August 22, 2007

Re-Discovering Country Coach

As happened in the past, a trip to Country Coach headquarters in Junction City, Oregon, the home of the "Worlds Finest Motorcoach", again reinforced our decision to exclusively seek and own a CC motor home. Completing another tour of the factory (our initial tour was six years ago), it was again validated to us that Country Coach offers the finest and safest chassis in the industry today, provides only state of the art design and construction (hand built one at a time), demands the highest quality of craftsmanship while using only the best hardwoods, counter tops and flooring and reasearches and utilizes only the finest materials and premier appliances...but above all else...and without any hesitation toward cost...ensures that they are second to none in providing unequaled customer service to all of their owners.
Our visit included only some minor servicing (after hearing other owners discuss their problems...ours was indeed minor) and warranty work. But even a legendary Country Coach motor home can have the consequences of being built one coach at a time by human hands. We immediately realized our coach was the oldest and the least monetary investment of the owners lined up on the lot. Next to us was a 2002, 1.3 million dollar, Prevost Bus Conversion that had water leak issues and had ruined the red silk wallpaper, then there was a 2007, 800k, Affinity with an electrical meltdown (not good for an all electric coach) or on the other side of us, a new 470k Allure (same as our Hannah) with slide out failure. Although each one of these owners was unhappy that their coach required servicing...each one of the owners agreed... "Country Coach takes care of us and will make it right".
We visited the number one Country Coach dealership in the U.S. for a free lunch and to look (drool) at the 36' 2008 Inspires and 37' Allures...flat out gorgeous! Upon our return to the manufacturer, we shared our interest toward a new purchase with the technicians assigned to our coach. Service writer and technicians responded the same...WHY? But WHY? WHY would you? They proceeded to provide us the facts about our mature, but wonderful coach;
"The 2002 line of Country Coach was one of the best years of coach production (2000-2002) for the company. For 3 straight years that traditional style, the floor plans and the best proven components were used...and the company only produced 400 total coaches each year....and that is combined....all models. Since 2003, the body styles, components, electronics (which our now out of this world) and slide out operation has changed each year...resulting in limited "seasoning" of each new model to totally get all the kinks out. Plus, you now have Country Coach producing almost 900 coaches per year (still the lowest of the large high line production companies...i.e Monaco produces 9,000), so production schedules, personnel and quality control are now being strained to meet this high demand. Look at it this way, your coach was "slow roasted" using a tried and true family recipe, until completed to perfection".
Did that dialogue make us beam even more about our Allure. And with that perfect report card, we gave our coach a hug, saddled up to mosey up to McMinnville for some green pasture, blue skies, a soothing spray wash, followed by a deserving hand massage of wax.

August 12, 2007

The Middle Fork of the Willamette River

Our final vacation stop finds us parked with another spectacular view, a duplicate to the view we had days prior to our crossing into Oregon...a beautiful river, rushing whitewater. greetings from Ospreys overhead and Hannah parked only yards from the rocky shores.

Casey's Riverside RV Park in Westfir is located right on the banks of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. The largest membership rv club in the nation, Good Sam, rates this park in their top 10. Although not the same size river in volume or width that flows through the Willamette Valley, this upper section of the Willamette mirrors the look of most renowned blue ribbon trout streams in the West, fast, deep and blue.

The historical Office Covered Bridge in Wesfir is the longest covered bridge in the state, as well as our starting point for a beautiful country drive...

A drive on Highway 19, the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, proved to us that it's reputation as one of the prettiest roads in Oregon, is not just a tourist marketing ad by the state and if anything, very underrated. This road is one of the nations first Fifty National Scenic Byways. The spectacular scenery goes on for 58 miles, an up close and personal view of rivers and lush ancient forests...and the fact is... we actually whispered..."lets keep this a secret" we are already sounding Oregonian. The road meanders along the North Fork of the Willamette River on the West side and the Roaring River on the East side...and we won't discount the 30 or so creeks we crossed. And even though it is such a beautiful, peaceful and renowned byway, it is truly gas stations, no homes, no stores, no cellular, no people...we only saw a handful of cars (4) in a 31 mile stretch...all during summer vacation time!

The Mckenzie River...WOW! This river is beautiful, perfect in every way and crystal joke...the river is so clear, every single rock on the river bottom could be seen...magnificent.

Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America's National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America's ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country. Indeed, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes. From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers a unique, varied and challenging experience. The Oregon section of the PCT is not only the shortest, 441 miles, but the easiest to hike. Strong long-distance hikers will cover 30 miles or more per day!

Well, a portion of this legendary trail is located here in the Willamette National Forest, so we decided to add some extra adventure and discovery to our day by going on a short 3 mile (6 miles round trip) day hike to three pristine mountain lakes known as the Rosary Lakes via the PCT.
This was an easy wilderness trail to navigate, well groomed and shaded by a thick canopy of trees. With a steady climb through a
formidable stand of old-growth Douglas fir, the trail gained 600 feet in the last 2.2 miles to a ridge overlooking heart-shaped Lower Rosary Lake. Pulpit Rock towers above, reflecting in the lake’s clear water. Arrived just in time for lunch.

