traciwentling

Inspiration Day

August 18-22 – Last day on the Islands

Lovely home on San Juan Island

Lovely home on San Juan Island

The barn that goes with that home

The barn that goes with that home

Last night was absolutely sleepless.  It was quiet, but I had a little anxiety (okay a lot of anxiety) about waking early; packing up; and the last hard ride back to Friday Harbor.  I laid awake all night, literally, waiting for 5:30 a.m.  FINALLY AND MERCIFULLY the magic hour finally arrived and I began the process.  Coffee, oatmeal, etc and we were heading east towards Friday Harbor.  As is often the case though, the hard ride that I was expecting, turned out to be an exaggeration in my mind and we actually got to our destination so quickly that we had time for a second breakfast.

The downtown cafe was a popular and busy spot this Sunday morning and our arrival time was just ahead of even a larger crowd that had to stand out on the sidewalk for their turn at pancakes.  As we were waiting inside for a table, a very old cute couple walked in behind us.   The older couple, I’ll call John and Traci 30 to 40 years from now. Traci was using a cane and John was using a walker.  When, a few minutes later, a table became available, we tried to give up our spot in line for this older couple, but the host said if we did that, we would have to go to the end of the line.  Well…that was not an option since the sidewalk outside had filled up with about 30 hungry islanders.  We sat, and just about two minutes later, a table opened up for the older couple.  Yea!  Now Sue and I could enjoy our quick last island breakfast.
The ferry ride back to Anacortes, was a bumpier ride than any of the others and it had to make some deep turns to go around islands to get us back to the mainland.  Those turns made my stomach queasy and the ride, although the longest in terms of miles, was also the hardest for me to endure.  In the midst of this vacation, I have had five boat rides and this was the only one that bothered my land-loving stomach, so for that…I am…well…thankful.
Just one of the ferries we rode this week

Just one of the ferries we rode this week

Waiting our turn to embark on my last ferry ride

Waiting our turn to embark on my last ferry ride

Colorful crab pots going down the road

Colorful crab pots going down the road

After being on the bike for a week, driving a car is a strange sensation.  It was a couple of hours drive back to Seattle in bumper to bumper heavy traffic.  Back at Sue’s boat we showered and got dressed for what was going to be a tremendous time meeting many of Sue’s friends.  We were invited to a GARDEN PARTY!  This beautiful woman, also named Sue, is a landscape artist by trade and her home and her garden were just magnificent and yet quaint and inviting.  On the way, we stopped to pick up Claudia.  Mark, who travels and commutes solely by bicycle, arrived by his own power soon after.  A great and memorable evening that even included live music by a young man playing base and a woman singing.  I want to tell you more about this garden.  It had many levels with steps down to her studio.  Large plants and flowers seeming almost tropical gave privacy to smaller more intimate seating areas.  Twinkly lights in the trees, and friends laughing, tons of hugs and a great selection of meats, vegetables, and fruit dishes, many made by friends from Senegal, Africa.  There was one African woman who had a baby a few months before and this baby girl was so SO gorgeous!  Momma wrapped a sling around her waist and placed the sleeping baby behind her all snuggled and content as momma danced to the music.  I kept watching the baby wondering how she slept through it all.
At the Garden Party!

At the Garden Party!

It's a Garden Party!

It’s a Garden Party!

Sue lighting a fire in the outdoor fire pot

Sue lighting a fire in the outdoor fire pot

Bees at the Garden Party!

Bees at the Garden Party!

Sadly for Sue, I was ready to head back to the boat long before she was, but being my friend, tore herself away and drove us back to the other side of Seattle to Pier C, where I slept soundly for my last night aboard a sailboat on the Puget Sound.  I want to take this opportunity to thank my friend and riding buddy for showing me her world…a world so different from the plains of Kansas.  Sue taught me one time, that everyone, no matter what their background, just wants to be loved.  You are indeed loved and admired by this simple farm girl and I’m so looking forward to whatever bicycling adventure we tackle next!
Sunrise near Moab

Sunrise near Moab

Sue fixed me one last cup of coffee before I left early and headed east and south to meet my one and only in Frisco, Colorado.  John and I have been vacationing in Frisco for 20 some years.  It is a quiet village between Vail and Breckenridge with a wonderful small Main Street where you find The Frisco Lodge.  This quaint bed and breakfast is our far-away get-away romantic destination of choice.  About 24 hours of driving brought me from Seattle across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and finally down I-70 in Colorado on the most scenic highway from Grand Junction, though the canyons of Glenwood Springs and finally to Frisco where John was waiting my arrival.  We only had two days so we made the most of it taking in parts of two stages of the U.S.A. Pro Challenge, eating more than once at the famous Butterhorn Cafe, walking hand in hand down the sidewalks in Frisco and Breckenridge, and even a bicycle-pulled surrey ride around Vail Village.  Oh ya…my home is where John is, and we feel at home there.
Main Street Frisco

Main Street Frisco

Frisco Lodge Bed & Breakfast

Frisco Lodge Bed & Breakfast

Lots to do back in Kansas.  John is back to work and I have laundry piles all over the bedroom and kitchen.  My tent and rain fly are airing out draped over the Harley’s in the garage.  For some reason they smell like campfire 😎
All is well and let Autumn commence!
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August 16 – 17 – San Juan Island

Sue, being our tour director, has been going over the options for each of our days together in these islands.  She continues every evening to study the maps to find the route that will take us to places she knows I’ll want to see.  We have had to skip some of those places because of time restrictions, but even if I can’t see it all, I have loved what I have seen.  Today was no exception.

Sue picked this particular campground because of its beauty, because of the real chance of seeing killer whales, because of its friendliness to bicyclists, and because of its proximity to Roche Harbar. Today we left the tents unattended and rode the eight hilly, green miles there.  On the way, we passed by a small rural business that had a sign that said “Dodge City” and of, course, I had to stop for a picture.  Our next stop was at an Alpaca Ranch.  Obviously there is money in Alpaca’s!

Dodge City on San Juan Island?

Dodge City on San Juan Island?

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Sue knows all these roads pretty well and she led us in to Roche Harbor the back way where the service trucks make their deliveries.  My first view of Roche Harbor about took my breath away.  It reminds me of a scene out of an old movie, but I can’t tell you which one.  It is a perfect little touristy community on the edge of the harbor.  RH is home to the historically quaint Hotel De Haro.  The history goes back to the 1800’s when the town was home to Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company.
Historic Hotel de Haro in Roche Harbor

Historic Hotel de Haro in Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor on San Juan Island

Roche Harbor on San Juan Island

Two remaining lime kilns

Two remaining lime kilns

The brick work on the streets is amazing.  The flower gardens are amazing.  The million dollar yachts tied up at the pier are amazing.  The pancakes at the cafe were amazing.
Streets of Roche Harbor

Streets of Roche Harbor

Sue went for a shower while I posted to my blog.  She has also been trying to find a good book, but to no avail.  There are times in the evening when there is just enough time for a chapter before the eyes get too heavy.  It is when the mosquitos have trapped us inside the tents for the night.  It’s usually when I type this blog.
Back at Roche Harbor, there is a long building covered in flags, and a series of doors housing: public showers, Laundry at the Wharf, the Lime Kiln Cafe, and the Post Office.  This Post Office is the smallest one I have ever seen.  I took dozens of pictures today.

