Home » Gate Guarding » In A Land Far, Far Away

In A Land Far, Far Away

So many people have written, asking what in the world possessed Heidi and I to embark on this wild ride. Since I began writing Fork as a way to up date a few friends and family who already knew the whole story, I guess it never occurred to me to begin at the beginning! I’ll try to move the tale along with photos (that way you can skip the narrative if you wish and still get the general idea).

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It all began in a land far, far away called Iowa. Heidi and I met, I’m guessing, in 1982 in the nursery at our church. Our boys were both born that year, 6 months apart, so we spent quite a bit of time in the nursery.

To be honest, we didn’t hit it off at first. Actually, she didn’t particularly like me and I was afraid of her. πŸ˜€

We were just about as opposite in our relational styles as two people could be.

Heidi was a fiery, straight to the point, red-headed Fighter.

I was a classic, non-confrontational, peacemaking Flighter.

We got used to each other after a while. πŸ˜‰

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The first Fork in the Road really took place in the late 1980’s when we started, what eventually proved to be a fairly successful Speaking/Training business, capitalizing on our opposite-ness. We taught communication skills – primarily to healthcare professionals – for the next 20 years.

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In the spring of 2008, Heidi found a renter for her house, bought a 32 foot Motorhome and packed up to escape Iowa winters, which were becoming miserable for her due to some health issues.

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With one halfΒ  hour driving lesson and verbal instructions on how to hook up her Saturn for towing, she was ready to go. Did I mention she’s a Fighter? She was completely undaunted.

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I was recently divorced so Henry and I decided to hitch a ride. We said many, many tearful goodbyes and set out to begin a grand adventure.

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Initially, we’d hoped to take the business on the road, but the logistics of marketing 6-9 months in advance when you didn’t know where you’ll be living stumped us. At this point we came to another Fork in the Road.

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When we’d spoken at the National Health Care Convention in Portland, Oregon several years earlier, we rented a car and took a road trip to Cannon Beach. I’d always loved the ocean, but Heidi, not so much. She fell in love with the ocean in Oregon.

Many of you are familiar with an organization called Workamper which caters to part-time and full-time RVers. Before leaving Iowa, we saw a Workamper ad for a job in a private RV park in Gold Beach, Oregon (on the southern coast, 60 miles north of the CA border). We called and got the job. We work-camped (each working in the office 20 hrs per week) in exchange for free site and utilities, with the promise of pay for hours over the required 20.

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At this point in our newly begun adventure, we ran into two problems. The first is fairly common. There didn’t turn out to be any hours over the required 20. The second was hopefully rare: the owners of the park were unethical and unscrupulous (which is why I’m not mentioning the name here).Β  There is an English proverb that says:

Every path has its puddle.

Well, yep, weΒ  stepped in that one. No extra hours meant no income. I was a frequent visitor at the Gold Beach Visitors center – coming in for tide tables and trying to learn all I could about the area. One of the part-time employees told me there was a position opening up. I was fortunate enough to be hired. It was an incredible job! I loved promoting the area and I could watch the waves break on the beach from my desk.

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As much as I loved the Visitors Center, it was only 18 hours a week at minimum wage. So when our 6 months of work-camping ended, we came to another Fork in the Road.

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We said goodbye to our new friends, left Oregon and headed to California for another work-camping job.

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For 6 months we worked at Edgewater Resort and RV Park on Clear Lake. This time we got paid for every hour worked and then we repaid the park for our site (at a reduced rate).

I cleaned the pool. That was the easy job. πŸ˜€

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We cleaned cabins, campsites and did yard work. We cleaned the restrooms… all the time!

I’m sure we had the cleanest restrooms in the state of California. Not only did we clean them every hour –Β  each Monday we spent half a day power washing and bleaching every inch from the ceiling to the floor drains and all the fixtures in between.

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We painted fences and built fire-pits and shoveled gravel.

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It was tough, physical labor and it made for one long, hot summer. We worked 5 days a week and cleaned houses for our boss on the 6th.

