It’s been a stressful week. Laura’s mom fell on Friday and broke both legs. She had surgery on Saturday, and is looking at a long recovery time. Laura had flown down to Florida so she could drive back with Amy and her mom and some time with us. Her mother fell as they were getting ready to go to the airport to pick her up. So, with Laura in Florida with no way back and not enough supplies for an extended stay, I packed more gear for her and clothes for me and drove down Sunday.
Monday was spent in the hospital. Tuesday I had a bit of a break. Amy and Laura stayed with their mom, and I headed ab hour down the road to Jupiter, where my niece, Katie, and her husband, Aaron had just moved. My sister, Glynda, had come down to help them get settled in, and it was also their son, Jack’s first birthday.
Apparently first birthday cake smashing is a thing. If you buy the first birthday cake from Publix, they throw in a “smashing cake.” Katie thought that the small one was too small and wouldn’t show up in photographs well. She bought a larger one. She had a little set in place, so we put Jack in front of the cake… (more…)
It was another day on Samish Island, and we had a full day planned. Most of this involved taking care of some family business in town, but there were opportunities for shopping and photography.
One thing I wanted to do was try some time lapse photography on the island. I had done this before, but that was with limited equipment. I had an iPad, which I couldn’t leave outside for extended periods. Now, with the GoPro, I could set up a session and leave it for much longer.
My first attempt was actually yesterday evening. I set up the camera and let it run for a couple of hours over the late afternoon, evening. While the GoPro worked great and I like the overall view, the wide angle made it so that I couldn’t capture the incoming tide as I wanted.
It had been a long week+ of traveling, but now we were settled in for awhile. I got a good night’s sleep, but, as usual, was awake far too early. I think it also has something to do with the longer daylight up here. I’ve never been this far north in winter, and would be curious as to how that would affect me. I’d probably still get up early.
From a photography standpoint these long days are fabulous. Long morning and evening light means you’ve got much more optimal time with the best possible light. Even with longer light, I wasn’t going to waste any of it, so I headed out early to take some photos of Skagit Valley.
First, though, I did get did get distracted by a small bunny right outside the window while I was having breakfast…
This part of the Skagit Valley is mostly reclaimed farm land. Samish Island was once a true island, but has been reconnected to the mainland by land reclamation. “The Flats” present and ever-changing landscape, depending on crops, weather, and lighting conditions. Today the weather was clear and spectacular. (more…)
Where did July go? Normally this date would cause major consternation as I panic about the start of school. This is the second time around that I haven’t had to worry about it, and it shouldn’t bother me. Occasionally, though, it does. That’s why it’s nice to be traveling this week.
Laura and I found breakfast at the hotel, then headed over to Fred Myers to pick up a few supplies before meeting Aunt Ellen. I’ve not seen these stores in our area, but they are up in the Northwest. They are like a really nice Walmart, with groceries and higher end household goods. This turned into a more extensive shopping trip than we planned.
Back at the car we were approached by an older gentleman with an unusual proposition. He was admiring the Mustang, and said that his wife had one just like it. Unfortunately, his wife now has Alzheimer’s, and he was looking for someone who would appreciate the car. He would basically give it away for $5000.
It was tempting. If legit, it would be the buy of a lifetime. We made our apologies that we couldn’t take him up on his offer since we were traveling. However, I kept kicking myself mentally for not at least seeing if there was some merit to the offer. I’m retired. I could have driven the second Mustang back home across country. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve driven a convertible that far in that direction.
We picked up Aunt Ellen about mid-morning and set off for a drive, this time in her Mercedes SUV rather than the Mustang since it would hold more people. First we went in search of the lighthouse we had seen last night. Last night I had found that it was the Cape Arago Lighthouse, and wasn’t too far from where we had been. We retraced our steps through Charleston and past the Bastendorf Beach turn off. There was a road marked “Lighthouse Road” at the correct spot, but it was also marked Private.
We continued past Sunset Bay State Park, looking for any place that might grant access. We found none. There was a scenic overlook, and Laura suggested that we pull in. I was just going to turn around, but she wanted to take a look. Good thing. There were several other lighthouse hunters there, and they had been informed that this overlook was about the only place where one could view the lighthouse. It was otherwise inaccessible. Unfortunately, it was about as visible from this point as it was last night because of the fog.