Wharf at Roche Harbor

Wharf at Roche Harbor

Smallest Post Office ever?

Smallest Post Office ever?

I walked around today with a permanent smile on my face thinking…I hope I can come back someday with John…
Back at the campground, Sue cooked supper in the humongous pan.  She also traded a spare tube for a chocolate bar with our neighbors.  I was the real winner in that situation because it was Sue who gave up the tube and yet, she was afraid to eat the chocolate for fear it would keep her up.  I, on the other hand, have lots to do so I ate it, yes I did.
I talked to two ladies tonight who sit in lawn chairs watching the ocean all day.  They told me they are whale watchers.  They have been coming to this island for years and have never NOT seen them.  But this time, they’ve been here for four days without a sighting.  They have heard the whales are on the other side of the island because that happens to be where the salmon are right now.  They assured me that if they spot one, they’ll be running to the water to get the best view.  They said as soon as the whales are spotted, the crows and ravens start squawking and it is deafening.  They warned that when the whales are here, the crows know everyone is at the beach and they will absolutely bomb the campground to get all the food everyone has left out.
I’m so glad I got to see the whales as we were coming here yesterday on another part of the island.  There was a picture in today’s paper about the sighting.
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Today we rode to Cattle Point to see The American Camp.  Did I tell you that yesterday we rode to the English Camp?  Evidently a war was almost started over a pig belonging to a Brit that was rooting in an American’s garden.  The American shot the pig and so, if it were not for a negotiator, a war might have ensued.  They were going to call it The Pig War.  There is no official camping at the two camps and they are on opposite sides of the island but it was interesting to see the differences.  There is a lighthouse at Cattle Point but we didn’t get close enough to see it today, however, we did see it clearly when we were at Sharks Reef on Lopez Island.
American Camp

American Camp

We rode into Friday Harbor and went to the County Fair.  Sue wanted to see the animals so we walked through all the barns except the swine.  The most interesting exhibit for me was “Sheep to Shawl” where we learned the whole process of wool just sheered to creating a piece of clothing with it.  The woman who seemed to be in charge owns the first sheep ranch that a person sees when they get off the ferry at Lopez Island.  I also learned that felt is made by balling up the wool and washing it in very hot water and spinning it.  It is then dried in the shade.  Evidently when you peel the ball apart after it is dry, then it is felt.  How about that!  We also watched a speed knitting contest.  If we had stayed till three o’clock we could have witnessed the chicken and rabbit races.  It really was fun and we are glad we went.
On to downtown for a cup of coffee and shopping in a cool bookstore.  We were going to eat Mexican food, but the only Mexican restaurant would not open for an hour.  So, we decided to ride back to camp via the road on the other side of the island.  We have new neighbors and visited a bit and then decided to cut up an apple for a snack.  That’s when the real excitement of the day began.  When you look at the pictures you will see my “wildlife of the day” shot.  The yellow jackets on the island all converged to our picnic table to join us for a snack.  I tried to eat my half with peanut butter, but was near panic and headed to the bathroom to get cleaned up and to remove any traces of apple juice or its sweet smell.  About half of them followed me there and it was all I could do to not truly freak out.  I hid in my tent for the next 30 minutes with them swarming trying to find a way in.  Right now as I type this blog, I am about 50 feet from the apple eating table and they are still bothering me.   Have I mentioned how much I hate bees?
Wildlife of the day

Wildlife of the day

This is our last night on the island and we have to be back in Friday Harbor tomorrow (Sunday) by 10:30 to catch the ferry back to Anacortes.  Sue and I and about 30 other people are sitting on the bluff watching the sunset.  Someone is playing a harmonica and Sue is really wishing she had her Ukulele but alas, we are being serenaded by a soloist.  Bedtime on the island…
Sunset on the bluff on San Juan Island

Sunset on the bluff on San Juan Island

Ooh, I'd like this guy's camera

Ooh, I’d like this guy’s camera

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August 14-15 – Sucia Island

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Campsite on Sucia

Campsite on Sucia

Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker

Sue Mountain Biking on Sucia

Sue Mountain Biking on Sucia

 

