May 20 – Stewart Cassiar Highway, BC

After leaving Telkwa we headed for Highway 37, the Stewart Cassiar Highway.  We had more dramatic landscape for quite a while on the 16 before we turned onto Highway 37.  After a few hours the landscape started to unfold into a winter-spring melt, leaving thick snow on the mountain tops like a Dairy Queen soft swirl.  I felt like we were sliding along a tongue into great gaping jaws; the mountains erupt from around sea level, jutting straight up into jagged peaks that conversely cascade to the lush green valley floor.  The weather actually started to warm into the 60’s.  Soon, we spotted moose-poop-spore and the road signs were now showing symbols of moose and bear but not deer.  I suspect there are still deer but they certainly weren’t kidding on the bear. We spotted our first one off the side of the road in a small meadow munching on something and giving us an annoying look. We saw the next one a ways down the road, running across the highway into an oncoming vehicle – it made it to the other side safely.  We slowed down and saw it tucked amongst the trees.  The last one we saw just off the side of the road and we managed to get a shot.

Still no moose though! 

The roads were in good condition and there wasn’t much traffic.  Our plan was to head towards Stewart on Highway 37a that turned out to be insanely spectacular.  We passed multiple avalanche warnings with other signs that warned of planned explosions, an unnatural betrayal of the natural order.  Thankfully the threat of avalanches was over, but it was obvious where it could be problematic.  There were still signs of early spring snow on the sides of the highway, but otherwise the countryside was dry save for the numerous waterfalls cascading down the cliffs.  The roads were actually in good condition considering the brutal weather conditions they endure; we ran into a few frost heaves but nothing that slowed us down much.  

Then we turned a corner and were met with a glacier that spilled into a partially frozen lake.  We paused to contemplate the glacial blue melt against the slate and snow, the only sound being the wind, the only movement being the ice flows across the lake.  We didn’t realize that this was Bear Glacier. We were simply impressed with stumbling upon this stately feature along the road.  

As with the glacier, you can always expect the unexpected; due to the unusually cold spring the Kinaskan and Meziadin Provincial Parks closed and cancelled my reservations due to snow (though we couldn’t find any in the forecast) and wouldn’t open again until the 20th, then the RV Park in Stewart cancelled as well and closed permanently. Seriously, snow…..again!!!!  I scrambled for other accommodations and no one was answering their phones in either Stewart or Hyder.  I found a recreation site near Clements Lake and decided to take our chances and boondock there.  

When we arrived the road into the recreation area was covered in a couple of feet of slushy snow, something that BigB simply could not navigate so we wound up boondocking near the entrance amongst the pines, they had cleared out that area but for some reason not the road into the recreation area.  

Thankfully we are self-contained and set up house for the evening, along with another RV similar to our size.  Not long after we settled in we felt something rocking the RV; well the bear spray was in one of the bays so I handed Bob the pepper spray in case it was a curious bear.  He didn’t see anything but the neighbor in the RV parked behind us said a “Fisher Cat” had been walking all over our cargo rack!  We never saw it but found out it is like a large mongoose.  

Then we had a run of folks trying to find a place to camp or boondock and they saw us, looked at the road to Clements Lake and turned around.  One almost got stuck trying to drive through the snow and we were wondering if we needed to help bail them out.  The problem is none of the Provincial Parks in the area are open.  We were warned about the remoteness, but didn’t bank on everything in the area cancelling on us. 

About midnight I was awakened by a misdirected squirrel who had landed on our roof, chirping and confused.  It eventually quieted down. 

Like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, despite the weather challenges we had, you certainly can’t beat the scenery.  

The next morning the sun broke through and we drove back to Bear Glacier for coffee and breakfast.  Like the Canyonlands Needles Outlook in Utah, there was no one around and we drank coffee in blissful solitude, watching the morning sun break over the ridge to illuminate the blue sky and surrounding cliffs. The gulls glided across the icefields that fed into the lake, celebrating the glorious morning.  The water falls tumbled down the precipices, feeding the lake below, converging its tears into a glacial translucence welcomed by the riverock, a pristine race easily witnessed through a magnificent wilderness lens. 

After this meditation, we spotted beaver further up the road and of course more bears.  

Breakfast Bear Glacier

Alas, still no moose….

Be warned that we had no cell service and even after driving back to Highway 37 we thought we would have encountered a cell tower but, hence no luck.  

We swung by the Kinaskan Provincial Park that was supposed to be closed but we found it open.  We stopped for tea and pondered whether to stay in one of the lovely spots but we really needed to get in touch with our realtor as our house is in the process of being sold.  

We arrived at Iskut thinking there would be a cell tower, still no luck.  We arrived at the Red Goat lodge and RV park and managed to get some wi-fi and hookups.  None of the major carriers can be bothered with cell service on the Stewart Cassiar Highway.  In a way it’s fitting, it forces you to embrace the remoteness we used to experience camping years ago.  If you want to be off-the-grid where the wild things are – this is your ticket!  

