Adieu to Ashland

The old adage that times flies when you are having fun is certainly true for folks lucky enough to spend time in the quaint and quirky town of Ashland, Oregon. Our three month house-sit is coming to an end. It’s time to say Adieu Ashland, it’s been great getting to know you.

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubs and I adopted the roving house-sitter lifestyle back in November. Our current plan is to explore as many of the cities and towns, historical sites and breath-taking natural beauty of this great country as we can while we’re searching for our next spot to officially call home. For now, home is wherever we unpack our bags and hang up our clothes. House-sitting offers us the opportunity to linger a while and blend in with the locals. So much better than a room at the Holiday Inn.

Ashland consistently ranks as one of the best places to retire in Oregon so when the opportunity presented itself to explore the area we excitedly threw our house-sitter hats into the ring and came up winners. Lucky us!

Our list of criteria for our next hometown is still very much a work in progress. And, it comes as no surprise that our must haves are as opposite as night and day. Hubs – opportunities to fish. Me – not too remote, moderate climate with lots of sun, walk to shops, restaurants, coffee if possible, arts and culture, educational opportunities (i.e. college town), low cost of living, easy airport access, friendly folks, good food/farmers markets, not a big city but near a big city…and the list goes on and on. Dream big and adjust as needed. That is my current motto.

So how does Ashland stack up? From our three months of totally random and non-scientific research here is my completely biased opinion.

What’s to love ~

1. Noble Coffee Roasters for great tea, hot chocolate, coffee and snacks like fresh baked raspberry scones. I will miss every one of the friendly faces behind the counter who greeted me each day with a smile and a chat. You guys are the best! Want to feel like a local right away? Find a great coffee shop and settle in. You’ll soon get the inside scoop on what’s happening all over town. Noble became my morning office, my afternoon break and the place hubs and I walked to on Saturday morning for coffee and a sweet treat (which we picked up up from Deux Chats along the way).

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

2. The Ashland Food Co-Op for good healthy food and the absolute best people watching. No day was complete without a stop at the co-op.

3. The Ashland Vibe. Bernie bumper stickers, Buddhas, fading prayer flags and yoga studios will always be top of mind when I recall our time in Ashland. It’s a community that definitely leans a little to the left. In a good way. Here’s how the pot boils – start with a few well-healed retirees, sprinkle with hard-working theater folk, artists and musicians of every ilk. Toss in a heaping handful of college students. Mix well. Flavor with a delicious blend of hippies – young, old and wannabe, local farmers and a few old timers who have seen it all and you brew up the heady sauce of interesting, intelligent, quirky, fun and friendly that is Ashland. It is a sweet elixir indeed. A century ago it was the lithia water that made Ashland unique, but I know for sure it’s the people that make it so today. Ashland Prayer Flags

4. Arts and Culture. It’s the home of the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival so Ashland has become a tourist town for sure, but the year round residents share a love of art in all its forms. Opportunities to explore your inner artist abound. I took full advantage at the Ashland Art Center’s classes where I played with clay and learned the art of needle felting. I also spent a rainy Sunday afternoon making croissants in a french bakery. Oooh La La! I could have done so much more if it wasn’t for that pesky thing called “working full time”.

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

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I captured this view on an after dinner photo walk right by our house.

5. Nature and the great outdoors.  Hiking, (you are at an off-ramp of the Pacific Coast Trail), walking (beautiful Lithia Park or the streets of downtown), nature photography, fishing, and skiing can all be found less than 45 minutes from downtown.

