Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HIKING THE ZUMWALT PRAIRIE, AND A WILD RIDE – JOSEPH, OREGON

Dusty JeepYes, we drive a Jeep.  Yes, it has four wheel drive, including 4 wheel LOW.   So yes – we are capable of “jeeping”.  However, we can’t be described as “jeepers”!

We like our Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited for several reasons – comfort, interior space, easy to set up for towing – none of which have anything to do with jouncing along remote rugged roads.  Every so often, though, in spite of careful planning, that is where we end up.  Sunday was just such a day.

When we arrived in Joseph a few days ago, I spent a good long while researching everything to do around here, particularly hikes and scenic drives.  One area that combined both: the Zumwalt Prairie, north east of Joseph, practically on the border of Oregon and Washington.  Wildflowers, wild animals, raptors, drop-dead scenery, hiking – Zumwalt Prairie offered it all.  We plotted our course, and off we went.

Paved road to gravel road (on a good road bed) to dirt-and-gravel to dirt… and then to dried (usually) mud. The directions we followed turned out to be confusing, and we were WAY past the luxury of signage. By the time we passed “the old barn on the right” and opened the wood-post-and-barbed-wire-gate, we wondered whether we had sufficient emergency supplies with us!  Neither of us wanted to chicken out, especially since the scenery was so fabulous (snow-capped Wallowas to the south, snow-capped Seven Devils to the east, wildflowers everywhere), but hoped that the need for cell phone reception wouldn’t come into play.

Road south Rocks and bumps

We came from the south…

… and left to the north.

Eventually, many miles over dirt double-track, small creeks, and occasional rock falls, we arrived at the trailhead for the Biscuit Vista trail, marked by a neat, clean sign!  I guess people in this remote part of Oregon take roads like this for granted; to us, it was The Grand Adventure.

We had a lovely hike*.  Sunny day, slight breeze… we followed a small creek up a draw to the crest of a hill.  On our right, the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains; straight ahead, the Seven Devils in Idaho.  In a far meadow, we spotted a group of five elk, including two youngsters, all alert to our presence far sooner than we were to theirs, but untroubled.  Where the trail ended, we hung a left, and walked through green grass and wildflowers to the edge of the canyon of the Imnaha River, looking down – way, way down - on the tiny town of Imnaha, Oregon.

Zumwalt Prairie Elk Imnaha Valley

There are a few elk in the center of this photo, backed by the Wallowa range.

The town of Imnaha in is the light brown patch far below.

From Joseph, our starting point, it is a 30 mile paved drive east to Imnaha – or, you can follow the same northeasterly route we did for many MORE miles than 30, taking the “back way” to Imnaha, a road described as “rough, and possibly not suited to all passenger cars” (this portion being 10+ miles long).  As we gazed down, down, down on Imnaha, we wondered: would we be back on pavement more quickly if we went back (the known) or if we went forward (the unknown)?  More importantly, which seemed like more fun? 

Imnaha Store and TavernWell, forward, of course!  When we got back to Jules, we turned north, downhill into the canyon, our busy brains enumerating all the things that could possibly go wrong out here in the wilderness – overruled by the inner child, yelling “yippeeeee!”

The road was one lane, alternately dirt, mud, gravel and rocks, frequently curvy.  Around one corner, we surprised a deer (or IT surprised US), which took off running down the road in front of us.  Rather than chase the startled animal, we paused to let it find an escape route while we caught our breathe.

Seven miles later, exhilarated, we hit pavement, took a left, and rolled into the tiny town we had viewed from so far above.  The Imnaha Store and Tavern was open, serving food and cold beverages, so we slipped inside and took a seat.  The décor is small town rustic (stuffed animal heads, wooden booths, wood stove, dollar bills stuck to the ceiling with thumbtacks); the menu is a mix of the expected (burgers and fish-n-chips) and the unexpected (chicken gizzards and frogs legs).  It felt like a cozy gathering place for locals, counting on trade from summer patrons to see them through the winter.

While we dithered over the menu, a friendly, overall-clad local from the adjacent table stopped by our table to welcome us and chat awhile.  He asked a few questions, found out we are fulltimers, and confided to us that he and his wife will be hitting the road full time this winter.  A little more conversation, then he turned to rejoin his friends, saying “get the gizzards, they’re great”.  We glanced at his table, where his five buddies were scarfing up the gizzards.  Well, what the hell – it was just that kind of day.  Grab the gusto!

