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Grants Pass Part Two

November 14, 2018

Grants Pass does autumn up right

After I left the woodcarver, I took myself out for a little lunch at a charming cafe called Cultured Palate.

I was the only person to walk through the door and the owner, Angela, greeted me warmly. She’s of Cuban extraction and obviously loves her little restaurant.

We talked about food, of course – she makes a fine chimichurri – and about how she should  promote the fact that she has vegan food (she makes a great picadillo) on the menu on Instagram (that was my idea).

We also talked about Grants Pass. She talked about how small businesses like hers survive on summer tourist traffic. Grants Pass is known for its mild summer climate, much cooler than some other areas of Oregon.


Cultured Palate

But for the past few years, there have been giant, long-burning wildfires in the summer, driving the tourists away, and she and her fellow downtown business owners are hurting. She used her fingers to tick off friends who had closed up already, some who had been in business for decades.

It struck me for the first time how climate change could just decimate a town in a short period of time, and how we’re all going to be dealing with this from now on. I don’t mean to be depressing, but with fires raging all over California and people choking in clouds of smoke from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Sacramento, it’s hard not to be sobered.

i hope Grants Pass survives. It’s a nice town full of nice people. I hope we all survive.


The former Grants Pass Steam Laundry


Ashland to Grants Pass, Oregon

November 13, 2018

Leaving Ashland after a week with on my friends’ farm, I decided to drive north to go south, which only makes sense if you realize that a bunch of mountains are in your way and there are only a few ways to get through them.

I had already been south, so I headed up toward Medford and Grants Pass, so I could cut over to the coast and the 101 to head back south.

I also felt a strong need to re-visit Grants Pass, where my family had stayed on a road trip when I was a kid. We stayed at a 3-story motel on the riverfront. The third floor was just two rooms perched on top of the other two floors, and we got one of those rooms. I was convinced we were staying in the penthouse suite, and that seemed so luxirious to me at age 11. We fed ducks at the river and everyone was in a good mood and it was one of those days so happy that it led me to want to come back to visit, 45 years later.

Grants Pass did not disappoint. After a drive through mountains covered in tall trees, many of them damaged by recent fires, I emerged on the main street of a the town. It looked like most buildings were from the 1930s to 1950s, a real downtown with lots of little locally owned shops.

I parked Gladis on a side street and began walking around, accompanied of course by Pokemon Go. Bonus: it was Community Day and all you PoGo people know I wouldn’t want to miss that.

Crossing Main Street, I spotted an older man napping in a folding chair, holding an open briefcase full of nicely displayed hand-carved myrtlewood butterflies. I thought they were so beautiful I had to speak to the man. He woke from his doze in the sun and told me his story. He is a Navy veteran the aircraft carrier Yorktown. He was released from the Navy when his toe was crushed in a ship elevator accident.

He loved Grants Pass but rued the rent – he said he survived on $900 per month. He had always been a carver and bragged that he once carved a life-sized possum hanging from its tail. He discovered butterflies sold well, so was out on the street with his $20 butterflies. I bought one, thinking of my mom, who had a wood butterfly sculpture on her wall that she loved so much.

He told me he was a Mormon and was the most blessed man he knew. Even though one leg was amputated in a long series of operations, it was paid to the tune of about $700,000 for by the VA, which wouldn’t have happened if that toe hadn’t been damaged in the ship accident. He considered that a gift from God.

He got so happy and excited to tell me he was going to make his daughter-in-law a carved purple stone butterfly with a stone slab he had gotten. His eyes danced as he described how happy she would be.

He did seem a truly blessed man. I’m happy to have met him.



At Arch Rock

November 12, 2018

That precise moment when you realize you have become one of those kinds of tourists.

I was trying to take the classic photo where the subject points to some scenic or historic site. Then I realized that instead of pointing AT it, I could fit my finger in it. Half a dozen shots later, I got it.


Oregon, Green and Lush

November 11, 2018

Diamond cann

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in this state, and they have taken to it like an Oregon Duck to water.

