Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best Western Adventures
Series 11
VICTORIOUS AT VITREOUS
The day started badly. I was woken early by whining children. Between my children and the children of my sister-in-law, there were five kids under the age of nine at my in-laws house, and this day, they all wanted breakfast and no one else was up. A couple hours into tending kids, I was cranky and fed up wth my husband who had been drinking late and sleeping in every night. When I went to ask him why he was still sleeping, he looked at me like I was crazy and said,
"I'm on vacation".
That was a fuse that lit my fire. Apparently, my vacation was meaningless, because it didn't relieve me of any responsibilities or allow me any perks like sleeping in on a summer day. I wanted him to get up and help me out, and he just wanted me to be quiet. Finally, he urged me to get gone, go for a drive and calm down, while he tended kids for a while.
I wasn't even sure I wanted to go. I really just wanted some help, or to be able to relax and watch TV for a while. I needed to unwind. Finally, though, it reached critical mass and I took myself and my GPS unit and went out the door.
My plan was to go after a geocache called Above the Needles. The information page said it was a bumpy road but most vehicles could make it. I found this Fremont Highway 48 that was taking me closer, so I guessed I was on the right road.
I was playing around with the radio and began listening to NPR. They were debuting a new album by a band called Gypsy Soul, from the Pacific Northwest. It was the perfect music for my drive. Primarily driven by a female lead vocalist, the songs were all about universal experiences of love, of troubadors and the seeking inside our souls. I have trouble expanding my music choices in the right direction and stumbling on this band during this drive was a sparkling gem to brighten my day.
It was a beautiful drive, but as I drew closer to where the compass on my GPS was leading, there were choices, side roads that may or may not lead me closer to my destination. Some of them I went down, only to have to turn around when the road became impassable for my little vehicle, and turned a direction that lead me further away. There was a spot to park in front of that stream in the picture at the top that seemed to be the absolute closest I could drive, but the road ended there. The GPS showed that I was still 0.90 miles from the cache site, and would have to cross the stream and hike. I hadn't brought enough water for that hike, nor was I prepared to defend myself against any large predators.
I had been on the road now for at least an hour, aimlessly driving around, and I didn't want to just give up and call it a day. I decided to look through the waypoints loaded in my GPS unit and see what other geocaches might be nearby.
To my excitement, the closest one was a cache called Vitreous. I had been trying to find the road to Vitreous over and over during the visits to my in-laws, since it was a very special geocache. It was hidden in December of 2000, in the early days of this game, geocaching, that we who play love so much. It is on the list of the oldest active caches in the world (although if someone has a recent updated list, I would love to see it).
I had never been able to find the road to Vitreous, but apparently now I was on it. I kept driving, following the arrow on my compass, as the distance shown on the unit got smaller and smaller. For many geocachers, this is the most exciting part - watching the countdown as you get closer and closer. As the distance grows closer, your heart begins to beat faster, and the excitement builds higher. I was still driving when the compass read 200 feet from the road, which was awesome because that meant I didn't have to hike far before reaching the prize.
In this case, it was a medium white PVC pipe container with what appeared to be bear claw marks all around it. I guess a curious bear wanted to know what was in there, too! There really wasn't much inside the container, but there usually isn't. It is really more about the thrill of the hunt and the reason, a motivation to get out into the wilderness to explore that leads us to download waypoints from the website and go out and try to find the location and see what is there that inspires us geocachers. It is about adventure and exploration more than it is about trading treasures. I simply signed my name in the book inside and then had the privilege of being able to tell my story to my friends about finding this really old geocache in a remote area that has only been found 46 times in the eight years it has been sitting there.
As I drove back to my mother-in-laws house, I thought about roads, and how sometimes, just when we think the road we are on is not going to take us where we thought it would, it takes us somewhere else, somewhere unexpected, but somewhere we really wanted to get to in the first place. I thought about this belief that some people in my bible study have shared with me, the belief that God doesn't have just one plan for us, or that he adjusts our plan according to our choices. God will lead you where he wants to go, they say, and the choices you make will all lead to the same place, the place he calls you to go.
Today, He called me to go to the mountains, where I found peace, soothing new music, beautiful woodland streams, and the road I was supposed to be on. I came back feeling refreshed and happy, and like I had been given a gift, the gift of two hours of sheer wonder that made me feel like I really was, finally, on vacation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SILLY RABBIT
The past three nights, I've been having these dreams about an exboyfriend. The emotional context has been wrapped around a place, a city, a house, something that was his and then was mine and then becoming his again. I was afraid, worried, wanted to call the place mine but knowing it was his, wondering what he would think of me when he found the little sippy cup stains on the carpet or dust behind the couch.
It seems pretty transparent, the meaning behind the dreams. I have these kind of dreams now and then about him, a dream like I am living in his town, and I am worried he might find my house, and then he is moving in, and the shutters are falling off or the lawn needs mowing.
It is fairly close to the way it was with us, the way I think about him now, so the meaning doesn't bear a mystery for me. The reasoning is more of the mystery - why now, why so often?
Yesterday a sudden strong desire came over me to write to my favorite professor, the one whose job I wanted to have one day, the one who wrote letters of recommendation for graduate schools that turned me down, one after another. I wanted to have the same degree he has, have the same kind of influence, the same kind of life. It was my plan for my life, until my plan got derailed, and I've been reluctant to contact him since then.
I really wanted his opinion, though, so I sent him an email, told him what I was doing and if he could meet with me or carry on a conversation over the email about some questions I had.
He sent me a delighted response, and in his email, he stated that he remembered me, having dinner with me and Temple Grandin. He had invited me to his house to eat and talk with him and Temple, who is the "Numero Uno big dog" in the field I wanted to pursue, and who happened to teach graduate studies in Colorado. She and I outlined a plan for a PhD dissertation project, talking about funding, and then....I never applied to her school.
My reasons were complicated. Later down the road, I tried to get back on that horse, but instead of trying to go through her, or through my professor, I tried four other schools where no one knew me. Turns out that was a bit of a problem. Apparently you have to know someone on the inside.
Today, I was thinking about what he said in his email, that he remembered feeling sad at the time that I wasn't choosing to pursue graduate studies there with him.
When I had read that line, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. He had believed in me, he had wanted me to be his student. I remember talking with him one day, towards the end of my final year, and he gave me kind of a sideways glance over his glasses as he mumbled something about an open position with his department, a job for someone who would be interested in going to horse auctions (I mean, yippee! That is my favorite kind of place!), and I knew it was his way of inviting me to stay on, and I knew he also knew I was leaving. I wanted to go to Colorado so bad, I couldn't see the forest for the mountains.
Later, I cursed myself for not taking his offer. Oh sure, I already had a horsemanship position secured in Colorado. Sure, it would have taken some rearranging to do it. I had already given up my apartment, made moving plans. My boyfriend, the one I have been dreaming about, was all for it. It was perfect, he said, I could move in with him, and then surely the job would turn into a graduate student position, and I could get my PhD, and we could get married, and....
Hold on right there. That's right. I know without a doubt that if I had stayed on, I would have made my dreams for my life come true. I know my boyfriend wouldn't have let it happen any other way. He would have been there urging me on and pushing me ahead and holding my hand through every bit of it. I also know that he would have become my husband and that thought really scares me....
I had a dream about him once, when I lived in Oregon, that seemed rather poignant. In it, he brought a rabbit into the veterinarian's office where I worked. We had worked on his rabbit, some kind of back surgery, and then his estranged brother brought the rabbit back in, because now it couldn't hop. The rabbit wasn't perfect before, but now it was nonfunctional. It couldn't even move. I went to tell my doctor about it and she just looked at me like I was stupid and said, "Of course. That's the side effect of the surgery." I didn't get it. This phrase kept repeating in my mind, and still I think of it:
Why was the cure worse than the disease?
Hearing my professor voice his emotions, though, made me realize something. I made him sad. I did that to him, and in any effort to apologize, I should explain it wasn't an affront to him. He probably wonders what the heck happened to me, and sometimes in the course of the years when I have contacted him, I've glossed over a brief explanation, "I was raising my family and put my academic aspirations on hold for the meantime", but I know that my flimsy excuses don't hold water. They are probably as transparent as the dreams, although the reasoning probably warrants a mystery.
I don't want to tell him the real truth, the real truth on why College Station makes me nervous, why I never asked him if he could just let me in his program after all this time and wanting the things that never happened for me. I don't want to tell him because it makes me look really crazy to say something like look I constantly felt my parents never loved me, I felt rejected by them, not good enough, which caused me not to believe in myself, although I covered it up with a thick line of bravado, you see, so that no one would ever guess how really pathetic and worthless I felt, and I couldn't apply to your school or her school or any school that might offer me a chance of success and satisfaction, because I never thought I deserved it, so I just kept running away from what I really wanted, but several counseling sessions later, I am a much better person and no longer intentionally sabotage personal relationships that offer a chance of happiness and no longer choose escape patterns but face these inadequacies directly, which is why I am here now.
I know it is, in part, this background I have that makes me good at what I do. I am empathic to animals because their true wishes and desires are hard for them to express to humans. I want to be their champion and stand up for them, be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. I want to wrap my arms around them and tell them it's okay, that somebody loves them, that someone is going to look out for them. I want to make them as comfortable as possible and treat them with kindness. I want to treat them the way I want to be treated.
My true talent with animals is in calming the anxious animal, because I see in them parts of myself. I know what it is like to live with anxiety and fear, to want to run away and be unable to. This is why I chose my horse, as he was an outcast and headed for a rough ending. I sensed that underneath his explosive interior, he was a bundle full of nerves. We spoke the same language.
We had a fear-aggressive Newfoundland dog where I used to work who was frequently boarded and needed his ears cleaned often. He had severe chronic ear problems that gave him great pain, and previously, he was dealt with by a combination of being drugged and held down with force by several technicians. I didn't want that for him, so it became my goal to be able to work on him unsedated, solo, without any stress. It took some work to get him to trust me and allow me to touch the painful places, but we did it, laying in our quiet corner of the clinic. These are the things I am good at that no one ever sees. Give me a growling Rottweiler and I'll make it golden, give me a frightened monkey and I'll get it eating out of my hand.
This is where I get confused on my own issues, because I know my worth, and I know I have value. I know I have skills in this way, and that these skills are a result of my education, my background, my perceptiveness, and my intelligence. I know the understanding of animal behavior that I possess is worth something, if not a PhD, than at least more money or acknowledgement. So what am I still afraid of?
At one point a few years back, I thought that maybe I needed closure with this old boyfriend. I thought talking to him again would stop the dreams from happening, and dissolve that heavy knot of tension I had every time I went through College Station. I was driving through the town often around this time and I wanted to not experience the anxiety that the possibility of running into him caused. We opened up a dialogue, but he shut it down a few long emails into it, saying that it brought back old feelings for him. He's married now and he didn't think he should maintain a friendship with me because he couldn't help revisiting the emotions that a remembrance of our relationship caused. I kind of understand, but it makes me angry sometimes, too. Why can't he compartmentalize like I do? I tried to shut him off at that pass by downplaying our connection and focus on the friendship we had, but I think that hurt his feelings. This dialogue did nothing for the dreams and the anxiety, though.
When I think about the possibility of meeting up with my old professor to further discuss some of these ideas I am asking him about, and consider applying for his program at this point in my life, I think about College Station, driving to College Station, and suddenly I am a rabbit looking for a hole. I'm scared.
It makes no sense to me. Is it that I know I am good enough, but I worry they will think I am not? Or is it that I worry I am not good enough, but they know I always was?
I can't get away from the fact, though, that sometimes my escape maneuvers hurt people, leave them disappointed in me, maybe because they saw so much more potential than I was allowing, or that they wanted me to be happy and successful. Although it is unintentional, collateral damage, I know it is not right to hurt people, and I shouldn't do that.
Starting with myself.

