Monday, July 17, 2017

We found another one!

On an alpaca farm near Eugene, Oregon, we found Aggie (Class of ’71) Ann Dockendorf tending her girls and boys. (Thank you, Caroline, for this lead.)

Ann graciously showed us around Aragon Alpacas and introduced us to

Trinket and Tinkerbell
You will notice one of the girls has a blue bandana around her neck; no that is not a fashion statement.
Tinkerbell is pregnant. She should deliver her little one any day now. The bandana helps Ann keep an eye on her, watching for signs that she is ready to deliver. Did you know the gestation period for alpacas is 11 ½ to 12 months and they most often deliver before 2:00 p.m.?

The girls like to flirt and we know how that can stir things up. Ann keeps the girls away from the boys to keep them calm; also she wants to have a bit of control over the color of the fleece by selecting mating partners.

Unlike sheep wool, the alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic and does not contain lanolin making it is easier to spin. After shearing in the spring, she sends her fleece to a mini-mill to be spun into lovely yarn which she sells in her shop, A Spinner’s Barn.

In addition to her yarn, she sells art and knitted items from other area artists as well as products from the Andes, the ancestral home of the alpacas. Quite often visitors to the shop will find Ann doing a hand-spinning demonstration.  When not tending to her boys and girls, manning the shop, knitting or spinning, you might find her giving presentations and demonstrations to local art events or children’s groups.

Aragon Alpacas is a small farm located on a rural road a few miles from Eugene. We did not see any signs promoting or giving directions; however folks find her. As we were leaving, a small group from Florida arrived. Also, two of Ann’s friends stopped in with knitting in hand with no plan except to sit, knit and chat.  

With eyes shining and a smiling face

Ann talked enthusiastically about her farm and herd. It is refreshing to find folks that are passionate about their craft. If ever you are in the Eugene, Oregon, it will do your heart good to stop in and meet Ann and her alpaca family.

Currently we are in one of our favorite regions of California (Yep, we are tasting some very good Zinfindel!)

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Life on the road is trouble-free;

not so last week when we prepared to leave Bothel, Washington. The sewage disposal at our site was clogged (yep, that was quite a mess) so we had to use the dump station. When we arrived at our next camp site, Hood Campground, on the Snake River in the Tri-Cities area,
Love the Corps of Engineer campgrounds!
our pick-up refused to start. (After a couple of good cleanings of the battery posts, the problem seems to be fixed.) ABN attempted to put water on to brew tea but the pilot light refused to ignite. Captain started investigating and found the propane valve in one of the outside compartments had been turned off; neither of us turned it off so that remains a mystery.

Catching up with friends…………well it makes the little problems along the way seem like a minor annoyance.

In the Tri-Cities (that would be Pasco, Richland and Kennewick in southeastern Washington) we visited Captain’s longtime friends, Linda and Chuck. On first glance at their lovely hillside home, ABN noticed beets and squash tucked into a beautifully landscaped front lawn; with Fiestaware and a KitchenAid in the kitchen, she knew she was meeting new friends and soul mates. While sitting on their deck, looking over the valley we were introduced to wonderful Copper River Salmon (so much more flavorful than the Atlantic farm grown salmon that we usually eat.)

With Chuck and Linda as our guide,

we explored a few of the Red Mountain Wineries and found some very good wine. Our favorite wines of the day (Linizio Blend, Walla Walla Cab Sauv  ) were found at Cooper Winery.

The best view at Terra Blanca

And it was Tuesday!

While in the Tri-Cities, Captain wanted to connect with friends and colleagues from the nuclear industry. (Local and industry friends, take a close look, you may know some of these folks.)

After getting an oil change and transmission tune-up for The Wanderer, we said good bye to our friends and Snake River,

and continued our search for good Pinot Nior in Oregon.

Driving along I-84, just before reaching Portland, we took a break to hike to the top of Multnomah Falls.

