Archive for November, 2011

Bend, Oregon

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Nice trip to Bend, Oregon today. Not too pushed for time, we were able to drive leisurely and to stop and have a look around when we liked. Our route took us south from the Tri-Cities on Oregon State Highway 207 which goes through some pretty remote areas.

My predomionate recollections are of low rolling hills slowly giving rise to Pine Forests as the land rose and then to Confiferous Forests. Underlying it all was lava in the hiilsides and the road cuts.

We drove sometimes for 15 minutes without seeing another vehicle.

Notable was the town of Hardman. All clapboard buildings, many in ruins, there was also evidence of occupation by some folks living in trailers. We later regretted not stopping for a second look as it was so remarkable. In the evening, Colette Googled it and we found out that it is a partial Ghost town. The last business there closed in 1968.

Another town we encountered was Spray. We stopped at a general store to see if we might find coffee and/or lunch. The store and the restaurant were all one thing and a number of local folks were having lunch. We took a look around and opted for two bags of mixed nuts. To me, it felt like one of those places where things were either going to feel really awkward or the folks were going to be really friendly and fully engage us in a ‘who are you and where are you from’ chat. I think we just wanted a quiet sitdown sort of a lunch so neither appealed at the moment.

After that, we began to get back into civilization as we got closer to Bend and the towns in that area.

I liked the remote areas we went through today. I told Colette that except for the Olympic Peninsula, this might be the most remote we’ll get on this trip as most of our travels are planned to be near the Pacific Coast.

It’s hard to remember sometimes when you rip through an area like this enroute from one place to another, that folks spend their entire lives in these places save for the odd vacation. These little remote towns are the center of their lives and their last names can probably be seen on many of the grave stones in the little cemetaries we pass.

Bend is 80,000 people and obviously a nice place. I’ve heard about it for years. We found a nice room for only $52/night and then went out and supped on Vietnamese food.

The only wrinkle is that I’ve been fighting a light cold for several days and in the evening, it got stronger. Not fun being sick when you are travelling. This morning, as we’re preparing to take a look around town before we depart for Eugene, it’s much better. Let’s hope it stays that way. Colette had a slight cough for a few days be seems to have shaken it.

The sun’s out, the skys are mostly cleared, we have new country never seen before to travese getting to Eugene from Bend and we’re feeling good. Time to go. Bye!


Kennewick, Oregon – day 4

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Saturday. Yesterday was rest up day after the big feed. Today, we can all play together before we depart tomorrow morning.

We decided to do something physical to offset some of the massive eating we’ve all been into so we took off for a climb up Badger Mountain. It’s 1579 ft tall. It was a good hike with stunning views all around and over the Tri-City area including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the distance.

It’s a popular destination for folks of all ages and you could see them strewn all up and down on the path like tiny ants aboove you or below you; depending on where you were. By a stroke of good luck, we met Rose’s girlfriend, Rita, and her partner on the trail and passed a few interesting minutes talking with them before they continued on down and us on up.

Lots of radio towers and such at the top. We stayed for maybe 20 minutes taking pictures and gawking and then headed back down.

Alice was waiting for Colette, Rose and I down in Rose’s car. Due to medical issues, she couldn’t do the climb with us but, rather, waited for us with a book to keep her company.

Now, Rose took us back into Kennewick and showed us the old section of downtown which we’d been unable to find.

She began by taking us to a True Value hardware store there that also doubles as a furniture store on the 2nd and 3rd levels. Nice place with good quality furniture. I bought an indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer there (on the 1st floor) for $10.00 USD which I thought was a pure steal.

Then we walked over to a cafe with a lot of good local color that Rose knew about. Good place but, as usual, the portions were enormous. Water quality in terms of taste is an issue in this area. At Rose’s, we all drink water that’s passed through her filtering system. At the restaurant, however, we got the straight stuff and Colette took one swig and I saw from her expression that it wasn’t very tasty. She said it was the most highly treated water she’d ever had and she ordered a diet coke in a can. I had brewed coffee so I couldn’t tell. The meal was good though as was the small town atmosphere.