Friday, August 22, 2008

BEST WESTERN ADVENTURES
Series 10

THE BLEATTY BLUES

Bly Bly Beatty Bly
Time to kiss Klamath Falls goodbye
One stop, two stops, no one's around
Let's head west on 140 to the twin towns
Bly Bly Beatty Bly
Where once was a Taliban training camp, and that's no lie
Are you sure? Well, that's what they say
Never thought you'd find al Qaeda out this way
Let's stop at Lost River, at Gap and Ford
Answer two questions quick, before the kids get bored
Beatty Beatty Bly and Beatty
We're doing some caching, better be ready
Second stop, up to the OC + E trail
Husband's puking and looking pale
Bly Bly Beatty Bly
Call R for the webcam, maybe she'll give it a try
R's looking for us, she's on the phone
When we finally get there...and hit the dead zone
Are we in the right spot?
Who knows, because the call got dropped
I have a smoke, husband continues to heave
The kids start crying, they want to leave
So off we go, webcam cache plans dashed
Heading for Bly-Beatty, say that three times fast
Site of only mainland casualties during World War II
When picknickers pulled out Japanese war balloon, and it blew
Into pieces, killing them all
I remember reading about it on a museum wall
We really need drinks now,
Should have stopped at Palimino Store
Sun is getting bright and throats getting sore
Beatty Beatty Bly and Beatty
Say it fast and it sounds like Bleatty
Like the name of the next cache,
Fourth of the trip
And at each one, husband was sick
Too much drinking the night before
We just need to get to Lakeview, and a store
Get some drinks and get on "home"
But we can't resist stopping at the Gnome Home
This one says it is in a Sprague River park
We think we'll get the kids out, go for a lark
Turns out "park" has a rather loose meaning
Driving along switchbacks, all dropoffs and weaving
Then a hike down a trail, "only 500 feet"
Halfway in, the kids are beat
They sit on the trail while we take turns looking
Finally back to the car my husband gets them booking
I see the cache, and walk straight in,
Then feel fire all over my shins
Dang poison nettle, now my legs are burning
And headed for "home" I want to be turning
Lakeview, Lakeview, where are you?
I can't wait to see you, oh no,
Cuz I've got the Bleatty Blues.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

BRIEFS OF THE WEEK
I've wanted to write four different in depth stories this week, but I haven't had the time to get them out. Most of the time when I write in here, I am trying to make the story come alive for my readers with vivid detail. Today, I am going to try something different, and try to make each of the stories as brief as possible.

