Saturday, May 30, 2015

Home Sweet Home!

We're home from all those other places....

We've been on Whidbey Island for two nights. Seeing Brad and Yessi has been every bit as wonderful as we'd imagined. Now, we settle in for a spell before our next adventure to, where?

With these few words, I find my writing inspiration has flown out the window. We'll talk on the streets...


"Waiting for inspiration to write is like standing at the airport waiting for a train."

- Leigh Michaels

Friday, May 29, 2015

New Town; Long-Time Friends

Waitsburg, WA

Somehow in all our communications with Gail and Joe we didn't get their address so when we drove into town, all we could do was call. But, they didn't answer. No way could we drive on out of town without seeing them. Then I remember Gail had posted photographs of their new home on Facebook. A bit of Facebook searching, and I find the photo.

Making a grid plan, we start driving up and down Waitsburg's streets to find a home that matches the photo. We'd covered all the numbered streets, were beginning the named streets, and there it was! Much fixed up since the Facebook photo was taken, but no question, we'd found the right house.

A couple of years ago, Gail and Joe moved to Waitsburg, a charming little town. Now they are enthusiastically throwing themselves into their new lives. Joe is building a small guitar repair business, mentoring young musicians, and making music of his own. Gail is growing as an artist, becoming a town volunteer star, and being the perfect friend and neighbor to everyone up and down the streets.


"If conversation was the lyrics, laughter was the music, making time spent together a melody that could be replayed over and over without getting stale."

- Nicholas Sparks

Oregon's Isolated Beauty

Willowa National Forest, Oregon

Biking in Joseph's valley, followed by a second stop at the Lostina Brewery made for a pretty perfect afternoon. Terminal Gravity's cinnamon chocolate brew on top of riding 25 miles of drop dead beautiful scenery is tough to beat.

Funny how favorite hangouts so quickly pop up. We've only been here a few days and already we have found two favorite places -- Lostina Brewery and Local-Loaf. You should have seen the waffle Ed had for breakfast at Local-Loaf. A fat warm waffle, smothered in fresh strawberries, syrup and whipping cream. And then, just before leaving town, we find our third favorite spot, the Terminal Gravity Brewery itself, serving lunch and beer at picnic tables on the lawn.

Leaving Joseph we zoomed along on a smooth gravel road (in this case not an oxymoron) through grasslands stretching out as far as we could see. The isolated ranch buildings were vacant, left to succumb to time and neglect. Fence lines vanished into the distance.

At Buckhorn Viewpoint, overlooking Hells Canyon, trees had begun to show up on the landscape.

About an hour after Buckhorn, I started spotting camas lilies. We jounced along a bit more before we pulled off onto a side road to camp -- in a field of camas. By 6:30 this morning the sun was already filling our camas meadow with light. Whitetail deer show up but are too nervous about Thistle to stick around for long.

Our morning walk was down a deserted road, through pine woods, with the sweetest wildflower understory -- strawberries, camas, shooting star, larkspur, bluebells, both yellow and purple violets, and anemone. Memory of other flowers dropped away as my focus switched to Benton. Our pup was crazy with sunshine and freedom. He ran, chased and grinned with glee.

100 days on the road today. We'll be back in Washington this week, and home, after a visit with Gail and Joe in Waitsburg.

The thoughts of family and friend hugs are pulling...


"Why does no one speak of the cultural advantages of the country? For example, is a well groomed, ecologically kept, sustainably fertile farm any less cultural, any less artful, than paintings of fat angels on church ceilings?"

― Gene Logsdon, Living

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Wallowa National Forest, Oregon

Last night we stopped at the Lostine Tavern for a local brew and dinner -- fabulous! -- including, of all things, homemade catsup. In an otherwise sleepy little town, the Lostine Tavern is a hotspot! It made me nostalgic for The Dog -- the local folks passing out hugs, sharing a birthday party, talking politics!

Lostine Tavern *****

With advice from a tavern patron, we wound our way up Lostine Creek Canyon to boondock for the night. The canyon forest was so dense we couldn't see through it, but we found a small clearing with both a table and a fire pit, beside a raging stream. We didn't see another soul but did pass a dozen or more elk, and too many deer to count. It's been raining and thundering here since we arrived, once with such force both Ed and I darn near jumped out of our shoes.

This morning, we had coffee at the Blue Banana in Lostine. Definitely not up to snuff. Then we explored the small towns of Enterprise and Joseph, along with miles of roads up into the Wallowa National Forest. This is a magical place, reminding us of Whidbey Island in it's isolation and small town charm. With rain pouring down, we hung out in a funky book store/coffee shop/gallery in Enterprise for a spell. Finally arriving at Joseph, between rain squalls, we played tourist, walking up one side of the street and then down the other.

Joseph, OR

Local-Loaf *****

There's bear hunting going on in these mountains right now. On our second night we camp way up near the snow, out of Joseph. It's raining, muddy, and we're feeling unsettled. Most of our fellow campers are hunters. Their guns are big. I find myself on the side of the bear.

"Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they're in the game."
- Paul Rodriguez

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The State of Snake

Hells Canyon, Oregon

Years ago, Jim Riley, serving on the Langley Planning Board, advocated community planning based on watersheds, rather than lines on a map. He was right, to my way of thinking, but he couldn't get traction for the idea. I think of Jim's idea often as we travel along the Snake River.

Starting at an elevation of 9500 feet in Yellowstone National Park, the Snake River joins the Columbia River after 1036 miles of meandering. It drains 109,000 square miles and contributes 36 million acre feet of water to the Columbia. In our nation's rivers, it ranks 6th in volume. Can you just imagine the State of Snake, for planning purposes?

