Monday, May 14, 2018

Oregon, Here We Come!

We were only away not quite two weeks but it feels like we were gone much longer than that. Each of our days was so full that we were exhausted at night before the sun went down. Bryan and Sue went out of their way to show us around the area and points beyond, driving us several hundred miles to visit family, vineyards and the coast. Tammy and I both fell in love with the area. I used to say that if I didn't live in Lakeville, I wouldn't mind living in western South Dakota. I may have to rethink that #2 spot.

The Pacific Northwest is appealing to me on many levels, one of those being cycling. I found myself daydreaming about being on my bike and exploring all it had to offer. Some of the roads were a little sketchy from a cycling perspective but there were many other roads that were more than fine, especially the shoulder along the Columbia River Gorge drive. And speaking of the gorge -- wow! What an amazing stretch of highway that goes on like that (in the video) for well over an hour. Riding my bike there has been added to my bucket list.

Tammy reserved an Airbnb for us in the town of Sherwood just a couple miles from Bryan and Sue. It was small but it met our needs, plus it had a fenced backyard for the pups.

On Saturday afternoon, Bryan and Sue drove us to Kings Valley to see Scott and Melody and their family which has grown by one since the last time we saw them. I thought I had a photo of them to add here but apparently, I don't. They live out in the country with a river running through their backyard. That would've been heaven to me as a boy growing up.

In addition to being with family I hadn't seen in too long, I had several highlights on the trip; one of those being Sunday afternoon with a friend I met in the Navy. I hadn't seen Jack (aka John, aka Muckly) since December 11th, 1979 when I left our ship at the end of my enlistment. We met at Starbucks in Olympia, Washington and spent a couple hours at a patio table on a mild afternoon catching up on one another's lives. Jack used to skipper many large tall-masted schooners for several years after he left the Navy: the Invader, the Bagheera, and the Red Witch. He was First Mate on the Adventuress. He started out as an ordinary crew member and worked his way up. He's also raced sailboats. Impressive! I remember talking with him in our previous lives about his days of sailing but I had no idea how advanced he'd become.

Jack is a rep for the cannabis industry now. He travels the country setting up large meetings/conferences where those in the field can gather and display/promote their products or services related to the industry. It made for a fascinating discussion. I also learned that there's a nifty app to guide you to the nearest "rec store" as they're commonly referred to.

We consulted the Weedmaps app then left Starbucks to go to a cannabis/rec store so I could satisfy my curiosity.

Here's a photo of us from back in the day.

Another highlight of the trip was spending Monday morning at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum with Bryan. The museum has lots of vintage aircraft on display with the biggest draw being the Spruce Goose that Howard Hughes built in the '40s at considerable cost (considering it only flew once for a few seconds). We paid the extra money to get a tour of the flight deck and a more elaborate description of some of the engineering that went into the plane. It was well worth it. Here's a link to some photos I took at the museum.

Tristan and Cambria met us at Bryan and Sue's Monday afternoon where we were able to spend a few hours with them, enjoying each other's company and some drinks. It was the perfect afternoon to sit out in their backyard and soak in the sun. And speaking of their backyard -- Toby loved it! We let him loose there the 2nd day we were in town and he came to life -- exploring and acting more excited than I'd seen him act in a while. We would leave Toby and Charlie in the backyard while we were away for hours at a time. It was the perfect place for them! Bryan and Sue have done some very nice things with their landscaping. I wouldn't mind having something that's a little easier to get my arms around, just like what they have.

We drove to Cannon Beach on the coast on Tuesday; it's a little less than 2 hours away. It was a cool, windy, and overcast day but not too cool for us to walk the beach and take in the sights. And of course the obligatory touching-the-pacific-ocean photo-op. Again, my thoughts turned to my bikes -- my fat-bike in particular. I couldn't help but wonder how much fun I could have there on my fatty cruising the coastline.

Tammy noticed a family trying to take a group selfie and offered to take their photo for them. They then wanted a photo of her with them. They were an Indian family now living in Sweden and they talked about how much they love it here in America. Tammy will often go out of her way to befriend minorities, feeling a need to reassure them that we welcome them here because let's face it, that's often not the reception they enjoy these days. I admire her for that.

