Just another average sunset in paradise!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the road again!

DJ and I are no longer traveling together.  She decided to stay with her sister and I am on my way to South Dakota.  I left Pendleton about 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and drove southeast.  Getting a late start I didn’t have the luxury of finding a boondocking location and stayed in an Oregon state park ($9).

Early Sunday morning I drove into LeGrande to get gas, propane and empty my tanks.  I also got directions to Wolf Creek Reservoir, a small man-made lake in the foothills.  Being a sunny Sunday afternoon, the place was packed and I wanted my solitude.  The paved road ended just past the boat ramp and the now gravel road headed up the hill into some larger trees that looked promising.  The road kept getting narrower and was soon down to one lane with few places wide enough to pass if another vehicle came my way.  The gravel turned to dirt and I forged on until I found a great spot to camp.

Only saw one other vehicle the whole day and none the following day.  Dod was parked on a small access road just of the small dirt road, perfectly level with some sun and some shade.  After some reading and a couple of long walks with Jesse, I built a fire (firewood has been abundant everywhere in Oregon) and just sat there watching the clouds blow by.  The pictures below show a comparison of the same cloud as it passed overhead.  The big cloud with a dark gray center had become just wisps of white in just a few moments.  The sun was doing its job well that day and the stars put on a great display that night.

I got the spotlight off my old fishing boat.  It works great!

After breakfast the next morning we went back into LeGrande to run a couple of errands, top off the gas tank, fill the 5 gallon gas can and stock up the pantry.  Now we could do some serious boondocking.

Friday, July 22, 2011


The question mark is in the title because I was never a big fan of Walmart.  I don’t like shopping in the first place and where I lived in Huntington Beach the nearest Walmart was almost 4 miles away.  I know that sounds like a short distance but I had to pass up 6 supermarkets and a Target store to get there.  I always did my grocery shopping at the nearest store and made a vast majority of my other purchases through Amazon.com so there was really no need to visit Walmart.

About a year ago I started comparison shopping between Amazon.com and Walmart.com.  Prices were comparable but Amazon’s shipping won out as they provided free shipping on purchases totaling $25. or more.  Then I found an item where Walmart’s price was much less than Amazon’s and I decided to try Walmart’s “site-to-store” free shipping.  The products were at my local Walmart within a couple of days and the pick-up was easy.  That also got me into the Walmart store and I had a chance to look around and check out prices.  They all seemed to be pretty good!

As you may recall, I purchased a 26” TV/DVD combo for Dod a few months ago.  When I actually hit the road I realized that the TV was just too big for Dod’s interior.  While staying with my brother in Bakersfield I told him I wanted a smaller TV and he asked me if I wanted to sell the 26” one.  I told him that if he would  buy a 22” TV/DVD, I would trade him straight across.  He quickly agreed and the search began.  It was easy locating units online but I was only going to be at his house for two more days.  Nothing was available locally in store.  The “light bulb over my head” suddenly flashed on!  I could use Walmart’s “site-to-store” free shipping and have the TV shipped to the Pendleton, OR store. While the store is almost 1,000 miles from Bakersfield it was the next town I knew I would be visiting for sure.  The TV arrived in Pendleton three days before I did.

I have always been a “name brand” snob.  Store brands were never my choice even though the savings could be substantial.  While shopping with DJ and her sister here in Pendleton, they recommended the “Great Value” products (Walmart’s store brand).  I looked at lunchmeats and could have purchased 16 ounces of Hillshire Farms honey baked ham for $4.68 or the same amount of Great Value honey baked ham for $3.38.  I tried the latter and found it was just as good as any name brand I could remember tasting.   Since then I have tried Walmart’s block and sliced cheese, cereal, jam and several household products.  I can’t tell the difference in the products but saving 10 to 20% has changed my shopping style.  I am not ready to give up Skippy peanut butter, Folger’s coffee or Hunt’s ketchup just yet but who knows what the future will bring.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boondocking – Day 4 – Rain in Oregon

After 3 days of beautiful weather, the views from our camp changed drastically.  We watched clouds moving in from the south and decided it was time to make the camp weather proof.  Some stuff went inside Dod and other stuff went under Dod.  In just a few minutes everything was safe and we were inside seated at the dinette.

Dod had some long standing leak issues.  Both of the seams at the rear had separated and in some places there was a 1" gap.  During the first three days of sunny weather I leisurely repaired the separations and made them better than new!  Good thing too.

The thunder began and the first few drops of rain started tapping on Dod’s roof.  The thunder got louder and the drops got bigger.  Soon the thunder was almost continuous and the drops turned into a deluge.  What an enjoyable experience!  We were cozy inside reading our books and playing gin.  I had to teach DJ how to play.  She almost beat me the first game and was way ahead in the second game when I threw in the towel and conceded the victory to her.  The storm was over; the sun was out; and, we resumed our normal outdoor activities. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Boondocking – Day 3 – Jesse likes boondocking!

