Weekend roadtrip: wood ducks, sea lions and eagles oh my.

This last weekend I decided to jump in the car and visit Ashland, the main setting in my work in progress. It’s home to Southern Oregon University and the world famous Shakespearean Festival. I ended up in Lithia Park, a huge park (93 acres) that centers around Ashland Creek from the small downtown area clear up to Mount Ashland. The park is just breathtaking, so of course my photos won’t do it justice. You can check out the park in all its seasons on Google Images here.

I took this one from the first bridge.


The creek is so picturesque, and there’s a spot by the bridge where it’s perfectly flat and little kids can wade in warm weather. There’s also a playground right there and a really nice hiking trail. On such a warm, sunny spring day, the park was full of people, which makes it that more fun in a setting like this.

A little ways up, the duck pond had several wood ducks. They’re typically super shy so I was thrilled to see them up close.

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So after Ashland, I headed north and to the coast on 199, which goes through Cave Junction and down into California. I love how the terrain changes so much in different parts of Oregon. Parts of the drive looked much like Eastern Oregon, where it gets much less rainfall. I love this route because we go through the Redwoods, and I’m amazed at their size every single time.

I came across this awesome creek bed on the way over–at Rough and Ready Creek. This photo shows half of the rocky valley. There were streams cutting through everywhere.


I arrived at the Northern California coast about an hour before sunset, and at one of my favorite places, I came upon a group of sea lions sunbathing. They were much closer than I’d ever seen them, right on the sidewalk!


Several came up out of the water and waddle-wiggled their way up to the others. They flopped right on top of the pile and wiggled around until they slipped into a spot to sleep.



The sun set while I watched the sea lions, and then it was time for a seafood dinner.


Oh, the other fun sighting: a boat with my name on it!  Maybe it’s a sign…


Costa Rica – the trip that inspired my novel

I realized I went to Costa Rica before I began blogging so I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared any photos. I did write about getting the idea while on the trip, actually while walking on the beach. I wrote a summary in my journal then and even started the story after we returned, but it would be three years later when I finished the project. There were all kinds of little details that I incorporated into the book–I’m finding more and more that I love to use a real setting so I can find little things to make the story come to life.

We stayed by Playa Flamingo, just like my characters, and walked or rode bikes around the area for ten days, through warm rainstorms and sunshine. We went in July, the wet season, and I set the book around the same time so I could describe the area as I experienced it. My characters went to the same restaurants and beaches we did, although I made up the resort at the end to make the plot work. Annalisa and Drew even rented bicycles from Claudia as we did. We were riding along on a muddy road in our swim suits, barefoot, when a Tico waved and called “hello,” and I used that in the book too.

While the book is filled with tension and conflict, along with high moments and the beauty of Costa Rica, our trip was all fun. My husband has an uncle living in Costa Rica, and we ate a few authentic meals with his tios and got advice on navigating the area and culture. We also went fishing off the beach for rooster fish…and I ended up catching  sting ray. We took turns fighting what we thought was a fish for forty minutes while a crowd gathered, but when we got it in closer we realized what it was. Luckily for us, the line snapped and we didn’t have it free it by hand.

We spent our time walking or riding all over the place, to different beaches and places to eat. Getting away from our normal lives gave us space and time to think, and that sparked my creativity and my new story idea.

When it was time to return home, we rode the local bus back to Liberia and the airport, which was a fun experience in itself. A man stood up during the ride to play a guitar and sing. Then we stayed in an ancient motel–the building was 200 years old. We just don’t see that in Oregon. I think we spent something like fifteen bucks for the room.

Here’s a few of my pictures:


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A few fun little things. Whenever we were out walking, we would hear or see big iguanas fall out of the palm trees. It didn’t seem to hurt them. There were also little geckos everywhere that chirped at night. We spotted glowing fish in the waves. While walking through the jungle to the beach, we saw hundreds of tiny bright orange crabs. There was color everywhere and new things to see. Of course I’m dying to go back!

