Road trip: Oregon to Napa

June 30, 2008

Day three was another long driving day, as we had to drive from southeast Oregon down to Napa. We got off to a relaxed start. Our room at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge had a soaking tub on the balcony overlooking the river and they gave us a packet of herbs to put in the water, so we had a soak before breakfast. We drank our coffee (they'd brought us a tray when we woke up) and watched the river and the mist. It was cold (50s) and foggy, so the hot water followed by a thick robe felt great.

We headed down for breakfast a little after nine, and had a great time talking to the people at our table. One of the couples were retirees from New York who'd been working their way up the coast. They were full of ideas for places to stop and after breakfast loaded us up with maps and travel brochures (several of which were actually very helpful). Another was a pair in their thirties from San Francisco – the retirees thought they must be honeymooners, but Kevin and I thought dating and on the rocks? She seemed exhausted, though, so maybe it was just early in the day. Breakfast was delicious, and we dawdled over it.

We ended up checking out at 11 – a bit later than expected. We wound our way back down the Rogue River to the coast, and found that the fog was even more intense at the shore than it had been on the river.

We enjoyed the last of the Oregon "cheap" gas and neat bridges...

And then entered into California! The fog there was, if anything, even thicker, and as we entered Redwood National Park visibility got even more limited. There were people running carrying carved sticks with fringe tops all along the highway – some sort of treacherous religious ceremony?

The road was a curvy little two lane thing, up and down huge hills and overlooking steep cliffs down to the ocean, then swinging inland past enormous trees. With the fog, we could sometimes only see about 10-15 feet ahead, and the combination of car-sized tree trunks suddenly appearing, and then drop-offs into grey nothing was extremely disconcerting to me.

101 finally swung inland and the fog cleared. Kevin had been driving, and I didn't realize how anxious the lack of visibility was making me until we were finally free of it.

We'd heard of several places that were likely to have elk and enthusiastically kept our eyes peeled, to no avail. Yet another herd of not-elk:

We didn't stop to get out and walk until we reached the Humbolt Redwoods State Park (quite a ways down from the national park). We drove along the Avenue of the Giants (about 30 miles of amazing, huge trees), and got out to walk around about halfway down. The bark on the trees was amazing – so grooved and thick. Here's Kevin with a very big tree:

The view looking up:

Me in the middle of a stand of huge redwoods:

And another looking up view:

Enormous forests make me happy.

We continued to drive south through the park... (We wondered how they keep the trees from overtaking the road? The difference in width between a 125-year tree and a 200 year tree is enormous, and the park is old, and cars have gotten wider. Do you think they cut trees down when they get too wide?), and then, once we were back on 101, continued through forest fire country to Geyserville. The forest fire driving was something else. Our fog from before was replaced with thick, acrid haze. My previous experience with forest fires was driving through Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming last summer. So, I'd been thinking that as long as the roads weren't closed and I brought extra contacts, there would be minimal effect on our drive except for crazy sunsets. Not so, it turns out. The smoke and the smell were everywhere, and when we stopped for lunch in Willits there were firefighters explaining the current action plan (including which areas/buildings they didn't plan to save, from a resources standpoint) and talking to angry and unhappy residents. We didn't see any flames or burning from the road, but we drove through the hills of the Mendocino complex (fires set by lightning storms a few days before we arrived). Not fun.

At Geyserville, we left 101 (farewell!) for 128, and started to enter real wine country. We transitioned from curvy roads along bleached-grass mountains studded with pine trees...

To fields of grape vines, surrounded by mountains:

And pastures with trees and ponds:

None of our photos really came out, but the rows of vines are neat, curling up around hills and making them look well-coifed. We got to Sonoma around 7:00, and then Napa Valley, so were too late for any tastings, but we had lots of fun passing judgment on the names of the wineries we passed and once we were in Napa, on the architecture and accessories of the tasting rooms and buildings. It was a pretty engrossing game, since you get a new winery at least every quarter mile. (We were amused, later at our hotel, to see how accurate our name-judging was as an indicator of wine quality – according to our hotel room's Napa guidebook we were on the money. :-) Nice.)