MONDAY
"GEOCACHING? I'M NOT A FAN"
That was going to be my response every time the word "geocaching"was mentioned at the event that evening. I had a bad attitude because I had some bad luck on my geocaching spree on the way from work to the restaurant where we had our event. First, I kinda wandered into a gated complex and was chased off by management. At the next cache, I realized, too late, that I was standing in a bed of fireants while signing the log. I got bitten several times and my shoes and socks became wet and dirty in my frantic attempts to get rid of the pesky things. After the next one, which added to the wet/dirty factor, I couldn't stand wearing them anymore. I changed into these white tennis shoes that are in the truck of my car that everyone claims don't belong to them, and which happened to be about two sizes too big. These "clown shoes" became a problem at the next stop, when I had to walk along a slanted concrete embankment, and I am really lucky I didn't lose my balance. I had to clunk around in the clown shoes all evening because it was preferrable to wearing my other shoes. All this just a day after a caching expedition into the woods where I had come very close to stepping on a large snake and running into the web of a black widow. What other hobby brings you so close to danger on a regular basis?
I never got to bring up my punchline, though, because throughout the entire two hours I was in the restaurant with my friends, no one ever specifically mentioned the word "geocaching", even though that was our common link!

TUESDAY
ALL WE ARE CALLED TO DO
I had heard a rumor that there was a rabid German Sheperd wandering the neighborhood. I doubted the loose dog had rabies, since my experience working in animal health has demonstrated to me that rabies is actually quite rare. However, when I was sitting outside with my show dog and my toddler and the dog came running full tilt towards us, I did have a moment of concern. Scout's offensive body language scared the dog off, though, so I was fairly certain it was neither sick or aggressive. The neighbors confirmed that this was the dog in question, and also told me that the policeman had ran it over with his car, and that the dog had a broken leg. I also noticed that it had significant hair loss and scabs all over its body, an obvious sign of mange. The dog had ran to hide under a nearby truck, and my conscience began working on me.
What kind of dog lover, what kind of veterinary technician, what kind of mother and neighbor would I be if I didn't at least perform a health assessment and find some way to deal with this dog?
From the appearance of the hair loss, I would guess that a skin scrape would show demodectic mange, as opposed to sarcoptic mange, which is the contagious kind. All the same, it would be in our best interest to keep this animal from having close contact with people or other animals. The risks of it getting further injured or dying out in the streets I would rate as fairly high, and if it truly had a broken leg, then I felt it would suffer needlessly without intervention. What was I going to do with the dog though?
In my past, I have learned some hard lessons about bringing home animals that I cannot afford to take proper care of, and swore to myself not to do that again. Unless I have the resources to be able to give the animal all of what it deserves, I can't take it in. However, leaving this one on the streets was a decision I could not live with.
So I put away my dog and my child, and coaxed the dog out from under the truck. My heart broke for it when I saw that it was only a puppy, and its mange was in a very painful stage for it. It was fully weight-bearing, though, and otherwise showed no symptoms of ill health.
I managed to sweet talk it into a kennel, and gave it a good meal. In the morning, I took it to the pound on my way to work. I wrestled with this decision all week. I couldn't keep the dog because of the mange and the risks to my dogs and my children. The particular pound I had to take it to, in the interest of time and availability, was not my first choice.
As it turned out, the kennels that the website stated would be out front at seven in the morning weren't even there, and I had to be resourceful in finding a way to secure the animal there. I ended up opening one of the side compartments to the animal control van and leaving it in a kennel in there, visible to the employees when they would pull up in the morning. It pressed its black nose against the barrier and cried for me when I left it, and I could hear its cries all morning in my mind.
I finally arrived at the conclusion that sometimes we are not called to carry out the full responsibility of rescue. Sometimes we are only called to do a part. I thought of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, for some reason, and how each person along the way did not assume the full responsibility of sheltering those who were making it to freedom, but did what they could along the way. I also thought about the underground railroad we still have in this country, people who take in briefly women and children fleeing from abusive relationships and simply get them to the next step.
With each stage, the people are placing themselves in danger to protect and care for these people, just as keeping that dog would have placed my children, dogs, house, and furniture at risk. Treating the mange would require weekly dips, which I am sure would tax both my wallet and my husband's patience. I took care of the puppy in the only way I could, which may be all I was called to do.
and okay so maybe being brief is difficult for me....

