Yea, I deserve any ridicule for not getting this post together sooner. It's hard coming back to work and still feeling relaxed like you're on vacation. In any case, I bit the bullet and turned this out.
By the time we left Sunday morning, we were already a day late. Saturday morning was our original target for slipping out of town and over the Cascades, but it was not meant to be. Shawn, she who becomes list queen and worries over minute details when camping and hiking, got home late in the evening Friday and had been so busy at work, she hadn't yet tabulated the list featuring the number of lists she would need to feel good about leaving town. I, who becomes spontaneity and adventure king and who, probably would be eaten by a cougar on a trail because I don't make lists, therefore suggested to Shawn that we not rush and instead take off Sunday. The idea is to relax, after all. Shawn felt god about this and set about compiling lists on Friday evening while I just sat around and waited for the results of the lists on Saturday. After we gathered most everything together on Saturday, the list queen made an announcement: the list queen would like to make it known that she wanted to take time to sit and read books and would be completely about relaxing on this trip. However, the list queen also placed a disclaimer in her pronouncement when she noted that relaxing would be "the way we like to relax". Therefore, it will come as little surprise later when you note that there was very little book reading on this trip for the list queen. I however, who is always he who rises early (and often) in the day, would get much reading done.
The skies were grey and misting when we left Sunday morning. Knowing that we were heading towards sunshine and mid 80s made it easier to motive Shawn to get up and hit the road early. We stopped at our usual spot in Index to have breakfast. We made good time passing through Leavenworth, Peshastin, and Ellensburg. In Yakima, we paused for coffee and Shawn changed into shorts and I took over driving. Not long after the town of Yakima, we saw the first signs of the Yakima reservation, indeed, most any reservation in Washington and Oregon: fireworks sellers and shanty shacks. South of the reservation, along the Columbia River separating Oregon and Washington, Shawn had me stop at a replica of Stonehenge. This was built by a wealthy businessman in Washington state as a war memorial to 13 men from that county who died during Vietnam. Stonehenge sits on a peak overlooking the Columbia and Oregon and is free to visit. It's one of the windiest spots along the Columbia and is an area where a lot of wind surfers come to play and train.
Driving into Oregon we passed through miles of wheat fields. Acres and acres of rolling hills of wheat for, literally, as far as the eye can see. When we reached Redmond, Oregon (near our destination), it was around 5PM. Both of us were tired. I cracked a lame, rather crass joke about the filling station chain named "Towne Pump" which Shawn laughed at, but commented, "If I didn't know you, I'd be appalled at that comment." "I only share them with you, love"
We drove into the small town of Sisters shortly afterwards and could barely make out the Three Sisters mountains. It was another 15 miles to our lodgings along the Metolius River. The Metolius River is prime fly fishing territory. It winds through the Deschutes National Forest near Black Butte. As part of the forest, there is no hunting allowed and fishing is strictly catch and release. This side of the Cascades, the forest is filled with tall pine trees which smell so wonderful the moment you get into them. Of course, there are plenty of other critters roaming the forest, some of which are best to avoid. We got to the Metolius Lodge at just after 6PM. The clerk told us that we were lucky he was still around. He checked us in and told us which cabin was our place to stay and how we should park. The cabin was much more than I expected. All new appliances, a wood burning stove with a full supply of wood to burn, if we wanted (it had central heat), cookware, dishes, utensils. The bedrooms were small, but that was fine. The river ran by the cabin about 20 yards behind us. There were grills (charcoal and gas) for us to use out back and a deck with chairs to sit in that overlooked the river. There were also trails around the area which, sadly, we never got to use as I wanted to.
