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July 11 - Oct 3 - Summer in the Pacific Northwest

It was a strange summer. Almost nothing happened the way we expected. Lots of things happened that we didn't expect. Many of those things were not good things. So . . .

On July 11, we checked in at the Neskowin Creek Resort (27), a few miles north of Lincoln City OR. After our trip west, we weren't particularly active that week - we ate at three interesting places and saw a performance that redefined what a "play" was. Judy did some laundry. And that was about it.

Our three eateries of note started with the Otis Cafe, just off US 101 on the way inland. It's a small place with indoor seating for about 12 people, and outdoors for another dozen or so. We had to sit outside, and it wasn't quite warm enough for that. But the food was, as always, exceptional. Maybe with better timing we can sit indoors next time. At the south end of Lincoln City is 101 Burgers. As befitting the quirky south end, it's a quirky place that serves nothing but hamburgers and condiments and beverages. One night a week (only one night!) they also have bacon. The decor is early automotive junk yard - really - and the paint seems to have been done by lots of kids with paint sticks. And you can get the paint sticks and add to the decor if you ask. The burgers were fantastic. 'Nuff said. Our 3rd eatery was J's Fish and Chips, just south of the Lincoln City Outlet Mall with even fewer seats than the Otis Cafe. But the fish is fresh-caught halibut, the fries are hand-cut and fresh. And excellent. Huge servings. Expect to stand in line, and maybe eat standing, as well.

We also drove up to the Tillamook Cheese Factory one day to see if we could find any extra sharp white cheddar cheese sticks. Not only couldn't we, we almost couldn't get into the place. Never seen the cheese factory that crowded. We had lunch at a table for six, and when a couple asked if they could sit at the table, we said yes. They then proceeded to have a family reunion - must have been 20 people, including three infants who were not all that happy. Most of them cycled through those four empty chairs (and a couple more they dragged over) for about 30 minutes until they could capture three other tables and form their own compound.

About that play - we were both raised on the credo that if you can't say something good, don't say anything at all. So we can't tell you anything at all about that play. Sorry about that, but not as sorry as we were for having paid money to see it.

We'd hoped to be able to move north to Seaside, but the 1000 Trails Seaside Resort was booked full. Not even any wiggle room. So we headed south 88 miles to the 1000 Trails South Jetty Resort (28) outside Florence OR, where we stayed for 12 nights. They've done a lot of work on the South Jetty Resort since we were last there almost 3 years ago. So we found a spot where we could get satellite TV and settled in. One day we took the motorhome in to Florence RV Service for some work on the generator, some tweaking of a propane line that we can use for an gas space heater should the need arise, and a routine oil change. Another day we drove into Eugene for Judy's annual appointment with her neurologist. The verdict: no noticeable change in her Parkinson's symptoms. Keep up the good work.

We were also able to visit our old church in Reedsport and reconnect with lots of folks. Judy was able to get some lunch time in with some special friends. Seemed like we were busy, but in truth we really weren't. And on Saturday July 30, we hooked up and drove 176 miles north to the 1000 Trails Seaside Resort (29) for 19 nights, and our annual appointments with Dr Law, our primary doctor. Since late winter, Al had had a growth developing on his left temple, and we'd been unable to find a walk-in clinic that wanted to deal with it. So that was our first order of Dr Law business. He checked it out, said it looked like it would be easy enough to remove, and we scheduled the surgery for 10 days hence.

On August 6 we drove the 200 miles back to Reedsport for the Celebration of Life for longtime friend Joyce Brandon, who'd passed away a few weeks earlier at the age of 93. The church was packed full, and we saw lots of people we hadn't seen in years. Joyce would have enjoyed the gathering. And then we drove the 200 miles back to Seaside. Long day but worth it.

We spent a delightful Sunday with our kids Ira and Anna, who drove up from Portland. Side note: We'd replaced the bike rack we bought in Key West with one more to our liking. And somebody ran into it in a restaurant parking lot after we'd used it just once. Ira was able to muscle some of the bent steel back into usable shape, but we had to order one new part. That was the third time somebody had rear-ended us and damaged our bike rack in as many years. From now on, when the bikes aren't there, we'll remove the bike rack and hide it someplace safe. Enough is enough.

A few days before the scheduled growth removal, we went in for our routine physicals (no big surprises, no major problems) and when Robbie looked at the growth he said it was "more concerning". And on Aug 11 we went in to have the growth removed. It had about doubled in size in four days. Robbie was more concerned. Surgery happened, the growth was removed, and Al was left with an 8-stitch divot. And within 3 days, it was apparent to us that it was infected.

Being then a Sunday evening, our options to deal with the infection were somewhat limited, so it was off to the emergency room at the Seaside hospital, where antibiotics were prescribed. And on the following Wednesday, back to Dr Law to have the stitches removed. He also took samples of the discharge from the wound and sent it off for analysis before piling on even more antibiotics. And the biopsy on the removed growth was back. Malignant, but totally contained in the removed section. That was a surprise for all of us. Al had never knowingly had a cancer before. But, with an ugly gash now starting to heal better, we hooked up on August 18 and headed northeast to Longbranch WA (30), where we were to house-sit for a month or so while Judy's sister Jan and Denny went off on their sailboat.

We arrived to news that the sailing vacation was looking iffy - Denny's sister Diane had had gall bladder surgery a few days before, and Jan & Denny were her lifeline during her recovery. Sure enough, after dinner the phone rang and Diane needed a ride to the emergency room. Off they went to the hospital in Bremerton WA. Sadly, Diane never returned home. After tests to see why she was in pain, it was learned she had cancerous growths at several locations. Long story short, she lost that battle Sept 24. While we didn't have to house-sit, we were able to provide some support for Jan & Denny during the first few weeks of that ordeal. A sad time for everyone.

While we were in Longbranch, word came that one of Judy's cousins had collapsed with a seizure. Tests revealed a tumor at the base of the brain. Brain surgery was scheduled and performed, the tumor was removed, and cousin went home 3 days later. And three days after that, word came back that the tumor was malignant, had spread, and was inoperable. Prognosis: "less than a year". Major blow #2. When people younger than we are start having these kinds of problems, makes us feel both lucky and a little nervous.

We also got word that some of the tests run during Al's annual physical suggested the need for some further screening for possible cancers. So, after 3 1/2 weeks we left Longbranch and returned to the Astoria area to follow up on that. We first went to the 1000 Trails Long Beach Resort (31) at Seaview WA for 4 nights before being able to move back to the Seaside Resort (32) for a full three week stay.

Al's been successful in negotiating his way out of having a colonoscopy until now. But that didn't work this time. So the test went forward, and went well, if you don't count the 70 point drop in blood pressure during the prep phase the night before and trying to raise a doctor at 4am to answer some questions about that. Don't ever want to go through that again.

Having gotten all that done, and being able once again to eat real food, we had several days to recuperate and rejoice at a cancer-free report. We completed our fall travel planning and reservations and on Monday Oct 3, we began our southward migration to warmer places. It was quite a summer. We pray we can avoid another like it.

We didn't take many pictures this summer. But there are still a few in our slideshow.. Check them out here if you choose.

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