Month: October 2016

Road to the Airport-Seaside, OR to California’s Redwoods

 

Map of oregon coast 

After fog and rain for so many days, both at home and on the road, we finally moved into mixed sun and cloud.  We drove to the coast of Oregon and arrived in Seaside, OR.  We had been there before in the spring as well as in the summer on previous trips.  It’s a cozy little town that is geared to visitors.  It has never been very busy though, regardless of the season.

If you know me, I tend to prefer to live on the more frugal side of things.  Sleeping in a tent in a state park for $20 a night has a satisfying appeal.  I decided I wanted to really live it up in Seaside and stay in an ocean front hotel.   Usually at this time of year, you can just walk in to a hotel and request a room. The first hotel I tried was doing painting and deep cleaning and didn’t have any rooms left with a view.  The second one, the Shilo Inn

Sunset at Seaside

Sunset at Seaside

had an ocean front room with our AMA discount for $149 a night.  It was reasonable for the location, we decided.  When we got to the room, not only did it have an unobstructed view of the ocean and beach, but it had a kitchen and fireplace too! I was ecstatic.   Sometimes you just have to decide not to cheap out when you have a chance to take advantage of such a special experience.  After a meal of fantastic clam chowder and fresh seafood at Norma’s Diner, we slept with the doors open, listening to the waves crash into the beach.

It was so relaxing there, we decided to stay for 2 nights.  We walked along the beach and took pictures. When the ocean showers came along, we sat next to the sliding doors by the deck and worked on pictures and reflections. When the rain stopped, we flew kites on the beach. We bought our own lobster and shrimp to cook for dinner our second night.  With only a broiler top and a small fry pan we managed to make a great meal with some creative planning.

How to spend a rainy afternoon at the beach

How to spend a rainy afternoon at the beach

On our final morning, there was a crowd gathered on the turnaround below our window.  Speakers were set up and before we knew it, people were square dancing to a master caller.  It was the weekend of the Seaside Sashay.  The dancers were all ages and dressed in a variety of styles, but they all knew the steps and were very entertaining to watch.  I wish I knew enough to join them. It was so refreshing to see everyone keeping a perfect beat with their feet.

Seaside Sashay below our window

Seaside Sashay below our window

We finally pulled ourselves away from our window and headed down the coast.  We had a quick stop in Tillamook at the Cheese Factory. Cheese doesn’t travel well to Thailand, but the pumpkin pie and marionberry ice cream were worth the stop.

Most of the road follows closely along the coastline, which is great for the passenger when you are travelling from north to south.  There are long beaches as well as rocky cliffs.  We stopped and saw some whales breaching just south of Depoe Bay. They were close enough we could see the puffs of breath and body parts above the water line, but too far away for my camera to really capture them.  Some things you just have to take a picture with your mind.  We spent the night in our tent in the rain at Carl Washburne State Park. Parts of it were closed, but there were quite a few units and tents staying there.

In the morning, we walked the trail to the beach.  The trees were engulfed in moss. There was no one at the beach.  We tried to fly the kite, but there wasn’t enough wind.  Time at the beach in the morning was a treat we could afford because of our open ended timeline.

oregon-coast                                       oregon-coast-4coast-11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a working lighthouse at Heceta Head and a nice view looking back up the coast.

Heceta Lighthouse

Heceta Lighthouse

Oregon Coast road

Oregon Coast road

It was almost dark before we arrived into Northern California where the Red Woods start. The state park was surprisingly called Prairie Creek State Park.  The trees are enormous but they just suck up all the light.  Day is dark, and night is blacker.  We set up near the washroom so we could see the light from it.  It was easy to feel like we were all alone, absorbed by the darkness.

The wind in the night sounded like a train up in the trees, although it was quiet at the tent, except for the falling needles and leaves.  The rain started about 6:30 am.  We planned to wait until it got light to pack up, thinking the big trees would shelter us. We fell back to sleep.  By 8, the ground and our tent were saturated and the wind was howling.  The umbrellas helped us a little, but it took 2 days for the tent to dry out.  We continued to drive south along the 101 with the wind howling out to the water from the inland side.  That area received over 6 inches of rain that day. The Pacific Highway #1 is pretty special south of San Francisco but the northern end is very twisty and hilly with few views of the ocean.  I’d take the Oregon road anytime instead.

Redwood forest storms

Redwood forest storms

Our search for Hyperion, the tallest redwood was put on hold and we headed to Napa instead to do some wine tasting.  Again we were reminded that you can’t control the weather.  You always need a plan B in mind.  Napa is a pretty tough plan B to take.