After breakfast the next morning, we drove down to Bend, Oregon to go to an Outlet Mall. Not my idea of a good time, but Shawn wanted to stop there. Bend had changed a lot since Shawn had been there previously and she didn't know where the mall was. After some pointless driving around where I was once again reminded that Shawn is the man of our couple in that she won't stop and ask for directions, I declared, "I must stop and pee" and led us to a visitor's bureau. We had passed the bureau earlier. I had pointed it out in hopes that we would stop and use the bathroom there, but Shawn was focused and ignored my pleas for a rest stop. Of course, the bureau not only provided needed relief, but also directions to the Outlet Mall. Once at the mall, Shawn went straight to the Columbia Sportswear shop. I had not intended to buy anything, but I found jeans for work that were $10/pair. More exciting for me, however, was that said jeans noted that I had dropped several waist sizes thereby making me feel good about my exercise regime. Shawn go a pair of shorts and a nice top. Next it was to the Levis store (more jeans, but for personal use), then out of town for the High Desert Museum.
The High Desert Museum is a neat place. For the most part, it is a series of trails that highlight the flora, fauna and wildlife of the region. It also serves to tell some of the history of Native Americans, settlers, and the forestry service. Our camera batteries had died while we were there otherwise we'd have more pictures of it other than the train cars and covered wagon. It was fun watching children being awed by a young bobcat that was there. They also had 2 Mustang horses there that had been captured from the wild just 9 months prior - magnificent looking animals, though I wanted to set them free.
The next day was our trip to the Newberry Volcanic Monument. We began by purchasing a day pass at the visitor's center and hiking the 1 mile trail in that area. We forgot the camera in the car while there, so no pictures. Not much to see there, but it's an introduction to the park. From there, we drove about 26 miles south then 15 miles west to the crater where the pictures of Paulina Lake and East Lake are from. The Obsidian Trail hike is only about a mile long, but it's really amazing. Not only do you see the obsidian rocks, but also a couple of different types of Pumice in huge quantities. I told Shawn that I wanted to go to Paulina's Peak next. It didn't seem to interest her much, but she placated me. The drive up (one lane with turn outs) scared the daylights out of me as Shawn was driving and was worried about other cars, so she refused to hang out in the middle of the road. I was good though and only asked her to move to the center once, then clammed up and cut circulation to my fingers by clasping the back of her head rest. Once we were up at the Peak, however, it was clear to both of us that it was worth it. The views, as you can see from our pictures are incredible. Unlike others, we stayed up there for almost an hour. I convinced Shawn that, even though the guide said that the half mile hike there was "difficult", we could easily do it. She was wary, but she followed me to the next point where we could see the Paulina Lake Lodge.
On the way back from the hike, we passed a fellow in his late 60s. He had a huge smile on his face and was practically running over the snow as fast as we had been on the way out. He greeted us well enough, but was clearly focused on getting to the next view. After we had passed, we heard him call, "Hey guys! Come on over here. The hike isn't bad at all" He was answered by a woman standing in the parking lot with 2 men: "No, thanks, Bob." When we got to the parking lot, the woman was staring at the man who had made it to the same spot we had just been in. We learned that his name was Bob. "Look at him, the show off! OK, Bob, that's enough. Why don't you come on back, now?" She turned to us and said that if we took a picture of him, she'd give us her contact and would we send her the picture. Sure...no problem. We cried out to Bob who waved back and we took his picture. Rather than come back, he took the time to admire the view. The woman in the lot screamed, "I'm glad you're going back to your wife. Mary can have you!" Mary, as it turns out, is her sister. Mary and Bob flew out for a family reunion, but Mary doesn't like these sorts of trips, so she flew back to Minnesota while Bob decided to take a few weeks and drive back, stopping along the way as he wished.
