#212––Holiday travel––who knew! . . .


At Christmas, I almost always fly to California to be with family. I fly because the weather can be bad in the winter. It’s almost a given that I-5 will have snow or at least icy conditions going over Siskiyou Summit near the state line and that anywhere between Roseburg and Redding (more than 200 miles of the trip) can have similar conditions. And then there’s the infamous Tule fog in the San Joaquin Valley in winter and this year freezing fog in December in the Willamette Valley.


Here is my family that I visit each year––sister-in-law, brother, sister, and nephew–– all together at Christmas.  It was our first year without Mom. She passed away Oct 1, 2017, at 105 years old.

But this year, I would be driving instead of flying, I decided to take Hwy 101 instead of I-5. Hwy 101 doesn’t usually have as much traffic, the speeds are slower, and it’s more scenic. And besides my first stop was Palo Alto in the Bay Area—a straight line south from Florence.

That may have been the sensible, reasonable thing to do, but this year, it was the wrong thing to do. Going down Hwy 101 the weekend before Christmas weekend was a nightmare. Coming back on I-5 on New Year’s weekend was a dream. Who knew!

Nightmare Drive

I didn’t get away as soon as I had hoped on Saturday, December 16. Instead of leaving at 9 a.m., it was 1:30 p.m. Since I don’t like to drive after dark on long trips and it gets dark early in mid-December, I only got as far as Brookings. That day had been easy driving—good weather, light traffic, no problems.


Beautiful sunset between Gold Beach and Brookings. The next day was when the nightmare drive began.

Sunday was definitely different. As soon as I left Crescent City, I hit a headland that had started sloughing off. So major roadwork was under way and only one lane of traffic available for both directions. A signal controlled traffic. This happened over and over at numerous headlands with 10- to 20-minute waits at each one

Then there was a horrendous accident, involving a semi-truck. A large tow truck was trying to maneuver it back onto the highway and took both lanes. The traffic was routed off the road onto soft dirt one car at a time. When it was my turn, I crept around a really narrow spot with the fireman urging me on. All large vehicles had been stopped before getting to this point. I really thought I was going to go over the edge to the ocean below. Scary! That slowed the trip by at least a half hour.

It was a beautiful sunny day, which also meant that the deep shadows were pitch black—no visibility when heading into them from the bright sunlight. So it was slow going all through the redwoods—beautiful but slow.

Then the scariest moment happened when I went around a curve and about 50 elk were in the road—totally blocking traffic. I skidded to a halt about 12 feet from a large bull elk with his head down and a head full of antlers ready to do battle. It was at least 20 minutes before a car could maneuver around them.

I was glad when the road turned into a four-lane freeway. As we got closer to San Francisco, though, the traffic became heavier and heavier. People must have been out enjoying the sunny day or doing their Christmas shopping. It seemed like everyone was heading back to the city.

It was gorgeous crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, but I had to keep my eyes on the traffic. It was solid and becoming dusk. There are no freeways through San Francisco—only surface streets. I know to stay in the right-hand lanes coming off the Golden Gate, because they become 19th street. That takes you through the city and sweeps you right onto Hwy 280, which goes by Palo Alto.


Teeta, my long-time friend, who lives in Palo Alto, was glad to finally see me.

Because of the heavy traffic and many traffic signals, my top speed getting through San Francisco was 8 to 10 mph. So it was totally dark by the time I got onto 280. And by the time I got to Palo Alto, I was exhausted. I had left Brookings at 7:30 a.m. and arrived in Palo Alto at 5 p.m.––about three hours longer than normal.

Dream Trip Home

I left Northridge in the LA area about 9 a.m. on December 30, a Saturday morning. Once I was on the 405 freeway heading north, the traffic became heavy but for only about 12 miles. As I got closer to the Grapevine, it thinned out. The weather was fabulous, sunny in the 60s and clear. The light traffic, except for between Stockton and Sacramento, and the great weather lasted all the way to Williams north of Sacramento where I spent the night.


After spending Christmas with my family in Bakersfield, I headed to LA area to visit my friend, Theresa.

The next day, it was also sunny and clear with temps cooler but still mild. It was that way even from Redding to Roseburg no icy spots or snow on or along the road. The only snow was on higher mountains. And the traffic remained light. I couldn’t believe my good luck, even though I had checked the weather sites online before taking I-5. After my nightmare trip south on 101, I just didn’t want to take it back home.

When I left I-5 at Sutherland and headed over the mountains to the coast, it was still pleasant. I only hit rain when heading into Reedsport, and it was very light. I arrived in Florence about 5 p.m. just as it was getting dark. I stocked up at Freddies before heading home and was in the house with all my stuff by 7 p.m. I’m usually beat when I get home, but because the ride home had been so easy, I wasn’t even tired. Who knew!

Note: I don’t recommend traveling long distances in winter alone even with a new car, but when it seems necessary, here’s my advice. Days before leaving, check online for weather and road conditions for the route planned. I always carry food and plenty of water. And I always have my sleeping bag, plenty of blankets, and other safety items in the trunk. To ward off sleepiness, I listen to audio books and always stop for a large coffee after being on the road a couple of hours. I also stop often at rest stops and walk. I also recommend not driving after dark in winter and to keep an eye on the gas gage. Hour after hour can really eat up the gas.

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#211–Simple solutions . . .



When I had my new car only a week, I heard such loud noises coming from it, I was convinced it had a major problem.

It had been a very hot day over in the valley, so there were lots of people here at the coast. It was a Saturday and warm here too, and I was on duty at Backstreet Gallery. When I got to my car, it was very warm inside. So I put all the windows down before turning on the air. Later, I closed the windows. It took forever to get out of town and then traffic was slow going. Which is why I didn’t realize I had a problem.


After only a week, I heard such loud noises that I thought it was a major problem.

