Day 98

Wednesday, August 31, 2005San Bruno, CA
Miles: 11422Pack it up, Pack it in

We were far less active today. Keath worked while Ceridwen slept as late as her body would let her. (It's the first time we've had a real bed in a while.) When everyone was awake and done working for the day, we took the BART in to downtown San Francisco to check out the scene. Without a plan, this was not very productive. We decided to head to what was - as best we could tell - the only Indian restaraunt in the San Francisco metropolitan area for an early dinner. It was in the southwest of the Union Square district, a nice walk from where we got off the BART (Embarcadero). They were open when we got there, since they also have a bar, but they din't start serving dinner until 5:30.

Rather than sit around for over an hour, we headed back out to San Bruno, picked up some protein bars for Ceridwen to take with her, and packed up our bags while we ate dinner in the room. (It had taken a while to figure out, but it was definately not cost effective for Keath to park in the city, so he too had to pack a bag for the week while Vantom was staying at a San Francisco Airport lot.)

And that was our day.

Day 97

Tuesday, August 30, 2005San Bruno, CA
Miles: 11422When in Sonoma . . .
. . . do as the, uh, Sonomians do.

We woke up and headed in to the heart of wine country. Well, first we stopped at the Petaluma visitor center to pick up some hot tips on winery touring for dirty hippies. We drove in to the center of Petaluma; Ceridwen reviewing our options while Keath drove. After some phone calls and much cogitation we settled on starting with the Benzinger Family Winery, a skosh north of Sonoma. They offered a tram ride tour which included history, process, and so on. Although a little more expensive than the other tours, it sounded more sanitized for the enthusiastic, but not so knowledgeable, wine appreciators, such as us.

Benzinger turned out to be quite a good plan. Their "tram" was one of those open air trolly car type things that they use in amusement park parking lots, but towed by a tractor. It worked. Their vineyards are on the inside of a big basin in the valley below Mount Sonoma, so the tractor is probably the best way to get up and down the hills without trashing the place or killing the tourists. They started out with a brief geology lesson, explaining that long ago Mount Sonoma was volcanic, which put some good stuff in the ground. Wind, rain, dirt, and time made this basin an ideal place for grapes. They showed off a little model made by the local college's geology department and then took us in to the vineyards.

They grow several different types of grapes in the different vineyards, using an seasonal report card on the soil to determine what the soil needs and what type of wine they should make with the grapes they expect next season. The coolest part is that the whole property is organically farmed using an old process called biodynamics. In 1924 Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner outlined a process through which farms and gardens could be maintained through a balance of the "health giving forces of nature." It predates the organic agricultural movement by two decades and is used in only a handful of farms throughout the world. They reuse all the waste they can in a huge compost pond or by feeding it to local farm animals. Instead of pesticides and herbicides they have planted several species of wildflower and shrub which draw in insects and animals which prey on the insects and animals which can harm the grape crop. All in all, a very cool way to farm, and a warm fuzzy reason to buy their wine.

They also took us inside the cave they dug inside the hillside along the side of the vineyards. A few years back they lost a batch of wine due to the California energy crisis, so they started the investment in a series of tunnels and caves to hold their wine while it ages. Aside from requiring no electricity for air conditioning, the humidity level is naturally maintained at a level that reduced evaporation by a couple of hundred bottled per year. The only electricity they need, aside from light for tourists, is a couple of small circulation fans that turn on once per hour to prevent mold from growing.



We tasted two of their reserve wines which they only serve at the winery and then two more off their tasting menu. We resisted the urge to drop $100 on a case (but they had a discount!) and settled on the first desert wine we'd ever tasted that didn't taste like a syrup for flavored coffee. Wahoo! We also bought a corkscrew, since the corkscrew we thought we had has yet to be found and every time we decide to have a bottle of wine we end up endagering our lives in removing the cork with all manner of pointy devices.

We spent a bit more time at Benzinger than we planned, so rather than do another tour we headed out to the Jelly Belly factory to learn how exactly they make jelly beans. We were worried that the process was scientifically horrid and a crime against nature, but it was actually a pretty cool process. In fact, Jelly Belly holds the honor of being Reader's Digest's 2005 pick for the best factory tour in America. Wahoo!

In short, they mix the jelly bean juice in a huge kitchen, squirt it out in to huge panels of molds dusted with corn starch, bake it for a bit, cool it for a bit, and call it a Stage One Jelly Bean. If we're remembering correctly, this bean is then put in a steel tumbler (copper if chocolate is involved), and workers add more jelly bean goo and confectioner's sugar in alternating cycles over several hours. This coats them and makes them yummier. They add a shiny confectioner's something to shine them up. Then they call them a Stage Two Jelly Bean. These guys get passed through a big ol' tumbler that sorts out the belly flops (the jelly bean version of a Bad Nut; too big, too small, mutant double beans, etc) and lets the survivors go on through the printer to get the tiny little Jelly Belly logo printed on them via a marshmallow fluff transfer sheet. (The belly flops can be purchased at the store at gigantaur discounts) This Stage Three Jelly Bean gets passed on to packaging in to any one of the tons of different marketing packages they have. Variety mixes are kept separate until this stage, where a batch of each flavor is put on a huge conveyer belt, tossed in to another tumbler, and doled out casually mixed.

When we were done we sampled some flavors, though neither of us were gutsy enough to try the Bertie Botts snot, bacon, dirt, or vomit flavors that they make. We had our fill and set off on the highway to finish the drive to San Bruno, where we were staying for a couple of days before Ceridwen flies off to Romania. Neither of us finished our free samples. We found ourselves some food and picked up some supplies Ceridwen needed for her trip before turning in for the night.

Day 96

Monday, August 29, 2005Petaluma, CA
Miles: 11294Are You going to San Francisco?

We continued our way south on the Pacific Coast Highway, which, around this point, became California Route 1. We noticed that leaves are starting to turn for the fall, which made us think of home. But then the beautiful ocean views called our attention back. We stopped at overlooks and beaches along the way, watching the waves splashing up on the rocks, sparkling blue.

We saw some signs for the Point Arena lighthouse. It was a nice lighthouse, but they wanted a whole lot of money to see it up close. So we, along with most other travellers, took some pictures from afar. We had a little break for lunch by the oceanside and then continued on down the road.



Ceridwen wasn't feeling that well, we didn't do anything too exciting, but we stopped at one more ledge to get a good view of the ocean before finishing the drive to Petaluma. We went for a constitutional along a cliff at Stump Beach, where it was very windy, but this made for good waves and great splooshes on the rocks. We sat (well, Keath sat, Ceridwen stood in spite of the wind) for a long while just taking in the natural beauty of the rather secluded area. It was very cool.

When we checked in to our KOA and got settled we noticed that California must have some strange law about labeling its restrooms. We had initially thought it was just a state park thing, but the KOA is a private business and Keath was fairly certain he'd seen some roadside cafes and such with the same symbols. No, no, not the little stick figure man and woman. What California has is big blue circles (with the skirted stick figure) for the ladies rooms. And of course the requisite big blue triangle (with the skirtless stick figure) for the mens rooms. Here and there, where there is a unisex restroom, we of course place the triangle inside the circle. There's still morse code for the blind. There's still the embossed stick figures for illiterate. Why, oh why, do we need big suggestive geometry? We will research this topic and get back to you.

That is all.

Day 95

Sunday, August 28, 2005MacKerricher State Park, CA
Miles: 11130We Gonna Rock Down To...
...the Giant Avenue!

Well, the Avenue of the Giants. But you get the idea. We woke up late, had a leisurely breakfast, and read for a bit before hitting the road again. When we got to Humboldt Redwoods State Park there was an enticing sign which invited us to explore the Avenue of the Giants. And so we did. A bit slower than "the 101," but many more pull offs and tree covered nooks.

We pulled off at the Founders Grove and had ourselves a wander. Aside from the gigantaur Founders Tree, they had a little nature trail with some rangers handing out guidebooks to tell you about the cycle of life in the magnificent redwood forests. Many of the trees in this grove were so old that they've survived multiple wildfires and have large burn scars and/or their cores burnt out. The guidebook explained all sorts of fascinating facts, such the three microclimates that the redwoods grow through and maintain, the different needles at the tops versus lower down, and the fact that the clovers covering much of the ground is not actually a clover at all.