I don’t think either of us had ever been as tired in our lives as we were that summer. At the end of the day, Henry had to help me hold my book. πŸ˜€

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This fishing was good, though! I was rarely too tired to fish (catch and release).:D

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Six months later, the season was over in CA and we’d come to another Fork in the Road. Henry’s traveling companion in these photos is Harvey, the un-invisible Pooka – my homage to my favorite movie, Harvey.

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We longed for the wild Oregon coast.

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My wonderful boss at the Visitors Center did some fast talking and I got my job back. This is a photo of Heidi and I with Sue, who was my boss, and now is a life long friend!

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While I worked at the Visitors Center in Gold beach, we lived 27 mile to the north in Port Orford where we worked as Park Hosts. We worked in two stunningly beautiful State Parks.

This was my commute.

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If you’ve never driven 101 along the Western coast, it would make a great bucket list addition!

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I don’t think anyone’s ever had a more beautiful drive to work.

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At Cape Blanco, Heidi cleaned 5 little cabins while I worked in Gold Beach.

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Two nights a week, we sold firewood. We were frequent visitors to the lighthouse in the park.

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Tseriadun State Park, also in Port Orford, is a day use only park. We were there Oct – Dec, so all we did was keep the path to the ocean and the beach litter free.

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It was a rough gig as you can see. πŸ˜‰

We were the only ones there. We closed the gate every night at 6 p.m.

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The State Park jobs in Oregon are usually set up on a 3 month rotation. When our time in Port Orford was over, we settled in a little RV park in Gold Beach. It was off-season so most of the time we had the whole park to ourselves.

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We left our chairs in the lighthouse for storm watching. It was also a wonderful place to watch the highway of crab boats that ran from December through March.

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I literally walked out the door and down the beach to work. It was incredible! Then, one day, it dawned on us that we were still really quite broke and were running out ofΒ  years to rectify that.

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Through my contacts at the VC, I was offered a job as a live-in night manager at a beautiful resort in town.

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Within weeks, I was also the Guest Services Manager, Heidi was the Assistant General Manager and Henry was the Mascot.

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Which is all the data my computer can handle for tonight.

Next stop, Texas.

To be continued…

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44 thoughts on “In A Land Far, Far Away

  1. Pingback: Smile and Nod « FORK IN THE ROAD

  2. Very interesting stuff good friend. Thoroughly enjoyed learning the story of the Fork. Pot Pie says Henry rocks! Thanks for sharing… looking forward. God bless.

    • Dear MT –
      Someday will you tell me the story of Pot Pie’s name?
      This has been/is quite an adventure! Sometimes it’s better to just be surprised. πŸ˜€ Since I’m reading Dangerous Wonder right now, it makes me think of Michael Yaconelli (I’m always quoting out of context…).

      “On Oct. 24, Mike Yaconelli told a Youth Specialties convention: “If I died right this minute, I would be able to say: ‘God, what a ride! What a ride!'” Six days later, Yaconelli, owner and co-founder of Youth Specialties, the world’s largest purveyor of youth ministry resources, died from injuries suffered in a car accident outside his hometown of Yreka in northern California.”

      I’m with Michael – if I die right this minute, I can say “What a ride!” πŸ˜€

      And Henry is humbled by Pot Pie’s praise. He says thank you.
      Debbie

  3. Having spent most of my career in training and organization development, I really relate to you two. My friends can’t quite figure what I’m doing cleaning bathrooms and taking reservations for minimum wage right now. And like you too, we need to figure a way to make more $ for at least a few more years… I don’t think Kevin could handle the gate guarding. We’re currently in rural ND, 80 miles from the nearest McDonald’s and he’s not coping too well… lol

    • Carol –
      Sounds like our backgrounds are similar so you do get it! πŸ˜€
      We used to make more for a keynote than we make in 2 weeks working 24 hours a day.
      We’re only about 60 miles south of San Antonio where I’m sure Kevin could find several McDonald’s! πŸ˜€

