Wednesday, August 31, 2005

We made an interesting discovery on the tee of the eleventh hole at the Scotch Pine Golf Course in Payette, Oregon; there's an airport landing strip that runs between the eleventh and fifteenth fairways! See the planes near the end of the cart path at the center of the picture? Posted by Picasa

Here's the landing strip seen from beside the 15th hole's tee box. Do you think it would be a distraction while you're teeing off? Posted by Picasa

Trekking to Ontario

Yesterday's exploratory trip to Ontario was to find the Wal*Mart Supercenter to stock up on supplies and to compare diesel fuel prices of gas stations in Oregon and Idaho. Oregon won hands down, $2.89 to $3.05 in Idaho. Hurricane Katrina hit the Northwest, too. Isn't it strange to be pleased to pay $2.89 for diesel fuel?

On the way home we saw a sign for the West Wind Produce Company advertising peaches so we had to stop there. We'll eat peaches until they come out our ears if we can find good ones and we've been fortunate this summer to have access to some wonderful Washington peaches. There was no visible sales area outside the set of buildings at West Wind so we interrupted a pair of gentlemen who were talking to each other out front and one of them invited us into the building while he got some peaches for us. This building was their fruit handling section and they were in the middle of sorting, grading, sizing and packing plums. The temptation to insert "Peter Piper picked and packed a peck of purple plums" is just too great, sorry. So we enjoyed watching the fruit packing operation while we waited for our peaches and nectarines to be bagged and brought out for us. Luscious looking fruit and at a very reasonable price; it pays to take the road less traveled sometimes.

While waiting for the construction crew to allow us through a bridge construction area along US 20 in Oregon we noticed this "shoe tree". I believe it's in the area of mile marker 207 or perhaps it was 217.  Posted by Picasa

This is the view from Stinking Water Pass summit in Oregon along US 20 Posted by Picasa

I love sunsets. This is from The Narrows RV Park in Princeton, Oregon Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Touching on the Oregon Trail

Heading east on US 20 towards Idaho we passed through Vale, Oregon. On the outskirts on town are signs for the Oregon Trail Murals, so I watched for them as we were driving along the main street of town. You can see several murals but according to the Vale web site they have twenty-five of them, plus five more being painted in 2005 so you would need to drive around the side streets also to see them all.

Vale was the first stop in Oregon on what came to be known as the Oregon Trail. Pioneers leaving from Fort Boise, fifteen miles to the east, would stop here to use the local hot springs to wash their clothes in hot water and cook the salmon they caught in the Malheur River. The trail continues northwest from this point.

Having driven from Burns I have no idea what the land looks like along the Oregon Trail from Vale as it turns northwest from that point, but if the settlers had headed west along the route US 20 takes, I can't help but think they would have been sorely disappointed by what they would have found there. That area is part of the Great Basin desert and even today the ranches only grow alfalfa or hay as crops due to the harsh climate. We didn't see any food crops like corn or onions until we reached the area of Ontario, Oregon and the Snake River. We did notice fields of something with curly-topped leaves which might be sugar beets; I'll have to find out if that's what it was.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I had to take all the pictures through the screen door as the quail are very skittish as there are few people around this campground. The chipmunks are also here, trying to get their fair share of the sunflower seeds. Posted by Picasa

Papa and youngsters. I believe that this is properly called a covey of quail, but wouldn't quota of quail be more appropriate? Heh. Posted by Picasa

We had visitors today, which came to eat the sunflower seeds I had sprinkled for the chipmunks. This is a juvenile California quail. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Growing up you learned the capitols of all the states and about the crops they grew and the things they manufactured, so you developed a picture in your head of what the terrain of each state would be like.

