Lunch with Gertrude and Bryce

Burt’s brother and sister-in-law had us over for scrumptious lunch and fun conversation.  There was sauteed zucchini and cheese and dates and tuna fish and avocados and toast and persimmons and tea and I don’t know what all.  It was a build your own open faced sandwich free for all.  I got to see yet another facet of Burt by finally meeting Bryce.  There is little family resemblance when you look at them but then they start talking and laughing…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.  It was an occasion full of joy and love and sharing.  I am so happy I got to see the two of them together.  I hope it happens again soon.  Gertrude is a peach, too.  And their daughters, well, I’m just speechless.

When I’m with people I never think to take pictures.  I find it distracting from the conversation.  I hope Ada will read this and email me a family photo so I can post one here.

Tomorrow we go to Pinegrove and visit Burt’s dad, Jack.

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Pinochle anyone?

Michal Mittelstadt
Michal Mittelstadt

We are ensconced in the parking lot of the assisted living facility where Burt’s mom lives.  The management generously allowed us to park on site.  We are eating in the facility dining room free of charge, too.  Michal is very lucky in Bunco and won a supply of guest dining passes.  So here we are living for free at an assisted living facility.  We could be here a while.  We fit right in.

This morning we walked 4 miles to Placerville on the rails to trails.  We started walking in a light mist.  About an hour in we were trudging in a steady rain.  Turn back or plow ahead?  There were no signs or mile markers so we had no idea how far we had come or how far we had to go.   Walking in a wooded foggy place with my head down can leave me feeling disconnected.  Feet wet, glasses foggy.   Trask Trask Trask. We kept walking, found our way to town and a little cafe.  We called a cab and sweet talked the guy into taking muddy, wet Elvis, too.  Never mind that both Burt and I were sodden.  Good thing cab drivers are tip motivated.  Another one and a half hours in a 45 degree rain could have been surly.

A round of pinochle, showers and laundry.  We’ll play a few tunes this afternoon.

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Visiting Burt’s Mom in Placerville, CA

Just got to Placerville.  Spent the morning walking around St. Helena.  That’s Heleeeena for all you Montanas.  Went to a lovely shop that had at least 30 oils, vinegars, sauces and spreads available for the tasting.  We bought rich smooth sundried tomato paste to make sandwiches with.  A few storefronts later and we had a whole wheat boule and the sandwiches were all but made.  A little dubliner cheese, some red onions, slip it under the broiler and YUMMY even when parked in a strip mall First Baptist Church lot on the outskirts of Davis, CA.

This evening we enjoyed dinner with Burt’s mom, Michal.  Showed her our trips photos and the Grand Canyon video. Then a lengthy game of Rummy 500.  First time I won playing the Mittelstadts.

It might get a little quiet around the site for the next couple of days.  Let me know what you want to hear about.  I can follow up on the poop drama.  This morning we filled the black water tank with the heavily chlorinated water from our fresh water holding tank and then successfully disposed of it without spilling a drop.  The heavily chlorinated water was one step in getting safe clean water on board.  Yes, we have clean water in the tank for cooking and cleaning for the first time since we left Montana.  We are getting the hang of this thing.

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Wine country, virtual pig hunt and sh*t management

001Here’s the scene inside the Nash.  Me blogging and Burt playing guitar.  If we all work together there is enough room for everyone.  I have finally come to terms with the fact that I brought too many cutting boards (6) and pillows (too embarrassing to count).  We’ll off load them soon.  I should have realized that we only need a fraction of the kitchen supplies that we brought.  There is no room for dirty dishes.  We do dishes all the time.  Therefore we only need one, maybe two, cutting boards and the like.

