Sunday, July 29, 2012

"The Way West"...Day 47...Sunday, July 29, 2012

At the midpoint of this trip, these are the "stats"...

5875.5 miles traveled

375.96 gallons of gasoline used

15.6 average miles per gallon

I didn't sleep well last night, and I have no reason why. I woke up several times last night and, this morning, I'm feeling kind of "blah".
I'm up around 8:00AM having coffee and looking over my atlas. I'm thinking that I'll drive south to Eureka, California today. Then, on Monday, I can head east of Route 299...a beautiful drive along the Trinity River to Trinity Lake. I'll camp at Trinity Lake in the Mt. Shasta area for a few days, and then head down to Reno to spend the weekend with my friend, Tom Mirczak.
Coming out of Florence, I'm going around the Oregon Dunes...much like our dunes on Lake Michigan. Just south of Coos Bay, the drive gets really interesting...lots of good photos of the coast.
Around 2:30PM or so, I leave Oregon and cross the border into California. Then I'm driving through the old Redwood forests south of Crescent City. And there's plenty of fog rolling in off of Humboldt Bay. With their shallow root system, Redwoods get most of their moisture from the fog...that and the elevation create the perfect "microclimate" for them to flourish.
Now it's around 4:30PM, and I'm camped at a nice KOA in Eureka. I'm still kind of tired, so I think that it will be an early night.

I'm really looking forward to the drive tomorrow.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"The Way West"...Day 46...Saturday, July 28, 2012

While I really enjoy camping in the National Park system, it's nice to spend a day or two at a KOA or Good Sam Park. They have electric, water, Wi-Fi (it's working this morning) of all...showers.
This morning, I brew coffee in my electric coffee maker, plug in the satellite radio, and get on the Internet. I post to the blog and, most important, pay my August bills on-line.
At 11:00AM, I'm on the road south, on Highway 101, to the town of Newport. It's a "tourist" town, but there's a good seafood restaurant there.
First, however, I've got some fifteen year-old "business" to take care of. In 1997 or so, shortly after I was promoted to Group Counsel at work, the General Counsel asked me to plan the annual Law Conference. Dating back to the Litton Industries days, these conferences were spectacular affairs. Attorneys and their spouses or "significant others" spent a week in some exotic location...Puerto Rico, Napa Valley, Hilton Head. You meet for "business" for a few hours in the morning, then you've got the rest of the day free for horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, winery name it. In the evening, there's an open bar followed by a fantastic dinner. only instructions are to find a proper "resort" somewhere between Beverly Hills, California and Seattle, Washington...and to plan the meals and activities. For me, this is the perfect assignment.
After much research, I select the Salishan Lodge on the Oregon coast as the place for our conference. Working with lodge management, I plan out salmon dinners on the beach, several Oregon wine tastings and lots and lots of other cool stuff. This is going to be one of the greatest conferences ever...and my very first trip to Oregon.
One week before the conference, my home division decided to buy another company...and the purchase is on an accelerated schedule. And I have to be around to take care of the legal end. And so, the conference went on without me. Everybody else was drinking their Oregon wine with their salmon while I was sitting in a cramped dark room in Warren, Michigan looking over documents for sixteen hours a day.
The Salishan Lodge is about ten miles south of Lincoln City, and today...sixteen years later...I finally get to see it.'s nice. Rustic, but luxurious...the rooms are huge and detached from the main building...award-winning restaurant...kick-ass wine cellar. I really missed something back in 1997...but at least I finally got to see the place.
Onward to Newport...and disaster. It's Saturday, and the roads and streets are clogged with vehicles and people. It takes me an hour to find a parking spot in Newport...and it's 1.3 miles from my restaurant...with the last 1/3 of a mile a very, very steep angle (like a street you'd find in San Francisco). Along the way, I try another parking lot...and, as soon as I turn in, I realize that I have made a mistake. There is no "exit", and I'm trapped. I'm towing the camper, and it takes me twenty minutes to maneuver my way out.
So, I hike the 1.3 miles to the restaurant. There's a thirty-minute wait, but I have a glass of wine at a table outside until a table opens up. It is at this point that I discover that I have left my wallet in the camper. I have twenty dollars cash on me and no credit cards. So...I hike back to my car...up the steep hill. Then back down the steep hill and back to the restaurant.
They seat me right away, and the food is excellent...some fresh tuna "poke", some big juicy panko-coated oysters pan-fried, and fresh strawberry ice cream for dessert.
Then, I've got the return hike to my vehicle. I had planned on staying at an RV Park in Newport, but it's booked. In fact, everything in Newport looks "booked", State Parks, RV Parks...everything say "no vacancy". And the's people everywhere. I can't take this.
So...I head south forty miles or so to the town of Florence. The coastal drive is a mild disappointment. There's a spectacular twenty-mile stretch just north of Florence, but much of the rest is "inland"...just a few glimpses of the ocean.
I find a nice RV Park south of Florence...they have a spot for me. After my big lunch, a few snacks are all I need this night.
So...that's where I am now...the Woahink Lake Good Sam Park in Florence. And as soon as I finish this post, I'm heading for bed.
I'm making another "command decision"...cut the Oregon coast part of the trip by a few days. Tomorrow, I'll head down to Crescent City, California...and then on to a few days of camping at Mount Shasta.
I really like this state of Oregon...and I'll be sorry to leave.