We set up camp across from the partially frozen Eddontenajon Lake.  The weather was nice and since there were so many sites available (until we pack of RVs showed up) we decided to be naughty and hijacked one of the camping spots that overlooked the lake to build a fire (they were 15 amp which is why we didn’t choose it in the first place); we essentially spread across two camping spots.  

We ended the day with our version of “Fire and Ice.”

Sheer bliss!!

After a cold night (down to 28 degrees) we headed out to Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory – this would take us through the remainder of the Stewart Cassiar Highway.  We drove for several non-descript miles until Dease Lake.  The traffic is scarce and there isn’t much along this stretch of highway; you really are in the wild.  No cell, no gas stations or towns for miles; not the best place to break down.  

We passed our first “caution – caribou” signs and then suddenly we saw a moose in a marsh along with swans, loons, geese, duck and other birds whose origin I wasn’t sure of.  

Our first moose!

We started to meander once again through spectacular mountain ranges with never-ending frozen lakes.  

Then, as you can expect the unexpected with wildlife, a caribou appeared on the side of the road – I only had a second to catch a poor quality iPhone image before it disappeared further into the forest.  

Poor image but still – we saw a caribou!

We continued our trek through this remote wilderness, barely seeing any other cars, disconnected from society wondering if this road ever got much busier; you drive through it and there are some campgrounds and the occasional towns where the population can’t be more than fifty people.

After nearly 180 miles and around four hours of driving we passed approximately 15 cars and 4 motorcycles.  

If you want to disappear into the wild, then the Stewart Cassiar Highway is a must-do.  

Stewart Cassiar Highway – where the wild things are!

May 18 – Fraser Valley, BC, Canada

We headed back to Vancouver via the ferry and were greeted with a hump whale sighting on the way over!  Nice to get a freebie along the way.  Once we hit the mainland we made our way up to the Cayoosh Campground in Lillooet.  The GPS took us on the Transcanada Highway 1 instead of 99.  While it was cloudy and rainy, we were greeted with towering peaks that jutted straight up six-thousand feet, they loomed behind breaks in the clouds, making their presence somewhat foreboding vs. the usually breathtaking reaction we have to such dramatic landscapes.  We wound through the Fraser Valley where the churning, muddy river cut through gorges that felt more like fjords; thousands of feet of sheer drops into the river below. 

We eventually  came through the rolling hills to Lillooet through a town called Lytton that had been completely gutted by wildfires.  It was looked like a scene from a holocaust; apparently sixty-five structures were consumed within one hour. With much dismay, we saw a fair amount of forest fire damage on our way through. This is one of the reasons we decided to come in the spring, as the fire seasons start earlier and earlier – as we experienced in Oregon over the last few years.  We are thankful we did New Mexico when we did – now the places we visited are being ravaged. 

We settled into a nice barbecue and campfire as we had sunny weather.  

We walked into town and had breakfast.  It’s a sleepy town but this is why we don’t mind going a bit off track; we get to experience parts of the country that may not be deemed as popular.  Somehow people subsist in these remote areas; you certainly can’t beat the scenery. 

Next we headed to the 100 Mile House.  There are various towns with the names such as 100 Mile House, 150 Mile House. These designations hark back to the Cariboo Gold Rush (we see the spelling “Cariboo” instead of “Caribou” for the most part).

Besides the leaping deer sign warnings we saw our moose first sign, and also our first frost heave sign (little pyramids warning you of their presence).  Then we saw the deer and moose combo sign.  I kept my eyes peeled for moose but only saw deer. 

We settled in for the night at the Big Country RV Park.  They hadn’t been busy in a while and said things were now really starting to pick up.  We parked next to some friendly Canadians amongst the aspens (lots of aspens and rolling hills in this region).  The showers there we great and really hot – yes!  The weather remained clear and we went on a lovely hike in the morning around the rolling pastures.  

That afternoon we arrived at the Sintich RV park after surviving a heck of a squall; rain and wind that lashed us to the point we almost pulled over.  The park was soaked with huge puddles that we hoped we wouldn’t have to park in.  They were covid-obsessed here; the first time masks have been required outside the Navajo nation.  The bathrooms and showers were closed; it was a bit much after having experienced better service in Canada so far.  The Wi-Fi was decent once we activated the Winegard booster, otherwise another RV park could have been a bit nicer; it was mostly long-term inhabitants surrounded by permanent mobile homes.  

We were told this weather is unusual as it’s usually dry, but they have been having a cold spring – oh joy!  But it beats wildfires.  

We stocked up on supplies in Prince George as we were warned things would start getting more sparse and expensive.  We even got haircuts!  We are now looking a bit more civilized.  

