Plop, plop, PLOP! Like bacon sizzling in a hot skillet. That’s what it sounds like inside our motorhome with the rain incisively falling. Occasionally, a cascade of water gushes off down a window after pooling on the top of rectangular can we’ve called home for the past few days.

We knew going into this adventure the weather wasn’t promising with showers in the forecast. Nevertheless, we told ourselves we’d do lots of reading, eating, snoozing, bonding, and cat-tormenting, interspersed with hiking, biking, and site-seeing. With heavy rains, hail storms, and non-stop showers, we’ve barely been outside in days.

After a crazy-hectic and long Thursday of cooking, cleaning, wrapping gifts, assembling bowls of cookies, packing the motor home, and finishing up last minute chores, we left at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning. First stop, 7-Eleven for scalding hot coffee, flavored with mocha creamer. While Jujube was pesky, climbing onto the dashboard of the motorhome, Zephyra and Pu’Yi Cookiesfound a cozy spot in the bed over the cab. They slept for most of the trip, barely waking up when we stopped a few hours later at McDonald’s for more coffee, fruit/yoghurt parfait, and an Egg McMuffin.

We reached Chris’ house (Rich’s son) in Camas, Washington by 9-ish and then quickly unloaded the packages for my mother into Chris’ car. Rich and Stacey (Rich’s daughter) then drove me to my mother’s house in Sherwood, Oregon (southwest of Portland). I spent the next few hours cleaning her house and doing a handful of chores before zipping to Albertson’s for a roast chicken, potato salad, eggnog, and a small chocolate cake for our lunch… and for her to eat for the rest of the week.

My mother and I then drove – in the rain – to Chris’ house to meet Rich and others for a Christmas Eve dinner and gift-opening. Also at the house were Chris’ wife Shawnie, Shawnie’s mother Letie, brothers Brian and Joe, and her sister, Allison, and Allison’s boyfriend, Ricardo. Stacey had flown up from Mexico, her mother, June, had arrived from Hawaii, and her step-sister Chiami, and her husband, Brian, had come from Colorado.

Pu'Yi LaryIt was a fun evening, especially for Pu’Yi, who put on his red harness and leash and spent a few hours visiting with everyone who thought he was an incredibly well behaved young man. I was so proud!

In addition, the mini cupcakes I’d made the day before were a hit; although, everyone seemed to prefer the dark chocolate cupcakes with peppermint icing over the mocha cupcakes with scrumptious dark chocolate icing. I dusted the later with cocoa powder and sprinkled crushed candy canes and red sugar over the peppermint icing. Yum.

CupcakesI also brought a dish that I pioneered at Thanksgiving… roasted yams, sweet potatoes and beets with white sugar, cinnamon and allspice. The sugar and spices making a syrupy, but not overly sweet coating.

As the hour drew close to 10 p.m., I drove my mother back to Sherwood, and Rich followed in the motor home. We spent the night in the motor home in front of my mother’s house, listening to the rain falling and dreaming about the teriyaki chicken Chris made. The next morning, we took my mother to breakfast and then headed west along with the Columbia River to Cape Disappointment on the Washington coast.

It being Christmas day there was only a handful of trailers and RVs in the campground. We found a nice spot and were hopeful we’d be able walk around the area, which is rich in history and natural landmarks. The persistent heavy rain, however, dampened our plans. With hoped it’d be dried in the morning and spent the rest of the day reading and nibbling on the food we’d brought.

It poured throughout the night; the next morning, it was rainier than the day before. Disappointed that we’d miss out on hiking along the jetty, visiting two lighthouses, and touring the the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, we packed up and headed north to Grayland. Three MusCATeers

Along with way, we passed through Illwaco, a small fishing town on the confluence of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, which has obviously suffered in recent years with numerous houses for sale, stores closed, and scarcely a person on the street. Illwaco, like many of the town we passed through, are fragile, its residents dependent on fishing, logging, and tourism. According to Wikipedia, 16.3% of the 1,000 or so people who live in Illwaco live below the poverty line. Zephyra

A quick “news” search found an article written in late December about a $1.6 million earmarks by departing U.S. Representative Brian Baird for continued dredge operations to keep the ports of Illwaco and Chinook open. The article explains these ports are essential for maintaining the health of seaside ports in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon.