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River otter

River otter

Hidden cove

Hidden cove

I woke up with great anticipation today as we are heading to Sucia Island.  I got up super early and took my iPad to the bathroom to charge.  The bathroom is pretty busy so I’m hoping that if anyone would consider stealing it, they will think twice for fear that it belongs to someone in another stall.  I mean, who in their right mind would leave an iPad in the bathroom to come pick it up later?
I was just noisy enough to wake up Sue and the breakdown of campsite began. We had about 10 miles to get to the dock where the water taxi would pick us up, but we had time to kill so we stopped and had breakfast at the Island Skillet just one more time.  We were still early when we got to Outer Island Expeditions but lucky for us, they had room for us on the taxi that was just leaving.  Yea Yea Yea!  John, the Captain helped us load the bikes and gear and off we went for the 10 minute ride to Sucia Island.  There were clouds in the sky and we could feel the threat of rain, but NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING was going to spoil this day.   This island is fabulous!  No one lives here.  No electricity.  No bathrooms.  Nothing but nature.  (There are very nice compost outhouses every once in awhile along the trails).  There are no roads but only double track trails through the forest broken up by roots and smooth rocks.  It is very dark in the forest where very little sunlight can get through the canopy of trees.  We ride for a bit (Mabeline loves to mountain bike) and then suddenly you can see and smell the salt water.  At one bay, you can see Mt. Baker in all its splender.  It is miles and miles away, but today you can see the snowcaps even though the skies are cloudy.
As far as I can tell, we have the only bicycles here and I take it from the comments we are hearing that they are not seen here often.  The trails are rideable for the most part, but this island is very small so I think we have already ridden any of them that are rideable.  Our next outing will be in tennis shoes for hiking and exploring.  We came back to the tents for lunch of cheese and crackers and a cup of coffee and I’m taking a little break to catch up the blog to this point in the day.
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We just got back from a wonderful long hike up to Johnson Point.   It took an hour to get up there and I loved every step.  Some of it could have been ridden by a few mountain bikers I know, but a lot of it was slippery rock covered in moss.  The brush was taller than us in points and it was a very narrow passage.  We came upon burn signs, but obviously the fire happened years ago.  About 2/3 of the way up was the most scenic view of two boats in a hidden cove that Sue wasn’t even aware of and she has sailed in these islands for years.  She knows it is there now though!  The last third of the way was more of the same trail, beautiful beyond compare.  When we reached the point, we started looking for cactus that the interpretive signs said were there.  we scoured the rocks looked snd looked, but never did find any.  But…I need to find new words for the beautifulness of it here… awesome – gorgeous.
We were rained on the whole way back down to camp, but we had our rain coats on and I would only take my camera out of the pocket when I absolutely HAD to have a picture.  Okay, it was out of my pocket a lot.  We got back down to our beach and are sitting in the tents listening to the rain drops hit the canvas.  The rain is coming straight down with no wind.  I love the sound of rain on my tent.  It is comforting somehow.  I’m alone with everything I need for the next hour or two or three.
Earlier today I saw two river otters come out of the water and they were so playful with each other.  They let me stand within 50 feet of them.  They kept looking over to make sure I wasn’t foe, but I think they could sense that I was friendly.  There are Ravens on this island.  HUGE Ravens!  They look the size of medium sized dogs!  And…they are noisy squawking at each other.
The beaches on this island all look different.  Some are rocky with cliffs.  Some have little pebbles where you would expect sand.  One actually has sand.  The views to the other islands all are magnificent.
The one thing I have loved the most about the Pacific Northwest is the lack of wind.  Especially on these islands…the wind just does not blow.  When Iset up my tent, I can leave the tent bags on the table or wherever, and they are still there when I get back to putting them away.  I wonder what one of the locals here would think about Kansas… I know what Sue thinks about the Kansas heat and wind.  Hahahahaha!
I took some pictures of the rainy sunset and they turned out beautifully, if I must say so myself.  After that, I used all the juice in my iPad to post the last two days’s blog.  The text was easy, but uploading pictures is just a tremendous chore for some reason.  I only posted about half of the ones I really wanted to show you.
Sometime during the night, I woke up to some animal noise and just about that time, saw a rodent about the size of a mouse or hamster crawling down the door of my tent.  He had been up between the tent and rain fly trying to find a way in.  I yelled at it to go away, but it was a persistent little devil.  I had left my cooking utensils including my coffee cup (collapsible plastic) out side my tent in the vestibule that I call my front porch.  It’s outside my tent yet under the protection of the rain fly.  Anyway, while yelling at, and fighting with, the rodent, I would open my tent just enough to get my hand and arm out to bring one thing in at a time.  He was SO SO fast scurrying up and around I just knew he was going to get in if I wasn’t very careful.  So, after 30 minutes of protecting my stuff from this would-be thief, I finally dozed back to sleep.  You might think this story is over, huh?  Nope.  So this morning, I go to fire up the Jet Boil to make us a cup of coffee.  Sue put a spoonful of instant Mount Haggen in our cups and I added the boiling water and the coffee just started leaking a dang good stream out of two tiny bite holes in my cup.  Sure as the world, the little vandal ruined my good camping coffee cup.  Sue examined the cup and concurred that the leaks were caused from tiny teeth.  So no wonder the villain was running around up and over my tent like a mad hatter, he had caffeine in his system!
This morning we had very wet rain flys.  There was no sun or wind to dry them so I danced around like I do creating my own wind.  Okay, I admit that didn’t sound quite right.  But you know…I’m trying to dry it so I flap it around.  Anyway, it worked somewhat so I went ahead and stored it in s pannier rather than strapping it on top.  We were picked up at the peir by the water taxi and taken back to Orcas Island.  We then had an eleven mile ride back to the ferry harbor.  We made good time and had some coffee and peanut butter cookies while waiting.  On the ferry, I was searching high and low for a plug in and found one up high over the coke vending machine.  I took off my shoes, looked around for the electricity police and since I didn’t see one, climbed on top the vending machine to plug in my iPad.
We had an hour and half ride to San Juan Island.  The ferry was so noisy today with children!  Being trapped on a vessel with no escape from the activity and noise caused Sue and I both a little. Anxiety.  About that time, fog set in and it became quiet as everyone seemed to sense some danger for us or for other boats in the Sound.  The ferry sounded its fog horn often and slowed way down.  One of the crew went to the front and watched but the fog was so thick, I’m not sure he could have seen a boat before we hit it.  Thankfully, we made it to Friday Harbor safely.  We stopped at the grocery store and then began a 15 mile ride in the rain to the San Juan County Park.  Somewhere we get close to the water yet we are high up and sue spots Orca Whales.  I’m not kidding!  We pulled over to the other side of the road and watch them come up to blow out air and then they’d go back under.  They were out in the ocean quite a ways, but we could see them and it was so so cool!
We finally made it to the campground soaking wet and cold and find a campsite designated for hiker/bikers.  There is a sign that says reserved for human powered arrivals only.  That would be us!  This campsite is just grand!  Looking out over the cliff looks into Canadian waters and just now a Canadian Coast Guard boat just went by looking for pirates or drug smugglers perhaps?
We had to put all our food in lockers because raccoons and foxes evidently come into the campground each night.  I remember the good ‘ol days of last year when it was bears I had to worry about.  We have been warned that the foxes will even carry off shoes.  Good grief.
Sunset after the rain

Sunset after the rain

 

 

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August 12 – 13 – Orcas Island

Madrone Tree.  They are everywhere

Madrone Tree. They are everywhere

Yellow jacket under glass

Yellow jacket under glass

Good grief!

Good grief!

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Check out the jewels in the sap

Check out the jewels in the sap

Quite a view out of the bookstore window

Quite a view out of the bookstore window

Almost time to eat!

Almost time to eat!

Great place to eat...three times....

Great place to eat…three times….

Gas prices on Orcas Island

Gas prices on Orcas Island

We woke up to the sounds of various fog horns out in the Sound.  It got cold last night, but I was snug as a bug in a rug.  Sue has a lighter weight sleeping bag and she wakes up cold in the middle of the night.  I think she may be getting close to investing in a colder rated bag.   We slept in since the ferry wasn’t leaving until 10:00.  But…we also knew that it wasn’t going to be easy pushing our loaded bikes through the forest trails from the beach to the main roads, so we allowed extra time for that.  A breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter along with coffee (all made with the quick ease of the Jet Boil) and we were off for the ferry.