FRIDAY
IT STARTED OUT WITH A KISS
It was the ten year anniversary of our first date, and my husband and I had been planning to go out to celebrate. We were text-flirting during the day, but by the time I got home, he was not in a good mood. By the time we left to drop off the kids, I didn't even want to be around him. At one point I asked him to take us back to the house, and I wish he had, honestly. I think our date will go down as the worst date I have ever been on.
As we sat down to fajitas and margaritas, we began reminscing about our first date, which led to talk about subsequent dates, including one where he almost ended up in a fist fight with a friend I had made over the summer, whom I never saw again after, and also who angrily told me that "your new boyfriend is one cocky m-f-er". My husband thinks I am being sympathetic to my friend's side, even after all this time, and tension starts rising. The conversation slowly disintegrates from this affectionate reminiscing to a complete dissolution, and finally I have had enough of him and walk out of the restaurant, leaving him alone to finish off his drink and pay.
We don't talk on the way to the movie theater until we park, and then only to finish an argument we had started, then stand like strangers near each other in the line to get our tickets for the Dark Knight.
He goes to the bathroom and then apparently wanders into the wrong theater, while I choose a seat and get comfortable. When he comes in, finally, he insists we move to a place he wants to sit. I go, but I am not comfortable there. There is no air flow and sweat is forming on my face, and I can't adjust my legs. I ask him if we can move back to where I was, but he won't go. Finally, I realize I will spend the whole time thinking about how uncomfortable I will be if I stay there, and he still refused to move, so I just went down anyway. We watched the movie from our seperate locations, and filed out of the theater like strangers.
He drives home doing over a hundred miles an hour, ignoring my protests as he pretends to be Batman. We make it home and lie in bed, and he fake-snores as I try to plead reason with him. It's because I was angry at him, he says, that he refuses to reconcile. We turn away from each other, with the familiar distance between us, the distance I have begun to refer to as the "bed-world between us", a space which is only probably three feet but seems like forever.
It started out with a kiss....how did it end up like this?
SATURDAY
LIKE A NAZI ON A POWER TRIP
I hosted my first geocaching event on Saturday, and, well, it didn't go as well as planned. In fact, I think it might gain the reputation of the worst event this year.
For those non-geocachers out there, an event is simply a get-together which counts as a find. The Houston Geocaching Society members had decided we needed more excuses to get together and we decided to start celebrating the birthdays of each month with an event. I offered to host August when another cacher couldn't, and decided to have mine at Mel's Country Cafe, in Tomball.
Mel's is home to the Mega-Mel, a gigantic burger that earns you a spot on their Wall of Fame if you can finish in two hours. I love Mel's and wanted to introduce all my friends to it.
I had called a month beforehand to talk to a manager about hosting a party there, and although he told me he couldn't reserve the whole area, he could accomodate a large crowd during the hours we determined. Three days before the event, only four cachers had RSVPed, so I didn't bother with the followup phone call to the manager with a final head count. I thought we were just going to be twiddling our thumbs and having small conversations.
The morning of, suddenly I had several people left "Will Attend" notes, and called the restaurant to let them know to expect about 15 of us. The manager said he would put together a table big enough for all of us during that time, not a problem.
I arrived fifteen minutes ahead of time, only to walk into a heated debate that three cachers, who had arrived early, where having with the management. They had tried to hold a table for nine and were forced to move, and told by the female manager they could not leave their seats at their table for four. This same manager, whom the cachers began referring to as "Frau Hitler", immediately started antagonizing the other guests who had walked in with me.
She told me that she had called me several times to tell me she could not hold a table for fifteen unless we were all there to be seated at the same time, but I kept hanging up on her. I had never left my number with anyone so I have no idea who she was calling. I showed them my cell phone history to demonstrate it was not, in fact, even my number they were calling.
She insisted that people could only be seated at a table with the number of seats that matching the number of people arriving together, and that once we were seated, we were not to leave our seats. I asked her then, could she please, seat the people in my party near the tables we were already occupying, if possible. She really did her darnest not to make that happen, even when it violated her own matching seat policy. For instance, two people arrived, not with our party, and even though she had three open two-seater tables, she seated them at the four seater table next to us.
In the end, what ended up happening was this: 1) a nasty note was left by the first group, who refused to let me see what they wrote 2) the male manager stopped me to apologize for the female manager 3) about 25 people showed up for the event during the three hours we had arranged 4) most of them stated in their "Attended" log that they had a good time 4) one cacher was completely missed by me because Frau refused to seat him near us and instead he ate a lonely burger in the front part and never talked to any of us and 5) now the 800 members of our Society, plus the local cachers who haven't joined HGCS, can see from the logs and talk what kind of service we would get at Mel's and 6) they'll be lucky if they ever get business again from any of them, even though they probably earned $300 in revenue from those who came.
I can't decide whether to send a letter to the restaurant or not telling them that. When the male manager and I talked, he told me that the first group had set her off, and they had also said we were expecting 80 people (which is not true, but some events have been that large), and he mentioned the phone call issue again. Once I convinced him no one ever called MY number, he admitted a mistake was probably made in which number had gotten written down and that he was very upset with the way Frau had handled our group.
It still doesn't change the fact that it was my first event, and it went terribly wrong.
I guess I will have to host another to redeem myself.

Monday, August 18, 2008















BEST WESTERN ADVENTURES
Series 9

IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN KLAMATH
When I first met my husband, he told me he was from Northern California. I thought of San Francisco, Sacramento, maybe Redding. I didn't realize he meant "northern" Northern California. He might as well have just said Oregon, since his family homestead is only a half mile from the border.
He told me a story about his ranch. "It's in a valley surrounded by mountains, with a river running through it." He thought it was paradise on earth, and he had me convinced, convinced enough to pack my bags and go with him. Fifty acres of heaven on earth, with a barn and corral for my horse. "You can ride for miles," he said, "and all the grass he can eat!"
I always thought I would make a good pioneer, and longed for wide open spaces. I had dreams of having my own space, of looking out the window and seeing my horse grazing, of being able to ride bareback in the moonlight whenever I wanted. It was a great romantic dream that I bought hook line and sinker.
Trouble was, it was nothing like the picture he painted, and the dream sank away from the reality that living so far away from a town left me lonely and sad. "What are you doing there?" My sister asked me. It was no secret I was unhappy, but I was trying to make the best of it. It was desolate out there in Tulelake, CA.
The nearest city to the ranch in California was Klamath Falls, OR, which lay thirty miles to the northwest. That's where all the jobs, stores, and people were, and so that is where we drove several days a week, sometimes twice a day, when I moved to his hometown with him.
After a year of living on the ranch, I was ready to move closer to work, to his family, to my new friends, and insisted we move into "Klamath".
We moved into the house on Lakeview Avenue in July of 2000, and left Klamath Falls in July of 2002. We moved in around the time our first son started walking, and I left to come back to Texas when he was two and a half year old. My memories of this house are all of my toddler son, who was the same age as my youngest is now. It was with a weird sense of dejavu when we drove past our old house several times while making the rounds in town with little Baby K instead of Baby A. I remember how we used to put the baby gate up on the front of this porch, and how little A would stand, Rascal at his side, against the baby gate, or how they would watch the street from the bottom screen on that door.
This visit, the two days we spent in Klamath, was different from the other visits we have had since leaving. I knew it was going to be different the moment we first came into town, when we met our friends for lunch on the way through the first time.
The difference was something I didn't expect - a complete sense of disconnectiveness. What was I doing here? I thought to myself. I guess enough time had gone by now for my connection to the town to completely dissolve, and for me not to recognize who I was in relation to this place.
I couldn't reconcile the person I was then with the person I am now, only six years later, and I have never had this feeling the other times we have come back. My place in this town had lessened by degrees until now, I wondered how I had known it so.
We spent both nights in town with my husband's aunt, who had been my best friend there in town. She lived around the corner from us and almost every night we would walk around the neighborhood together, pushing babies in strollers, Rascal at my side. Now, she works nights and slept during the day, and with all the catching up with his friends late at night, so was my husband. My oldest was completely satisfied hanging out with his cousins at the house playing video games, so Baby K and I toured the town, using geocaching as a reason to connect with my old town.
When I was leaving Klamath, it was during the time of the Great Sucker Fish Debate. The environmentalists wanted to preserve the habitat of the sucker fish, which lived in the ditchbanks that the farmers used to irrigate their fields. The family farms were going belly up during the drought because the water could not be used for fields and farmland, lest a sucker fish lose its home. This symbolic bucket sits in front of the courthouse as a reminder of that drama, and was dedicated to Klamath Falls from their sister city, Elko, Utah, that dealt with a similiar issue. Elko raised funds for the farmers as part of what was known as "The Bucket Brigade". Oh, and did I mention there is a geocache hidden on it?
When I lived in Klamath, I was really yearning for female companionship. There is not much to do in a small town like this (population 20K) except have home-based business parties, and that is where I met all my friends. There was Dora, whom I met at a Tupperware party; Brandee, whom I met at a CandleLite party; and Kerri, whom I met at a Creative Memories scrapbooking workshop. Kerri's children were the same age as Baby A, and we used to take them to Veterans Park to feed the ducks, near where the top pictures were taken. Those pictures I took while finding a virtual at a birdwatching area; this one to the right is Baby K doing a Baby A and chasing the pigeons at the park. He is the spitting image of his brother at this age.
Kerri moved away not long after I, and we lost touch about a year later. I didn't go looking for Dora or Brandee. So much time had passed by this point that I didn't even try to visit the last two people I might still have a connection with in this town outside family - Claudia the Crazy Cat Lady and ole Doc Goodell, the horse vet I worked with for a spell.
Instead, Baby K and I saw the sights, and I stopped at my perennial favorite west coast fast food joint, Taco Time, only about three times in the two days we were in town. We stopped off at parks and the Klamath County Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds were the site of the annual Klamath Country Fair, which I took the oldest "baby" to every year. We went to the fairgrounds all the time, for everything, back then: bull riding, dog shows, the horse packing clinic (which draws a crowd every year), rodeos and horsemanship contests, cooking demonstrations. We even saw the world famous Lipizzaner stallions perform there. I never noticed these old tractors, though. Fancy that, there was a geocache in one of them....
So, what was I doing in Klamath? Back then, I was just trying to survive, not trying to build a career like I am now. I was being a first time mom, completely wrapped up in my son. I was leaving pieces of myself at all these places.
In touring the town chasing cache finds (total of eleven finds in our morning ventures), I managed to remember and reclaim some of the pieces of me I left in this town, to find the connection to the places that I thought was lost. Through visiting with family, I revisited the person I used to be, and realized, in many ways, I am still the same, just more myself than I ever was back then.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