When you cross the state line, there’s a sign that says “Welcome to Oregon.” About 150 yards behind that, there is a store with a sign with letters about 8 feet high that reads “WEED”.

The names of the dispensaries crack me up.

  • La Mota
  • Gräs
  • Doctor’s Orders
  • Green Gratitude
  • Urban Farmacy
  • Canabliss
  • and my favorite, Pharm to Table.

Have I partaken? Nah. Not my cup of tea.*


*This is a little joke at all the drug education officers who came to my school and tried to convince us that people referred to marijuana as “tea,” which never ever happened anywhere but drug education seminars.



November 10, 2018

What do you get when you have a narrow driveway with a rock ledge on one side, an inexperienced driver who needs to back up to dump her tanks, and a man who doesn’t understand that the driver can’t tell left from right and doesn’t know what “cut the wheels” means?

You get an RV that is backed straight up into the space. After about 15 minutes.

A Culinary Side Trip: Tejuino

November 9, 2018

My friend Kyle and I went to a taqueria for dinner and damn the food was good.

It was true Mexican food, too, because their veggie enchiladas were not like deflated burritos covered in sauce and cheese, but were authentic – little tortillas dipped in chile sauce and folded like hankies with the vegetables on top.

There was a hand-lettered sign in brown magic marker on orange paper “Tenemos Tejuino.” I figured this was something special, thus the sign. It was taped under the Dessert section of the menu.

As we paid, I asked “What is Tejuino?” and the man told me “It is a dough with lemon and sugar and salt.”

I figured it was some sort of salty bread or cookie, so I ordered it just because I like trying new things.

“You always try the weirdest thing on the menu,” my ex complained.See also: why he is my ex.

Imagine how puzzled I was when they handed me a drink: Tejuino. 

And then when I drank it, it was as salty as the sea, and somewhat sweet, with a distinct lemon tinge and, yes, the uncanny taste of tortillas.

Salt. Sweet. Lemon. Dough. All in a very odd, kind of terrible, drink.

“Oh my God,” I yelped after tasting it.

“What is it like?” Kyle said. “Give me a taste.”

“You don’t want to taste this,” I said. But of course he had to.

“That’s TERRIBLE,” Kyle said.

We tried to imagine the circumstances in which one would want this drink, and decided maybe when working out in the sun on a hot day to replace electrolytes or something.

“Mexican Gatorade,” Kyle pronounced.

It’s apparently a relative of atole, a drink made with cornmeal that dates back to Aztec times. It comes from a salt-producing region of the Mexican state of Colima.

Sorry, Colima people, to insult your drink. It must be an acquired taste.



November 8, 2018

Some days are just too sad and full of worry to do much than post a photo of a very large, very friendly dog who loves everyone she meets.


Deal With It

November 7, 2018

This one is about the bathroom. You can skip it if you’re faint of heart.

Among the top three things I love most about RVing is this simple fact: I have my own clean restroom with me at all times.

Ever since I was a kid, I have had TB. Not Tuberculosis but Tiny Bladder. My mom said that by the time I was 5, she knew every public restroom in three counties. That persists as an adult. The other day when I was home, I surprised my friend who was riding with me by stopping at a giant hardware store when I had no reason to do so.

“Clean bathrooms close to the front of the store,” I explained. Of course.

So having my own commode instead of having to warily peer into the dimly lit depths of a gas station bathroom that has a floor lined with damp paper towels and God-knows-what-else is a little slice of paradise. I can stop anywhere and do my thing. I know the towels are clean and the hand soap is unscented.

The flip side of that, of course, is that I also have to deal directly with the waste I create. This caused me much trepidation at first, but then I read Girl Meets Road’s post about septic systems and she assuaged my fears.

I had envisioned needing a Hazmat suit and getting more or less splattered from head to toe in sewage muck, when in actuality, you never even see or smell sewage, if you do the process right.