I had the radio on and noticed that the beat of the music was getting louder and louder. I turned off the radio, but the beat played on. It was the car not the radio. At first, I thought I had blown a tire. Since I was almost at my turn at Mercer Lake Road, I slowed. The sound lessened, and I pulled over and stopped at Darlingtonia Botanical Wayside. I checked everything I could think of: tires were fine, didn’t see anything dragging underneath, the car hadn’t been shimmying, no hot or smoke smells. Hmm! So I got back in, started it up, and everything seemed normal, but as soon as I got about 35 mph or so, the noise started again. So I kept speed down and continued the last couple miles home. Everything sounded fine as long as I kept the speed down.

When I bought the car, I signed up for 100.000 miles of roadside assistance to tow to nearest Toyota dealer and many problems to be taken care of at no additional cost. So I called and explained problem. She said that since I was home, to call the dealership and see what they wanted me to do. So I called the dealership. It was late on Saturday afternoon and no one available to talk to me, so receptionist said she would leave message to call me. About an hour and half later I called again and told her the whole problem, She said everyone had gone home and to call about 7 a.m. on Monday morning when the service department opened.

I was not about to drive the car, since I didn’t know what the problem was or how serious. The good news was that I didn’t have to be anywhere for a few days and had plenty of food on hand.

I did wonder if my car had to be towed to Eugene, should I or would I be able to ride over with the tow-truck driver? I at least could rent a car easier in Eugene than in Florence if necessary. I was becoming very stressed. This is why I got a new car, so I wouldn’t have to face such problems. AARRGGHH!

Three days later

As it turned out, I drove along with the tow truck driver to the Kendal dealership in Eugene. (I loved the name–Stealth Towing and Recovery–out of Eugene.) It was embarrassing to have all my neighbors see my brand new car being towed away.

When we got there, I gave them a written account of everything. Then the car was taken for a drive to try to replicate the noise I had heard. The gal doing the test drive, heard nothing and couldn’t find anything wrong.. She came back and talked it over with one of her technicians. He reread my written account. He paid particular attention to where I said that I noticed the back seat passenger window open the next morning, so I had closed it.


The back window goes down all the way.

He suggested she open that window all the way and take the car out again. So she did. About 30 mph she got the noise I had described. It became almost unbearably loud as the speed increased, but died down when the speed got below 30—just like I had described. So she came in with a big grin and told me she wanted to take me for a ride. When I heard the noise, I told her, “That’s it!”

So the solution was to close the damn window. As simple as that! I was so relieved. I couldn’t stop smiling and after giving her a hug, I told her to give the technician one too.  I had no clue what the problem could have been. Wind dynamics was not on my wave length. She explained to me that would not have been a problem with my old Camry. Also, in my new car, the back window goes ALL the way down and did not in my old one. So it’s more difficult to see that the window is open in the new car.

I drove my car back to Florence with no problems. I stopped at the FEC to pick up photocopies of the latest Florence Festival of Books applications and talked to Kevin Rhodes, the Director there. He said that he gets a strange noise in his SUV when he has one of the rear windows down all the way. So he was not surprised.



Near the end of July, I spent a few evenings listening to CDs because my TV––my new TV that is only two months old––apparently died. I put new batteries in the remote, replugged three plugs that I thought had to do with the TV into a new power strip with a light indicating power. Then I called Customer Service. First clue that I might not be the only person with a problem with this particular type of TV was the message. “If you have a 4K from Walmart, presst 1; if you have a 4K from any other source, press 2.” It took a minute to realize that my 4000 series was most likely the 4K in the message.


My new TV was wonderful until one day when it just quit.

I talked to the customer service person and she had me press the power button on the back of the TV. And nothing. So since I had already done her other suggestions, she gave me a reference number and told me to take photos of my proof of purchase, the front of the TV, and the info on a plate in the back and gave me an email to send it to. So I did. I couldn’t find any receipt. Geez! I have receipts for everything else I’ve ever bought. I ransacked the house, but still couldn’t find it. So I took photos of my check register with a check to Bi-Mart with its notation for a TV. And a photocopy of the actual check to Bi-Mart. So we’ll see what happens.

Three days later

Before I heard back, I solved the problem. When I had replugged in what I thought were all the TV and cable box plugs (3) into a new power strip, there was already something plugged into in. I thought that one was the phone or the fax machine because they were closer to where it had been sitting. I just knew it had nothing to do with the new TV.

When I was unplugging the TV to move it off the counter and to put it back into it’s original box, I noticed that plug in the power strip that I had never checked and saw that it was only partially plugged in. As I plugged it in all the way, a lightbulb went off over my head. Hmm! Could it be? So I replugged everything back into the TV and pushed the “on” button on the TV and, lo and behold, it came on. Could have knocked me over with a feather.

I tried the remote, but it still didn’t work. So I took out the new Duracell batteries. I dug through the garbage under the sink and in the very bottom among the coffee grounds, I found the old remote batteries (a brand I’d never heard of). I cleaned them off and put them back in. It worked fine. Go figure!

So plugging the damn plug in all the way solved the problem of the new TV. Such a simple solution! It ranks right up there along with closing the window to solve my car noise problem. I’m beginning to feel r-e-a-l-l-y stupid!



My book Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known doesn’t sell in bookstores. It took me awhile, but I finally figured out why. I broke a cardinal rule of non-fiction book covers—“The title or subtitle must tell what the book is about.” I only had a title, no subtitle, and my title didn’t really tell what the book was about. So I was considering redesigning the dust jacket cover. Fortunately, this book is a hard cover with a dust jacket, and I can do that. But first, i wanted to try a cheaper, simpler alternative––stickers!. I came up with this in the middle of the night, I could design a subtitle telling what the book is about, put it on a sticker, which I could then slap on each book.


My new sticker for Devil Cat.