Strike one for the first lighthouse. However, that wasn’t the only one I had in my GPS. There was another a little ways up the coast. We headed north and crossed the bay itself. Aunt Ellen pointed out the beginnings of the Oregon Dunes, a long stretch of massive sand dunes along the coast popular with off roaders. As we road past we saw a couple of ATVs out on the dunes.
We continued on for another sixteen miles or so. There were sand dunes to the west, and lakes to the east. All along the route were state parks and campgrounds. However, all of the campgrounds indicated that they were full.
I found the proper turn off, and we soon found ourselves at Umpqua Lighthouse. It was still very foggy, but at least we could get to this one…sort of. The lighthouse was surrounded by a chain link fence and what appeared to be active Coast Guard housing.
There was an overlook with information about whales that might be visible from this point. However, what drew our attention was not whales, but a roar from below. On the dunes below we could see hundreds of RVs and campers, and even more ATVs riding in every direction. We would learn later than this Dunefest, and it would last all weekend.
It was absolutely crazy. However, I couldn’t spot any of them wearing Still Suits.
Nearby was a building that served as a Coast Guard museum. At one time it housed sailors with the coast guard and served as a base of operations for this area. We walked in and reserved a tour for ourselves, then checked out the displays as we waited for our tour.
Our tour guide, Roger, was another RV’er who volunteer as he traveled around the country. He and Aunt Ellen had quite a bit in common, as she and Uncle Larry had similarly volunteered in their RV travels. He gave us a bit of the history of the area, and also describe the self-righting rescue boat on display next to the museum.
The lighthouse is still in active use, and this is still an active Coast Guard station. We were led past the barracks, then through the fence to the lighthouse proper. Roger described the architecture of the light, and how the tower structure was designed to act as a chimney so that it didn’t fill with soot from the original oil lamp.
Inside we were given more info about the light. This one has a first order Fresnel lens, and has an alternating red and white pattern. A weighted chain was used originally to drive the clock mechanism. I took the obligatory spiral staircase shots, and pretty much the same shots I’d taken at Coquille Lighthouse yesterday.
We couldn’t get all the way to the top as we could with yesterday’s lighthouse. However, we were allowed to poke out heads into the Fresnel Lens as it was rotating. Pretty spooky.
Laura managed to get a bit of video as the light was rotating.
We climbed back down, and another tour with a different volunteer took our place. We thanked Roger, then headed on back to the car.
Aunt Ellen wanted to have lunch at Winchester Bay, which was below the light house. However, when we drove down there we found the place overrun with off-roaders. There was no way we were going to get into a place for lunch here. We wound up driving all the way back to Coos Bay to find a burger joint near Aunt Ellen’s House. Afterwards, we returned to her place and just hung out with her for the afternoon.
Aunt Ellen was getting tired, so we reluctantly said our good-byes, and headed on back to the hotel. It was walking distance to downtown, so we set off in search of dinner. There seemed to be things going on – the town wasn’t dead. However, we couldn’t find anything that really appealed to us. We settled for Wendy’s salads, then turned in for the night.
We had arrived in Coos Bay, Oregon and checked in at our hotel. Now it was time to visit Laura’s Aunt Ellen. Ellen is Laura’s mother’s younger sister. Upon retirement, Aunt Ellen and Uncle Larry sold their home in the desert in California, bought a large RV and spent several years traveling around the country. We were privileged to have them stay with us for awhile. When it was time to settle down from that adventure, they chose Coos Bay. Uncle Larry passed away two years ago, and this was the first chance we’d had to visit Aunt Ellen.
We found the house with no trouble and spent a good bit of time catching up. We had an early-ish dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, then set out to see what we could find. It was still early evening, but since it was now clear I asked if there was a spot we could watch the sun set over the beach. Ellen had the perfect location.
The town of Coos Bay is on the eastern (inland) side of the peninsula along the bay. Like a mutant amoeba, it expanded and swallowed up the surrounding communities into its city limits, including North Bend and Empire. Aunt Ellen lives near the Empire area, which is closer to the coast. This put us in a good position to reach the beach before sundown. (more…)
It was time to leave Laura’s cousins and head north. We got up early enough to pack the car and have one more excellent breakfast at Bill and Linda’s house. We thanked them for their hospitality, then headed on our way.
We weren’t in a rush, though. We waited long enough for the worst of the San Francisco rush hour traffic to clear before heading out. Our first stop was an overlook with views over the East Bay and to the west. We could see fog rolling in from the ocean.