We spent  a dark and cold night in Redwood country.  Now we are in the Napa Valley at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds.  I am slightly dismayed to report that I am pleased we accidently released a small bit of blackwater in this part of the country.  Our lack of fresh water has not prevented us from producing black water.  If you need more information on how that works give me a call.  Anyway we finally got some place where it was warm enough to empty the black water tank.  That place is California’s beautiful wine country.  I love it here and understand why people rave about the place.  The open forests and vineyard covered hills.  Never mind the food and wine.  We wound up here in a random easy going way that003 I hope directs most of our trip.  We got out to take a walk and noticed that our bikes and bike rack and spare tire were barely hanging on to the trailer.  Indeed the bumper in its entirety was about to shear off from the trailer.  Glad we noticed it before we had a major catastrophe.

What to do now?  I put the word “welder” into the GPS (thanks, Dad) and it sent us to this place in Geyserville,  Garzini Welding.  The welder was only 3 miles from where we were.  We swung in and showed him the problem. He had the time and materials to weld on an entire new bumper.  He even backed the trailer into his compound at no extra charge.  Our team has yet to grasp the finer points of trailer backing.  Mr. Garzini recommended Sonoma Lake for a hike while he set to work.

Sonoma lake is a reservoir in the hills above the vineyards.  On the way we saw migrant workers pruning vines to keep us supplied with vino.  At the trailhead there was a sign about pig hunting.  Burt and I were ecstatic.  We were finally taking a step towards one of our trip goals, pig hunting.  Elvis went all googly eyed on the trail.  He could tell something special was in the woods.  We saw Madrone trees and Live Oak.  The grounds all around were dug up by pigs foraging for acorns and mushrooms.  It was heaven.  We followed some fresh scat and piggy trails here and there.  We climbed a 018Live Oak.  Elvis jumped up and joined me in the tree.  Maybe he thought he could catch a squirrel if he learned to climb.  The country was steep and difficult to walk in off trail.  After an hour we headed to town to have lunch at Diavolo a wild boar themed restaurant.  Burt had a brisket panini and I opted for a BLT.  Could not resist.  We also got a nice sausage of genovese salumni for the road.  Nest door was a new wine tasting room:  Mercury Wines.  We stoppped in and sampled 3 wines.  The owner had some with us.  I wondered if he drank all day with all his visitors.  We bought a 2008 Pinot Noir that had a smokey taste from all the fires that year.  Since we’ve had so much smoke in Montana in recent summers we could not resist.  From there back to the Welder.

Our trailer was better than ever and he even fixed the steps that had been nearly ripped off in a different incident.  More on that later.  So we headed off to see more wine country and find a place to camp.  That’s how we wound up at the Napa County Fairgrounds.

The campground host here is an enthusiastic RVer.  She brightly explained how to hook up and make the dump.  As usual it always sounds easier than it is.  We hooked up the hose and placed it in the tank and opened the valve.  The black water gushes out.  Soon its a trickle and you stand there and wonder if its done.  I pulled the end out of the tank and lost a bit of control so some spurted out at my end.  Then Burt lifts the middle of the hose to keep my backwash from doing I don’t know what and dislodges his end.  The tank was not empty.  I said, “Put it back on!”  But it could not be done.  Burt got the valve closed and I got my end back in the tank.  We laughed.  I wondered if the host was watching, her window only 5′ away from our shenanigans.  We decided that was enough for one day.  We hooked up our hose and tried to rinse the stuff away.  We promise to get better at backing the trailer, putting the stairs away, and emptying our tanks.

Here’s what the Russian pig rooted ground looks like:008

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First spat of the trip

Elvis wants to taste those pudgy Eugene Mallards
Elvis wants to taste those pudgy Eugene Mallards