 

Roadtrip to the Airport-Calgary to Mt. St. Helens

 

Before I continue discussing our plans for leaving Canada for Thailand, it seems appropriate to stop and spend some time sharing our roadtrip to the airport.  Our daughter lives and works a couple of hours east of San Francisco.  She’s the one who we sent off to university in Pennsylvania with a, “you’ll love this new experience!”  We wanted to see her before we left so we booked our flight to Chiang Mai from the San Francisco airport.  I don’t think we saved much money after we added the travel to get there, but we had a wonderful trip.

march-map

A sample screenshot of My Maps of our trip to Utah in March

We spent a few days looking at all the possible routes to California.  We have taken most of the obvious ones already.  Some are fast, some scenic, some exciting, some are calming.  We used Google My Maps to keep track of routes and attractions as well as distances.  It looks like regular Maps, but you can include links to campgrounds or hotels.  You can also save it in Drive and share it with travelling companions or those at home who want to see where you are going.  I decided that I would like a less adventurous trip to relax after all the packing and planning of the previous weeks.  We passed up on the trip through Utah and agreed to travel down the Oregon coast.

It was snowy and foggy when we left Calgary.  We had taken a day to say goodby to our family there. It was one of those days where you realize that you have been pretty inward looking in planning a trip away without really thinking about what your mother or sister might think about the idea. I realized we were going to be missed quite a lot.  We had to be sure that we had an easy means of communication ready to use with family.  What’s App is what we will use with our immediate family, and Facebook Messenger should work best for family that don’t use their cell phones much.

We headed west to the mountains.  After a quick stop in Canmore to pick up some sandwiches, we took highway 1A, just because we could.  Travelling without a set destination or time constraint is wonderful.  We had 12 days to make our flight. Highway 93 past Radium and Fairmont was a replay of fall.  Leaves were yellow and mixed amongst the dark evergreen.  There were so many larch trees in full color.  I didn’harealize they grew taht far west. We stopped at St. Eugene’s Mission at Cranbrook for a drink and a tour of the residential school museum.  It was sobering to say the least.  The building is so magnificent and the story so tragic. Our first night was spent in Sandpoint, Idaho in a hotel, out of the steady rain.  The draught beer at $3.50 a pint was definitely a highlight of being in the United States.

Our second day led us through the Columbia Gorge of Oregon.  It was busy but a it’s a good road.  It was built in the 1920’s to be accessible for Model T Ford’s to drive on a “European Style” touring road.  We didn’t get down as far as

Western Washington north side of the Gorge

Western Washington north side of the Gorge

the waterfall section but crossed the bridge at Cascade Locks and took the back road to Seaquest State Park

Not our "ridiculously good at camping" set up, but it works.

Not our “ridiculously good at camping” set up, but it works.

across from the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center.  It felt kind of like “Groundhog Day,” experiencing the height of fall all over again.  It’s odd having the same season twice in one year.

 

 

 

coast-2

View of the washrooms from our tent.

There were showers through the night but our tent stayed dry enough.  The falling leaves were much larger than the ones at home.  We awoke to cloud and mist.  After checking out the visitor’s center and watching the movie about Mt. St. Helens eruption, we took the hour long drive up to see the mountain itself.  The eruption was in 1980. We visited the area in 2000 when all we could see were stumps of trees twisted off by the force of the explosion and the beginning of regrowth, mostly in the form of fireweed and other wildflowers. I wanted to see what

Regrowth at Mt. St. Helen's

Regrowth at Mt. St. Helen’s

was growing now.

 

Weyerhaeurser Forest Company had cleaned out the fallen lumber and replaced it with new trees. They were planted in the late 1983 and will be ready for harvest in 2028.

Even though the fog obscured the peak itself, I was amazed at the natural regrowth of plants within the blast zone.

What used to be a valley of ash and mud.

What used to be a valley of ash and mud

Some of the plants are invasive species that

Some days are just like this.

Some days are just like this.

blew into the area.  Many are adaptations of naturally occurring plants.  This area is such a great biology lab!

 

The views were not what we planned, but some days are just like that when you travel.  You have to make the best of them by either looking for what is still great about the day, or else having a plan B altogether.  I still very much enjoyed our day exploring the area and seeing the changes since our last visit. Our drive to Seaside was an improvement and I will share our time along the Oregon Coast in another edition.

We have the destination… What’s next?

seaside

I realize the primary purpose for this blog is to describe retirement and living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  We are on our way to the airport in San Francisco, but our route includes a leisurely trip down the USA west coast.  This is the kind of option I love in our new role of retirees.  I’m writing this as I listen to the ocean waves relentlessly crash into the beach at Seaside, Oregon.  We spent the afternoon today flying kites.

In order to be ready to leave home for 5 months, we had much to do to get to this day at the beach.  The first question we spent a lot of time discussing was what to do with our house. Should we sell it or try to rent it out?  I was actually glad that a poor housing market made it easier to rule out selling it, as I was not ready to let go of my home base.  I still had that old vision of myself as part of the community and didn’t want to lose all of that yet.  Since I had taken a summer retirement job and was not home for much of July and August, I couldn’t imagine sorting through all our belongings and packing them away for the winter.