Our route took us along Highway 280 into the city, then we took 19th Avenue to the Golden Gate Bridge. There was lots of construction around the bridge, and that slowed things down tremendously. To make matters worse, the bridge was fogged in, so there were no good views. Last time we were here we stopped on the other side of the bridge and walked across. This time there was traffic backed up onto the bridge itself waiting to turn into the parking lot. We decided to skip it.
The last two times we were here we headed up along the coast to Muir Woods. Laura wanted to do something different, so we headed east, toward Wine Country. Eventually we made it to the town of Napa and the Russian River.
Unfortunately there was a problem. I was sick – terrible headache and queazy stomach. This did not bode well. We had comfort food at Taco Bell and I down lots of pain killers while we decided what to do. We even thought about just staying in Napa and touring the valley the next day. However, we decided to press on.
Instead of driving along the main highway, we took the Silverado Trail. It seemed less crowded, and that was a good thing at this point. Even off the main drag there were some spectacular vineyards and scenery.
The Silverado skirts the foothills along the eastern side of the valley. There seemed to be much less traffic than Highway 29. We continued on until we reached the town of Calistoga. At this point we decided to turn back down Highway 29 a bit just to see what was down that way. There were several well-known wineries along this route, and it seemed a sacrilege to visit Napa Valley and not do one wine tasting.
By this time the meds I had taken had kicked in. The headache and nausea were gone, and I was ready to tempt fate with a wine tasting. The St. Clement vineyard looked like the perfect place.
There was a beautiful old farm house with a tower. There was also a seating area with umbrellas and tables offering a fantastic view of the valley. We figured that’s where the tasting would be. However, when we walked up, we were directed to the “Wine Maker’s Lounge and Tasting Room” out back.
When we reached the lounge we found two levels of tastings. There was one that featured wines only available at the vineyard, and one that featured commercially available wines. While the exclusive wines would probably have been great, we opted for the commercial wines, with the hope that if there was one we liked, we might be able to find it back home.
All of these tastings start with lighter wines and move to heavier. First up was a Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a Chardonnay. These were OK, but didn’t knock our socks off.
Next up was a Merlot, followed by a Cabernet Sauvignon. We light reds better than whites, but, again, neither of these really impressed us.
The final “official” wine of the tasting was a 2011 Oroppas. This was the best tasting wine of the collection, and, of course, the most expensive of the group.
Our sommelier was quite knowledgeable, and described the vineyard and various vintages as we sipped. It always amazes me how very slight changes in soil and sunshine result in very different grapes. As a final taste we were poured two glasses of the exact same varietal. One was produced from grapes grown on the east side of the valley, and one from grapes grown on the west side. A display showed the differences in soils from the two mountains in questions.
There was a distinct difference in flavor. Laura and I both liked the Howell Mountain wine best.
We looked around the little shop a bit, but decided not to take a bottle with us. While the tasting was fun, none of the wines were to our liking enough to shell out that much money. It was fun, but the day was getting late, and we still had lots to see and and do.
Sunday was a non-travel day for us. Breakfast was a leisurely affair, and we spent more time catching up with Laura’s cousins. We spent the rest of the day at Linda and Bill’s house staging for the next part of the adventure. While others headed off to church we headed to Safeway and picked up supplies for picnics along our journey.
The afternoon was spent napping and rearranging our suitcases. Camera gear and other high-use items were moved to more accessible locations, and we took inventory of anything else we might need.
About mid-afternoon we headed over to Dave and Fran’s house, which was only a couple of blocks away. Dave and Linda are brother and sister, the children of Laura’s Aunt Marie and Uncle Dave. Dave had been east to visit us a couple of years ago, and it was great to see all of them again.
The outing brought about the East Coast/West Coast argument about the term “barbeque”. To West Coasters it means anything cooked out on a grill. To East Coasters it’s a specific cuisine, usually pulled pork, or the sauce that goes thereon. Sometimes ribs are lumped into the BBQ bundle, but not by those in the know. What West Coasters call barbequing we call grilling, or “cooking out.”
So, our “barbeque” consisted of grilled salmon and chicken kabobs. Terminology aside, it was still delicious.
We spent a delightful evening in Dave and Fran’s backyard discussing all sorts of verboten topics such as religion, politics, and family. It was great fun, and lasted long into the evening as Fran and Linda brought out multiple desserts. I really fear my diet is done for, and I’m going to have to start completely over when this trip is complete.
We headed back in time for Laura and I to check our itinerary for the next day and turn in. Being from Los Angeles, Laura has an easier time shifting to this time zone, but I was doing OK, to. Regardless, we had a long day of travel ahead of us.
