We haven’t really dealt with winter in many years, that’s always been “The Plan” for our off-sailing-season adventures. We managed to avoid freezing temperatures all last year by simply heading further south as the temperatures dropped. That’s how “The Plan” is supposed to work.
This winter we had housesits lined up in Washington and Oregon for most of the winter months. We expected chilly and packed accordingly. What we didn’t pack were long johns, mukluks, and other attire more commonly associated with Minnesota winters. We learned that Mother Nature can be fickle anywhere!
Port Ludlow 1 of 3
Our first housesit was mid-November in Port Ludlow with our buddies, Oscar the dog-cat and Riley the bed-hog. We’ve had several sits for these critters, enough that the critters remember us and treat us like family. It was a short sit – only one week. Winter in Washington did what was expected, it rained. Buckets and buckets of rain! The winds were also howling and knocked out power to the area – it was a good test of their generator! Between the winds and rain, we didn’t venture out much as everything was just a big, soggy mess.
Hood Canallaloo and Cat-A-Loo
Dan is always on the lookout for new recipes to try. But he never settles on just one recipe. He usually finds 3 – 4 and does a mash-up between them. I assume that since there is no single source, the “recipe” is essentially his own invention. With a Costco pile of greens to use, Dan tackled Caribbean Callaloo and paired it with chicken smothered in a mango sauce. Both were amazing and healthy!
And speaking of Loo – what is it with cats and wanting to join you in the Loo? Oscar will race across the room if he thinks one of us is heading for the bathroom. He comes to a stop just before sliding into the shower wall. And if it’s the upstairs bathroom, well, forget privacy. He’s an expert at opening pocket doors. Once in the Loo, he demands full attention, meowing and purring at full volume. And if you don’t pay attention, he’ll bite you in the arse while you’re sitting on the Loo. Literally!
Time Between Sits
We use the time between sits to explore areas that are somewhat on the routes between sits. Not always, however. After the first Port Ludlow sit, we hopped over to Woodinville area and stopped at a couple more wineries. Then on to Cape Disappointment – how could you not want to visit a place with that name? It is also the end of the Lewis & Clark trail that we followed through Idaho and western Washington. Seemed fitting to travel to the end of the trail.
The winter rains backed off a bit, enough for us to do some hiking and have a few campfires. We even saw the sun a few times!
We continued down the coast to Cannon Beach, Oregon to see Haystack rock and stroll along the beachfront. As a special treat we got to see a herd of Roosevelt Elk grazing in a small grassy area right next to the RV park. After a swim in the pool, I walked back over to the grazing area and was entertained by a couple of bull elk tangling it up with their antlers.
We did a Portland sit over Thanksgiving to watch my friend Brodie’s two goof-ball pooches. Both are rescues and while Lila (pronounced Lee-la) is a happy girl, Bandit is still getting accustomed to his forever home.
After our Portland sit, we camped along the Columbia River. Our site was the most expensive site in the entire RV park, but it came with its own private yard and firepit. And it was right along the water, so we spent our days there watching the cargo ships pass by and enjoying the campfire every night. There were also huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes that were in the area and flying overhead – the noise was amazing! Pays to splurge!
Port Ludlow 2 of 3
Our second sit at Port Ludlow started early December and ended just after Christmas. The homeowners put up a tabletop tree for us and decorated their home for the holidays – even though they were going to be gone!
We lounged around, walked on the beach; Dan did a lot of reading, and I started a knitting project. And we checked the weather, a lot. A winter cold blast was scheduled to hit the northwest and while the temperatures next to the water are supposed to be temperate, Mother Nature had a different plan.
For the first time since we bought LoonR Rover, we had to winterize the rig. Dan diligently read all the blog posts and the manual to make sure he knew the process. It is similar to winterizing the boat, but the systems are different. And there are a few quirks.
For example, the Lithium house battery can’t be charged if the temperature of the battery is below freezing. So, part of the process was to disable everything that could potentially charge that battery. And since there is no way to charge it without heating it, any use of electricity drains the battery bank quickly. You would think an RV built in Saskatchewan wouldn’t have such cold-weather limitations!
All the winterizing steps were followed adding the appropriate amount of RV winter anti-freeze to the systems. But still, Dan woke up in the middle of the first 20-degree (F) night in panic because he realized he hadn’t added anything to the fresh-water tank. We all know that 3AM thought processes might not be firing on all cylinders but that didn’t stop Dan from grabbing a bottle of Tito’s Vodka and pouring it into the water tank!
Did I mention that the RV has a low-point drain valve and all the water had been drained out? No? Guess the LoonR got to enjoy a little late-night Vodka cocktail!