I had purchased a beautiful card in Victoria that I scanned and enlarged and is now on our well.  It fits the decor beautifully, is Native American, but is also tragic as it’s about women that have gone missing.  In a sense besides being enamored with the art, the deeper meaning behind it makes it that more profound.  

After a beautiful and uneventful drive up Highway 16 we stopped at the Fort Telkwa RV park that sits along the river. We were greeted by snow capped mountains on our way in – we are assuming this is our first taste of the landscapes we will be experiencing along the Stewart Cassiar Highway that we will be hitting today!  

The views from Fort Telkwa RV Park

May 13 – Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada

After ten days back on the mainland we are embarking on the first leg of our five month trip through Canada to Alaska!  

But first we feverishly finished up the prep on our home of twenty-two years and put it on the market on May 10; it sold in two days well over the asking price!  The rise in interest rates certainly hasn’t entirely dampened buyer’s appetites. 

BigB is now our home for the next five months until we move to France.

We stopped over in Seattle on our way to Canada to have dinner with my brother and sister-in-law whom we had just spent two weeks in Hawaii – and who just happen to live in Redmond – feast or famine!  

The next day we arrived in Vancouver B.C. – I didn’t realize that I had to fill out the government required ArriveCAN COVID-19 verification info for presentation at the border; I had been more concerned with what we could bring across the border,  I hadn’t checked the requirements for COVID-19 until the last minute! Thankfully the Canadians are not only lovely people, but extremely organized and I was able to complete the requirement online a few hours before arrival.  

After overnighting in Vancouver we headed for the Tsawwassen Ferry for our trip to Victoria.  I had booked the ferry tickets a week before-hand as you can’t expect to just show up and get on.  The boys were super excited, especially Bob Jr (our new minion!) as this was his first trip.  The trip over was a lovely sojourn through the surrounding islands. It was 1.5 hours but it went quickly.  

After getting settled in at the Fort Victoria RV Park, we spent the following day drifting around Victoria which is a lovely city; there is definitely an English tea culture here, that, and the English sweets that were in proliferation, really excited Bob.  

We stopped by Chinatown and Fan Tan Alley, enchanting remnants of the Chinese culture that helped build the city, then made our way through downtown to the Empress Hotel and waterfront.

 We discovered these darling water taxis, and though we would have loved to have taken a harbor tour it didn’t fit into our schedule.  Victoria is one of those historic and infinitely walkable cities.  As the day was cold we were glad to drop into the occasional cozy coffee shop for a pick-me-up.  

The real treat was the Butchart Gardens that we had planned for the next day as the weather was expected to be good – and it certainly lived up to the hype!  We spent four delirious hours touring a riot of tulips, rhododendrons, azaleas, cherry blossoms and the rare and amazing blue poppy. 

The rare blue poppy – found here and in Tibet.

There was also a species of tulip I had never seen – it looked more like a peony.

Peony or Tulip?

All of this blooming magnificence on unapologetic display; it was sheer luck that we had planned our trip to this utopia when the Canadian spring was in full swing.

By far, my favorite was the not-of-this-earth “Sunken Garden.”  It had been an old quarry that slowly morphed from an oasis of imagination.  It was difficult for me to catch my breath.  We left with our love of gardening ignited, pining for the day we would be settled in France and sinking our fingers and minds into the rich soil of the Dordogne Valley.  

The Sunken Garden of Fantastical Dreams
Garbage Couture

April 27 – The Sea Remembers its Own

This post is about a journey that started over 80 years ago that ferried my father from a remote farm in North Dakota to the tropical paradise island of Oahu as a U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet Band Member, Musician 2nd class. Having been deprived of his connection throughout most of my childhood, I have been like a stubborn orphan seeking a familial connection denied me, and through his letters I have joined him on his journey through the tumult of World War II.  I never flinched at the intergenerational trauma because, as a cult survivor, I have developed an unusual taste for the uncomfortable. 

Covid had put a damper on our trip to Hawaii that had originally been planned for 2020, this change of plan allowed me more time to explore what has turned out to be a legacy that has found its final resting place at Pearl Harbor. 

I have spent years, off and on, pulling together his letters, pictures, ancient negatives and periphenalia.  I recently contacted members of the US Navy Pacific Fleet Band to find a suitable home for these precious artifacts that laid dormant in a closet after his death in 1996.  I had the pleasure of connecting with the vibrant and dynamic Lt. Luslaida Barbosa, the Navy Pacific Fleet Bandmaster: She has an impressive resume – she is not only one of the few female US Navy Bandmasters, she is also a woman of color (Puerto Rican) and the only one who moved up the ranks while raising children.  I’m honored to know her and make the aquaintance of such a trailblazer.  