We played in the trees for a while and then found another park to stay in for the night.

Day 94

Saturday, August 27, 2005Prarie Creek Redwoods SP
Miles: 10942And now: California!

So it was Saturday, and our stay at Gold Beach had come to a close. It was a misty and cold morning. It was one of those thick foggy mornings that require deeply philisophical analogies to things like pea soup or settling gelatin. Needless to say, we eschewed any sort of breakfast preparation plans and found ourselves a nice lodge based eatery. It was good.

After breakfast we drove through some additional fog. It cleared up around Elk Valley, just as we entered the Redwoods State and National Parks. We drove through the forest, checked in to a campsite down in the Prarie Creek park, and headed out on a hike. We observed some very large trees with very whispy filtered sunlight pushing through the remainder of the fog. Even though there were probably dozens of people around on the trails, there were enough of them (the trails) that we didn't really feel crowded. It was beautifully tranquil and secluded. Eventually, we had hiked enough (5 miles or so) that Ceridwen's feet started to hurt, so before we crippled her we hopped back in Vantom and seeked out some less cardiovascular entertainment.

We stopped at the Trees of Mystery, which promised a sky tram up in to the redwood canopy. After inspecting their prices and the trails full of redwood carvings en route to the sky tram, we decided to pass. So we shelled out our fifty cents to squash out one cent and headed back out to the van. It was at this time that we noted that the gigantic tall tale characters outside the entrance were not only motorized and audio equipped, but also featured some particularly unnecessary reproductive details. For the record, we were not the only ones taking time to photograph Babe's fiberglass assets. Many other tourists posed for closeups with them. Or pressered their girlfriend in to posing, as the case may be.


We headed back to the campground for a fun filled evening of dinner, s'mores, wine, and our newly purchased book trivia game. It turned out to be a cool combination of Trivial Pursuit, Clue, and Monopoly. You answer book-related questions to get money each turn (or take the "novice" patch and answer a "what is your favorite..." question for $25) and then roll to move around the board to find and buy the books on your "essentials" list. The game also has a bit of wine on it now, because we learned that night (again) that apparently we did not pack a corkscrew. Either that or we packed it really, really well.

Our neighbors clearly had more beverage available than the single bottle of wine we had, for there was some jolly good times coming through the shrubberies. They had some problems with making dinner on their campfire, but that probably was more a factor of the fire building by committee than the boozin'.

Day 93

Friday, August 26, 2005Gold Beach, OR
Miles: 10689Rock Battle!!!

As you can tell by recent entries, we were dying of boredom on the seaside in beautiful Gold Beach, Oregon and just needed to get away to see some big city excitement. Oh, it was terrible, the way that ocean lapped up on the sandy shores and spat it's cool mist at us. Truly terrible.

So we headed up the highway to beautiful Port Orford! We got to see the stretch of highway that we missed out on during our late night arrival in Gold Beach on Sunday. Port Orford itself, was fairly boring, but it did have a nice beach at Battle Rock Park. Battle Rock was the site of the historic battle between the first landing party of white settlers (Captain Tichenor's crew of nine men) and a local Qua-to-mah band of Athapascan speaking natives. The event of June 9, 1851 was the beginning of the settling of Port Orford. Then, 86 years later, a surprise storm drove the Cottoneva aground. Exciting.


Aside from it's curious tidbits of weird historical moments, Battle Rock also has a beautiful beach with some awesome waves and beautiful sea stacks and rock formations. The waves are apparently surfer friendly, as a couple was just finishing up as we arrived, but it was kind of late in the day to be duding up for a fresh run. We wandered the beach for a bit, wandering in and out of the rocks. It was nice.

We took a quick spin around Port Orford, found the port of Port Orford, a nice lookout, and then sauntered on down the highway back to Gold Beach. We stopped at a big ol' independent bookstore in Gold Beach that apparently bought and sold books, so we brought in some of the paperbacks we were done with only to learn that they need the manager to appraise each book and could give us a call some time next week with a price. So . . . we figured we'd hang on to them until we hit another book swap shelf. We did, however, pick up a new book trivia board game that looked kind of fun. We shall see.

Day 92

Thursday, August 25, 2005Gold Beach, OR
Miles: 10689Yet Another Day on the Beach

There's not much to say. Keath worked. Ceridwen hung out on her beach. Life is good.

Laundry was not done. Photos were not taken. We beg your forgiveness.

We have a new niece. Did we mention we have a new niece? She's wicked cute. She takes after her sister.

Day 91

Wednesday, August 24, 2005Gold Beach, OR
Miles: 10689Oh woe is us

Just another day at the beach. Keath worked. Ceridwen wandered around the beach for a while. When work was over, Keath joined her. Ceridwen went buggy boarding in the wild Oregon surf. It was decidedly southerly dragging and Keath spent a good deal of time setting out stuff down, sitting down to watch his wife, looking up, picking up all our stuff again, and hiking further down the beach. Thus, he and the camera never really caught up long enough to go clickiddy clickiddy before she was done taking physical abuse from her good friend the Pacific. So we hung out on the beach near our new fine flippered friend. The wind blew dry Ceridwen's hair quite nicely.


We watched the sun set. We went to sleep rather early. We didn't do laundry. That might not have been the brightest move.

Day 90

Tuesday, August 23, 2005Gold Beach, OR
Miles: 106893 x 350 = 1050? Nice.

So . . . after a nice relaxing day on a quiet secluded beach, we decided that it was high time for a high speed riverboat adventure. We've done the leisurely Snake River Raft Trip. We've done the whitewater trip down the Deschutes River. Now it was time to sit on our butts and let a madman steer a 40 passenger aluminum boat with three 350+ horsepower Ford engines strapped to it's underside up and down the Rogue River. And who better to do it than a small business known as Rogue River Mail Boats? (Well, there was one other company, but this one worked out better for our schedule.) So, when Keath finished up his work day we headed out to the other end of town and booked ourself a ride!

When you're that big a boat, but have that much non-propeller engine, you can go quite fast. You can also go up whitewater rapids in the wrong direction. You can also travel in less than 10 inchest of water. (Therefore you need a fairly rock-proof underside; we'd hate to see what the boat bottoms look like at the end of each season!) And best of all, your tour guide (who, oddly, builds and repairs aluminum HydroJet boats in the off season) can do spinouts and splash huge waves at foolhearty swimmers.

He's also got a hell of an eye for wildlife. Although he started the tour by warning us to look out ourselves since he'd need to pay attention to steering, nearly every wildlife sighting was his doing; usually emphasised by an abrupt swerve and about face or full stop and reverse in our jet boat. Highlihts were a young black bear looking for berries and a bald eagle searching for some fish. Okay, the bathers with waterguns egging on the huge jet boat was kind of funny, but not quite as nature-oriented.

Although they were large jet boats, this trip was actually more remote than the two raft trips we've been on. This is partially because a majority of the trip is through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The jet boat companies need licenses from the NFS to take motor boats on the Rogue. And they are no longer granted! Wahoo! (Jerry's Jet Boats and Rogue River Mail Boats were grandfathered in, so they are the only two companies on the water.) There were some fishermen (and women) here and there, some of whom had boats, but it didn't look like they were allowed to put the motors in the water. This high, forested canyon walls help too. All in all, it made for a very nice, secluded trip.

One of our last wildlife spottings was actually a family of river otters. As one of the kids on our boat informed anyone who was listening (multiple times), river otter families always consist of mom, dad and three kids, who are always of the same gender. (He wasn't sure how to tell whether they were boys or girls, but was certain they were all one or the other.) Sure enough, when they came up on land for us to count, there were five; two big and three li'l ones. We sat there for a while watching them dry off in the dirt and then brush off on the rocks for an evening lay down. Then we set off to follow the bear and eagle's examples and have dinner.

We opted for the most veggie-tolerant option of the three riverside eateries and had a great time at a little place called the Singing Springs Ranch. They had a delicious salad and desert bar and plenty for us to eat. The buffet option also left us plenty of time to lay out in the camp beds they had laying about on the lawn and kick the oversized, underinflated medicine ball around a bit. Keath foolishly attempted to pop it in the air like a volleyball scoop, which resulted in a downward force sufficient to knock his legs out from under him and piledrive him in to the lawn. Ceridwen was mighty amused.

