Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The world through my eyes - Tibet, water and the weather

If you aren't one of these people who finds humor in everything, you might have a little trouble understanding me. I can see many points of view at one time, inevitably one of them is hysterical. If you know me even a little, you have probably seen me giddy and giggly and cracking myself up until I can't breathe. If you know me well and *haven't* seen me this way, then it's probably *you* that's bringing me down!

I was walking down the street one day and saw a sign hanging in a merchant's window that said "Free Tibet." All I could think was how slow business must be for the shop down the road offering Tibet 25% off.

Shopping online, I saw an ad for a solar powered flashlight. There are people out there who buy these things, so I started thinking, what other unlikely product could become a big hit? Eventually, I came up with Instant Water. It's so simple! Just... you know... add water.

Then, the other day, I was in my car, driving through the rain and listening to the radio. The weather lady came on and forecasted a 90% chance of precipitation. I looked at the sky, then back at the radio and realized that there was a 10% that my imagination was PRETTY FRICKIN' AMAZING!!

This is just a brief example of the things that crack me up from moment to moment. If you don't think it's amusing, don't worry, I think I'm funny enough for the both of us!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Epic Road Trip - Eureka, CA to Eugene, OR - Final Day, BABY!!

It was only our 6th day on the road, but we were already getting nostalgic for day one. It was hard to believe that we would be home by midnight. We planned a couple of caches for the day and one heck of a drive through the Redwoods.

One of the caches we stopped at was on location for where they filmed the movie Jurassic Park. The scenery was beautiful and the find was easy. Dalby got a picture of a fallen tree who's branches had turned into trees themselves. We drove along looking at some very impressive scenery, though it wasn't too different from what I had grown up seeing on the way to the coast and such.

The whole drive, we were looking for the turn-off to the drive-thru tree. It was supposed to be the highlight of this leg. We got to Gasquet before starting to think that we had missed it. Turns out, we had. There was a turn we should have taken back in Klamath to the Trees of Mystery which we had decided to skip. Woops. For a minute, we considered another epic U-turn, but decided that it wasn't worth the detour. Perhaps we would plan a CS trip to the Redwoods during the Summer.

Not very long after, we realized that my car was just a little bit shy of turning 50,000 miles. Dalby got his camera ready and I drove slowly, hoping to pull over when it happened so that I could capture a few pics of my own. It seemed like a good idea to pull in to the parking lot of a local inn and drive around until the odometer turned. Almost instantly we determined that the parking lot was way too small to try to drive 4 miles in circles, so we got back on the main road. With a mile to go, a side street presented itself. I took a right, hoping to avoid having traffic behind me at the big moment.

The road that we ended up on was not only steep, it was windy and narrow. Chunks of the road were missing, crumbling off into the cavernous area below. I've never driven a more intense mile in my life. Add to that the fact that we were trying to watch the odometer and take pictures at the same time and you'll understand why there was such a build-up of anticipation. The miles turned to 50,000 and I stopped the car so that we could get the necessary documentation. By the time we got the pictures taken, we were both relieved that it was over and that we could finally finish the drive home.

We drove through Cave Junction (where my parent's lived when I was born) and Grant's Pass (where the hospital was that I was born in.) We stopped at Wild River Brewing and had some dinner, then made the rest of the journey back to Eugene. When we turned back on to HWY 126, we made note of the 2031.7 mile circle that we had just completed. Day 1 felt so far away and we had been through so much together. The impressions of Maxwell hadn't even begun to get tiring and yet, the trip was over.

I dropped Mike off at his place - along with all of the remaining peanut products - and bid him farewell until we see eachother again with the new term. It was a hell of a Spring Break and I was so grateful to have had his company. Thanks Tom Tom.

I learned a few things over the week that I thought I would share:
* Those pesky bull are everywhere! BULL!
* Not everywhere in the world has a Starbucks.
* Self-doubt can keep you from getting where you really want to be.
* If a stranger offers you unsolicited information, question it before you alter your course.
* Circus Circus uses milk in their Strawberry Smoothies
* Vietnam was far more messed up than any younger generation could possibly know.
* There are two kinds of redheads.
* Guys in Nevada are not shy about asking you to dance for them.
* Some things require 1,000 words *and* a picture.
* If you miss someone before you leave on a 6 day road trip, you're still going to miss them when you get back.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Epic Road Trip - San Francisco, CA to Eureka, CA

This shouldn't have been tough. All estimates pointed at a four hour drive from San Francisco to Eureka. Unfortunately, our self-doubt took us on a detour.

