The Importance of Blue Highways

F and I (and Sprocket) have done our share of road tripping. We’ve had boring days on the road, stressful ones, action packed ones, and the elusive blissful travel days. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the blissful travel days really aren’t all that elusive, it’s the ability to put all the necessary ingredients together that’s a bit tricky but not elusive.

I alluded to this yesterday but this weekend we stuck to Forest Service Roads, county routes, and minor state highways a lot of the time and it was awesome. It’s just a wayyy better way to actually experience a place rather than passing through it. Have a good travel partner, only a general destination, avoid interstates (and major highways), explore, don’t be afraid to talk to locals, and take a walk or hike…you’ll have an awesome trip

Anyway, we left Thursday after work heading for Pendleton, Oregon. We took the interstate and Highway 395 because, well, sometimes you just need to get out of town, fast. We arrived in Pendleton ready to have dinner and sample some beer at The Prodigal Son Brewery. Unfortunately, they were over at the Oregon Brewers Festival and were closed. Instead we went to The Great Pacific and ordered a pizza and pints of Beer Valley Brewing Co. (Ontario, OR) Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale and Terminal Gravity (Enterprise, OR) IPAWe enjoyed them at an outdoor table with Sprocket curled up on our feet; what a perfect start to the weekend. (By the way, the pizza and the beers are all recommended.)

Cruisin’ in the Blues

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Beer Notes

Barley Brown’s Brewpub; Baker City, Oregon:

  • Shredder’s Wheat: Won an award at the World Brew Cup last month. We thought it was pretty sweet but it was yummy!
  • Tumble-off Pale: Hoppy and fabulous
  • Hot Blond: A jalapeno ale. It was interesting, I kind of liked it. Maybe for a glass (10oz), maybe a pint, not a six pack.
  • Golden Ale: Forrest said, “You could drink this all summer” but that it had an aftertaste that reminded him of how the Budweiser factory smelled.
  • Tankslapper Double IPA: Fruity smell, pretty strong, and yummmmmmyyyyy.

Pinnacle Brewing Company; Price, Utah:
“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Oregon anymore.”
The beer was okay, but we’re just so so spoiled from drinking Oregon beer.

Day 1: Philomath, Oregon to Mountain Home, Idaho

We were able to hit the open road about one after checking out with our landlord (who had noticed me walking Sprocket in town last week but seemed pretty cool with the fact that we’d had him). It felt so good to be finally moving! The weather was typical “spring in Oregon” with nice low clouds as we headed up US 20 towards Sisters—our mission: to have beer & dinner at Barley Brown’s Brewpub in Baker City before they closed: 346 miles!).

Strawberry Mountains

We headed east through Redmond and Prineville toward the Ochoco Mountains. The mountains were quite pretty—a meander through pines in rolling small mountains. After John Day (where we filled up and found that we were getting about 23 MPG!) and the rather adorable town of Prairie City, we paused for a photo of the Strawberry Mountains—yet another place we need to go explore! Soon after leaving town, we crested Dixie Pass, the Ochoco divide, at 5,277’. We took OR 7 through the Elkhorns towards Sumpter and Baker City. We saw a herd of about fifteen elk right on the road, earlier we’d seen an assortment of deer and pronghorn. It was too bad that it got dark just as we were getting into the Sumpter valley but Forrest tried his best to describe to me the dredge and railroad that he’d seen last summer when he passed through on his way to Glacier National Park.

Elk on OR 7 near Sumpter

Pulling into Baker City at about 8:30, in plenty of time!, Sprocket and I sprinted up and down Main Street for a bit, he’d been such a good car rider all day. Baker City is rather cute and I wish I could have gotten some pictures, but I’m sure we’ll be back. We had been hoping to make an unbiased assessment of Barley Brown’s this time but we were hungry and happy to have some beer to try so we won’t complain about it—as we sat down at the bar Forrest said, “Maybe we’ll just keep this as the place that we come to after not having ate for seven hours and just want food.” We got a taster of beers (our tasting notes to come) and a couple of burgers, quite a perfect road meal.

