The Smokey Has Landed

Forget everything I said about giving up on Oregon. Yesterday was a much, much better day.

I woke up next to the ocean without spending a cent to stay there, and without getting “the knock” overnight. That’s enough to brighten anyone’s day. As usual I did a bit of work in the morning, since I had a great cell signal from Port Orford across the bay. Then I drove on. It was far more fun without the question of where I’m going to spend the night hanging over my head. That, alone, took away the stress of the drive, and let me just kick back and enjoy it.

When I saw signs for the Hughes House, I had to take a detour to check it out, even though I had no idea what it was at the time. After all, it has my name on it — literally. “It is considered the best preserved, largely unaltered, late nineteenth-century house in the county.”

Unfortunately, sharing the same last name as the original residents does not allow me to move in as though I own the place. Previous research I’ve done on my family history shows no connection to this family. They came from Ireland, while mine came from England and Wales. Besides, it’s part of Cape Blanco State Park now. But I took some photo opportunities, possible in part because it’s closed to tours for the time being. If a tour was available I definitely would’ve taken it, to see how my namesakes lived.

Not far beyond is the end of the road, and the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. It, too, was closed for tours, so I enjoyed the scenery for a while, then moved on.

I cruised up US 101 all the way to Coos Bay. There are fewer ocean views, but I passed through a few quaint coastal towns. In Coos Bay I stopped for lunch, as well as at a Walmart for supplies. Among them was a new set of wiper blades. My current ones were a year old, and were dried out from the desert sun and dust. In fact, they’d never worked particularly well, making noise and wiping poorly. Since I’m in the Pacific Northwest and rain is a way of life, I had to do something about that. I took a chance on some cheap traditional wipers and changed them in the parking lot. For the first time ever since I’ve owned this van, my wipers are quiet and extremely effective.

I drove a bit farther north to Reedsport, then turned right onto Route 38. This would take me east, away from the coast, and toward my friends’ place in Cottage Grove. It parallels the Umpqua River, and was an extremely pleasant scenic drive. Elevation changes were minimal, which made the driving easy. Frequent passing lanes prevented traffic from piling up behind me. A few even refused to pass me, apparently happy with my leisurely pace. I went in and out of rain showers, and was thrilled at the effectiveness of my new wiper blades. There was even a cool tunnel in the middle of this trip.

Route 38 ended at Interstate 5, which I’d left long ago in central California. It was just a short hop north to Cottage Grove, where I met Keith and followed him back to their place. Mission accomplished — I’d gotten here before my trailer’s temporary permit expires. My registration and license plate arrived at my Quartzsite mailing address, and I’ve had all my waiting mail forwarded here. The trailer won’t be road legal again until the middle of next week, but it’s safely parked off the road, and will be until its license plate is attached.

Keith and Laurel have a pretty sweet setup. They’ve given me the run of their guest cottage, which has everything my van doesn’t, including a shower and a toilet with running water. I’ve parked next to it, so going to the bathroom is literally just walking to the next room over. I’ve connected my router to their WiFi, so all of my devices have excellent internet access. I can also plug into shore power if I need to. We’ll see how that goes, now that I’m not charging from the alternator while driving every day, and the skies aren’t all sun, all the time like in the southwest desert.

You’ll notice I’ve detached the trailer. It’s parked out of the way next to their barn, patiently awaiting its license plate. I can still get the bike in and out to explore the area as I wish. Plus, the van is much easier to drive around without the trailer attached. So this just makes good sense for now.

It’s been great to catch up with Keith and Laurel, as well as meet their daughter, who didn’t even exist the last time I saw them back in Maine. A known-good place to park for a little while has done my brain a lot of good after playing the game on difficult mode up through California. I don’t regret that journey at all, but it’s probably not one I’ll make again for a while. Now I’m actually kicking back and enjoying Oregon. It’s a little colder than I’d prefer, but definitely not bad. It’s similar to Quartzsite in January, which I got through just fine. I’m also looking forward to exploring this area a bit.

I’m also going to get some stuff done while I’m here. All the trailer needs at this point is its license plate. I can finally get things I’ve stashed in my Amazon wish list shipped to me within a reasonable period of time, not two to three weeks like in Quartzsite, so that’s going to kick off a few small projects. I already have a new air filter for the motorcycle, as well as everything I need for an oil change. I’ll order a new radiator fan switch, which should let it turn on and off automatically the way it should. Unlike on BLM land, there’s no problem dumping my coolant here to change out that switch. I’m also going to snag some new mirrors, which I can easily rotate out of the way when I’m on trails and don’t need to see behind me. That’ll prevent them from getting damaged, either by plant life close to the trail or from the bike tipping over.

Since Amazon’s price of a Renogy 175 watt flexible solar panel has dropped significantly, I’m going to pull the trigger and add a third panel to my roof. My experience last winter taught me that I’ll need one to get through the shortest days of winter. While I don’t need the extra charging capability right now, I can park the van inside the barn to install it. Yes, despite its height, it fits. This will keep it out of the weather and Oregon’s frequent rain showers during the installation process. Since I already built enough amperage into my charging system to handle a third panel someday, all I have to do is physically install it on the roof and plug it in. I just need to measure what size cables I’m going to need to tie everything together and order it all up.

I also need to decide pretty soon where I’m going to travel this year. It’s either going to be across Canada back to New England or a big loop around the western US, both of which will end in Quartzsite in the fall. At the moment, I’m leaning toward Canada. It’s another bucket list item for me, and I’m in good shape to do it right now. I have a passport and am vaccinated, so I can cross the border. Lister needs documentation of a current rabies vaccination to cross. I don’t have that, but Keith and Laurel have a local vet they love and can hook me up with to take care of that. I might as well get him whatever else he needs while he’s there. And with a third solar panel installed, I should still be able to collect enough power from the sun for all of my electrical needs, despite being at a higher latitude in the Great White North.

That’s not to neglect the Pacific Northwest itself, either. I don’t need to rush into Canada. In fact, I don’t really want to travel farther north until it warms up a bit more. I need to figure out what I want to see around Oregon and Washington. I also have other friends to visit in the area. I’m in a safe place to do some research and figure out where I want to go — and where I’m allowed to stay for a night or three.

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