In order to understand how funny this really was, you may need to know that we made somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 U-turns on this trip. Between Dalby and I, we were continuously doubting our route. We'd give ourselves a point that if we passed, we would assume we had gone too far and turn around to look for where we were supposed to go. Invariably, we hadn't gone far enough the first time before turning around. By Sacramento, we had reduced our U-turn frequency, which still didn't save us from a great big U-turn late in day 5. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the morning.

By the time we woke up Tuesday morning, Jake's family had left for their individual daily activities. We three were left in the house. I was really looking forward to what was supposed to be the day that I first tried surfing. It was on my life's list of things I wanted to do - along with going to Europe, publishing a book and counting the licks that it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Jake had called the surf shop, who said that the waves were awful and the weather was cold, but if you were desperate then you could get away with going out. We decided that we qualified as desperate.

The one hiccup in our plan was that Jake had a dentist appointment at 1:30, so we'd have to wait until later to go out. We made plans to do lunch and walk around Japan Town until Jake was back. Japan Town was lovely. It helped that the weather was warm and the sun was bright. We started with Sushi and finished with some ice cream. Dalby had this nasty-looking concoction made with green tea ice cream, green slushie, red bean paste, whipped cream and a cherry. I was slightly less adventurous with a mint-chip cone.

We walked through Japan Town and took in the sights. There were a couple of Hawaiian stores and one really bizarre hardware place. I bought some great caching containers there. I almost got a kimono, but it just felt wrong to buy a kimono at a hardware store in San Francisco, no matter what the circumstances.

By 2:30, we were ready to head to the beach, but a quick check of the surf line told us that the waves were iffy at best. We talked amongst ourselves in an effort to decide whether we wanted to risk it or not. We had intended to leave San Fran by 5 pm, so by the time we got everything together and got ourselves to the beach, there would only be an hour to play in the waves. Hardly worth spending $20 on a wet suit rental for 60 minutes in the surf. We chose to go with plan B, a tour of Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park was beautiful. We took a picnic snack and ate in front of the pond, watching the ducks and seagulls (actually, San Francisco's on the bay...wouldn't that make them Bay-Gulls?) fight for attention. We took our shirts off in an effort to dull the shine of our Oregon-Day-Glo (tm) skin. Still donning my undershirt, I rolled up my pants and took off my shoes and socks. The sun felt wonderful on my legs, even though the breeze would bring a mild chill every few seconds. After about 15 minutes of sun bathing and chips, the sun escaped behind a thick cloud-cover and the guys started to cover up. We decided to pack up our food and mosey-on so that we had time to see some of the landscape.

The flowers were in bloom, as were the trees and algae! We saw so much color and beauty that I barely had time to put my camera away. We walked through the bamboo garden where the stalks grew so high that they blocked out most of the daylight.

As we emerged on the other side, there was a squirrel standing on a branch, waiting for us. The squirrel was definitely looking at Jake, who was carrying a bag of Tostitos. Jake offered a chip to the little dude, who gladly snatched it and ran back to his perch. Dalby decided that he wanted to try, but Mr. Squirrel was hesitant to approach Mike. Though both eventually succeeded in feeding Mr. Squirrel, he definitely had a preference for Jake's technique.

Soon, the squirrel's friends joined him and we figured it was time to go or else we were going to end up being kidnapped and carried off to their tiny squirrel lair until we could produce some salsa. As we walked away, the squirrels followed making a little rodent train. At several points in the park, we found ourselves being watched by little eyes, but they were all scared away as we passed an old fat man sitting on a bench, resting his arms on his tummy. No one needed to see that.

In an effort to make our trip a worthy adventure, Jake (who was driving my car) decided to take us on some of the notable hills in the area. I have to admit, they gave me a little rush. I was sure glad that *I* didn't have to maneuver them. After that, we dropped Jake off at his place and it was time to head out to the Redwoods where we were going to camp for the night. Ooh, okay, here's where you need to recall that stuff that I said in the beginning. It's okay, go back and read it, I'll wait.

Done? Alright, so just as we were about to leave we were introduced to one of Jake's surfer buddies. After telling him that we were headed to the Redwoods, he commented on what a horrible drive 101 is. It would be about 6 hours, he claimed. He suggested that we should take I-5 and stay in Weed (there's about a dozen stupid jokes that I could make here, but I think I'll skip them in an effort to save myself some typing). Apparently, if we ended up in Weed we could experience the Eastern portion of the Redwoods. Thankful for the tip, we decided to take the well-lit, straight road (about a dozen more jokes I'm skipping here) and end up in Weed.