Inside Imnaha Tavern Chicken Gizzards

Inside the Imnaha Tavern.

Chicken gizzards: taste as bad as they look.

Deep fried chicken gizzards?  Are you kiddin’ me?  What were we thinking??  They are just as you would imagine them: tough greasy bits of gristle, hundreds of nutrition-free, tasteless calories contained in each rubber-band textured bite.  We each did our best, but eventually buried the remainder (95%) under a pile of crumpled napkins, letting our ice cold drinks wash away the flavor of the gristle and the dust of our ride while we enjoyed the quirky ambiance of the place.

The ride home, all 30 smooth, paved miles, was pure bliss.

*It’s been 12 weeks since Odel’s knee surgery.  We’ve done back-to-back hikes on rough terrain with no apparent distress to his knee.  Finding a comfortable sleeping position is occasionally challenging yet, and Odel continues to ice his knee daily… but we both are very happy with his progress.

Monday, June 27, 2011

ANGST OF THE POCKET-CAMERA PHOTOGRAPHER – JOSEPH, OREGON

Another Joseph sceneSnapshots.  Are they still called that? 

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!

Old Town Cafe Bright colors

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!

Hells Canyon picnicThe 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.

Seven Devils Mountains in IdahoLooking 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?

Wildflowers at the Hells Canyon OverlookThe “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!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

TOO MUCH SPAM AND OTHER BLOG NEWS

In the past few days, my blogs (this one and our campsite reviews) have been plagued with spam comments from “anonymous”.  Spam has never been a significant problem in the past – just a single spam message every 3 months or so – but it suddenly has become so bad that I need to do something about it: either ban anonymous comments or add “word verification”.  Since several legitimate commenters post as “anonymous”, I decided to require word verification.  Sorry about that, I know it is a pain, but I don’t have (read: “want to take”) the time to review and delete all the spam comments that are clogging my inbox.

Downtown Joseph early inthe morningSpeaking of “not enough time”:

I’ve received a few emails recently from blog readers asking for my thoughts on their blog or on apps they are developing.  I don’t mind receiving the emails – maybe it is even a bit flattering to know that anyone would solicit my opinion - but I won’t be responding.   Nothing personal! 

For me, summer is not a time to be hunched over the computer any more than is required to maintain my own blogs, correspond with friends and family via email, research upcoming travels, and handle other required computer tasks (banking).  Spending these lovely days indoors looking at the computer screen is not part of my agenda – too much real life to be lived!  Catch me in winter when the days are short, cold, windy and rainy…

Friday, June 24, 2011

TIME TO RELAX IN JOSEPH, OREGON

East from John DayAt the end of a beautiful drive from John Day, we settled in for two nights at Eagles Hot Lake RV Park a few miles south of La Grande, Oregon (click here to read our review and see photos).  As we drove, we rehashed the details of our car troubles and found that we had both come to the same conclusion: this is more than just a dead battery, and probably more than a problem with the electrical connection between the Jeep and the motorhome when towing.  We think the likely culprit is  our dying “neutral safety switch”, which has already caused us a few problems. 

BUT, the day was beautiful, the wheels were turning, and there was nothing to be done about it right now, so we rolled along and ohhh’ing and ahhh’ing over the scenery.  I already wrote about our minor mis-adventure when we arrived in La Grande (we had to unhook to turn around on a gravel road), but we eventually were settled in time to visit La Grande’s tiny farmers market. 

Scenic Loop south of La GrandeWe’ve seen Farmer’s markets of all sizes, some in permanent spaces, others in temporary booths set up for just a few hours.  To me, the very best farmers markets, regardless of size, are those that concentrate on LOCAL growers – which means only seasonal produce.  La Grande’s market was very small, definitely local: three vendors of produce and eggs, two booths selling only strawberries, a vendor of baked goods, a local wine maker, a jeweler, a soap maker and one or two others.  The produce was all cool-weather crops: greens, root vegetables, spring onions and early squash.  I find it such a pleasure to hand my money directly to someone involved with the growing, someone who will proudly show you the moist cut end of the broccoli to emphasize how fresh it is. 