When we returned to Gold Beach it was nearing sunset. We confirmed that we did not win a free photo of us on the boat and headed out to the beach to watch the sunset. It was Pacificerrific. Ceridwen did some oceanfront yoga while Keath practiced his pseudoninja moves and moved stealthily about the rocks without her noticing. Or so he thought.


Exhausted and highly fulfilled, we headed back to the campsite and called it a night.


UPDATE: If you've been studiously keeping up with our catching up, now is the time to revisit day 89's photos for the one and only Amelia Jane!

Day 89

Monday, August 22, 2005Gold Beach, OR
Miles: 10689Welcome to the world, Amelia!

We woke up today and took our first look at the park. Having come in late at night, we hadn't been able to see the fine amenities. Turtle Rock RV Resort is just a short walk from the beach and is nice and quiet. Very few families with screaming, bratty children choose to stay here, for which we are grateful. The bathrooms have dual shower heads, which is very refreshing after nearly 3 months of somewhat spotty shower taking. Our day was not very exciting. The real excitement was happening 3000 miles away in the greater Atlanta Metro region, where our niece Amelia Jane Lewis was busy being born. Her mom was quite busy as well. As was her dad. Her sister, Abby, was probably busy playing with her Oma. At any rate, Amelia made it into the world and is as cute as a button.

Ceridwen spent much of the day at the beach while Keath worked, and then when he was done, we went back together and took a long walk on the very windy beach. It was so windy we had a hard time making it back, but make it back we did.


Day 88

Sunday, August 21, 2005Gold Beach, OR
Miles: 10689Damn you, BLM!

Since we would have had to get up ecessively early again, I'm sure you all know that there was no boat ride in our future. You can always walk down the trail to the boat dock though, and since that is the only access to the lake, we did just that. After a leisurely breakfast of cherry pancakes, of course.

When we arrived at the parking lot for the trailhead, we saw that there were still some boats available for later in the day, but they were really too late for us to take and still arrive in Gold Beach at a reasonable hour. Not that we ended up there at a reasonable hour anyway, but that's a different story altogether. One you will hear about later. Argh. Anyway, on to the lake. We took the nice trail down, thinking that it would really suck when we had to come back up, as it is unrelentingly steep.

We made it to the bottom without incident and within a matter of minutes, Ceridwen was trying to find her way into the lake. She had meant to bring a bathing suit, but hadn't remembered. Luckily, Keath was willing to give up his boxers and she was wearing her snazzy wicking shirt, so she changed and then leapt into the icy water. Oh so cold. Warmer than the ocean, but with no wetsuit in sight, it was a cold, cold swim. But swimming out over the drop off and seeing the deep blue column was definately worth it. The water was so clear that she kept thinking she could stand up, but of course the water was dozens of feet deep, even close to shore.

After swimming around until her legs were numb, Ceridwen got out and started pressuring Keath to take a dip. After all, when would he get another chance to swim in a water filled caldera? As we walked up to the bathroom to change, we came around a corner and saw... naked man butt! Agh! Someone else had forgotten his swimsuit too and wasn't seeking creative solutions, he was just jumping off the cliff and into the water with his buddies hanging out. Luckily, we only saw butt, no buddies. It was really too early in the morning for that.

After wiggling into wet boxers, Keath made the plunge and quickly swam out over the edge so he too could see the column of blue. Then he got out. We hadn't been hungry for lunch, but after burning up calories to keep from getting hypothermia, we were suddenly hungry, so we rescued our lunch from the wildlife that kept trying to eat it and ate it our damn selves. Then we hiked back up to the parking lot. The hike back wasn't as horrid as we had been expected, and of course there were beautiful views all around.

When we got back to the van, it was time to bid adieu to Crater Lake. We debated going back the same route we had come in, but ultimately decided against it. (If we ever get a time machine, we'll go back and talk some sense into ourselves.) We headed out the south end of Crater Lake NP and headed for the shore. After a brief stint on I-5, we headed into the wilderness for about 40 or so miles, only to be confronted with a sign that said that the road was closed. Oh. Lovely. You couldn't have told us this when we got off the highway?!?!?!? Not that it would have cut that much off our detour, but still. Our detour ended up being about 200 miles. Ugh. We debated staying over in Roseberg, but when we got there, we decided to just keep driving and get to our destination. We saw several deer, but none of them attacked us and we made it to Gold Beach around 11 pm and promptly fell asleep.


Day 87

Saturday, August 20, 2005Crater Lake NP, OR
Miles: 10327Follow the geese south

Today we woke up alarmingly early. This means that the sun had not yet risen. Uck. We had a long drive to Crater Lake though, so we pushed on through and managed to get to Crater Lake in time to get a campsite at the first come, first served campground. Wahoo! We took the Umpqua Scenic Byway and stopped at the Colliding Rivers, where two rivers meet head on. This is probably really cool when they're both high, like in May, but in August, they're both pretty tiny, so they met in more of a pool than a collision. Ah well.

The first campsite we checked into appeared to be occupied, so we went back to the check in kiosk and got another one. This one was empty, so we settled in for some lunch before heading out to marvel at Crater Lake. We put all of our food in the provided bear locker, though this was apparently too hard for the other campers in the campground, as they just left their food and dishes out all over their site. Some of them even used their bear lockers as shelves for their stoves. Oy. At least if people were attacked by bears in the night, it wouldn't be us.

We drove around the lake, stopping to marvel at the views and the amazingly blue color of the water. The water is so clear and clean that it has this sort of deep azure color that turns turquoise on the very edges where the shore is visible. It's quite amazing. It's also cool to think about the huge mountain that once stood there. There were people in the area at the time, and the explosion, which had the force of 100 Mt. St. Helens, must have been terrifying. Especially since you were a Native American 7700 years ago and had no idea what seismic activity was. Eeep, pissed off gods!

We tried to get on the boat that cruises around the lake, but we had no luck, as all the tickets sell out in the first few hours of the day. Bummer. We continued our trek around the lake and stopped at several more viewpoints, including the Phantom Ship. The Phantom Ship is part of a larger rock structure that is cut off by water and looks like a big pirate ship, or would if it were foggy and not a bright, clear day. We also went on a little hike through the wildflower meadows and checked out the hillside viewing deck. Here we learned that Crater Lake has the best visibility of any lake, with a Secchi disk visible at up to 144 feet. Ceridwen's mother, a water quality person at an NH lake, was very jealous, as her lake never has that kind of visibility. Or clarity, or whatever you water quality people call it.

Since we were feeling hot for the first time in a week, we also noticed that we were feeling grimy and gritty. This feeling was not helped by the fact that our campsite was covered in a layer of the finest dirt ever and it pretty much got on everything. We had to wash our feet before we even contemplated bed.

Day 86

Friday, August 19, 2005North Bend, OR
Miles: 9933Crazy Mennonites

This morning, Keath worked and chatted with the suspected Mennonites. He learned their names and professions and tried to sort out the three different couples. Every meal they were feeding 17 people, so it was obviously quite a chaotic event. But they were having a great time, and they were good parents and they had good senses of humor. Keath taught them how to say Ceridwen's name, but wisely discouraged them from rushing up to her and saying hello, at least before she'd had her coffee. Religious persons would probably be alarmed by a pre-coffee Ceridwen who's being socially accosted.

Ceridwen spent most of the day setting up her new computer.


She was sure to install Quicktime so she could watch her Social D videos and also managed to get all pertinent info off her old computer. Friday is another Bingo day at KOA, so we played, and yet again, Keath won a game and Ceridwen won none, but Keath shared.

Day 85

Thursday, August 18, 2005North Bend, OR
Miles: 9933Happy Anniversary, M+D Lewis!

Today we discovered that ATVers do not rise early. We've gotten used to folks in campgrounds getting up mighty early and even leaving around when we get up. But here, people roll out of bed around 9 and start working on their ATVs, mostly hungover. It's very funny. There's also a bird here that sounds like the whistle on the Cap'n Crunch commercials. Sort of surreal.

