Monday, July 29, 2013

Mile 2005: See America First


    This is a slogan that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s something the railroad companies came up with sometime in the early 1900’s to encourage people to take the train to see our national parks. At least that is how I remember the story, which I gleaned from the Ken Burns National Parks documentary series. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it now.  It doesn’t much matter where the slogan comes from, the point is that I agree. It doesn’t even matter if America is first in line, but this country is too beautiful and too diverse to miss. If you are going to travel at all, why not keep it local, you don’t need to travel far to see one of the most incredible countries in the world.

     Now, don’t get me wrong, the value of traveling abroad and gaining an entirely new perspective is absolutely invaluable and I think anyone who can afford to do so should as many times as possible.  Just make sure that you check out your own backyard too! The reason I have been thinking about this so much lately is because this trip has been a constant reminder of what the USA has to offer. The Olympic Peninsula, where we are right now, is a microcosm of the beautifully diverse landscape that can be found in the states. In just two days of being here we have seen undeveloped sandy beaches on the pacific coast that would compete for beauty with any in the world. We have hiked through rainforests containing thousands of enormous trees that have been here for hundreds of years before my great, great, great grandparents were even born.  Running through these forests are glacial blue rivers that carry ice melt from what remains of glaciers, far older then the trees, nestled in tops of rocky 8000 ft peaks.  This sounds like some fantasyland invented by Tolkien himself, and it actually feels that way to be standing humbly in it, but this is no fantasy. This is just one little piece of one state and the wonderful result of an enormous foresight that we do well to consider today. Our country is covered with gorgeous stretches of federal and state protected lands that have been set-aside for all of us to utilize and appreciate. You won’t hear this kind of patriotic, starry-eyed rambling coming from me very often. I am usually far too cynical for such sermons. But this is something we have done well. It is something to support and to something be proud of.  The only problem is that you have to see it to believe it, and you have to believe it to understand. So please, come out and see America while you still can.   

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MIle 1781: Lava, Rivers, Waves and (more) Crabs

Crawling up the road to Mt. Hood
So many miles and so many adventures have happened in the last week it feels like a lifetime in it self. We are gradually finding the rhythm of life on the road. There is so much to report I am not even sure where to begin. We finally detached ourselves from Portland on 13th and climbed over the foot of Mt Hood and into the high desert. The dense evergreens and mountain streams gave way to open sage brush plains in almost a single turn of the highway. This was to be one of many dramatic scene changes we would encounter in the following days. We settled for the night just south of Bend, OR on a quiet National Forest road. In the morning, trails brought us to discover massive lava-fields with gorgeous views of the snow capped remains of the extinct volcanoes that had created them. Also on the same path, we caught a glimpse of a juvenile mountain lion and found the tracks of one much larger! Being in the presence of such wild splendor is already making our hearts ache a bit as we think of turning the bus eastward in the coming months.

Exploring the lava fields near Sun River, Or.
We love our National Forests :)
     But before we even consider our eastern journey, let's first focus on the here and now.  Heading south and west we left the dry forest as we crested the rim of crater lake. The deepest lake in the US is as majestic as what we have heard from others. The most surprising part though was the color. The lake glows an azure blue that is almost surreal. Its as if someone has Photoshoped the entire scene to be just a touch over believable. The Vespa has proved itself worth the extra weight just for the sake of cursing around Crater Lake in the open air at nearly 10 times the fuel efficiency of the bus.

Not a bad view; looking into our front yard.
Chance of a life time.
       We spent the next day escaping the nearly 100 degree weather on the frigid Rouge river, which was not only one of the most beautiful rivers I have ever seen, but also happened to be surrounded but free empty campsites! We then traveled south to Ashland Oregon just on the other side of the California border. Some one once told us that Ashland is as close to California as you can get with out actually living there and I think I would agree. It's a beautiful little town surrounded by dry hills and vineyards. The community feels tight knit with a common thread of new age mysticism as indicated by the billboards around town. Whether you're into Yoga, Faeries, or Extra Terrestrials, there is a place (and a group) for you in Ashland.
Chillin on (and in) the Rougue
Even the pets are starting to get used to life on the road.
   The heat eventually drove us out of the southern lowlands and to the Washington Coast.  From 97 degrees and unrelenting sun, the long sandy beaches and coastal back roads enveloped us with thick mist and cool temperatures. The Pacific is always a welcome relief. We explored the areas around Long beach and Cape Disappointment (a misnomer if I have ever known one) and found quiet beaches, eerie abandoned structures being consumed by temperate rain forests, and piles of crab in the local seafood market.
The Jetty at Cape Disappointment