      To tell the truth though, most of us work in remote areas and we’re pretty isolated. It works fine for us but it wouldn’t be most people’s cup ‘o tea.
      I think you’ll find there are relatively few of us who do this year round. It’s not the kind of job most feel neutral about – gate guard seem to love it or hate it!
      Wishing you well in ND. It’s supposed to hit the 100’s this week – I believe I’d like to trade you weather in the summer! πŸ˜€
      Debbie

  4. You two amaze me . .. simply amaze me. And for some reason, I’m crying too. Maybe just seeing His fingerprints all over your journey. Thank you so much for taking the time to let all us late comers know your story. It’s an important one, to me! love and prayers and thanks!

    • Dear Deb –
      You’re so sweet! The story isn’t all that exciting. I was hoping the pictures would help. πŸ˜€
      Did you notice how my hair went from brown with “golden” highlights to grey with brown highlights, all in a year? πŸ˜‰
      Was I ever surprised, after 10 years of highlights, to find it was all mostly grey!
      A lot things have happened in the past 4 years that could have turned my hair white, but I have a feeling it was hiding there already! πŸ˜‰
      I’ll try to wind things up in one or two more posts.
      Thanks so much for being interested!
      Debbie

      • I just saw your beautiful face and pretty hair! πŸ™‚ I think hair can be sneaky . . making us think one thing and then really just waiting to show it’s true colors. πŸ™‚

      • Deb –
        It’s funny, I always thought my brown hair was so dull.
        Well, no worries about that anymore! πŸ˜‰
        You’re sweet! Thank you!
        Debbie

  5. Nice job Debbie and your pics are great. Amazing where your life has taken you and the beautiful places you and Heidi have seen.

    • Jill –
      Hello my friend!
      There have been some interesting Forks in our road, that’s for sure!
      Maybe you and Mr A can meet us for an Oregon camp out someday!
      love to you from the 3 of us!
      Debbie

  6. Hi Debbie and Heidi (and Henry) – I just discovered your lovely blog and signed on for the duration. Southern Oregon Coast really belongs to me, as my tricycle tracks are all over Port Orford, but you three are more than welcome there. In fact, I wish I could join you there, but why not come by New Mexico on your way to Texas, and I’ll help you find a job. Good luck!!

    • OH MY!
      Hello portyorford!!!
      Wow! A native!
      We’ve actually been in Texas for a year and a half now – I’m just a slow storyteller! πŸ˜‰

      I think Port Orford is my favorite town in the world. Between Cape Blanco and Tseriadun and the Dolly Harbor – who could ask for anything more? Heidi and I spent hours talking to the guys as they hauled in the crabs and sea urchins etc… Such an amazing experience for two women from the Midwest!

      And I love to eat at – shoot, I forget the name – the little restaurant almost right across the street from the Laundry Mat (which I wrote a post about a week or two ago). They have the most amazing breakfast sandwich! The owner would let us in with the locals for a cup of coffee before he opened for the day.

      Orford is such a funky back to nature, artist colony, aging hippie and a little bit of everything else town. And such a great library!
      I loved the cop that patrolled in the beat-up pickup – clever!
      Were you there in 2008-9? Maybe we waved at each other! πŸ˜€
      Debbie

  7. Oh my gosh, Debbie and Heidi
    We lived over the hill in Tigard, Wilsonville and Woodburn OR
    My daughter rented one those “resort” condos for her anniversary and with friends
    We have visited each area you wrote about and LOVE the Lighthouse
    We lived in OR from 1995 until 2002 until our fork in the road brought us to the desert
    What a small world
    God Bless

    • Susie –
      I knew we were kindred spirits, but I didn’t know we were that kindred! That’s amazing! πŸ˜€
      So you lived on the other side of the Siskiyous?
      How fun that you’ve been to Gold Beach and Port Orford!
      Did you ever go down to the harbor in Port Orford and watch them unload the crab boats? I just loved that!
      And I love Cape Blanco! We were so blessed to live there! I don’t think there’s a more beautiful state park anywhere. I love the fact that the forests touch the ocean and that you’re surrounded by mountains! Every geographical feature I love all in one place! Did I mention I loved it there? πŸ˜‰