Keath worked in the Kamping Kitchen and Ceridwen went to the Wal Mart to buy a large quantity of stuff that we had run out of. When Keath was done working, we went to the beach so Ceridwen could boogie board. The surf was wild and crazy and eventually became dangerous, so we gave up that activity.

We drove to Charleston, OR, weren't impressed, and came back to Staples to buy a replacement computer for Ceridwen. Hers had stopped wanting to connect to the internet and was just generally gimpy since it was six years old. But the new one is exciting and pretty and has a wide screen. Oooh, pretty. Keath's jealous. Heh heh. After our purchase, we went back and had dinner at the site and ate s'mores before going to bed.

Day 84

Wednesday, August 17, 2005North Bend, OR
Miles: 9933Dune buggies
Last night we discovered that the memory for Keath's computer had in fact been sent up to Astoria, then taken back, as they realized it was supposed to go somewhere else, and then got shipped back to Dell. The earliest we could expect it was Thursday. So we decided to go dune buggying instead. The Oregon Dunes are just what you would expect, given their names. They're a collection of sand dunes that run along the coast, and they are heaven on earth for ATVers.

Since we didn't think our first ever experience on an ATV should be on such big dunes, we decided to rent a little two person dune buggy instead. It has 4 point harnesses and a roll cage. Aren't we the safety minded bunch. We rented our dune buggy and were lead out to the dunes by an employee and let loose. We tried to roar up the nearest dune a couple of times, but Keath couldn't seem to get our ornery buggy up the hill. We assumed that the dunes were just too much for our poor little thing to handle, as it was mostly the beefier ATVs that were going up the dunes. So we headed down the sand road to the beach, bumping along and having a grand old time.

We were only allowed to be on the beach for 5 minutes one way, so Keath drove really fast for five minutes, and then we turned around and Ceridwen drove for REALLY fast for about 3 1/2. She was laughing hysterically most of the way because of the bumping and jostling. She drove back down the sand road and then we once again switched drivers.

We had another go at the dunes, only this time Keath depressed the gas pedal all the way. Apparently he had wussed out the first few times, thinking he would be going too fast when we got to the top of the dune, but that was not the case. Once we got the hang of it, we had a ball going up over the dunes and across the tops until our hour was up and we had to go return our buggy.

After our ride, we were quite hungry and had a hankering for bagels. We went to the Information Center to ask where we could get some good bagels. The woman there told us that the very bestest bagels in the area were available a short drive away, in Coos Bay. We made it there a short time later, anticipating yummy bagel goodness. What we got was some very nice artisinal bread in a round shape with a hole, but they were not bagels. Can you only get bagels on the East Coast? What's the deal here? We haven't even seen any chain bagel places since Missouri. Anyone have a clue where we can get a good bagel out here? We're hoping San Francisco will be good for our bagely needs.

Anyway, enough of that tangent. We drove to Horsfall Beach, one of the only ones in the area where ATVers and swimmers both have access and are separated. Ceridwen boogie boarded for a good long time, this time wearing Keath's long limbed wetsuit instead of her shortie. When we got back to the site, we were accosted by the girl at the desk. DHL had delivered Keath's memory! Yay!

After memory installation and dinner cooking in the Kamping Kitchen with a huge, friendly group of Mennonites ( we think. The women were all wearing skirts, anyway.) we played bingo for candy. Keath won a round, though Ceridwen continued a life long tradition of bingo losing. Keath shared his candy though, which was very nice of him, don't you think?

Day 83

Tuesday, August 16, 2005North Bend, OR
Miles: 9933BOOGIE BOARD!!

When we woke up it was still cold and cloudy, surprise, surprise. We went to take showers but found that there was no hot water in the bathhouse in our loop, so Ceridwen went over to the D loop and found hot showers. When she got back to the campsite, all freshly scrubbed, she found Keath, who had taken a cold shower and was distraught to learn that hot showers had in fact been available. After a walk on the beach to get the blood flowing, we continued our way southward. En route, Keath got a work phone call and we had to pull over, but luckily we were by a farmers' market, so we stopped and Ceridwen shopped for fresh produce while Keath worked. Back on our way, we came to a screeching halt at the first surf shop we encountered and went in to buy a damn boogie board. Thus equipped, we continued on to the nearest beach.

Ceridwen suited up in her wetsuit and hit the waves. The water was so very cold that she had a hard time getting in, but she did and had a jolly good time riding the waves. Until she stumbled getting up and realized she couldn't actually feel her legs and had a bit of trouble getting them to work. So she rode one more wave for the road and went to shore, where Keath had to help her get out of the wetsuit. After drying and warming, we headed on our way. After several miles, Ceridwen became aware of her legs again. Yay! Along the way we stopped at several wonderful overlooks and marvelled at the appearance of the sun.

In Florence, OR, we stopped to view some sea lions at the Sea Lion Caves. We saw them resting outside on some rocks in a big old sealiony pile, then took an elevator down 200 feet to view them in a cave. Apparently, the cave is a lot more interesting during mating season, since the sea lions are more, uh, active. And apparently vocal. They were just sort of lounging on a rock when we were there. Oh well. They were still neat and they were making the occasional grunt. We finished our trip and arrived at the Oregon Dunes KOA in North Bend, OR.

Day 82

Monday, August 15, 2005Cape Lookout SP, OR
Miles: 9751Damn fog
After waking, we jumped in the van, turned on the heat and drove south to enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway. We stopped at Ecola State Park and were happy to learn that our camping pass also served as a day use pass at other state parks. Hurray! Ecola State Park had some lovely overlooks from which to view some awesome sea stacks and the waves that crashed against them. We also made it down to a beach and Ceridwen decided that she really wanted a boogie board. Ceridwen had consumed way too much coffee (a monstrous 24 ounce cup) and was feeling kind of ill, jittery and exhausted at the same time. Wahoo! We stopped at several beaches along our way, but with no boogie board, we didn't spend long at many of them. We decided to just get to our campground and hang out there, giving us some better quality beach time.

We stopped for the night at Cape Lookout SP, a nice SP with a nice long beach. It was, of course, foggy. The main problem with Oregon beaches is that they are foggy, foggy, foggy. If it's not already foggy by around 2 or 3pm, the fog rolls in. There is just no sun until you head inland a bit, and then it's hot and sunny. But the cool fogginess isn't very conducive to swimming in excessively cold water. While at Cape Lookout, Ceridwen tried to go into the water but just couldn't work up to it. We saw no one, including children, enter the water past their knees. The water somehow managed to be colder than that in Maine. Yeoouw.

We braved the fog and hung out on the beach for the afternoon, reading and napping, though Ceridwen did both wrapped in a down sleeping bag. No one can ever say that Ceridwen is not a committed beachgoer. After dinner, we tried to get a boogie board, but sadly the one store in town that had one was closed by the time we got there. We drowned our sorrows in s'mores, which we made over our fire on the beach. We'd never had a fire on the beach before, and we had a jolly good time listening to the waves and keeping warm by the fire. We did have a little trouble finding the entrance back to the campground, but find it we did and we snuggled in for a nice sleep in the van.

Day 81

Sunday, August 14, 2005Hammond, OR
Miles: 9635Ocean!!
We woke in the morning, went to get our free waffles and then took a shower in someone else's room, since ours was not equipped for cleansing. Since it was foggy and gross, we decided to stop at Oil Can Henry's to get our oil changed by guys in funny costumes. They looked like newsboys or something, but they were very friendly and did a good job changing the oil. We then headed back up to Astoria to the KOA that we had tried to stay in the day before. Keath had called ahead and made reservations, but when we got there, we found that the internet connection didn't work and the employees had no interest in fixing it, so we decided to spend the night at the state park across the street. We hung out on the beach for a little bit and checked out the shipwreck that graces the sand. We even played hopThis switching was complicated by the fact that Keath had to have some memory for his computer sent to him, and therefore needed an address for them to ship it to. He had told them the KOA address, but since that wouldn't work, we had to scramble to find something else. Keath ended up making reservations for another KOA that was actually run by a family who cared about having all their stuff working. He called Dell and had them switch the shipping address, and we realized we had until Tuesday to get to Hammond, OR. (We can only assume that the people of Hammond, Oregon know they sound like Hammond Organ.) Once we got ourselve straightened out from a location point of view, we hung around our campfire and made s'mores and tried not to freeze.