As we were waiting, a large group of boys were standing nearby and we soon learned they were boy scouts on the island to get their bicycling merit badges. The young boys didn’t show much interest in Sue and I and our gear, but the leaders sure did. A group of three dads came over wondering where we had been and where we were going and how long we were going to be riding. It was fun to share our story.
A 40 minute ferry ride took us to Orcas Island. It is hard to compare the two islands. Orcas is bigger, more densely populated and SO SO hilly. In fact, it even has its own mountain called Constitution Mountain. The brochures advise that only fit and well experienced bicyclists should come to Orcas Island to ride. They really were NOT exaggerating! We had a very tough day riding fully loaded. Once we finally got to our campground, we were in agreement that we would not try to ride the mountain even though Sue says it is a breathtaking view (she has been there by car about 30 years ago). The description of it says it is five miles of switchbacks with the middle third at 10% grade.
We stopped for a picture of a Madrone Tree at the small village of Westsound. The trunk and branches are a bright red. We’ve been passing them regularly but today we purposely stopped for a picture. We could hear children laughing in the distance and spotted small sailboats called Optimists or Opti’s for short. They are designed to teach young children how to sail. The kids were definitely having a blast in the calm waters of the Sound.

See the little Opti's?

See the little Opti’s?

In addition to a much more populated island, Orcas seems to be more affluent. The traffic is dangerous and there is just a dang lot of it! We stopped for lunch in the village of Eastsound which is a cute touristy town. We found a great little place called The Island Skillet and had a leisurely lunch before heading to the library to see if I could post to my blog. The Orcas Island Public Library was fairly new and had everything a blogger could possibly need.
We are at the Moran State Park in a nice campground called The North End and have had our MRE supper and even more importantly, we’ve had a much needed shower. We’re going to camp here two nights to take in the sights of Cascade Lake. Sue is excited to show it to me tomorrow.
Another morning of sleeping in. I could get used to this! Sleeping in means to 6:30 or so since Sue and I are both early risers. We are just the right distance from the bathrooms and to the water faucets. Life is good except for the Yellow Jacket bees who seem to have the run of this island. There is a bee trap on our campsite full of them. I have grown to not freak out at the sight or sound of a bee, thank heavens otherwise I’d be hiding in my tent constantly. However, they are bad and Sue even trapped one with her water glass inside the cafe as it was helping itself to the little bit of orange marmalade left in its packet. We originally asked to be seated outside but the host warned us the bees were busy on the deck and once we were seated then he wouldn’t be able to move us inside. So we decided to have breakfast inside and here they were anyway.
We took a walk to the lake early and spotted a pay phone. Sue needs to confirm our “water taxi” for tomorrow but we don’t have cell service. Turns out we don’t have a pay phone either as it took $1.00 in quarters before she gave up. The lake is crystal clear and Sue says “refreshing” as she swam this evening.
We rode to the tiny village of Olga today. The cafe and store are closed permanently, but there seems to be quite a few residential streets. We sat on the edge of the island at a picnic table and I brought out some wanna-be pop-tarts that I bought at Sue’s favorite co-op the other day. One taste and I was SO disappointed. Let that be a lesson to you…never eat “healthy” pop-tarts. When we got back to the tent, I promptly threw the remaining two packets across our campsite at Sue. In full disclosure, I did go pick them up later and take them to the dumpster. Ukk!
We rode back down the big hill to Eastsound and I took this iPad to the library and plugged it in to get it charged up. The battery lasts about 10 hours, but it also takes a very long time to charge. After a couple of hours, it was only charged up to about 80%. We had a great cup of coffee at a bookstore/coffee shop and visited with the locals. The woman’s dog kept licking my toes and so that is what started the conversation. They live in Washington DC during the winter and here during the summer months. Their summer home is in Olga where we were at earlier today.
A stop at the IGA for something to have for supper in camp. Last year, Sue had encouraged me to add a pan to my Jet Boil setup. I didn’t really think I needed a pan and I REALLY didn’t want the bulk and weight, but she convinced me that we could really do some creative cooking if we had a pan. So, this winter I bought the smallest Jet Boil pan the company makes. I showed it to Sue when she was in Kansas for BAK and she was quite surprised at how big it was. We laughed and laughed and began referring to it as the “humongous pan”. Anyway, I found a place for it in my panniers and have been carrying it around with me in all my loaded training rides and up every hill and for every mile on this trip to the islands. Sue had agreed that since she was responsible for me buying the humongous pan that she would cook the first meal in it. So…today at the IGA, what does she pick to cook? A packaged rice side dish that I ate about once a week last summer and that didn’t even require a pan at all! But I want you to know that while I cut up fruit for a salad, she cooked the rice in the humongous pan and which I might add, now had to be washed.
As a special note to my Aunt Judi, thank you for the cherry tomatoes. They traveled well and were very tasty! A special note to my Aunt Glenda, since I left my $5.00 reading glasses on the end table, I had to buy a $20.00 replacement. But, they are blue and match Mabeline so all is well, but my oh my things are expensive on these islands. We rode by a gas station today and I took a picture of the gas prices here.
Tomorrow we head to another island. I am so excited!

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August 11-12 – Seattle and Lopez Island

Sue's home

Sue’s home

We’re here!  Anacortes, Washington!  Guess what?  It’s raining…  If you followed my blog last year, Sue and I rode through Washington in cold rain for two weeks.  Why should it be sunny today, right?