Dinner that night was a huge salad with four different lettuces and blanched, chilled broccoli florets; sliced French bread with butter; wine from our Umpqua Valley tasting adventures; and a brownie for dessert.  It tasted particularly good on what was the first really warm (around 80 degrees) day we have experienced this year.

Wind Farm near La GrandeOn Wednesday, we ranged out into the countryside around La Grande on the Grande Ronde Scenic Route.  The route was planned to “showcase the diversity and history (think Oregon Trail) of the Grande Ronde Valley”, and it does it well.  We passed through rolling range land, past historic old town sites and ranches, along narrow paved roads and dirt/gravel roads.  At one point, we passed a wind farm high on a ridge, looking down on the dilapidated remains of an abandoned ranch.  Imagine the pioneers on the Oregon Trail confronted with this sight!

The second half of our loop followed an almost overflowing (seems to be the norm this spring) river through tall pines, wild and beautiful.  We noticed a change in the weather – a steady drop in the temperature – and saw thunder bumpers billowing in the direction of our campsite… just before big drops of rain turned to hail all around us.  Thus ended our short hot spell!

We pulled out of La Grande yesterday morning, heading northeast to Joseph, in the Wallowa Mountains… our target since we left Crystal Crane Hot Springs less than a week ago.  Once you leave the interstate, the road is mostly narrow and winding, including a climb over a summit above 5,000 ft.  Summer is the time for road work, and signs alerted us well in advance that a road crew was working on the curvy descent from the summit.  No problem, we just sat and waited patiently while the pilot car lead opposing traffic through the one-lane stretch under (re)construction.

OopsyOur flagger conferred several times on her radio with the work crew, then finally motioned us through (we were at the head of the line).  Oopsie!  Looks like a little miscommunication: this is what you DON’T want to see when you are on a steep downgrade with a Jeep hooked on your rear end!

Fortunately, we encountered this vehicle BEFORE the point of no return, so waited until it – and the three huge construction trucks behind it – negotiated the single lane.  The famous line from Cool Hand Luke echoed in my head: “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”  :)

We eventually made it over the pass into the Wallowa Valley.  The elevation here is a couple thousand feet higher than La Grande, and it was very cool and cloudy when we arrived – but the clouds cleared later and we enjoyed the sunshine.  We plan to be here for a week, longer if it works out (we’d like to stay through the July 4th holiday).   Hiking, scenic drives, and the interesting little town await… oh, and a farmer’s market on Saturday morning!

Wallowa Lake near Joseph, OR View from Site 1

Looking south over Wallowa Lake.

View of the Wallowa Mountains from our campsite.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

AN AUTOMOTIVE MYSTERY–JOHN DAY, OREGON

Old Barn in Eastern OregonAt the end of a short and scenic drive from Crane to John Day, Oregon, on Sunday, we pulled into the RV park at the Grant County Fairgrounds (click here to read our review and see more photos) and followed our usual routine: drive Scoopy to our site, unhook Jules, move Jules out of the roadway, and back Scoopy into our site.  All went well until I turned the key in Jules to move out of the roadway… dead!  No grinding sound of a weak battery, just a click from under the hood.  How surprising!  How inconvenient!

Fortunately, we had pulled over to one side of the one way road through the campground before we unhooked, so we put a couple of triangle reflectors around Jules, backed Scoopy into site 16, set up camp, then set out to decide on our next move.

At the other end of the small RV park, we came across Darrell, an Escapee – and he had a battery charger.  With his generous help (and good humor), we were able to jump start Jules.  We drove her the 20 yards or so to our site, then borrowed his charger to trickle charge the battery.  Once that was done, Jules started on her own and we were all set.  The question was: what caused the battery to drain?

Site 16 Grant County FGNext morning – and this was not much of a surprise – Jules was dead again.  I called the nearby Les Schwab store; their truck arrived 10 minutes later and jumped our battery for us.  Odel followed the truck back to the store and returned home within 30 minutes with a new, top of the line battery (our old one was approaching 4 years old).  Though we spent most of the day walking, we started Jules up several times to reassure ourselves that all was well.

Other than the excitement of the electrical problem, our stay in John Day was GREAT! The Kam Wah Chung & Company historic site is a fascinating remnant of the history of the Chinese community in John Day, and we were able to join a tour group to view the inside of this well- preserved Chinese doctor’s office/shop (today’s photos).  Although our tour guide seemed rather uninformed – or perhaps confused – about the history of the building and its two inhabitants/partners, Dr. Ing Hay and store owner Lung On, we enjoyed inspecting the interior of the building and its goods while we listened to a recorded description of the history and contents.  Click here to read the interesting story of their success in John Day.