Day 80

Saturday, August 13, 2005Seaside, OR
Miles: 9586No rooms from here to Tillamook
Since we hadn't slept much for the past few nights, we decided to have a bit of a lie in. We woke up fairly late and had a big breakfast and then headed to the ocean. We had planned on making reservations at some seaside campground, but by the time we finished our eggs and homefries, we really had no idea what we were doing and just drove. We took a ferry across the Columbia to get from WA to OR and then pretty much just headed west. We hit Astoria and were amazed to see that it was absolutely mobbed. Then we saw that they were having a regatta. We made it through the snarl of traffic and got to the KOA we had been aiming for. Unfortunately, they were full. Hm. This put a crimp in our plans. We had planned to have Keath work from there for the week, since even though we skipped Portland, Keath still had to maintain employment, or our tirp would get much shorter. Sincce it was only Saturday, we had some wiggle room and drove further down the coast to try to find somewhere to stay. A couple from British Columbia was doing the same thing, and we pretty much followed each other around and heard the same thing over and over again; no vacancy. We did find an open spot in a big field, but there was no fire rings or picnic tables and we really dislike the whole tent city thing, so we went back to the Motel 6, thinking that even if we couldn't camp, we could certainly find a hotel. Hah! Our last ditch effort was to ask at the Microtel. They had one room open, the emergency room, which was basically a closet with no windows and no shower. But, it was cheap and it was the very last place, camping or otherwise from Astoria to Tillmook, which is about 78 miles. We snagged it.

Once settled in, we headed to the beach. Because of our frantic search, this was the first time we had actually seen the Pacific this trip. Ceridwen, reunited with her ocean, was alarmed to feel just how very cold it was, and though she had hoped to go in, it did not happen. Instead, we went for a nice walk and watched the waves. After a stop at Taco Time for dinner, we went back to the hotel. We then spent the evening holed up in the lobby, watching the mist roll in and listening to Julie, the woman at the front desk, tell everyone that came in that there were some $250 rooms, but nothing else. She suggested that people head back east and come back in the morning, since on Sundays things were a little less crazy. We also learned, too late, that unlike beaches in Maine and New Jersey, the beaches we are most familiar with, the beach towns in Oregon don't care about people parking all night on their streets and we could have just slept on the side of the road. Live and learn. It was nice to have internet access and a bathroom. We did laundry late into the night and watched some Discovery Channel shows that we had already seen. Well, Keath actually remembered seeing them, while Ceridwen just thought they seemed oddly familier. Ceridwen thought this odd, until Keath noted that we had watched them last summer, while Ceridwen recovered from surgery. Hence the fuzzy recollection.

...

Day 79

Friday, August 12, 2005Chehalis, WA
Miles: 9459Mt. Rainier, FINALLY!
Since we were planning on going somewhere scenic, it was of course foggy when we woke up. We decided to hang out and wait for the Mt. St. Helens Information Center to open anyway, which turned out to be a good thing. Apparently, the fog stopped about 3000 feet off the ground, and the lookout point is at about 4000 feet. So we took in a video about the catastrophic 1980 explosion and then headed up to the observation center. Apparently, their were only two people who predicted that the mountain would blow the way it did, and unfortunately, one of them was the first victim of the mountain, since he was right there observing it. Bummer. The trees still haven't come back, and the trees that were mowed down are still evident under the new green growth. There is no pahoehoe anywhere, since the lava was much more viscous. The mountain was steaming while we were there, since back in September of 2004, the mountain reawakened and started cone building again. They're not sure when it's going to blow again, but this time they hope to have more warning. We watched a short presnetation by an extremely enthusiastic ranger and learned that the employees had all been evacuated at one point a few months previously, as the mountain was making some alarming rumblings. There was a memorial for all the victims who hadn't found, including one poor guy who had been out working overtime as a logger to pay for his wife's cancer treatments. How unlucky is that. Apparently, if the explosion had waited 24 more hours, hundreds more people would have been killed because the woods would have been filled with loggers. As it was, only 57 people were killed, including one guy who was told to evacuate and refused. He and the lodge he owned were covered in 300 feet of ash.

After our trip to Mt. St. Helens, we decided to head to the mountain which had thwarted us nearly a year earlier, Rainier.

During our trip to Seattle, we had seen Rainier only from afar, as every time we got close to it, it shrouded itself in mist. We had thought that it was majestic when viewed from far away, but up close it's really sort of mind boggling and intimidating. We drove up the main road through the park, stopping to walk across a log bridge that spanned a raging river and check out some waterfalls. We had hit very few crowds at St. Helens because it was early, and Mt. Rainier wasn't very crowded because it was fairly late in the day by the time we got there. We drove along and took in the views of the peak and its glaciers and the surrounding forest and made it to Paradise. One of the signs in the visitor center explained that many people think Rainier is so intriguing is that it is accessible from all sides. It's not a range that has pockets that are covered, but rather a single bohemoth that inspires a sense of intimacy. We had to agree.

Signs at the entrance had claimed that the parking lots for Paradise were full, but this was not true. We parked just fine and went on a hike to view the glaciers and the headwaters of the same river we had walked over earlier in the day. It was pretty amazing to see and we walked in awe. We also saw a pretty little deer munching on the tender wildflowers we were admonished to avoid. Silly deer.

After completing our loop through the pretty, we headed for our campsite right outside the park and had dinner before settling in for some Perseids watching. Sadly, it wasn't as dark in this part of the country as it had been in Idaho, but we still saw 15 meteors in the hour or so we stayed awake to watch.


Day 78

Thursday, August 11, 2005Seaquest SP, WA
Miles: 9156Health: Is grumpiness an illness?
Due to said sleepless night, Ceridwen was rather grumpy. We're not sure what Keath's problem was, but he was grumpy as well, and we pretty much grumped around the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge. We stopped at Cascade Locks, but it was so freaking windy that we quickly abandoned our walk around the riverside park. Instead, we checked out almost all the waterfalls that the area had to offer. This satisfied even us, and we are big waterfall freaks.

After lunch we felt a little better, but we were plagued by indecision. We had reached Portland, where we had planned to spend a week, and were not overly fond of the traffic we found there. After several hours of debate and growing frustration, we finally decided to just head to the beach. Unfortunately, by the time we decided this, it was late and we were still quite far away. So instead we decided to head up towards Mt. St. Helens and go to that and Mt. Rainier the following day. We made it to Seaquest State Park in Washington right before they closed for the night and settled into our campsite for the.

Day 77

Wednesday, August 10, 2005Cascade Locks, OR
Miles: 9004Wheeeee!
In a last ditch effort to get on a whitewater trip before leaving Maupin, we stopped at High Desert Rafting Outfitters and waited for the office to open at 8. When no one appeared at 8, Keath checked around for employees and found out from a guide that the office didn’t really open until 8:30. At 8:30, we wandered into the office and ran into the guide manager, who had just woken up. He told us that he could fit us on a trip, but that we would have to wait until 9 for the office to open. We waited, and around 9:15 we were all signed up to get on a raft.

The other people that were waiting seemed to be very annoying. They were a family originally from New Jersey, and they had 6 teenagers and 5 adults who were very concerned about when and where they could drink their beer. At 10 am. We secretly hoped that we would be on the boat with the teenagers, but it was not to happen. The five adults and us piled into a raft with a guide named Kim and headed off down the river. We soon learned that the trip was made a whole lot more fun by our slightly inebriated companions, as they were loud and interested in having water cannon fights with their offspring. Since it was sunny and hot, any of the frigid water that got splashed on us felt very good.

The raft trip included a trip down a natural water slide, which we both did twice, and a ride through Upper Elevator Rapids, which we also both did twice. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of any of this, since we were too wussy to take our digital camera on the wet, wet ride. But we had a marvelous time going through rapids, despite two minor injuries. Ceridwen jammed her thumb while going through Boxcar Rapids, and Keath hit his elbow on the rocks while going down the natural water slide. Other than that, we came out in one piece and were on our way around 4 pm.