So I went online and found a site where I could create any kind of sticker I wanted. I designed an oval, soft yellow sticker to match the yellow in the word “colorful” in the title. The words are a black easy to read font and say “Five stories about RESCUE ANIMALS that became great pets . . . eventually!” That’s what the book is about! Then I ordered 1,000.

Four days later

They arrived in the mail and turned out exactly as I had hoped. They are all separate with peel-off backing. There was no good place to stick them on the books. Since I don’t want to cover the title or the picture, I put them right over my name and it looks okay.

I put some on the books at Backstreet about nine days ago, and I’ve sold seven copies of Devil Cat since then. That’s about as many as I’ve sold there all year. It seems to be working! Just another simple solution!


Devil Cat with its new sticker!

I also gave a copy with new sticker to the gals at Mari’s Books in Yachats. No charge–– just to see what they think and to see if it sells any better. They sell lots of my bridge books. But they had no luck selling Devil Cat, so I bought back the copies I had sold them.

I felt so stupid on the car and the TV, but also relieved that they were “fixed” so easily. And I should have put a subtitle on my Devil Cat book cover, but I didn’t. So I hope the simple solution of stickers “fixes” the problem and sales increase.




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#210–Happiness is . . .


I ran across a photo of me reading a class “book” (student’s large papers connected together) to my first graders of what made them happy. Each started with Happiness is. . . . It was modeled after Charles M. Schultz’s children’s book Happiness Is a Warm Puppy, which I read to the class before having them do their own. One of my favorites was Linus saying.”Happiness is a thumb and a blanket.” I always enjoyed seeing that happiness was different for each child.


Many, many years ago, when I was teaching first graders.

So it got me thinking about what makes me happy nowadays. After some pondering, here’s what I’ve come up with.

First of all, happiness is SUNSHINE. We’ve never had such a rainy winter in the 32 years I’ve lived here. The last couple of weeks, we’ve actually had more sunny days than rainy ones! We can’t quite believe it, but we’re enjoying it.

This morning, happiness was sleeping in, and last night, happiness was having a root beer float after dinner. Sometimes it’s the little stuff.

This past Sunday, however, was a milestone event for me. Happiness was buying a new car. I bought a new wine red, four-door, four-cylinder Camry. I traded in my 1999 dark green, four-door, six-cylinder Camry. It was the first time for me to buy a new car. In the past, it was my husband doing all the talking with me tagging along. So this really was a milestone event in my life!


My trustworthy 1999 Camry was starting to show its age–almost 200,000 miles.

When I headed to the dealership, I didn’t even bring the old car’s title or clean stuff out of the trunk. On TV, I saw that big sales were happening at Toyota dealerships. So I was going to look and determine if another Camry was what I really wanted. I had done my homework by reading through my Consumer Reports and discovering that Toyota Camrys and Subaru Foresters were the best buys for used cars and among the best for new cars—reliable and long-lasting. (I can attest to that. I would have had my Camry 19 years this September with almost 200,000 miles on it.)

I went online and found cars for sale in both types of vehicles at dealerships in Oregon. On the dealership in Eugene, where I’d bought my 1999, there were a few vehicles listed that were new and also some used. So I filled in my information. Within an hour, I received a phone call. I learned that, not only would I receive a rebate for contacting them online if I bought a new car, but this weekend ONLY were very special discounts on new cars. Used cars were at the fairgrounds, also with special pricing. So how could I resist! I made an appointment for Sunday on Memorial Day Weekend. If I bought anything, I thought, it would be a used six-cylinder. I would only look at the new cars. Famous last words!

When I arrived on Sunday, I let them know I couldn’t go over a set limit out-the-door price. After some discussion and taking a test drive, I decided that that car would work for me. What convinced me was that this four-cylinder was more powerful than ones I had driven in the past (so I didn’t need the six-cylinder), the seat was higher and made it easier for me to get in and out (so I didn’t need to switch to an SUV), there was a back-up camera and a couple more safety features (which I really wanted), and they took off $4,000 Memorial Day discount and $2,750 online discount. I did opt for the extra shield protection on the front of the car to protect against chips in the paint. And still, the out-the-door price was under my set price. So how could I not buy this car! I feel like I got a really good deal.


My new  2017 Camry!

It’s now Day 5 since buying my beautiful red Camry, and I have no buyer’s remorse. I love it! I even took it to the dump yesterday; my two garbage cans fit snugly in the trunk (I was afraid that they wouldn’t fit) and all my recycling inside the car. Got a lot of ribbing for taking a brand new car to the dump! But, hey, that’s going to be one of its uses!

Moving on to other stuff . . .

When it comes to my books, new edition arrivals and book sales always make me happy.

Last week, happiness was the arrival of the third edition of The Crossings Guide. I was down to less than 30 copies and the truck with the books had left Grand Rapids, Michigan, the week before. I was expecting them at any time for several days. Last Thursday the truck finally arrived and delivered 1,000 copies. They were supposed to call ahead. And they did––15 minutes before arrival. Fortunately, I was home. I checked out the books, and they are perfect. So I’m happy and relieved!

Books by the Bay

This bookstore in North Bend was one of my stops and has great signs, good selection of books, and carries both my books.

Two weeks ago, I headed south to restock books at places that have been selling my books for the past few years. In this case, happiness was hearing familiar voices on the phone saying, yes, we’d like more of the “big one” and the “little one.” So I headed south on a beautiful, sunny day and stopped in North Bend, Coos Bay, and Bandon and sold a total of 36 bridge books at four stops. Even ate the lunch I’d packed at a scenic viewpoint south of Bandon. The coast is gorgeous when the sun is shining.