We had lunch in a restaurant on Main Street, then took a short sightseeing tour around town (no problem starting Jules!). I spent the rest of the sunny, mild afternoon sitting in the shade of a tree reading Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life, on my Kindle. This is exactly the weather we were hoping to find when we set out for eastern Oregon.

Grocery section Kam Wah Chung

The general store section of Kam Wah Chung.

The Kam Wah Chung Building, built circa 1866.

This morning, ready to leave John Day, Jules sprang to life as soon as we turned the key.  Odel pulled her into position behind Scoopy, we hitched up, and I got behind the wheel to complete the hitching process.  Click.  Click.  Click.  No juice!

Boy were we puzzled!  What could be the problem??  What was different?  The red cord!  When we hitch Jules to the back of Scoopy, we plug one end of the red cord into Jules, the other into Scoopy.  This is what makes Jules tail lights, brake lights, and turn signal work while towing.  Odel unplugged the red cord, and Jules started up again! 

John Day is a small town without an RV shop.  Since we are driving in broad daylight, since our Brake Buddy turns on the Jeep brake lights if we stop or slow down with much force, and since our motorhome brake lights and turn signals are always highly visible, we decided to continue on to our next stop, La Grande, to arrange for diagnosis and repairs. 

Still Life Bear Paw

As it was left when the Ing Hay died…

Medicines in the apothecary, with bear paw!

Off we went, following the directions of our (sometimes) trusty GPS.  Exit 268, turn right, then another right… oh, oh, that’s a gravel road… hmmm… we went a few hundred yards to our next turn, a left, where a big sign said “No Access.  Local Traffic Only.”  To turn around, we would have to unhook Jules, only the 3rd time in 8 years that has happened!  I made a quick call to the RV park for advice: we could either turn around and take a longer route on paved roads, or continue over 3 miles of very rough gravel/dirt road.  The longer route was recommended.

Unhook and turn, no question in our minds.  But then we wondered – what if Jules won’t start??  So we fired her up BEFORE we unhooked.  Varoom, varoom!  No problems. 

We unhooked, turned around, I drove in front in Jules with Scoopy following.  By 1:30 we were settled and set up in our new site – and now we are off to the La Grande Farmer’s Market, the reason I wanted to be in La Grande on Tuesday afternoon.

Such drama.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

ENJOYING THE HOT SPRINGS AND MALHEUR WILDLIFE REFUGE – HARNEY COUNTY, OREGON

Caution - hot waterLike many of the high, mountainous parts of the west, Oregon received abundant snowfall this past winter, with some parts of central Oregon at 150% of normal winter snowpack.  Add to that the long-lasting, rainy spring and eastern Oregon is WET!  Though we have had sunny, mild weather (up until today – as I write this, we are in a downpour), there is a lot of standing water in areas that are frequently dry this time of year.

When we can tear ourselves away from the hot spring pool here are Crystal Crane Hot Springs (click here to read our review), we have been exploring the edges of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, a huge protected wetlands that is probably on every birders “must visit” list.  Our interest in the area is mostly the history and historic sites, but even we admired the many birds we saw as our route yesterday ran adjacent to the refuge in many spots (white pelicans, sand hill cranes, white faced ibis, red-shouldered and yellow-headed blackbirds, and lots of hawks, not to mention all the floaters we can’t name).

Our sightseeing began on Friday, and I had two particular sites in mind I wanted to visit.  Number one on my list was Peter French’s Round Barn.  In the late 1800’s, Peter French was the big man in these parts, a cattle baron with an empire of 45,000 head of cattle and 100,000 acres of land.  He designed and built a round barn that would allow him to break wild horses (wild mustangs still roam eastern Oregon, and you can adopt one!) during the winter (he was later murdered, shot in the head).  I’ve seen photos of the inside of the barn (now a historic site) and looked forward to examining it in person.

Here’s what we saw, a very waterlogged Round Barn.