Because I live close to the Oregon coast, it was hard not to contrast the two places. I hinted at that in the book, too. The rugged and wild Oregon coast, where the book begins, captures how the characters feel. Then, in peaceful and tropical Costa Rica, they begin to work through their problems and discover what’s important to them.

I want to share a sneak peak from the book too, but I’ll make a separate post for that.

Promise of The Open Road

Do you ever need to just get out of town? Change your perspective? Leave your normal life behind for a day? I absolutely love the feeling of heading out on a trip. I don’t think I can describe it any better than I did in More Than a Promise, when Cassie left Eugene for Ocean View Stables:

Despite the circumstances, Cassie felt the heady freedom of the open road, adventure, and possibility. When you’re driving out of town, it’s not about anything behind you. It’s all about the road ahead. A tiny part of her thought about what she wanted, where she was headed in life, and not just this trip. The bigger part of her wanted to take a deep breath and simply live.

I know that feeling too: when you have things to stress over, but you’re taking the day off from thinking about everything you need to do. It’s healthy to get away from the laptop, thinking about work, and even the everyday responsibilities of home–since I work at home, my job and housework can blend together.

amberbeadsI’ve been hiking lately but the weather turned, and it’s completely soggy outside. So yesterday, despite the pouring rain and winds, I decided to take off for Crater Rock Museum, about an hour and a half down the freeway. (I know, not a long trip, but enough to clear our heads!)  My youngest son is turning into a real rock hound. He has boxes of rocks, drawers of rocks and even boulders outside. He was rocks of all colors from clear, to smokey, to bright red, to some with ten colors all dotted or swirled together. One clear-to-milky rock looks like it has an ancient bug in it, which could actually be a mineral or maybe a bug. Who knows? I suppose we could cut it open, but that would ruin the mystery. He’s found quite a few, bought some, and received others as gifts.  I enjoy looking at the different colors and crystals, and learning how they’re formed–I have a lot to learn still, which keeps things fun.

At the museum, we saw hundreds of rocks, minerals, seashells, fossils, scrimshaw (carved ivory), arrowheads, masks and a few other artifacts from Native Americans. The day actually began with a talk about garnets, and there was local sand for all of the kids to shift through.  As interesting as the museum was, it was made even more fascinating by the people we met. It’s really something to learn about a topic from someone passionately interested in it.

The museum allows people to visit the rock workshop, and on kids’ day, kids can go out back to a rock pile to find their own treasures. It’s 25 cents a pound, and we found quite a few cool rocks, including one that might be a thunder egg. We’ll cut it soon to see! A man in the workshop had to take us around to different exhibits and show us his favorites.

After three hours at the museum, we headed to a pizza place, and I have to give a shout out to Wild River Brewing and Pizza in Medford, Oregon. Talk about fantastic pizza! If you like beer, I’m sure that’s great too. But the highlight was, for me at least, they had gluten free pizza crust so my son could have pizza too.

Every time I drive anywhere, I’m struck by all the places I could visit–a park, a trail, little shops, new spots on the river, new towns, new countries, new oceans. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I’ll never run out of new places to visit!

Just Masquerading Around

I went on a different kind of adventure this last weekend. My husband Lem and I took a concrete ping pong table and chess table to San Francisco Beautiful’s 2013 Masquerade Soiree at the Metreon’s City View Event Space. The event helps to fund San Francisco Beautiful and then projects around the city. They were the group that saved the cable cars some years ago.

I love delivering tables with Lem and watching the reaction. People are always amazed at the quality and beauty of the tables, and they can’t wait to play.  The event also had music, food and lots of fun indoors, and people were dressed in some fanciful masks and dresses too. I wanted to share a few photos with you.


(If you want info on the tennis tables or chess tables, see www.concretetabletennis.com)

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I’m not a photographer (as you can see!) but this gives you an idea of how the table looked at night.


I hadn’t been down past the Redwoods in California for a while, so it was fun to see olive trees, palm trees and the big city.  It was also nice to go have fun and keep busy this weekend, and take my mind off of the release day tomorrow for Point Hope. Although, it seems okay to start counting hours now that it’s under a day away!!