6. Food Fabulous Food. There is no shortage of eating establishments in Ashland and hubs and I did our best (for research purposes) to check out as many of them as possible. A few became our go-to favs and we would recommend them highly if you have the chance to visit Ashland. *Standing Stone Brewery has an on-site brewery and outstanding casual food menu. They bake their own breads and many menu items come from their own 1-mile farm (yes it is a mile from downtown Ashland). *Pie and Vine for pizza, pasta and a delicious grilled romaine salad. *Morning Glory serves up an outstanding breakfast (there is always a wait) as does Brothers Restaurant (generally no wait). Hubs gave the hash at both places a big two thumbs up. Amuse, a tiny French bistro was recognized as one of the best restaurants in Oregon. Liquid Assets is a lovely little wine bar that is perfect for a Friday night Happy Hour and Sammich pretty much nails it if you are hankering for a sandwich piled high with house-smoked meat served with a side of Chicago ‘tude and Da Bears.

7. Things to Do. Life slows down in Ashland during the winter but come early spring, the trees start to bloom and The Bard works his magic once again. Restaurants that took winter breaks re-open, shops extend their hours and tour buses dot the once empty streets. Parking spots are nowhere to be found. Winter might be cool, damp and dark, but we had no lack of fun activities to keep us entertained. First Friday Art Walk is a great way to explore Ashland’s many galleries. Rain or shine, the entire town comes out to stroll Main Street on First Friday. How about a Festival or two? March found us indulging at the weekend long Oregon Chocolate Festival right in downtown and our inner cheese nerd led us down the road to Central Point for the Oregon Cheese Festival. Yes, we have both expanded our “love handles”. We are sad that we will miss both the International Film Festival and A Taste of Ashland coming up in April. For a wee bit of old-timey outdoor fun, mosey on over to the Ashland Gun Club for the Cowboy Shoot Out held on the third Saturday of every month. Yeehaw, it was an unexpected good time! Rainy Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to visit the Varsity Theater where you can munch a little popcorn and watch first run movies.

Hubs with his new friend Dakota.

Hubs with his new friend cowboy Dakota.

If you feel like exploring beyond Ashland there is plenty to keep you busy. A short scenic drive will take you to the historic town of Jacksonville, home of the fabulous Britt Music Festival and a great stating point for the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Medford is 10 miles up I-5 from Ashland and offers big city amenities like a Trader Joes, REI and an indoor mall. It is the home of Harry and David who offer regular tours (we missed this) and has a small historic downtown (we took a self-guided walking tour using a map provided by the Visitor Center). Nearby Mt. Ashland offers skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. From cooking classes, to yoga classes, to wine tasting and lectures of every kind, you can be as busy and entertained and educated as you want to be.

And the Not so Much ~

While hubs and I really enjoyed our time in Ashland, we’re ready to move on. Here’s why.

1. It’s too expensive for us to live here on a small retirement budget. Housing costs, whether renting or buying, are out of our price range.

2. It’s too far from a major city. Five hours to Portland! Four hours across the Siskiyou mountains to Sacramento. I’m hoping for an hour or less.

3.  Flying in and out of Ashland is not easy or cheap. I learned this the hard way when I had to fly to Phoenix for work. I spent more time getting there than I did in the actual meetings.

We still have a few house-sitting gigs on the books (Washington and Mexico) and then in mid-June we’ll be loading up the SUV and heading from Portland to Colorado Springs, across the mid-west to Omaha and down through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. We will be checking out the towns and cities along the way. We are open for short term house sits so let us know if you or anyone you know might have a need. We’d love to hang out a while at the local coffee shop and get to know the folks in your town.

Learn more about us and our house-sitting experience at our website GlobalHouseSitPros.com

See you on the road!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

Home Free ~ Bloom Where You’re Planted

It’s been a month since we packed up the old SUV and drove off into the future.

So far.  So good.

We definitely planned an easy take-off by staying on the west coast through the winter.  And when we see the nightly weather reports, we are very glad we decided to play it safe and not make a long cross country drive right now. We’re in no hurry. We’re old. And as it turns out, much more cautious than we used to be. We’re still in training and figuring out this new lifestyle one day at a time.

Even though we are back in Portland for a few weeks and know our way around the New Seasons market and where the best restaurants are, it is definitely not “home” as we knew it.  What we’re learning to do is put down very tiny roots wherever we are.

