I am a snapshot photographer, taking photos to remind myself of all the wonderful places we have visited (and the not-so-wonderful places, too), of the good times we have with friends and family, of the interesting folks we meet in our travels, of the oddball sights, of the great meals… snapshots to share these experiences with family, friends and, these days, our blog readers as well.
Photographic artist, I am not. Most times, this isn’t a problem. My little pocket-sized Canon digital camera is perfect for me, always going where I go, always ready.
Joseph, Oregon… now, that’s another story. Breathtaking, awe-inspiring views in every direction, and my little camera (and I) are not up to the task! The play of sunlight on looming, snow-covered mountains; the hundred and one hues of green, from bright, newly unfolding grasses to dark pines; shades of sky blue, dawn through dusk… it’s all out of my league. Photographer angst, it’s around every corner here! But then – no camera can record the sounds of birdsong and gentle breezes, of bees working the prairie wildflowers… the clean scent of pines shading a rushing creek or of lilacs bending over old split rail fences… ya’ gotta’ be here!
Cute façade of the Old Town Café.
Brightly colored garden art – and a lilac bush.
We’ve been in Joseph four days. We had planned to leave today, but extended our stay at 5 Peaks RV Park (click here to read our review and view photos) to seven days as soon as we arrived. When Marci, the owner, had a cancellation over the 4th of July weekend, we added five days – the town is that beautiful, the weather is that perfect, and there is that much to do around here. Scenic drives, hikes, the farmer’s markets, live music, and just soaking up the friendly ambiance of Joseph. Time to get down to it!
The most well-known of the driving tours of eastern Oregon is the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway. We drove about a third of the route when we moved from La Grande to Joseph; on Saturday, we drove another beautiful portion, the Wallowa Mountain Loop to the Hell’s Canyon Overlook. Though we saw very little traffic on the winding (paved) mountain road, half a dozen cars and motorcycles were parked in the overlook lot when we arrived. We appropriated a secluded picnic table on the edge of Hell’s Canyon and enjoyed our picnic lunch in a spot surely closer to heaven than hell.
Back at the parking lot, we grinned at each other when Jules started right up at the first turn of the key. After we replaced our battery in John Day, we had the odd experience of the jeep not starting once we hooked up to the motorhome to leave our fairgrounds campsite. In La Grande, we stopped by an RV service center to have the electrical connection between the motorhome and the Jeep (providing power to the Jeep’s tail lights and turn signals as we tow) checked out, but found no problem. We towed successfully from La Grande to Joseph, so the problem (just a click when we turn the key) doesn’t seem to be caused by towing.
Looking back on the symptoms in light of problems we have eliminated (old battery) or ruled out (a short in the towing system), we now believe that the Neutral Safety Switch (NSS) is going bad… I should say, going “badder”, as our backup lights quit working many months ago. The NSS tells the backup lights when to go on (when the transmission is in reverse) and also tells the ignition not to start the vehicle unless the transmission is in Park, nor can you remove the key – both problems we had in John Day!
Although a new NSS (the part) is not particularly expensive, the labor to replace it is very costly on our particular year and model (V8 engine) of Jeep – at least, according to the repair facility who originally report the problem. We sidestepped the problem last November when the brake lights quit working, adding a funky (and way less expensive) bypass switch that allows us to manually turn on the back up lights. I can’t tell you the number of times we have flipped it on, then driven miles to our destination without remembering to switch it off, driving obliviously down the freeway – wonder if our turn signal is on, too?
The “bypass” solution to this non-starting problem is to jump the battery, which starts the car even if the NSS says it isn’t in park (when we know it is). So now we carry along a Jump-N-Carry (delivered from Amazon.com via UPS twenty minutes after we arrived at our site in Joseph on Thursday!), giving us a feeling (perhaps false) of security as we travel these roads-less-taken of eastern Oregon. One of these days, we’ll have to break down and get the d^*! switch replaced!
Encouraged by Jules good behavior, we set off on Sunday for what turned out to be more of an adventure than we anticipated, traversing the Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve on a “road” that barely deserves the name. Once again, my snapshot photography skills can’t begin to capture the experience… which deserves a post of its own. Tomorrow!