome. Just look at that sky. Since we hit the Oregon coast, we’ve had as many, if not more, sunny days than cloudy ones. Even on mostly cloudy days, the sun will usually make an appearance. If you look closely at the cliff, you can see lighter areas where the rock face calved off the cliff. We saw the results of a fairly recent rock slide which you can’t see in the picture. The rubble formed a mound beneath the slide. Over time, the sea will erase the rubble.

View from beach looking north toward Cape Lookout

View from beach looking north toward Cape Lookout

On all our beach walks we found dead birds, usually nothing more than a clump of feathers and bones. Quite often, we’d find 4, 5 or more dead birds clustered within a 20-30 foot radius. But while walking along South Beach, I found an intact dead bird, probably a Cassin’s Auklet or a Common Murre. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the birds they’ve examined have been “extremely emaciated, likely related to exhaustion and starvation caused by exposure to cold temperatures and heavy wind.” The one I found did not appear that way to me. One more mystery served up by Mother Nature.

On the way back up we did a little geocaching, locating 5 caches. That we did this on our way UP had nothing to do with the fact that we had to stop quite a few times to take GPS measurements and hunt for caches. Catching our breath was just incidental. Riiiiight! If you don’t know what geocaching is, you can learn more here.

J

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Tillamook and the Cheese Factory

Thursday, January 15, 2015

We needed to pick up some packages from the post office so we headed into Tillamook. It was a nice drive along bays and forests, across a few rivers and past quite a few dairy farms. Tillamook is located on a lush plain that gets over 90 inches of rain each year (that’s ninety inches – NOT a typo).

Mountains flank the area on three sides and the ocean and bay lie to the west. The number one employer in the county is the Tillamook Cheese group. They employ over 25% of the people in the county. They make lots of cheese. Literally tons of it. Cheese is made from milk. Milk comes from cows. There are tens of thousands of cows in Tillamook County munching away on all that lush grass and generally doing what cows do. Which brings us to…

It was a cool day so our car windows were up but we noticed it was getting more and more stinky as we neared the town. It wasn’t until we opened the car doors at the post office that it really hit us though. And it hit us. Hard enough that John blurted out “we are NOT going to live here”!  We don’t know if they had just spread a few tons of manure on the nearby fields or if Tillamook always smells this way but it is definitely off our list of places to live. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against a little cow stink. I rented a place on a cow and pig farm way back when I was in the army so I know that you eventually get used to it and do not even notice the smell. I explained this to John but he was hearing none of it. I’m OK with that. It’s a big country and I’m sure we can find somewhere with a few thousand fewer cows.

Since we were in town, we decided to roll up Hwy 101 and check out the Cheese Factory. They have a huge parking lot with space for RVs and buses. It was pretty empty when we were there and that’s good because we got to spend our time and read everything and watch massive amounts of cheddar cheese being made and packaged.

The factory has the upstairs viewing areas, a cheese sample counter, little deli shop, large gift shop, restaurant type counter, dining area and a huge ice cream counter… because it isn’t just cheese that is made out of milk.

We started with the free, self guided tour. First up are lots of signs downstairs explaining the farmer-owned status of the company, what it means to be a dairy farmer, how much milk a cow gives, etc. They also have a few looping videos with benches to plop on to watch. We watched and read everything they had then headed up to the observation areas.

I think we did the tour backwards. If you turn left at the top of the stairs, you see the first part of the process. We, of course, turned right and got confused. Here’s the order we should have seen it in:

First you encounter an ice cream counter. If it is open, buy some. They hand make their waffle cones right there (you can watch them do it downstairs). Yes, I know it is expensive. It is also very good ice cream and the waffle cone was so light and crispy, I was in ice cream heaven. I had the Tillamook Mudslide: “rich chocolate ice cream with chocolate fudge chunks and decadent fudge ripple”… oh yeah. I tell you to buy it here because it would have been nice to munch while we watched the cheese being processed. The upstairs ice cream counter was closed when we were there so we bought our ice cream downstairs after we ate lunch. I should have skipped lunch and pigged out on really creamy, really chocolatey ice cream in the crispy waffle cone… mmmm. Wow, nice memories. We may have to stop again on the way out of town. After all, they have room to park our motorhome. Not many ice cream shops have that… I mean cheese factories.