Tom Tom said that the best route to I-5 from where we were was to head back toward Sacramento and go up. Fifty miles later, we decided to have some dinner, find a Starbucks and head to the Five. It was nearly 9:00 pm before we actually looked at the map and realized that there were NO REDWOOD FORESTS IN WEED.

We stared at each other in disbelief for a second. At that moment, we had to assess how important it was to camp in the redwoods that night. Turns out, it was very important to both of us. That's when we made the MOST EPIC 50 MILE U-TURN. We drove back down to San Francisco and headed up 101 nearly 275 miles and 5 hours in the middle of the night. Along the way, we saw several tsunami warnings and signs advertising a tsunami test that was going to take place at 10:45 the next morning. How exciting.

We finally had a place to set up our tent at about 3:30 am. By then I was tired and ready for bed, but it was our last chance to do S'mores and hot dogs, and we weren't going to miss it! We had one log (which we had snagged from a gravel road in Fields, OR) but it was really wet. We went through a few paper plates and all of our old geocaching papers (including the one with the coordinates for the cache that we had placed at the hot springs) trying to get that sucker burning. Eventually we settled for a small, contained flame for roasting the marshmallows. At 5 am we finished our S'mores and beer and turned in for the night.

The next morning came and went without any sign of a tsunami test. No sirens sounded, no emergency personnel showed up, no one came up to our tent and threw buckets of water on us. It was sort of anti-climactic.

Epic Road Trip - Reno, NV to San Francisco, CA

We took off from Reno late in the morning. We had slept in and still wanted to get some coffee and check the internet before we got on the road. Finally, a Starbucks! We had great coffee and terrible bagels, then headed over Donner Pass. For all of the hooplah of the terrible weather and signs posted about how bad the pass was, the drive was actually quite nice.

We stopped in Sacramento for dinner and a short walk through State Capitol Park. The sun was setting and the flowers were beautiful. It was a very nice walk back to our car and we marveled about the beauty of the sun and about California in general. Mike got his Android going again and got me directions back to the freeway. Mike was ever so useful on this trip. I started calling him Tom Tom, because it was very much like having an in car GPS system that not only helped me get where I was going, but also made rude comments and questionable jokes when the mood grew stale.

That night, we ended up in San Francisco. The weather felt great to us, even though it was chilly for the area. We found a place to park along the famously steep streets and hiked a couple of blocks to Jake's place.

Looking up at the row of houses, I was reminded of the opening credits of the tv show Full House and I wondered if I would find Danny Tanner inside. Mr Tanner wasn't there. Instead, we met a family full of incredibly nice people and one rabbit. The rule of the house? “You can keep all the beer in our fridge that you want, just don't eat the bunny.” Fair enough.

The goal of the evening was to head down to the local bar, called the Rip Tide, and watch Jake & Mike make fool's of themselves at Open Mic Night. We had escaped into the bedroom for a while to try to come up with an original ditty for the event, but our playing was distracting Jake's sister who was studying for law school, so we decided just to head out immediately and spend the evening spectating instead of participating.

Getting to the bar entailed a 20 minute bus ride followed by a 10 block walk. On our way, we could hear the ocean and we made a mental note to say hello to it on our way back.

Walking into the Rip Tide, Mike made a comment that it reminded him of Max's Tavern. It did have that same sort of “Sweet Caroline” charm, but I've never seen a dog sauntering non-nonchalantly around Max's. The boys ordered some beers, but I declined a drink. I could hear a gentleman singing at the piano and I really wanted to watch him play. I made my way through the crowd and stood at a clearing where I watched him finish his song. He was a very handsome man, probably in his mid thirties. He looked like the quiet type, but had a very kind face. After his set, I congratulated him on a good job, then walked back over to Mike and Jake.

Mike tried to convince me that I should go talk to the guy, but I told him that it wasn't my style. Besides, there was a tall blonde girl chatting him up and they looked like they knew each other pretty well. After the next musician played, that blonde girl hit the stage and introduced the next act. It turns out that she was Annie, the organizer of Monday Open Mic night. It was, in fact, her one year anniversary of planning them. They even had cupcakes.

With the new knowledge that the mystery woman was actually just the event planner, the guys started in on trying to get me to talk to the handsome singer. At first, I just smiled and told them that I wasn't comfortable, but they persisted and eventually Mike told me that I was no longer allowed to sit with them. Defeated, I went over to HS's side of the bar. There was an open stool next to him, so I sat down and ordered a Diet Coke. After a few minutes of watching the guitar player on stage, I turned to HS and asked him if he was going to sing again tonight. He told me that he'd like to, but that he didn't think that they'd get through another rotation of the list. That's all it took. One comment and we entered a conversation full of get-to-know-you's and laughs and flirtatious smiles. Somewhere during that time, Mike texted me, but I chose to ignore it.