It sounds easy…and sometimes it is.

Other times, not so much.

Each new place we land, things feel slightly different. Some crazy people put their silverware in the wrong drawer. The recycle has to be dragged down the street to the corner. In the rain. The TV remote is new and we’re too un-techy to get anything beyond basic cable. The bed is kinda hard and I need my memory foam. Nobody can find the broom. Blah, blah, blah. We allow ourselves a momentary WHINE. Then we look at each other and laugh. Because it is NOT our house and therefore NOT our problem. As long as we have silverware, who cares what drawer its in? It’s time to roll up our sleeves, let ourselves settle in and figure out how to make it all good. Change your attitude. Change your reality. Or something like that.

It turns out that once we’re done sorting through everything that is different, there is much that is the same and most of the time, it all works just like we want it to.

We unpack our bags and begin to work out a routine. I set up my office. Les looks for a local gym. We get the lay of the land. And most important of all, we open up our own box of small comforts that will make this house our new (temporary) home. There is magic in this box! We each have our beloved coffee and tea mugs. I have a both red and a white wine glass. Hubs has three of his favorite knives. I have my mini whisk, my cheese spreader and the world’s best veggie peeler. You get the point. There is even flashlight and a deck of cards in case the TV doesn’t work at all. And, yes, I have my holy crap tiara as well.  It’s the little things that make us feel like we’re home.

Home on the road

Home on the road

 

Wherever home is.

Here’s where home will be for the next several months – Southwest Portland in a lovely large house with a sweet 18 year old kitty. Downtown Portland in the trendy Pearl District in a high rise condo with a new kitty we’ve yet to meet. A custom built log home in the woods on Whidbey Island in Washington with two lap-loving doggies. And finally, a small house in beautiful Ashland, OR with brother and sister kitties will take us through March.  Not too shabby for a couple of old beginners! And the good news is that we are learning how to put down very tiny roots at each stop we make.  Bloom where you’re planted are our new words to live by.

A comfy couch, a warm blanket and a kitty.  Feels like home!

A comfy couch, a warm blanket and a kitty. Feels like home!

We’re counting our blessings! One home, one pet, one new location at a time.

See you on the road.

Cheers!

Nancy, Les and Tika our kitty of the moment.

If you need house sitters or know someone who might, please check us out at www.theglobalhousesittingpros.com

 

 

 

Housesitting 103 ~ Get a Backgound Check

Experienced house sitters have told us it is a very good idea to get a background check.  A quick visit to your local police station will earn you a document that says you have never done anything illegal in your home town.  I’m not so sure that would sway my decision to invite a stranger into my home, but apparently it helps.

Since hubs and I plan to take our house sitting adventure to other countries, we thought we should go full banana and get the FBI verified check.  Go big or go home!

So, last October we took a little noon-time field trip to meet up with the roving fingerprint lady.  She sets up in the hallway at various local courthouses and does a booming business inking and pressing fingertips into tiny squares.  Twenty bucks apiece and a few minutes of our time and we’d be out the door and on to a lovely lunch.

Or so we thought.  The indignities of growing old seem to pop up when you least expect them.  Who know that old fingers are DRY fingers and if you have DRY fingers, the cheerful fingerprinting lady cannot get a usable print.  Ink.  Press. Check.  Nope.  Ink. Press. Check. Nope.  I was up first and it was becoming somewhat embarrassing as I was holding up an ever-growing line of 20-somethings who were there on their work breaks hoping to pop in and out in ten minutes.  Well that was definitely not going to happen. Because the old people with the dried up fingers are on re-take number TWENTY!  Finally, all 8 fingers and my two decrepit thumb prints passed muster and she moved on to hubs.  I have to be honest here and say that even though I felt bad for the long line of folks waiting for us to be done with it, I was not unhappy that his fingers were as blurred by time as mine.  The friendly fingerprint lady finally dosed him up with some kind of very thick hand grease and voila! we were outta there.  Cheers were heard from the back of the line.

