with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Where is Lorelle? Seattle, Washington

Lorelle and her mother in the Oregon Cascade Mountains outside motor homeI know I left you all hanging with the fridge ammonia coolant leak in Redmond, Oregon, but I returned home to find that after one quick check of my website comments and then collapsing into a bed without wheels, I awoke to find my website turned off. The only thing I can figure out, since I have less than cooperative hosts, is that killing off the more than 1000 comment spams on this site, that were stopped before posting but still held in the database for my review, triggered too many hits on the database and that threw up a red flag, which is easy to do around this horrid host server, and they automatically shut down the site.

When I say “less than cooperative”, it took four days to finally get a response from them that was boilerplate rather than responsive, and they turned my site back on, but semi crippled it. A week later, after digging through logs, statistics, and what records I have access to, I find no evidence of anything that would have triggered any such drastic measures. I’m still trying to get some kind of response and there is none. A new host server is in my future, I can feel it, if this attitude continues. Many give up after hours. I have given them months of chances with little or no help or response. My patience is wearing seriously thin.

Anyway, the horror of the ammonia leak turned into a comedy, as much does in my life.

We spent the night in a Motel 8 across town from where the motor home sat awaiting removal and disposal of its refrigerator. I had originally chosen the Comfort Inn but the taxi driver pointed out the Motel 8 to my mother and cheap won for the first time in YEARS. I went in and canceled our reservations for the Comfort Inn and we drove under the freeway to the Motel 8, which greeted us with the smell of mold, mildew and ancient, dank cigarette smoke stench, along with a very sweet but over the top hyper-conversationalist (here-is-my-life-story-and-woes-and-medical-problems-in-90-painful-seconds) clerk who took pity on our woes and gave us a senior discount and a bit more, which pleased my mother no end while I tried not to breath and not to listen.

The signs on the doors along most of the rooms along the corridor said “No Smoking Room” but the stench of cigarette smoke in the carpet and yellowing walls meant that after that first walk, all egress to and from our room would be through the back stairs while holding my breath and covering my face while running in and out of the place. At least the room smelled okay, though I awoke with a feeling of hangover and swollen eyes and face. My throat was sore for two days.

Pissed off and really angry, we went out for a long walk, ending up at a Goodwill store where I splurged a whole USD$4.50 for a Braun hand-mixer in excellent working condition. The one in our trailer had cracked during the 5 years of intense heat and cold of storage in Oklahoma, and I’d been shopping to buy a new one. Why bother when for less than 5 bucks I get a decent working one to get me by for another year or do! Weee!

We walked to Walmart and bought a big ice chest to put all the food in while we travel, since we would be moving on without the fridge. Then we went looking for food.

While Oregon has strict anti-smoking laws, though not as strict as Washington State, they do allow smoking in the bars. The first restaurant we tried had an old cigarette stink, even though the menu looked “okay”. I felt it was a little too buffet-meets-heart-attack, but my mother was turned off by the old dark feel of the place.

A new place had opened up across the street from this restaurant and our motel and it turned out to be a charmer. I’ll write about it more later, but I had one of the best meals (not cooked by my husband) in my life. That is really saying something for me!

Relaxed and feeling much better, we slept like logs through the night, and awoke early to load things up and head back to the RV repair shop.

We’d tried to work with the taxi service last night to make arrangements for pick up in the morning, but he insisted that we call in the morning, giving them some early notice, of when we needed to be picked up and not schedule it the night before. We thought that odd, but this is a small town so who knows. At about 6:30 I called and told them that we needed the car between 7:30 and 7:40 and told them we would be outside the door waiting at the Motel 8. Since this was the same woman I talked to yesterday, I told her that we’d changed our plans and were not at the Comfort Inn but at the Motel 8 across the street now. I also asked if that was enough notice and if that would work with their schedule. She told me yes, a car would be at the Motel 8 between 7:30 and 7:40.

By 7:50 there was no car and we were getting anxious. The RV repair shop opened at 8 and we wanted to get everything out of the fridge, deciding what to keep and what to throw, before they started work so they wouldn’t have to deal with food in the fridge. I got the clerk to call the taxi service and he found out that they were waiting at the Comfort Inn for us.

He arrived a few minutes later, quite contrite, but we thanked him anyway and loaded things up into the huge town car. When he dropped us off, with all our stuff and huge new cooler, he refused payment. “We have a company policy that if we are late, you don’t pay.”

We were stunned. After so many years overseas and dealing with intolerable company “policies” and horrid customer service, I was flabbergasted. I thanked him deeply and told him that I still wanted to pay since it was an easy mistake and he refused.

So if you are in Redmond, Oregon, and you need a car or taxi service, take advantage of Cascade Towncar Service at 541-504-8820. They are awesome folks.

I dug into the fridge, throwing stuff I didn’t trust to still be good into a garbage bag and stuffing things in tightly sealed and thick containers into the new ice chest. We’d still have to stop and get ice, but at least some of the frozen food would act as ice blocks until then.

My mother opened the front door and started rummaging around for some things that had fallen out of her purse during the rush and panic. I heard her give a cry and I poked my head around the fridge door to check that she was okay.

She was holding up a mostly empty bottle of Windex ammonia window cleaner. The spray cap was off and in her other hand.

“The lid came off and it spilled all over the floor under my seat.”


“I found it that way.”

We found our ammonia smell, and the reason it was so powerful in the front of the cab and not so much by the fridge.

