Sunday, June 25, 2017

Awesome-sauce on Lolo Pass

It all started four years ago with Awesome Friend Garth who rides a motorcycle.  He hatched a plan of riding to Canada on said motorcycle and began inviting anyone who is fortunate enough to count as his friend, along on the trip.  The problem was, at that time, Husband, who is one of those fortunate friends, did not own a motorcycle.  In fact he had not owned a motorcycle for a very long time and those one or two periods of his life in which he did own one, were very brief.  But he wanted to go, because anything AFGarth does ..... is awesome.


My heels immediately dug deeply into the ground, so to speak.

"People get hurt on motorcycles.  People die on motorcycles."  And so it went for a year or so.  I even enlisted the support of Experienced Motorcyclist Friend Steve**, who wisely counseled, "Don't do it."

Needless to say, Husband didn't go to Canada.

But I eventually gave in.

Fast forward to now.

Much to Husband's joy, AFGarth hatched a plan for another ride.  And this time I was on board (figuratively and literally) along with Dear Friends Steve**(see above; note the irony) and his bride Robyn ....


and New Friend Dallas, who lived locally until his career took him and his young family to China ..... yes, China .... as in .... Asia.   He popped back to the U.S. to visit friends/family and to do this ride.


The plan:  Six days, 1400 miles (turned out to be 1500 for us), through Washington, Idaho, and into Montana, then back through central Oregon.  The highlights:

First day, it was hot.  97 degrees.  We rode through the famous Columbia Gorge on the Washington side where, in my opinion, it's prettier because you can see Oregon better from across the river.  And Oregon hits a scenic home run in the gorge.   Husband and I decided en route that we couldn't NOT stop and see Favorite First Son and family who lived about 20 miles out of our way.

Favorite First Son and grandson.  
We managed to keep the visit very brief, which was not easy, and we caught up with our group in Walla Walla, where we spent the night in a Best Western.  315 miles.

Second day.  It was not quite as hot, fortunately.  165 miles.   We went through a portion of Washington similar to (and not far from) its gorgeous Palouse area (where we visited a year ago), then had lunch in Lewiston, Idaho, and on to the small town of Kamiah (pronounced Kamy-eye) which sits on the banks of the Clearwater river and is where we spent the night.  


Since he knew we'd have time, AFGarth had called the local LDS (Mormon) bishop and arranged a service project for us to do.  Hence we spent a few hours doing yard projects for K, the sweetest lady you'd ever meet.  Her humble home and yard was awash with what most observers would call junk, but to her, it held dreams of potential.  It was easy to see that without help, very little, if any, of her dreams would reach fruition .... the shed she planned to paint, the potting sink she wanted to make, the fence she was going to mend, and on and on.   As we worked, she flitted about joyfully in her flowered house dress and pink straw hat, telling us of her plans for this and that, and how blessed she was to have her own little home and garden that she was able to purchase some 15 years ago for $15,000.


Afterwards, she invited us in for "hors d'oeuvres" of fresh fruit, home-brew cider, and hot dogs baked in biscuit dough.  We sat in her tiny cluttered kitchen, at a small table neatly set with a fresh table cloth, where she continued to express her appreciation for her blessings.   It was a lesson of gratitude and humility that none of us will ever forget.  And no doubt, if any of us ever pass through Kamiah again, we will be visiting K.


Third day.  Perfect weather.  There is something in Idaho/Montana called Lolo Pass.  It is up there on the list of great motorcycle rides.  Of course Husband had been wanting to ride it.   And better yet, with AFGarth.


Lolo Pass takes you through scenery for which Idaho gets little credit.  Most of the time, the only part of Idaho that travelers see is along I-84 which, sadly, passes through the very unimpressively brown lower portion of the state.  The middle/upper portion is one of the best kept secrets because it is .... stunning.




Who knew?  At the far end of that 99 miles, we diverted up to Missoula in search of pizza for Dallas because, apparently, China doesn't have a Papa Johns "where they make the best".  We spent that night in some homely little cabins in Darby, Montana, where it seems that fly fishing and rodeos rule.   195 miles.