Yesterday, I arrived at the 7001 Seaview Avenue N.W., Seattle, Washington at about Noon and my GPS abandoned me there.  I had to call Sue to come up from her sailboat to find me since she actually lives behind a locked gate and I couldn’t figure out where exactly I should park.   Have I told you, Sue lives on a sailboat?  It is a 33′ Cutter off-shore-capable sailboat named Sputnik.  I had never actually seen it before today except in pictures.  After a quick tour, we changed into some bicycling clothes and off we went for a tour of The city by bike.  First stop, lunch at Vera’s.  Next we headed to the Hiram Chittenden Locks.  We had to push our bikes through the park which required us to slow down and smell the roses…literally.  The gardens were something to behold.   The locks are Huge.   On Saturdays (a busy boating day) they keep the lock open until it fills with boats (maybe 40 boats?) or it could hold a big barge.  In any event, it was a completely different look and feel of the locks on the Erie Canal.  There were tourists everywhere and it was hard to maneuver our bikes across to the other side.  We made our way to the fish ladder (not typically found in Kansas) where we saw King Salmon acclimating themselves from fresh water to salt water.  They swim or just flap around in the mixture of both until they know they can survive in the salt water.  This time of year, they then each jump up the series of stair steps back to the ocean to spawn.
We were able to get back on our bikes and ride the bike trail out of the park on the sidewalk.  Seattle is known as a bike-friendly city as there are bike designated lanes on the streets, but also, it is completely legal to ride on the sidewalk.  All bicyclists MUST wear helmets…it is the law and you will be given a ticket if caught without.  As we were rolling along, I was slammed with the awful smell of fish.  You must know that I HATE the smell of fish.  Obviously I don’t eat it either, but I always say I’m allergic to fish because the smells just nauseate me.  I asked Sue, why in the world the odor got so strong all of a sudden and she stopped to point out to me the bird deification in the trees.  Cormorants roost in the trees along there where they can easily eat the salmon then take them high into the trees to dine and leave their “mess” on the leaves below.  I took a picture for you.  Those leaves are green under the white.
From there we rode a rails-to-trails bike path (abandoned railroad track bed) to downtown.  While we stopped to have a mocha, a long train came through carrying Seattle’s trash to the public landfill.  We then rode by a granary where grain is loaded to barges.  It was not being loaded today, however, I actually saw that process last year on the Mississippi River.
We made our way to the base of the Space Needle and then on to  REI for a few necessities.  We stopped at the co-op where Sue regularly shops for nutritional sustenance and then made it to a famous local Mexican restaurant just in time to meet a couple of her friends for dinner.  Sue lives on the Puget Sound just outside the trendy neighborhood of Ballard.  As we walked over for Gelato, we came upon many musicians playing on the streets.  It was a beautiful evening and people were out and about enjoying all that Seattle has to offer.  I was tired from my long day and we jumped on our bikes to ride back to the slip where Sue has her boat docked.  We noticed the awesome pink sunset setting over the hundreds of sailboat masts and I caught a picture just in time before it actually set and the beauty of it was dismissed for the night.
Back at the boat we got organized and tried to sleep, but we were both too excited to get any good rest.  Originally we had planned on leaving at 6:00 a.m. to give us time to load up and drive to Anacortes, have breakfast and still have time to make the 9:35 ferry to Lopez Island.  But…we were so tired and Sue was not completely packed so we decided to take the pressure off and take the Noon ferry instead.  HOWEVER, we were both awake at 4:00 a.m, so we hustled around and accomplished Plan A, with about 10 minutes to spare.
You should know that I get motion sickness very easily…or have I already told you that?  So I didn’t know how my constitution was going to handle sleeping on Sue’s boat or riding the ferry.  Turns out, I was fine in both instances, thank The Lord, especially, since we are going to be riding those ferries for a week.
The eleven mile ferry ride took about 30 minutes.  They had the bikes load first and we had a special location to literally tie the bikes to the side with well used soaked ropes.  We then went upstairs to ride in the warmth of the cabin.  On the ride over, the skies started to clear and by the time we unloaded, we saw blue skies and took off our coats and tights for a day of riding.  The first order of business was climbing from the boat ramp up up up.  I haven’t been on my bike for a couple of weeks and Mabeline felt very screwy with all that weight.  I could barely stay in the bike lane and if it hadn’t been so scary and dangerous (I was riding alongside all the cars disembarking from the ferry too)  it would have been hilarious watching me, I’m sure.   I was riding like a drunken sailor!  Finally we got to some level ground and the rest of the ride to the campground was much easier as I was getting my riding legs back.
We came to the Spencer Spit Campground to find a spot before they were all taken and it was a good thing we did as we got the last spot.  It was a great location though.  We unloaded and set up our tents and then set off for a fun day of riding without the weight of our gear.  The hills were gentle for the most part and the sun was shining.  The length of the roads are short and then you turn and ride awhile and then it’ll turn again.  Sometimes you ride high up and close to the water, but also there are inland roads where there are small fields of crops and livestock.  The trees are tall and the forests are thick.  There is one small village where we found a nice little cafe for an expensive grilled cheese sandwich.  We thought it was humorous when we saw the library and then a sign across the street that said “Library Overflow Parking”.
There are a lot of homes on this island.  Power lines run down the main roads.  A few of the newer homes had solar panels, but that was rare.  We saw one small wind generator on a farm.  We rode to the Shark Reef and hiked the quarter mile to see the sharks.  No…you guessed it, we did not see any sharks.  The view of the ocean was beautiful though as I set on the rocky cliff while Sue was taking pictures.  About that time, my trunk bag started to slide right down the cliff and I grabbed it just short of too late.  My oh my….my heart about stopped.  If it had fallen into the water it would have been gone forever, as the water is deep and dangerously cold.  The bag holds this iPad and my billfold among many other items that would require me to head home.  Needless to say, I will be holding it tightly on any other cliffs that I decide to dangle my legs over.
The campground that we are at is called the Spencer Spit.  Spit is another sea term that I had not heard of before today.  A spit is a jut of sand way out into the water.  Tonight after supper we walked to the very end and back spotting a Blue Heron.  Supper was a freeze dried MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) of beef stroganoff and then we had a small piece of salty dark chocolate for dessert.  Salty chocolate.  Interesting.  Time for bed.  It’s darn right cold out tonight, but my down sleeping bag will keep me very comfortable.  Goodnight friends.
Those leaves are supposed to be green.  Yuk!

Those leaves are supposed to be green. Yuk!

King Salmon waiting to go to salt water

King Salmon waiting to go to salt water

Looking down on the fish ladder

Looking down on the fish ladder

Lock beginning to load with boats

Lock beginning to load with boats

View of the granary, space needle, and downtown Seattle

View of the granary, space needle, and downtown Seattle

Olympic Mountains behind me

Olympic Mountains behind me

Look at the little guy!  They were really good!

Look at the little guy! They were really good!

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View from the front of the ferry

View from the front of the ferry

Bikes tied to the ferry

Bikes tied to the ferry

Cormorants

Cormorants

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Taken from the infamous cliff at Sharks Reef

Taken from the infamous cliff at Sharks Reef

Unbelievable!

Unbelievable!

Just a typical island shot

Just a typical island shot

Blue Heron fishing

Blue Heron fishing

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August 8-9 – Miscellaneous Oregon Musings

"Flower" of the Day

“Flower” of the Day

When you know you have entered Oregon...

When you know you have entered Oregon…

How about this!

How about this!

Me and Aunt Judi taking a break in the shade

Me and Aunt Judi taking a break in the shade

A typical day at the Scandinavian Festival

A typical day at the Scandinavian Festival

Aunt Glenda and a surprise encounter with her great granddaughter at the festival

Aunt Glenda and a surprise encounter with her great granddaughter at the festival

Some cotton candy having its way with my young cousin, Phoenix

Some cotton candy having its way with my young cousin, Phoenix

Sights of the festival

Sights of the festival

Aunties and Uncle Kenny enjoying a Swedish Meat Pie

Aunties and Uncle Kenny enjoying a Swedish Meat Pie

Tree line at the Rest Lawn Cemetery

Tree line at the Rest Lawn Cemetery

Distant barn.  Pic taken from the cemetery fence line

Distant barn. Pic taken from the cemetery fence line

Kenny says this may have been an old grainery

Kenny says this may have been an oldgranary

Alpaca farm scene taken on the road to the winery

Alpaca farm scene taken on the road to the winery

Vineyard vineyards everywhere

Vineyard vineyards everywhere

Hawkins farmhouse

Hawkins farmhouse

Hawkins farmhouse

Hawkins farmhouse

Today we went downtown to the Scandinavian Festival.  Each year for the past 51 years, this celebration comes to Junction City.  It is a very big four-day event that brings vendors as far away as the Scandinavian countries.  They have craft demonstrations, music and dancing.  Food food food.  We stood in a long line to eat Swedish Meat Pies (ground beef, potatoes, onions and cheese baked into a flaky crust) and it was certainly worth the wait.   My most exciting purchase was two old original troll dolls.  At another table, a woman from Denmark (loved her accent) was selling porcelain dolls with beautiful little faces.  But…like I said, I bought ugly little troll dolls with bright pink and purple hair from the booth next door.Just a little Oregon Trivia:  Did you know that in Oregon you cannot (even if you want to) pump your own gas?   When you pull up to the pump, an employee comes out to fill your tank.  They also clean your windshield.  I’m not kidding…full service at gas stations still exist in America!