Our original plan was to stop at The Dalles, a town along the Columbia River, but it was deemed unexciting and we pressed on along quite possibly the windiest road in America. When we dipped into the gorge, the hated sage brush was blessedly replaced by Pacific Northwest conifers. Aah, woods. The highway runs right along the Columbia River Gorge and the wind just rips through, blowing vehicles higgledy-piggledy. Craziness. We finally stopped in Hood River and had a nice dinner overlooking the river. We then went and set up camp in the middle of the woods right off the river. The good news was that it was far enough away from the river to be less windy and far enough from the train tracks to be quiet, but the desolation and the blowing pines creeped Ceridwen out at around 3am and, with visions of Twin Peaks' Bob in her head, she found it very difficult to get back to sleep. Her over active imagination took over from there a rather sleepless night ensued.
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Day 76

Tuesday, August 9, 2005Maupin, OR
Miles: 8917Freaking hot
This morning while eating breakfast, we learned that the movie Paint Your Wagon was filmed in Baker City and the crew stayed in the motel in which we ourselves had spent the night. Very exciting. After a chat with the new owner of the inn, we headed for the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This was the best interpretive center we’d been to yet. Visitors were led through a long, winding hallway with different exhibits relating to the beginning, middle and end of the journey, including the planning and packing stage. Toy wagons and blocks helped people realize how little room the emigrants had. Of course, that didn’t stop some crazy people from hauling old furniture and expensive linens and china with them. Some of the bigger, bulkier blocks were representative of these unnecessary items. As those of you who know Keath well can imagine, Keath’s wagon was packed both functionally and beautifully. He brought only the essentials and was quite angry that the books and medicines were packed together, since he assumed that just the medicines would be a lot smaller and leave room for more butter. These skills are the reason we have so much stuff in our van and it’s still driveable.

After leaving the Interpretive Center, we drove through time via one of Oregon’s scenic byways. Unfortunately, it was way too hot to get out and do anything along the drive, though we did try several times. Each time we were thwarted by the worst heat we had encountered yet. We even tried using our umbrella as a parasol, but it didn't make a bit of difference and we felt pretty silly carrying a golf umbrella onto a hiking trail. It didn’t help that we were still in a big gorge that just clung to the heat and that the sun pounded down on us. It was a nice drive though, with lots of brownish bluffs and little oases of green along the John Day River. Since it was so hot and we hadn’t actually left Baker City until 1:30, we decided to just keep driving until it cooled off. We ended up driving all the way to Maupin, OR, where we had heard there was good whitewater rafting. We were hoping to get on a trip the following morning, but afte making a few inquiries, we were disappointed that it did not appear that it would work out.

Day 75

Monday, August 8, 2005Baker City
Miles: 8647Indecision 2005
When the alarm went off at four am, we woke up and said, ‘Hey, it’s dark.’ Then Keath turned off his work alarm and we went back to sleep. When the real alarm went off at 6:30, we shut it off and went right back to sleep. We woke up around 8 am and had a bout of indecision. Should we go with our original plan and go to Halfway and get on a rafting trip through Hell’s Canyon, or should we head further north and go on a rafting trip through Hell’s Canyon. Ok, so it’s a pretty thin distinction, but the discussion allowed us to spend another half an hour lying in bed while it rained.

Having decided to stick to our original plan, we got rolling and headed for Halfway and Hell’s Canyon. We drove on all of central Idaho’s scenic byways, including the Sawtooth, the Ponderosa and the Payette River. The Ponderosa was cool, as it went through several canyons which were dotted with pine trees, as one might expect. Some areas had been hit by a wildfire, but it was still pretty amazing.

Around 3:30 we arrived in Hell’s Canyon, and thus arrived some more indecision. Should we sleep at the exceptionally hot campground at the bottom of the canyon, or should we go to the northern edge and camp, or perhaps we should stay at the B&B? We know you’re all in suspense, so we’ll just tell you that we decided to pass on the whitewater trips that didn’t start for four days and just head to the itty bitty town of Halfway. Halfway is best described as a one horse town. Once we got to Halfway, we stopped for some pizza and thought about stopping for the night too, but some creepy guys at the restaurant had been leering at Ceridwen and freaking her out with their combination of leachery and disdainfulness for outsiders, so we continued on to Baker City, where we settled into the Bridge Street Inn. An independent and clean motel, the Inn provided a nice respite from the heat.

Day 74

Sunday, August 7, 2005Sawtooth NRA, ID
Miles: 8288Hot lava
Once again, we had hoped to get up early, since the darkness of the ground, the elevation and the desert climate all make the Craters of the Moon NP very hot. Again, we failed to wake early enough, but we went to the visitors center and bought a hat, then took a little walk on the unpathed parts of the park. Though they don’t advertise it, the park does not prohibit walking on the lava except in three areas, so we wandered around on the pahoehoe and looked at the cool blue glass bits, the ropy bits and the broken bits. Apparently, when hiking in the backcountry here, it is a bad idea to rely on a compass, since the iron in the lava will make it all wonkie and you’ll get lost. We wisely learned this before heading out and relied on landmarks instead.

After our little jaunt, we headed up to the top of cinder cone to see the view. It was pretty neat to see all the different flows and features from atop a big, lava gravel cone and we stayed up there until it was time to meet Ranger Doug for ranger led hike.

Our hike took us through the Blue Dragon Flow, named so because of the prevalence of blue glass on the surface. Ranger Doug was very knowledgeable about the medicinal uses of plants and rattled off all the uses of all the little tiny plants that can survive on lava flows. Having worked most of his life as a geologist for USGS, he was also quite handy to have around when one wanted to know about the rocks. He explained the different types of flows and of cones and what the areas appearance meant. He also shared his ire at the park naming things sinks that were not sinks in the true, geologic sense of the word. The most important part of a ranger led hike is that they know where all the hidy holes are. The NPS hides pretty specimens of rocks and such so that they don't walk away with other visitors. Only by visiting with a ranger can you see some choice pieces of lava. At the end of our hike, we went into Buffalo Cave, a hollow tube left from the lava flow. The floor was ropy pahoehoe and the ceiling was filled with holes. We didn’t stay long, as we were hungry and it was almost noon, therefore approaching 105 degrees.

We had planned on going to some other caves, but it was so very hot, that we stayed in Vantom and drove. We drove through Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which, oddly enough, runs through the Sawtooth Mountains. You won’t believe what they resemble. Being tired, we stopped at Glacier View campground for the night. The campground had one wonderful thing: showers. Sure, they weren’t that clean and they were coin op, but they were showers. It had been three days, and a shower had never felt so good. After cleansing, we had dinner and messed around in the campground for a bit, taking turns on a tire swing that may or may not have been rated for adults. Then we sat around the fire.

Day 73

Saturday, August 6, 2005Craters of the Moon, ID
Miles: 8147Ahoy, pahoehoe.
We had hoped to get going early, before it got hot, but to do that, we would have had to get up before the sun rose. Sadly, it is hard to see the beauty and the danger of the City of Rocks when the sun isn’t up, so we ended up being a bit warm while we hiked. We first climbed up Bath Rock, the huge formation across the road from our campsite. Someone had installed some handy little metal handles, making it very easy. As you might expect, City of Rocks is a huge attraction for rock climbers, so pretty much everywhere we went, we heard calls of ‘On Belay’.

After a few false hiking starts, we ended up on the Flaming Rock trail, which led us into what the brochure described as ‘the inner city’. There we some very big rocks and a whole lot of grasses. After many failed attempts, we both finally ascended a cool formation with a hole in it. A snack and a little nap in the pretty surroundings later, we ran into a bit of a problem. Ceridwen couldn’t seem to get down. As she had wedged herself up through sheer force of will, there were really no hand holds within her grasp. Her will did not wish to fall onto the granite rocks below, and for a few seconds, she sat wedged in a crack. Luckily, Keath is a wonderful man and an astounding husband. He grabbed Ceridwen by the leg, forced her weight onto his shoulder and walked away from the rock with her. An exciting time. He pushed her up and carried her off several other rock formations, though subsequent events were carried out with more grace and aplomb.