The bartender offered a free round of Jameson's to everyone to celebrate Annie's anniversary. HS and I raised a toast and drank. We kept talking about everything from school to work to the weather. He had mentioned that he did this every week and lived far away, so I asked him if he planned to drive home that night. HS looked at the stage, then back at me and told me that he'd be staying with Annie. She *was* his girlfriend.

After a few minutes, I took my phone out and read Mike's message, pretending it was a call to come back over. As it turns out, admitting that he had a girlfriend did not mean that he wasn't interested – a fact that he illustrated by giving me his phone number before I took off. Charming.

Eager to head to the beach, we left before last call. It was a very short walk through very cold air. The shore was dark, we couldn't see much. The wind whipped at our faces and we realized that the beach was meant to wait until the morning.

We were all hungry, so we decided to stop at the 7-11 before we caught the bus. A homeless man was standing at the entrance, eager to chat. He engaged Jake in conversation, looking up as I passed by and wheezing “Hi Lady.” The man had quite a story to tell, so Jake bought him a beer, I bought him a hot dog and we all sat down outside and let him vent.

Turns out the man was a Vietnam Vet, named Maxwell Stevenson. He was harboring a lot of terrible memories, which he didn't hesitate to share with us. He presented us with a 30 minute monologue about watching his “bestest buddy” get his head blown off. He talked about Jesus and the Devil and surviving torture. He went into some sort of war trance, emerging only momentarily to comment on my hair. “You know what they say about red heads? Red heads are one of two things, they're either horribly ugly or terribly cute. You ain't ugly.”

I smiled at the man then, happy for a reprieve from the horrible stories he had been telling. He instantly went back into his tales of torture, saying “Now listen, Sister Bear, our plumbing is different from yours.” He then illustrated his point with a story about fish hooks and a 4-wheel drive truck. Another one about a fire hose enema. I'm not sure I'll ever be the same.

Dalby looked at his watch. It was almost time for the bus, so we excused ourself and told the old vet good bye. We walked, stunned, toward the bus stop. We began to talk a little about torture amongst ourselves, when a car alarm started blaring. A tall man stood up and dashed away, fleeing around the corner. At first, it looked like it could have been accidental, but then we noticed the man down another block, testing doorhandles. Dalby puffed up and started acting all protective, heading toward the alleged perpetrator. Jake and I called him back, warning him that approaching a big man in downtown San Francisco at 2 in the morning was probably not the best idea.

After that, the conversation turned to disgust about lawbreakers and the flaws in our legal system. All communication fizzled as we boarded the bus and headed back to Jake's place to sleep.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Epic Road Trip - Carlin, NV to Reno, NV

In the morning, we were bustling with excitement. This was it! The day that the whole trip was centered around had arrived. After breakfast, we carefully planned our route, knowing that the potential for danger around our "The Flip of Beijing" coordinates was huge. We snagged a map of Nevada from the room and a couple of pens from the front desk. After that, we were off!

Finding the road to TFOB was easy. Getting up it, however, was not. A sign at the entrance posted a speed of 45 miles an hour, but I started sliding doing less than 30. The roads were muddy and unstable from supporting the melting snow. As we approached the top of the hill we had to stop and assess the viability of the situation. The earth was squishy and the trail wasn't solid, but we felt that if we tread slowly then we could make it. We got back in the car and drove a little more carefully. Eventually, we came to a place where we had to get off of the gravel road and head east on a dirt trail. The trail was obviously intended for 4-wheel drive vehicles, but because we were more than 5 miles away from TFOB we decided to give it a shot.

Under normal conditions, across normal terrain, a five mile hike would have been completely acceptable. The problem was, the terrain was rocky and covered in sagebrush with barely an inch between each plant. Plus, the elevation was high and the weather was freezing. We were able to drive within 2 miles of the point, but then the ruts in the road became so deep that the bushes growing between them were hitting the underside of my car. A few feet later, the bushes made the trail impassible.

Like responsible little hikers, we made sure our day bags had all of the appropriate accouterments, 2-way radios, locator beacon, handwarmers, and a deck of playing cards. I even wrote a note to leave in our car with our intended destination, just in case. We marked the location of the car on the GPS and started walking along the road as far as we could get before we needed to forge through the scratchy plants. Less than 20 feet from the car, we saw our first set of big cat tracks in the snow. Our guess was mountain lion. After that, deer or elk, and some kind of crawly thingy. We did our best to be both noisy and alert, simultaneously watching out for animals and preventing attacks. With about a quarter of a mile to go, it was time to start heading north, which meant leaving the trail. Fortunately, we hit a dry river bed that was headed the way we needed to go. Grateful for our luck, we walked along until we came to a barbed wire fence.