Our final destination for the day was the Volcanic Forest. Shawn thought that this was going to be some sort of petrified forest, but instead what it did was highlight the molds of trees made by lava cooling around them. The trees have long since decayed leaving tubes of lava, horizontal and vertical ones, in their place. Pretty cool. It's a short hike, but not terribly exciting. Still, you have to drive about 10 miles across pot holed forestry service roads to get there, so we were in no rush to leave. Well, I wasn't. Shawn might of been since on this portion of the trip, I began singing again. See, the nights at the lodge were weird in that there was no radio. I have no problems being without television or phones, but I'm used to having music around me. The first night in the lodge, I mentioned this to Shawn and she suggested I sing her a tune. I thought that she was joking - surely she didn't want to hear my voice, but she declared otherwise. The poor suffering woman must have gone tone deaf listening to me sing in the car over the years. I asked for a request and she didn't place one. "Sing what first comes to your mind." At this point, I began in on a tune by Sweet Honey In The Rock which had been bouncing around in my head since my friend, Annie, was in town: "Women Should Be A Priority". To makes things better (or worse), it's an a capella rap tune. Shawn, much to my surprise, was delighted. She was less delighted when, while walking the trail through the Volcanic Forest, I began singing a version of a Led Zeppelin tune: "Got A Whole Lava Love" Eventually, she joined in which seemingly distressed a couple that came upon us while Shawn was doing the guitar solo.
That night was to be our last night in the lodge, so we discussed where to go to next. Shawn ruled out camping near East Lake. She had had her fill of the highlands and wanted to go to the coast. I suggested going to Port Orford (the first city I stopped in coming through Oregon towards Seattle). This didn't fit into Shawn's plans. A night's rest, however, and Shawn had changed her mind. We could drive all day and spend the night north of Port Orford in Bandon State Park (30 miles north) IF we stopped in Myrtle Creek and see her grandmother. Deal. Back through the Cascades to I-5. We got to Myrtle Creek around 2PM. We had a painless visit with her kooky grandmother who, despite some eccentric behavior, I admire for her spirit and agility. Just after 3, we were back on the road. It took nearly 2 hours to get to Bandon, but some of that time was spent off of the main roads driving through farm country. The state park was so cush that it was unbelievable. Each camp site had water and electrical hookups, a fire pit, and a picnic table. Plus, they had showers for each of 3 sections. The showers had hot water. Plus, we came to find out, there was a small stage and entertainment by a folk duo. We pitched our tent and got the sleeping bags set up. I got the camp stove out and began dinner. Our camping neighbors, they who would purchase RVs costing in the 6 figures the size of which, once fully extended, was larger than my first apartment, were dumbfounded when, drawn by the smell of our meal, they came to find out we were having linguine with red clam sauce, salad with Gorgonzola cheese and a roasted red pepper dressing, and a bottle of 1996 Oregon Pinot Noir. LOL! I knew what sort of places we'd be staying and how we were really camping as in out in the woods with no shops around for miles, etc. Heck, they are the ones in the RVs. I was making good with a propane camp stove. Suddenly, my neighbors were very friendly.
We drove to Port Orford early the next morning. I bought Shawn breakfast in the same restaurant that I had my first Oregon meal in. The restaurant is nothing special. It is a throw back to an old diner (complete with the waitress uniforms) which in this place is sincere (unlike a Denny's which is trying a theme). The Wheelhouse does have one major selling point, however: Port Orford's beach. Just jaw droppingly beautiful. It was a sunny, windy day with highs in the mid 60s (similar to what I experienced 12 years prior). We walked down to the beach. It was nearly empty. Batteries were fresh in the camera. We each took a lot of pictures and we walked a long way. Intending to cross to where some kids were tide pooling, we found a river that emptied into the ocean blocked our path. It was wider and deeper than we expected. Walking up the river, looking for a crossing point, we found the banks shielding us from the wind. Shawn lied down on a log and promptly fell asleep. I lied down as well, but took pictures. We were still long enough that a goldfinch flew to within 5 feet of me and began to feed. Sadly, while I was wearing a hat, I hadn't put on any sunblock, so the back of my neck was getting burned. Shawn was in the same predicament. We headed back after about an hour, playing and snapping shots along the way. After about 4 hours, Shawn and I headed back to Bandon where apparently it had been overcast all morning.