She met us briefly at the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, but as we were boarding the ferry to the memorial our conversation was cut short.  So I asked to meet up with her again the following week. She has also been assisting me with finding a home for my father’s trombone that he played during the war – it is now destined for the Naval School of Music in Little Creek, Virginia. 

She also advised me there was a memorial ceremony at the USS Utah site for a musician from the Enterprise – Lt. Barbosa thought it was related to us – it was simply a fantastical coincidence amongst so many it seems.  

The USS Arizona Memorial

On the ferry, I was accommpanied by boat-load of strangers who were oblivious to my father’s history, feeling a lack of intimacy that I had hoped for as we were shuffled around the memorial for the short time allowed.  The Arizona Memorial isn’t simply a place of rememberance, but an underwater cemetery of the most profound kind; you come here to pay your respects to all those who died a ghastly death as it was sunk with precision by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.  When I contemplate this gargantuan, rusting tomb emitting its black tears, I hope those surrounding me also consider all that happened that day and how a slight turn of events could have changed the course of history for the U.S.  When I look up, the Mighty Mo stands guard in the distance, a sentinel, proud, defiant – unchallenged.  She is all that remains of battleship row – her brethren either submerged or eventually scrapped.  The power of the symbology becomes apparent:  Testimonies to the beginning and the end of one of the most devastating wars in history. #neverforget #neversurrender 

The Mighty Mo

I left with my mental notes to contemplate the wreckage and what my father would have witnessed as the USS Enterprise steamed into the harbor the day after the attack; the sky black with smoke, the massive hulks of mangled ships, the bodies of the unrecovered, flames – layers of carnage that would be forever fused in his mind. If the Enterprise has been moored in the harbor on December 7th, I probably wouldn’t be alive – writing this blog. 

Ten days later, after a lovely respite on the North Shore, my husband and I returned to Honolulu and spent our final day back at Pearl Harbor; our first stop was the USS Missouri – the Mighty Mo.

The scale and power of this battleship gave me perspective on what my father would have experienced during his service on the USS W. Virginia.  The guns must have been as deafening as the emotional toll on its inhabitants.

I’m always in awe at how mankind can accomplish such feats of engineering.  

There is a dent on the side of the Mo where a Kamakaze (aka Divine Wind) clipped the ship with its wing – and miraculously a ship photographer captured the exact moment of the crash.  It was a failed attempt but a fitting scar; these pilots gave their lives by the thousands.  My father wrote of them attacking the USS West Virginia. They did massive damage to the pacific fleet and were a force to be reckoned with.  

The slow unveiling of my father’s history is like the maze of a great battleship, you can easily get lost in the corridors, trip, bang your head on the low ceilings, bump into the narrow passage ways.  You pass the fortified and impregnable bulk heads thinking there is no way out, then you stumble across the engine room, the crew quarters and the mess hall.  You contemplate the inception of massive turrets that hold the outer world at bay. Then you some how find your way out of the darkness into the museum level and the #neverforget history of the ship itself.

When you emerge, back on deck, you face the Arizona Memorial, the three immortal gun turrets saluting all those who perished and praising the grit of all those who survived.  

I’m now standing still in the spot where the Japanese surrendered on September 2nd, 1945 that ended the war.  I welled up a bit as my father was so close to being at that very spot:  It would have been his final performance for the Navy. He decided to return home instead; he had survived too many conflicts and whatever twists of fate, while so many of his comrades perished – the toll of war left him devoid of any further adventure. I wonder in hindsight if he wished he had been part of such a significant, historical event.  

After our mesmerizing tour of the Mighty Mo, we went to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to meet up with Lt. Barbosa at the Pacific Fleet Band base. It turned out Bob could not join me, as he did not have his passport and is a dual citizen.  It was such a disappointment but you don’t argue with the Navy. 

She took me through the building that had been housing the fleet bands since the 1940’s.  I imagined my father walked these halls at some point.  There are no longer bands assigned to ships so this is now the hub that holds all their offices, where they rehearse for events; I met so many of the young band members in their fatigues – their respectability was refreshing and their fascination with my father’s history utterly endearing. 

Lt. Barbosa kindly drove me back to the visitor center to meet back up with Bob. Bidding my farewell, I realized I had done the right thing to cement my father’s legacy for future generations. So many I talk to, do not know what to do with their old letters and artifacts from wars gone past:   All I did was contact and see who could help me – the result has been beyond what I could have ever anticipated.  

We visited the WW II Aviation Museum, rode in a simulator, observed the relics of planes and bullet holes, and wandered through the hangers made familiar by Hollywood movies – but what happened here was far from Hollywood.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial not-so-gently reminds us of what we must never forget.  People visit in droves and I hope they internalize the sacrifices and suffering that too many endured for our freedoms.  These are not trite words, the Greatest Generation was born of tragedy and resiliency.  It’s ok to exceed your comfort zone as they did.