Here’s what we hoped to see (photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks “Go Guide”)

IMG_1863 p-french-round-barn-int

Well!  Although we could get near the barn, we couldn’t get IN the barn, which was standing in at least several inches of really yucky looking, mosquito breeding water!  If it wasn’t for the fact that the area was so pretty, I would have been sorely disappointed.  (Click here if you would like to read about Judy’s (Travels with Emma) visit to the Round Barn when she was volunteering at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge last fall – she got some great photos!)

The other site of interest to me was the Frenchglen Hotel.  Its name was derived from the last names of Peter French and his investor, Dr. Hugh Glen.  Now owned by Oregon State Parks, the historic building is still operated as a hotel, serving breakfast and lunch to the public (and dinner to guests).  That was where we headed from the Round Barn, to be our turn-around point after lunch.

I can’t adequately stress how unpopulated this part of Oregon is!  I don’t think we saw over a dozen cars during the entire drive. The scenery was spectacular, the weather excellent, and it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. We stopped at the Buena Vista Overlook into the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to take in the view, with snow-covered Steens Mountain in the distance – which will be providing snowmelt for the refuge for a long time this summer.  (We had hoped to drive the Steens Mountain Scenic Loop, but it is still closed by snow.)

IMG_1881 IMG_1873

We stopped for a home-cooked lunch at the Frenchglen Hotel.

The view from Buena Vista Overlook with snowcapped Steens Mountain in the far distance.

We arrived in Frenchglen just after noon, right at lunch time. It was the only place in our 130 mile sightseeing trip where we saw any other people – there were 8 of us at lunch! Good home cooking, topped off with chocolate cake with ice cream for Odel… then we headed back home for an evening dip in the pool.

Today, our day to “do” the wildlife refuge, was a washout!   Sprinkles began to fall as we headed out, and we were in and out of rain as we drove to the Malheur Visitors Center.  It slacked off enough that I had the opportunity to be dazzled by the iris in bloom, by the white pelicans gorging themselves on carp in the ponds near the Visitors’ Center, and by the incredible display of lilacs!  I noticed the fabulously blooming lilac bushes in Frenchglen yesterday, and also in the tiny, historic hamlet (population: 5) of Diamond.  I wonder if the pioneers travelling the Oregon Trail brought lilacs with them?

IMG_1890 IMG_1887

The fragrance was heavenly.

Malheur Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

At the VC, the volunteer told us that the water in the marshes and lakes is WAY higher than usual – in fact, they forecast that the water level will match that of 1980, a record breaking year, as the deep snowpack melts off the mountains.  It was BIG NEWS at the Visitors’ Center, especially because many portions of the roads in the refuge are no longer open to auto traffic.

As we left the VC, the rain began in earnest.  It didn’t stop us from another dip in the pool when we got home!  After four nights here at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, we are moving on tomorrow – but (as usual) there is plenty left to see in this area.  Maybe in September next time?

Friday, June 17, 2011

KNEE REHABILITATION – CRANE, OREGON

Happy bather with noodlesCrystal Crane Hot Springs, Crane, Oregon.

Nearest town: Burns, Oregon, population 4,000 +/-, 30 miles west.

Weather: Sunny and cool.

Water temperature: 95 degrees to 150 degrees (pick your spot).

Noodle rental: $1 per noodle for the length of your stay.

Site rental: $9 to $18/night, depending on available discounts (click here to read our campground review).

We may never leave.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WE FOUND THE SUNSHINE! EUGENE TO PRINEVILLE, OREGON

East from EugeneThough the temperatures in Eugene were quite pleasant, sunshine was in short supply.  The “dry side” of the Cascades began to look mighty appealing.  We’ve never explored eastern Oregon (the Oregon Outback) as much as we’d like, so with sunshine and moderate temperatures in the forecast, we decided to leave the dreary gray skies behind.

Earlier this year, Croft (he blogs at “Croft’s Mexico”)reported on an RV park with an outdoor hot springs in far eastern Oregon (click here to read his report).  Oh, man, did that look appealing!  I made a note of it for when the right time arrived – and this the right time!  We found it on the map and set a course.

Since we don’t like to drive much more than 150-200 miles a day, we plotted a stopover in Prineville, Oregon, about 30 miles from Bend.  The Elks Lodge in Prineville allows overnight parking (click here to read our review)… perfect.

Sisters, OrWhat a beautiful drive!  We left the clouds of western Oregon behind, traveling up into the Cascades along the rushing Deschutes River.  As we hit the summit, patches of snow were still visible, with snow-covered high peaks on display to the south – all gleaming in bright sunshine. 