With the rain unrelenting as we drove to our next campground, I contemplated alternative activities. When Rich stopped for gas in Raymond, I slipped on my Converses, grabbed my raincoat and umbrella, and dashed down the street to warehouse with a wooden sign up front, advertising fresh crabs. Inside was a small office. When no one appeared after a few minutes, I ventured through an open door into the main part of the building, which was full of pallets, staked with large cans of crab meat.

Determined to buy a crab, I called out “Hello!” A man appeared, acknowledged my presence then scurried behind a door. Shortly afterwards, a local walked into the warehouse in search of the fifteen crabs he’d ordered early that morning. He was able to get in his words, “someone who spoke English” to retrieve the crabs and collect our money. I ended up paying $10 for a 2.5 pound crab I named “Fred.” For the duration of our trip, Fred stayed in our motor home’s freezer in a bag with shaved ice. We ate him on New Year’s Eve with wasabi cocktail sauce (mediocre cocktail sauce Rich had bought on sale combined with powdered wasabi and lemon juice). Fred the crab

Check out the picture of Fred grabbing for a glass, intended for our celebratory Blackthorn hard cider. Rich and I served this British cider at our wedding.

The town of Raymond, population around 3,000, is known for logging, fishing, and cranberries. The grunge band Nirvana played their first gig in this town. Around the turn of the century, Raymond has a reputation as a wild and wooly lumber mill town with 6,000 residents. Today, 25% of its population lives below the poverty line.

On the outskirts of the town is Ocean Spray’s Sweetened Dried Cranberry (SDC) and Cranberry Sauce plant. I’m guessing the water from the Wishkah and Chehalis Rivers are used to flood local bogs so the cranberries can be harvested. The plant has been a major employer since 1946 and runs two production lines 24 hours a day, seven days a week with annual output of 20 million pounds of SDCs and 1.2 million cases of cranberry sauce. Hats off to the Ocean Spray Cooperative for being an exceptional employer!Sasquatch Pizza & Wings in Aberdeen, WA

As we passed through Aberdeen, we passed a sign for Sasquatch Pizza & Wings. My out-of-office at Microsoft said we were searching for Big Foot (i.e. Sasquatch) in the Olympic Forest, so it was exciting to discover he’s given up on foraging in the forests for food and has opened a restaurant. It just shows civilization can tame even the most feral creatures.

Our destination for the day was Grayland Beach State Park on Gray’s Harbor. We approached with high expectations bolstered by the clearing weather. While the campground was mostly empty, many of the prime camping sites had several inches of sitting water. Nevertheless, we found a great spot, a stone’s throw from the beach. After plugging in our utilities and pumping up our bike tires, we Grayland Beach State Parkbiked to the ranger station to pay the registration fee. When we arrived, however, we saw our site was reserved.

Taking note of the open sites, we madly biked back to the motor home. Closer to the bathrooms and more protected by the trees was another nice spot. While Rich “held” the spot, I speedily pedaled back to the ranger station and successfully registered.Grayland State Park

With each trip, the blue sky seemed to be getting darker and the air colder. On my last trip, I was convinced my nose was going to fall off because of the frosty air. I was dressed in a long-sleeve t-shirt, fleece jacket, rainproof parka (in stunning yellow), double-layer fleece and water-proof hat, gloves, jeans, and leather hiking boots… and was still cold!

Five minutes after we moved into our new camping site, a torrid of hail started falling, followed by torrential rain, and then more hail. As the sun started to set, we felt confident enough to wander out of the motor home for a quick, but freezing walk on the beach.

Julie LaryThe next morning, the sky was clear and Rich rushed me out the door for a lengthy walk along the water. We passed by the ranger station on the way back to our campsite; we stopped for a bit to chat with the ranger and learn more about the area… in particular whether the black bears in the area attack human. The answer is “yes” and “no.” Typically, if you make a lot of noise bears will run away. However, if you happen to bump into a mama bear and her cubs, she’ll be very protective. Best advice. Use a walking stick with a bell attached.

After gathering some brochure, I commented to the ranger about the promising weather. He rebuked me saying it can change at any time. Sure enough, a moment after we started back, we felt the first drop, which quickly become a shower and then a full-force rainstorm! Gracie Lint Lary

To the right is a picture of Gracie Lint who’s too much of a fruit loop to travel in the motor home. She’s afraid of everything except the other cats and squirrels, which she enjoys watching from our French doors. Not part of the three MusCATeers (Pu’Yi, Zephyra, and Jujube), she wanted her picture included in this write-up.