      And then, both of our paths led us from Oregon to the desert (OK, technically this isn’t a desert, but it’s mighty close). It’s a small world indeed!
      Love and grace to you,
      Debbie

      • Morning
        Yes, my hubby and I went to the harbor in Prot Orford just watching the beauty – no crab boats
        Have you ever been to the little Christmas town in WA called Levenworth? Its like a Swiss Chalet town!
        We lived in Spokane WA for 2 years too
        We love the wildness of the Oregon Coast but could not take the 10 months of Gray Weather – it wasn’t always rain but it was always gray. Although we would still be there – my husband’s work made some corporate downsizing decisions – so fork in the road – off to Las Vegas – we will be married 39 years on June 23rd and I have quit counting our Forks in the Road – I just leave them in a drawer somewhere and pull them out and polish once in awhile.
        So glad to meet you and Heidi –
        Love and Grace
        Susie

      • Susie –
        Your forks have served you well.
        Gold Beach has the most sunny days on the entire Oregon coast. We had sun almost every day expect for during the winter storms. That’s why the Jet boats and salmon fishing were so popular there. Well, and of course there was the Rogue!
        I’ve driven the coast from San Diego to Seattle but I’m afraid I don’t’ remember Levenworth. I been to WA 2 or 3 times but haven’t lived there.
        I grew to like the rain in Oregon, since it was intermingled with so much sunshine, except that the slides on the Class A both leaked. That got to be a mess!
        Debbie

  8. Oh! Henri! May I have your autograph?! Debbie, this is a priceless treasure to be sure! I’m thoroughly enjoying it, though for some reason I got very weepy (perhaps when I reached the fork, I took the wrong path?)–I am so proud to know you wonderful gals, full of smarts and wisdom and gumption and humor–and grace, of course. I do hope we meet in person one day–before we’re all too old/senile to remember the blog days…God bless y’all–I love ya dearly! your sis Caddo

    • Caddo –
      Just so you know, I don’t typically dress Henry up.
      I bought those goggles for the beach because he’s so short and it’s very often windy. I was hoping to keep some of the sand out of his eyes since he and I went walking in every kind of weather.

      HOWEVER, as soon as we hit the sand, he would rub his face in it until he rubbed the goggles off, which more than undid the purpose.
      The shirt did make him a little less sandy and warmer except when he chased the seagulls into the ocean – which was most every time.
      Eventually, I gave up and just took him out naked unless it was too cold. πŸ˜‰

      I’m not sure what we’re full of … (steak lately)! Sometimes I think maybe we’re just not sharp enough to be afraid? πŸ˜‰

      We’re figuring a few more years of full time gate guarding (4 or 5) and then, hopefully,only part-time at the gate and a lot of time visiting our families and friends.
      Keep that amazing mind of yours tuned up – we’re headed your way someday, You can count on it! πŸ˜€
      Debbie

      • Oh that Henry–he’s a caution, he is! I so rarely think dogs (or any animals) are cute, but I have to admit this guy has gotten to me.

      • Caddo –
        Henry is perfect. Seriously. He’s weirdly perfect (not a think like his people)!
        He doesn’t shed (that’s the poodle part of Schnoodle); he’s non-allergenic; he never has an “accident”; he never barks; he does throw up if there’s a conflict but that hasn’t happened for several years – ;); I don’t think he knows how to bite; he’s a lover but he isn’t demanding – he lets you decide how much you want to hold him, pet him etc..
        I just heard about a guy who spent $100,000 (I think that’s right) to have his dog cloned. It should have been Henry.
        I feel sorry for him now that we’re in Texas. He had the run of the beach (no leash laws) in Oregon.
        It’s so hot here and dangerous. He doesn’t get hardly any exercise – really short morning and evening walks about 50 feet each way, back and forth in front of the RV.
        We don’t deserve him
        More grace I guess…

    • Hello Pasor J!
      How fun to see you here!
      Pluck!
      So that’s what we have! I’m relived.
      As was writing this, I’d begun to think that perhaps we are just a bit daft!
      I’d rather be plucky! πŸ˜€
      Thanks for reading!
      Debbie

  9. My friend My friend, reading your story makes me laugh and cry, I do miss my friends so much. I know you will be back some day, be safe and I send the biggest of Heart Hugs for you to share.