At the top. According to FitBit, over 10,000 steps and 88 flights of stairs.
Oregon Wine Country is truly beautiful with rolling hills covered in vineyards and flowers we can only dream about in our hot and humid climate. Our search for really good Pinot Noir took us through the beautiful Willamette Valley, a ferry across Willamette River and up gravel roads.

A couple of our favorite wineries were Redhawk with drinkable inexpensive wine and St. Innocent for a nice, full flavored Pinot Noir.

Our very favorite was Brooks Winery, not only for outstanding Pinot Noir but also a lovely tasting venue with a spectacular view.
Deck overlooking the vineyards and garden

What goes well with Pinot Noir? Cheese of course! Happening upon the Willamette Valley Cheese Company, we had to stop and do their tasting.

 All the cheeses are made with milk from the cows we could see in the field. 
(Aged Chive and Black Pepper, Aged Asiago and Cumin Gouda found their way into our cheese drawer.)

Guess what else we found in Willamette Valley? Another Aggie! (They are everywhere!)

Michelle and Lowell (Class of ’70) from Colorado Springs occupied the site next to us at Silver Spur RV Park. We had a most enjoyable couple of evenings sipping Pinot and sharing stories. (Lowell is a real “rocket scientist” having worked many years at the Johnson Space center.)

Our palates have been pleased with the taste of fine Pinot Noir and our souls have been refreshed with friends. We have had just enough taste of Washington and Oregon to whet our appetite. We hope this is not our last visit.

We can now hear the call of the Zin and we are on our way!

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

What was I thinking?

“by suggesting a visit to Butchart Gardens?” said Captain as he followed ABN around,

hearing statements like “We should plant these,” “I must order some double begonias,” “We need a taller support for our sweet peas,” and “I am ready to go home and work on my garden.”
It is such a beautiful garden and oh so inspiring. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the climate in which we live is not conducive to growing beautiful roses


and begonias
without a lot of tending.

But we can grow Sweet Peas!

Sunken Garden created in an exhausted limestone quarry.

Lunch in the garden
Located in British Columbia, Canada, the gardens are about a 40 minute drive from pretty Victoria. With gorgeous plants on every corner, hanging from light posts

and flanking restaurants,

it is truly a city in bloom.

The Wanderer was parked just outside of Olympic National Park, so we did a little exploring.
Merrymere Falls Hike

Marymere Falls

As in most small towns, the folks in Port Angeles (PA to the locals) were extremely friendly. We had a great time hanging out with them celebrating the 4th of July, listening to Fat Chance, a local band.
And of course watching fireworks.

Moving from the small town to the city; in Seattle we were greeted with traffic, horns honking, road rage (Captain has no idea what he did that wasn’t nice), homeless camps and crowds of tourist.

What to do in Seattle, we asked our Facebook friends. In the two days we had allotted, we could not do all that was suggested.
The Pike Street Market was probably nice but we couldn’t really tell because of the crowd.

Enjoyed a cold brew at the original Starbucks.

We are not sure, but suspect there is a city ordinance requiring a coffee bar/shop be located on every city block and a huge percent must be Starbucks. Or perhaps there is an ordinance that forbids folks to brew coffee at home.

In the historical downtown area known as Pioneer Square, ABN left Captain enjoying music in Occidental Square

while she browsed the shops and art galleries.

We had an excellent dinner (salmon and sable fish) at Ray’s Boathouse on the Puget Sound.

Captain explored the Boeing Factory

while ABN enjoyed a quiet afternoon in The Wanderer.

The best thing we learned (or reaffirmed) in Seattle is that we prefer the small towns where folks tend to be friendlier and less tense.

As we travel throughout our country, we marvel at the mountains, gorges, canyons, oceans, lakes and vistas. However, our best treasures are our people. Nothing gives us more pleasure than connecting with fun and interesting folks. That is exactly what we did on Friday evening at the Gorman Winery Tasting room in Woodinville just outside of Seattle. We spent a delightful evening sipping wine with a local couple, Bruce and Dona. We connected on Facebook to keep in touch with hopes our paths will cross again.

We are now off to do some visiting in the Tri-Cities of Washington.

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