I have felt both empowered and desolate – not like those who lost loved ones to the war – but to a memory I never had the chance to fully understand.  I understand better now.  Having had no scattering of ashes, I instead decided to have a burial at sea, submerging his memory into the harbor itself where his time capsule rests like a pearl, in peace amongst the ghosts of his comrades.  The glass of the capsule will remain but the cap will eventually rust – the sand will drift and the photo will deteriorate.  It may surface someday as beach glass – beach glass of a special kind that maybe will transfer its magic to an aspiring sailor or musician.  Or if it surfaces intact there is a message there for anyone who will listen.  

As the spirit world has suggested, perhaps it’s as much closure for him as it is for me.  

RIP W.A Bender – you have now come full circle; the glass did not shatter, like the delicate resiliency of a human life, but it will meet its fate, as all things do, as the seal turns to rust.  Ashes and dust have no place here and disappear with the wind, but the sea, in its mighty wisdom….will always remember its own. 

April 26 Birthday Hawaiian Style

Today is my birthday and we are heading back to Honolulu after ten fabulous days on the North Shore of Oahu.  I can’t think of a better way to spend it than here on this beautiful island with family. 

We had a “High Surf Advisory” Sunday and here that means one thing – surfing!  We headed out to a lovely lagoon next to Shark’s Cove located just up from the “Pipeline.” 

The tide was seriously surging and it turned out to be a beautiful day; the rain decided to hold off while we spent hours snorkeling, soaking up the vibes and watching the mesmerizing surf.

The fish action was great and they acted as if we didn’t exist – I was literally swimming through large pools of them.

To top off our stay, we dined at Haleiwa Joe’s overlooking the harbor; nothing beats an authentic Mai Tai, tropical breezes and good company. It seems that cocktail mixers like to be more creative though I prefer to stick with the standards indigenous to the Island’s to include Pina Colada’s and the infamous Volcano.  

We bid farewell to my brother and sister-in-law, the local turtles who kept us thoroughly entertained, and headed back to Honolulu by way of Kaneohe.

My father had been stationed at the Kaneohe Air Base after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for a short while before he was redeployed to the mainland. The scenery was astounding – lush with valleys of jungles and skyrocketing escarpments that screamed tropical exotic. It’s no wonder so many movies are filmed here. I can imagine that during my father’s day it must have been utterly unspoiled.

We decided to drop into Kualoa Ranch where they filmed Jurassic Park. We skipped the tour but enjoyed the kitsch all the same.

Note the sunglasses

As it was my birthday we needed to top off the day with an authentic Pina Colada and we really scored at the “Lava Tube” in Honolulu where they serve them in pineapples!

My Pina Colada fix!

What a great a way to top of a memorable birthday with some Hawaiian flare!

April 22 North Shore Vibe

Every morning the alarm goes off which is actually a cacophony of birds, set to a backdrop of a swaying surf that complements your morning coffee.  No need to keep track of time here. 

Our humble cottage is tucked onto a public beach virtually devoid of human activity. This place is a bit of a dead-end as further up the road is the wildlife sanctuary and there are no resorts along this drive; there are private residences only, some that need updating and others that have been lavished on by their owners, but no McMansions – mostly plantation style abodes.  The indigenous inhabitants are the lovely Green Sea Turtles who come to forage the kelp near the shore; you easily become ensconced by the feeding habits of turtles as they float effortlessly with the tides. Sometimes they travel alone, but mostly they come in a group of three or four accompanied by the vast schools of colorful fish swimming along the coral reefs.  Occasional crabs sidewind out of your way.  

It’s truly a fusion of sea, sand and zen.  

The weather has been good but we are occasionally driven in by the wind and rain but if that is to be our greatest challenge here, and should I complain then I have grown as soft as a tropical breeze.

The North Shore itself throws a bohemian vibe along with an ocean of surfers coming to challenge some of the greatest wave action in the world.  It’s off season but they don’t care – the swells are large enough to entertain this ambitious crowd.

Cars are jammed into every available space along the highway as you approach the beach of the renowned Bonsai Pipeline, and even those who just wish to swim worm their way into spots that defy physics. 

Nearby Haleiwa is the small-town surfer hub and is also a fun tourist destination – there is enough island kitsch, with an undertow of surfer dude culture, to keep the curious shopper entertained.  Some of the stores, it appears, did not survive the pandemic and have shuttered, but with the tourist crowd virtually bursting at the seams again you can only hope there will be a revival.  

Further east is the lovely Waimea Valley where you find some fantastic botanic specimens that, upon further inspection, prove to be real. Exotic flowers are an essential ingredient to the elixir of paradise and these luscious babies make you want to stop and linger with a Mai Tai in hand to enhance the experience.  But at the gardens you can only observe and settle for a respite of coconut ice cream.