Fourth day.  283 miles.  Back into Idaho and after lunch in Stanley we came upon a road which, by common consensus, outdid Lolo Pass.  It was through or near the beautiful Sawtooth mountains (or was it the Bitterroot mountains?) .... with all the classic tight, hairpin curves ..... qualifying as pure motorcycle-Nirvana.   The more timid ones in our group (me) just hung on and leaned with the curves.    That night we stayed in an Airbnb house in the historic small town of Idaho City, where Steve and Robyn celebrated their 33rd anniversary, and where I slept on the top of a bunk bed.

Idaho City is the result of one of the biggest gold strikes, second to the one in California.  In its heyday during the 1860s, it was the largest city in the Northwest.


No explanation for this.
Fifth day, 295+ miles.  Realizing that we would be within five miles of my One-and-Only-Best-Sister-Ever, Husband and I diverted over for a quick, twenty minute visit.  We seem to have developed a tendency of arriving at their home in non-conventional ways.  Last time it was in a 40 foot motorhome.  This time, in helmets on a bike.  The detour put us about 30 minutes behind our group and needless to say, we blew through some long back roads of eastern Oregon and reached the prescribed rally point in the charming town of Prairie City, 45 minutes ahead of them.   From there we passed through John Day which, coincidentally, was hosting a BMW motorcycle rally and we found ourselves among dozens of kindred BMW riders.


We lunched with fellow rider, Kim, a longtime friend of Steve & Robyn, who just happened to be there for the rally.    

We spent the night in Mitchell, Oregon, which, if you are familiar with this town, you will be wondering, "Why on earth!?"


In spite of the fact that it still contains residents and a smattering of businesses, it is on the list of ghost towns which is not surprising since it has obviously seen better days.  The character of the ramshackle buildings that line its one street in the "business district", is in a class of its own .  We stayed in the very over-priced Sky Hook motel, circa sometime in the 60s(?), perched on a hill overlooking the town.


Sixth day, 223 miles and home.  Obnoxious high temps were forecasted, so we started early, stopped for breakfast in the delightful town of Sisters (of course), and parted ways for the home stretch.  Later in the day, everyone reported that they had arrived home safely.  

Thoughts:   There were no Harleys, nor beer drinking, nor even a tattoo (that I know of) in our group.  If not for Dallas' leather jacket and jeans, we'd be hopelessly dismissed as nerds in our padded mesh gear and ample helmets.  But a better group of people with whom to ride, you will never find.   I don't know how we deserved to be among them ...... needless to say, for the honor, we, like K of Kamiah, are grateful.

P.S.  All details that I have inevitably omitted, hopefully will be compensated for with pictures.

P.P.S.  Does anyone know who the heck was Lolo and why the pass was named after her/him?

P.P.P.S.  Thank you Garth, for your time and effort in making it happen, for your patience in keeping us all herded and on schedule, and for simply being awesome; and thank you Steve, Robyn, and Dallas for your wonderful company.  Let's do it again sometime!




Saturday, June 3, 2017

Don't ask

Starting Week Four of waiting for our builder to give us the final quote.  In other words, nothing on the house-to-be is happening.  Nothing!  Well, actually, a few things are happening, but only by the sweat of our own personal brows.

Not that we blame our builder.  It's just that we happened to pick a bad time to build a house because we are in a house-building-boom and anyone related to construction is not that anxious to add to their work load.  Apparently, for example, the truss-building people are swamped and have not yet sent their quote to our builder.  "It usually never takes this long", we are told.   So it drags on.

We, however, have been working our little hearts out.  Our five acres is now minus 11 trees on or very near where the house-to-be will someday sit.  Husband in his safety chaps has been wielding a chainsaw and felling trees while I drag the limbs (not his, thank goodness) and firewood into piles.  We hope there will be no neighboring wild fires before we can get it all cleaned up.

One pile of many.

Upside:  I am excited about the firewood and about building our first fire in our wood-stove-to-be.  It has been 15 years since we've heated with wood and we've missed it.