We stayed in Napa (the town). We arrived at 8:18 – just enough time to check in, throw on new clothes, and walk to our 8:30 dinner reservation at Celadon. Dinner was amazing. We had great cocktails while we were decompressing from the drive and deciding on our orders, and then had a bottle of the Honig Sauvignon Blanc (yummy, pretty label). I had an endive salad with pears, walnuts and blue cheese; Kevin discovered heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Yum. Duck for Kevin, pasta for me, a split sorbet – happiness all around, and a great nearly-three-hour dinner with fun conversation and an attractive setting to end the day.


Road Trip: Oregon Coast

June 29, 2008

Waking up this morning was amazing – we'd left a window cracked despite the chill (50s) and blowing spray, and so there was bright, light blue surf to listen to and to see. The color is fascinating. Light sand beaches (especially compared to the dark volcanic sand we saw later in the day), accented with medium blue water that had pine green shadows and turquoise crests. I could have watched it all day.

We went to the Beach Dog Café for breakfast. Delicious and wonderful. We realized when we walked in that they only accepted cash, so I had the unique experience of going to a bar at 10 am (to use the ATM). The regulars were amused.

Then, back down 101. We made a habit of pulling out whenever the whim struck for views. Here's Seal Rock, which amazingly lived up to its name with actual seals!

Here's Kevin overlooking Devil's Churn (a weak spot in the shoreline rock that has been worn away by the sea and now puts on quite the show with each wave):

The drive was amazing – lots of fog over the ocean, and when we reached a break in the trees, you'd just see it gusting over the road. Pictures didn't come out (probably because the speed the fog blew at was as amazing as its thickness), but it was an impressive sight.

We also continued to enjoy the great bridges along 101 in Oregon. Each of them had a different pair of concrete markers at the ends – interesting variation. And there were pretty metal bridges along the route as well. I loved the arches in this one.

We stopped at Haceta Lighthouse to get out and walk around. It's an amazing place in a lot of ways – the view, the fact that for the first few decades it was a 5-7 hour trip away from supplies/news/civilization over mountains and beaches (can you imagine?), the number of times per day the kerosene wick needed to be tended to or the glass cleaned, the fact that they figured out a way to amplify light to a point that only the curvature of the earth limited it... more details here. All amazing, though given the fog Kevin and I were a bit skeptical about the curvature of the earth claim. For example, the hills across the way were only occasionally discernable...

The lightkeepers' house was exceptionally lovely. (And you can see one of the 101 bridges in the background.)

But again, how isolated! There were the prettiest stained glass panes in the front doors – I wonder if that would have been a consolation, arriving as a lighthouse keepers wife, out so far away, for so long? I grew up with so many books that lauded "our pioneer ancestors", but this was impressive proof of the stuff people were made of…

A view of the lighthouse from further down the shore:

Less than a mile down the road, we stopped at the Sea Lion Caves. A *treat*. The cave is a natural part of the shoreline, where there are all sorts of sea lions lounging about and arguing over space on the rocks. In the '50s, people carved an elevator shaft in the rock to bring you down to cave level, so that you could see the sea lions in their habitat. Very fun. The bulls, especially, were quite loud, and the cave made their roars echo.

Outside the caves, there were harems of sea lions – apparently it's mating season and the bulls spend all of their time jockeying for turf with other males, and rounding up the females to keep them in the group.

Me, overlooking the ocean and the awesome sea lions.

The foliage continues to be interesting. We've been seeing these all along the way in Oregon – my guess is that they're foxgloves?

Kevin was impressed once we got to the dunes, because we kept seeing a light green/dark green/golden combination of roadside plants that he thought must be the basis for one of the colleges' football uniforms, and before he'd just thought the color was bizarre.

