2013 Christmas Letter

Deep Creek Road on the Continental Divide, Montana

Deep Creek Road on the Continental Divide, Montana

Another year, another (probably too-long) letter from me. I love doing these things because it feels like I’m able to “wrap up” the year in a tidy package made from photos and written highlights of our lives. Of course, real life is nowhere near as well-ordered as this letter, but we’ll sweep the cat fur and chaos under the rug for awhile and put on our holiday best, okay?

Hot air balloon over Mt. Jefferson

Hot air balloon over Mt. Jefferson

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Disney World Day 2, Feb 5 – Hollywood Studios

This morning we double-checked with guest services about the room transfer, and told them about the stuff we had in the fridge, I’ve got some meds that require refrigeration so they just said to leave everything in the fridge and they’d transfer it along with our luggage. Cool.

After breakfast of Disney coffee-like substance (Sanka, blech) and a bagel and cream cheese from our grocery order, we headed to Hollywood Studios at the ungodly hour of 8:05 due to the fact that we were about as excited as a couple of kids on Christmas morning. We were 3rd in line, hanging with our original Disney Bear who travels everywhere with us.

And this is the reason you want to get to Hollywood Studios at least a half hour before the park opens, because you’d rather have all these people behind you in line, rather than in front:

Although rope drop was packed, Disney has recently started a new park opening procedure that does away with the “second rope” and the show, and allows people to filter in to the park and go to their selected attraction when the gates open about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled opening time. The new procedure makes it much easier to arrive at Toy Story Midway Mania without the prospect of being trampled to death, which could be a real vacation downer. Way to go Disney execs!

We did the usual “grab a Fast Pass, ride” for Toy Story, then decided to ride again because wait time showed 20 minutes. When we got in line I told Mike it looked closer to 30 – which it was. Not a big deal since we weren’t really in a rush to do anything else except shows. By the time we got out our Fast Pass window was open and we grabbed a second set, then wandered off towards Rock N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.

Mike’s got motion sickness, so I do the big stuff solo and he enjoys spending time as a homeless person sleeping on park benches. Tower of Terror was a walk-on. Rock n’ Roller Coaster showed a 20 minute wait, so I decided to play the odds and use the regular line instead of Single Rider. I always choose the wrong option! 15 minutes later, I’m finally at a point where I can see the single rider line – which is empty. Doh! Oh well, Mike got a nice nap out of the deal.

After another walk-on ride of ToT, we headed to the first Indy show – which was standing room only! Crazy how this show still packs ’em in after all these years.

After this, we take in the Muppets 3-D mayhem (one of my favorites!), then The Great Movie Ride which was running the cowboy side that we’d never seen before. It was neat to see “Option 2”, but I liked the gangster storyline better. After this it’s off to our favorite show, Lights Motors Action. By this time it’s pretty stinkin’ hot and humid, and I’m starting to agree with lots of summer visitors, that this show needs seat backs and some better form of shade and air conditioning.

Hey, look, a hovercar!

Still, it’s internal combustion engines, nitros, and awesome drifting skills at DW, so I’m not really going to complain.

I REALLY like the removal of the stupid Herbie section and the addition of the much funnier Lightning McQueen skit.

Awesome stealth Gremlin action here.

After the show we head back to Toy Story Midway Mania to use our Fast Passes, we get through the first time, but the second time through are turned back just before loading as the ride breaks down (actually saw them letting people off and everyone walking the track back to the exit). On our way out they give us two “anytime” FP’s good until the 15th – score!

We headed back to Pop Century to see if our room switch had been done, Pop was supposed to take all our stuff from the double room and deposit it in our King room on Sunday, including the fridge which held my medication that requires refrigeration – we made sure bell services knew about it, and that the luggage pickup tags had that information on them. We arrived at our new room to find everything present and accounted for….except the refrigerator and my medicine. Ruh roh.

I called housekeeping and they told me that anything that had been left in the other room’s fridge would have been thrown out. Uh, yea, this is my cue to either pass out or start screaming. Being the kind and sweet soul I am, I do neither. I sic Mike on them  and send him down to the front desk.

After a bunch of crazy communications with:
1. Lady from housekeeping who doesn’t have correct information, makes things up as she goes along, and doesn’t care.
2. Awesome dude from maintenance who brings us a fridge and goes on a search and destroy to find our original fridge.
3. Awesome dude at Luggage Hold who finds our stuff and brings it to us.
We are finally in possession of our refrigerator again, and after thanking everyone profusely (except the stupid housekeeping lady who couldn’t care less if I died from an asthma attack) we marvel at how many truly awesome people work for Disney. Sure, there’s always a few idiots in the bunch who are just bell tappers, but the greater majority really kick butt.