Downside:  This whole moving onto rural acreage thing was supposed to end yard work forevermore.  The Yard Plan was to do what is called xeriscape, or in other words, pretty much nothing.  Except for a narrow perimeter around the house, leave the land like we found it.   Something one best not do in a subdivision if one wants to be liked by one's neighbors.

But lately I've been sensing local nervousness about the above-mentioned wild fires and reading too many fear-mongering booklets telling us to keep everything cleaned up and mowed.  So we may have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the (wild) fire.  Husband is still holding out that, once all set up, there will be little to do, but I'm not so sure.

The property out here is covered with trees of one variety -- the juniper.  And I've decided junipers look nice from a distance, in a grouped setting.  But standing close to one of them and really giving it a visual once over ..... these things are not that pretty.  The fear-mongering booklets say to cut away any dead branches but that would take out large portions of nearly EVERY tree.  You've got to give them some credit for being hardy enough to grow in this sandy terrain .... but most are one quarter dead already.

So now that we are into June and the summer is well underway, I am wondering about what we will be in next winter.  Hopefully not the Beast again ..... because last winter and its ice storms wasn't fun.  We haven't planned on doing another southern escape like we did this year, but it may have to happen.  We'll see.  In the meantime, don't bother asking.  I'll let you know when something finally happens.  You'll probably read about it in the headlines.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Things I have missed in a "Sticks 'n Bricks"

That's RV-speak for a house.  I have said many times that the comfort of living in a motorhome has been top-notch ..... but there are a few things I miss:

1.  Space for my kids to gather.

2.  Long showers .... although when we're hooked up in a campground, we can shower as long as we want.  It's just that most of the time, we're not in a campground and the tank levels become all-important.

3.  Security in bad weather.  We've had our share of leaks and frozen slides this past winter.  [Review: Slides are those portions of a motorhome that (when parked) expand out for more space so we don't have to climb over the bed to reach the closet.]  During the ice storms that besieged us in recent months, the slides literally froze open with a thick layer of ice on top.  This is not good when it's time to drive to the all-necessary dump station.  (See #2, no pun intended)

4.  Hard ice cream.  Our freezer is sufficient, but not ideal.  And all soft ice cream should (in my opinion) come directly, and exclusively, from Dairy Queen.

5.  Decorating.  Presently I cannot buy a piece of art, or pottery, or any of a million knickknacks that women, in general, tend to fill their homes with.  (This actually has been a good thing.)

6.  Unlimited water drainage.  I miss not having to dump the used dish water into the toilet to keep the other tank from getting too full.  Again, it's all about the tanks.  Getting water is easy.  Getting rid of it, not so much.

7.  Being able to use my blow dryer, vacuum cleaner, toaster, electric fry pan, etc., WITHOUT first turning off the space heaters.  (We have a perfectly good furnace but it uses propane which must be refilled via driving to some place that sells it.  So we use electric space heaters quite a bit.)  I have notes attached to most of these appliances to remind me.  The notes do not work.  We are always reflipping the breaker and restarting Husband's computer, preceded by a loud "Darn-it!" from Yours Truly.


8.  Air conditioning.  Yeah, we have that too.  But it's a little noisy and we seldom turn it on. The point was to not BE where it's hot, which has proven to be more complicated than it sounds.

9.  My washer and dryer.  I have gained intimate familiarity with too many laundromats.  PLUS the "fun" of hauling my basket of dirty clothes across a very public parking lot in a town where I know people.  (The miserably few non-handicap parking spaces close to the laundromat door are almost always full.)

10.  My treadmill.



What I DON'T miss:

1.  Yardwork.

2.  Large spaces to clean, including multiple bathrooms.

3.  Yardwork.

4.  A garage.  I had a rude reminder last winter about having to scrape frost off car windows. T'was a lesson in empathy for chronic garage-less-ness.

5.   Cable/satellite TV.  This one surprised me.  I discovered that as long as I have Wifi, I'm happy.

6.  A dishwasher.  Not kidding.

7.  Stairs and/or having to walk more than a dozen steps to anything indoors.

8.  A large closet.  Still not kidding.

9.  All the stuff.

10.  Yardwork.