All we had to do next was fill out the simple one page form, attach our perfectly inked prints, toss in a check for $36 (for two – quite a bargain) and mail everything off to the FBI office in Maryland.   And wait.

And wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

The form clearly stated that with the current backlog, we should not expect anything back for 21 days but to not even think about calling them for 4-6 weeks.

So we waited and then waited again.

I was beginning to worry.  What if our paperwork had somehow gotten lost and our hard-won fingerprints had to be taken all over again?  Do not make me go there.

Finally, last Tuesday, about 4 1/2 months after we started this process, a lovely brown envelope from The Department of Justice arrived in the mail.  I’d passed FBI scrutiny and now had a very nondescript piece of paper to prove it.  And my fingerprints had not been rejected – which really was my biggest concern.

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What about hubs?  He’s still waiting.  I keep asking if there is anything he wants to confess, but he swears he’s clean.

So far, we have not been asked for a police/security background check for any of the house sits we have applied for or gotten, but I am confident that having them will add to our resume and profile.  Proof that we are always willing to go the extra mile.

The other benefit that came out of this experience?  I am now diligent very about hand cream!

We are actively seeking house sits for Summer/Fall in the western US and Canada.  If you know anyone who would benefit from our services, please send them over to our website Global Housesitting Pros.  Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

Top Baby Boomer Travel Blog 2015 Awards

And the winners are… pause for breath-holding… pause for envelope opening …

Well, actually there are 20 winners.  But I am beyond excited to be named one of FlipKey’s Top Baby Boomer Travel Blogs to follow in 2015.  There are some well-seasoned travelers and heavy-hitter bloggers in the mix.  And now me and Just a Backpack and a Rollie.

I’ll take it!

And hubs and I will keep on dragging our backpacks and rollies and sharing our adventures with you throughout 2015.  I’ve been busy applying for house sitting gigs all along the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  And we have some very interesting gigs in the works.

So please click on through to the wonderful post on the FlipKey blog and check out our fellow boomer travel bloggers.  They are all truly an inspiration to me.

And here is our little Award.  She’s not a gold statue, but I think she’s pretty cute.

Labor & Delivery ~ hatching a retirement plan

Hatching a retirement plan isn’t always quick or easy. It’s been germinating for weeks, months, heck, probably the better part of two years…

As many of you know, the whole idea for Just a Backpack and a Rollie started (somewhat as a lark) in response to hubs’ daily happy hour comment “Let’s become citizens of the world…it if doesn’t fit in the backpack and rollie, then we probably don’t need it.”  You can check out that very first post here.

Les&Nancyinairplane

I thought he’d gone over the edge.  He was newly retired and I was still firmly tethered to the corporate world and all it’s trappings (read that as security with a capital S).  Truth be told, he had no idea in hell how this new plan might happen.  But he sure liked saying the words.  No amount of logic on my part seemed to deter him.  When they say that opposites attract, they are talking about hubs and I.  He tosses them out there…I feel compelled to catch them and then figure out how to make them come to life.  I’ve spent a lot of time exploring all of the options and opportunities available to free-spirited retirees looking for travel and adventure on the cheap.  The possibilities are endless, but for us (at least for now) it kept coming back to house sitting.  Well, okay then…let’s do it!  Get the ducks lined up and get the hell outta Dodge while we’ve still got enough get-up to go.

And TADA! at 3:45pm Pacific Standard Time on November 1st, a new life was born!

World meet Global HouseSitting Pros – our new website/blog.

Creating the Global HouseSitting Pros site has been a labor of love, a huge learning adventure (now I can add website developer to my CV), and a giant leap forward for hubs and I as we inch closer toward our retirement dream.  I haven’t cut the corporate tie quite yet, (sorry, I’m the logical one) but since I can work from any location with a good wifi connection and cell reception, we’re going to start by setting up several house sits on the west coast – anywhere from British Columbia, Canada to Baja, Mexico.