Over two weeks in and there was a minor misunderstanding that quickly went south.  The post fight analysis points to an over adrenalized state brought on when the truck and trailer started rolling across a Fred Meyer parking lot on the outskirts of Eugene, OR.  We had pulled in to grab a few groceries.  I was preoccupied with emailing and Burt had to go to the bathroom.  I said, “I’ll be ready in a second.”  Burt replied, “I’ll meet you at the bathrooms”  and leapt out of the driver’s seat.  The door slammed.  I was carefully trying to put the computer away and I glanced out and thought, “Are we moving?  Hmmm…”   I looked into my computer bag and then did a double take and looked out and saw that yes indeed the truck was gaining speed as it rolled towards a car 30’ away.  I was buried beneath a morass of cables and bags and had the console and stick shift between me and the emergency brake.  I lunged head first for the brake and my first attempt failed.  It was more difficult than I realized since I had never used my hand before.  My second attempt stopped the truck with a jolt.   When I popped up I saw Burt running towards the truck with panic on his face.  He kept running until he got in and crushed the brake with his foot.  I barely moved out of his way in time.  We laughed and goggled at the near disaster and went shopping.  Discord struck about 20 minutes later.  Suffice it to say that I don’t want to talk about Tiger Woods ever again.  Here’s a link to trailer safety.

Mimi is Queen of the Nash – Coronation Ceremony to be announced

Queen Mimi on her throne
Queen Mimi on her throne

The 5.5 pound feline has ridden alone for 2000 miles in her private accommodations at the rear of the Nash.  While she maintains a superficially snobbish attitude she has been in general good humor.  She eats and drinks regularly.  Almost every night she’ll agree to play with her string.  She has not made one attempt to escape and has therefore avoided the humiliating harness and leash outfit.  She snuggles up to Elvis.  Only two bouts of vomiting have marred her otherwise perfect record of using the litter box.  To top all off she is generally cleaner than each of her traveling companions.  All Hail Queen Mimi.  Long Live the Queen.

We are camped on the Oregon Coast tonight without cell service.

The dark and cold make the trailer seem close.  We hiked down to Hobbit beach this afternoon after a bowl of creamy clam chowder in Florence.   Our friend Sandy Wardell suggested we check it out.  Hobbit beach is named so because the environs feel like you are in, you guessed it, the Hobbit.  The beach is tucked away below a steep cliff.  We hiked a half mile trail through a tropical feeling forest.  The rhododendron crowded the understory. Bromeliad like ferns grew in the crotches of the trees.  The roar of the waves grew oppressive as we approached the beach. Sort of like last night’s Son Volt.  Both were walls of sound in a good way.   There was only one other couple on the mile long crescent of beach.  We never got close enough to make out their features.  They walk towards Heceta Head and the shade.  We stayed in the sun and headed north.  We found a 2 1/2’ long dead squid with eyes intact.  It was pink and rubbery.  We’re not above eating fresh roadkill so this was tempting since it was so cold out but it didn’t quite make the grade.

There is a massive California Sea Lion colony in the area and we saw a raft of 20 or so floating on the swells.  A couple even surfed a few waves.  The waves were a nice shape, peaked beach break.  It is official: we found a great surf break and us without boards or wetsuits.  Never mind that there were massive icicles hanging from the cliffs and sheets of ice on the beach.  Elvis tore around and got a good sniff of everything.   It was his first day at the beach.  Predictably he ran away from the incoming waves just like we did.  Here are some pictures of the things we saw.

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Holiday party was worth the wait

Late Saturday afternoon we headed over to the Lauber’s house in NE Portland.  I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive showing up at the home of a complete stranger.  We had met on Facebook as fans of Dan Roberts, the luthier who built Burt’s guitar.  All anxiety evaporated as soon as we walked into Suzanne’s home.  The place was decorated to within an inch of it’s life.  Christmas trees in every room, teddy bears lining the stairs, and my favorite, a blue sky of twinkling stars covering an entire dining room wall.  The food was plentiful and delicious.  Pulled pork kept Burt’s plate full.  He had to go back 5 or 6 times to get his fill since there were only mini-plates.  Next year he’s bringing his own plate.  That was all before our friend Dan showed up.  Dan and the home’s owner, Suzanne Lauber, are first cousins.  When Dan and his fiancee Rosemary arrived we had Irish whiskey and an Islay scotch to choose from.  Once the business of choosing a drink was done we got to play some tunes and play we did.  But not before an old college friend of mine popped in to say Hi.  Bernadette House and her boyfriend Larry swung by on their way to another engagement.  We couldn’t chat long but we sang a tune or two and made plans for the next day.  onI think we went for another 4 hours.  It was an older crowd and they went nuts for Fulsom Prison, Jackson and These Boots were Made for Walking.  The best moment of the night was when we wrapped up Horace Silver’s Song for My Father and a man told us his daughter used to request it every night to go to sleep by.  She called it the Da Da song.  He had been a jazz drummer in the sixties in DC and assured us we did a stand up job.  We thoroughly enjoyed playing for such a diverse and friendly crowd.  When we wore ourselves out we GPSed our way home and hit the warm bed in the Nash.