Three weeks ago, happiness was selling $810 worth of books in one day. That is not a typo. Who knew what a great day it would turn out to be when I started out that morning. I was scheduled to do an historic bridge PowerPoint presentation at the convention center at Chinook Winds in Lincoln City to the Oregon Retired Educators at their annual convention. I got up at 4 a.m. to get on the road by 6:15 to be there by 8:15. I wanted to be set up before they got underway at 9 a.m. My program was scheduled for 9:30.

The presentation went very well and there was time for questions before the audience took a break. Then folks lined up to buy books—lots of folks. I sold $705 worth of books in about 40 minutes. Many bought both bridge books, and I even sold two copies of Devil Cat. I usually sell some books when I give presentations, but nothing like this. These folks were not from the coast, and most did not know about the bridges. So they were eager to learn more, and I was only too happy to offer them the opportunity.

On the way home, I stopped at Mari’s books in Yachats. Mari’s first words were, “I was just going to call you. We’re out of books.” So I sold her $105 worth of books. What a day!


In packing for my trip to California, Groucho wanted to go with me.

For most of April, I was in California visiting friends and family. Happiness was finding the state so green and patches of wildflowers and reservoirs filled with water. Happiness was also spending time with friends. I saw Theresa, who used to be the newspaper editor in Florence, on the front end of the trip and Teeta, my roommate from college, on the back end of the trip. Both of those were wonderful visits—nothing so special as long-time friendships. Happiness was, of course, spending two and a half weeks with my family—mom, sister, brother and sister in law, and nephew—and finding them all in good health. My mom is still going strong at almost 105. We all had great meals together, and mom and I played cards many afternoons.

Happiness is finally getting started on the writing of my next book about the unexpected on the coast. I got 11 of 27 unexpecteds written while in California. And I’ve done one more since being home. I did an interview for another one this past weekend and will write it tomorrow.


This is a hidden, rhododendron garden that will be one of my unexpecteds!

And last but not least, happiness is my lovable, wonderful Groucho. He continues to do well and must be somewhere between 13 and 16 years old. I know he won’t last forever, so I relish each day with him.

I wish each of you some happiness in your life.


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#209–Northern Bridge Tour second time around . . .


Considering we’ve had over 50 inches of rain since Christmas and we can remember each of the very few days without rain since then, we were really lucky on the first two bridge tours. We had a brief shower off the bus at the Yaquina Bay Bridge first tour and stayed on the bus due to heavy rain at the Siuslaw River Bridge on the second tour. Otherwise, those tours were rain free. With the forecast for steady rain and 20 mph winds on this tour, I prepared accordingly––rain pants, rain hat, waterproof shoes, the works.

It was drizzling as everyone boarded and since this group was there early, we left early. I passed out the itinerary and glossary. And I let everyone know that I would be doing the talking on the bus so when they got off at each bridge stop, they could wander around and look and not have to stick to me. This would be a tour of 10 bridges with nine stops. I let them know that we would try to park the bus at each stop with a good view of the bridge and no one had to get off—especially if it was raining.

A most congenial group.

I knew four people on this group and four other folks were from Corvalis. They had come over the evening before. And one person could not make it because he awoke with a cold. So there were 13 plus Benny, the same driver as last week, and me. It was a most upbeat group. A great group to spend a day with.

On this tour as with the others, I covered McCullough and cathodic protection first because both apply to all the historic bridges. Then I talked about the tied arch design that made McCullough famous, since the first two bridges are good examples––Big Creek and Ten Mile Creek. We stopped after passing through one of them to look back to see if we could see what was different in the photo of the original bridges and today’s look.

Notice the X-shaped cross bracing on the end of the bridge.

The difference is in the upper cross bracing. About 15 to 20 years ago, the two legs of the Xs on either end were cut off and a straight across brace added. This allowed large motor homes and chip trucks to use the road legally––otherwise they had to go down the middle to avoid hitting the bridge.

Notice the straight bar cross bracing on both ends of the bridge.

Next, we turned into Neptune State Park to see Cummins Creek Bridge. Normally with no wind, reflections are possible, but not this time. With all the rain, Cummins Creek was raging. There are always a few folks who did not know this bridge was here.

Cummins Creek Bridge.

Our next stop was spending a half hour at the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center with Mary Davis, who has been there for many years––and is now retiring. She took the time to explain everything one last time. This is like a museum to the coastal bridges and even has a replica of McCullough’s office with his stuff in it. There’s a model of the old Alsea Bay Bridge and a video of the construction of the new bridge. Unfortunately, the video player was not cooperating, and we didn’t get to see the video. There is also a great timeline of transportation covering the Oregon coast.

Mary Davis at the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center.

We learned all about the interpretive center.

Then we stopped at the most photographed bridge in the Northwest—the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport. Still no rain so far! We drove under the northern end and got off. We saw two of the elegant stairways, looked under the arches, and walked over to where we could get a decent shot of the whole bridge. There were even a few blue-sky breaks.

The Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport.

Under the northern end of the  Yaquina Bay Bridge where we could look through the arches.

North of Newport, we turned into Beverly Beach State Park to see Spencer Creek Bridge, one of the replacement bridges designed with a sense of elegance. It’s built to last 120 years and to withstand a major tsunami. Everyone was impressed with its massive arch and attention to detail in the decorative portions. It’s really close to the waves, and we were all amazed at the numerous logs that have washed up under the bridge from the ocean this winter. And the waves were still in battering mode on this trip.

The massive arch of the Spencer Creek Bridge dwarfs members of our group.

The next stop got the biggest cheers––Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay. Because this restaurant consistently has wonderful food and good service along with its fabulous view right on the bay, no one left disappointed. Two large tables were set up for our group. At the table I sat at, folks enjoyed wine or beer with their meals and nearly all of us had dessert. A very enjoyable lunch to be sure!