We will keep you posted – hopefully with postcards from the road.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

When should you hand over the keys?

My step-dad Bill’s last car was a 1965 Mustang. It was a beauty – sporty looking and fun to drive. He was always a car guy and had a new car every few years, but that Mustang sure held a special place in his heart. I have great memories of my dad and mom, very active members of the local Mustang Owners Club, participating in road rallies, Mustang caravans to Vegas and other fun social outings. That car was not just reliable transportation.  It was his alter ego.

1965_mustang

My dad was the proud owner of a license to drive for over 60 years.  Like most of us, driving was part of his identity.  It gave him freedom. And as he aged, it helped him hold on to his vitality and his “youth” – well past anything that resembled actual youth .

I don’t remember for sure, but I think he was about 80 when he gave up driving and the Mustang.  He sold it to two women friends who loved it almost as much as he did.  He was happy to see it go to a good home.  I’m sure it was bittersweet.

Giving up the keys was not an easy decision, but as I look back, I realize it was one he made with grace and much wisdom.  We didn’t have to worry about him on the road, we didn’t have to have “the talk” or to wrestle the keys from his hand.  He knew it was time.  And he rose to the occasion.  Thank you Bill!

After he’d given up his car, Bill used to visit me in Oregon and talk wistfully about driving.  I would offer him my keys but he never took me up on the offer.  I didn’t think much about any of this at the time.  Now that I am older and wiser, and growing closer to the time when I will have to make that decision myself, I am grateful.  Especially when I see my friends struggling with their parents who are well into their 80’s or 90’s and still behind the wheel.

How do you know when it’s time? There’s no magic number. It’s different for each of us and it is a life changing moment – relinquishing of your personal freedom, your independence and along with that some of your dignity.  Not a decision any one of us takes lightly.

Most of my peers are in their 60’s or early 70’s and giving up the keys seems like something in the very distant future. Hell, we’re still young. We’re healthy. We’re world travelers or marathon runners. We’re not the problem.

Until we are.

I’m not saying anyone I know should give up the keys…yet.  But it should be on the table for discussion.  I want to follow my step-dad’s lead and know when it’s the right time and have a plan.   He gave up the keys and took up walking.  I think the walking is what kept him fit and healthy into his late 80’s.

I sent this video to a friend who is struggling with “the key issue” with her parents.  It sheds an interesting light on the question “when is the right time?”  Listening to 97-year-old Evelyn puts a whole new spin on the current thinking. At least it did mine.

Perhaps the freeways of the future will be filled with centenarians swooping in and out of traffic in their mini convertibles.  And, although I can’t picture myself not being able to drive my own car, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that either.

What I know for sure is that we will all be there sooner than we think.

I’m throwing this out for discussion… talk amongst yourselves…or better yet, leave your thoughts, experiences and brilliant ideas in the Comments below.

Now, where did I put my keys?

Nancy

The Big Float ~

It rains in Portland. It rains a lot!  So when summer rolls around and the sun finally shines its happy light on us, everyone heads for the great outdoors and some fun in the sun – Portland style.  Which is how hubs and I ended up at The Big Float.

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland

This year more than 2,500 souls dragged their pale white bodies, their favorite flotation devices, kids, friends, grandma and in some cases, even their dogs through the streets of Southwest Portland making their way to Tom McCall Waterfront Park to pay the $6 fee that allowed them to participate in one of Portland’s most unique summer events. Continue reading

Senior Living Game-changer?

This could be a senior living game-changer.

A brilliant idea in inter-generational living has blossomed into the thriving community of Bridge Meadows.

Bridge Meadows, which opened in Portland in 2011, is home to three generations of residents: low income seniors who receive discounted rent in exchange for volunteering 10 hours a week; foster children; and the families who are in the process of adopting them.  There’s a grandma and grandpa or an auntie on every corner.