This morning we joined Bernadette and Larry and Becca and Hans for breakfast.  We had another great round of catch up and the Burt and I headed back here to Eugene to see Son Volt.

Here are some pics of Portland in the twilight…

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Too much to eat in Portland

We can’t thank John and Rebecca and their neighbors enough for securing us a free parking spot in downtown Portland.  We arrived last night and just look at the NASH 009all decked out for the holidays.  We had another night of talking with longtime trusted friends.  This time from Burt’s past.  We’re both getting to see new facets of each other through the eyes of our friends.  What a great gift and something I had not even imagined when we set off on this adventure.  Last night we supped on soup and bread and homebrew.  We all retired early.  Burt and I were beat after two late nights in Eugene.  This morning we hit the pavement and walked to a French bakery for breakfast.  I had risotto cakes topped with poached eggs.  The eggs were cooked perfectly but definitely were not up to my standards after years of homegrown eggs.  The risotto cakes were splendid.

We came home and tapped Rebecca’s brain about music she was listening to.  She introduced Burt to Gillian Welch years ago.  Now we have a stack of newly minted cds for the road.  Then John worked while we headed to a gun shop to find a new .22 for Burt’s dad.  No luck.  We found some but the owner was mighty proud and we decided to look elsewhere.

The afternoon took us on a huge walk of downtown Portland.  We headed to the Deschutes Brewery to get another glass of my new 028favorite beer, the Abyss.  We decided John should make a knock-off homebrew called the Crevasse.  Both dark scary places where you can die.  I lay in bed last night thinking of the glass I had 2 days ago in Eugene.  It is an imperial stout with 11% alcohol content.  A velvet fist.  I wondered if a Guinness in Ireland could stand up to it.  Since it is only available for a few weeks a year I am imagining annual pilgrimages to Oregon.  Thanks John-Boy for turning me on to this great beer.

We had walked along the east side of the Willamette River and over the Steel Bridge to get to the Pearl District.  Both Burt and I enjoyed the loud urban feel.  We saw drawbridges go up for an impossibly small boat.  We could only deduce it was a scheduled thing and had nothing to do with the size of the vessel.

From Deschutes we hit a chocolate cafe, Cacao.  John and I each had a demitasse of European style hot chocolate.  Thick and creamy.  We both chose the spicy dark chocolate.  I’m still smiling.  More walking and we made it to the Real Mother Goose the gallery where Rebecca works.  That’s a great store to look at and imagine what you would do with all the cool furniture and beautiful stuff.  Lucky for us the Nash is already stylishly appointed with a duck/goose motif.  Here are some pics from the walk:

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Here we come Portland, OR

We put up a Christmas tree with John and Harriet last night.  Played a few tunes and said good-bye.  Now we’ll be back Sunday night for the Son Volt concert.  Tickets are only $15.  Where do you get a deal like that anymore?  Yesterday we visited Skinner Butte and got a real experience in urban park exploration.  Every trail we headed down had furtive young men dealing drugs or worse.  I was feeling bad for interrupting all of them.  I just wanted to go for a  walk with Burt and Elvis.  We finally headed straight down a mud-slicked trail not for the faint of heart and hit the entrance road and wound around to the Columns. The columns are, there’s no other word for it, a cute climbing area.  Tiny 45′ high dihedrals littered with top ropes and climbers of all types.  It was fun watching a newby try and learn to belay.  Just couldn’t quite get the hang of it.  We headed up top without incident and got the heck out of there.