After coming all that way, we weren't going to let a little thing like breaking the law stop us from getting to where we wanted to be. Like a true gentleman, Dalby let me go first. The fence wasn't very high, so I hopped right over and waited for Mike to come join me. Our GPS counted down the fractions of a mile. We had just hit .15 mi (792 feet) when Dalby noticed something in the distance. Nudging me, he pointed in the direction we were headed. There, less than 800 feet away was a herd of bull. It was hard to tell whether or not they had noticed us, but some were definitely looking in our direction.

For a few minutes we talked about what we should do. How far could we get before the bulls decided they didn't want us to get any closer? It would have been alright if we had the ranch owner's permission and maybe new the temperament of the herd, but since we didn't have any idea what to expect, we didn't feel comfortable approaching them (especially because there was an obstacle preventing us from getting to the car quickly). We decided to inch parallel to the cattle in an attempt to get closer to the exact coordinates and see how near we could be before they noticed us. We got about 740 feet away before we saw one of the bulls stand up. That was it. We decided to settle for pictures of the location of TFOB and get back to the car. Plus, it was starting to snow.

Now, when I say snow, what I really mean is hail. Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say afflictive little ice balls. These miniature bullets were hurled at us from the clouds - at first, one by one, then by the thousands. As we headed back to our location, we were assaulted with wind and miniature meteors made of ice. That had to be the longest 2 miles I've ever walked. We were so thankful for our little hand warmers. It would have been nice if I could enjoy mine longer, but the wind kept blowing the hood off of my head and I was holding onto it for the safety of my own porcelain skin ;)

By the time we got back to the car, ice was covering everything, including my chest. My pants were wet and covered in mud and snow. My face and hands were frozen, but dammit, we got a picture of the western coordinates from the cache that we found in Beijing University. Yay, us.

The topic of conversation on the drive back to the freeway was whether we considered the mission a success or failure. I think we decided on success, because the location that we got to was still the western version of coordinates at Beijing University...AND we did get a picture of where the actual location should have been, even if there *was* a herd of cattle in the way. Dude, to me that screams mission accomplished. Besides, we had the last laugh. We stopped in the very next town and had ourselves some hamburgers!

With full bellies we hit the road for the remaining 4 hours to Reno. That part of the trip sucked a little. The mountains were steep and covered in snow, plus, the sun was down so I couldn't see much of the view except that at several moments I knew that we were driving along very steep cliffs. We rolled into Reno, Nevada at 11:00 pm and got us a room at the Circus Circus. We were both a little tired, but we were in RENO, baby! How could we not do a little gambling? Together we hit the slots and for every dollar Dalby won, I lost two. His success cost me a lot! About 3 in the morning I couldn't take it anymore and decided it was time to turn in for the night.

Epic Road Trip - French Glen, Or to Carlin, NV

I woke up early Saturday morning to the sound of animals rustling around our campsite. Looking out, I saw a couple of deer walking by. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone handy and it doesn't zoom, so the deer look so far away that you can't even what they are. They're deer, people! I promise!

For about an hour, I tried to get some water to boil. Like a real suburbbie girl, I had brought a hot-pot to plug into my portable outlet. Unfortunately, the amps it needed were too low, so my portable outlet would shut off whenever I tried to plug it in. Yay, safety.

I had to resort to heating the water in a pot over a very low flame. By the time Dalby woke up an hour and a half later, the water was barely above body temperature. *Sigh*

We packed up and decided to get going. We had heard of a natural hot springs by Whitehorse Ranch in Fields, Oregon that we really wanted to have time to sit in. Before we could think of rest and relaxation, though, we had some business to attend to...a cache in French Glen. Very nearby was French's Lookout. The terrain was very rocky and I stepped wrong on a boulder, twisting my ankle ever so slightly. I lost my breath for a minute, but continued on through the desert, eventually finding the cache and logging another success.

The drive was so immediately beautiful that it took less than 5 minutes for me to pull off the road and whip out my camera (I'd be called a photo-holic more than once during this trip.) I got some beautiful pictures of plateaus and the unoccupied road. The drive went on like this for miles. So many miles, in fact, that we started to worry. There hadn't been a functional gas station in French Glen, like I was hoping, and my tank was nearing empty. As I fell below a quarter of a tank, there were still no towns for as far as the eye could see. Slightly panicked, we navigated the curvy roads between deserted mountains. Finally, with little more than a gallon of gas left, we arrived in Fields, Oregon where there was a gas station/coffee shop/town store.