Uncaged puppy!

Leaving Baker, we pushed on for another hundred miles to get past Boise. I felt bad that Sprocket had been in his crate so much and tried to let him hangout in the passenger’s seat with me. He loved hanging just his nose out the window and letting me hold him until we merged on to I-84 where I rolled up the window. He tried sitting on the floor between my feet before he crawled up on the platform and nested himself on the futon, stretched out, and crashed. We made it to a truck stop in Mountain Home where we ran Sprocket, set up our bed and crashed. It was perfect!

California Adventure-Day 1, Philomath to Capetown

Forrest and I left Philomath on Sunday, August 16th for points south. We headed south on I-5 bound for Grants Pass. It was a gorgeous morning–perfect for starting an adventure! We stopped briefly in Oakland, Oregon–a very cute town a mile or so off the freeway, a little touristy but cute all the same.

At Grants Pass we gassed up and headed down US 199, also known as “Redwood Highway.” At O’Brien we decided to take a dirt “shortcut” and headed down Lone Mountain Rd. through Rouge River-Siskiyou National Forest. It was a welcome change of pace after pounding our way down the freeway in the morning. At Patrick Creek we rejoined 199 and rode down along the Middle Fork of the Smith River. The water was such a beautiful emerald green–we found ourselves climbing down an embankment to check it out more closely…it was much more difficult climbing back up than it was heading down! Not long after this pitstop we came to Howland Hill Road, a nice dirt road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The drive itself was really nice even if all the vegetation next to the road was coated in a thick coat of dust. We stopped for a quick hike through the Stout Grove and found ourselves experiencing a little blasé about the big trees. We had to quell the Northwesterner pride in our trees to admit that it was impressive that there were so many big trees so close together…

We continued down Howland Hill to Crescent City where we headed south on US 101. It was great to see the ocean and driving through the Redwoods was beautiful although it wasn’t long before we were reminded that 101 isn’t a beautiful scenic drive–it’s a freeway. We took the scenic Newton B. Drury Parkway through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park as a distraction. A stop at the National Park visitors center near Orick confirmed that there really aren’t any roads through Redwoods National Park so we continued south past some glimpses of scenery on our way to Eureka (should of stopped for beers at Lost Coast Brewery although Forrest did indulge me in driving by the Carson Mansion).

After Eureka we headed for the Lost Coast–we left 101 to head for Ferndale. Ferndale was a really cute town that I’d love to have a chance to poke around sometime. From Ferndale we headed out on Mattole Road. As it climbed up the hill outside of town the pavement got worse and worse but our spirits soared. The landscape started to open up into ranch land palpably close to the ocean.

We expected to find some public land to camp on along this road but we were unpleasantly surprised to find that there was none. The wind was whipping and we knew that it would be a pretty miserable and cold night if we waited to reach the ocean before camping so when we arrived in Capetown it wasn’t long before we found ourselves under a bridge over the Bear River setting up our tent after kicking dried cowpies aside. As we ate a granola bar before going to bed I heard a rustling behind me which I found kind of unnerving until I realized it was a cow (a “moo-cow” as I foolishly told Forrest…I’ll never hear the end of it).

And little did I know how much of a moo-cow it was. We’d gotten between it and the rest of herd and it was too scared of us to walk on its normal path and get to them so every couple of hours it would bellow to let us know that it was upset. Ohhh silly cow.

Day 1: ~387 miles

Mt. Washington

Sunday, Forrest, Ezra, Thomas, and I headed up the slopes of Mt. Washington (7,794 ft). We left Philomath about 6:30 in the morning and even I chowed down on a Egg McMuffin as we headed east. We arrived at the trail head about 8:30 and were immediately swarmed by mosquitoes.