From this point on, we headed back towards Florence. But before leaving Depoe Bay, we turned at the signal and parked off the highway at public parking. We walked down to and under the Depoe Bay Bridge. Actually, we were going to look at the two Depoe Bay Bridges side by side—one designed by McCullough in 1927 and one built in 1940 after a fishing village had developed. The two bridges are very similar, but not the same. It’s not hard to tell which one McCullough designed. Most people don’t realize that there are actually two bridges, and there are always a few who won’t believe it until they see it. And still no rain! I tempted fate by removing my rain pants after lunch.

The Rocky Creek Bridge was once on Hwy 101, but the highway was moved several years ago up on the slopes of Cape Foulweather when the highway started dropping off into the ocean.

It was only a short distance to Otter Crest Loop where we saw the beautiful and symmetrical Rocky Creek Bridge (aka Ben Jones Bridge). Again, folks oohed and ahhed because most people don’t realize this bridge is even here. There are also interpretive displays about McCullough, cathodic protection, and Ben Jones, the Father of the Oregon Coast Highway. He was the one that introduced a bill in the state legislature in 1919 to build a coast highway.

I passed out a chart of all the McCullough bridges on the coast and a self-guided tour of the coast bridges complete with map. So as a group we were discussing these. And I was so engrossed in answering questions and giving the pop quiz that I forgot to tell Benny to stop at the wayside at the northern end of the Alsea Bay Bridge. We were on the bridge before I realized it. Since we were behind schedule, I didn’t have him turn around and go back.

Between Waldport and Yachats we ran into a terrific squall with heavy rain. Fortunately, it didn’t last.

Cook’s Chasm replacement bridge at Cape Perpetua.

Next stop was Cook’s Chasm, another one of the replacement bridges built with a sense of elegance. We got off the bus to take a look. This is also where you can see the spouting horn at high tide. Since it wasn’t high tide, no spouting horn for us.

Cape Creek Bridge at Heceta Head State Scenic Viewpoint.

And the last stop was Cape Creek Bridge, the only aqueduct-style bridge designed by McCullough and the only one in the state. Everyone was impressed by the size of this bridge at 100-feet high. I am also impressed by its complexity and beauty. McCullough considered this one of his most difficult bridges to design. And I always have to regale folks with the facts that this was the last section of the Oregon Coast Highway to be completed needing both a tunnel and a bridge. And because of these two, this section was the most expensive––known as the “million-dollar mile.”

A familiar sight throughout the day.

Every stop was a photo op.

Then we headed to Florence and LCC. None of us could believe that we weren’t rained on even once and no wind! It turned out to be a great day, after all, for checking out Oregon’s incomparable coastal bridges.


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#208–14 bridges in three tours—Tour 2 (Florence to North Bend)


Would it rain (Plan B) or not (Plan A)? We were ready either way.  My 11 folks who’d signed up for the Southern Bridge Tour, plus Benny the bus driver, were ready to check out bridges. We had rain in Florence, but by Reedsport, it stopped and didn’t come back—my anti-rain dances, chants, and prayers worked! So we ended up doing Plan C (a hybrid).

This tour had only four bridges, but three are among the most important bridges McCullough designed. So I had a lot to say about each one. I like to do the talking in the bus and have people spread out and check out the bridges once they get off. And for those who have difficulty getting around, this is a good plan. They can just stay on the bus and not miss too much—usually the bridge can be seen from the bus.

I passed out the itinerary and glossary and started out by giving the importance of McCullough. Up to this point it was the same for the seven folks who were also along last week. Only four people were new. With all the familiar faces, it was like old-home week.

Siuslaw River Bridge

We paused at the Gothic arches under the Siuslaw River Bridge and got the cathedral view. But we did not get off the bus and walk to the deck in the bridge interpretive park that has the best view of the bridge in town. Nor did we walk up on the bridge both of which I had planned. It was simply raining too hard. So we parked where the bridge was in view. I gave the cathodic protection talk. This process was begun on this bridge in 2015 and will finish in 2019. Then I discussed the why and wherefore of the bridge design with the double bascule drawbridge, pier houses, and tied arches.

This is the cathedral view of the arches under the bridge taken on a less rainy day.

The bridge is open. This shot was taken in 1936 when bridge was brand new.

Easy to see the design of the bridge in this shot.

While we sat in the bus in the rain, I was able to read a couple of segments from Crossings and regale my audience with old-timer stories. As we crossed the bridge slowly, we looked closely at the entry pylons and the pier houses to see the Art Deco and Egyptian embellishments. And we checked out the four-inch higher, brand new bridge rails, now up to code and made of higher quality concrete . . . but with the same design.

Umpqua River Bridge

The Umpqua River Bridge, while the least impressive of McCullough’s larger coast bridges, does have a lot going for it. You just have to look a little harder. The design of the bridge rails is unique, the entry pylons at the portals to the double tied arches have Art Deco embellishments, and under the bridge are the same Gothic arches with cathedral views.

This was taken after bridge had been cleaned up and still new in 1936.


Umpqua River Bridge under construction. Notice the swing-span on its very large support pier. .

What makes the bridge design unique is the swing-span. It is the largest one that McCullough ever designed at 430 feet and is the only swing-span left in Oregon on a highway. It’s a common design for railroad bridges. I told why this drawbridge design was chosen and how some of the problems of building it were solved. And how this bridge is in the process of finishing up two years of work—painting the swing-span and replacing all the bridge rails with newer ones upgraded, up to code, and with the same unique design.

The bridge is completed and the road open through the largest road cuts in Oregon highway construction at the time.