We’ve been camped for free at the Valley River Center mall right next to the Willamette River. There is a large swath of public park and trails right here.  We, stupid Montanans, let Elvis off leash for a minute and instantly he almost caused a bike wreck.  Black dog running loose in the park after dark with bikes whizzing by.  And yes I was the one that let him off.  Stupid.  But Lordy, where are all these people coming from?

We are off to Portland and more old friends and a party.

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Rehashing old climbing war stories in Eugene

Today is Tuesday (I think) and we are in Eugene, OR visiting old friends from college.  I have been on more near disastrous trips with John than anyone else to date.  Burt and I will try to keep it that way.  John think the most dangerous was our misbegotten trip down Section III of the Chattooga when we all nearly drowned.  I happen to prefer our New Zealand mountaineering trip on Mount Aspiring.   I impaled myself on my crampon and tripped head first into a crevasse.   Those on the outside might think our trip in the Bugaboos where I fell into another crevasse and then John was hit by rockfall and flown out in a helicopter might have been the worst.  Harriet wisely abstained from each of these trips.  I am now firmly committed to only going on trips that Harriet participates in.  Unless, of course, we head for the Grand Teton.  She’s the only mountain still getting my goat (or if your a climber, my rat).

We spent a night around Mount St. Helens.  No pictures due to clouds.  We watched the hilariously dramatically narrated 13 minute film at the visitors center.  The next morning we enjoyed a cool moist walk in the forest at Seaquest State Park.  The mushrooms were diverse in structure and colors.  The first set we saw had creamy white smooth caps on slender stems.   They were about 4″ across and 4″ high.  Burt bent over to unshroud one cloaked in a wet oak leaf when Elvis barreled through and knocked both mushrooms flat.   So much for quietly appreciating our surroundings.

On the road to Eugene we were ambushed by a camerman and news reporter at the Vancouver rest area.  They were polling truckers and tourists about a proposal to fund a new bridge over the Columbia with a toll for only truckers and tourists.  The report asked a pretty straightforward question and I naturally paused to contemplate my answer.  Years with EPA can’t be erased that easily.  In the space of my pause the cameraman started to goad me to get a more dramatic response.  He started in with, “Isn’t that crazy?  Don’t you think that’s unfair?”  I had never seen that trick before, but Montana is a whole lot politer.  I didn’t react and gave a bland answer about how we all need to pay for the things we use and blah blah blah.  Burt was in the bathroom during the encounter.  When he came out he got the same treatment and gave an answer that was more along the lines of what they were looking for although not what they expected.  He said he was a local at heart and thought it was great that the locals wanted to gouge the travelers.  That was fine with him.  They continued to film us as we piled in the truck laughing our heads off and drove away.  Maybe it will be our big break.

Mimi and Elvis sharing a heat vent in the trailer
Mimi and Elvis sharing a heat vent in the trailer
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Fresh Salmon from the Columbia

Burt turned the trailer around in a tight spot and we went back to the where we saw the sign for fresh salmon.  There was an assortment of lean-tos and trailers on the banks of the Columbia River with sketchy homemade docks jutting out into the current.  One proprietor looked like he had made his gold teeth himself from an obsolete wedding ring.  Everyone was very friendly and let me take pictures.  Since we don’t have reliable refrigeration we were looking for some smoked fish.  One guy had stuff that was commercially packaged.  Another guys (the guy of the golden teeth) had some stuff he had made right there.  He said the recent rains had made the smoker unreliable.  What wasn’t moldy was stiff as jerky.  We went back and bought a huge fillet for $5 from the van with a sign that read he would not trade for alcohol or drugs.  Made me wonder if it was implied that everyone else would.  We had a super fresh BBQed fillet of salmon with baked brown rice and roasted asparagus for dinner.  YUMMY.

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