It was time for another epic road trip. Laura had finished her summer research with her students and I had finished…well, whatever it is I was doing during retirement. We had planned this trip since the beginning of summer, and with my Mom’s passing last week, the need to get away and see different scenery was even more imperative.
The plan was to fly into San Francisco and rent a car. We would spend a couple of days in the San Jose area visiting Laura’s cousins, then drive north along the coast. Eventually we would reach Coos Bay, Oregon, and spend a couple of days with Laura’s Aunt Ellen. We would continue along the coast and up Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, finally reaching Laura’s mom’s place on Samish Island, north of Seattle. We would spend several days there taking care of things around her place, then would fly back from Seattle. The 1200 mile trip would take two weeks.
Yesterday we held the funeral for my mother. It was a time of grieving, but also of celebration. Now, with both parents gone, our large family feels somewhat adrift. However, we’ve always been very close, and I’m sure we will come to rely on each other even more as the days pass.
I want to express my sincerest thanks for all of the warm greetings and condolences from my friends, family and colleagues. Even if I haven’t had a chance to respond personally, know that I appreciate each one that has reached out to us during this time. (more…)
At 2:10 this morning my mother, Joclair Ellenberg Taylor, lost her battle with cancer. She passed quietly in the early morning, surrounded by four of her seven children at her home in Prosperity, SC. I was not able to be with her at the end, but had been there earlier in the evening. Mom was 85. She now joins my father, Houston Taylor, who passed away in 2011.
Several weeks ago Mom had some cancerous places removed from her skin. These were found to be melanoma. Further scans showed that the cancer had spread, and that there were large tumors in her lungs. Rather than undergo aggressive treatment, at her age Mom decided to let things progress naturally. In early July we were given a 4-6 month prognosis.
Even though she wouldn’t fight the cancer, she wasn’t one to sit idly by, either. Ever the adventurer, Mom put together her bucket list, which included going on one last road trip, and maybe even getting back to do some kayaking.
Last week my brother Stephen picked up Mom, his daughter Lauren, and my sister Glynda, and they embarked on trip to New York City. The trip was a winding affair, with stops to visit other grandchildren along the way, and a drive through Amish country. As they were approaching New York, Mom slipped into silence, and begin exhibiting stroke-like symptoms. It turns out that there were also tumors in the brain that had begun to hemorrhage.
One harrowing night in a New York hospital, and Mom seemed to make an astounding recovery. The family made it back to Prosperity in record time, and we were able to talk with her about the trip and all she had seen. Unfortunately, the tumors took their toll, and we spent the last week tending to my mother in home hospice. While I was not able to take her kayaking, I am ever so thankful that she was able to take one last grand adventure with her family.
In addition to the cancer, this past year had been a difficult one health-wise for my mother. She had fallen last fall, and spent several weeks in rehabilitation with broken bones. However, she took to her recovery like a champ and made amazing progress. Add to that recovery from a previous stroke and broken hip from many years ago, and her strength and resiliency is nothing short of amazing.
…and it had to be. Taking care of seven children was a hard task, but this small woman was always up to the challenge. Often with limited resources, she would fight fiercely for her children and grandchildren, making sure we had food on the table, clothing, and anything else we needed.
That fierce nature was combined with an adventuresome spirit and wicked sense of humor. Mom loved to go on rambling drives, and if a dirt road was involved, all the better. She also loved to sit in public places and “people watch.” However, even with an eye for the foibles of humanity, she also had great compassion, and would often express how her heart ached when she couldn’t correct every injustice, or help everyone she encountered who was in need.
Mother herself was the youngest of a very large family of nine – three boys and six girls. She was raised in Ninety-Six, South Carolina, the daughter of William Thomas and Annie Smith Ellenberg. Her father had passed away when she was 15, so at an early age she took on farm responsibilities, with my equally amazing and fierce grandmother as a role model. She met my father at Emmanuel College and married in 1947, after he had returned from WWII.
Mom was a talented piano player and musician. I always envied her ability to improvise on the piano while playing hymns. She taught piano, and encouraged each of us to pursue music in one form or another. Our family gatherings have always included music.
Mom is survived by two sisters, Grace and Lois, her three sons, four daughters, twelve grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and grand in-laws.
There is so much more to write, but no way possible to sum up such an amazing life in one short blog post. So, I’ll just stop here and say thank you for an amazing life, and for being such a wonderful role model. We will miss you more than we can ever say, and hope to see you again.