Nestled in an old growth forest is Waldo Lake. This lake is Oregon's second-largest natural body of water and dwells in a basis scooped out by ancient glaciers. The lake is famed as one of the purest lakes left in the world...pure and clean enough to qualify as distilled water. The astonishing visibility enables one to see down 100 feet to the bottom.

Salt Creek Falls is a gem of complete magnificence. Regarded as the second highest falls in Oregon, a perfectly placed observation platform offered us a prime view of its spectacular drop to the bottom of the canyon.

The early morning on the river is calm and quiet, with nothing but the sounds of nature and the ratcheting of my reel breaking the serene silence. The air is thin and crisp, with the faint smell of fir and river moss. The beautiful mountain canyon embraces me with its canopy of trees. It’s cold, yet the skies are so blue, the sun so bright. My fingers are already numb. The river is clear and pure, the water so frigid. The pools are deep blue and mysterious. Although the river moves fast, the clarity gives off an illusion of it having a lazy, peaceful pace. You see the trout, facing upstream, so wary, so confident, and so beautiful. It’s time! A hatch of mayflies is on, and I am ready to match the hatch. Casting upstream over rifts and pools, I wait for the first strike. I imagine, I dream, and then believe that this is all that is required to experience a moment of life, that this is truly Being.

But on the other hand...depending on the day, place and weather.... this is truly Being...

We now must bid so long to the Willamette National Forest, a natural wonderland, with so many wonders to see, visit and experience...a return stay will surely be necessary. So on this, just our 2nd rainy day in Oregon, we are off to Junction City for Hannah's "day spa" appointment at Country Coach. From there we return to our long term stay at Olde Stone Village in McMinnville for the start of the school year and "normal" everyday living.....

August 3, 2007

The County of Yamhill

We have ARRIVED! After a year of planning, completing some major downsizing and then the aggressive lifestyle change...yet another dream has become a reality with our arrival to McMinnville, Oregon. We will be here at Olde Stone Village RV Park, which is very close to the downtown area, for only a week to initiate some relocation business toward becoming official Oregonians. From here we have plans to continue our exploration of the Willamette Valley, before returning to McMinnville and settle in for the start of the school year.
Our entrance into town would not be complete without a visit to the historic downtown district...and a toast to our moment, with a McMenamins Hammerhead Ale in hand, on the legendary rooftop bar of the Oregon Hotel. Here one has a 360 degree view of historic downtown McMinnville, the surrounding vineyards and the lush tree covered hills.
Every morning McMinnville has greeted us with few threatening clouds, but as we awakened, so did the day. Sunshine matched our joy and enthusiasm to explore and then warmed our soul for a day of exploring our new surroundings. A country ride brought us to the doorstep of a beautiful 50-acre working estate named Youngberg Hill Vineyards and Inn...and our first "tasting" in this wine region, a 2003 Pinot the land where this varietal is Queen. Each summer, wineries from every corner of the world gather in McMinnville for the International Pinot Noir Celebration. Our very "tasty" fruit juice was an excellent sample....
The Yamhill Valley is home to small town hospitality, picture perfect farms, wild berries lining country roads, friendly front yard fruit stands, tail waggin' dogs and more than a third of Oregon's vineyards much rural charm...the land beckons you to stay, as it dares you to relax while offering you more and more nourishment... and then teases you with illusions of this being much more to explore, see and taste.

We have many things and places here to keep us occupied...for a week or for months. With a location in between Portland & Salem, imagine the possibilities...just outings to Portland alone could fill every "rainy" weekend for the rest of our year! Eateries, museums, bookstores, downtown boutiques and those awesome parks...

August 1, 2007

Mallard Creek

On the last day of July we once again ventured away from the Pacific Ocean (our home shore for the past decade) and headed inland to fertile valleys, healthy forests, dozens of rivers and a multitude of lakes..all will be our new playgrounds. We drove east on meandering highways through Corvalis and towns with names like Lebanon, Waterloo and Sweet Home... Here tucked amid rolling hils and scattered pine forests, bordered by a beautiful river and dotted with small ponds being fed by small mountain streams sits the Mallard Creek Golf Course and RV Resort...a par 72, 18 hole championship golf course. Now it just added a Country Coach Allure, a beautiful Dutch Babe with fantasies of golfings greatest and a patient dream maker...we have arrived at Camelot.

One of the beautiful lakes perched in the foothills nearby is Foster Resorvoir. Featuring a key hatchery for the Santiam River, we were able to see huge Rainbow & Cutthroat Trout, Steelhead, Salmon and White Sturgeon...hence we have chalked up this river for a return fly fishing visit.
Since the golf course offers a full service pro shop and driving range, we were able to fine tune lost skills (or no skills) from a previous lifetime. Although we pre-warned fellow golfers on the range that they were in the "splash zone"...the tragectory of our balls were most often above our knees, sailing relatively straight and surprising long...very surprising. Will this be another hobby for the BlaNics to partake in? We plan to do some research and check out the investment.

Since crossing into the Oregon on July 18th, we have used the word "WOW" a minimum of once per day. All of our destinations have been wonderful...a smorgasbord of sights, color and flavor. And this resort was no exception. The area, nourished by the Santiam River, gets a few WOWs.

We now look forward to visiting our new "headquarters" for the coming school year...McMinnville and Olde Stone Village RV Resort.