"The Way West"...Day 45...Friday, July 27, 2012

This is a 90-day trip, so today is the half-way point.
I've got a bit of a drive today...over 300 miles. And, since I want to stay off the Interstate and take the "back roads", it's going to be a long day.
I'm up at in the thermos...everything packed up last night. I'm on the road before 7:00.
Once again, another beautiful drive...out of Crater Lake through the mountains and, then, a long drive along the Rogue River and, later, the Umpqua River.
By 11:00AM, I'm out of the forests and heading into the town of Roseburg. There's a winery there called Abacela that I want to visit. In 2008, I found this winery in a guidebook and, on a lark, stopped by (not expecting much). They make wines using grapes normally found in Spain...Albarino (white) and Tempranillo (red). Back in 2008, I thought that the wines I tasted at the winery were very good, not great. I bought four bottles of Tempranillo. A year or so, I was having a small Tapas party and served the Abacela Tempranillo along with some high-end Spanish Riojas. The Abacela wines blew the Spanish wines right out of the water...everybody liked them. they have a brand new "tasting building"...very nice. The folks there are very nice, and it's only $5.00 to taste the full line of wines. I'm hungry, so I order a Tapas platter...meat, cheese, bread olives, dried fruit...tasty. I end up buying two bottles of Tempranillo, and one bottle of their "Port"...very nice.
My final destination today is Lincoln City on the coast. I'm inland, so I'm looking for a route west out to the Pacific. I bring in my atlas, and the guys at Abacela tell me that my planned route is a good one. And...surprise,'s going to take me right past one of my favorite wineries, King Estates.
It's a short drive north on I-5, then ten miles or so on little country roads out to King. The winery is very's a huge "castle" perched on a high hill surrounded by acres and acres of grapes. It's a winery, a restaurant, and a huge tasting room. As always, the people at the tasting room are very friendly, and I taste the full line. Again, I discuss my planned route out to the water and...surprise, surprise...the King folks recommend a tiny little producer of sparkling's right on the way!
Domaine Merriwether is a tiny winery...only two years old, and very limited production. The sparkling wines are excellent...dry and crisp with that "bread dough" aroma that means a well-made product. Naturally, I buy two bottles.
With all these wine stops, I'm way behind schedule. It's 3:00PM, and I'm only half-way to my destination. Around 4:00PM, I'm finally heading north on Highway 101...a beautiful drive up the coast.
I've been patting myself on the back for how well-planned this trip has been...but not today. It's a Friday, and the route is congested with people getting away to the coast for the weekend. All the way up to Lincoln City, I'm passing State Parks and RV Campgrounds...and they are all full.
It's almost 7:00PM by the time that I reach the KOA in Lincoln City. I have no reservation, so I'm not optimistic. But my luck continues...they have a single site left, and I've got it.
I set up camp, and enjoy a glass of cold Pinot Blanc from Elk Cove while I prepare dinner. I'm heating up leftover Tandoori chicken in Sharwood's Butter Chicken simmer sauce...a pouch of Punjab Eggplant from Trader Joe's...a batch of Basmati rice. It's a great dinner.
After dinner, I relax with a few beers, Session from Hood River Brewing. I want to post to the blog, but the KOA Wi-Fi is down.
Beers until after 10:00PM...unwinding from a very long day.

Oh...and there's something that I've wanted to post for a couple of days. Those little "huts" or "kiosks"...whatever they call them...where they sell coffee out here. Well...sometimes...the female Barristas inside must have been late to work because they forgot to wear their tops...I have no doubt that this generates some really nice tips!

"The Way West"...Day 44...Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm in some hospital...of that I am sure. And...based upon what I'm hearing and feeling, I'm in the ICU...the "Intensive Care Unit". I can hear a vital signs monitor beeping in the background. There are wires attached to my body, and something has been poked into my arm.
Then, there's this voice...

"Mr. Thee. I'm Doctor Miguel. If you can hear me, I want you to know that you're going to be alright. You were run over by a large truck last night, but we have you stabilized".