Waimea Falls

The valley itself is a stronghold of ancient Hawaiian heritage and like the Arizona Memorial, one comes here to pay their respects, strolling through the winding paths of massive, twisting, ficus trees that guard the ancient burial sites.  

Most tourists come to swim at the waterfall, missing the side paths that take you into the jungle, where the flora and quietude gives pause to the outside world.  The music here is delivered by exotic birds that refuse to reveal themselves even though you try and talk them down from their perch.  

Despite the crowds, these shores remain static as if to push those that it can’t accommodate back to Waikiki. If not for the private residences, this area would have been overrun by resorts and who knows what the fate of the turtle might have been. 

Afternoon tea in paradise

It’s like a dirty little secret since it’s public the beach isn’t easily accessible, so the turtles remain virtually undisturbed except for the occasional, curious snorkeler that they pay little heed to; drifting free, the envy of those who can only leave footprints that are soon wiped away but the evening tide.

April 15 E Ala E – A Hawaiian Rebirth

After making it back home to Portland, Oregon we had to hit the deck running as we needed to pack up the house for our eventual move to France and…we were leaving for Hawaii to join family in Oahu on the 14th; this trip had been cancelled two years prior due to Covid, and since then I had spent time scanning my father’s WWII letters from his service in the Pacific.  This will turn out to be a seminal experience as we will be meeting with the Pacific Fleet Band Master as part of our tour of the Arizona Memorial.  My father served as a Musician 2nd Class (eventually 1st Class) in the Navy aboard the Enterprise and W. Virginia and his letters ranging from Pearl Harbor to the surrender at Tokyo Bay captured a rare glimpse into the life of a musician during the war.  

When we arrived back in Portland it of course decided to snow!  The movers were coming the next day and we prayed the weather would clear, not just with the packing and moving, but making it to the airport for our flight. 

I’ve had far worse stressors in my life, but still, it was a lot and we both started to blow out some brain cells with all the details.  

Thankfully, we made it to the plane without incident, worn and a bit shattered from the last few days, convinced we forgot to bring necessary items only to find them shoved here and there in our luggage.  

Upon arrival I took a deep breath instead of a sigh of relief; I wanted to inhale the islands themselves.  We were greeted by the trade winds scented with plumeria as we explored the legendary Royal Hawaiian Resort, then we soaked our feet in the tropical blue surf of Waikiki Beach. Much has changed since my father sunbathed in front of this princess-pink landmark; it sits there defiant amongst the modern high rises – its place in history never to be questioned. And shopping mall laden Honolulu is no longer the quaint meandering village it was back in the 1940’s as described in his letters – more to come on this later after we meet with the US Navy Pacific Fleet Bandmaster on the 20th at Pearl Harbor; this subject deserves a special place in my blog.  

We dined at the Mai Tai Bar and I had the Vic’s 44 cocktail – a throwback to the Trader Vic’s Tiki Lounge that was founded back before the war.  I still have my father’s certificate.  Trader Vic’s is now all over the world except here in Honolulu which really escapes me as to why that is. The “International Market” is mostly box stores with a few galleries thrown in.

Give me some authentic Hawaiian crafts please!!!

After passing out from a long day we woke up at 4:00 a.m. —— just couldn’t get back to sleep. 

We decided to attend the Hiuwai Morning Ritual on the Royal Hawaiian Beachfront that started at 5:45 a.m. 

We were met by Kehaulani Kam, the Director of Cultural Services for the Marriott team in Hawaii, who introduced us to a traditional Hawaiian sunrise ritual that involved chants and baptizing ourselves in the ocean.  We weren’t prepared to swim but I decided to chuck formalities and go in mostly clothed.  This ritual involves the concept of rebirthing through the healing waters of Waikiki – which means “spouting fresh waters.”  The waters from the interior meld with the ocean creating an alchemy worshipped by the Hawaiians.  

What a great way to start our adventure as we are essentially going through a rebirth on this new chapter in our lives.  

Bob and I came out soaked and refreshed by the experience, glad to have immersed ourselves in this lovely tradition.  Kehaulani had explained the importance of their ancestors and carrying on these traditions – to never allow their heritage to disappear.  I let her know about my father’s legacy including the vintage photographs of Waikiki and sunbathing in front of the Royal Hawaiian and she was excited to know more. 

W.A Bender in front of the Royal Hawaiian – 1940
Waikiki Beach before and after – from in front of the Royal Hawaiian

As it turns out, I made this unexpected connection during this rebirthing ritual, resulting in my father’s legacy being introduced as part of the Royal Hawaiian historical collection that is destined for the display case in the lower lobby of the hotel!!!!!  