ROLL WITH THE CHANGES

Walking back to my car, I see the side profile of the man parked in the car next to me and think to myself, oh, he's a hottie. Then he gets out, and I sneak a look over my shoulder, and realize...it's a teenage boy.
Eww! Now I am totally grossed out. Teenage boys have no appeal for me, which is good, really, being as that I am a middle-aged woman (aren't I now? I find that I am referring to myself as such now, and it feels really weird. When do we become middle-aged anyway these days? Since I am approaching the age that Christ was when he was crucified, I feel really I should abandon any notions that I am still a "young woman").
Anyway, I am watching him walk into the store and trying to remember what it is I used to find so attractive about teenage boys when I was their age. Once I hit puberty, I was about as boy-crazy as they come. My junior high journal has a new male name doodled in it for every week, and my daily entries are all about boys, so-n-so is so fine, etc. They were all fine, which seems now like such a lame way to say someone is attractive.
Watching this guy here, the first thing I noticed was that his face was still catching up to him. Razor stubble, like he was attempting to shave with no real need, acne, just this oily unevenness and social awkwardness, was my first tip. His body had no real substance to it, just a light mess of musculature and bone. Then there was that ass, and that is what had me shaking my head and wondering what in the world was I thinking, half a lifetime ago.
I remember one night at scout camp (I know, you guys - my friends - here it comes, a camp story - I know you all think it is really funny to make fun of me for being the "one time at scout camp" girl, like the band camp girl on American Pie, but if you just spent one summer, just one, at one of these places, you could understand how three entire summers, plus change, could make such impressions on me), how my tent-mate and I were sitting outside on a muggy night, talking about boys. She asks me what kind of an ass do I think looks best on a guy, what's my favorite ass-type. I think for a little while, and then my boyfriend of a million years saunters by, same ass he's had since high school, since being a teenage boy, and I point and say, "that one". Oh sure, he was six foot tall and maybe a buck thirty soaking wet, but I still liked the way his ass didn't fill his jeans, how it left that little gap at the bottom.
The bottom-gap, dead give away to teeenage boy butt. This guy I am watching at the neighborhood Citgo has the bottom-gap, and I am remembering this conversation, and how she looked at me with surprise. She was older than me, maybe twenty three to my twenty, and maybe she had already gone through the transformation, when we as women stop lusting after boys and start wanting to make it with real men.
I don't know really when it happened with me. It's not like I just woke up one day and said, "Hey, now I like em with a little more meat on their bones". There was just a time I remember thinking teenage boys were fine, and there is now, where I wonder how I ever felt that way. Now they seem scrawny and a little unsure, and I am sure I would never want that anymore. Which is a good thing, since they are illegal anyway. Just know you will never see my face on the news arrested for indecency with a minor.
But I wonder how that happens, and why. I am not sure from a biological perspective why it would makes sense for women to change their taste as they age. Although grown men seem more virile than those boys, from the number of teenage pregnancies out in the world, it is probably not true physiologically. I am curious, though, about the process itself. When and how do we, as women, start preferring bigger dudes?
I have heard it true that people's taste buds change over time, and from observed experience, it is true that our food preferences do change over time to reflect that. That probably has some basis in nature but I am not sure exactly what it is. From an evolutionary standpoint, I think it probably increases our biological fitness to have these taste changes occur. Age differences and sexual preferences, to me, have more to do with cultural standards than actual biological fitness.
From my individual perspective, I know the change was not sudden. At some point, I just noticed that my eye was much more drawn to men who were thicker, stronger, more well developed, and who filled out their jeans to a larger extent. I started preferring intense passion and sexual proficiency, more than the sweet fumblings of inexperienced boys. Even though I can say on one hand that the failure of my long term relationship with my high school sweetheart had much to do with his accident (see post entitled "Washers"), I cannot deny that my preference changes had almost just as much to do with it, and my love for him wasn't enough to transcend my desire for larger, more powerful, more intense men. It couldn't transcend the change in my tastes. Blame it on the changes, the distance, or his issues, I couldn't stop cheating on him and eventually was drawn to an older, larger man who was able to meet my sexual preferences and provide for my emotional needs as well.
However, there were incompatible belief systems, which is why when I moved away from him and met a man who had the same values and life beliefs plus the physical build and intensity I had begun to prefer, I just had to marry him. I am much more capable of monogamy with this type of physicality.
Thoe boy turned to walk through the doors, and I saw that it was his profile that first had attracted me, and someday, when he grew into those jeans and his face caught up with him, he was going to be a very attractive man. Girls will probably be falling all over him.
Then I took my middle aged self back home to my fajita grilling big ole dude and our two littler dudes, wondering about girls and boys, and how we get from there to here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