I wanted to laugh, but in these situations, action moves you faster than tears or giggles. I went into the RV shop office and told them that we’d found the source of the ammonia smell. “It’s not the refrigerator.”

To be sure, while holding back their own giggles, though a few crept out, they came out and inspected the outside compartment access to the back of the fridge and agreed that they could find no evidence of a coolant leak. “If there was,” she told me, “you would see a yellowish leaking liquid on the pipes in the back and there would be yellow corrosion really obviously visible.” There was nothing. Clean save for a little traveling dust as Brent and I had thoroughly cleaned out the entire compartment before reinstalling the fridge before my father and had left Mobile. “See,” she pointed to the wooden flooring of the fridge compartment. “There are no stains, no drips, no sigh of liquid. The odds are that the fridge is okay and the Windex was the ammonia smell.”

They all agreed that we’d gotten lucky and that the fridge would work fine, and not to worry. We threw our suitcases back into the motor home, replaced the food back into the fridge, cleaned out the cooler, and then returned it to Walmart. Then back on the road, wiser, feeling better, but feeling shattered by all of this. Gone were the fresh, revived and relaxed feelings from two days spent at the hot springs. We had headaches, backaches, and all the signs of major meltdown.

Three Sisters, Oregon Cascade Mountains, and The Oregon Coast

Three Sisters town and the Stitching Post, famous quilt store, photography by Lorelle VanFossenWe headed to Three Sisters, a wonderful mountain town designed for quilters and tourists. There is an annual quilting festival held there that increases the population by millions each July. We walked through the town, did a little shopping, my mother got her nails and hair done, and I just walked, shaking off all the nasty stuff. Unfortunately, my mother’s hair turned out to be another ordeal and that took her another couple days to shake her stress off.

We headed into the mountains and spent another night in snow and freezing cold conditions in the mountains, and then headed west for the ocean.

Sunset over coast just north of Strawberry Hill tidal pools, near Yachats, Oregon, photography by Lorelle VanFossenStrawberry Hill along the Oregon Coast near Yachats is one of my favorite tide pool areas. At the campground I found nearby, they had tide charts and I discovered that our luck was holding and that the next two days were the lowest tides since last year and it would be June before there was a lower tide level. Amazing!

I barely slept during the night and was up before dawn, letting my mother continue sleeping on the couch as I drove to Strawberry Hill. I spent several hours crawling around on the rocks, watching the seal lions resting on the rocks, and photographing what is left of the precious tide pools.

Purple starfish, Strawberry Hill tidal pools, near Yachats, Oregon, photography by Lorelle VanFossenMost of the wonderful micro-ecosystems jammed packed into holes and crevices in the rocks were gone, empty, dried out. The once white and glowing sea foam was brown and oily looking. Garbage was trapped in little crevices among the potmarked black rocks.

Still, I crawled around and photographed what I could with my small digital camera, having left all the serious gear back in Alabama for this trip. I still found some wonders, and managed to avoid the 50 or so other people out prowling the tidal pools.

Oregon Coast to the Olympic National Park, Washington: Working Our Way Back to Home

Then we headed north towards the Olympic Peninsula, and eventually, Seattle. We crawled along the Oregon Coast line, and then the Washington Coast, passing through heavy weekend traffic in Hoquiam-Aberdeen and north towards Forks and the Olympic National Park. We spent the night in the Salt Creek Recreation Area, another amazing tidal pool area along the San Juan coast.

Motor home atop Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, photography by Lorelle VanFossenThe next day, we drove the famous 17 mile road up to the top of Hurricane Ridge, reminiscing about the many trips Brent and I made there for the first three or four years of our life together. I showed my mother the spot where I proposed to Brent, and where he proposed to me and we both accepted. I finally got a cell signal and called Brent and said, “I have only one question for you. Will you marry me?”

He groaned and said yes. “You’re at Hurricane Ridge. I’m jealous.”

My mother and I then headed to Port Townsend and did a little walking about and shopping, before heading to wait in the ferry traffic line. I was hoping that most of the panic would be gone and the line would move fast, which it actually did, though it still took almost two hours. I’ve waited in four to six hours of ferry traffic before, so this was fast.

Sunrise over a mountain lake in the Oregon Cascade Mountains, photography by Lorelle VanFossenBack home in Everett, my mother who had been whining for days about missing her old cat coming in and out from under the covers all night, waking her up, and how she couldn’t sleep so well without his constant interruptions, she’d gotten so used to them. The first four nights back, she complained about not sleeping through the night because the cat kept waking her up throughout the night wanting in or out of the covers. It’s interesting what we remember as precious when we are away from it, and how much it irritates us to realize that it’s annoying when we’re back in the thick of things. I’ve long stopped romanticizing my life away from travel when I’m traveling. It is what is it is, whether I like it or not, and I missing things, but I know the memory changes with travel time and distance.

So I’m back in the Seattle area with meetings planned and business to do and then in the next few weeks I have to head back to Mobile, Alabama, where we have to make some life decisions about continuing to live in Hurricane Alley or not, and prepare for hurricanes if the choice is to remain there! Ugh.

But for now, I snuggle under four layers of heavy blankets and quilts in the cold nights of the Pacific Northwest, knowing that once I return to the boiling, sweating heat of the Gulf Coast, a sheet waits for me on the hot bed. Yuk. I hold no romantic thoughts about sleeping in heat and humidity.

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  • […] There, I rested for a bit and then my mother and I loaded up in my father’s small motor home and headed to Oregon to continue my quest for more genealogy and family history research. […]

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