As Ceridwen had scratched herself up on the rocks and most of the other formations seemed to require a harness, we bid adieu to the City of Rocks and set out for the Craters of the Moon. On the way, we picked up a real estate magazine to test our theory about living like kings. We found some small homes that we could buy outright and some very, very nice houses that would sell for almost ten times as much if they were located on the East Coast. We amended our theory: we could live like pharaohs, but hopefully without the incest and the fratricide.

As we drove through mile after mile of sage brush covered land, Ceridwen began to go slowly insane. Rather than let that happen, Keath wisely asked her to read to him.

Narrowly avoiding insanity, we made it to Craters of the Moon and snagged ourselves a campsite overlooking the lava flow. Of course, this meant that we were right in the wind, but since we were sleeping in the van, we didn’t care. Of course, once all our stuff was blowing everywhere, we felt a little differently, but by then we had committed.

We went on a short loop trail and saw some aa and pohoehoe. Ceridwen recalled everything she ever learned about volcanoes from watching 321 Contact and limped along, as her foot hurt due to a big crack in her heel. After this walk, we decided that our afternoon’s activity should be less reliant on foot travel, so we drove along the 7 mile loop road. Despite the ouchie foot, we did walk through the Devil’s Orchard, a lava field with some trees growing in it. So far, we’ve been in the Devil’s Gulch, Kitchen and Orchard. The guy sure does have his stuff spread around.

After the drive and dinner, we went to a talk by the BLM Fire Safety folks about, well, fire safety. They were both new at their jobs and said ‘um’ a lot, but it was fun nonetheless. As the two presenters were talking about the dangers of leaving campfires unattended, we realized that neither of us had dumped water on our cooking coals. Oops. Luckily, nothing caught on fire while we were away. Phew. On the way back to the site, we chatted with a man who had also been at the presentation. We then attempted to wash covertly in the van, as it had been two days since our last real shower. A spray bottle and a wash cloth can make you feel good enough to get some sleep, but really do not replace a shower. Just in case anyone ever asks you, now you know.

Day 72

Friday, August 5, 2005City of Rocks NR, ID
Miles: 7973City of ROCK!

Keath had to work today, so we basically stayed in the hotel. Ceridwen went swimming, though it was almost too hot to stay outside. After we got kicked out of our room, Keath worked in the lobby while Ceridwen went shopping for essentials. At Wal Mart, she learned an essential fact about Idaho: stuff is cheap. We could move here and live like kings. After Keath’s workday ended, the afternoon got very frustrating. Buying tickets for Ceridwen’s trip to Romania turned into a debacle and Keath had to keep turning the computer back on to do things he had forgotten about. What with one thing and another, we finally made it onto the road about 2 hours later than hoped and headed for the City of Rocks.

The cool campsite made up for the frustrating day and the long, dirty road we had to take to get there. The rock formations that make up the center of the park were truly cool, massive and inspring, and our campsite had a big, flat topped rock with a little hole in it for us to play on. We had dinner and then hung out on the rock, looking at the nine gazillion stars that were out. There were too many stars to really pick out constellations, but since we kind of suck at that anyway, it's not that hard for us to miss them. We even saw nine shooting stars, which is pretty good, considering it wasn’t the peak of the Perseids meteor shower. We finally climbed down off the rock and went to sleep, once again snuggling in for a cold night.

Day 71

Thursday, August 4 2005Idaho Falls, ID
Miles: 7806Bears and wolves, oh my!
Since we hadn’t seen any Grizzlies (fortunately) or wolves (unfortunately) we went to the Grizzly and Wolf Preserve in West Yellowstone. The animals were all taken from the wild only under extenuating circumstances (usually as cubs whose mothers had been killed) or had been born in captivity and would be unable to survive in the wild. Basically, the only reason the animals were here was that they would have died in the wild. The focus of the exhibits was on learning to live with animals that have been viewed as threats to humans for many years and were hunted nearly into extinction. It was cool to see the animals playing in some semblance of their normal habitats and especially cool because of the non zoo atmosphere. The grizzlies also serve as a testing lab for waste management companies who wish to make a bear proof container. Basically, the containers are filled with yummy food and tossed to the bears. They had some of the failing models on display, complete with tooth and claw marks.

Our goal for the day was to get to Idaho Falls. Since we weren’t that far away, it wasn’t a terribly ambitious goal. We stopped to look at Mesa Falls and admired the very western scene of a raging river, waterfall and a beautiful canyon lined with trees, all topped off with a ludicrously blue sky with puffy white clouds. Sigh.
Once in Idaho Falls, we wandered around and tried to find a hotel. We eventually found one and settled in before going out in search of the Idaho Vietnam Veterans Memorial and some dinner. We found both and then strolled along the Greenbelt, a walkway that follows the river. Then we went nigh nigh.

Day 70

Wednesday, August 3, 2005West Yellowstone, MT
Miles: 7663The people, they're eating my brain!
We had once again slept in the van to ward off the cold, Yellowstone air, and so were up and about fairly early. Our camp chairs, which we had left out to occupy our site, were soaking wet and covered in the dirt that the rain had splashed up. We packed them into garbage bags and tossed them in the van and headed out for the adventure of the Upper Loop. As we drove, we saw a big bull bison walking calmly along the side of the road. Thankfully, he did not share the deer’s views on our rammability, as we probably would have lost that round. He just walked along and looked at us with pretty brown eyes as we took photos from the safety of our vehicle. We stopped to look at the Letardy Rapids, which are filled with spawning trout in the early summer. The landscape, with the river, and the trees and particularly the mist, reminded us of Olympic National Park, where we took our vacation last year, when we still took normal vacations, not massive multi month trips. A bison walked along beside us for awhile, turning his pretty brown eyes to look at us as we took pictures (while safely in the van).

As we began the Upper Loop, we stopped at the Museum of the National Park Ranger. We learned that the National Parks had once been run by the Army, hence the residual militaristicness of the uniforms. They had some photos of the snazzy female uniforms from times before female rangers wore what male rangers wear. The sixties brown shift dress was a favorite.

On our way up, we saw Roaring Mountain, a hill with a bunch of vents on it, so the whole thing smoked. It was still pretty early in the day, so the mist helped add to the coolness.

Our next real stop was the Mammoth Hot Springs. Another zoo, and another smelly geyser area. We were quickly learning that geysers are not our things. They give Ceridwen horrid headaches, and they just tend not to be that exciting time after time. But we did the drive and looked at the cool ringed formations and then continued, fighting traffic and crazy people to get to Tower Falls.

Tower Falls themselves were a bit anticlimactic. Because of construction, Upper Loop Road is not truly a loop at this time, so Tower Falls had become the day’s destination. The lower path had been closed as well, so all we could see was from the upper viewpoint, which was blocked by trees.

As we retraced our steps back to the West Entrance, or exit, in this case, we saw a baby bear. A ranger was directing traffic around it, as people seem to have problems leaving the animals alone. We had seen crowds of people going right up to elk and taking their pictures. Elk goring didn’t sound fun to us, but what they heck. Had the ranger not been there, the chances that a mama bear would kill a tourist would have been quite large. And then the bear would have had to have been killed because someone was an idiot. So it was good that the ranger was there for the protection of all.

Our last stop in Yellowstone was Wraith Falls. A short burst of rain kept people away as we walked the short path to the Falls and we got some nice private time with them. The Falls are two thing streams of water that run down a rock in small rivulets. The effect makes the water look like, well, wraiths. Having reached the end of our Yellowstone adventure, we headed to West Yellowstone, MT, a town, and settled into the welcoming arms of a KOA, complete with showers and laundry. In fact, we spent the evening getting various things clean. ...

Day 69

Tuesday, August 2, 2005Yellowstone, WY
Miles: 7508Welcome to the zoo

We woke up to the sound of pouring rain (we apologize to those of you who now have “I Remember You” stuck in your heads) and headed for Yellowstone by way of a ridiculously expensive breakfast at a lodge run by the same money grubbers that ran the showers. But it was too wet to cook, so we were glad it was there just the same. We drove along the Rockefeller Parkway, which connects Teton and Yellowstone Parks, and marveled at the devastation still evident from the 1988 wild fires. A PR person must have gotten a hold of their signs, as they proclaimed particularly unscenic areas to have been “Naturally reseeded by wildfire in 1988.” In the gloomy weather, the dead trees were spooky and kind of cool. We actually enjoyed the “reseeded” areas the whole way through the park. For one thing, they didn’t block views of the mountains, and for another, being from New Hampshire and having driven through much of the country, pine forests aren’t what you would call a novelty for us anymore. But the remnants of a fire, that’s cool.