From there, Rose took us over to the Colombia River and showed us a ‘Bridges’ walk she and some of her girlfriends do. Basically, there are two bridges that cross the Colombia in Kennewick. One’s the 395 and the other’s the 397. Rose and her friends will, with enough time, walk over one, then walk over to the other and then walk back in a loop. It reminded me of a long walk Alan T. and I took some years back in Eugene along the river there.

After all of this, it was getting dark so we headed back to the house. One of Rose’s girlfriends had asked it Rose could watch her daughter for a four hour shift that evening and she was due to drop AJ off at 5 pm.

What a cute kid AJ was. I spent a fair bit of time with her and she is really bright. It was fun to show her various tricks and ideas. At one point, I showed her how to convert letters into numbers and then back out again as a way to write secret messages and she got it instantly. I don’t think I was that sharp in 3rd grade.

Finally, it was time to turn in for our last night at Rose’s place. It’s been fun but tomorrow, we’re off for Bend, Oregon as we work our way to Eugene and my friends Alan and Rita. I’m looking forward very much to seeing them.


Kennewick, Washington – day 3

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

The day after Thanksgiving proves to be a quiet one. We sleep in until almost 830 am. Then we’re up for coffee and chat with everyone. Rose is still working at Kohls. Her shift was from midnight to 10 AM so we’re expecting her shortly and she’s probably going to be quite tired.

She arrives tired but perky and claiming she’ll stay up all day. Looks are passed among several of us and silent doubts expressed among them.

Her girlfriend who’d also worked all night showed up and more visiting ensured. It was suggested that all the employees who’d worked the all-night shift should gett tee shirts made to that effect.

Chris, Nikki and Sammy took off as they needed to be back in Seattle for work this evening. Pass conditions over Snoqualamie Pass were checked and it looked like they’d be OK. Colette and I will see them again in another week or so.

Colette and I decided to take off on some adventures of our own. The thought was that Rose would be more likely to sleep if there were no house guests about to entertain or take care of. It turned out, according to Alice, to be true. Rose was sleeping not long after we took off. It was at least noon before all this happened as we’d all been talking a lot.

Colette and I drove around Kennewick. First, we went over and had a coffee at Starbucks (and bought two small Starbucks cups) and then looked into the adjacent Wal-Mart. That was a bit of true Americana we both wanted to experience. A big walk around the colossal store followed and a few items were purchased (We didn’t want to be responsible for the economic failure of the Chinese nation).

Then we tried to drive up the hill south of Rose’s place to get the ‘big view’ of the area. That was only partially successful as the road part way up was blocked with construction. But it was enough to let us see our next goal which was the big Colombia Park just to the west of where teh 395 crossed the Colombia River.

The park was beautiful and we found a pond where people were feeding big geese and ducks and pigeons. That was a fun scene.

Twilight was coming on so we came back to the house. Alice made us a nice supper from the Thanksgiving meal leftovers. Then she woke Rose up on the theory that if she kept sleeping, she’s wake up at 2 AM and then lay awake all night wondering what to do.

After that, we had a quiet evening together and turned in. Another fine day.


Kennewick, Washington – day 2 – Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Thanksgiving day in Kennewick, Washington at my first wife, Rose’s, place. My son, Chris, and his girlfriend, Nikki, are here now along with myself, Colette, Rose and Alice, Rose’s sister.

The day starts slowly with Colette and I going out for a walk. Then Tina and her family showed up along with a number of other folks and soon the house was brimming with a large extended family. 18 people, by one count, of all ages from a newborn baby to older folks like myself.

I like kids and the ones there were great. My iPad was passed from hand to hand all day as various games were played on it. Indeed, the battery was run down to zero twice before I had to retire it for the day.

Early in the day, several of us went to a public park and played basketball, frisbee and football. I use the word, ‘played’, loosely because the only sport I had any skill at was Frisbee. Dan, Tina’s son, is terrific at basketball and Nikki’s no slouch either.