I had several visitors today.  Cousin, Shari and her daughter and granddaughter who live in a neighboring town.  Also my cousin, Melodi drove over from Forest Grove just to see me.  What a blessing to be loved…
This morning we took a drive up Highpass Rd.   Our first stop was the cemetery where my grandparents are buried.  They have a simple headstone which is befitting of the simple life they led.  Grandpa drove a log truck for a short time, but generally he ranched, raising cattle and sheep.  My Grandma worked several years in the local school system but her heart was in raising her children.  They had five daughters and one son and they all continue to live here in Oregon (except for my mom, of course).  They lived out in the country on Highpass Road nine miles west of town.  It is a green gorgeous drive out to the homestead.  A drive out there 30, 40, 50 years ago meant seeing forests and hayfields full of sheep.  A drive out there today meant seeing less trees and hayfields and instead…wait for it…VINEYARDS!  My goodness, what a surprise!  Some friends of my aunties used to farm and ranch, but now they are the owners of Pfeiffer Winery.
The farm house where my grandparents lived is still there, but it is inhabitable.  Grandpa’s barn is collapsed on the ground with its tin roof laying on top of it.  One little outbuilding still stands.  The house itself was already built when they moved in around 1957 and then they added a couple of bedrooms to the back.  It used to be red, but someone years ago painted it white.  Today I pulled in the driveway and took a few sad snapshots.  I wanted it to look like I remembered…picnics in the backyard, a little stream running through the field further out.  I remember yellow jacket bees and buckets of fat juicy blackberries.  I remember a cow in the barn and I can almost see Grandma sitting on a stool milking.  There were black and yellow salamanders under the porch and out by the creek.  Speaking of blackberries, we would have a bowlful with cream for breakfast and a bowlful with ice cream for dessert.  Cousins cousins everywhere!  When all the grown kids had kids, the yard was full with laughter.  The camera came out and the great times have been preserved forever.  Great memories were made at the Hawkins farm….
This evening we have been invited over to Aunt Judi’s home for supper.  I have this little bit of time to post this blog before we go.  Tomorrow I leave for Seattle and another leg of my three week vacation, but for now, so happy and content to spend time with my aunties who look so much like my momma…
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August 7 – Thistledown Farms and Relatives

Flora of the day: Thistle

Flora of the day: Thistle

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Randy Henderson

Randy Henderson

Pam Henderson

Pam Henderson

Horse Barn

Horse Barn

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Dairy barn wing

Dairy barn wing

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Aunties Judi and Glenda

Aunties Judi and Glenda

Humongous Walla Walla Sweet Onions

Humongous Walla Walla Sweet Onions

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Little cousin, Natalia

Little cousin, Natalia

Aunt Glenda and her Great Granddaughter, Natalia

Aunt Glenda and her Great Granddaughter, Natalia

Uncle Kenny, Aunt Glenda and their son, Lance

Uncle Kenny, Aunt Glenda and their son, Lance

I’m pretty frustrated with the way my iPad and WordPress are communicating. To get my pictures captioned requires a certain process that then inserts the pictures at the top of my blog rather than at the bottom.  My idea is for you to read what’s happening first and then get the pictures afterwards.  Dang it anyway!  But then even more frustrating is that paragraph breaks aren’t there.  I put them in when I’m typing and when I review it prior to posting, the breaks are still there.  But…the second I press “POST” the final product does not have the breaks.  Grrrrrr!  Do you suppose it’s all operator error?  I’ll probably get it figured out eventually.  Anyway, here is what I want you to do:  close your eyes until after the pictures and read my words first (imagining paragraph breaks), then go ahead and go back up at look at the pictures.  Please and thank you.

When we were kids, we would come to Oregon every few years.  Daddy always had sports cars and we three kids were crammed into the back seat unable to see the road.  My big brothers would always get the window seats and I would be stuck in the middle with one or the other always mad because I would be laying my head on an arm or otherwise touching them.  You know how it goes. The good thing is that we got to Oregon quickly (many of you know my dad’s reputation for speeding).  But…the bad thing is that most of our stops were only for gas where all other activities, which included eating, were also completed in a rush.  All three of us kids had horrible motion sickness.  Need I say more?  And, God forbid, we needed to throw up.  That would require stopping!  But at the same time, we had better be able to keep it all in until Daddy could get that car slowed down enough to pull over to the side of the road.  I must say…the actual drive out here was just a nightmare.
Back to 2013.  My Aunt Judi shares posts on Facebook from a business outside of Junction City called Thistledown Farms.  We drove out to Thistledown Farms, and what a great place to spend on hour or two or three!  The farm used to be a dairy by the same name.  There is the dairy barn which is just amazing.  Then there was also the horse barn and even another hops-drying barn.  Thistledown Farms is now a nursery where you can purchase everything from annuals and perennials to fruits and vegetables, all grown on the premises.  They offer baked goods and ice cream, jams and jellies and homemade candy and cookies and complete fruit pies.  They sell wooden bird houses and old painted tractor seats.  You can take a beautiful nature walk past hanging baskets and through a covered bridge to pet and feed small goats.  They have chairs where you can sit under the big cottonwoods and watch the sprinklers irrigate the rows and rows and rows of various flowers.  The weather today was “fall-like”, chilly and overcast…made me want to buy pumpkins!  They have water gardens and everything is manicured but kindly natural and all and all an amazing picturesque place for this farm girl from Kansas to wallow away an afternoon.  I was honored to meet the folks who own Thistledown Farms.  Randy was walking from one of the barns when he saw Aunt Judi and Aunt Glenda out watching me taking pictures.  He and his wife attend the same church as my family and so they all know each other very well and, of course, my aunties are frequent customers as well.  He was eating an apple as he answered my many questions.  I met is wife a few minutes later in the bakery area.  Turns out Pam is a Kansas girl who grew up in Durham (north of Wichita).  These people are salt of the earth and if I lived near here, I would beg to work in such a place for this God-fearing awesome family.
Once we left and drove back to town, I am in awe of the greenness and lushness of this valley.  They say this is their dry-time, but I must be looking through rose-colored glasses because I don’t see anything but what comes from moisture.
One of my cousins, Melissa and her family came to visit yesterday morning, and another cousin, Lance came in last night.  This guy is a hoot and he kept us in stitches with his stories.
Yes, I am enjoying my time here.
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August 6 – McKenzie Pass

Flower of the day

Flower of the day

A view of The Three Sister Mountains just as I'm leaving the town of Sisters, OR

A view of The Three Sister Mountains just as I’m leaving the town of Sisters, OR

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See the bicyclist?

