And the road goes on forever...

Sunday, March 28, 2010


The crowd erupted into a cacophonous roar and moved as one to their feet as the ceiling-hung screens flashed still photos and then glimpses of moving, glittering silver. She emerged up three steps onto stage—her low cut silver top shimmering over black, tight, boot cut jeans, accentuated by flaming long red hair and her signature mile wide impish grin. Reba had arrived. As she flashed that famous smile the crowd went into an absolute frenzy and before saying one word she burst into her first song. My daughter and I are among 17,000 others watching a country mega-show concert in the Tacoma Dome on free tickets, less than 100 feet from the stage: headlined by George Strait, fleshed out with help from Reba, and warmed up by LeAnn Womack. None of them disappoint but it is truly Reba who steals the show—owning that title most have already hung on her years ago: Diva. For a tiny woman on stage her presence looms larger than life and she truly is a thrill to watch. She pours her heart out with glee for an hour and a half and never even breathes hard. After we all sing Happy Birthday to her (March 28, which also happens to be Brandon and Rachael’s first anniversary), she leaves the stage finished with her set to more endless cheering but nothing like what will ensue next as the foot stomping demands for an encore bring her back for a heart-stopping, insanely loud rendition of “Fancy”, in another shimmering flash of red dress and high heels. Man, what a performer!

Daughter had a weekend off and I had need for a visit before the move so I drove over a nasty pass filled with slush from the morning’s unseasonable snow storm and made the long trek to Tacoma Friday. It’s been a fun-filled, too short few days and I will return to Bend on Monday for another round of our move. Our intentions are to try and leave Bend on Thursday with the RV. Unfortunately the weather report isn’t looking the greatest and I suspect we could even have some snow &/or rain to deal with through eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. After a long, lousy winter, it will be a relief to drop the four thousand foot in elevation once south of Tonopah to truly go from winter’s grip to immediate summer in Yuma’s already high 80 degree temps.

Meanwhile, today will be enjoyed doing some wine-tasting with Rachael as I soak in the last of the Pacific Northwest ambiance.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Chapter Ends

I like this picture for what it represents—a tree leaning out over a cliff, trying to grow one direction yet obviously pushed so often and so long by gale force winds it can only grow limbs in the opposite direction to the blast. I figured it must be some type of metaphor for our lives.

Hope is a hard thing to hang on to at times. It’s become very sad, this ending to our dream of a vacation/retirement nest at the coast. The perfect juxtaposition to our Yuma lot; it would have afforded a comfortable temperature migration yearly--on into our sunset years. Little did we know when we purchased this park model that in just a couple short years we would have trouble affording even this tiny trailer.

Everyone knows the country is in terrible shape economically, but not everyone knows the terrible disconnect I see going on between those who have jobs and those who don’t. I’ll tell you a little of what it feels like and a little of what it has done—just in hopes that if you’re one of the lucky ones you stop occasionally to be thankful. For those contemporaries who retired in time and missed this bullet or those who never lost their job, there may have been some belt-tightening or a sense that they should cut down on spending. But their financial pathways were already set on a course that in all likelihood probably hasn’t changed that much. It becomes very easy for them to think “well, why don’t those people just get out and get a job?” Whoa there: it isn’t that easy any more.

In life, it’s all about timing. Marc and I didn’t always make the smartest career moves and do admit to stopping and smelling the roses on more occasions than we probably should have. To us, that was called “living our lives” instead of “slaving away our lives”. Given the nature of both of our businesses, real estate and construction, there was never the opportunity to work for just one employer with a fat benefits package; in fact hardly any of them even offered a 401 plan. It is the nature of construction particularly that companies run out of projects and it becomes impossible for them to keep on personnel that have no work to do. We had frequent periods of unemployment. Add in a couple of extreme stock market meltdowns and our retirement savings is permanently crippled. We had no intentions to retire, really. It just wasn’t a financial possibility for us to ever consider so we didn’t.

We stand on the edge of a precipice the likes of which we’ve had no prior experience with. Never before have we not been able to get some response from our employment attempts. Anyone with a steady job cannot know the depth of the trauma of going without work for such an extended time and the harm it does to permanently change people. The destructive force of having no one consider you worthy of hiring extends far beyond the financial ramification of earning no income and doesn’t take long to eat into your psyche, soul, sense of self, and your outlook on life. In our case, it’s taken a heavy toll financially—to the point where there is a very real possibility we will never recover. Well, let’s face it—there will be no true recovery back to square one for there will never be time to replace the retirement dollars we are now burning through to live on. Even if dollars can eventually be put back into an IRA account, we don’t have long enough to live for them to ever mature and grow to their previous amount (which was pitiful to begin with).