Driving east on US 20 towards Burns, Oregon Denny and I were reminded of driving east on I-10 in Texas going towards hill country;all you see are sage and rocky ground and hills with cedar trees here and there. Now if you had asked me to describe Oregon before I traveled here the last couple of weeks, I would have said craggy cliffs along the ocean and lush forests inland all the way to the Idaho border. Shows what I know, huh? What I haven't figured out is how it can be 90 degrees here at 4100 feet elevation, when brochures tell you that sometimes the roads around here are closed until June/July because of snow. That is just too weird for me. If it looks like a desert and feels like a desert how can there be that much snow that late in the season?

While Oregon and Washington have surprised us with the variations in terrain and climate they are both beautiful in their own way. Actually, you can find beauty wherever you go if you let go of your preconceived notions of what is "beautiful". I remember thinking how barren Arizona seemed our first winter there until I started watching the play of light on the Superstition Mountains and saw the desert bloom in the spring. It has its own austere beauty which I finally came to appreciate and of course the sunsets there are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.

So on Monday we'll be heading into Idaho which is another new state for us. Let's see, Idaho is mountains and forests and lakes and potatoes, right?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located about six miles from The Narrows, so we drove there this morning to check out the headquarters and the George Benson Museum which has almost 200 mounted bird specimens. I was hoping to be able to identify some birds we've seen locally by visiting the museum.

Upon arrival we discovered the headquarters/visitor center was closed even though the sign on the door said it opened at 8 a.m. and it was 9:30 when we arrived. There were several cars in the employees' lot, but the only people we saw were a husband and wife visiting the area from Boise. We were quite disappointed by the locked doors of the visitor center as we hoped to get an idea of the condition of the gravel roads leading into the park to see if driving in the big truck was viable.

The museum is a one room brick building with large glass cases and drawers full of mounted birds and small mammals. We were able to identify some of the birds we've seen since arriving in the area (a white-faced ibis, a northern goshawk and a mountain bluebird) and found the display of eggs quite interesting because of the differences in size and colors of the eggs of the various breeds of birds. There was a small section of bats including a couple that were hardly bigger than a large beetle and one that was a cream-color. Many of the birds we've seen in our travels but many we'll have to watch for in the future.

We stopped at the Peter French Sod House Ranch to get a picture of the sod house, but all that was left was the stone cellar with a sod roof. There were several out buildings still standing, including a bunk house for the vaqueros (cowboys), but it's currently housing a few hundred barn swallows which I disturbed by looking into the building. I don't know who was more startled; them or me!

As we were walking back to the truck we saw a cottonwood with many huge nests and were trying to figure out what type of bird would build so close to other birds of the same size when we heard several loud, guttural cries behind us. Honing in on another cottonwood, I used the binoculars to discover a nest of two young Great Blue Herons being fed by one of the parents. Unfortunately the branches hid them for the most part, but I snapped a picture of one of them standing on the edge of the nest. How many times we've seen Great Blues near lakes and ponds and creeks and we've never heard them make a sound, yet here in a great desert plain we discover they have great big noisy voices! Obviously we've never been around hungry blue herons before.

You can drive great distances through the wild life refuge but as I mentioned the driving route is gravel and since I was unable to confirm the condition of the road we figured we wouldn't take the chance as you have to drive a lot of miles to get back to civilization. I wish the visitor center had been open.

It's a long way to town from the Narrows! Posted by Picasa

Sunrise at The Narrows Campground in Oregon Posted by Picasa

The Sod House at the French Ranch, which was actually a stone cellar with a sod roof. Posted by Picasa

One of about 20 empty Great Blue Heron nests in a cottonwood at the old French Ranch outside of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Posted by Picasa

Two young Great Blue Herons waiting to be fed. One is hidden behind the leaves. The nest is about 50 feet up in a large cottonwood tree on the grounds of the abandoned French ranch near the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon Posted by Picasa

A sleepy common poor will resting at the Narrows Campground Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Oh Frabjous Day!

Oh Frabjous Day!