We followed the Pacific Crest Trail south for about three miles to get to the climber’s trail–Forrest and I hiked this in a speedy 40 minutes! After that the going got slower for me as my cruise focus has dampened my exercise drive recently. Still, all things considered we made decent time to the summit block. From the base of the block to the summit was so much fun! There wasn’t anything overly technical but there was a lot of climbing and scrambling to be had.

We ate lunch at the top swarmed by flies instead of mosquitoes but the view certainly was something. To the north we could see Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson, to the south/south-east there’s the Three Sisters, and several others (I need to go over my Oregon peak picking some more with Forrest…).

The climb down was something as well. Fortunately we’d brought rope because we’d read about a sketchy area for down-climbing. Sketchy was right! We all basically lowered ourselves down the rope hand over hand while walking our feet along the nearly sheer crack we’d climbed up earlier–it was exhilarating to say the least!

From there Forrest and Thomas took off down the scree slope while Ezra and I chose the trail. We chose wrong. It was long and hot heading down across the ridge and things didn’t get much better once we reached the trees. Forrest and Thomas beat us by a good forty minutes and went swimming in Big Lake while we were still slogging down the PCT being eaten the whole way.

All in all, it was a good climb and gave me inspiration to start running again (and not only running, but running hills and running then repeatedly). Too bad it’ll all come to a halt when I get on a boat in six days…

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Redneck (and red back) Weekend

The last weekend of June brought GORGEOUS weather to the Willamette Valley. I started out my Saturday making some yummy strawberry freezer jam (as I was informed at the Farmers Market I almost missed my strawberry window). I’d forgotten how much stirring it takes to dissolve the sugar but all-in-all I had a pretty good time dancing and singing my way around the kitchen.

Despite needing to do some work around the house I threw on my bathing suit and headed to the backyard with my book. I wasn’t going to be outside all that long and figured I couldn’t get that burnt in an hour so I passed on the sunscreen. Loving the feeling of sun and getting involved in my book I didn’t realize how much sun I was getting. It wasn’t until I pulled on jeans for the ride out to Willamette Speedway for an evening of cars, gas fumes, and general white-trash I realized how burnt the backs of my legs, my butt, and my back were. I’d really gone and done it this time.

I had a much better time at the track this time around–less overwhelming. Forrest still gives me a hard time for not making friends out there but I can’t even fathom where to begin. I know it shouldn’t be hard but I always feel like everyone there is perpetually busy with something racing oriented (only makes sense right?) and that leaves racing talk as the only entry to conversation which I feel entirely unqualified for. It’s a problem I really need to figure out an answer to because between the track and motorcycle gatherings I look to be finding myself in it a lot.

Sunday I was a bit disappointed that Forrest wasn’t in for going hiking as we’d discussed earlier. I understand that he’s tired of being in a car after commuting all week but I’m on the other end of the spectrum and am tired of being in Corvallis/Philomath. Instead we spent the day up on the Hardwick’s property on the Luckimute. We spent some time building a trail to the beach– okay, Thomas, Ezra, and Forrest did most of the work…I tried to throw branches and brandish a shovel where it seemed appropriate–it’s frustrating sometimes not having the experience they do because I CAN be useful but chances are I’m not as efficient and not as strong so someone ends up sweeping in leaving me standing staring.

I did have a bast driving around the makeshift racetrack they’ve built for a couple junker cars. I agreed to do it in the sprit of trying something new but I’ll admit to a feeling of resignation as I pulled on the ski googles behind the wheel of the windshield-less S10. A few turns into it–after I at least understood that there was no powersteering and my brakes were suspect–I found myself having a really great time. I was pretty suprised and I think Forrest was almost shocked. We did some more work, did some swimming, and I actually rode a motorcycle. Funny how much I enjoyed it when I was TERRIFIED every second I was on the bike last fall (I maintain I was so scared then because motorcycles seemed so foreign.)

All in all it was a good weekend–even if it means I’ll spend the week with scratched up legs and slathering myself with aloe and lotion.

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.