Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The best laid plans for an early morning ride to see the moon set over Horsetooth were skunked by clouds...

...although I didn't come back completely empty-handed:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Goin' West in the Westy (5)

It was hard not to start feeling a little anxious to be home, but a good soak in the Steamboat Hot Springs Pool and a beautiful, cool night of camping on Rabbit Ears Pass seemed to go quickly.

All of the sudden we were headed over our own Cameron Pass...

...and home.

Other random reflections, thoughts and ramblings:
Schedule. There were times when we wondered if we tried to see too much in too short a time, but mostly the pacing seemed fine. There were places I would have liked to have spent more time and detours I would have taken, but that would always be true not matter the trip length.

Family Dynamic. Z and M are getting to ages where their own friends are most important and their interests are unique so it was fun to watch them play together and so well for so much time. It was also great to have a "break" in the middle of the trip where they had Oso and Levin to play with.

I wonder what the kids will "take" from the trip. For Molly it's probably mostly "experiential." She'll remember the feel of the ocean, the smell of the van, and the sounds of the voices from the Little House on the Prairie CDs. Zach, I think, may most remember the wildlife. Especially seeing an Osprey dive for a fish in the Columbia and the bears in Yellowstone. The tide pools and crabbing with Susie and Paul also seem to stand out in his mind.

Goin' West in the Westy (4)

Our next destination was Bend, OR. We've heard all the buzz about Bend for awhile now (good climate, miles of trails, river through town, breweries, cool downtown and 20 minutes to skiing through June at Mt Batchelor) including the recent "Best Town" write up in Outside Magazine. Generally, it seemed to live up to the hype and we were impressed.

After a night in a hotel in Bend, we headed just out of town to the very cool and amazing High Desert Museum (where we saw a bald eagle, a rattlesnake, and a river otter, among many other things)

and then to spend the night camping at Newberry Crater National Monument.

Near where we camped was a short hike on the "Big Obsidian Flow," a gigantic area covered with obsidian and pumice stones and boulders. I'm fascinated by obsidian both because it has such a unique look and feel and because it played such an important role in the development of tools. Native peoples came from miles away to collect obsidian here. More interesting info on obsidian can be found here.
Since I've always thought of the smallest piece of obsidian I might find in New Mexico as a treasure it was mind-boggling to see the stuff in such quantities in all directions.

Big Obsidian Flow trivia:
1. The volume of rock in the Big Obsidian Lava Flow is 170,000,000 cubic yards. Assuming a paved road 24 feet wide and 6 inches thick, there is enough rock in the flow to pave 70,000 miles of road which is equivalent to a paved road circling the world three times. (But it was still illegal, of course, for my kids to take a small piece home as a souvenir ;))
2. Surgical blades made from obsidian are sharper than those of steel.

We left Bend in the rear view mirror and motored across eastern Oregon and into Idaho for a night in Boise.

The next day was across Idaho, close enough to sniff Sun Valley, and with a cool lunch stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

We came over Teton Pass...
...and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to turn north into Grand Teton to see if we could spot a Moose. In our experience, this is not very difficult to do on the Wilson-Moose road and this time was no exception.
Pizza at Dornans to soak up the majesty of the Tetons

(and to goof around a little, too)

A quick night of rainy camping, a nice morning at the farmers market in Jackson and we were on our way to Steamboat for our final night...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Goin' West in the Westy (3)

Portland brought a run for Dean in Tryon Creek State Park and an introduction to Auntie Beth's new (since we've seen her, anyway) dog, Choco, who might have ringworm.

Auntie Beth's House:

Tryon Creek State Park looks like this:

Friday: Off to the beach.
Nehalem Bay State Park:
Pretty much the dictum
Kids+Water+Sand=happiness, for hours and hours
held true. It only seemed to bother the adults that the wind was blowing 30 mph and the water was 55 degrees. ;)

We met our friends the Neumanns at the campsite and they promptly pulled from their truck:
4 days (+) of firewood
Ropes and such to quickly build 4 swings throughout the campsite
A couple of pounds of pork sausages from one of their recently slaughtered pigs
A propane canister (large backyard grill type)
AND A flame torch (ahem, "fire starter") for said propane canister

Now THAT'S camping.

After two days, we packed up and drove an hour or so down the coast to Cascade Head, a Nature Conservancy Selected Site, whatever that means. We're pretty sure it would have been a really beautiful view if it wasn't fogged in when we got there.
We kept going to our next reserved site at South Beach just outside of Newport, home of Rogue Bewery, makers of Dead Guy Ale and, we also discovered, Spruce Gin. Instead of camping in the rain, though, we were rescued by Jenn's Mom who happily let the 9 (+ dog) of us invade, shower, and sleep at her house. On top of that incredible hospitality, she also fed us cookies and babysat all four kiddos while we went to eat good eats at Local Oceans and visit heretofore mentioned beer maker. Who knows what we did to deserve this, but we must've been doing something right.