As we passed through the little town of Sisters, we pulled over for a quick lunch and a walk.  It was 76 degrees, sunny, with a zephyr of a breeze.  At almost the same time, we both sighed and said “this is PERFECT weather”.  The sunshine felt SO GOOD on my back. 

We arrived in Prineville around 3 pm and found the friendly Elks lodge two blocks off the main street.  Once we had set up, we headed out to explore this appealing small town (population: 10,370), starting at the Ochoco Viewpoint on a high bluff just before the highway descends a grade into town.  The entire town lay at our feet, snuggled up to one of the prettiest golf courses we’d seen in a long time.  Odel gazed at the course for quite awhile – maybe we’ll be back when his knee is ready for a round.

Crook County Courthouse Odel at Prineville

The Crook County Courthouse, the centerpiece of Prineville.

Look at that golf course!  Odel did, for a long time.  We saw Scoopy in the far distance.

Prineville is the county seat of Crook county and appears to prosper without relying on tourist dollars. Civic pride was evident in the well maintained storefronts and parks, the historic courthouse building, public art. And, guess what, RV’ers??? Prineville is the home and headquarters of LES SCHWAB TIRE COMPANY! We love Les Schwab - we buy all our motorhome tires from them, Too bad they aren’t a national company. :( I suspect Les Schwab has a lot to do with the prosperity of Prineville; the parking lot of their huge facility was packed with cars.

We returned from our sightseeing to a quiet lodge, a quiet dinner, and a quiet evening – though Odel made a trip to the nearby Tastee Cone for a chocolate sundae.  What more could you ask for from an overnight stop?

Next stop: Crystal Crane Hot Springs.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

FOODIE FUN IN EUGENE, OREGON

Eugene’s Saturday Market.  Music, food vendors and dozens and dozens of arts and crafts vendors (tie-dye, pottery, weaving, jewelry, jams, paintings, t-shirts, hats, woodwork, bird-houses…) fill two blocks.  Another block is given over to causes, an information booth, and a public speaking forum.  The fourth block is a farmer’s market, full of beautiful foodstuffs and flowers, baked goods, pasture-grown meat, eggs, mushrooms…

Conehead cabbage

It’s a riot of color!  We came home with two kinds of dried beans I’ve never seen, lamb and goat for stew, tiny baby pattypan squash and freshly dug baby russet potatoes (both vegetables eaten for dinner last night).  Bliss.

Baked goods
Lettuce in Eugene Tree Peonies Carrots and Beets

ROMAINE SALAD DONE ON THE GRILL - EUGENE, OREGON

I have a fun new recipe to share: Grilled Romaine with Guacamole Dressing.  I found the recipe in Sunset Magazine’s June issue, which included three recipes for grilling greens.  This was the first one I tried, and a big hit with us.  It looks unusual and interesting, and was simple to put together; made a great change from the usual raw salad.   Odel grilled steaks and a red pepper to complete the meal, and we opened the bottle of Pinot Noir we picked up in the Umpqua Valley.  Very satisfying.  :)

Romaine ready for the grill.

The creamy yogurt/avocado dressing.

Browned and softened on the grill.

Ready to Grill Yogurt, avocado, lime, cilantro, garlic - the dressing On the grill with steaks and red pepper

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A WEALTH OF WEBSITES FOR E-BOOKS

RadicchioWe just returned from a visit to Eugene’s Saturday Market, one of our favorite Eugene activities.  I’ll be posting more photos in the next day or two (plus a fun new recipe for grilled Romaine salad).  But for now…

When we got home, I found a comment on my recent Kindle post from my friend Judie.  She said:

A friend sent me his list of places to download free books from the net.  I haven't tried any of them, so can't verify them.”

Since the list was so long, I decided to post it here, rather than as a comment.  Welcome to the big, wide world of free books!  Thanks, Judie, and thanks to your anonymous and well organized friend, too.