OK – Back to the tour. The first part was not really exciting the day we were there. There are lots of closed vats with hoses and dials and we assume milk or cheese curds were in them but all we saw were the vats. This part of the cheese making process is pretty much all automated. A few humans monitored the equipment and tested things periodically but all we saw was gleaming metal and steam. Hmmm. There is one big open vat down on the floor where they make their flavored, small batch cheeses but it was all clean and shiny. Apparently we were not there on specialty cheese day.

Separating curds and whey

Separating curds and whey

It took us a bit to read all the signs, watch more videos and and figure out what was going on in the far right side of the cheese making room. There are tall square metal towers that we figured out are full of cheese curds (which were made in those shiny vats a few feet back). They get compressed into big forty-some pound blocks of fresh cheese which then drop out onto the conveyors. A human bags each block and sends it to a huge vacuum sealer. The cheese is sealed and rolls away to be boxed before going to the warehouse where it waits to be old enough to be labeled “aged cheddar”.

Pressing Towers

Pressing Towers

The other side of the observation walkway has windows opening onto the packaging room. To “follow” the cheese process you have to tear your eyes away from all that cheese rolling around on all that machinery to first peer past the packaging room through the doors and windows on the other side. There you will see people unboxing the aged cheese that has been brought out of the aging warehouse. They strip the plastic off it and put it on the rollers where it rolls on into the packaging room.

When you first look in the packaging room you’ll think Wow! that’s a lot of cheese. We watched dozens of 40 lb blocks of cheddar roll in from the aging warehouse. They were sliced and weighed and trimmed into smaller blocks before they rolled down the line.

Cutting the cheese

Cutting the cheese

One machine bagged them and the really cool looking octopus machine heat sealed them. Then they rolled along to be trimmed, heated again, cooled, then up the spiral roller thingy to the packing room. This was cool.

The Octopus

The Octopus

We walked back and forth and watched block after block of cheese get processed. When we finally figured out how everything worked, we headed downstairs for some cheese samples, lunch and ice cream.

John and I are a bit plebian when it comes to “tastings”. We can’t discern the undertones, overtones, dial tones, nose, toes, etc. of wine, beer, chocolate or cheese. Tillamook is supposed to be very good cheese. We did not do a direct taste test but my samples didn’t make me think, “best cheese ever”. I DID enjoy the squeeky cheese sample. This is basically the cheese curds before they get pressed into blocks and aged. It has a softer “tooth” to it and actually squeaks when you chew it, which was fun and why I liked it. It actually has very little flavor. Ironically, this was higher priced per pound in their cheese store than the aged cheddar that has so much more processing time. Go figure. We checked the factory price for cheddar against one local food store and it seemed that the factory was a tad cheaper but not discount priced. They cut out the middle man and kept their share of the profit. Oh well, we had just bought cheese anyhow.

We had an OK lunch there (a tad expensive) and I got the wonderful ice cream mentioned above. We got to watch them make those yummy waffle cones too. They have six or eight waffle irons going at one time. The attendant opens the waffle maker, quickly rolls the waffle onto a metal cone mold and moves to the next one. She cycles back to take all the waffles off the molds and drop in more batter before starting over at the other end. It was fun to watch and it smells sooooo good.

We had never been in a cheese factory so it was interesting and well worth our stop. It would be cool to see them actually hand make cheese in their specialty vat. We tried to see this at cheese factories up in Vermont and New Hampshire last summer but never seemed to be in the right place on cheese making day. If this is something you really want to see, a call ahead may help you plan your trip.

Otherwise, go and check out the cheese… and get the ice cream!

H

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Independence

We’ve had a few small Oregon coast winter storms roll over us now. One monster wind gust could be heard in the distance rumbling and roaring across the ocean as it advanced upon us. It smacked us along one side then was gone. WHOA – that was different.

As I lay in the bed listening to the storm I started to think of all the things we used to do to prepare for power outages in the old house, because those frequently came along with the storms. Gather flashlights, batteries, emergency drinking water, fill tub with water for flushing toilets, get out extra blankets, charge cell phones, etc. As each potential problem popped into my head, the answer popped back out. Power outage – no worries there, the lights run off the house batteries and they are charged. If campground water runs on a pump and it goes out, we switch to our onboard tank – our water pump runs off the batteries. When the electric heat goes out, we switch to our propane furnace. If our cell phones run down, we charge them off the house batteries or the truck batteries. If our batteries run down, we  fire up the generator and recharge them.