See the bicyclist?

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View of The Three Sisters

View of The Three Sisters

Small mountain lake

Small mountain lake

Coming down the west side

Coming down the west side

Goodpasture Bridge

Goodpasture Bridge

Goodpasture Bridge

Goodpasture Bridge

Leaving Christmas Valley wasn’t easy.  I said goodbye to Terry and Robin the night before leaving and had one more cup of coffee Tuesday morning with Mitch and Carrie before heading north and west.  My next visit will be in Junction City with aunts, an uncle, and a bunch of cousins.
Let us go back to 1954 and the Barlows and the Hawkins lived north of Holcomb, Kansas.  My dad,  Larry Barlow and my mom, Sharon Hawkins got married that year.  In 1955 my grandfather, Jim Hawkins (to get away from the dust and wind) moved his wife and kids to Oregon.  Back in Kansas, my mom and dad farmed.  In 1973 my dad died and over the next few years, we sold the ground.  In 1976, John and I got married and my mom, having no other reason not to, moved to Oregon and my brothers later moved out also.  And that folks, is why all my mom’s side of the family and my brothers all live in Oregon even though they all started out in Kansas.
Present Day.  There is a more direct route to Junction City than the route I took.  I have been wanting to drive up McKenzie Pass ever since 2008 when I rode my bicycle on the same highway.  That year I was riding across the United States from east to west and was only about a week from being finished.  That particular day in 2008, the weather started out as a beautiful day and I left the town of Sisters, Oregon wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt.  The east side of the pass is a pretty gentle climb but as I was getting closer to the top, the skies clouded and the temperatures dropped dramatically and it began to rain.  Up at the summit it was very windy and the rain started pouring and riding down the steep west side of the pass was one of the hardest rides I have ever done.  The road becomes narrow and there are perhaps 10 or more dangerous switchbacks.  I had to ride my brakes to keep slowed down, but I also pedaled to produce warmth in my legs.  Up to this point in my life, I had never tried this bazaar behavior, but that, and singing out loud my favorite worship song: Shout To The Lord, got me down the pass in one piece.
But today…there was no wind, the sun was shining, and it was 80 degrees.  This would be the day that I really get to experience the top of McKenzie Pass.  And what is so special about McKenzie Pass you ask?  As you approach the summit, the terrain changes from beautiful tall green evergreen trees to black lava rock.  Millions of tons of it.  This truly is one of the most interesting places I have ever visited and it feels perhaps like I have been transported to the moon.  At some point, the forest service crushed rock and made a walkway through a small portion of the miles and miles of lava with signs strategically placed at various locations to explain how scientists believe it all came into being and what has happened over the thousand of years since.  I’ll post pictures, but sometime…someday, I hope you can come see it in person.
Coming down the steepest part of McKenzie Pass, I had to stop due to upset stomach and a massive headache.  This doesn’t usually happen to me when I’m driving and in control.  I found a good place to pull over and I sure wish I could put a little something solid in my stomach.  No, I didn’t pack a sandwich, dang it.
The highway just ends at the bottom and a left turn will eventually take you into  Springfield and Eugene, but not before a stop at the famous Goodpasture Covered Bridge.   I drove past it and then turned around to park on the other side of the busy highway and had to hike to a clearing of the trees to get a photo.  The bridge takes you over the cold, crystal clear McKenzie River.
One more hour and I finally made it to Junction City where my Aunt Glenda and Uncle Kenny greeted me at the door of their home.  What a welcome!
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August 4-5 – Making Memories

Flower of the day: Wild Rabbitbush

Flower of the day: Wild Rabbitbush

 

My middle brother, Mitch and his wife, Carrie

My middle brother, Mitch and his wife, Carrie

My oldest brother, Terry and his wife, Robin

My oldest brother, Terry and his wife, Robin

Sunday was a special day.  Mitch and Carrie and I began it with breakfast and a memory-making quad ride through the desert.  They have three four-wheelers and so on my own mount, I was given quick instructions as to how to turn it on, go forward, backward, stop and go, and very importantly how to shift to 4wheel drive when you’ve decided to venture off the beaten path either on purpose or by accident.  There was no shifting involved for my particular mount, so pushing a lever with my thumb was all that was required and off we went into the sagebrush.  Mitch led and then Carrie and I followed her.  There was not a breath of wind so it was a dusty proposition and I hung back just enough to be able to see where I was going, but yet to not get lost.  I was smart and had changed back into my dusty dirty clothes and even removed my contacts.   After mastering this particular vehicle, Mitch switched with me and taught me how to ride his that requires shifting but that also goes super fast!  I have video of this ride which includes wheelies and turning so fast that I was on two wheels.  Yep, living dangerously for the moment.  What a ride!   I told them later, that four-wheeling is more fun than ought to be legal!