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Isn't that the most marvelous bit of whimsy? If you don't recognize it, it's part of "Jabberwocky" from "Alice Through the Looking Glass". The reason I brought it up is that my satellite dish modem miraculously healed itself this evening, so "oh frabjous day!" we're back online. My mom has lots of collectibles for me to research for her for her latest estate sale and her voice sounded so disappointed when I called her this afternoon to tell her we would be offline for a couple of weeks. Boy, she wasn't the only one!

So to update; the truck's newest repair seems to be working fine as we had no unusual noises emitting from the undercarriage during our travels to the Narrows. That's where we are; the Narrows. The original Narrows consisted of three saloons a general store and a hotel. All that's left is a small wooden house. The newest Narrows consists of the campground, a set of gas pumps, and a restaurant/saloon/mini-mart. We're smackdab in the middle of nowhere, between Burns and Steens Mountain. Malheur Wildlife Refuge is about six miles east of us so we'll probably check it out although the high season for birding is long over. During the spring they have over 300 different types of birds that stop at the preserve. We spotted an unusual fellow in the campground yesterday that looks very similar to the Glossy Ibis in my National Geographic Field Guide, but they are supposed to inhabit the east coast of the U.S. so I guess that's not what he was. This is also an area where they have wild mustangs and gather them for auction. So there's a lot around, although most of it would be round trips of over 100 miles and at $3.00 a gallon I think Denny will balk at some of it.

More to come, just had to get a little bit updated before I start answering e-mails.

Out of touch

Our DirecWay modem went ka-put, so they have to mail us a new one, which means we'll receive it in two to three weeks. The phone line for Internet use at the campground is dicey, so the "local" library is our only option for contact at this point. However, that's a 52 mile round trip, so this will be my last blog for a while probably. Monday we head out to Weiser, ID so perhaps they'll have a better Internet connection. If so, I'll resume my entries at that time.

Denny says this time I've picked a campground so far out even the Indians can't find it. I think he's right.

Safe travels all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

On the road again

Yay-yippee! We got our truck back last night! It seems that they needed to put in a new torque converter and oil pump and various pieces-parts (remember that old commercial?) to solve the squeeking/squealing noise. To the tune of $1800, which will be paid by Ford since the new tranny is only 3 weeks old as of this past weekend. Whew.

So this morning we move on to the area of Burns, Oregon. We'll actually be quite a few miles south of that near the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. New stuff to see and all new-to-us roads to drive, our favorite type of travel day.

By the way, you can't visit the Beaver Coach factory in Bend for a tour anymore; they moved in May as they needed to expand their factory. I guess that's good news for the RV Industry in spite of the rising costs of fuel.

On the road again, ta da da da dah, on the road again...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Still waiting

Today we were supposed to leave for our next destination in the Burns, Oregon area but we're still waiting for the truck to be repaired. The Ford dealer told us last week that they "think" the screeching problem is the torque converter and they "hope" installing a new one fixes it. However, their transmission guy was off Thurs/Fri/Sat so Monday was the soonest work would be started. So here we are. Perhaps we'll take the tour at the Beaver Coach factory just to see what's new in the motorhome industry. We can dream, right?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A case of road rage

Today's post was supposed to have been about how we drove the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway loop using our loaner vehicle, a Ford Escape. But the afternoon was marred when Denny was assaulted by another driver who became enraged when we pulled off a side road and didn't drive fast enough through a business section of the roadway to suit him.

I'm not going to go into all the details, but the end result was that Denny received a 3 inch gash on his forehead and the driver probably got off with just a warning (both we and a witness got the driver's license plate number) as we refused to press charges due to the fact that we would have had to return to Oregon weeks or months in the future to attend a hearing and we decided the expense would not be worth it. The man's rage was totally out of line for the incident and we can only hope that the next person that angers him doesn't get hurt worse.