As the afternoon wore on, everyone seemed, at one point or another, to talk and visit with everyone else. Adults and kids were everywhere. Political discussions were held, TV was watched, candy was eaten (including some which was consumed by Chris and Nikki’s dog, Sammy, who was a bit worse for the experience but he soon recovered) and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Rose setup a long table with as many spaces as possible but, even so, several folks ended up sitting on the couch when the meal was served at 4 PM.

It was a classic American Thanksgiving dinner, which was a new experience for our Kiwi, Colette. Turkey, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, ham, and assorted other goodies in large quantities. A classic big-table event with bowls of one thing and another being passed up and down the table from hand to hand.

Finally, we were all stuffed. So, we sat down and talked some more why we digested. And then, after an hour or more, the pies came out; pecan and pumpkin. Oh, yum. I pigged out with a piece of each.

After another hour or so, the Tina and Pat (Tina’s husband) clan packed up for their return drive to Moses Lake (about an hour and half away). The house seemed so big after all of the clan left but I missed them.

The night was not over, however. Tomorrow’s Black Friday and Rose works at Kohls Department Store and they are opening up for a Black Friday sale at midnight tonight when Thursday turns to Friday. And we’ve all decided to go down and join the shopping insanity!

So, we all sit around chatting until Rose goes into work just after 11 pm. She calls at 1130 to tell us to follow her on down NOW as the place is already insane with folks waiting to get into the store. Whoops – off we go.

At 1155 we pull in and the crowd is right around the store lined up waiting for midnight to strike. We get out and organize ourselves and start walking and when we’re halfway there, they open the doors. Wow. Everyone is surging to get in. Shopping madness. And, apparently, this is going on all over town with stores opening for Black Friday. Good fun!

So, we surge in with the crowd and exchange cell phone numbers with Alice in case we get seperated.

Shopping’s fun. We didn’t think we’d want to buy anything but it’s all a bit infectious. We buy a high quality kitchen knife and two caps for me to replace the one I lost in the high winds at Bandon Beach in Oregon.

Then (yes THEN) the rub becomes apparent. It’s the queues we have to line up to buy this stuff. Yow, they are stretched all around the inside of the store before you get to the checkout stations so you can pay.

We think about putting our stuff away but Chris and Nikki volunteer to take it through for us. They realize we’re older folks and need to get our rest (smile!) so we hand our goodies to them and by 1:15 am we’re home and heading for sleep while all the crazy shoppers shop on.

And so ends Thanksgiving in Kennewick.


Kennewick, Washington – day 1

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

The drive from Portland to Kennewick today took us right up the Colombia River which is a very pretty drive. We planned our route before we left this time (smile). So, it was easy to get out of town.

Onto 5, across the river into Washington (Colette’s first entry), then east on the 14 a bit, then south across the river again on 205 where we picked up the 84 going east and we were off. And it all went like clockwork – unlike last night’s adventures coming into Portland.

We began the drive in rain and low visibility; classic Pacific Northwest weather. But, as we drove east, the rain eased off as the landscpe changed from evergreen forests and waterfalls, just beside the road, to open lava filled ridges with few trees rising high about the wide Colombia. We passed two hydroelectric large damsand I told Colette about the dams and the decline of the once great Salmon stocks.

Mile after mile of the Colombia Valley rolled by.

Then I remembered the story of “Kennewick Man” and shared it with Colette.

We jumped off the 84 in The Dalles and had a look around the town. I told her about the salad bar poisoning committed in the town by the Rajneeshees in about 1984 that led to the final breakup of the Ranjneesh Commune, Rajnesshpuram, near Antelope, Oregon.

I was a follower of Bhagwan Shree Rejneesh during the early eighties so I had followed all of this quite closely at the time. Indeed, I had attened the summer festivals at Rajneeshpuran from 1981 through 1984. And an amazing experience it was.

We drove on and arrived in Kennewick at Rose’s place without incident around 3 pm in the afternoon.