No worries, no worries, no worries. All the potential problems would be solved without leaving our beds. John can reach the controls to switch to propane heat and everything else switches over on its own.

Hmmm, I thought “this is nice” and snuggled down into my bed to enjoy the storm.

H

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Hatfield Marine Science Center

Saturday January 11, 2015

While the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) has a few kid-friendly exhibits (which are fun for grown ups too), it’s really more for adults interested in research being done in the area of marine science. The exhibits and research vary from the microscopic to the macroscopic.

Just outside the entrance is part of a dock that was torn from its moorings in Misawa, Japan during the March 2011 tsunami that hit Japan. The dock “landed” at Agate Beach north of Newport on June 5, 2012. Scientists were astounded to find 118 invasive species clinging to the dock. This piece of dock outside corresponds with two exhibits inside. One exhibit explains the dangers of invasive species, how many of them got here, and what you can do to help reduce the invasions. The other exhibit that references the dock deals with Tsunamis and ocean currents. The Tsunami exhibit has an area where you can build lego houses then test them out in the Tsunami wave tank. A boy of around ten or twelve was engrossed in his experiments on how to reduce damage caused by Tsunamis.

Part of dock from Misawa, Japan

Part of dock from Misawa, Japan

Another outdoor/indoor exhibit described research being conducted on generating electricity from waves. The buoy shown below can generate electricity. The yellow disk rides up and down on the waves while the center post is stationery. How this all works was explained inside along with examples of several other type of wave energy devices.

John liked how the displays went beyond just the science and explained what’s involved in getting the science out of the lab and into the real world. It’s a complex process involving many stakeholders (government agencies (of course), commercial and recreational fishermen, developers, shippers, etc.), ecological considerations, wildlife considerations, and the like. It makes you realize that, no matter how beneficial something might be, making it a reality takes a lot of hard work and cooperation.

Part of wave energy generator

Part of wave energy generator

Another project involved monitoring undersea volcanoes. The Rumblometer shown below was actually trapped in the lava from an underwater volcano way out in the ocean… actually, not so way out in the ocean, but far below the surface where the tectonic plates are moving apart and the magma is flowing to the surface. They rescued this equipment and put it on display. You can see where the lava burned one edge of the device.

Under sea volcano monitoring system

Under sea volcano monitoring system

Holly’s favorite exhibit was the GPS unit. They have a whole display explaining GPS and showing how scientists use it to track the movement of the tectonic plates. The plate the west coast is sitting on is being pushed in and scrunched (creating the coast range of mountains as well as other land features) as another tectonic plate is pushed down beneath it. The two plates sort of snagged creating the drag. The display states that at some point that snag will let go and the top plate will bounce back… OK, so what happens to the mountains? They probably won’t just flatten back out. Besides the enormous earthquakes, how exactly does a tectontic plate rebound? We’re pretty sure we don’t want to be sitting in “bounce back” zone when that happens.

The center has a timeline on the floor that gives a great visual showing that the earth really is moving beneath our feet (just very very slowly). The plate tectonics are explained very well showing where the earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes come from. An interesting question they ask and answer is “Why are the volcanoes lined up in a row so far in from the coast?” The short answer deals with one tectonic plate being pushed under the other. The west coast of the United States is riding on that top plate. When the bottom plate reaches a certain depth, water is expelled from the rock and the conditions become right for the magma to rise to the surface. The plate dives at about the same rate all along its edge. The coastline parallels the edge of the plate so the line of volcanoes parallels both the coastline and the edge of the tectonic plate.

The center also has a theater that showed a movie about the search for sea “monsters”. We learned something about the pseudo-science of cryptozoology, the search for and study of animals that have not been proven to exist – such as the Loch Ness Monster. These scientists’ proof usually consisted of fuzzy photos and videos, drawings, and eyewitness accounts. Given that billions of cell phones are out there, John’s surprised that there aren’t lots more images of these sea monsters. After watching the movie, neither one of us was convinced of the existence of these sea monsters. However we think there are lots of undiscovered species out there. Given the vastness of the oceans, why would we think we’d found everything there is to find?

This is gorgeous country and we still think we want to live out here but there are a lot of natural disasters just waiting to get you. It makes you think.

J&H

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