Like Judie, I haven’t tried any of these yet, so can’t verify that they work or have value to me… but it will be fun to dig in.

http://www.baen.com/series_list.asp#ASS
http://www.webscription.net/m-1-baen-books.aspx?CategoryFilterID=0&SectionFilterID=40&ProductTypeFilterID=0&ManufacturerFilterID=0&DistributorFilterID=0&GenreFilterID=0&VectorFilterID=0
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush
http://www.thetravelinsider.info/roadwarriorcontent/audible.htm
http://www.baen.com/library/
http://www.woot.com/Blog/ViewEntry.aspx?Id=8689
http://thepioneerwoman.com/category/black_heelstractor_wheels/the_night_i_met_marlboro_man
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/coblentz/cat/cat.html
http://www.bookyards.com/authors.html?first_letter=a
http://home.gwi.net/~jdebell/pe/cj/cnjindex.htm
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/writers.html
http://crankylibrarian.com/
http://feedbooks.com/list/22
http://digitalbookindex.com/about.htm
http://db.tidbits.com/article/9641
http://feedbooks.com/
http://freemypdf.com/
http://www.fullbooks.com/
http://www.gallagher.com/ww2/preface.html
http://givemesomethingtoread.com/
http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/grol/index.htm
http://books.google.com/
http://books.google.com/bkshp?hl=en&tab=wp
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/19/google_and_sony_ebooks/
http://www.harrold.org/rfhextra/books.html
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/bobhope/images/41A/
http://www.archive.org/index.php
http://www.ipl.org/div/books/
http://www.learnoutloud.com/content/blog/archives/2007/07/best_of_itunes.html
http://librarianchick.pbwiki.com/
http://librivox.org/
http://survivalmonkey.com/SF%20books/LightsOut!/LightsOut-Current.pdf
http://www.online-literature.com/
http://www.literotica.com/stories/index.php
http://manybooks.net//
http://www.archive.org/
http://www.blackmask.com/page.php
http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/flash/
http://oldmackstales.com/
http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/
http://www.openlibrary.org/
http://www.geocities.com/krish_rec/download/books.htm
http://web.archive.org/web/20070813041209/http://thepearl.tailfeatherz.com/index.htm
http://www.gutenberg.net/
http://gutenberg.net.au/index.html
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20147/20147-h/20147-h.html
http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/
http://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm
http://www.scifi-az.com/index.html
http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/archive.html
http://www.scribd.com/
http://www.citsoft.com/holmes3.html
http://www.silkpagoda.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=650
http://bbs.ustc.edu.cn/cgi/bbsanc?path=/groups/GROUP_6/PopSciFic/D4D0B853E/D50389D96/D616F9ABE/DA99363F4/DBB6926A4/D580CAB02/M.1039419061.A
http://emperor.tidbits.com/webx/TakeControl/Authors/SharedDocs/Ebooks/
http://www.truly-free.org/
http://members.aol.com/jeff1070/script.html
http://manybooks.net/authors/wodehous.html
http://worldebookfair.org/Collections.htm
http://www.netlibrary.net/WorldHome.html
http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/catalogs/bysubject-top.html
http://www.wowio.com/index.asp

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ENJOYING MY KINDLE IN THE SUNSHINE OF EUGENE, OREGON

The wine caveWhile much of the U.S. is broiling under record-setting temperatures, Montana is about to be washed away in the continuing heavy rain, and Arizona is on fire, we have hit the weather jackpot in Eugene, Oregon.  Up until today, we wondered if summer was ever going to arrive!

After another round of wine-tasting in the Umpqua Valley on Tuesday, we arose early on Wednesday morning to be on the road to Eugene by 8 am – no problem when the sky is light before 6 am.  We had a short drive - under 70 miles - to be at Carrier and Sons on the north side of Eugene by 9:30 am. 

I mentioned a short time back that our living room slide was a bit out of adjustment, which we discovered when extending the slide resulted in an ugly cracking noise – the oak trim coming apart on an upper corner.  Since we were pleased with the work Carrier and Sons did for us in 2009, and since Eugene is “on our way” to wherever we are going, we decided to stop in and have them adjust the slide and repair the trim.  As before, the crew at Carrier was friendly and capable.  We ran a few errands while they worked on the slide, then picked up our home and headed to our site at Armitage County Park (click here to read our review and see photos) in early afternoon.

Sunshine on the Eugene bike trailThis morning, we awoke to SUNSHINE!  We arranged to stay in Eugene until Tuesday – and there is NO rain in the forecast.  Whoopee!  Good weather for grilling, walking along Eugene’s great system of bike paths, washing the vehicles (Odel), and reading the Kindle (me).