    • Sue –
      Hey, you take a great picture, huh?! πŸ˜€
      I was so hoping you’d catch this one since you were such a big part of it – and such a big part of our lives, always!
      Love and Heart Hugs to you!
      Debbie

  10. Debbie, I love hearing about your journey! Did you hear that Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) is on Broadway staring as Elwood Dowd in a revival of Harvey!!!! I too am looking forward to your next installment

    • Hi Sherrie!
      Well, you are certainly one of the ones that prompted me to write about it. πŸ˜€
      I didn’t even realize that I hadn’t.

      I’ve watched Harvey over and over. In part, because I love the Elwood P Dowd – but also because I think I fell in love with Jimmy Stewart when I was about 5 or 6 (watching It’s a Wonderful Life) and I’ve never really gotten over him! πŸ˜‰

      Jimmy Stewart IS Elwood P Dowd to me. It’s one of those iconic roles that I can’t imagine enjoying seeing anyone else play.
      However, the fact that it’s going to be on Broadway is great!
      Maybe it’ll encourage some folks to “recommend pleasant”.
      Wouldn’t that be something!
      More soon –
      Debbie

  11. No skimming this time. I read very word with interest and hung on the pictures of the Oregon coast. Beautiful commute indeed! Eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

    • Oh Debby –
      If you and Henry ever get a chance, 101 up (or down, depending on where you start) the coast is so beautiful it’s amazing we didn’t drive right into the ocean with all of our gawking!

      How could anyone make a drive like that to work and not be overwhelmed by the beauty? I was awestruck every single day. I never did get used to it – which I saw as a really good thing! πŸ˜€

      Thanks for reading.
      I’m kind of behind here tonight. Hopefully tomorrow.
      (By the way – the Lost and Found-ness post on Two Minutes of Grace was a thank you to you!) πŸ˜€
      Debbie

  12. Debbie– I know the hours you spent combing through the pictures and doing your writing. Thank you . You’re amazing and this roller coaster ride is wonderful, full of surprises and as you stated, many forks! We’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but it seems we’re a swig for a few!

    • Heidi –
      I couldn’t have done it with anyone else! Thank you for putting up with me (and even letting me drive sometimes)! πŸ˜‰
      Debbie

    • Bob –
      Well now that y’all know more than anyone ever wanted to about us, I’ll try to get to story down here to Texas.
      Busy night at the gate tonight so I’m not thinking it’ll happen until tomorrow (which of course is today now, but you know what I mean)! πŸ˜€
      Debbie

  13. Thanks Debbie for the work you put into your “story”. I’ve heard most of it of course but I love the photo history for a better perspective. Its not a ride that everyone can take so thank you for letting me ride the ups and downs in my side car from home. Love, Chris

    • Hello Chris!
      Sometimes (often) I think we’re better off NOT knowing what lies ahead! Grace for the moment, right! πŸ˜€
      It’s been a wild ride! Thanks for coming along!
      Love to you, too!
      Debbie

  14. This was really fun to read. I couldn’t remember the order in which your adventure took place so it was fun to ” oh yah”.
    The pictures are so beautiful Debbie.

    Looking forward to the next part. :0)

    • Cath –
      You know as I sat down to write this, August of 2008 seems like a lifetime ago! It’s certainly been an eventful 4 years!
      Busy night tonight. I’ll try to get part 2 written tomorrow.
      Love and miss you!
      Debbie

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