Old-fashioned family values have come back to life in a whole new way and it’s a very good thing for young and old alike.

Bridge Meadows is a unique multi-generational community located in the Portsmouth neighborhood of North Portland where adoptive parents, foster children, and elders – those over 55 – find a true home built with love and the shared vision of a better tomorrow.

I hope we see many creative inter-generational communities begin to bloom all across the country.

Cheers!

Nancy

Aging with Attitude ~

It’s not your age.  It’s your attitude.  Isn’t that what they say?

Well, I’ve got plenty of attitude and some days its not the attitude of gratitude I’ve been striving for.  Some days I just feel old.  And tired.  And really tired of working for a living.  I’m the last of my peers to still be chained to a desk and while most of the time I am extremely grateful for the job and the paycheck, sometimes I think I’ll never get out of the retirement starting gate.  The grass looks greener where my friends are playing, and gardening, and traveling and starting happy hour at 3 o’clock instead of our usual 5:30 meet-up time back in days when we all snuck out of work a little early for attitude adjustment hour.  I’ve got short-timer’s disease for sure and the time feels very long indeed.

But here’s the thing.  While I am ready to give up the desk jockey job, I am not ready to give up some kind of meaningful work.  Whatever work might look like.  So, I’ve been trying on all kinds of hats to see what fits and what feels kinda groovy.  At least for a while.  travel writer – blogger – world explorer – pet and house sitter – walking enthusiast – photographer.  So many hats!  So little time.  And I still don’t know what I want to be when I finally get the chance for my second or third or forth acts.

It's fun trying on new hats!

It’s fun trying on new hats!

Some people seem to float from act to act with ease.  I admire these folks.  And, I love hearing their stories and learning from their adventures.

Meet Barbara Beskind ~

Barbara-Beskind-Aging-With-Attitude

photo courtesy of IDEO/Senior Planet

Barbara is somewhere around her 6th Act.  She is a role model extraordinaire.  Barbara just celebrated her 90th birthday – with her co-workers at IDEO, a Silicon Valley innovation company, where she recently started her latest gig as one of their designers.  A job she won when she competed in the firm’s design challenge for products for older adults.  Every Thursday Ms. Beskind travels by train from her retirement community in San Mateo, CA to the IDEO offices in San Jose.  She’s not an engineer, but she certainly is a real life adviser.   Read more of Barbara’s inspiring story on Senior Planet.

Rock-on older ladies, indeed!

So, my dears, here’s the question of the day. What does aging with attitude mean to you?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

Smitten with Chickens ~

Yep.  After a week on the farm, I am officially smitten with chickens.

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Especially the five ladies I’ve taken under my wing (so to speak) for this house sitting adventure.  I had no idea what beautiful, smart and delightfully entertaining creatures chickens are.  They are feathered comediennes and you can’t help but smile when you interact with them.

I’ve been getting to know “the girls” for several days now.  Each has a unique personality. They are very social and quite talkative.  I am totally gaga over these feathered beauties.  Last night I sat in the grass and tried my hand (with moderate success) at chicken portraiture.  chickens in the vineyard

Every evening I let them out of the chicken pen to wander freely around the lawn and into the edge of the vineyard.  They are lined up and waiting by 5:00 p.m. calling me to hop to it and open the damn gate already.  They make a break and their first stop is usually a nice dirt bath.

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Around dusk I head out to wrangle everyone back into the coop for the night.  My secret weapon is a big bag of Happy Hen Treats aka dried mealworms.  A few hardy shakes of the bag and the girls come running.  They are a sight to behold! DSCN3883 chickens2 chickenbutts2 Spending time with these feathered lovelies has been one of the highlights of this house sit. You never know what adventures life has in store. I am so glad I said yes to this opportunity.

Cheers from the vineyard,

Nancy