We behaved reasonably well at the Brewery, but 5:30 AM the next day still came kind of early. That was the time fate (and the moon, I guess) would have it that the tide was out, perfect for tide-pooling. Walking through the pools as the sun came up discovering dozens of new creatures was a highlight of the trip for everyone.

Newport's famous Art Deco Yaquina Bay Bridge built in the 1930s.

After a few wrong turns and an accidental detour through Salem, we stopped by Jenn and Paul's farm for lunch and for the kids to play, but especially to see Jenn's new art "room."

Not in a million tries would a passerby guess this is hanging on the wall in the back room of a barn on a rural 60-acre working Oregon farm:

Next up, heading back east to Bend and points beyond...

Goin' West in the Westy (2)

Sunrise on Yellowstone Lake:
As we left Yellowstone, I was hoping to be the 1,000,001st guy to get a picture from Artist Point. But, alas, the road was being repaired and I had to settle for Inspiration Point.

The drive up through western Montana was gorgeous and diverse (Not too hard to see why they call it "Big Sky Country"). Much of it was smoky from the many wildfires burning in the area. (We drove through Helena, but after nearly choking on the smoke filling up with gas, decided to move on quickly.)

We stayed the night in Missoula, which we found to be very appealing and similar to Fort Collins (outdoor-oriented, medium size, College town). I've heard about the influence of big-money on Missoula and it did have a pretty ritzy feel. (For some reason the air in Missoula was clear. This was nice, but seemed unusual because it sits in a big valley). Note to self: add "A River Runs Through It" to the Netflix queue to watch again.

Next was up and over Lolo Pass, el 5,233 feet.

It is famous as the location where the Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed the summit of the Bitteroot Range via the Lolo Trail on the outward and return journeys in 1805-06

From Lolo we descended into Idaho and spent the night in Walla Walla, Wa. Named for the famous onions grown there (which we could smell in the fields for miles around) and home to Whitman College (Marcus, not Walt). But the character and town-vibe seems more defined by the high-quality wines made there.

On Thursday we followed the omnipresent "Lewis and Clark Route" signs to lunch in Hood River and then on to Portland. The notorious winds in the Columbia River Gorge that make it the most famous place for wind surfing (and now increasingly, it looked like, for kite surfing) also made it a little hard to keep the van in one lane.

I drug the family for a few taster sips at the Full Sail Brewery, then it was on to Portland.

Saturday Solo Mt Biking to Indian Peaks

Couldn't scrounge up a riding buddy for Saturday, but rallied (two weeks off the bike definitely helps in the motivation department) for the 6am start anyway.

Saddled up and rode a figure-eight that was recommended by Yann. Something along the lines of Sourdough ---> Wapati ----> Little Raven ---> South Saint Vrain.

Stellar stuff there for sure. Pretty much unrelentingly technical and physical for 16+ miles.

Damage tally included loose bolt on the rear shock, shedding a tire and flatting, broken shoe and an exploding tube.

Couldn't resist heading down to Lyons afterward for a delicious burger and Dale's Pale Ale.

Goin' West in the Westy (1)

We returned last week from a 15-day, 3,400-mile odyssey in our 1986 VW Westfalia from Fort Collins out to the Oregon Coast and back. Whew.

I think I'll go ahead and get with the times to learn how to blog by journaling the trip.

So here goes it...

Day 1 was FC to Yellowstone. It's a pretty good haul with a 5 and 7-year-old, but the kids were troopers.

The route looked something like this:

"Are we there yet?" "No, only 8 more hours to" :)

Stopped for a few pictures on Togwotee Pass, just outside of Grand Teton.

Yellowstone was next. On one hand, I have avoided Jellystone for so long because of the zoo-like crowds and "over-ratedness" (hey, it's my blog, I'll make up words if I want to) of the place, so I was pleasantly surprised at the amazing scenery, wildlife, and the steam exploding into the air on a regular schedule.

On the other hand, the crowds were similar to Disneyland and the driving was kinda crazy (there is a grade-separated freeway-stlye interchange at Old Faithful). I had to wait in a 1/2-hour line just to check in to my previously-reserved campsite.

We saw a mama bear and two cubs crossing the road as we drove out on Tuesday morning. This was very cool on several counts. 1. The kids got a good view. 2. Seeing cubs is always cool. 3. Unlike every other animal we saw in National Parks, there were not yada-yada cars already pulled off the road gawking -- we were actually the only ones who saw them.

The only picture I got is really lousy. But I'm still sort of proud of it because I had to (1) pull over, (2) calm Susie down from the wild-animal-seeing-induced seizure she was having, (3) get my camera out, (4) get my lens cap off, and (5) shoot.