Safe travels, everyone.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dining alfresco at the Rim Village Visitor Center, Crater Lake Posted by Picasa

A closeup of the water surrounding Wizard Island Posted by Picasa

Crater Lake and part of Wizard Island, viewed from an overlook near the Watchman Posted by Picasa

Phantom Ship rock, Crater Lake Posted by Picasa

Tim and Rosie working their way towards Texas, just because. Posted by Picasa

Crater Lake National Park

Before heading out to water aerobics I packed a picnic lunch for us, knowing that there would be a beautiful spot to have lunch while at Crater Lake. Upon arrival, we discovered lots of lovely places we could stop and we'll keep them in mind for our next visit but this time we chose to sit on the wall the Visitor's Center at the Rim Village while lake and people-watching. Young, old and the ubiquitous dog people, all enjoying a gorgeous day.

For the nitty-gritty details of the park, the link
will give you tons of information. We followed the Rim Road around the lake, stopping to read the interpretive signs and getting pictures of the lake from different sides of the lake. We've seen the blue waters of the Pacific around Hawai'i, the aqua waters around the Keys, the green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but the shade of blue of Crater Lake is just out of this world. The various geological features of the park, like the Pumice Desert, Pumice Castle, Wizard Island and even the Old Man of the Lake, a free-floating tree that's been bobbing about in the lake for years all made for an interesting learning experience.

Before leaving we stopped at the boat ride concession and found that you could ride around the lake for $23.50 per person and even have the opportunity to get off at Wizard Island to explore and eat lunch or whatever and then catch another boat later. We'll do that the next time. We started our loop going west to east and therefore found the boat concession at the end of our day instead of the beginning. A note to those afraid of heights; if you're going to drive Rim Road entering from the north, take the east to west route so you will be on the inside traffic lane. Driving on the outside lane puts you very near the edge of the mountain side in many places and there are few guard rails along the route.

As we were heading towards the area where we entered the park a Minnie Winnie (a small RV) pulled out in front of us, sporting a bumper sticker that read "I heart-symbol" today" (I love today). Denny and I agreed that that was a great motto to live by. After spending a glorious day outdoors we heart-symbol today indeed.

Donkey Walk - Tim and Rosie's Journal of Their Trek

Donkey Walk - Tim and Rosie's Journal of Their Trek

As we were heading south on Highway 97 en route to Crater Lake yesterday we saw a man with a donkey stopped by the side of the road speaking with someone. I mentioned to Denny that he looked like a prospector, thinking perhaps he was a rock-hound, but there was no place to pull over so we went on.

Heading north after our loop around the lake we spotted the gentleman again and Denny pulled off the road as much as he could and I asked the man if I could take his picture. He introduced himself as Tim and his donkey as Rosie and explained that they were walking to Texas. He gave me a tiny slip of paper printed with the name of a website that was a blog of his travels and mentioned they had stopped for a rest so I thanked him and let him go.

Who knows, perhaps we'll see Tim and Rosie again when we begin our migration south in the fall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The High Desert Museum -

The High Desert Museum is located on Highway 97 just a few miles south of Bend, Oregon. They do charge an admission fee of $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, but we considered the price well worth it.

The museum is comprised of its large main building of exhibits as well as a system of paths leading to other exhibits and walks through the grounds. New this year is the raptor training program (see the photos below) where they are in the process of training a Barn owl, several hawks and a falcon to fly free and return to their handlers upon command. The owl, Sarah, was in the initial stage of becoming acclimated to a large crowd, so her handler simply walked her in front of us while Sarah sat on her arm. Another handler talked about the physical features of the Barn owl as the handler was walking around and she was very informative. They then brought out a Swainson's Hawk that was learning to fly from a perch back to the trainer's arm while tethered to a string to make sure he didn't fly off into the trees and then a red-tailed hawk that was in a further stage of training and a Harris hawk who was in the final stage of flying from the perch to the trainer without the string. We were also introduced to a hybrid falcon, part Peregrine/part Gyrfalcon that had been specially breed by a falconer. We all felt sorry for this little guy as he was absolutely frantic at being displayed and he struggled and tried so hard to fly away that he exhausted himself. It was a very interesting demonstration and they hope to have all the birds trained by next summer.

