Thursday, April 16, 2015
On these glorious, sunshiny days, I do not like to be inside, tied to my desk and a keyboard! Outside there is real work to be done: moss to be scrubbed off planters and walkways; weeds to be pulled; bushes to be shaped; roses to be uncovered and winter’s damage to be repaired. And of course, roads to be traveled.
In springtime, if it’s a sunny day outside then I’m a gloomy inside person. So now that I’ve got that out of my system, here comes another confession—I’m not getting much done inside either. I’m sitting here looking at the blank computer screen with a road trip brain, dreaming about new places to explore.
One of the many things that I love about Oregon is that it is such a compact state. In our RV days we traveled to just about every nook and cranny possible in the Pacific North West. Now, for the first time in 35 years, we are touring by car, bus or train and there aren’t many places we haven’t been.
Where to go next? That is always the question. The answer usually arrives when the monthly edition of Travel Oregon arrives in my inbox. They have great suggestions for cities and regions to visit, places to stay, things to see and do, in places large and small.
Last month their visitor information concentrated on the “Seven Wonders of Oregon.” In no particular order, they are: Crater Lake, the Wallowa Mountains, Painted Hills, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, and the Oregon Coast. I was able to check off five of those areas as well-explored. We had been near the Painted Hills but were unable to stop on our way to Baker City.
Baker City is worth the long drive just to visit the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. There, the story of the Oregon Trail comes alive before your eyes. The 23,000 square foot facility is more than a museum or monument. The story of tens of thousands of men, women and children who walked for 2,000 miles comes alive through life-size exhibits, interpretive trails, special events and Oregon Trail ruts. The living history performances bring life to the trail experience. I even bonded with one of the oxen over its long eyelashes!
Having been-there-done-that, its time to visit the Wallowas and the Painted Hills. Both destinations make me a little apprehensive. First, I’m not fond of deserts—high or low. We took a trip one year from our home in Ventura (on the Calif. coast) to Death Valley—the lowest, driest and hottest area in No. America. Not our favorite trip.
It was, however, one of the last Calif. National Parks. to check off our list. We had to go. The valley is known for its isolation, sizzling temperatures and lack of rain. But it was only May. How hot could it possibly be? Well, we would soon find out. This was the early 1980s. Information was limited. There were no computers or cell phones. Word-of-mouth, maps and encyclopedias were our guides.
As I recall, we drove into the town of Ridgecrest at dusk. We had plenty of water and snacks in our ’81 Oldsmobile but only about a quarter tank of gas. Our maps indicated Death Valley was just down the hill. We decided to head down and fill up in the valley.
I can still see the long, winding, isolated road to nowhere that greeted us. We promptly turned around, filled up the gas tank and ate a hamburger (our last meal!) at the only café in town. Down, down, down we went. There was no traffic. We were the only car on the road. It was almost dark and we had a sinking feeling wondering if the road would lead to civilization and a comfy, air-conditioned motel.
We gratefully arrived about 9 p.m. and the heat was tolerable. The next morning we woke up to brilliant sunshine and (gulp) 100° F. heat. By the time we had breakfast and headed out on a tour bus to Scotty’s Castle, the temperature had climbed to about 117° F.
Scotty’s Castle was 53 miles from the Furnace Creek Resort where we were staying. The castle and grounds are famous for opulence in the middle of nowhere. In the early 1900s, Albert Johnson grubstaked a gold mining expedition for Walter Scott (Scotty). The gold never panned out but Scotty convinced everyone that he had money from secret mines in the area and built a castle. Actually, Johnson and his wife built the spectacular two million dollar home as a vacation getaway. The National Park Service now owns it.
Today Death Valley State Park is quite the destination spot. The Furnace Creek Inn has luxury lodging as high as $370 per night. Its amenities are endless and of course, include swimming pools. A nearby mini-town built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company now features another hotel and the Amargosa Opera House. Things are a wee bit different than during our visit.
Now, back to Oregon’s desert hot spots. The stunning Wallowas Mountains are said to be one of Oregon’s most beautiful secrets and a multi-day adventure. Pictures of the Painted Hills are spectacular. The colors shift and change with the difference of light and the seasons. Wild flowers flourish at this time of year. Both destinations sound wonderful. But they’re still far away in a hot, desolate setting.
To go or not to go? That is the question. But the road is calling...
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.