After those stops, we made as straight a line as possible for our stop for the night, the Tu Tu Tun Lodge. It was a few miles inland along the Rogue River. Lovely, tranquil, and shrouded in mist. There were deer in the apple orchards, appetizers when we arrived, and wood ready to be lit in the fireplace in our room when we arrived. Luxury. We got in just before seven, and decided to take a tour down the river in the kayaks.
We'd brought our own lifejackets, chose paddles and headed for the shore. Kevin (living up to his reputation) managed, after much deliberation, to choose the only kayak on the beach with a hole in it. As he paddled upriver, I kept getting more annoyed with his insistence that he was getting *lower* in the water. Kevin kept getting wetter, and I kept thinking unhelpful thoughts like, "kayaks ARE low in the water, by definition." Luckily we were close to shore when he decided his boat was truly sinking. We landed on a gravel beach, spent five or so minutes draining all of the water out, and he half dragged, half paddled it back to exchange it for a new version. I'd noticed, meantime, that my boat was plugged with a wine cork, and so decided to trade in for another model, too. :-) After that, we paddled up river and saw three families of wood ducks & ducklings, and one enormous splash. (Not sure what caused it, but it completely spooked me, as it was only feet away from my boat. Maybe a monster fish??). Kevin went to investigate, and got startled by a second splash, but also wasn't sure what caused it. Intriguing. Once we paddled back, we felt like we'd earned an evening in front of the fire, reading the paper and supping on sandwiches from the deli down the street. Relaxing and happy.

PS. I finally figured out how to link directly to big versions of the photos -- if you click on the photos, it will take you to a big version instead of the flickr photo page! :-)


Road trip: Washington and Oregon

June 28, 2008

The summer we met, Kevin took a road trip down the coast to San Francisco. Since then, I’ve been wanting to see all the sights along 101. We also have friends to visit in San Francisco and Sacramento. So, today we started our own Washington, Oregon and California road trip.

We were pleased at ourselves for leaving before 10:00, but then realized that we hadn’t turned on the fan for the fishtank (and Seattle’s supposed to break 90 this weekend). Oops. So, one circle back, and we left for real around 10:30. Our route was 405 to 5 down to Olympia, then a meander through amazing countryside (and lots of logging) to Grays Harbor. We stopped for lunch at a deli & ice cream shop in Hoquiam – yummy food and they were playing great oldies. Grays Harbor was interesting – clearly older buildings, with some gorgeous and detailed exteriors, but somewhat falling apart now. I’m curious where it got its money (ports? lumber?) and when it was at its peak, and what happened. I’ll have to find a book once we’re back. We picked up 101 in Aberdeen and drove south through lumber country to the bottom of Washington. Occasional amazing views of the Olympics and Rainier through breaks in the pines. We were amused, as always, as we got closer to the coast and started seeing Lewis and Clark names about – they didn’t have much positive to say about the southeastern tip of Washington. By the time we saw the sign for (beautiful, picturesque) Dismal Nitch, we both burst out laughing. Our view from Dismal Nitch across the Columbia River was sensational. Deep fog on the opposite shore, then layers of hills above it, and Rainier off to the side. And, in the current day and age, the bridge to Astoria is impressive. Can you see the two huge tankers shrouded in the mist?

(As always, click on the picture to get a link to bigger versions.)

In Oregon, we continued down 101 to Ecola State Park. We wound through huge, lush pine forests, and emerged into a huge park up on a hill with amazing views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Looking south towards Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock:

And towards Tillamook Lighthouse, offshore (you should really read this history of it – add offshore lighthouse builder and keeper to the list of jobs that I’m glad I don’t have!):

We spread out a blanket for a picnic feast of cherries, enjoyed the view and watched a wedding in the park. Amazing spot!

We stopped again just down the road in Cannon Beach to go for about an hour walk down the shoreline. Even at five, there were still many people out enjoying the day. Lots of families, lots of very happy dogs, just about perfect.

The tide was still pretty high, so we didn’t get to see the tide pools. Oh well. One of these trips it will work out. The sand was perfect, and it was fun to look at the big houses up on the hills along the beach – it would be a fun place to come back to.

We stopped for dinner an hour down the road at the Tillamook cheese headquarters. Crowded, but we enjoyed the free sample cheese curds, had a yummy burger and sandwich, respectively, and then got ice cream cones for the way out. Yum. Back on the road, the views continued to be amazing. The road kept ascending the cliffs along the shore, and you’d wend along with decreasing ocean views for twenty minutes and then get a series of views like this one through breaks in the trees before descending into the towns below. Gorgeous.

Our hotel was in Lincoln City – one of the first places I found south of Seaside that didn’t have 2-night minimum stays. I was a little bit apprehensive about it (it was right on the ocean but cost $89/night, and most places I’d found up the coast were in the $150 and way up category), but it turned out to be a gem. Comfy bed, clean bath, and this view from our room’s huge window when we arrived:

This was one of our longest driving days (9+ hours and 375 miles). It was good to fall asleep. What a treat of travel though – I love seeing the new places.