This bridge project was more involved than any of the other bridges McCullough designed because of switching from a ferry traveling 2 ½ miles between Gardiner and Reedsport to a highway covering less distance between the two towns. The ferry had to go around the railroad bridge and Bolon Island. But the new highway would cross the island connecting the Smith River and the Umpqua River. And a smaller bridge over the Smith River had to be built. This island was swampy where the Smith River Bridge would be connecting and there was a 550-foot wide ridge that was 180 feet high on the other end where the Umpqua River Bridge connected. The swampy part had to be filled in and the ridge either had to be cut down by 140 feet or a 550-foot tunnel bored through it. The tunnel was seriously considered first before being discarded in favor of the road cut. So the largest road cut in the state to date was begun.

All of this was going on while the Umpqua River Bridge was being built. Then when it was finished in February 1936, the half-mile of swampy land between the southern end of the bridge and Scholfield Slough needed to be filled in. So this brand new bridge had to endure three specially made large dump trucks hauling dirt from the road cut north of the bridge to the area to be filled south of the bridge around the clock for five months. It caused damage to some of the supports and one had to be cut loose and reconnected later. It also made the bridge incredibly dirty. In August 1936, brooms and hoses cleaned off tons of dirt. When the Umpqua River Bridge opened on July 2, 1936, it was in its very dirty condition and to no fanfare—a newspaper article of about three inches and no celebration. Possible celebrations were planned but postponed indefinitely.

My captive audience on the bus learned about all of this while sitting at the historic turn-out just north of the bridge in the middle of the road cut and heard more while crossing the bridge as we checked out the swing-span and looked for the bridge tender’s shack located high above the road.

This is taken looking through the Gothic arches under the bridge.

The rain had stopped, so we all got off the bus underneath the bridge. We checked out the cathedral view, looking through the arches. It was great fun to stretch our legs and take photos.

On September 8, 2011, the bridge had a dedication ceremony. Here County Commissioner Susan Morgan cuts the ribbon on the bridge. Notice the swing-span open in the background.

After we got back on the bus, I told them about how the bridge finally had a dedication 75 years later with speakers and a parade and all because of my book Crossings. I had referred to the Umpqua River Bridge as the Rodney Dangerfield of McCullough bridges, and folks decided to do something about that.  (See blog post #16, September 2011)

On the way to Schooner’s Café for lunch, I gave a little of Reedsport’s swampy, often flooded early history. It was easy to see the dike and the wall built to counter flooding. Schooner’s is on the river next to the Discovery Center. We got there right on time. The food was yummy, and we all enjoyed the meal and river view.

Enjoying lunch at Schooner’s Cafe in Reedsport.

The bridge in the background is the railroad bridge with the swing-span closed.

Haynes Inlet Slough Bridge

The Haynes Inlet Slough Bridge was one of the replacement bridges built in the past 12 years or so that shows a return to elegance. It can best be seen from the causeway heading across the inlet to the North Spit. We went all the way across the causeway and turned around at the first opportunity and then stopped at a turnout just before a small bridge with a great view of the Haynes Inlet Bridge and the McCullough Memorial Bridge over Coos Bay.

Haynes Inlet Slough Bridge is easily seen from the causeway leading out to the North Spit.

The Haynes Inlet Bridge was built in two segments. The first in 2001 while the old bridge continued to handle traffic. Then the old bridge was removed and the second segment was built in its place in 2004. Strangely enough, this new bridge is now the widest bridge on the Oregon Coast; it could handle five lanes of traffic.

We got off the bus at the turnout and were able to take photos of both bridges.

McCullough Memorial Bridge

The more than a mile long McCullough Memorial Bridge.

From the turnout, we could see almost all of the McCullough Memorial Bridge––all but the southern end. It really is the best view you can get of the bridge from a car without trespassing on private property.

Notice the containment structure and that the deck arches south (right) of the structure have the gray look of the cathodic protection.

We could see the containment structure on the bridge where the cathodic protection preparation was taking place. This bridge is in the third year of the five years needed to do the northern end of the bridge. The southern end has been completed and took four years. We could also see the new bridge rails installed.

We all enjoyed the ride through the steel truss mid-section of the bridge. We were mesmerized by the seemingly endless steel Gothic arches. This section of the bridge is longer than the entire Siuslaw River Bridge. That’s when you realize the size of this bridge; it’s a little over a mile in length.

One of three elaborate stairways designed by McCullough.

When we got to the other end, we parked by the plaza at the end of the bridge. We checked the interpretive signage and walked down the elegantly designed staircase. This staircase is found on three ends of the bridge, and we got to see two of them. We not only took photos of the staircases but of the arches below the bridge.

Of all the bridges that McCullough worked with, this bridge was his favorite. Originally named the Coos Bay Bridge, it was renamed the McCullough Memorial Bridge in 1947, the year after McCullough died.

The arches as seen below the bridge.

Before leaving North Bend, we stopped at the restrooms in Simpson Park and then did a turn-around around a “village green”––a pleasant way to get back on the highway, heading north. At the first signal after the park, turn right and there it is, surrounded by streets and houses. It consists of green grass . . . that’s all. That’s why I call it a village green.

This was a typical scene throughout the day.

On the way back to Florence, we had a pop quiz on the glossary terms. My favorite response was regarding the tied arches. Question: What are tied arches? Incorrect answer: When two arches are tied together. It was a laugh-out-loud moment for all of us. Correct answer: The tied arch, also known as the bowstring arch, is designed where the roadway is part of the arch creating the “bowstring” to tie it together so well that minimal supports are needed. This was the design that made McCullough famous and made it possible to build bridges anywhere. You could even build a bridge on sand very close to the waves—such as Big Creek and Ten Mile Creek Bridges that have been standing for 85 years.

Before arriving back at LCC, passed out the self-guided tour with map to all 14 bridges between Depoe Bay and North Bend. On today’s tour, we didn’t stick to the itinerary regarding on and off the bus and spent more time than planned at each stop after lunch making us a half hour late getting back. No one seemed to mind.