We stopped at Lewis River Canyon to take some photos of Ceridwen’s family canyon, then at Lewis Falls. There sure is a lot of Lewis stuff here. Since we were in Yellowstone and every guidebook we had read suggested that we make reservations months in advance, we decided it would be best if we got to a campsite early to stake a claim. The guidebooks were clearly insane, since we wound up finding a site at the oh so late hour of 11 am. (This really is late for popular campgrounds that operate on a first come, first serve basis). We once again showed occupancy by leaving out our camp chairs and headed out to do the Lower Loop of the park.

We stopped at the Ranger Station and asked what hikes the Ranger would do. She suggested one nearby, so we took her suggestion, some maps and headed on our way, after participating in a Junior Ranger ceremony (we clapped). We started out on the hike we thought she suggested and came to a lake that was not supposed to there. It was pretty though, so we took photos, then doubled back. Upon further inspection of the trail guide, we discovered that the hike she had meant to send us on is smack dab in the middle of a bear habitat. In fact, you should not hike it in groups of fewer than four and should carry bear spray. Hmm. Was she trying to get rid of us? We decided against this hike, as we had already decided against backcountry camping. Grizzly bears are big. They run fast. They can have their habitat and we will leave them to it.

By leaving the grizzlies to their habitat, we encountered the absolute zoo that is Yellowstone frontcountry in August. Eek.

One of the main attractions to Yellowstone is the geothermal activity. We stopped to look at one of the geyser basins, which was home to some coolly named bubbling mudpots. Dragon’s Breath shot steam out of a cave and several others gurgled menacingly. The entire thing stank and we renamed it the Bog of Eternal Stench. Ceridwen got a headache, so we headed back to the van and got hailed on as we drove along.

After the hail stopped, we stopped at several overlooks along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Unlike the falsely named Little Grand Canyon in Kentucky, this canyon was actually quite grand. We walked down towards the bottom of the Lower Falls to look at them and found them beautiful, particularly the rainbow emanating from the mist. We then took a little hike to Artists Point, which was rife with people being idiots and going onto these unsturdy ledges to get photos, despite the perfectly good views from the lookouts. Incidentally, a day after we left, some guy fell forty feet into the canyon after walking out past the fences. Duh.

After this experiment with social behavior, we got back in the van. Along the drive, we saw Virginia Cascades, a thin rush of water over rock that isn’t quite flat, the effect being a sort of horizontal looking waterfall. We climbed down to the edge, avoiding suspected poison ivy so as not to be itchy.

To end our Lower Loop drive, we decided to brave Old Faithful. Since it was late in the day, and there had been showers off and on, it wasn’t terribly crowded. We arrived just in time to watch it go off, which was pretty cool and interesting, and then started on our way back to the campsite for dinner. As we walked to the van, the sky opened up and it began to pour. Once the rain let up, things got really interesting.

We were driving along, under the recommended speed limit, when a mule deer darted out of the woods and tried to do battle with our side panel. Both the deer and Keath realized that this would be bad and took evasive action, Keath by swerving and braking and the deer by changing its direction to move parallel to us. Just as we thought we’d had a near miss, we heard a thunk from the back of the van. Horrified, we turned around in time to see the deer on the ground. Our hearts sank, then abruptly lifted as the deer executed a graceful roll out of the momentum, got to her feet and stod away into the forest, apparently unharmed. Shaken, we pulled over. The people who had been driving behind us stopped to let us know that they had seen the deer get up, unharmed, and run into the woods. We thanked them and got out to see if any damage had occurred to the van. There was no indication that we had been attacked by wildlife, so we continued on, royally pissing off people behind us by driving 35 MPH. We constantly scanned the horizon, but no other wildlife seemed to want to run into us.

Between dinner (it was raining, so we had dinner at another lodge, this one much more reasonably priced) and our campsite, we saw a double ended rainbow that was unbroken the whole way through. We hoped, rather childishly, that this was an omen that Mary Sue (our name for the deer) was as fine as she had seemed to be and would just have a sore shoulder for the next few days. Corny, we know.

Day 68

Monday, August 1, 2005Grand Teton NP, WY
Miles: 7325Heh, you said Teton.

Due to the cold and the cool zipping hood feature of our sleeping bags, the first thing Keath saw upon waking was a papoose, also known as his wife. After forcing ourselves out of the warmth, we quickly ate breakfast and got on the road. Grand Teton NP was our destination and Wyoming was our backdrop. We kept saying to each other, “Look dear, Wyoming.” It seemed appropriate, as there was nothing much else to comment on. Until we saw some pronghorn antelope. Quite a majestic animal, with white and brown stripes and massive black antlers shaped like, well, prongs. They leap well too, as one cleared the fence along the road side quite easily as he was trying to get away from our cameras. There was some construction that actually seemed to be necessary and while we were stopped, we admired the Fontenelle Reservoir.

After some more Wyoming, we got to Jackson. Urgh. Tourist trap junk that is necessary if one wishes to go to Grand Teton. We braved the information center, found out which campgrounds were most likely to have availability, which float trips did not start in Jackson (we did not want to come back) and then continued on our way.

We stopped in Moose, Wyoming to make reservations for an evening float trip down the Snake River and then headed for Calder Bay, the campground that we had decided on. It was already cold, so we merely stuck our camp chairs out to imply occupancy and then headed back out to view some sights.

The information woman had told us that Jenny Lake was a nice hike, and that we could get to Hidden Falls with only a half mile hike. We had several hours before our 4 pm float trip, so we decided to check it out. After fighting with what seemed like half the population of Minnesota, we made it to the trailhead, only to discover that the woman had lied. The trail was a half mile only if you took a boat ride first. We did not have time for this, and so just walked part of the trail and then continued on our scenic drive.

We arrived a little early for our float trip and wandered around the pseudo frontier buildings for awhile, then met up with our guide, Eric. We unfortunately also had to meet the New Orleans family that would be sharing our journey, including a mother who seemed to try really hard to always have the correct expression on her face and the grandmother who was clearly paying for everything and therefore had a right to be a complete controlling psycho in her designer rain gear. Oy. Luckily, we ended up in the back of the raft with the sane family from Casper, WY.

Once on the water, Eric broke out his sense of humor. He sang pseudo Italian love songs (in response to Keath’s comment about feeling like he was in Venice, with Eric rowing us around) and humorous commentary about the pompous nature of some Jacksonites. Eric, we learned, had spent the past two summers guiding raft trips, and therefore knew all about where the birds hung out (most of the wildlife we saw was avian in nature) and how to hold the oars when pointing things out. Alarmingly, this involved shoving them in his crotch or wedging them under a butt cheek. Yow. Everyone on the boat winced at least once at some of his oar placement, but he didn’t seem to care. A few things we learned from Eric:
  • Grand Teton (or “the Grand”) is the mountain in the Paramount logo, though from the West side.
  • Wyoming has great clouds that “totally trip him out”
  • Our personal favorite: Golden Eagles are off the hook. Seriously.

Along with our birdie friends, we also saw some marmots, a piece of metal Keath thought was a marmot, some river otters and big, smelly, dead elk. Yum. Eric also enlightened us about some humorous things his previous customers had asked, such as, did beavers build the gigantic stone levees? Yes, he answered, big, 23 foot wide beavers. We realized when we were done that Keath’s ‘marmot’ would probably be used to entertain future floaters.

Our fun and relaxing adventure ended around 7:30 and after thanking Eric profusely, we went off in search of dinner and the elusive showers, which you apparently have to pay for when you’re in a National Park whose services are administrated by a for profit entity. After having a run in with the bitchiest woman ever, who yelled at us for coming in to take a shower at 5 of 9 and charging us $7 for the privilege, we finally got clean, cooked dinner in the dark and went to bed in the rain. Luckily, Vantom was there to protect us, at least from the dampness. Short of vehicular homicide, he could have done little about the shower Nazi.