Fava beans

June 27, 2008

We've been enjoying our CSA haul again, especially since the bag arrived for a Brown dinner at our place and we got to spend time contemplating it with friends. The oddest inclusion was a bag of fava beans. They're enormous. The pods are 4-6" long, and you have to peel off a fibrous shell to get to the beans themselves. Everyone else knew that these should be served with a nice chianti, and we were gernerally creeped. Here I am, mid-peeling:

Then you boil them for a few minutes and strip off the heavy membranes around them, a tiny sprinkling of salt, then you eat. Turns out that they're yummy. I'm a huge fan.


Finally, tomatoes

June 26, 2008

A cold, late spring plus my procrastination means that the tomatoes and basil are finally in 2/3 of the way through June. Crazy late.

That's one early girl, one cherry tomato, and two basil starts. We'll see?? I'm only vaguely optimistic for them. I'll try to put in beans and summer squash once we're back for our trip, and I want to try some kitchen herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, cilantro X2 for Kevin, maybe dill).


Intern season has begun

June 25, 2008

The mountains were out like mad today, and I was cut off on the way home by a teeny little car with 5 kids in it and all the windows open and all I could think is "the interns are back!" Zooming around like mad people in their rental cars, heading home to their subsidized apartments with friends in tow. It makes me smile. Hope they like it here as much as I do.

More flowers

June 21, 2008

And, as you can see from the buds, there are more to come!
We have almost 20 other guys leafing out, but this is the only one that has even put buds up so far – we'll see!

Summer and happy

June 18, 2008

My Grandparents sent us a first anniversary gift – a lovely, handpainted fruitbowl, decorated with hyacinths.

The bottom is lovely, too.

I was thinking that it looked so familiar when we unwrapped it – it turns out that the artist is a friend of my grandparents, and my mom has had a similar fruit bowl from her since forever. It came with instructions (we both found it surprisingly touching that they're typewritten – not something we see much).

The bowl arrive the day before our first CSA bag arrived, and we quickly tried it out on the apriums (tiny apricot/plum hybrids). They looked gorgeous against the blue bowl and kept well. This will clearly be a new favourite kitchen standby.



June 15, 2008

Our friends Shawn and Sanna left their puppy, William with us when they went (to Shawn's) home in Alabama for Christmas. They brought us back a great BBQ sauce, which we've been saving for grilling season. The weather is inching towards consistent, so we had a rib roast. They brought potato salad and delicious, marinated farmers market asparagus, and Larry brought wonderful wine.

Right before they arrived, I found a whole new 10' tract of mint in the garden, so I pulled it up by the roots and we made mojitos.

The BBQ duo and their dog:

Don't the ribs look amazing? William was in his element – munching sticks and pinecones, and acting like a happy dog in a yard with lots of birds and squirrels. The party went late, and I didn't manage to get a shot until the shade had taken over (around 7 pm! Love June!)

The evening concluded with amazing strawberry rhubarb pie, again from Shawn and Sanna. :-) What a great, low-speed, delicious afternoon. :-)

The Great Tree Massacre of Aught Eight

June 14, 2008

Our neighbour, Paul, asked us today if we would mind trimming back the lilac the lilac next to the driveway, since he was having a hard time reaching his gate and mowing. They're good neighbours, and I appreciated that they waited until after the blooms were done, so I went out about an hour later with the clips and pruned it back and up. The entire thing looks a lot more even now, which is nice, and I think that it will get more sun which should help with the last of the very persistent moss.

Once I was outside, I weeded the front gardens, pruned back a few bushes that had gotten gangly, and then decided to finally just do something about the maple. Two branches later, I can present before and after shots:
View from the street, before:

... and view from the street, after:

View from the house, before:

... and view from the house, after:

The ground actually gets sunlight now! I think that going up another branch in the middle would entirely be a bad thing, but at least now I can walk under it without stooping, and maybe we can scatter some grass seed and have a chance of it growing. :-)

By that point I'd filled one yard waste bin and decided to move to the back. I pulled weeds from the rock wall (you wouldn't believe the number of ivy starts that grow here in a week), pruned the Japanese maple, trimmed the lilac at the side of the house up a bit, and then decided to cut down a tree. We have a pine tree right outside our bedroom window that is just below the maximum size before you need a permit. The poor thing is surrounded by five enormous trees, and tried to compensate by growing as an "L" – it only has one branch, but that was as big as the trunk.