 Jesse was never on a leash the five days we spent at this location.  It took him awhile to adjust to the freedom.  Once when I was organizing, I picked up his leash to move it and he got really excited thinking he was going for a walk. He didn’t that he had been walking himself for a couple of days.

At first, Jesse stayed right in camp and usually within a couple of steps from me.  As he got bolder and bolder, he would take little excursions into the meadows and forest.  On day three he through caution to the wind and took off on a great adventure.

As we were finishing our dinner this deer came wandering by about 30 feet from our table.  The deer stood there staring at Jesse and he was transfixed, this being his first deer sighting.  The deer was nice enough to wait there long enough for me to walk over to Dod and fetch my camera.  Just after I took this shot the deer decided it was time to go and she loped off.  Her lope soon became a run for her life as Jesse decided he needed a little exercise.  My last view of the deer was of her jumping over a small mound, her white tail sticking straight up, with Jesse in hot pursuit, his tail in a similar position.  Jesse returned a few moments later with a very self-satisfied expression on his face.

Later that evening as we took our nightly hike, we rounded a bend and found another deer (maybe the same one) standing up on a hill.

Jesse isn’t visible in the picture but he is at the base of the bare dirt below the deer.  Being the quick learner that he is, Jesse bolted up the hill and was hot-on-the-heels (huffs) of this poor doe as she retreated into the forest.

All things considered, Jesse is adjusting very well to the boondocking lifestyle!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Boondocking – Day 2 – A Woman’s Touch

We awoke today to a crystal-clear, blue sky.  As I rose up in bed and looked out the rear window, a deer was calmly walking through the meadow.  I was able to rouse DJ so that she could enjoy it also.  What a great start to the day!

After a couple of cups of coffee, DJ was outside making the morning fire just like a good native-American mate should do.  DJ is in fact 1/8th Walla-walla indian and the city of Pendleton, OR is surrounded by the reservation which is shared by the Walla-wallas, the Cayouse and the Umatillas (we are camped in the Umatilla National Forest).  In addition to her fire making skills, DJ added a woman’s touch to Dod and the entire boondocking experience.

DJ installed the valance with fabric purchased for $1.50 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store

I am very budget-minded and was happy to learn that DJ is too.  While she was waiting for Dod and me to arrive in Pendleton, DJ and her sister visited yard sales to look for bargains and the Salvation Army store (almost daily) to look for new arrivals.  She purchased a complete set of great camping dishes for $2.50; several table cloths for $0.75 - $1.50; and, placemats, napkins and utensils at similar prices.  Each time we made a list of items we needed to outfit Dod our shopping trip always started at the Salvation Army store, then on to The Dollar Store, and finally to Walmart for any items we were not able to find at our first two stops.

The following pictures show some of the benefits the woman’s touch brought to our boondocking experience.
Ready for spaghetti and cheese toast dinner

Breakfast by the fire

Breakfast in the meadow

DJ decided that Dod needed a fresher look so she painted his name tag and high-lighted the emblem on his grill.  Not so sure about the Daisy but I do like the paint!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dod's First Boondock

We pulled out from the “driveway in paradise” in Pendleton, OR just after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13th and hit the road for destinations unknown.  The night before, we looked at a couple of maps and found a small highway just to the north that headed into the Umatilla Wilderness Area.  We picked out a road that was marked as “gravel” that left the small highway and went up into the mountains about 12 miles to Lake Jubilee campground. 

The first half of the trip was through gently rolling hills of wheat awaiting the harvest with the Blue Mountains in the distance.  They really do look blue!  About 20 miles north of Pendleton we started climbing and soon we were in a pine forest scattered with flower-filled meadows.  It couldn’t get any better; it did!  We passed a small lake surrounded by vacation cottages and went through a small town with only one restaurant/general store/gas station combo.  Just past the town we turned off on the road to Jubilee Lake.  The first 3 miles were paved and then we saw the sign we had been waiting for: “Pavement Ends”.

As we “turtled” along the gravel road we were looking at the various dirt roads that beckoned the fearless boondocker to go investigate.  At one junction there were dirt roads to the right and left.  I passed those by but decided that, no matter what it looked like, I would take the next side road.  A few hundred yards later, there it was.  A quick left turn and a slow climb up a rugged dirt road and we had found our first boondock site!

In just under an hour, we had gone from a very nice private driveway to public land that was even nicer!

Dod - View from the North

Dod - View from the South

Dod - View from the East

This site is surrounded on all four sides by meadows containing some of the most beautiful and abundant wildflowers I have ever seen.  It has A great fire pit, lots of free firewood; an almost perfectly level parking spot;  and, THERE IS ONLY ROOM FOR ONE VEHICLE!