And you DO want to do it right, because you don’t want to know what happens should you do it wrong. I will just leave you with this RVer term I learned, and for the brave, you can read what it means, exactly: “The Dreaded Poop Pyramid.” NOBODY wants that.

So far I have dumped my tanks 4 times and haven’t had any issues. A big box of vinyl gloves, a little care, and the Geo Method keep me good to go and out of gas station bathrooms.

It’s worth it. It’s awesome.

Ways to Stay, Part 2

November 6, 2018

In my search for non-RV park places to stay, I found Harvest Hosts. This is a program where you pay them $49 for a year’s membership, and then you can stay for free at more than 600 wineries and farms across the USA.

They ask you to buy something from the winery or farm where you stay. So instead of spending $50 to $100 on a spot to park your RV for the night, you stay for free (usually without any hookups) and spend some money on foodstuffs or wine. Most places are limited to one night.

I have stayed twice so far. I was very excited about the first one, Tobin James Winery, because I had worked where we printed their labels. They were always a lot of fun to work with. I called the winery to make arrangements and the lady who answered the phone was informative and welcoming, but made sure to mention the part about making a purchase. I get it – they’re running a business.

The way the stay was in my head was a little different than it worked out. I imagined us chatting and catching up about the wine business. I imagined parking next to the autumn-colored vines.


But when I showed up, it was 5 pm on a Friday – prime time for pre-weekend wine tasting. The place was jammed, just wall-to-wall people talking at the top of their voices, and I had no chance to chat with anyone because I freaked out about the crowd. I just quickly picked up 2 bottles of wine, paid for them, and went out to my spot…a large, desolate parking lot about 200 yards from the tasting room with one other RV. Nothing scenic about it.


It did have the benefit of being very quiet and dark since it was so far out in the countryside and well off the road. I got up early, just after sunrise, and hit the road for points north. A gorgeous drive up Interstate 5, the hills glowing gold and the miles of fruit and nut trees left me feeling blessed and thankful.

The next night was much more charming. La Bella Vito farm is run by Holly DeVito and her family. They have 2 great dogs, fainting goats, pigs, dozens of chickens, bees, and a curious emu. (See previous post for some of their animals).


I had brought my nephew and his daughter by – they live nearby –  so they could see the fainting goats, too.

Holly stood outside and talked for as long as she could before she had to go to an event. I learned about her animals and kids. I bought some eggs, elderberry syrup and homemade vanilla from her. I parked by her house and slept well, until the roosters started crowing about 3 am, when I put in earplugs and went back to sleep.

Harvest Hosts is great, but I would Google Street View the place and see if you’ll be parking in a desolate parking lot or next to a pen full of cute goats. In any case, I got some great wine, met some nice people, and stayed two nights basically for free. All good.

Ways to Stay

November 5, 2018


San Luis Obispo Elks Lodge #322 at sunset

One of the first pieces of advice I got when I decided to hit the road in Gladis was from my friend Dave Congalton: Join the Elks.

The Elks? Why would anyone ever join a lodge? Isn’t that something from the 1940s? Do they still EXIST?

Dave told me that not only do the Elks still exist, many lodges have RV facilities open only to Elks, usually available for about $15-$30 per night. They also arrange outings and meetups. Elks and RVs go together like peanut butter and jelly.

So one application, one interview, one induction and about $90 later, I am an Elk, and I could not be more delighted. In addition to the RV fun, they also have lodges to hang out in, do philanthropic work like helping disabled kids and veterans, host events all week long…It’s a great deal.

The lodge pictured above is in San Luis Obispo, where I spent 4 nights in the RV area. They have about a dozen RV spots in the back of the parking lot, where it isn’t especially scenic, and it’s right next to the freeway – but that describes most RV parks anyway.

I hung out in the lodge, used their free wifi, talked to people, drank tonic water, and took showers in the locker room. I missed the meals because I was out with friends, but next time I stay at an Elks, I will give it a try.

I’m looking forward to seeing Elks lodges all across this great land. Maybe I’ll even play bingo.





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