We went to the Bandon Cheese factory which no longer makes cheeses since it was bought by Tillamook, but it does have a gift shop. A young clerk there looked mystified, as if they had ever made cheese there, when Shawn mentioned to him that the former cheese maker now had his own shop in Seattle (damn good cheese, too). A comely young woman helped us out by giving us a "tour" of the cheese samples. We bought. She smiled....at Shawn. Shawn missed it. *smirk* We went through the tourist trap "Old Town" area of Bandon and eventually decided that we were hungry and would also like a drink. The restaurants in the tourist trap charged New York City prices for meals. We left, drove around, eventually spotting a restaurant ("There one is," I cried "That building next to the Miller beer truck"). The Bandon Boatworks bar and restaurant not only makes a very good Manhattan, they don't charge Manhattan prices for their excellent food. I had an almond encrusted halibut (at least 1 pound) topped with a honey mustard dill sauce served with perfectly cooked veggies and a salad for $16. Shawn settled on the coconut prawns served with an Asian peanut sauce and a cocktail sauce with the same veggies and salad for the same price. Score!
The next morning, I made Amaranth pancakes with maple syrup and campfire coffee. Our neighbor made it out just in time to snag a pancake before his wife and kids woke. We then packed up and hit the road up the coast. The Cape Argo state park was another place that Shawn had wanted to take me for years. The pictures of the formal and Japanese gardens are from there - gorgeous. I fell asleep on the secluded beach near the gardens, but this time I had sun block on. Up the road further, we stopped at Florence and walked around. The Funky Monkey (and they were playing funk music when we walked in) toy store provided us with a couple of birthday gifts for Ginger.Eventually, we made it to Shawn's other grandmother's place in Lincoln City. We spent 2 nights with her, doing some house work and cooking for her. We took a walk on the beach there with Shawn's aunt, Candy. When we left Sunday morning, we had already decided that we'd go home that evening. The plan was to stay at friend's, Rick and Carol, house in Portland after a birthday party for Shawn's stepfather and 2 other friends, but we needed a day in the house to ourselves.
On the way across the mountains, Shawn snapped at me for some silly reason. It was the closest thing we had to a spat on the entire trip. I think her blood sugar was low. We got to Salem and went to see Ginger, who had her brother Bruce with her. Bruce is looking pretty good. Ginger, clean now for 8 months and attending nightly NA meetings, is looking a LOT better. We took them for breakfast and gave Ginger her birthday presents. A couple of hours later, as we said our goodbyes, Ginger apologized to me for the way she treated me when I was down the prior year. We kissed and hugged and that didn't really matter because it's just good to see her looking so healthy again. She's got a long way to go, but she's making the right steps.
We stopped in Portland for me to buy some books. Several times recently, I've come across references to Kafka's work, so, taking this as a sign, I bought a used compilation of stories. I also picked up a used copy of "Applied Cryptography" (I told Bruce it was my light reading; Kafka, dealing with the human condition, is far heavier than numbers and codes) and Orhan Pamuk's new book which is a tour of Istanbul through the author's memories. Next it was off to the birthday party: 3 friends turning 60 this year. It was good to see everyone. Dave, Rick, and Carol all gave good hugs, as usual. Shawn's stepfather barely grunted at either of us for most of the night. When he did say something to me it was to impress upon me that the person I had spent a great deal of time chatting with was worth several million dollars - as if that would impress me (insert eye roll). I stole some minutes for myself to go down to the creek running behind the house and meditated on a deck next to the bank. Before leaving, Rick had us join in on a gag he wanted to pull on the birthday boys: Sing Happy Birthday to them then shower them with water from squirt guns (family tradition of sorts). Shawn and I then said our goodbyes and I drove us home that night. It was a good vacation. We accomplished some things that Shawn has wanted to show me in Oregon for years. As I said, I got some reading done (finished Orhan Pamuk's "The Black Book" and started another book) and we had a lot of relaxing moments. Shawn rarely read at all, but she got to show off Oregon to me and to revisit some favorite places.