There were several outdoor displays including a re-created settler's village, an otter's exhibit, a corral for the wild mustangs they auction late in the year, the raptor house and various pieces of sculpture on display along the paths. They all led back to the main building which is divided into sections. The Desertarium is a room of displays of living creatures such as tarantulas, bats, burrowing owls, beetles, lizards, etc., the Hall of the Plateau Indians was an extensive display of Native American artifacts and the history of the Plateau Indians in Oregon and the Northwest. The Spirit of the West display dealt with the arrival of the settlers that including a recreation of a mine with lighting that mimicked the candlelight the actual miners would have used. I don't know how they could have done it without going crazy myself.

After coming back inside from wandering the grounds we noticed that large display tables had been set up along the main hallways, filled with animal pelts with casts of scat and footprints that went with each different animal and volunteers to talk with children and play interactive learning games with them. There were also several classrooms in the building with young volunteers who were working with children in a game-like setting but gently teaching them at the same time. This would be a wonderful place to bring your kids or your grandkids! This is a must-see attraction if you're in the area.

This Swainson's Hawk is being trained to fly from a perch back to its handler upon command. The raptor training program is new this year at the High Desert Museum. Posted by Picasa

Have you ever stared an eagle in the eye? This magnificent creature and I did after I finished taking his picture with his handler. I was only about five feet away from him at the time and we spent a few seconds communing until he broke the stare. He may have been tethered, but his spirit was flying free. Posted by Picasa

This little fellow had a wad of dried grasses in his mouth and was en route to his burrow to line it in preparation for the winter. It looked like a bushy mustache and I was trying to get a picture of his face but he was too quick for me. The End. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It's a small world after all

While I was downloading a free Sun Microsystems program called Office Org. (it works like Microsoft Office) to be able to read my journals that were saved in Word format on a different computer, Denny mentioned that an e-mail came in from my mother on his laptop. For some reason, some e-mails come through his laptop and don't download onto my desktop computer and I haven't figured that out yet. So when we traded computers so I could read Mom's mail I noticed a new message from someone relating to my Newberry National Volcanic Monument blog entry.

It turns out that Dave and Jan were in our campground and as Datastorm users had noticed us on the Datastorm location map and read our blog. They came over to introduce themselves, beating us to the punch as we were going to walk over after dinner. We had a nice time talking about traveling, blogs of other travelers that we follow, friends and family. Jan is a hiker who has hiked rim to rim at the Grand Canyon three times; wow! That is a major feat of endurance and stamina. However, I discovered I was one-up on her in one respect; I've walked up Silly Mountain in Apache Junction and she hasn't-heh! They have invited us to meet up in Phoenix this winter to go to Jan's favorite place and I'll look forward to that once I've figured out where we're going to stay. Right now that's too far in the future as I'm thinking that today we'll travel to the High Desert Museum after we drop the truck off for its transmission repairs.

Dave and Jan will move on today, probably camping in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and exploring the park. But we'll be able to track them via the Internet and keep in touch that way. Hmm, whatever did the world do before the Internet?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Transmission trauma

Last Tuesday when we left Long Beach we noticed a squeal/squeak coming from the area of the transmission we when accelerated from a complete stop. This was the first time we had hitched up and towed the rig since having the new, rebuilt transmission installed last week and we were taken aback by the noise but the truck was running well otherwise so we continued on. The noise continued for the entire 300 mile trip (again, only during acceleration after a stop) so we decided to take the truck in to a Ford dealer in Bend to have it checked. Today was the first opportunity they had open to take a look at it and after running a diagnostic test and taking it out for a test drive they confirmed that we had a squeaking/squealing noise and that it appeared to be coming from the area of the transmission, possibly in the torque converter. The young man at the service counter said they couldn't be sure of the location of the noise without pulling the transmission but since we had just had the transmission installed and the noise had started at the same time they assume it's something in the transmission. Well duh! They are pretty booked up so we have to take it back tomorrow and leave it and hope they can get to it soon, as we're supposed to leave this area on Monday. We'll have to rent a car, which is a pain, but that will be a more economical vehicle to use to drive down to Crater Lake which I'm hoping to do on Wednesday.