In June, I listened to a podcast with my daughter.  It discussed how positive, optimistic people are not as successful as you might expect.  They just think that things are going to work out well.  The problem comes when they don’t actively do anything to make things happen.  I kept this in mind while working to get our house rented.  Instead of just waiting for someone to call me and ask to rent my house, I was going to have to actively find someone.

I talked with some people in town who recruit new doctors, hoping they would have someone coming to work for just the months that we were leaving.  A realtor did a walk through and thought it should be a good rental option, especially if we left it furnished.  I began to realize that if we were going to rent it, a year’s term starting in September was the most likely scenario.  What would we do for the time before and after our trip?

Fortune smiled on us and a friend mentioned they had a small retirement home in the Columbia Valley of British Columbia. At least we would have a backup place for when we return to Canada.  They haven’t retired yet and were happy to have someone in it.  I had a plan B.  My anxiety level was greatly reduced. I took pictures of the rooms of our house, the yard and the front and decided to post it for rent on a Facebook house sell/rent page. (sample house video prepared on the app Photo Grid. ) I scrolled through the other posts to get an idea of rent rates and what was already available in town.  There was a woman looking for a place to rent for herself and her dog.  I looked at her Facebook page and saw a picture of the quote, “The mountains are calling and I must go,” by John Muir.  Peter has the same quote on a tee-shirt.  It was enough of a connection to contact her.  She stopped by the house a week later and moved in to our daughter’s room in September.  We have a tenant for the year who will look after our house when we are gone on our adventure.

While we did spend some time purging and sorting, we didn’t have to do everything.  We have our house looked after and a place to return before we decide what our next travel location will be.

Seaside again. It's just so beautiful.

Seaside again. It’s just so beautiful.

 

 

Why Thailand? How to choose one place from so many.

How did we end up going to Thailand? Once we decided to start living our life now, and not waiting for it to happen to us, we started looking for a place to go.  After watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel we could see the appeal of spending time living and learning in a new country.

We heard of a magazine called International Living  that also had regular email notices.  It is a “dream of retirement” publication that is mostly aimed at Americans, but describes how you can live somewhere else for less money in retirement.  It has testimonials from people who have done it and good guidelines on how to start thinking about this possibility.  Panama came up several times as a place to go, due to its low cost of living and discounts given to retirees.  You can live in the city, near the beach or in a smaller town in the mountains

We read some of these testimonials and looked up the names of the places on Google Maps.  We then used Google Earth and zoomed in to get a closer look.  With streetview, we could check out the feel of the place and see the kind of shops and parks or the general upkeep of the homes along the streets.  This was such an easy way to check out a town so far away.  We thought that we could learn a little Spanish and had some sense of the culture from our trips to Mexico and Arizona.  I realize that is a pretty naive understanding, but it’s all we had to go on.

Peter also found a website that compared the cost of living in cities around the world.  Calgary was about $5400 a month for most of what you would need to live well.  Panama City only required $3600 for the same living expenses.  He used this site to start checking out other places in the world from Spain to Thailand, Costa Rica to Australia . We began narrowing down the list to places that were economical based on my pension and investments.  Health care availability was something else we wanted to know more about.

As we were in the midst of this conversation, I received a call from my friend Bernice, who has been a much braver traveller than I for her whole life.  She has worked and travelled in Asia for the last 5 years and spent the last 2 winters in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  She skyped me around her apartment and talked about the benefits of living in Thailand, as compared to Central or South America.  Bernice felt very safe there.  The cost of living was very low for rent and food.  The area that they lived in had excellent transportation to the places we would want to go.  The winters were like our summers only more so.  She also added that Chiang Mai was a city with a large number of ex-pats, many from Canada.  That made it possible to learn about a new culture, while still being able to pursue many of the same interests we would have at home.

I asked her about the Eastern Culture.  We have never been to Asia and didn’t know much at all about the people and their way of life.  Her reply was that everyone in the world is on the Internet these days.  They share the same Facebook posts and wear the same clothes.  Globalization is a real life thing, not just something you hear about on the news.

That was all I needed to hear.  It was a place that met our needs as new retirees, and, it had the seal of approval from someone who had gone there and done it.  That last part was really the tipping point for us.  We booked ourselves into the same building I had seen on her computer camera for a 5 month stay.  (Smith Suites ) We decided that if we were going to learn about a new place, we needed to be there long enough to feel like part of the community, and not just tourists passing through.  Next we started in with the practical issues of moving for 5 months to another country halfway around the world.

Cost of living comparison Calgary vs. Chiang Mai  chart  $5400 vs $2600

map of Thailand