BEST WESTERN ADVENTURES
Series 8

THE TRUTH ABOUT OBSIDIAN

Obsidian. Some call it a rock, some say glass. Some say mineral, some consider it a gemstone. Some cultures used polished pieces as mirrors and believed it to be the soul crystallized into rock. Others put pieces of it under their tongue during childbirth to protect against deformities. It has been skillfully cut and used as arrowheads and medical tools. It is thought to bring about magical powers of insight, bringing truth to the surface.
Obsidian is a natural glass produced by lava flows. It occurs when lava cools so quickly that no crystals are able to form. Sometimes gas gets trapped in these lava flows, creating obsidian with different color patterns. Most obsidian, though, appears like a black, shiny rock with smooth surfaces and sharp edges. Even in our modern times, obsidian can be found in the edges of surgical scalpels used in cardiac surgery.
I didn't know much about obsidian before this trip, but it was probably the most talked about item during our visit, so I am much more knowledgable now. This day at my mother-in-laws, I have a sharp stab of restlessness. The oldest child and the oldest cousin, eight and six respectively, sneak out to the car with me for a promised adventure into the wilderness. First we stop at the Davis Creek store for our free permits, issued by the Forest Service, for the obsidian mining areas in Modoc and Lake County. In all the time I had been going out to visit my in-laws, I never knew about these places, but as it turns out, just about all the geocaches in the area are in mineral mining areas. Gives another meaning to "geocaching", if you ask me.
Our destination today is a cache called Behind the Royal Blue, named for the historical local reference name given to a certain area mine. Nowadays, this mining area is referred to as the Rainbow or Lassen Creek mining area. Once I had my permit, I had to drive almost all the way back the 22 miles to the in-laws in New Pine Creek to make my turn on Highway 30. It was kind of silly to drive all that way for a permit that no one ever asked for, but part of the reason is because I had to get gas before heading out to the mining roads. I wanted to be legal as well as not stranded out there with large predators, few visitors, and no cell reception.
To get to the Lassen mine, you simply follow Hwy 30. When you get to the intersection of the five dirt roads, you keep going straight. Yes, this is still the highway. Only in Northern California! Being a city girl, this intersection just cracked me up. Look, Highway 395 (the major north-south artery through Oregon/California on this side) is just 6 miles thattaway! Anyways, the kids and I had fun looking for the cache and picking out our favorite chunks of obsidian to bring home. We were really hoping we could find some arrowheads as well, but no such luck.
I mentioned picking up HELLDUCK, and the main reason I was thrilled to find that one is that it was a twin to another travel bug I was carrying, DEVIL DUCK. I took their pictures there at the cache find and dropped off one of the travel bugs I had picked up in Bend, The Great White Horse.
I was totally freaking out about predators while I was up there. I was so worried that a cougar might sneak up on the kids and spirit them away that I was having a hard time relaxing. Plus, the children kept arguing. On the way back, they were fighting over obsidian chunks, and then someone caught cut by one of the rocks. Both said the other did it.
In the yard back at the homestead, they snuck off to their "fort" and the other child mysteriously ended up with a cut from the rocks, which they were supposed to have put away, out of the reach of the younger kids, anyway. Both said the other did it. Both said the other one was lying. The obsidian was taken away completely.
We never did learn the truth about obsidian.
The next day, we went out again, to another mine. This one was an Apache Tears mine, a name the Native Americans gave to obsidian that forms in tiny balls. It was near a cache called Trail to Tears. In order to get there, you have to drive about six miles up the Fandango Pass.
The parking area is at the sign for the Applegate-Lassen Trail intersection, where two wagon trains bringing pioneers to Oregon crossed paths. I cannot imagine making it up those mountains, not to mention higher ranges like the Rockies, in covered wagons. It is mildly difficult in a small car, but one time I came up this pass in the middle of winter with my father-in-law and my husband in the middle of winter, hauling a large load of hay behind us, and I was completely freaked out. We had my father in law take a picture of the two of us standing by this sign, with four foot of snow all around us. We have it framed and displayed in our living room.
Today, the weather was mild, about eighty degrees with a nice breeze. The hike was about 500 feet down a trail that wrapped around the side of the mountain, and the six year old wanted me to hold his hand so he wouldn't fall down into the valley.
We actually met another geocacher out on the trail, which is very odd, since the cache had only three finds on it before this, all three in Sept 07 when it was published. What are the odds that the next two finders since then would bump into each other out there?
Up on the trail, we had a great view of Surprise Valley. When my husband and I moved to this area from Colorado, we came into Oregon on the other side of this valley, and I remember coming around a corner and suddenly down a hill and seeing this view spread out in front of me, thinking, "Wow, This is Oregon?"
Now that I know how close California is, though, I answer myself. "Could be."