For those who may not know, Rose was my first wife. She and I were married from 1968 to 1979 and had two sons; Dan and Chris. Some folks ight think it oodd, but after all these years, she and I are still close friends. Indeed, Colette and I are here at her invitation to spend Thanksgiving with her and her sister, Alice, and a large extended family of people; many of who I’ve known since I was 21 so many years ago.

We arrived and hugs were passed out and introductions made.

Alice just moved down from Alaska about six months ago after being there for many years and this was the first time I’d seen her since the late sixties.

Chris, my younger son, and his girlfriend, Nikki, were due in a few hours. They were driving over from the Seattle area, so we sat and visited while awaiting their arrival which they did an hour or so later.

First night’s reunion’s done, we all turned in to rest up for the ‘big feed’ of an American Thanksgiving meal.


Portland, Oregon

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Whew, still recovering from Portland. It was a nice drive up the coast from Bandon but it began to ‘turn to custard’ as the Kiwis say when we got to highway 18 which we were going to take into Portland.

It was blocked with trees down so we continued north up towards Tillamock and, after a look at the map, I thought we could turn east in a bit, cut cross country and then reconnect to 18 past the blockage.

Nice plan, but it didn’t work out that way. After miles of small, pretty, twisty roads and little one way bridges, we ended up on a road that took us back to 101 north of where we had exited it and, at that point, we found ourselves half way between the original blocked 18 cutoff and Tillamock so we just continued north to Tillamock then after having wasted an hour hog snorting through the little forest road looking for the highway 18 truffle. Snort!

The day was a bit of a replay of the previous day in that we now found ourselves entering the Portland (PL) metropolitan area at late dusk, in rush hour and in the pouring rain. And, as we entered PL, it became painfuly obvious that the freeways were badly jammed up and barely moving.

And, to add to the situation, I had chosen to enter the city like this thinking that we’d simply work out where our hotel was on the fly. Yow! Bad decision, Batman!

Finally, after a long, slow crawl into the city center on highway 26, Colette called the hotel on our cell and established that the hotel was on the north side of the city just by the river and that we needed to get onto Interstate 5 going north.

That was a lucky break as we were now in the city center and I could see the green Interstate 5 signs coming up. But, bummer, bummer, bummer, the option offered was only to take the 5 south and we wanted north!

I knew if I let the 5 get away, we might wander for a long time before I found it again so I grabbed the opportunity to get on it going south, hoping to hit an intersection where I could get off, cross the bridge and then jump back on again heading north.

We drove a loooong way before an exit presented itself. Then getting back on going north proved to be a trial. I got off, crossed the inevitable bridge and immediately missed the turn to get back on going north (my claim is that it was bad signage (yeah right)). So, off we went, heading east on a road that had no turns for a long time. Grrr.

Then a turn presented itself. Remember, it is dark and raining and the traffic is very heavy. I position us in the center of the road for a turn left as soon as an opening presents itself. It does and I go…. Bang. Right front wheel hits and jumps a curb I hadn’t seen. I go on and drive up the small road on the far side.

Bummer. Some cussing. Some serious anxiety about the car and insurance and will the wheel and the car’s alignment be OK. Or have I just really put a serious dent in our vacation and finances. After a jump out of the car and a quick look at the car and tire (I see nothing obvious), I have a quick pee on someone’s front lawn in the rain because I’m afraid to get back into the car and get locked into the traffic jam again and to then to discover that I have to go.

Back on the road, we get on 5 going north and we are good. Except that it take another hour, perhaps, to get to exit 307 where the hotel is.

We’re giddy and silly by the time we arrive. We are so happy to be there.

Once in, we have a small meal and turn in and another day closes.

We haven’t seen anything of PL but rain and traffic and we’re thinking that in the morning, we’re just going to get up and head east towards Kennewick and take a big pass on having a better look. Maybe later or maybe not at all. Portland has not been a good experience.


Bandon, Oregon

Monday, November 21st, 2011

What to say about today? That it was a long hard eight hours of driving? Well, it was.