Posted in Adventures with travel, Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges, Judy's Book Adventures, The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

#207–14 bridges in 3 tours—Tour 1 (Florence to Depoe Bay)


The forecast was for cloudy. I was so thankful after days of torrential rain. The day started out with drizzle, which is nothing compared to what we’ve been having. I didn’t want to head up the coast to see 10 bridges with 10 stops and have everyone getting drenched at each stop.


Here is our 14-passenger bus 

I arrived 30 minutes early and parked near where the bus was parked in the LCC parking lot and right away the bus driver walked up with the mobile PA system. Within another 15 minutes everyone had arrived and was onboard.

I greeted folks and passed out the schedule as they climbed onboard. The schedule also included a glossary of bridge terminology. By the end of the day, folks would know the difference between pylon and piling and new meanings for bent and dolphin.

The trip was full—every seat taken. I got the mic working and did my official greeting and went over who McCullough was and his importance to the bridges. Then I went over the schedule and emphasized that while it wasn’t set in stone, it was the best way to fit everything in and get back by 4 p.m. And I noticed that at least two couples had brought along The Crossings Guide. My kind of folks!

I also had a script to go over explaining cathodic protection. McCullough and cathodic protection pertain to all the historic bridges, so I wanted to get those in first. I had notecards to go with each individual bridge to nudge my memory. My plan was to go over the important points I wanted to make while still on the bus before each bridge stop. Once off the bus folks scatter and can’t all hear me. That’s what I want. I don’t want to have 14 people following me everywhere; I’d feel like a mother duck.

When I was doing the cathodic protection while the bus was moving, I was trying to use the mobile PA system. I have to hold the mic a certain way and quite close to my mouth and move it with my head while reading my script. My hand started shaking holding the mic, and I couldn’t get it to stop. Then I started getting annoying feedback from the PA system. So within the first 10 minutes on the road, I quit the PA system and just spoke loudly. It’s a small bus and I sit on one of the side seats almost in the middle of the bus. Everyone seemed to hear me fine. I didn’t stand cause it’s too hard to keep your balance.


Big Creek Bridge

We drove slowly through Big Creek and Ten Mile Creek Bridges. Those were the only ones where we didn’t get off the bus. Our first stop was Cummins Creek Bridge, where you have to drive down into Neptune State Park and walk a short distance to see the bridge.

Next was the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center. Mary Davis, who has been there as long as I’ve known about it, was still on duty training one of her new replacements. So she gave a brief overview of the Center. It is like a museum to the bridges of the coast and even has a replica office of McCullough, which is filled with his stuff. The Center has a model of the old Alsea Bay Bridge and a film of the building of the new Alsea Bay Bridge. I also dropped off more copies of my books that they had ordered a few days before. It goes without saying that this is one of my favorite places on the coast.


My special cup!

They used to sell cups that show the old Alsea Bay Bridge and when filled with a hot liquid will also show the new bridge. Well, I didn’t know about them, but one of the folks on the tour did. He asked her if she had any and she brought out one, explaining that it was their last one and they were unable to get any more. He cajoled her into giving it to me as The Bridge Lady. She did. Realizing that she had been put on the spot, I promised to take her out to lunch. I was also really tickled to have the cup.




Then onto Yaquina Bay Bridge. We admired the stairs and walked up them onto the bridge but didn’t walk along the sidewalk. It is narrow and the cars are very close. I didn’t feel comfortable taking the group there. We did cross the road under the bridge, which has hardly any traffic, and walked over to a good viewpoint. The only rain shower we got caught in on the whole trip was to the viewpoint and back.


Yaquina Bay Bridge. I actually took this photo two weeks earlier on my test run up the coast for this trip.

We stopped at Beverly Beach State Park to see Spencer Creek Bridge. It’s one of the newer bridges built during the past 12 years or so and shows a return to elegance that I think McCullough would’ve appreciated. It is also very sturdy and built to last 120 years and to withstand a sizable tsunami.

By the time we got to Depoe Bay, the sun was shining and the clouds were dissipating. Our bus driver was able to find a spot and park along the highway really close to our lunch spot—Tidal Raves. We arrived right at noon, our scheduled time, and they had two large tables set up for us. As usual, the food and service and view were all wonderful.

We then parked in the public parking lot right off the highway by the signal in Depoe Bay and walked back to go under the Depoe Bay Bridge. I wanted the group to see that this bridge is actually two bridges side by side. One built in 1927 as the first reinforced concrete bridge on the coast and one built in 1940 after the village of Depoe Bay had formed on both sides of it. It was interesting to see that the older bridge had more decoration, which was because McCullough designed it. By 1940, he was no longer the state Bridge Engineer; he had been promoted to Assistant State Highway Engineer and was no longer involved in designing bridges.


Some of the folks checking out the Rocky Creek Bridge.

We then went a short distance to the turnoff at Otter Crest Loop and only went about a tenth of a mile to see Rocky Creek Bridge (aka Ben Jones Bridge). We turned into the wayside to see interpretive signs about McCullough, cathodic protection, and Ben Jones who authored the bill in 1919 to build Highway 101. The loop continues on to the village of Otter Rock, but it is one-way south and very narrow in places due to the road dropping off into the ocean. That’s why the highway was rerouted years ago higher up on the slopes of Cape Foulweather.


Pylon from old Alsea Bay Bridge.

Just before Waldport, we stopped at the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Wayside just north of the bridge to admire the pylons (those decorative pillars at the entrance to the bridge and also used as you drive onto the bridge leading to a part that you drive through). I am always amazed at the decorative detail on each pylon. From this wayside is a different view of the new Alsea Bay Bridge.

Then we drove on to Cape Perpetua and stopped at the parking area by the viewpoint at Cook’s Chasm. The Cook’s Chasm Bridge here is another of the replacement bridges built in the past 12 years or so that show a return to elegance. I call this one a small flying arch. It’s worth a stop to see, and if the tide’s in, you’ll also get to see a spouting horn right down below.