Going to the mailbox used to be one of life’s pleasures. In a more personal and un-computerized society, we corresponded across town and around the world with pen and paper. Telephone calls were expensive but postage stamps were not. A treasured note from someone saying ‘hello’ was usually tucked in among the inevitable bills. Those cards, notes and letters always made my day.
Today, just about the only people saying ‘hello’ to me by snail mail are not people at all. The mailers are automated computers deep in the bowels of marketing offices all across the nation. There, clever ad agencies put together enticing, colorful offers that are mass mailed to millions of people. At my house they go right in the trash/recycling.
This past year our mailbox has been bombarded with a ridiculous amount of unwanted catalogs, coupons, credit card offers and donation requests. Some charities send one or two solicitations a week. Many add stamps and coins to entice a donation. They are seldom opened. In an effort to stop the flow, I tried marking them “return to sender.” It made things worse and they keep coming.
One day I couldn’t stand it any longer. I opened a solicitation and found a phone number to call and (hopefully) stop the onslaught. I was told they would be happy to do so but “Mrs. Kaiser, you must understand that these mailings are prepared months in advance and will take up to 12 weeks to stop.” I hung up before I said something that I shouldn’t.
Eventually, the mailings dwindled down to once a week communications. As I stand over the trashcan, slicing and dicing them, I no longer wonder what some banking institutions are doing with our money. I know. They’re spending it on soliciting more customers and keeping the post office in business.
I am an avid magazine subscriber and thanks to some very nice ‘two-years-for-the-price-of-one’ offers, I often get good deals. Especially nice are the ‘buy-one-give-one’ gift offers. Obviously (as you will see) these are cash flow bonanzas for the companies and cash cows for the long haul.
A couple of years ago I noticed that the due dates for my Reader’s Digest magazine subscriptions were coming closer and closer together. December bills for family gift subscriptions were arriving in July. When I didn’t pay them, the bills kept coming. So I decided the subscriptions must be expired and wrote a check. The next year I did the same thing.
Guess what? By the time that I caught on to their advance billing game, everyone still had two years left on subscriptions. I finally called Customer Service and got it all straightened out. Now I keep a list of expiration dates.
“Final Notice!” offers without an actual expiration date are common. An offer to renew my three-year AARP membership was really annoying. My membership was only one year old when I received a notice to confirm that I wanted to renew my AARP membership and receive a Free Travel Bag! I called and complained that the offer was deceptive and they apologized. Yea, right.
Of course, these solicitations are not just limited to snail mail. Oh, no. They also come via telephone (email spam is another subject).
Last winter, in one of March’s wild winter storms, our power was out about 24 hours. As soon as our telephone service was restored, the phone rang. The caller inquired if everyone was okay and if we were interested in purchasing a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) in case this happens again. In a different state of mind and a different time, I might have been cordial. Instead, I just told him to remove our name from his calling list and hung up.
My husband has a product in his workshop for which he purchases parts on the telephone. When he needs something, he calls and orders it. If he doesn’t need anything, he doesn’t call. The problem is that if he doesn’t call every 30 days, they call him — night after night at dinnertime. He asked to speak to their supervisor and be removed from their call list. They agreed but still the calls came.
Finally, I got online and ferreted out email addresses for the corporate office customer service division. A distinctly worded message protesting their sales tactics resulted in corporate calling me. They assured me that the sales solicitations would stop. And they did.
Still, in spite of our enrollment in the “Do not call” program, the other calls continued. So, we threw in the towel and subscribed to our phone company’s feature that blocks unwanted calls. For a small fee its message annoys everyone who calls—but it does what we pay for—a great job of filtering out solicitors and scam artists!
In a last ditch effort to opt out of the trash mail offers that kept coming, I Googled for some help. I started with http://www.usa.gov/topics/family/privacy-protection/junk-mail.shtml. Their site suggests that we tell the companies directly to remove our name (an on-going chore) or call the credit reporting agencies notification system at 1-888-567-8688. This required giving one’s Social Security number.
A final suggestion was to visit the Direct Marketing Association’s website at: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/opt_form.cgi
I decided to sign up with this one even though it doesn’t get rave reviews and must be renewed every three years (without an expiration notice). It was quick and simple and hopefully it will work.
Now, if I could just get friends and family to fill the mailbox with hand-written treasured notes—I would be a happy girl!
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.