While the old fashioned gas pumps did their thing (nearly 15 minutes) Dalby and I went in to the little shop. He got a coffee and I asked about the hot springs. The shop owner/gas attendant/chef pointed us toward Willow Springs, which was about 8 miles away, 26 miles down a gravel road. Let me explain. The spring was only about 8 miles away, but to get there you have to take a skinny gravel road for 26 miles up and around then back down the local hills. Some of these roads really required a 4x4. Fortunately, some fancy navigating got us to the desired location.

I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but the hot springs was not it. The words "I thought it would be bigger" formed in my head, but years of conditioning prevented me from saying that phrase out loud. For some reason I was hoping that we'd be the only people there, but that wasn't the case. There were about half a dozen others at the spring, most of them ranch hands from Whitehorse. There was also two veteran type men, sitting in their army tent propping their feet up on the bumpers of their military vehicles. All in all, it wasn't a situation that I would normally want to be in a swimsuit, but I had come all this way to have my first hot springs experience and I wasn't going to ruin it with self-consciousness.

The first thing I noticed was how horrible the water smelled. It was almost as if we had decided to swim in rotten egg. Fortunately, I have pneumonia, so only a little of the stench filtered through. As I slipped in to natures bath tub, I could feel the slimy mud squish between my toes. I tried to imagine that it was some kind of pedicure masque that would make my feet smooth and soft like bunnies, but it was gross - even for bunny mud.

The waters seemed to help my ankle and Mike said they helped his shoulder (which he had dislocated kayaking a couple of days before) too. I was also grateful for being submerged, because I hadn't taken a shower after camping the night before and we were supposed to be in the middle of nowhere again that night. It wasn't until after the soak that I realized that it was probably better to have lived with mild BO than to go to sleep smelling like Mephistopheles.

After getting out of the hot spring, we pitched our mineral soaked clothes in the trunk and hit the open highway, but not before placing a cache on a nearby hill. Unfortunately, the piece of paper that we wrote the coordinates for the cache on was accidentally used as fire-starting material on our last night of the trip, so we have no way of advertising that it's there! Time to get creative.

From there, it was off to camp in Tonkin Springs, Nevada - at least, it was supposed to be. Unfortunately, the time was coming up on 5 pm and we were still more than six hours away. After eating pizza in Winnemucca, we realized that it was about time to find a place to sleep. We drove until almost 11 pm and wound up at a motel in Carlin, NV.

We had some mixed feelings about staying in the motel. On one hand, it was warm and we were able to shower the natural stench of the hot spring off of us. On the other hand, we weren't exactly roughing it, considering that they offered a nice continental breakfast in the morning. In our defense, we *did* have to make our own waffles.

Epic Road Trip - Eugene, Or to French Glen, Or

Morning came too soon. The car was mostly packed, but a last minute sweep of my house reminded me that there were a few things that I should have included. After making sure that my emergency pack was ready to go, I took off to pick up Dalby.

Even though I got to Mike's house before 9:00 am, errands and breakfast kept us from hitting the road until 11:30. Our spirits were high and we were off to a good start. Laughing and joking ensued. In fact, there was so much laughing and joking that we completely missed the exit to the Old Mckenzie Highway where the majority of our intended caches were located. Thrown, we made our way to Sisters to figure out what to do. We decided on a couple of caches in the Bend/Redmond area, along with one containing a coin that I *really* wanted to find.

Dalby's first cache (excluding the one in Beijing) was called Something Shocking. It was hidden below a power line in a pile of rocks. While we were putting our names on the log, a police officer rolled by. Immediately, Dalby started to slow his movements down. He needs to practice acting casual. I assured him that the officer would be familiar with geocaching, but he was still hesitant. The officer rolled his window down and slowed to a stop. Mike told the officer that we were caching, to which the officer responded "I figured. Is that your car parked down the way?" We told him that it was and he wished us well and headed on his way.

Laughing, we put the cache away and headed back to the car. I saw a downed cable on the rock by my feet. "Wow," I said. "I almost stepped on that." "Actually," Dalby corrected, "you stepped on it on the way in, but since you didn't die, I decided not to say anything." This is the kind of relationship we have. He's so special.

We got back in the car and decided we had time to try to find the cache that I had been looking forward to. It has a coin in it that I'd love to bring back to Eugene and we drove dozens of miles out of the way just to locate it. Unfortunately, there was no way to get to it without trespassing. The property was heavily wired and no trespassing signs were posted every 100 feet. We know this, because we trepidatiously ignored the first 2 sets. Bummed, we decided to pack it in. All in all, we had eaten up three hours with that cache and the drive to French Glen was still looming.