So, I cut it down, snipped and sawed it up, and had just about filled the second yard waste bin when Kevin got home from golf. He did a good job being impressed at all my progress. :-) I mentioned that we should probably think about cutting some of the branches on the larger pines at the side of the house – there are a bunch that hang over the roof and side yard, blocking light but not providing any privacy. I'd sort of meant it as a project for another day, but he was enthusiastic starting (and I know better than to stop a project like that when it has momentum!), so he spent another hour cutting down branches – he ended up taking down about 12 big ones from the roof, and then I took down another two from the ground. Even at 8:00 pm, there was an impressive amount of extra light. I can't wait to see how it looks tomorrow morning from the bedroom.

Here's Kevin sweeping up pine needles, and our new sky view! (Plus good perspective just how big those trees are – he's only about 10' away from that trunk!)

And here's about a third of the tree carnage. It looked like a major hurricane had hit.

I spent about another hour clipping and sawing the branches into three big piles. There are also branches that fell in the front yard that I didn't get to before we lost the light. Delicious hamburgers on the grill for dinner, and we are both going to sleep VERY well tonight!



June 07, 2008

We've had stacked trim just sitting in our garage for a few months now. I needed to rip 12 of the boards down to width, and the guys at the lumber yard were quite clear that the only way to do it was a table saw. We both researched, but the things are expensive, you have to store them, and there are safety concerns... Brian suggested way back in March that I look around at local places and see if someone would do the cuts for us for cheap. Sounded like a plan, but it took me a while to find a place. Meanwhile, there've been stacks of MDF blocking all the space in our garage.

Something finally clicked this week, and I found Hardwoods Supply online: six minutes from our house, open on Saturdays, and willing to make 21 10' cuts for me.

I loaded the wood into the car, drove over, unloaded, they cut it up, reloaded, drove back and got everything restacked in the garage by the end of the dryer cycle (40 min). Nice. A very, very good use of $30. (And the guys were great. The one ringing me out was tickled at how mortified I was when I signed my maiden name on the credit card bill -- I haven't done that in months.)

So far I've managed to cut 12 pieces to their proper size. I have about 35 pieces to go (25 are straight cuts, the rest mitered), but all of a sudden I'd had enough fun for one afternoon, so the rest of the cuts and the painting will have to wait till tomorrow. Still, it's a great start.


View in early June

It has been raining, cold and dismal here for the last week, but we're finally at the time of year where everything is so green and the flowers are so bright that it's not so bad. Here's the view of the front yard from my computer/sewing machine>

With all the flowers are starting to fall -- I'll miss their color. They were so saturated and brilliant while they lasted.


The right sort of friends

June 05, 2008

We've been having fishtank light issues for about a week. The fans on our lights (the same things that are in a computer case) have been noisy for the last year or so, but one of them has apparently become completely unbalanced and starting last Sunday now makes a loud revving noise approximately every five seconds. I figured out which fan was causing the problem and took the light apart to try to remove it. Electricity isn't exactly my forte, though, so Kevin took over once everything was in pieces and I'd given up.

Kevin ordered new fans, put the light back together, and the day after they arrived, the actinic lights blew. We have four compact florescent bulbs in the upper tank – two are white (with yellow/pink tints) and two are blue (technically called actinic). Kevin took apart the lights again, played with wires, switched the bulbs, checked the switches and sockets, and it appears that part of our ballast blew – expensive and crummy. The light is three and a half years old, so it shouldn't be dying but it's also well past its warranty. Adding to the worry is the fact that we're looking at upgrading our tank in the fall, so this really isn't a good time to be looking at multi-hundred dollar temporary light fixtures.

Just when we were starting to get fairly distressed, we realized that Amanda and Brian not only gave us back our old fishtank when they moved away, but Brian threw in his two compact florescent fixtures. They're perfect (even the right pin configuration!), and now we're back in business.

A wild success! Thanks, guys. What a save!