After dinner in the room, we head over to Downtown Disney and wander around a bit, Mike finds this gold-digger who seems to take a shine to him:

He’s finally able to break free and we make our escape to Disney Quest, where we spend the evening re-living our teen years on Pac Man (the group game they have is really fun) and Pinball.

Back to the room by 10pm, we’re in bed by 11 with the alarm clock set for 6am and an Epcot rope-drop. I know, late night then early morning – but we don’t have kids, so we can be stupid without involving youngsters in our disastrous planning decisions.

Oh, where did we eat you ask? Lunch was chez Peanut Butter and Jelly, dinner was a fine al-dente pasta with canned sauce cooked in our hot pot which we brought from home. Total out-of-pocket costs for food in the parks today, $0.

Yahoo takes my money, hacks my email account, shares my Contacts list, ignores pleas for help.

Until September of 2011, I was a relatively happy customer of Yahoo Mail. I paid $20 a year for their “premium” service, not knowing that part of their “premium” benefits included giving out my contacts information to spammers.

On September 16 last year, I opened my Yahoo email to find a bunch of weird bounce messages from people in my contacts list – it looked like spam had been sent through my email address. Panicky, I started by doing a complete scan of the computer which came up clean. I then started looking at the emails – one of which was sent to my other Yahoo account so I could inspect the actual mail. It did appear to have actually been sent from my account, and not a “spoof” account.

In a real panic at this point, I quickly changed my Yahoo password, then tried to email Yahoo to tell them about the problem. I received this canned response:

“Some users have reported that their contacts received spam that originated from their Yahoo! Mail account.

If you’ve experienced this issue, we strongly believe your account has been compromised and was used by an unauthorized third party to send spam or fraudulent emails to your contact list.

The best way to assure that this does not happen in the future is to change your password. By changing your password, you minimize the resulting risk for your Yahoo! account. For help selecting a strong password, please review the tips posted in the password section of the Yahoo! Security Center.”

I replied that I had already changed my password (I do so every 3 months anyway), but that no one had accessed my account, there was no way that anyone could have gotten my password, and that I believed they had some sort of security breach. I received no reply for a week. I sent another request for further information, and again received no reply.

During this time I received emails from a few friends who had exactly the SAME THING happen to them with Yahoo. Talking about it on Facebook and different online forums garnered even more responses from people who had the same issue! At this point I am certain I was not hacked, but that Yahoo has a massive security issue that they are simply ignoring or covering up.

Finally two weeks later on September 27, I received this reply:

“We are very sorry for the significant delay in responding to your message. We are currently receiving an unusually large number of emails and have mobilized additional resources to get them answered. We are committed to providing you with the quickest and most accurate answers to your questions.”

During this time I switched everything over to Gmail, copied my contacts, then completely deleted my contacts list from Yahoo, and canceled my Premium service.

On October 1, another batch of spam was sent to my contacts – this is AFTER I had changed my password and deleted all my contacts from my yahoo account. I again changed my password and also backed up my saved emails to a different computer, then deleted every stinkin’ thing from my online Yahoo account.

On October 4 I received another copy of the same “We are very sorry for the significant delay in responding to your message.” I have replied to each one of these and have never actually received any kind of response whatsoever, other than these canned messages.

Just last week, another batch of spam was sent to my contacts list from my Yahoo account. The same one that has had multiple password changes and absolutely NO WAY of anyone but Yahoo accessing the account.

So, after reporting this last batch of spam, I’ll bet you can guess what their response was?  “We are very sorry for the significant delay in responding to your message. We are currently receiving an unusually large number of emails…”

I wish there was some way to make the general public aware of this problem, and to force Yahoo to own up to it, figure out the cause, and FIX it. If anyone has a good idea on how to make that happen, I’m open for suggestions! And if you’ve had the same thing occur to your Yahoo account, please say so in the Comments!



Oregon’s heavenly back country

After years of exploring this state by motorcycle, car, camper, and on foot, its variety and beauty still amaze me. Uncage the Soul Productions has made a gorgeous video showing some of the timeless glory of the State that “flies with her own wings”.