Dalby napped for the majority of the remaining four hour drive. We got to Fish Lake (which has no lake, FYI) somewhere around midnight. The stars were so beautiful that Mike requested we leave the cover off of the roof. The weather was clear and crisp, so the risk was small. Unfortunately, it was also cold and windy! All night long, arctic breezes would shake us awake. Yay, Oregon.

Epic Road Trip - Prologue

I needed to get away. Even if everything had been fine before Thursday, March 19th, I would have needed a vacation by that evening. It started out crappy and got worse with every hour.

I might have stayed out a bit too late Wednesday night, especially considering that I had to have my car to Kia at 8:00 in the morning Thursday. There was nothing important wrong with my car (at least I didn't think there was) but my passenger-door lock wasn't behaving. Since my car is still under warranty, I decided to have that fixed before Dalby and I headed out.

In the meantime, I had a routine doctor's appointment and I was going to inquire about the rattling cough that I'd had for a few weeks. The doctor said that my left lung was full of fluid and sent me for blood tests and x-rays. After a few more minutes of waiting, the x-rays were done. I had pneumonia. Lovely.

Walking home, I gave Kia a call to check on my car. It was ready to go, yay! No, not yay. Apparently, I needed new tires. Not only were they worn below the wear-bar, but they were cracked. He told me I'd be okay in town, but if I planned to make any long drives (um, do you consider 2,000 miles long??) then I better replace them first. Sigh.

Alright, off to Les Schwab. They've been great to me, so I decided to buy my tires there. After 4 new tires and a front AND rear alignment (apparently I was off by a few degrees) my car was ready 2 minutes before closing...oh, except that he didn't suggest I drive it very far, because I needed new brakes. What?!? New brakes? Thanks for telling me that right before you close on the day before I leave for a gimungous road trip. He offered to look up other Schwabbies between here and Nevada. I thanked him, but told him I was taking my car to Firestone, if it was still open.

I called Firestone, who said they were going to inspect them first to make sure that LS wasn't feeding me a line of Free Beef. Turns out, they weren't. Not only were the brakes metal to metal, but my rotors were so worn that they were beyond turning. They said that they'd stay open to fix it for me that night and get me on my way. Two hours later, I had my car back, just in time to get to the pharmacy and pick up my antibiotics before they closed. Now, I had a whole 2 hours to get my supplies and load my car before I went to bed. I had to leave for a road trip in the morning!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Epic Road Trip - Do or Die

Today is the most perilous portion of our trip. We're about to head to a location (+39° 59' 30.90", -116° 18' 19.32") that is several miles off the main roads smack-dab in the middle of mining country. Oh, and did I mention it's snowing??

We're leaving our nice warm hotel in Carlin, NV and heading about 40 miles down Hwy 278 before we cut west on local roads (a bizarre combination of Tonkins and Alphas.) It appears, by word of the OO oracle, that we can drive to within 2 miles of the point. It also looks like there are creeks and rivers everywhere. Our fingers are crossed.

In any case, we're packing day bags with emergency gear and water, planning for the worst and hoping for the best. I'll update FB through Twitter when I have cell reception, but if you don't read any updates from me by midnight, we've found trouble.

Reno by midnight, Baby!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Epic Road Trip (Not *that* kind of Epic, Toby!) - Preparation

Tonight, I'm in the preparation stage for my very first Spring Break road trip!!!

One of my biggest features (read: flaws) is being a planner. I tend to over-plan. I'm not going to do that with this trip. What I will do, however, is make sure I'm prepared, then go where the wind and Dalby take me.


In case you don't follow my blog religiously, I'll let you know that I spent a week in Beijing during the month of October. While I was there, I went geocaching and took a picture of myself at N 39° 59.515, E 116° 18.322 with the intention of someday getting a picture at the Western equivalent of those coordinates - which happens to be in a barren and desolate part of Nevada. Well, the opportunity presented itself to get away over Spring Break, so I texted Dalby (who was with me at the cache find in Beijing) and asked if he was in. He responded "Dude, I don't even see myself as having a choice. Let's do this!" With that, we started working on a route.


Neither of us particularly *like* spending hours on our asses, but when you go on a road trip some driving time is inevitable. We tried to break it up into small enough chunks that we'll have time to get to our daily destinations and still have time to play. We've agreed on a route and now we're working on the whole 'accommodations' thing. I've got a tent (and a car) but when it comes to camping in strange and unpopulated places, that prolly won't cut it.