Now I struggle to open my eyes. But it's not a "Doctor" speaking, it's my new friend Miguel. He's come over to make sure that I'm doing OK. It's not a vital signs monitor the low battery warning from my cell phone. And, during the night, I've rolled myself up in the cord from my satellite radio antenna. And, it's a pen from my pocket that's poking me in the arm. I take a good look at Miguel...he looks like I feel.
To defeat the hangover, one must first understand the hangover. There are three major "components"...inflamed

vessels in the brain (that's the headache), dehydration (that's the dry mouth), and the flushing of electrolytes from the body (that's the "blah" feeling).
So...first thing, I take two Naprosyn (anti-inflammatory) and wash them down with a half liter of Gatorade. I wait thirty minutes, then drink a bottle of Five Hour Energy (how long will that last???). Wait another half hour...and then I pull out my "secret weapon"...brought along for this very purpose. It's coconut water...eleven ounce "juice box" containers of it. Coconut water contain electrolytes that are close to a perfect match to the levels in a "normal" human body. And coconut water rehydrates the body significantly faster than plain water. Now, I drink two boxes...and wait.
An hour later, and I'm feeling better...much better...maybe 80%. Miguel and the girls are packing up to leave...they're heading back to San Diego. As they pull out, the girls are hanging out of the windows waving and shouting "Good-bye Bill"! I notice that Miguel's friend, Rob, is doing the driving. Perhaps Miguel had one Tequila too many last night.
By 11:00AM, I'm up to 90%, so it's time to head back to the lake. I drive over past the Lodge for more photos...a different angle. I walk down to the Sinnot Memorial Overlook...more photos.
I have lunch at the restaurant in the Lodge...a burger and a coke (no wine for me!). After lunch, I drive a short way on the opposite way of the "rim road"...more photos. I've looked at the photos now...they're good shots (most of them), but they just don't do justice to Crater Lake. You have to see it for yourself...and I would urge you to put Crater Lake on your "bucket list". You will not be disappointed.
Back at camp, I pack up to leave tomorrow morning. I grill up some Tandoori chicken for dinner...some rice...a package of spicy Madras lentils. I open a bottle of red wine, but I can't finish one glass. For some reason, wine (alcohol in general) is just not tasting particularly good this night.
I picked up firewood at the General Store this afternoon, so I build a nice fire. The temperature is cool...and the fire is nice.
Early to bed tonight.

"The Way West"...Day 43...Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At 6:00AM, I'm up and making coffee. I'm hungry, so I cook up a batch of Spam (yum!)and a couple eggs...washed down with a bottle of OJ and a few glasses of milk.
Around 9:00, I head off on the seven-mile drive from my camp to Crater Lake. About 7500 years ago, there was a volcano here...Mount Mazama. It erupted with a force 500 times greater than the Mt. St. Helens blast. The eruption blew off the top of the volcano and the rest collapsed...exposing a crater or "caldera" as it is called. Over time, the crater filled with water from rain and snow streams or rivers feed into the lake. And that is how Crater Lake was formed.
Over the last five years, I've visited a lot of parks and seen a lot of very impressive naturals wonders. But, of all the things that I have seen, it is Crater Lake that is the most impressive. It is difficult to explain how beautiful it is. You see photos of it, but when you actually stand there looking at just blows you away. I have never seen water so blue...ranging from aqua to deep blue to almost purple.
There is a 33 mile drive around the rim. I drove this in 2008, and there is no way in hell I'm driving it again. Along the "rim", you've got a 1500 foot drop-off on one side and drop of several hundred feet down to the lake. On the "Bill Thee Pants Wetting Scale", this drive is a 9.3. It is exceeded in the "terror factor" only by the Top of the World Highway in Alaska/Yukon...which is a perfect 10.
So...I venture out for only five miles...I can't take any more than that. But, along that five miles, I get a lot of great photos at various overlooks along the way. Near the Lodge, there's a path...and I spend two hours walking that and taking more photos.
Late in the afternoon, I head back to camp for "cocktail hour"...another Maker's Mark before dinner. I grill that rib eye that I picked up yesterday...and fry up some potatoes with that. The El Corazon 2010 Malbec is the perfect accompaniment.
Right after dinner, a nice fellow named Michael stops by to look over the camper. We end up talking for an hour. He came here from the Philippines as a boy with all of his possessions in a backpack. He had a successful career as an aerospace engineer...and along the way, he and his wife put four daughters through college...each one a professional...a lawyer, an accountant, etc. Now, he's six months into retirement and enjoying every minute. To me, Michael's story is the story of America...the American dream.
Around 8:00PM, the guy camping next to me comes over. He's with a friend of his and their six teenage daughters. They saw that I was alone, and they want me to come over for a few beers. Miguel grew up in Vera Cruz, Mexico and now lives in San Diego.
So...I'm relaxing with a beer, some snacks, and some nice music. And that's when Miguel asks me if I would like some Tequila...Sauza Reserva Tequila Make no mistake...this is not an invitation, this is a challenge. A "gauntlet" of sorts has been thrown down.'s just going to be Miguel and me...mano a mano...gladiators dueling in a Coliseum forged ion the crucible of Blue Agave. There is no salt...just Tequila poured into plastic cups. And so it goes...sip by sip, cup by cup...each of us waiting for the other to utter the two words signaling defeat..."no mas". There will be no winner in this duel...both will ultimately be losers. And then...the bottle is empty...the duel ends in a draw.
By now, it's after midnight. Even though my campsite is right next door, I can't seem to find it. The girls take me by the hand and lead me to my camper.
I climb in, fully-clothed, and I'm out like a light...a very "tipsy" light.