We've been camping at Oxbow in Hells Canyon for four days, biking, hiking, driving, exploring. And, sometimes enjoying the rain around the campfire. Fishing is good too, judging from the fish our neighbors are bringing home each evening and white water kayaking is popular, although it's still too early in the season to see any activity. No question, Hells Canyon, with all its dramatic beauty, is a popular playground. But its key value is cradling the Snake River, which is the name of the film in the visitor's center.

Earlier we had driven along the Snake River in southern Idaho, where the shores of the Snake were more pliable, made up of soil, rather than stone. Its flooding adding fertility to the land and its wetlands acting as huge sponges. Us humans have dammed, redirected, channeled, polluted, bridged and drained the Snake River in every way imaginable, many immensely damaging. My mind takes me to the water management possibilities if we had a State of Snake.

But enough State of Snake speculation and back to real life. Our visit to Hells Canyon was made even better, when on a bike ride, we meet these charming folks from Perth, Australia, riding across America.

If you haven't been to Hells Canyon, we recommend it!


"I like geography best, he said, because your mountains & rivers know the secret. Pay no attention to boundaries."

- Brian Andreas, Story People: Selected Stories & Drawings of Brian Andreas

Friday, May 22, 2015

Our Rich Lands!

Two Wheels Spoken Here the signs read, and for an area that boasts eleven bike routes, with the longest, Gold Rush Loop at 194 miles, they aren't kidding. We're in Grant County, Oregon and feel like we've hit a biking mother lode. Plus camping opportunities galore. This is pretty much an outdoor oasis made up of Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, Monument Rock Wilderness and North John Day Wilderness.

As Ed and I set out to discover America, we knew one of our searches was for geography of note. The geography of note has surprised us, as it has been so much more than the National Parks and State Parks we anticipated! It's ALL our public lands, acres and acres of open space, fulfilling both economic and recreational uses.


"You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a bicycle and that’s pretty close."

- author unknown

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The road unfolds...

It's becoming a blur. Where were we two nights ago? Last night? Where will we be tonight? Today we shunpiked from Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho to here, Malheur County, Oregon. We avoided congestion, staying well away from I-86, as well as the cities. We edged along the Birds of Prey National Conservation area and then followed the Snake River Scenic Byway, through wine country and farm land. The roads had names like Apple Valley, Chicken Dinner and Deer Flat, running flat and straight through the valley, with sharp right turns to accommodate farm fields.

Tonight we ended up in an open field full of huge blue pipes. The land belongs to the folks who manage the irrigation canals. A man driving by on his ATV, a farmer and BLM employee, gave us this opinion, "If I were tired, and wanted to spend the night without traveling further, I'd camp here." We did!

Boondocking in Arizona, Utah and Nevada was a snap. We used the rule of 10 miles from town; 1 mile off pavement; and out of view. Much of the land was national forest land. Open grazing, otherwise unoccupied and public with little dirt roads going no where, and everywhere. Just remember to close the gate!  There is even the 14-day law, meaning one can camp on public lands so long as you move on after 14 days.

In our current location all the land is private property. No pull offs. No campgrounds, public or private. No informal camp sites with fire rings. No rest areas. All the little side roads go straight to a farm house or out onto a cultivated field. Boondocking is a new game and far more challenging. We've been mulling options we've not before considered -- school yards, library, supermarket or church parking lots, tucking ourselves away behind storage buildings.

The challenge is fun. Our imaginations fly...

Ahead, Oregon's Blue Mountains...


“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.”

- Roman Payne

Friday, May 15, 2015

Oh no, Nevada!

Growing up in Auburn, California, Nevada was not far away. Nevada had little appeal. It was the place to get married under age, to gamble, or to endure miles of endless desert boredom.

My poor parents heard nothing but, "Are we there yet?" when we drove across Nevada.

We left Great Basin National Park, wanting to see the Ward Charcoal Ovens, but otherwise thinking there was not too much else that interested us in Nevada. We set out on Highway 50, aptly named the Loneliest Road.

Built in the mid 1870's, each stone oven is 27 feet in diameter by 30 feet high. Loaded, they hold 35 cords of wood. They burn for 12 days to produce 50 bushels of charcoal for every cord of wood. It took 5 to 6 acres of timber to fill each oven.

After visiting the ovens, we head for Ely to resupply. Then, retracing our steps a bit, we follow the signs to Cave Lake State Park. Kicking my boring-sagebrush bias in the butt, we discover, up in the hills, two campgrounds in beautiful surroundings, complete with a lake and enticing trails. We stayed the night.

The next day, after a hike and lunch we move on. We have more desert to cross and we want to get the long haul behind us. We're now certain we've seen the best of Nevada, and want to cross into Idaho, as quickly as possible.

We spot tents on our map, close to Elko, so we head there. Elko's sprawl of billboards, trailers, metal buildings, casinos, broken down cars, traffic and irreverently placed homes leaves us dispirited.

Our lament! What has happened to America's charming towns? Discouraged, we are about ready to park in a casino parking lot, and be done with the day. Luckily, at just the right moment, we spot the sign for Scenic Byway 227, and press on to Ruby Mountains Wilderness in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

We find another gem! Lamoille Canyon. Surrounded by splendor, all three of us, Benton, Ed and I, are frisky with delight, and in wonder that we are only 20 miles from Elko. Here's our camp.

Further up the road...

Leaving Lamoille Canyon, it's back to Elko to connect with Scenic Highway 225 North. But first, coffee at Cowboy Joe (*****)! While there we meet a fun-delightful-interesting-adventurous couple traveling in the most mean ass, back-country-outfitted Lexus I've even seen.

"Sage-brush is a very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure. Nothing can abide the taste of it but the jackass and his illegitimate child the mule."
- Mark Twain