She was so excited to see what I had and to read his letters from his time in the Navy.  This is an ongoing development that I will continue to blog about – and I can’t wrap my head around the significance of what has emerged since our arrival. 

Despite the swarm of people and the overwhelming commercialism surrounding the resorts, when my feet touch these sands, I feel that I am cocooned in a special place and time – even though I share it, I cannot adequately interpret what the spirits are playing at.  I am grateful that I have been swept onto these shores, to convey this oceanic history and solidify my father’s legacy, that like this hotel, has withstood the test of time. 

E Ala E in Hawaiian means “Awaken

April 9 Oregon Coast

We headed back to Santa Rosa to mooch-dock and visit our friend Peter; the weather was glorious and dry and we shared some fabulous dinners together.  

Bob had purchased a couple of bicycles from him to be packed and shipped back to Portland and it turned out the boxes were bigger than anticipated – along with the costs, so we shipped one back and have managed to wedge the other one into the RV.  Fortunately it’s just for a few nights.  

Managing the physics

We made a pit stop on our way to the Oregon Coast at the Founder’s Grove in the Redwood National Forest. What a great tea time we had – it was so rejuvenating revisiting this place and tree bathing amongst these magnificent giants once again. #spoiled.

We finally arrived at the Turtle Rock RV Resort in Gold Beach and its stunning coastline – it was a long day of driving and being buffeted by the wind so instead of fixing dinner we dove into the local Mexican restaurant for a margarita and some nice chow.  Heck, it was Friday night! 

I enjoyed the chorus of frogs that lulled me to sleep.  The weather was clear but really windy in the morning and we struggled a bit with our beach walk (literally getting a sand facial) and decided to pack up for less windy climes. 

Our next destination was Heceta Beach RV Resort outside of Florence, Oregon.  This area has special meaning to me as generations of my family and friends have met up at nearby Mercer Lake over the 4th of July; many have passed on and it is time to bid a final farewell to this unspoiled paradise.  The resort had held out for so long but recently sold to a developer – it will not be the same.

Such is the sad passing of things.  

We stopped and strolled through our regular haunts in old-town Florence and picked up a few tokens – thankful for the beautiful weather; a fitting farewell.  

Reflecting back on the last seven weeks I cannot choose a favorite place because they are all so magnificent in their own distinct way. While we had a challenges with the weather, and the added stresses inherent to being in an RV during freezing weather, I have to confess that the beauty of snowfall made up for it. And we had all the gear to manage any conditions mother nature threw at us.

I’ve pulled together some impromptu highlights that made this trip even more memorable:

❤️Dim Sum in Chinatown, San Francisco

❤️Sunset Happy Hour at White Sands National Park 

❤️Elevenses at Mirror Lake in the shadow of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park 

❤️Barbecuing amongst the orange blossoms outside Bakersfield 

❤️Snow in the Grand Canyon 

❤️Impromptu balcony lunch at the Creekside Cafe in Sedona with a fabulous view of the surrounding buttes while they played “Stairway to Heaven” in the background – a perfect storm of pleasure 

❤️Meeting up with National Geographic photographer Nevada Wier in Santa Fe at the Obscura Gallery – I hope to join her on a photo tour someday

❤️Getting a tour of a traditional Navajo hogan at Canyon de Chelly 

❤️Enjoying a peaceful sunrise breakfast at the Needles Overlook in Canyonlands Rim Recreation area 

❤️The zen of Windwhistle Campground

❤️Watching the sunrise over Monument Valley after the snowfall 

❤️Tea time at the Founders Grove, Redwoods National Park 

❤️❤️The hospitality of the Navajo Nation….

I couldn’t have asked for a better overall experience and feel so blessed to have made the decision to embark on this adventure.

We arrive back in Portland after seven weeks on the road:  We are packing our house up for international shipping for our eventual relocation to France – and then we will sell in May.  

Our trip to Hawaii that was disrupted by the pandemic was rescheduled for April, so we will enjoy a couple of weeks being spoiled by tropical trade winds and hanging with my brother and sister-in-law on the North Shore of Oahu.  We will be visiting the Arizona Memorial in honor of my father’s memory who served on the Enterprise when Pearl Harbor was bombed and am hoping to catch up with the Pacific Navy Fleet Bandmaster to connect the past with the present.  It should prove to be an interesting blog considering his history during WWII.  

Next stop Honolulu!

April 5 Yosemite National Park

It didn’t really register to me that it was spring until we got to Bakersfield and saw various bulbs and even roses blooming.  Add the orange blossoms and I felt like we discovered a slice of paradise after being plagued by snow, hail and high deserts devoid of blossoms.  

We accidentally took the long route to get to Yosemite though it turned out to be quite beautiful with farmlands with blooming flowers and green fields.  As we gained elevation there was the welcome site of pine trees, mostly Ponderosa pines. When you are from the Pacific Northwest, making the transition back to the “green belt” is a welcoming event.  I was in need of some serious tree bathing.  