Each of the almost 20 varieties of wildflowers in this vase came from within 100' of our camp.  We took several hikes along small trails and unused roads and the flowers were in abundance everywhere.

More to come; I have to choose just a few photos from the dozens I took to include in tomorrow's post!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The great J.C. Penney shopping trip

Dod needs a spice rack.  We have checked Walmart, the Dollar Store and Salvation Army thrift store without finding anything close.  Yesterday we stopped at the local J C Penney.  Since Pendleton is just a small town, it gets a small Penney's with absolutely no home department.

I do not like to shop for myself.  I was ready to go directly back to the car but DJ decided that I needed some extra clothes so we went to check out the sale rack.  I needed a couple of golf/polo shirts, a pair of cargo shorts and tee shirts.  The original retail prices/sale prices of what I selected were as follows:  3 polo shirts - $26.00 each/ on sale for $2.97 each; 1 polo shirt - $25.00/ on sale for $9.99; 1 tee shirt - $20.00/ on sale for $3.97; and, cargo shorts - $45.00/ on sale for $19.99.  The really cool thing about all the purchases was that all of the items were styles and colors that I would have chosen even if they weren't on sale.

Total regular price - $168.  My total was just $40. and change.  As an added bonus, there is no sales tax in Oregon!

Dod is ready for the open road and some boondocking.  We will leave Pendleton around noon today and head into the Umatilla wilderness area in search of the perfect spot to spend a few days.  As of two days ago our plan was to stay 2 or 3 days on the first trip but last night we came to the realization that we don't have put any time limits on our trips.  We can be just like the "Energizer" bunny and  keep going and going and going!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Bakersfield, CA got its name from a guy named Baker, no surprise there.  When the town got its name the "field" part was due to agriculture and not oil.

The old Bakersfield sign has been gone for several years now but was very important to me as a youth as it always signaled that our family was almost to Sequoia or Yosemite and bound for a week or so of roughing it.

Bakersfield's economy is tied into petroleum extraction and refining.  As we all know, petroleum has many uses other than just turning it into fuel.  It was a little disarming to think that they had come up with yet another use in Bakersfield!

I didn't even ask for a sample!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jesse gets a new house!

I have never been a big fan of crates or kennels for pets.  Maybe I just transfer my feelings about being confined in a small place to what I imagine the pet must feel.  DJ’s sister and her husband have owned and raised dogs for several years and after several conversations, I was convinced to give a crate a try.  Jesse did something bad the other day (I won’t say what because I don’t like to tell negative stories) and I put his bed in a crate (dog carrier) and locked him up for a few hours.  He got time off for good behavior as he didn’t even make a peep while incarcerated!

That night I placed the carrier in between Dod’s two front seats.  During the night, I awoke to find Jesse in bed, sleeping at my feet.  When I told him to get down, he did and went directly to his crate.  When I awoke the next morning he was still peacefully sleeping in what DJ calls his “cozy” place.  Boy, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong!  On night two with the crate in Dod, Jesse jumped up on the bed before I went to sleep.  After sending him down, he spent the entire night sleeping soundly in his new house!

Having the carrier right between the seats will most likely have a calming effect on Jesse while traveling and make a convenient table top for DJ and me.  While he wasn’t terrible on the drive up, he was very nervous and came to me for reassurance quite often; quite understandable considering the time involved on the first two legs of our journey and the extreme temperatures.

When we leave Jesse alone during the day to take little side trips or even when I am there and working on Dod, I tie him to a rock in the driveway and put his carrier there.  He seems to really like it!

Jesse in paradise

It really is his "cozy" place.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dod's value doubles!

My old friend who passed away last April had a 1993 Lincoln Towncar.  He took very good care of his car and never missed fixing anything and everything that went wrong with it.  That included spending almost $5000. last year to completely replace the suspension system even though his mechanic tried to talk him out of it because he reckoned that even once the suspension was replaced, the car would still only be worth about $2500.  Wow, an honest mechanic!  He also spent almost  $2000. for a carrier to accommodate his electric wheelchair. 

When he decided that the radio needed replacement he bought the top of the line, spending over $2000. for a Kenwood system that included the normal am/fm radio, CD player AND . . . DVD player, iPod connection, Back-up camera and a Garmin GPS navigation system.  I know it sounds like overkill for a 90 year old man who only drove his 18 year old car about 20 miles a week and always to the same three places (mainly markets) but he had to have the best.

When he fell and broke his hip, he was hospitalized and after a few weeks it became apparent that even if he did make it through, he would not ever be able to drive his beloved Lincoln again.  He asked me if I thought the radio would work in Dod.  After careful consideration (about 5 seconds) I told him that I thought it would be perfect.  His only requirement was that I put an acceptable radio in the Lincoln as he was giving it to an old friend whose mother needed a car with a chair lift.  Always generous!