I had been looking forward to today’s “brunch” ever since I arrived in Christmas Valley and Mitch told me we were all getting together on Sunday afternoon for dinner.  When we were growing up, we called meals:  breakfast, dinner and supper.  When I got married and moved to “the city” somehow the names were changed to:  breakfast, lunch and dinner.  So…as I tell you about this meal that we we’re all gathering for, I’m not sure what to call it?  ANYWAY the food was going to be good and the company even better.  Anticipation led to satisfaction.
Mitch slow cooked a brisket for hours and then lit up the charcoal grill and crisped it up which added so much delicious flavor.  Carrie made our family recipe of corn casserole and a hot carrot dish that was also delicious.  THEN, for dessert, Robin had baked me a strawberry rhubarb pie that was to die for.  They also brought over two different flavors of homemade ice cream.  Remind me to tell you about the ice cream later.
Terry and I had been planning to get together for a one-on-one shooting session.  I brought a box of target shells and showed him what a good shot I was as long as I had time to aim.  What he really wanted to know though is how well I shot when it counted.  Like…if I need to defend myself.  With that, I started out by shooting to the left of my bad guy (a large zombie poster).  Also, Terry was not impressed with my “sweep”.  I’m not sure I ever corrected that to his satisfaction.  You have to know, Terry and Mitch are both excellent shots with most every type of gun, long or short.  They have taught all the women in their lives how to defend themselves as well as to hunt.  So, I was understandably a little nervous breaking out my Bersa 360 concealed carry handgun.  But after a bit, I was able to correct my quick draw and bad guys beware!
Now I’ll tell you about the ice cream.  The last time Terry and Robin came to Kansas, we went through an old cedar chest full of old Barlow memorabilia.  The cedar chest had been built by my grandfather’s brother and belonged to Gram.  After she died, I inherited the cedar chest and all its valuable content that wouldn’t mean anything to anybody else.  Deep deep into paperwork, we found an old Garden City Telegram that was saved for a section on homemade ice cream recipes.  We scanned Terry a copy and he has tried all of them, and made his favorites for me.  OMGosh, delicious!  We had a chocolate with Heath  Bar chunks and then a fruit medley that had a mild orange/vanilla base.  Somehow, I convinced myself that it was healthier.  Hahahaha!  Another side story to Terry’s homemade ice cream is the maker itself.  He uses a self-turning model, but has rigged it up to a motor of some sort that actually cranks the arm.  It works perfectly!  I asked why he just doesn’t buy an electric machine and he says they are pathetic and don’t work right.  So, in case you were also asking yourself the same question, there you go.
This afternoon I checked something off my bucket list:  I learned how to stucco the hands-on way.  Okay, maybe learning how to stucco was not actually on my list, but we did USE buckets and wheelbarrows.  I got extremely dirty and tired, but I was happy to get some real exercise even if it was just upper body.  There sure was a lot of laughing going on and I have a feeling they would have gotten more accomplished without me 😎
Don’t ask…and I won’t tell how many desserts I have eaten since arriving to The Barlow Compound.  But tomorrow, I leave for Junction City which is a very good thing for my waistline and I am already inspired to talk to you about some memories I have of coming from Kansas to Oregon to visit my mom’s family who moved here in 1954.  Terry scanned a bunch of old pictures that belonged to our mom and while looking at them, I had to wipe a few tears…
Christmas Valley Post Office.  In town businesses are REQUIRED to leave their Christmas lights up

Christmas Valley Post Office. In town businesses are REQUIRED to leave their Christmas lights up

Mitch and Carrie's home and attached greenhouse

Mitch and Carrie’s home and attached greenhouse

Mitch's barn and animal stalls

Mitch’s barn and animal stalls

Mitch and Kaitlyn

Mitch and Kaitlyn

Mitch and Carrie's 1964 Ford Pickup

Mitch and Carrie’s 1964 Ford Pickup

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August 1-3 – Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon

I have so much to tell you and when I think that I’m only covering three days, it just boggles my mind.  I have experienced SO SO MUCH in an amazingly small amount of time!

I left Dodge City at 4:45 a.m. on Thurs and stopped only four short times in 13 1/2 hours landing for the night in Ogden, Utah.  After a fitful sleep, I got another early start and pulled into my destination of Christmas Valley, Oregon at 3:30 p.m. which was a whole day ahead of schedule.
My trip here is to visit my brothers and their wives who live just outside of Christmas Valley at what I call “The Barlow Compound”.  Mitch was the first to buy some land here and Terry bought the adjacent ground a few years later.  They actually live about 1/4 mile from each other.
This area of Central Oregon is known as the high desert.  The elevation is at around 5,000 feet.  The ground is covered in sage brush and the wild Rabbit Bush is presently in full bloom and completely covered in tiny yellow flowers.  We are in a valley and but most of the tallest mountains are a long way off yet visible in the distance.   The view in every direction is awesome.   Quite near, however, is Table Rock Mountain that I will tell you about soon.
Mitch is all established with his home, barn, several outbuildings and a large shop.  I am staying in his shop which has a comfortable apartment in the loft.  He recently butchered his hog,  and he also has a cow, goats and chickens.  He has a greenhouse growing vegetables and solar panels soaking up the sun and storing it away for later use.  I could tell you more, but let me just say…they are prepared.
The road leading from Mitch and Carrie’s place up to Terry and Robin’s house, winds around and around and is quite fun to drive and also serves as a running path for the jack rabbits.
Terry and Robin are building an earth bag home and it is simply AMAZING.   I got the full tour this morning with a lesson on its progress from planning to where they are at this point.  The hope is to have it completely stuccoed by the time the snow begins to fall in approximately 60 days.  The fact that the baby sister has come to visit has set them back several days.  They are building this house all my themselves, just the two of them, and it appears to me like there isn’t anything they can’t do!
I started my morning by having coffee with Mitch and Carrie and then I went up to Terry and Robin’s for a large breakfast of pancakes and eggs.  We then loaded up into Terry’s pickup and drove to the top of Table Rock Mountain.  What a ride up and what a terrifying ride down!  I had to tell Terry to slow down several times as he was scaring the bajeebers out of me when he’d take his foot off the brake briefly.  He had a come back that I scare him with my biking adventures, but I had to explain that the fear for me comes in not being in control of the vehicle.  He just gives me his handsome grin and mercifully we are finally back on semi-level ground.  But while we are at the top, it is a rugged beauty to behold as he points to landmarks well over 20 miles away.  There are no trees down low on the east side of the mountain in and around Christmas Valley, but the mountain itself is covered in Junipers. They are not an especially pretty tree, but they are a part of God’s creation and are appreciated just for a change in scenery.  The mountain is very rocky and therefore that fast ride down was also a bumpy ride.  We stopped three times, once to load up a large rock and twice for interesting looking dead wood logs that will eventually line Robin’s gardens.  I am so glad to finally get to see the view from the top of Table Rock Mountain, but it may be a once in a lifetime experience.
After lunch, we went to “Crack in the Ground”.  This is a geological wonder located on the other side of town and up a long rutted winding dirt road perhaps 10 miles long.  Evidently the crack was caused by an earthquake or volcanic activity years ago and it is just something unbelievable to see and experience.  First of all, I can’t believe someone has not given it a more fitting name than simply “Crack in the Ground”!  I mean the crack is wide and deep and phenomenal to explore!  I am grateful that I put on jeans and tennis shoes before leaving home as I have never climbed over so many rocks in my whole life!  I was constantly aware of my ankle and managed to scale and walk or crawl through the entire crack (at least two hours’ worth) without re-spraining the ankle.  Woot Woot!
Back to Terry and Robin’s for supper and homemade ice cream.  Today made me feel truly like a kid and I am just a little tired.   Mitch and Carrie are making us a big brunch tomorrow and right now I can’t even imagine eating again, but I assure you that by tomorrow at 2:00 I’ll think I’m starving.  These Barlows know how to cook and I will not be losing any weight while here no matter how many rocks I climb.
Earth Bag Home in process

Earth Bag Home in process

Largest sprinkler I have ever seen

Largest sprinkler I have ever seen

Junipers on Table Rock Mt.

Junipers on Table Rock Mt.

Table Rock Mt.

Table Rock Mt.

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Getting ready to enter

Getting ready to enter

Terry at The Crack in the Ground

Terry at The Crack in the Ground

Do you see Robin?

Do you see Robin?

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