Speaking of the Kindle…

After being turned down for a library card during an extended stay at an RV park, Judy (Travels with Emma) wondered on her blog whether she should think about a Kindle.  Judy, here is my experience, which might be of interest to you.

I have always been a reader, though less so in the past several years.  Mostly, this is because my eyes are simply too tired at night to read as long as I used to.  Nevertheless, we carry around a lot of books, taking up space and adding weight to our rig.  An ebook reader seemed like a good idea, but I was not motivated enough to do the research and decide which one would be best for me.  Besides, what if I didn’t like reading on an e-reader? 

My sister Sydney loaned me her Kindle when we were in Sacramento, and I liked it – a LOT.  Foregoing my usual thorough research (Kindle?  Nook?  other e-readers?), I threw caution to the wind - I ordered one myself (the WiFi only version, since we have a Verizon MiFi card), and now would not be without it.  Though there are a few things I prefer about physical books, the pros outweigh the cons (by far), particularly for travelers. 

Kindle I’ll start with a few advantages books have over the Kindle:

* Photographs and illustrations are better in books.  The Kindle doesn’t display images particularly well, and they aren’t always displayed in the correct relationship to the text.   I can’t imagine buying a cookbook in electronic format… but who knows?

* Going back to find and re-read a page on a Kindle is annoyingly difficult.  Sometimes I want to check on what I thought was a clue in a mystery, or remind myself of someone’s relationship to another person… fairly simple to flip through the pages of a real book, not simple at all on the Kindle.  Also, not easy to flip back to a map or illustration (which probably won’t display very well, anyway).  I miss the sense of “context” you have with a physical book.  Reading one page of a book on a Kindle reminds me of looking at a little map on the GPS: you are viewing a small piece of a big picture, without a really easy way to find something not contiguous to your current display.

* You can pass the physical book on to another interested reader, who can do the same.  The inability to EASILY share books – with as many friends as you want to - is, to me, the biggest drawback to an e-reader.

That said, if I had to choose just one method of reading - either physical books or the Kindle - the Kindle wins, hands down.  Why?

* You can adjust the text size!  When my eyes get too tired to focus on small print, I just make it larger.   

Kindle cover* You can carry an entire library with you – portable and lightweight.  The three feet of space I usually use for books to be read or traded is now available for other “stuff” (gosh, maybe I can leave it empty).   With the cover I purchased, my Kindle is about the same size, shape and weight as a paperback printed in quality format (rather than “pocket” format) – very comfortable to hold.

* Newly published eBooks are less expensive than newly published print books, and there are hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of book priced at “used book” prices, $5 and less.  Hundreds more are FREE, including many of the classics.  The choice of free books is far larger and FAR better than the selection you find in the “take one, leave one” library at any RV park.

* You can download and read a sample (usually the first few chapters) of a book before deciding to buy.  If you want to continue reading when you get to the end of the sample, buy the book.  Otherwise, nice to know you aren’t interested BEFORE you buy it.

*  Highly portable.  Take it along with you to the laundromat, to the doctor’s office, anywhere else you might find yourself with time on your hands (I read it in the lounge of Carrier and Sons yesterday while Odel went to the hardware store and Scoopy was in the shop).  Lightweight and easily portable… and if the book you are currently reading doesn’t lend itself to short bursts of attention, switch to another book, or read samples you have downloaded.

Kindle with light* Unlike a computer, the Kindle is not backlit.  Far easier on the eyes than reading a computer; for that matter, easier on the eyes than reading a printed book (especially since you can adjust the size of the text).  I find the contrast of the background to the text to be very kind on the eyes, particularly sitting outdoors reading in the sunshine… far less glare than a white page.

When I bought my Kindle, I also got a book-like leather cover (photo above) with a built in LED light so I can read in the dark without additional lighting (remember, no backlighting) – handy in bed or when boondocking.  The cover was costly, but I love it.  It protects the Kindle easily, and feels wonderful in my hand.

Though Kindle currently doesn’t support e-books through the public library system, they have announced that library books WILL be supported sometime this year.  Since I don’t have a library card (needed for library lending of eBooks), I don’t really care – and with a dozen yet-to-be-read books waiting on my Kindle, I don’t feel like I am missing out.

Yes, the Kindle is a great addition to our electronic toys… and now, I’m going to go sit in the sunshine and enjoy it.