"The Way West"...Day 42...Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The drive from Bend down to Crater Lake National Park is only 105 miles, so I can take it easy this morning. I bring in the coffee maker and brew a pot in my room. I have time for a nice long shower. And I spend an hour or so posting to the blog and cleaning up my inbox.
Around 11:00, I check out of the Days Inn and head across the street to Safeway to stock up on for the coolers, chicken, ground beef, milk, etc. From there, I drive to a small gift shop to pick up a Bend sticker for the camper. From there, it's only a short drive to "Primal Cuts", the local gourmet meat shop. The butcher has some 30-day dry-aged rib eyes that look great...I get a nice thick one. And...the butcher shop is right next to Spork, so I pick up two big carnitas tacos for the road.
Not far outside of Bend, I come upon the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument. Unfortunately, I can't actually see the crater. To do that, you have to drive up this steep mountain campers allowed. So, I sit in the shade and eat my tacos from Spork. After lunch, I walk around in the old lava beds and get a few photos.
The rest of the drive is beautiful...lots of trees, winding roadway, nice views. By the time I get to my campground at Crater Lake, it's after 6:00PM. I have already reserved my campsite online. When Shannon and I visited here in 2008, everything (Lodge, motel, campground) was booked, and we had to drive almost thirty miles out of the Park to find a campground.
I'm lucky enough to get a very nice pull-through site in a great location. So, I set up camp before relaxing with a Maker's Mark on the rocks. I fry up some ground beef, heat up a jar of Mario Batali Marinara sauce and boil some pasta for dinner...very good with a nice bottle of Chianti.
After dinner, I'm sitting back and enjoying my wine when a couple from California (Tom and April) stop by to admire my camper. We end up talking for almost three hours...I break out another bottle of wine and, later, we get into the CatDaddy. They've driven to Alaska, so we talk about that drive and all of the little towns along the way. They drove the "Top of the World Highway", and we talk about how scary that ride is with no guardrails. Tom and April are both licensed firearms safety instructors, so we talk about my Glock 26 and the merits of the Glock line versus the Sig Sauer line.
Around 11:00, Tom and April drift off and, soon, I'm drifting off to sleep.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"The Way West"...Day 41...Monday, July 23, 2012

I could really grow to like this whole "bed thing". The bed in my room at the Day's Inn is very comfortable. And...I don't have to walk two hundred yards to the bathroom.
My plan for today is to just walk around the town of Bend...see the city, meet the people, grab some lunch.
I like this town of Bend. There's about 90,000 people here...separated from coastal Oregon...out in the high desert. People have a good thing going here, and they know it. Talk to people, and many will tell you that they moved here to raise a family...friendly people, good schools, lots of things to do. The town is so named because the Deschutes river through town makes a large "bend" here.
So I just walk around the city...lots of little shops...bars...restaurants. There are many nice little parks scattered throughout the town. Last night, a number of people recommended "Spork" as a great place to eat. It's an old Airstream trailer that's been converted to a's about a three-mile hike from my hotel. The food at Spork is great...and cheap. I get two great carnitas tacos and the crispy chicken...four meaty thighs marinated and fried crisp then tossed with a sweet and spicy sauce. That comes with a kimchi salad and a huge portion of rice. Through in a Mexican Coke, and the bill is only $14.00.
Now I'm really stuffed so I hike around Drake Park and back through town. My favorite "dive", the M & J Tavern includes a laundromat next store...what a concept. So...I do three loads of laundry while enjoying several cold beers. After that, it's back to the Day's Inn for some blog posting, email cleanup, a short nap and a shower.
Around 7:00PM, I head out to the Blacksmnith for dinner. It's a steakhouse with a very extensive "bar menu". After my big lunch, I want to be able to sample some "small plates", not a huge meal. The bartender is friendly, and I meet a great local guy, Mark, who knows the history of the area well and has some really good ideas on different routes that I can take down to Crater Lake and, then, over to the coast. I drink a lot of wine...and get a "wedge salad", some beef carpaccio, and the parmesan/truffle fries with aioli...then I drink a lot of beer...chatting away the evening with nice people.
It's late when I leave Blacksmith, and I'm tired...too tired even to make a last stop at the M & J. Back to the Day's sleep in a real bed.