We decided, after an early morning look at the map, that even leaving at 7 AM, we’d never make Bandon, Oregon, before dark if we tried to go up on the coast route. So, we changed our plan to one in which we’d blaze up the 5 Interstate and then cut over to the coast on Oregon highway 42.

It all worked like that, with a few coffee and rest stops thrown in. I’ve been up the 5 like this many times over the years but it was all new for Colette. The flat central valley rose into hills and then tree-covered moutains as we went further and further north.

Mt. Shasta hid from us like Mt. Diablo did yesterday. The weather got colder and colder and snow appeared in patches along the highway in the higher zones. And the wind cut like a knife when it blew.

But, the car was cruisy and smooth with the cruise control and the music. At one point, we listened to most of T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”. I swear I hear more in them each time I listen.

About 4 PM, we got to the 42 turn off just a bit south of Roseberg. The road out the the coast was really rural and enjoyable but when we finally pulled into Bandon, it was just 5 PM and a little after sunset.

It was raining hard and getting really dark quick from the big storm and its driving wind and rain. It was so black at times that I was constantly looking to make sure I wasn’t going to run up a curve or down into a ditch that I couldn’t see. Please, Dr. Frankenstien, adjust my tensionizer!

Upon arrival, we discovered that the phone number we had for the rental agents had been cut off by the printer at home and we hadn’t realized it. Bad news.

To make a long and painful story short, after an hour of thrashing, we finally found the place and discovered the key where they’d stashed it for us.

We were both fried at that point. Eight hours of hard driving followed by a major hunt for the rental agents and the rental in a strange town in the midst of a big North Pacific storm.

The place was beautiful but we locked it up again and went out for a meal at the local Thai restaurant to sit and relax a bit and do some creature comfort mindless stuff.

So, we’re back now in our comfy big rental house. Someone in Colette’s family owns it so we’re getting a free night. The storm is still raging outside. I’ve worked out how to heat the house up with the thermostat (Rental agents, you could have done this for us knowing folks were coming!).

So, other than a lot of driving and a small bit of panic at the end, there’s not much to tell about today.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Portland where we have a hotel room (well located in advance!) waiting for us. Though I’m sure we’ll want to have a look around here in the morning in the daylight to see where we’ve washed up.


Benicia, California – Day 4

Monday, November 21st, 2011

We spent our last day with Dave driving around in the eastern bay area.

First, we drove up to the top of Mt. Diablo after coffee in Walnut Creek. I was last up there in, perhaps, 1979.

3800 feet up, the view would have been spectacular except that the peak was buried in cloud. But, the center the State of California runs up there was cool and we had a good look around it.

Then, as we drove down, Colette got interested in the cool fall colors so we stopped several times while she gathered some great shots. Then we stopped a place that I think was called, “The High Tech Burrito”, and we each had a big one. Yum, but stuffed we were (if I might yodatorialize).

Then we set Dave’s GPS to take us to Berkeley. Always a favorite of mine. When I’m in the Bay Area, I usually manage to get by for a walk on the campus. We had coffee in a crowded coffee shop on Shatuck and walked for a few blocks around in the area checking out the shops. We also drove up into the hills above the campus and checked out the houses and architecture.

Another GPS setting took us back to Benicia and a quiet evening in. Dave had a movie for us called “Reversable Errors” Tom Sellick 2004. It was good but long. We got to bed about 1100 PM.

The plan is to get up early and take off in the morning as we have a long drive to get to Bandon, Oregon before dark.


Benicia, California – day 3

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Big adventure day today. Up early, a breakfast of granola and yogurt, a visit to the local Starbucks and Colette and I took off to Concord to find the BART station so we could ride into downtown San Fransisco (SF) without the car.

BART’s fun. I’ve only been on it once before, as I can recall, and that was in the early 90’s. From Concord it took about 50 minutes to get into the city where we got off at the Powell Station just beside a huge underground shopping center dominated by a Nordstroms.

We had a few things we wanted to accomplish but our plans were pretty loose so we could adjust as opportunities presented themselves.