For future reference, the Ford dealership that will be working on the truck is Robberson Ford in Bend, OR. We'll rate their work and service after getting the truck back.

Full-timers do find themselves at the mercy of strangers in cases like this and for the most part we've been very lucky in that folks have done a good job at reasonable prices. I usually try to write letters of recommendation and send them to magazines that RVers read, like Escapees and Highways but you can't count on them being published, so I also send a letter to the business that we dealt with and note that they can use any part of it in their advertising or for reference. I'm a firm believer in the "pay it forward" creed of responding to good deeds.

In the meantime, the transmission saga continues...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

A right turn out of the campground onto CR 21 led us into the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The park is actually the 500 square mile volcano and there are over 50,000 acres of lava flow areas, lakes, caves and forests. Obviously we'll spread our visits out over a few days.

We stopped first at Paulina Falls, a waterfall with an 80 foot drop. The walk down to the lower end of the falls follows a 1/4 mile long path and the air is heady with an intense woodsy aroma as you walk the gently sloping path. If you walk up to the upper viewing deck for the falls you'll enjoy a gentle mist that's blown off the falls by the breeze. It's very peaceful here in the middle of the week and it would be a great spot for a picnic.

Further into the park we stopped at Paulina Lake and the Visitor Center, which was more souvenir shop than ranger station but there were a few displays of various type of obsidian and rock indigenous to the area and detailed hiking maps. We followed CR 21 until we reached East Lake Resort, checking out the various campgrounds which include both primitive and partial hook up sites, then turned around to check out the Big Obsidian Flow which had a 1/2 mile trail along one corner of the lava flow area. As we climbed through the piles of obsidian and pumice it appeared that a huge bulldozer had dumped tons and tons of broken rocks in one place. What is fascinating is that the shiny, black, heavy and sharp-edged obsidian is the same material as the feather-weight pumice, which actually floats in water. The pumice is chemically the same as the obsidian, but is filled with tiny air holes and passages all through the material so a small rock weighs little more than a piece of styrofoam. There are warnings at the beginning of the trail for people to leave their dogs behind as the sharp edges of the obsidian can cut their feet and that sturdy shoes should be worn for the same reason.

One final left turn led us to Paulina Peak, the highest point of the crater rim at 7985 feet elevation. The road is a one lane gravel lane with pull-offs for traffic going in the opposite direction. Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of that as, like Pike's Peak, there are no guardrails, no curbing, just a long drop off the side of the mountain if you go off the edge of the road. The road itself is four miles long and there are hiking trails leading to the peak also. The drive to the top is well worth it as you have a 360 degree view of the valley, Paulina and East Lakes, the obsidian flow area and the Cascade Range. There was a naturalist in the middle of his speech when we arrived, talking to a group of folks settled in among the rocks while looking out over the Big Obsidian Flow area. What a great place to learn about the local geography and geology!

Since we hadn't thought to bring water bottles and there are no vending machines at any of the parking areas within the park we drove south to LaPine after leaving the park to hit the local DQ for milkshakes. They aren't on our diet, but they sure tasted good! Plus it was our first opportunity to check out the town for grocery stores and restaurants, so we scoped out a couple of likely spots for our Sunday morning breakfast foray and filled up with diesel at the local 76 station as it was the cheapest we've seen in the area at $2.79 (gulp!). Time to head home and relax for the evening.

Paulina Lake seen from the top of Paulina Peak, Newberry National Volcanic Monument Posted by Picasa

The Big Obsidian Flow seen from the top of Paulina Peak, Newberry National Volcanic Monument Posted by Picasa

A close up of obsidian which is volcanic glass Posted by Picasa
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