Summoning my good sense, I stopped at the Outdoor Center at the U of O and checked out a set of 2-way radios as well as some road flares and a locator beacon (in case we get stuck someplace where cell phones won't get reception.) With the 'communication' thing covered, I turned my attention to preparing the caches that we're going to place along our journey. Actually, preparing might be a stretch. I gathered all the pieces, but I'm gonna try to talk Dalby into putting them together while I drive. It will give him something to do ;)


* Tent
* Tarp
* Sleeping bags
* Blankets
* First aid kit
* 2-way radios
* Flares
* Locator beacon
* Food
* Water
* Shovel (Thanks RetroRambler!)
* Caches
* Flashlights
* Camera
* Music!


Just in case you want to follow along! The flag marked "D" is the destination of the western coordinates.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I've always been able to heal relatively quickly. For some reason, bruises hang around much longer than cuts and scrapes, but some cuts leave scars long after the bruises have disappeared.

I'm very fortunate that I don't have any large or disfiguring scars. I do, however have several little ones, each reminding me of another one of life's lessons learned. For example, I have one underneath my eye that I got when I rescued my puppy from the top of the playhouse <--That taught me not to put dogs on roofs. I have another on my knee from my first (and only) skiing experience <--That taught me not to hurl myself down an icy slope without the ability to stop gracefully.

Like many people, not all of my scars are physical. I have some pretty good-sized emotional scars as well. Obviously, I try to let my wounds heal. I try not to go around ripping them back open at the smallest hint of similar situations. It hurts me to watch other people do that. Every day, I see the emotional triage of life, bleeding hearts and wounded souls everywhere. Recently, however, it's become obvious to me that something that I thought was forgotten was still hanging around, causing internal bleeding.

I've made a connection between my past and my present and noticed that my past is still weighing heavily on my interpretation of everything I encounter. I still see through the eyes of the person that I used to be, even though I'm a completely different woman today. A very trusted friend has helped me see that it's time to allow that wound to close and carry on. I'm going to try to eradicate the symptoms, even though I know that the cause remains untreated. I'll work on controlling the effects until I figure out the cure. Eventually, I know that I will learn from this as well.

Yes, some of these scars continue to hurt once closed, but that's how they caution us to remember what they have taught us.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

True, Kind and Necessary

No, your ass looks great in those jeans. I quit gambling months ago. I'll call you tomorrow. Your breath smells terrible.

Should you tell the truth? Should you lie? Which comments deserve apologies before you even get called out on them? That's what I'm blogging about today.

Not too long ago, my little sister reminded me of something that a family friend (appropriately named Karma) had said. What it boils down to is this: "If you want to be a decent and respectful person, make sure that what you say falls into two of these three categories - True, Kind and Necessary."

It follows that it's okay to lie if you're saying something kind and necessary, such as telling someone who has recently quit smoking "I didn't notice that you've gained any weight." Similarly, it's acceptable to say something unkind if it's true and has to be heard, "When you drink, you can be a real ass." Finally, it's okay to say something that doesn't need to be said if it's true and kind.

If you realize that you've made a comment to someone that doesn't include the better part of these three guidelines, you may want to apologize, clarify or amend it to fit it into another. If you realize that you're constantly making comments outside of those lines, maybe it's time to do some self-reflection and figure out if you enjoy alienating people, because you probably do!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Ethics of Addiction

Usually, the word "addiction" has negative connotations. When something is addicting, it implies that we're powerless over it. It's also frequently true that the things we're addicted to are bad for us. If, however, the objects of our addiction have no ill-effects is it still a problem to crave them?

Cigarette companies have faced decades of trouble for trying to find a way to make their dangerous product more addicting. Soda companies are known for adding caffeine gratuitously to get children hooked. Even McDonald's has been said to use copious amounts of sugar in their french fry recipe to keep people coming back for more. Is this practice ethical? Is there anything wrong with adding ingredients just to cause an addiction to a product? What if the product was water? If there was a completely benign substance that you could add to water that would keep people constantly drinking it, would that be ethical? Is it ever okay to knowingly weaken someone's decision making abilities?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wisdom of the Panda - Travel - 03/03/09

Topic of discussion: Nothing, at the time.

Restaurant: Panda Express

Fortune: You will take a pleasant journey to a far away place.

Thoughts: Yay! I've been wanting to travel more! My goal in 2009 is 3 more trips. I've been trying to set up visits with friends around the world. Some are working out, some look like they won't. Hopefully I'll have my three trips scheduled soon so I can start planning!