    Now we find ourselves in Aberdeen, Washington at the local library. Today is a day to catch up and plan ahead. We are working on finding some farms to visit on the next leg of our trip as we head up into the Olympic Peninsula. If you have any suggestions, please let us know!          

No caption necessary.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mile 819: You Should See The Other Guy!

Heidi with her new niece!

Wild Blue meets the Great Blue

Crab feast on the coast with some good friends.

      In all the miles I have traveled in my life, there are a couple of things that I have learned about being on the road. The first is to expect the unexpected. The second is to try and embrace those unexpected events as a part of the adventure. We are currently working on the latter.
     We are still Portland, OR beginning week five of our planned three week stop. Our time here has been exciting to say the least. Heidi's sister Erica and her husband Philip gave birth (also a bit behind schedule) to a healthy baby girl named Adeline Rose. Between our time helping out the new parents around the house and visiting old friends and familiar places, we also managed to make an amazing side trip to the coast. Finally, one of the most exciting, and least fun, events was getting run into by a drunk driver one day before we planned on leaving.
         Apparently for some, independence day celebrations can't begin early enough. It was only two hours into the fourth of July when Heidi and I were awoken by a violent shaking crash and the sound of an engine revving in chorus with a blaring stereo and some colorful narration, of which I will omit here. I jumped out of bed and ran to the drivers side window to find a car partially wedged underneath the side of the bus and apparently stuck despite the drivers best efforts. It was only after taking the license plate number and telling the driver repeatedly to stop moving that he finally managed to free the car and speed away while cheering loudly out the window.  Fortunately it only took Karma one block to catch up, at which point the the haggard remains of the car sputtered to a stop. In the time it took the police to arrive, the driver did manage to make one more daring escape attempt which lasted exactly one more city block. We found out later that the driver decided it would be a good idea to try and change his shredded tire in the middle of the busiest street in the neighborhood. Which is consequently where the cops arrested him minutes later on charges of DUII, Hit and Run, and reckless endangerment.  Bad night for us, worse night for him.

School bus vs.

     The good news is that the damage to the bus was unbelievably minimal when compared to the other guys car. We sustained some body damage to a four foot section in the middle side of the bus and the grey water tank valve snapped off at the tank. Meanwhile, the side of the other car was literally sliced open like some giant can opener was attempting to access the booze saturated treat inside. Surprisingly, the driver did have insurance. The bad news, however, is that the insurance company won't pay a dime until they are able to contact the driver. I guess he just isn't in the mood to pick up the phone.
drunken fool.

     Although it has been interesting learning how to navigate the insurance process and the Judicial system over the last week, we feel we have contributed all that we can and have waited long enough. Even if the insurance company was willing to pay for repairs immediately, the shop who did the estimate said it would take a month to get the needed parts. Apparently a custom-built, rolling homestead is kind of a special case when it comes to repair work. Who knew? And so, now we are picking up the pieces (literally) and getting ready to get back on the trail.
   As far as embracing this unexpected event? Well, we did get a few more beautiful days in this great city. On the positive side of the accident, there doesn't seem to be any mechanical damage that will keep us from moving on. We were lucky that no one was injured and that we served as a road block to keep a seriously impaired driver from reaching the highway where he could have done far, far more damage. As with most experiences, the silver lining often doesn't come into focus except in hindsight. So I guess we will see what comes about in the following days, weeks and months. But, just in case the powers of the universe happen to be reading this blog, a nice insurance check would be a perfectly fine happy-ending with us.