The rock here is like a seafoam colored granite with some sparkly bits that was quite beautiful.  The roads were hairpin with little or no gaurdrails, though the views made up for it.   The alpine lupines were blooming and there were occasional fields of wildflowers sprayed across the meadows. 

After a while, we lost signal thinking it would pick up again as we approached the park.  Civilization was starting to emerge so it was quite surprising when we got to the Lake Yosemite RV Park, while quite popular, was devoid of any signal.  We were fortunately blessed with lovely weather and a spot on the river, though the park was quite crowded and somewhat noisy and you had to pay for wifi.

We had several deer sightings and almost ran into Bambi on our way out of the RV Park.  All around Yosemite the deer tend to wander onto the roads.

Upon entering Yosemite we had expected more of a “slow reveal” of the wonders of the park.  Instead we came face-to-face with El Capitan – trying to reconcile what we were looking at…then the realization came.  The sheer scale of it emerging from the valley floor is incomparable to anything else we have witnessed.  Then came Horsetail Falls and all of its thundering glory.  The surrounding cliffs are like a supporting cast save for Half Dome that demands its own audience.  

As we were pretty early, and even then the park was getting busy, we snagged a parking spot at one of the campground trailheads.  Thankfully BigB is only 24 feet, anything bigger would have had a hard time.  Some of the roads into the trail heads has serious pot holes, not something you would expect in a major park such as this.  We trekked a couple of miles to Mirror Lake and were blessed with a gorgeous view down the valley with the monoliths reflecting in the water.  We stopped for a snack and to contemplate the scenery.  

Mirror Lake

The day was getting warmer than we had anticipated and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was hard to imagine it had snowed about a week before and the weather can be touch and go in April.  We wandered around the now packed visitor center, wondering what it must be like in the height of summer.  We are so fortunate to be doing this now as the National Parks are starting to require reservations and shuttle service to manage the increasing crowds.  

We left the park via “Tunnel View,” even though the parking was limited we managed to squeeze BigB into a couple of spaces – we were only going to be there for a little while. 

The name does not even begin to describe the sheer scale of what you are witnessing – this particular view is the one made famous by Ansel Adams; his renditions are magical though you need to see it in person – there are no substitutes for the real thing (sorry Ansel but I’m sure you understand).  You don’t embrace this view, it embraces you as if to say “thank you for preserving me – this is how I give back to those who will protect me for generations to come.”

The immensity of this gesture subdues you into a heavenly state of awe.  

Tunnel View

April 2 Joshua Tree National Park

We were thankfully reserved at Indian Cove Campground outside of Twentynine Palms, Ca several months ago – it is in high demand and we almost didn’t get a spot. We bypassed Phoenix on the way, but stopped briefly to view the Saguaro cactus indigenous to the area.  They were nothing really new to me but more novel to Bob and Grogu.  It’s fascinating that these forests stop just as abruptly as the start; why was this part of the desert conducive to their existence vs say Joshua Tree?

The same proved true for the Joshua trees – they suddenly appear and then drop off save for a few rebellious stragglers.  

The California desert proved to be more desolate than the New Mexico high desert; we went miles with no signs of life – not even structures.  Grogu wondered if we were on Tattooine or in the middle of a David Lynch movie.  The landscape is very monochrome and doesn’t appear to support much fauna; I doubt many humans have set foot in most of it.  

When we approached Twentynine Palms we saw more buildings though there was an abundance of abandoned structures, more so than anywhere else we had been.  It’s as though much of this region was settled in fits and starts.  

The main attraction in this area is Joshua Tree National Park and Indian Cove Campground. 

Much like the Alabama Hills, these massive clusters of boulders appear out of nowhere.  Indian Cove has about a hundred campsites tucked amongst them; I felt like I was in an episode of the Flintstones.  The weather was in the 80’s and we settled in and went for a hike along the nature trail.  It was a great space to stretch our legs after such a long drive.  

The fire pit beckoned as our happy hour blended into the evening, set against the massive boulders housing curious lizards and iguanas.  

This was the first fire we’ve had where we weren’t plagued by high winds or dipping temperatures.  We sat and watched the stars come out. This is a Dark Sky region but there was too much haze which muted the intensity of the night sky.  The rising moon hung low in a lovely crescent making for a perfect ending to the day.  We wish we could have stayed longer but we have to get back to Portland in the next week.  

We departed eventually arriving at the Orange Grove RV Park late in the afternoon of the 3rd, surrounded by an unexpected paradise of orange blossoms that wafted through the RV at a balmy 80 degrees – bliss!  As the evening cooled the scent became more intense – we will have nature’s aromatherapy to lull us to sleep.  

Next stop – Yosemite!