Monday, August 11, 2008

BEST WESTERN ADVENTURES
Series 7
UP ON TIMBER MOUNTAIN
After leaving our friend Misso's house, we were in the mood for some refreshment. We decided to drive up to the Timber Mountain Store in Tionesta, taking a gamble that they would be open this late in the afternoon. It was around 7:30 pm on this day, the end of our second day of traveling.
Tionesta is an old logging town at the base of Timber Mountain, and on the southeastern edge of the Lava Beds NM. When we lived in Tulelake, Tionesta is where my husband would go to find a Christmas tree for us in the winter.
It is located on the edge of the Medicine Lake area in the lower Cascade range. We used to go up to Medicine Lake in the early days of our marriage, before children. My husband would fish and I would swim and play in the lake with our dog, Rascal, who was just a pup back then.
I could see the mountain ranges from our kitchen window when I was washing dishes, and would always ask if we could "go play up there". The area is rich in Native American history, and the story is that the name of the lake came from them, because they believed it had healing powers.
The Timber Mountain Store is down a dirt road that also leads out to the Eagles Nest RV resort. When we pulled up, the owner of the store came walking down from the row of trailer homes beyond the parking lot and offered to open up to sell us some sodas for the road. My husband went in with the kids while I headed straight to my favorite geocache of all time, Belly Up!.
I made the find on this one last Christmas, and could not believe my luck when I was the FTF (First-To-Find), four months after it had been posted. That would never happen in my area, with the stiff FTF competition we have going on! Within two hours of being published, the FTF hounds start to circle, and if a cache goes more than 12 hours without a posted find, something is off.
Apparently there are not a lot of FTF hounds in Northern California, or maybe this cache seemed too remote in the wintertime. At any rate, as you can see, it is located in a piece of history - an old crematorium from WWII era, never used, that actually used to reside at the Tule Lake Relocation Center I mentioned in the previous entry.
The reason I was going to visit this geocache is because I have it on my watchlist, and knew the last finder had left a travel bug there. That would be that little red duck next to the geocache, also known as "HELLDUCK". I swapped one of my personal geocoins for this travel bug, leaving behind Boomerang Gold.
Interesting story about this coin I call Boomerang Gold. I ordered a five pack of my favorite geocoin design from Hogwild coins - the "Hogwild Famous Traveling Geocoin"- and planned to give this particular one to my brother. I sent it to him in a birthday card, and two weeks later I found the card, still in the envelope, with the other mail on the kitchen table. Instead of heading to North Carolina, the card actually headed to Jacksonville FL, and then was returned to sender, with a big gaping hole in the envelope! At first I was mad that I had lost my coin, but then when I straightened out the kitchen table, I found the coin just sitting there! It made it all the way to Florida and back, for some unknown reason, only to fall out as soon as it got home. It continued to be a slippery devil, too. Every time I would round up my coin collection to take to events, somehow it would manage to get left behind and I found it in the most random places. I'm telling you, this coin has legs!
After making the swap, I went in to round up the family from inside, which was a good idea, since suddenly everyone was after crackers and I think we were overextending the store owner's courtesy. She and I talked about the geocache, though, and she told me some adventures relayed to her by a recent finder from Germany.
We had time for two more geocaches before the sun finally sank, both near the turn towards Canby and Alturas, and neither as remarkable as Belly Up. The hiders of Belly Up!, rock&crystal, were part of the team that hosted this year's annual geocaching festival, GeoWoodstock VI, that I have talked so much about. I met them in person there in California, which was really cool. I also talked about this geocache in my interview for being the Featured Cacher of the Month for the Houston Geocaching Society this month.
On the way back down the dirt road to the highway, we had to wait out some range cows who apparently trusted they had the right away. The sun going down on the Peninsula was ominous, and I knew we had to make some good time to get to New Pine Creek tonight. So here we go, pedal to the metal for more adventures and, for tonight, dinner and a good night's sleep ahead.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Best Western Adventures
Series 6
MISSO NATION
Heading southeast after passing The Peninsula, we see Horse Mountain on our left, and it is time to start looking for the turnoff to "Misso Nation".
This is the name used to refer to the little ranch of David Porter Misso that he has called home since June 1st, 1974. He is our friend and a local legend. Always a gamble that he's not home--he has not until recently had a telephone in his house and it's about a 50% chance of seeing Misso, since there is never a pre-visit phone call to insure he is home. This time he wasn't, so while leaving a written note for him on his door, what luck!, Misso makes his way down his driveway. Another 5 minutes and we wouldn't have seen him.
Dave Misso has been a friend of the family for as long as my husband remembers, and has been a father figure to my husband himself. Misso has worked for the school in Tulelake for decades, and countless children have grown up remembering him for his unique personality and the way he makes them laugh.
Locally, he is also known for his political involvement and outspokenness. He writes a monthly newsletter, "VINTAGE MISSO", that is mostly dedicated to his ideas on politics and popular culture which he sends to hundreds of households all over the country, perhaps the world. We get our copy monthly and read the updates on what the "Democraps" and "Republicants" are doing lately, as well as what happens to be on Misso's mind regarding celebrities and popular figures. Misso is not afraid to tell the world what he thinks, even though often it may be in the minority view or not fit easily into any category. He tends to favor the Libertarian or Independent party candidates, and in recent years has been running for local political offices.
He is a Vietnam veteran ('70-'71) who supports the soldiers who serve, even though he might not support the war effort itself. The VINTAGE MISSO always includes the latest count on the number of American troops who have died in Iraq.
He is also one of the most well-read people I have ever met, and his library is museum quality. He has arranged the texts by subject and category. I could spend hours reading over here and am always a bit envious of his collection, especially when I saw the section to the right. He has Kerouac, Kesey, Tom Robbins, and Hunter S. Thompson volumes lined up together. I had read all the books he had by those authors except Thompson, whose "Gonzo journalism" is emulated in Misso's writing. Seeing this shelf has inspired me to read more Thompson.
Misso writes over 200 letters a month, and has had letters-to-the-editor published in several prominent magazines, most recently National Geographic. My husband enjoys collecting the magazines and having Misso autograph his copy.
Technicially, we should refer to his as Reverend David P. Misso, since he has been an ordained minister since 1976. He has officiated at over 100 services, including many of my husband's family's, and recently performed his first same-sex union (allowed by recent California same sex marriage ruling). Since we had our marriage in Texas, he did not officiate, but contributed a lovely poem for the service which we still have a copy of.
He also, until very recently, continued to live "off the grid", without electricity or a running toilet. In the past few years, Misso Nation has experienced some changes, and we no longer have to use the compost toilet when we visit.
We always drop by when we are out in the area, so of course we made no exceptions on this trip. There is always a walk around the inner perimeter to see the latest additions to the farm and engage in outdoor activities. This time Misso gave Kaleb a bubble blower and they spent some time making bubbles.
Although we just dropped in on him, Misso spent a couple of hours with us visiting. We have lots of memories visiting him here. There is always something special about it, whether it is eating hamburgers under a shady tree, hanging out in the sweat lodge late at night, or lighting the candles on his Christmas tree.
Speaking of Christmas, he has dressed as Santa Claus for over two decades, visiting children at homes, schools, and indoor/outdoor functions throughout the Klamath Basin. In fact he once performed a Christmas marriage dressed as Santa, and he officiated a ceremony dressed as Richard Nixon on a Halloween night, with the entire attendence (husband and wife included) dressed in various costumes. Only Misso!