$260. later,  Dod had his dream system installed and the Lincoln had a brand new Pioneer CD player!  I wonder if Dod is the only RV in existence that has a radio that cost over twice as much as the RV itself?

iPod screen (sorry about the blur)

Navigation screen

Back-up camera

The back-up camera is set so that I can have it on while driving and not just when backing up.  I don't know how much practical benefit this provides but it is kinda cool anyway.

After a week in the "driveway in paradise", Dod is finally ready for the road.  DJ, Jesse and I will take a short boondocking trip on Wednesday.  Love the driveway but wanderlust is taking hold once more!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back in a driveway!

In a couple of previous posts I commented that I would rather finish the necessary work on Dod in a forest than in a driveway.  That was before I arrived at DJ's sisters home and discovered one of the best driveways I have ever seen.  We are in Pendleton, OR parked in a driveway that is only a stone's throw from the Umatilla River.

View from Dod's door.

View from my office window.

Jesse is okay with this stop too!

Full power, wi-fi, hot showers, great home-cooked meals and super hosts.  What more could you ask for?  This will be our home base until early August and we will take weekly trips to the nearby (10 to 20 miles away) forests to fine tune our boondocking skills.

I posted earlier that I didn't think I could meet my budget projections for July due to all the fuel expenses but now it seems possible that I may actually be able to come in under budget.  Even though it is not required, I am trading labor in lieu of paying for a site.  The house here was built in 1928 and is currently being considered for addition to the state's historical buildings list.  With a house this old there is always something to be done and I am more than happy to help with the necessary repairs.  I even mowed a lawn for the first time in several years and enjoyed it immensely. 

Loving life!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Southern Hospitality

When I was a kid, most of my relatives were in Texas and my family was in California.  Every couple of years we would load up the family  sedan with my mom and dad, my two brothers and I and make the 1500+ mile trip to somewhere in Texas.  I don’t remember the names of the towns from the earlier trips but the destinations were always memorable.  We always wound up at Ma and Pa’s home no matter what city hosted their current residence.

Even though the houses changed over the years, the furniture was the same; the home cooking was the same; and, most especially, the southern hospitality was always the same.  No matter what time we arrived there was a meal cooking on the range.  (We had stoves in CA but in TX they had ranges.)  As family (and guests) it was understood somehow that we were not expected to help with the purchase of the food, cooking or the cleanup after the meals.

Aunts and uncles always showed up shortly after our arrival:  Sonny and Sybil, Shang and Wilda, Billie and Millie.  Invitations, all accepted, were issued to visit their nearby homes where the hospitality was identical to that at Ma and Pa’s.  You couldn’t lift a finger without getting reminded that you were a guest and that whoever the host was would prefer to take care of all your needs.

When I visited my brother Rick and his wife Karen for the first 4 days of my journey, it became quite clear that  the southern hospitality we experienced as children had rubbed off on him in a big way.  I was transported back in time and ,as family, I was informed that anything and everything I wanted was there and that I shouldn’t ask but just help myself.

Being solo for the past 7 years, with the exception of an odd girlfriend (literally and figuratively), I ate most of my meals alone.  At Rick's house there were always other guests and family members at the dining room table enjoying great conversations, jokes and just a good time in general.

Rick and I settled into a comfortable schedule of working on Dod during the day and playing the "Do you remember?" game long into the night.  I don't know how many times we each said "Do you remember?" but each time the question was asked, we did remember.  Memories that had been placed deep in the backwater of my mind came rushing forward and , good or bad, I enjoyed reliving each and every one.

Thanks Rick!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pedal to the Metal

For some reason, unknown at the time, when I left my brother's house in Bakersfield I wanted to cover some miles.  And I did!  Dod purred along at 65 and 70 mph with no problems whatsoever.  I was on the I-5 heading north for Oregon.  It is just a freeway through farming country with really nothing to look at except for  billboards and fields and farms.  I had decided early on that I would fill Dod's gas tank every 200 miles to be sure I didn't run short on fuel (his gas gauge doesn't work all the time).

After the first 200 miles I filled the tank and did the calculations to determine the mpg I was getting.  Yikes!  I only got 7.4 mpg on that stretch.  I immediately thought about my budget and how far I could realistically travel averaging 7.4 mpg.  Then the light bulb above my head flashed on!  How much better would my gas mileage be if I drove a little slower?  (Duh!) What was my hurry anyway?  I have nothing to do and the rest of my life to accomplish it!

The next 200 miles I tried to stay around 55 mph with the occasional 60 mph to pass a truck or another RV.  My mileage improved to 9.5 mpg.  What a relief!  As I traveled north, the scenery improved and it was much easier to take it slow and easy.

Mt. Shasta from Highway 97 in Northern California

With scenery like this to inspire me, I averaged 50-55 mpg on the third leg of my journey and achieved my ultimate goal of just over 10 mpg!