Our last stop was Cape Creek Bridge, the only aqueduct style bridge in Oregon and the only one designed by McCullough. I think it’s a fabulous bridge. Along with the adjacent tunnel, this was the most expensive segment of the Oregon Coast Highway when it was being built. It was referred to as the “million dollar mile” and was the last segment of the highway to be completed.


Cape Creek Bridge

On the way back, we reviewed the glossary, and everyone received a self-guided tour to all 14 bridges between Depoe Bay and North Bend. We arrived back at 4:05 p.m.. It had been a terrific day from my point of view. And the folks on the trip seemed to enjoy it too. Although, they may not want to hear the word “bridge” again for awhile. . . .





Posted in Adventures with travel, Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges, The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

#206–Making it through the winter . . .


Since my name’s not John Grisham, I need to be out there selling my books to get back the cost of publishing/printing my latest book, Devil Cat, the books I bought from the publisher to sell for Around Florence, the cost of printing the fourth edition of Crossings, and the third edition of The Crossings Guide.

I’m not around for most of October and half of December, so I’m not out selling during those times. And many of the visitors to the coast who buy my books aren’t around from November through mid-March. So these are lean times. In fact, the only sales I made in January were five books at Backstreet Gallery. But there are other ways to make it through these lean months . . .

Editing jobs

I edited a children’s book last week that was delightful. It was mostly copy editing not content editing. And later this month I will edit another children’s book. So that brings in some money.



My PowerPoint presentation about the Historic Coastal Bridges in Yachats on February 4.

I’ve done many presentations—about 60––since Crossings came out in 2011. I’ve always been asked to do them, never sought them out. Other writers have asked me what I did to get them. And the best answer I can come up with is to have a book or books that people want to know about or become an expert on a topic that people want to know about. Since I’ve become known as The Bridge Lady of the Oregon Coast, I’m sort of the go-to person when folks want to know more about the bridges.

Even though I don’t usually charge to do presentations, I will often ask for money to cover gas expense. And I always ask for the opportunity to sell my books afterwards.

The other evening, February 4, I did my newly revamped Bridges presentation in Yachats. I didn’t request gas money because it isn’t that far. It was a stormy day, so my contact in Yachats offered to let me spend the night if I didn’t feel like driving back between Yachats and Florence in the dark in such weather. It is one of the more rugged sections of coast.


Because I don’t have a clicker to push, I had a human volunteer who keyed into my finger pointing  when it was time to click. There were a couple of humorous moments, but over all, it worked well.

I left early and made it there in time to get set up and still be able to greet folks and sell books beforehand. Even with the blustery weather, about 35 folks turned out for the Yachats Academy of Arts and Sciences lecture series. I was thrilled. And they were an attentive audience and asked good questions

Afterwards, I signed books that I sold and made $185. Not bad! And this talk timed out just as I thought it would and seemed to hit the right notes with the audience. After all the presentations I’ve done, I can tell if they’re staying with me or tuning out.

And because of doing this presentation, I was asked to do two more—one at Salishan and one possibly at the Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. Last summer when I had my canopy up selling books at the Yachats Farmers Market, I was asked to do this one. Being willing to be out there selling books, leads to all sorts of opportunities.

After the presentation, I ended up driving home. The rain had eased a bit. Because of two years of repaving, the road is smooth and lit so well with reflectors, it is almost like driving on a runway. And due to the weather, I was nearly the only car on the road.

Field Trips


This field trip in 2013 covered 14 bridges in 8 1/2 hours. This year we will divide into two days.

In 2013, I did a field trip through the local branch of Lane Community College to see the historic coastal bridges on a Saturday. We did 14 bridges in 8 ½ hours. It was great fun, and I’ve been willing to do it again. So when I was asked last summer, I said yes. However, the new leader of the Outward Ventures programs wanted me to divide it into two days. I did, even though it meant ten bridges on the north trip and four on the south trip. Of the large McCullough bridges, three are to the south. Most of the northern bridges are the smaller ones.

Barbara Baker

Barbara Baker, who used to be in charge of the Outward Ventures, is seen here on the field trip. This is the marvelous stairway found at three ends of the  McCullough Memorial Bridge.

The bridges are popular. The day registration opened, the northern field trip was filled by noon. And the south one filled within a couple weeks. They are planned for March. After Christmas, I was asked if I would do a second one going north because there was a long waiting list. I said I would. So for three Fridays in a row, I’ll be doing bridge field trips in a small bus that holds 14. How cool is that! I’ll be paid to chatter on and on about a subject dear to my heart. And I’ll probably sell some books to boot.

Gift Certificate

During the Florence Festival of Books, a Florence resident stopped at my table and asked me to consider doing a private tour of the bridges because she wanted to give her son and his wife a gift certificate to do just that for Christmas. She got the idea when she read about the college bridge field trips in the newspaper.

I considered it and thought that it could work, if I wasn’t the driver. I would only do it, if the folks receiving the gift certificate were responsible for the driving. So she created a gift certificate and gave me a photocopy and paid me in advance. Sometime this spring, at a time convenient to the gift certificate recipients and myself, we’ll take a private tour of the bridges.

So during the lean months, I’ve found ways to bring in some money. I’ll keep you posted on how the field trips turn out.

Notes: I’ve done the preliminary research for my new book and culled the list of places I’ll be writing about from 35 to 30. I’ll be starting the writing next.

I’m not going to the South Coast Writers Conference this year (one of the few I’ve missed during the past 20 years) because I’m one of four authors being honored at Backstreet Gallery on the same day as the main part of the conference––February 11. The Author’s Reception at Backstreet will be from 3 to 5 p.m. and coincides with the Second Saturday Art Walk in Florence. If you live close enough to come, consider this an invitation.

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