This experience has aged us tremendously. It is ruining our health; we are now neglectful of conditions and needed tests because we have no health insurance. It has sapped our confidence, our lightness of step, and something as basic as our joy in living and finding good in each day. Many days are not good—they reek of worry, tempest and tempers, and the very worst, indecision. What if we do this? What if we go there? Should we go there? Alas, we tried and it all cost money. But we will try again—our journey to Yuma isn’t one we would have chosen, but one totally of necessity, where we can cut expenses to the very barest of bones because we own our land outright and the cost of living there is about the lowest we can imagine anywhere. But Yuma’s unemployment rate also hovers at 29%.

It’s probably a good thing we don’t know what lies in store for our future. It’s hard to imagine at our ages a good ending to this story but we keep striving for a better one. We will miss the ocean, we will miss this state we have called home for over twenty years, and we will miss our family, who are mostly all here. We’re on our way very soon; turning that page onto a new chapter. Anyone out there write books? Please give us a happy ending, will you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Countdown

Time has a way of slipping away when we least expect it and we find ourselves on the final countdown of our time in Coos Bay. Well, I am in Coos Bay until next week at least; Marc is already heading down Nevada’s highways south to Yuma with our first load.

The park model is still in great disarray given that everything must be emptied out and taken down. We are loading boxes into our motorcycle cargo trailer which will then be taken to Bend, unpacked and transferred into another storage type trailer which will be placed on our lot. That will make the trip to Yuma on top of Marc’s long flatbed trailer. If you’re thinking this man has lots of trailers you’d be right: I think the count is something like ten of them!

In between the bouts of work and dodging the coast’s recent spate of nearly constant rain, we enjoyed an evening’s barbecue with our friends Paul and Virginia over some T bone steaks and a bushel of fresh oysters. Boy, we’re sure going to miss the seafood!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Walk on the Wild Side (dedicated to June)

Like watching a horse galloping with mane flying, we stand enthralled in front of massive waves crashing to shore below us. We’re on the dirty shirt tour, showing Marc’s sister June, from North Carolina, our Oregon coast in a mere two hours. The sea has been particularly cooperative today—featuring a high tide and much larger than normal waves which have created a seething cauldron just about everywhere we’ve looked down at her. We’re glad to be perched above; perched above on Coos Head at the Coast Guard Lookout to start our journey—viewing the bar and jetty. It’s easy to lose perspective in photos of ocean waves, which never seem to truly mirror the height and fury. Swells and rollers were running about 10-20 feet in all of the following photos.

We move on into Sunset Bay State Park; truly our favorite here at the coast. The waves and sea are so tumultuous they send a haze of sea mist lingering over foliage and leaving a fine salt-sea flavor on our lips. Despite the cold, a quick stop at Sunset Bay provides a glimpse of munchkins enjoying the cold surf. Our favorite picnic spot at Cape Arago is awash in waves breaking with a force that sends boom after thunderous boom through the air.

From there we move on to the very gorgeous Shore Acres, featuring a magical walk amongst lunar rock cliffside, and a truly beatific botanical garden. Camera soaking from sea splash sent up at least a hundred feet in the air to where we stand perched watching the show leaves some of the photos showing the evidence. What you don’t see in the photos is a drop-off of about 75 foot that is directly below our feet meaning the sea spray is often times way above that. What a thrill!

We finish with the enticement of spring just around the corner as the garden gets geared up to really put on her finery. Today however, she is merely tranquil, nearly empty of visitors, and promising more soon to come. Alas, we won’t be here to enjoy her and by tomorrow June will be back to her North Carolina brown winter colors. Thanks for coming along June!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mistress Moon and Her High Tides

The tides have been so high and some of the storms so fierce on the Oregon coast this winter that it has literally been changing the landscape of my favorite place to walk; the Charleston quay. Some major chunks of the sheltering sea grass dunes have been washed out to sea, leaving behind jagged jetty rocks and abrupt cliff faces. Access to the small beach is no longer an easy traverse across a sand berm but now entails rock-hopping the huge boulders used as support for the quay.

Those seas have affected our crabbing as well; with the higher tidal swings, the current is often running 3-4 knots, pulling the floats under and making it hard for the crabs to enter the pot to try and feed. Instead of an easy two limits like we were catching before, we now are down to less than one limit. With angry seas, the bar is often closed, even to the big commercial boats, and the premier seafood market ran out of Dungeness the other day—a first to have happened that I can recall. We’re very ready for winter to be over!

Marc completed the shed floor and got it off the trailer and installed under the shed with his buddy Paul’s help the other day. Our buyer elected to want to leave it right in this space thus making it the easiest way out for us which we greatly appreciated.

Since then, Marc has returned to Bend with the flatbed trailer to work on some things there, including trying to track the problem with the generator fix and getting another one of our trailers unloaded of the Goldwing and ready to bring back over so we have a dry place to store all the contents of the park model. Once he returns, the pack-up of the park model will start in earnest. We are aiming for the transport company to do their pickup on April 2nd if all goes according to plan.