Along with the winter temperatures Mother Nature also decided to dump a bunch of snow on Washington starting on Christmas evening. Another 5 inches came down on Boxing Day (December 26) in Port Ludlow. And with that, everything came to a screeching halt!
Our grocery delivery was cancelled, the Port Ludlow homeowners return flight was cancelled, and the cleaning person who was scheduled to clean their rental cottage cancelled. Dan took care of the grocery issue by buzzing out to the closest store and picking up the necessary items. What’s a few inches of snow to a Minnesotan?
Cleaning the rental cottage was the next challenge as new guests were scheduled to arrive. The homeowners asked them to delay their arrival by a day (who could get around in a winter storm!) Dan and I were recruited to step in as housecleaners! And this was while we were trying to pack and clean the main house for our departure! Busy, busy day!
Our schedule was to leave Port Ludlow on the morning of the 27th. We also had another housesit scheduled to start in Mukilteo on the 27th. But the Port Ludlow homeowners couldn’t get a return flight until the 28th. Not wanting to leave either homeowner in the lurch with their pets, Dan took the RV on the ferry on the 27th to the next housesit in Mukilteo and I stayed behind in Port Ludlow and caught up with Dan the following day.
Minnesota winters generally come on slow, giving your body a chance to acclimate. And time to get winter-worthy clothes out of storage. Washington didn’t have that luxury, nor does it have homes built to withstand a couple of weeks of below freezing temperatures. I say this because I don’t ever remember being chilled to the bone for weeks at a time. Maybe an hour here or there. The only time I was warm was when I was burrowed under a down comforter. I spent a lot of time under that comforter!
With the RV winterized and the issue with the temperature-sensitive house battery resolved, we opted to leave everything in the RV shut down and stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights between housesits. I picked a hotel with a swimming pool and a hot tub figuring that I needed some exercise after my comforter-hibernation. Upon arrival, I quickly jumped into my swimsuit and headed to the pool. If it was heated, I couldn’t tell – damn! A quick swim and then the hot tub to warm up. All good.
Our next sit was outside of Snohomish in a beautiful home surrounded by gardens of all types. It was like being in an arboretum that included a huge vegetable garden. Of course, most of the garden had been harvested but Dan was able to dig up a Leek and there was Kale ready for picking.
Our duties were to take care of Tika, a Bernese Mountain Dog and Blackie, a cat that adopted the house. Both are great pets – except for maybe the mice that Blackie would bring inside. Fortunately, they were dead.
Tika has her own nose-height doorbell and will politely ring the doorbell when she needs to go out or come back in. She weighs in around 85-90 lbs., but she looks much bigger with a huge pile of cuddly-soft fur. She also decided that sleeping between us was a good idea. Um, no.
With five days until our final Port Ludlow sit, we headed north to La Connor, WA and stayed at La Connor Gardens, a Harvest Host site. Harvest Hosts are small businesses that allow you to stay overnight for free with a purchase of something from their business. Might be a brewery, winery, or in this case, a farm. We learned their primary crop was garlic and we bought some garlic powder, shallots, onions, and few other items. It’s a win-win for all parties!
After La Connor, we headed to Whidbey Island and stayed at Deception Pass State Park for a couple of nights and then took the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend for the last of our three Port Ludlow sits.
Even Bigger Whimper
The evenings at Deception Pass were chilly but we stayed quite comfy in the RV with the heat on. At least we did the first night. The second night I kept waking up wondering why it was so cold. Everything was the same as the prior night – heat, blankets, flannel PJs, socks. We now have a new item on our end-of-day checklist – close the back door! Yup, the door on my side of the van was cracked open about two inches all night. Damn!
Port Ludlow 3 of 3
And now we are back at Port Ludlow for our third and final stay for the winter season. Oscar the dog-cat continues to tap me with his paw a few times whenever he wants attention and Riley just wants to hang out wherever we are.
We’ve seen several huge nuclear submarines with military escorts go by and a Coast Guard vessel doing training exercises right out front. The eagles fly by at eye-level from the second story and the resident pair of loons who hang out in the bay periodically do their mournful calls. When the tide is low, we take Riley for walks on the beach where he can run without his leash on.
My brother and his wife now live in Sequim, WA (pronounced squim) and we met for dinner at Doc’s in Port Townsend. It was the first time we’d seen each other since my mother passed away in 2012. It was fun catching up, so much has changed with our lives since 2012. We became nomads, my brother lost his house and everything they owned in a fire, he retired and then un-retired. The evening went by far too fast!
We also ventured down the Hood Canal to the very popular Hamma Hamma Oyster Saloon, joining friends Gene and Cricket for an oyster/clam feast. We ate outside under a wooden A-frame bundled in a pile of blankets that Cricket brought to keep us all cozy from the pouring rain.
Life is good.