THANKS FOR A GREAT VISIT, MISSO, AND WE HOPE TO SEE MORE OF YOU SOON!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Best Western Adventures
Series 5
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT MUSINGS
After having lunch in Klamath, it was time to head out to see my husband's family. We decided to take the long way home, though, after agreeing to do some light geocaching and visiting with friends along the way.
We were on the southwest edge of town when we decided this, and we headed out to our favorite road in town, Hill Road. Hill Road runs roughly north to south, starting along the western edge of Klamath Falls, OR and running all the way to the Lava Beds National Monument in Modoc County, California.
The reason I say that Hill Road is our favorite is because there is this little red farmhouse on the California side that we used to always say we wanted to live in. We used to drive down that road and wait, wait for it, then "oh, there it is, there's our house!" as we would pass it. Every time I would have visions of homesteading on that little piece of property, and my husband would start extolling its virtues. We were always so busy looking on the left hand side of the road at "our house" that we never noticed what was on the right hand side.
Today, though, we had our GPSr, and I was tracking geocaches. We had already made one find on the northern end of Hill Road, and here we were, passing "our" house, as I see that we are coming up on another geocache, one entitled Yet Another War.
I kept thinking from the name that this one was going to be in the Lava Beds itself, and was named for the Modoc-Indian Wars that happened out here (see the story about Captain Jack). . However, it was instead at a place my husband had never noticed before in all the years he had spent living out in this area, Camp Tulelake, where German POWs were held during World War II.
There is a more well known camp in nearby Newell, CA, which housed Japanese prisoners. Some of those prisoners, who refused to answer a loyalty questionnaire in 1943, were moved to this facility. A year later, this site housed around 800 German prisoners. Originally, though, and for the longest duration, it served as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Most of the original buildings have been razed but this area is maintained as a National Historic Site.
After this find, we passed through the wildlife refuge and into the Lava Beds. Ahead of us loomed "The Peninsula" which lays across the highway from the Japanese internment camp in Newell. On the face of the long straight front of this is a white cross, visible from the highway. It is a reminder of the several Japanese prisoners who, facing a life without honor, flung themselves down the cliff face to their death during this time.
We like to think these things would never happen in this country again, things like the "Trail of Tears" and the forcing of Native Americans on to reservations, and of forcing American citizens who happened to be of an original nationality of the countries we were fighting in World War II to live in harsh, punitive conditions in remote areas of the country. Many of these prisoners had their property stolen from them, and although after the war the government allowed the citizens to apply for compensation, by then the IRS had destroyed the tax records that allowed them to prove their claim.
But then, today we have Quantanamo Bay. We have prejudices and discrimation against people who appear to us like Taliban. A cousin of my close friend, whose family had to flee their native Iran when the Shah was overthrown in 1977, told me a story recently about being taken into custody and harassed by police officers in College Station because they suspected he was working with "the enemy". I only hope we can continue to maintain an attitude of tolerance and acceptance without losing our vigilence against the people who really intend to do our country harm. It is well that we keep in mind the text written on the plaque that stands in front of the abandoned Tule Lake Relocation Camp in Newell:
"Tule Lake was one of ten American concentration camps established during World War II to incarcerate 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, of whom the majority were American citizens, behind barbed wire and guard towers without charge, trial or establishment of guilt. These camps are reminders of how racism, economic and political exploitation, and expediency can undermine the constitutional guarantees of United States citizens and aliens alike. May the injustices and humiliation suffered here never recur."
Geez, I didn't mean to get all bogged down in historical information here. It was just the close proximity of the Lava Beds to both a political injustice reminder and the historical remnants of an Indian war got me thinking, you know? It sure is beautiful out here, though, and someday I want to come back and explore more of the caves and trails in the Lava Beds National Monument. This day and this trip, however, we were on to further adventures down the road.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Best Western Adventures
Series 4
BEND BUGS
We finally reached Bend around 11 pm. This night, we had no trouble with our reservations. I volunteered to bring up the suitcases and when I came back in the hotel room, all three dudes were fast asleep on the beds, fully clothed. It looked like they had just fallen down on the beds. I didn't blame them. After so much traveling and so little sleep, I was pretty worn out, too.
That morning is one of the brightest memories of the trip, a little glittering moment to hang on to. I wish I had taken a picture to remember it by but it really was such a mundane thing that seemed so awesome to me. It was an open window in the bathroom, and smelling, feeling that cool, crisp mountain air, and seeing the Three Sisters, still covered with snow, in the near distance. The above picture is the closest approximation, courtesy of Flickr.
I was so eager to use a computer that I got up before everyone and raced down to the hotel lobby so I could log my (four) finds from yesterday and virtually drop my travel bugs before someone else picked them up. The APE cache gets hit about five times a day, so travel bugs and geocoins will move very quickly there, and the owners of such items are typically very concerned about accurate movements and mileage.
After everyone had their fill of fruit, muffins, and orange juice, it was time to do a little geocaching before leaving town. My husband was getting really antsy to get to his hometown, so I took another hit in the interest of time and scaled back to the bare minimum caches I wanted to get before leaving town.
The main geocache I wanted to get to was called Area 51. The reason I was particularly intrigued by this one is because our first travel bug reached its mission by being placed in this cache. I talked about this in my "Travel Bug Feature #1" blog entry. Our travel bug actually sat in this geocache for over six months before being picked up about six weeks before our arrival by Reeking Marauders, who said they were taking it to Idaho and then back to Bend. This picture is a view from the geocache that was uploaded by another finder.
The cache was actually an ammo can hidden in a rocky outdropping on top of a little hill in a very odd location. Only the littlest one wanted to go out looking for it with me, but he got freaked out by his surroundings and wanted to be carried up the hill, and boy, was I really feeling the effects of my mountain hike the day before. My legs felt like jello as I was carrying that two year old up the mild hill.
I was hoping to find some travel bugs, but the ones that were listed in the geocache were actually not really there. This is exactly why it is important to log trackable movements quickly and accurately. Even so, I left one of the geocoins I brought from Texas there.
After this, we drove north through the center of Bend to one last cache, one called Travel Bug Village. I was hoping to grab some more travel bugs to bring back with me to Texas. There were about six trackables listed in the cache on the website, but only three in the cache when I found it. I was disappointed that none of them were ones that I could really assist on their mission. I took two of them anyway, one that wanted to go to California then Florida (gee, should have had this one two months ago, right?) and another that wanted to see the great mountain ranges of the west.
I had planned on taking Highway 20 east out of town, heading straight for the in-laws. My husband, however, had other plans. He really wanted to head straight for Klamath Falls, the town he considers home and where most of his family and friends live.
I had not planned on taking that route, and therefore, had no caches loaded for this leg of the trip, but I decided to roll with it and instead concentrate on a food fantasy. We lived outside of Klamath Falls for a year, and then actually in town for two years, and I missed some of my favorite Pacific Northwest eateries. We had been having this running conversation about these places, the places you never see anywhere else, and I thought good and hard about which one I wanted to have lunch at.
Two or three hours later, we were sitting in Abby's Pizza, having lunch with my husband's best friend, his new wife, and the children. And boy, was it good.....

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Best Western Adventures
Series 3
THE CROSSING OF THE COLUMBIA
After hiking for three hours doing the APE cache, we were all starving. No one had eaten since "brunch" that morning. We headed for the first food place we saw, a Burger King in Cle Elum. If anyone finds themselves headed east out of Cle Elum, don't do what we did. I don't even know what we did but somehow we had no choice but to go west on I-90 and it took a few miles to get turned around.
I had wanted to grab some caches in Ellensburg, but we missed those exits, too, and by then we really just needed to make up some time. We could tell we were getting closer to Yakima, WA, when we started seeing camoed Humvees traveling on the other side of the highway. Yakima boasts a large Army training center, and as a matter of fact, when we lived in Oregon, my husband was sent there for his annual training. It is a high desert area, so he remembers it being hot during the day and cold at night.
Yakima was completely different than I thought it would be. We get our apples at work from Yakima, so I had this impression of it as a shady orchard type area of Washington. That couldn't be farther from reality. I saw no trees in our visit to Yakima, nor much shade.
We stopped at a rest area near the training center and I found the cache there, near an overlook into a gaping canyon. My hair was blowing so wildly that it was hard to keep it out of my eyes to search for the cache. Luckily it wasn't hard to find - there was nothing to hide it behind. I also found a benchmark about 100 feet north of the cache, but since the website shows the nearest benchmark as 1.3 miles west, I have no idea how to log this benchmark find.
Heading south from Yakima towards Highway 97, we stopped through the town of Toppenish, which has a strong Native American history. The town boasts 55 murals on various buildings celebrating the history of the Native Americans. These pictures were on the side of the gas station we stopped at to try to get some beer. My husband wanted me to take a turn at the wheel while he chilled out. Apparently you can't buy beer in Toppenish. Must be a (high and) dry county.
Continuing south on 97 headed for Bend, OR, where we dream of living someday, we could see several mountain peaks to the right. We were having an ongoing debate about which mountains they were, until we saw this sign:
That kinda cleared things up for us. Turns out I was right about all of them except Mt Adams. That was the one mountain I didn't recognize, mostly because I had never heard of it before.
My favorite view of this trip was seeing Mount St Helens.
At this point, we started to descend into a valley and lose elevation. The sun was beginning its slow descent, and so was the eighteen wheeler in front of us. He must have been a rookie driver, because he was riding his brakes the entire time going downhill. We really enjoyed smelling his brakes burning, and kept playing leapfrog with him the way down into the Columbia River valley.
Suddenly, on the left side, we could see the Columbia River, running west towards Mt Hood.
We drove on into, and then over, it, and just like that, we were in Oregon. It felt like coming home.