The first thing we wanted to do was to ride the cable cars but at the boarding point near the Powell street BART station, there was a long queue so we decided to take a pass on it – at least for the moment. We thought we’d walk up the cable car line and see the city along that stretched and then maybe board it at the far end for a ride back.

Well, that all changed because the cable car tracks turned off north in a way that we didn’t expect and because we found ourselves getting into Chinatown which fascinated us. We never did ride the cable cars.

We walked up one street and then down the next just soaking it all up. At one shop, we stopped in and each bought a Chinese water color painting. I wasn’t giong to but when I saw the one I bought, I knew I had to have it.

At another point, we came to a park (not sure which one) where there were many people gathered. Some were doing what I took to be Falong Gong poses. On a wall were photos of people who had been beaten and I assumed these were also Falong Gong related. Women with baby strollers, old men talking and people every where. It was a great place. About 15 groups of men were playing cards on sheets of cardboard laid on park benches and I could see money exchanging hands.

Then we spied Coit Tower on Telegraph hill and decided to go for it. Whew, what a climb. But well worth it when we got to the top and looked around. Lots of photos were shot there.

Next, we walked downhill towards the waterfront and ended up walking out onto Pier 39 which is, I believe, part of what’s called “San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf”. Out on the end was an excellent Japanese Restaurant, “Hana Zen”, that I thought was going to have really high prices given its location. Not so! We were given a beautiful window-side table annd the food was reasonably priced and the service excellent. Recommended.

We had a bit more of a stroll around Pier 39 and then we hailed a cab to take us over to near the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge because we wanted to walk out onto it.

$18 later, we were there. Colette had a premonition, as we were dropped off, that getting a cab back from this area might not be as easy as getting there was (and she turned out to be right!).

Walking out on the bridge was really nice. I’d walked out to the mid-point from the north side once in the 90’s with Dave. Today, Colette and I walked out to the same mid-point from the south (city) side. There are such huge views.

I’ve walked out now twice, been under it twice on ships (going to and coming from New Zealand) and driven over it somewhere between a half dozen and a dozen time during my life. It’s always a thrill.

Back from the walk, we looked in vain for a cab and started walking thinking we’d be able to see and flag one down. Right! We walked and walked and never saw an opportunity.

One nice side effect, however, was that eventually we walked south along Fillmore and loved the neighborhood. We definitely want to return and spend more time there.

So we continued walking aiming for Japantown which is where we were going to have the cab take us next, if we ever found one. We still couldn’t find a cab and by the time we got into the Japantown neighborhood, it was dusk and we were thinking we might need to save it for our next visit. And, the area we were in wasn’t what we expected and that meant we were probably a block or two off from where we should have been.

More walking and looking for cabs ensued. Finally, about the time we began to get back into areas where cabs might be expected to pick us up, we realized that we’d walked more than 3/4 of the way back to the BART station already so we might as well just finish the treek on foot. So, we did.

Finally, we found the Civic Center BART station and worked out which platform and train to catch and we are, finally, off our feet. I don’t know how far we walked and how many vertical feet we went up and down today, but it was a lot! My feet and left knee were talking to me when we finally sat down in the train.

Another 50 minute ride back to Concord Station and then into the car for the ride back to Dave’s. It started raining as soon as we got in the car and we reflected how lucky we’d been all day that the rain had held off all day for us.

A quick stop at the local market by Dave’s for a packet of Sushi and then home. The sushi gobbled and two nice glasses of Saki downed and I was off to bed after a nice long and relaxing shower.

Great, great day. Very memorable.


Benicia, California – Day 2

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

A quiet catching up day of talking, washing clothes and just being mellow. Breakfast at Dave’s and then a ride to downtown Benicia for lunch at “Sailor Jacks”. I had the Calimari – yum! Then to the market where we all picked out stuff for the next few days including tonight’s meal.

In the evening, Colette cooked us fish, rizzotto and green beans and it was good. The halibut was melt-in-your-mouth stuff.

Dave had a copy of the classic Casablanca and we watched it. An excellent movie which I’ve never tiered of though I’ve probably seen it five times.