Here's a link to some photos I took of our time at the coast.

Tuesday night was trivia night at Pizza Schmizza. We actually had a shot at finishing in the middle of the pack but we went for broke on the last question of the night and gambled our position away to finish dead last. But we had a lot of fun, and the pizza was excellent!

On our last day before leaving for home, Bryan and Sue took us to the Ponzi winery just a few miles from their home in Sherwood for some wine tasting. I was surprised to learn that they have dozens of wineries within a couple hours of where they live. Another item for the "pros" list if we were to ever make a "pros and cons" list for why we should relocate.

We left for home early Thursday morning but not before one last visit with Bryan and Sue. Sue made us a delicious french toast and ham breakfast that would hold us over until that evening and our date at The Seasons of Coeur d'Alene Restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho where they serve the best hard cider I've ever tasted: Wicked D's Granny Apple. Yum!

We drove to Livingston, Montana on the 2nd day of our homeward leg with plans to stay in Bismarck for the 3rd night but we scrapped those plans about 90 minutes east of Livingston and drove straight through from Livingston to home. We both caught a case of get-home-itis. It was nice to be away but it's so nice to be home after being on the road.

We had such a nice time and are so thankful to Bryan and Sue for guilting us into coming out to see them. 🙂 They're wonderful hosts and we can't wait to return! Perhaps we'll fly next time but honestly, we really enjoyed the drive, and Tammy's Crosstrek is a great little car and did well to carry us 4136 carefree miles (6656 km for my metric friends).

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Next Stop, Bismarck!

Our hummingbird feeders are awaiting the return of our tiny friends from their vacation homes well to the south. It's going to be a couple weeks before I can replace the sugary mix they contain because we're leaving town in the morning to visit family and friends in the Pacific Northwest. My brother Bryan and his family left Minnesota nearly 25 years ago and I have yet to make a trip out west to visit them. He's been back here several times as has his wife Sue. We're overdue. Toby and Charlie will be with us so Tammy has reserved rooms at Airbnb's along the way as they seem to be more accommodating for those traveling with pets. We found a cute Airbnb in Sherwood, Oregon to rent where Bryan and Sue live. It turns out that Bryan did the photography for the woman who owns it. How cool! It's been 4 years since our last vacation so we're excited to be hitting the road again. Tammy's Subaru Crosstrek is packed and fueled and waiting. We'll have SiriusXM to keep us company in addition to Pandora.

I put my Etsy shop in vacation mode. It's a nice feature to let people know I'll be away and unable to fill any orders. My only concern is how suspending my site's activity will affect its search rankings. I suppose this is one way to find out.

Up until this last weekend, I've been putting in lots of hours down in my basement studio working on another larger piece. I designed it during our spring blizzard a couple weeks ago. If we couldn't have spring outside I decided I'd create my own indoor spring. Here's a link to some photos on my Instagram site. I'm getting better at estimating how long a piece is going to take me to fabricate. I was telling my brother Keith that I figured the project was going to take me 45 hours. It took 48. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The real test for me is when we get back from vacation and whether or not I'll be able to continue to produce more art during the summer months. I'd bet against me at this point but we'll see. The golf courses are all open now and my bikes are chomping-at-the-bit to be ridden. Oh, and a ton of yard work awaits me when we return.

And speaking of bikes -- I think I may be developing a new love: a love for a gravel bike. Gravel bikes are different than road bikes in that they're designed to take you off the smooth surface of pavement and onto gravel roads where skinnier tires struggle to stay upright, much less hold their line. Their geometry is also different from a road bike in that their wheelbase is typically longer, creating a more stable and comfortable ride. This desire/love for a gravel bike caught hold of me yesterday when I rode the Miesville FiftySix ride with hundreds of others, mostly on their gravel bikes. I was on my fattie and struggling to keep up with those around me even though I was working considerably harder and likely putting out more watts than they were. A nice leisurely ride is nice but I crave speed, especially in the environment I found myself yesterday. It's a big investment for me but knowing how much use and fun I'll get out of it overshadows my concern for cost, as it always does when it comes to bikes.

That's all for now.