“Finding Oregon is the compilation of six months of timelapse photography across the state of Oregon, punctuated by a 1600 mile road trip in September. We’ve filmed the Columbia River Gorge, Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, the Southwestern Coast, the Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, Blue Mountains, Crater Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Deschutes River, and more. We’re proud to have touched all four corners of the state; however Oregon is the kind of place that the more you see, the more places there are to still discover”

Finding Oregon from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

Crater Lake from two sides – Hiking up Watchman and Mt. Scott

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Crater Lake is only a few hours from home. It is a National Park. It is one of the top rated places to visit in Oregon. We haven’t been there in over 20 years. Pathetic, aren’t we?

I’d always wanted to fit it into our itinerary, but hated to deal with the summer crowds, then again there’s riding. If it’s warm enough to hike around Crater Lake, then its warm enough to ride – enuf said! So, it takes a broken wrist and some time off the bikes to finally get around to a visit, and all I can say is, why did we wait so long???

Driving that lonely, impossibly straight road early in the morning, we arrived in the park just as the sun was coming over the rim. We stopped first at the parking area for Watchman Peak, a 2-mile round trip hike that takes you to the old lookout tower on the West rim. The first part of the trail is actually the original park road, it’s interesting to see how skinny and treacherous this road was in places, and a few of the original mileposts are still in place if you know where to look.

The view from the top is spectacular! Early in the quiet morning, everything is dark in the shadows, with deep blue sky and water, and sunshine to dazzle the eyes. We had the whole place to ourselves, never met another hiker the entire time.

View from Watchman

See, it's a sign about Fire Watch, and look, there's fires...to watch...

Vintage binoculars in the lookout tower

That's our car down there.

After coming back down, we hopped in the car and headed around to the lodge, which has been recently restored. I have a love/hate thing with how the government “restores” these old lodges. In some ways, I’m just happy their still around, and that they’ve added fire protection and other updates that hopefully will keep them here for years to come. In other ways though, I’m frustrated by how radically they change things – from new windows to elevators and air conditioning, the old feel of the place has been washed away.

Crater Lake Lodge

That’s not to say I don’t think the lodge is beautiful, the location and design are gorgeous, and I’d stay here in an instant if I could justify the cost.

As we were wandering through the hallways, we crossed paths with one of the workers who asked if he could help us find anything, we said we were just snooping around, he happily told us about the lodge, the renovation, then gave us a special treat – opening up one of the most popular rooms so we could see the bathtub with a view of the lake!

A view of Crater Lake from your bathtub, how cool is that?

After a quick cup of coffee at the little shop next to the lodge, we headed towards our major hike of the day, Mt. Scott, a 5 mile round-trip hike that has an elevation gain of 1,500 feet. The view at the top gives you a great panorama of the lake and the surrounding valley, and is also the highest point in the park.

Look, a sign.

I’d definitely recommend doing this one as early in the day as possible for two reasons, one, it’ll be less crowded and dusty, and two because you’ll have a clearer view. We caught it just as the sky was beginning to get hazy, by the time we started hiking back down, smoke from some small forest fires had started to fill in the valley below, turning an impressive view into something less awe inspiring.

View from the top of Mt. Scott

Even though this was only a 5-mile hike, I can see why they rate it as strenuous, it is a constant uphill pull all the way to the top, and then constant downhill on the way back down. Usually on hikes like this you’ll have some flat sections or up-and-down areas, but this one is just one uninterrupted pull. Whether you’re headed up or down, it’s tiring and tough on your joints. Still, it’s worth every ache!

Uphill slogging.

Tired feet rest at the top

Pain with a view.

After gratefully arriving back at the car, it was on towards Medford, with a quick stop at Natural Bridge of the Rogue. This is a geological oddity that really has to be seen to be believed. The entire Rogue river is flowing along naturally, when it suddenly just disappears underground, re-appearing in a thundering rush a few hundred yards beyond.

Water disappearing under Natural Bridge

Although Mike was unimpressed, I thought it was very cool, and it’s worth stopping and hiking the short and easy trail to take a look.

Medford Super 8 tonight, Ashland tomorrow!

Hiking Black Butte

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Woke up abruptly at 2am with some sort of fault to our ADT alarm system  — it wailed warning for a few seconds then inexplicably quit. Mike walked around the place and out to the shop, all was as it should be, called ADT and they said there was no notification of a problem – so, we chalked it up to alarm gremlins and hopefully THAT won’t happen again.

Since we were planning an early start anyway, Mike went ahead and stayed up, let me sleep another hour or two and then we headed out in the pre-dawn cool towards Sisters.

Black Butte is one of those things everyone who lives in this area says “I really should climb to the top of that thing”, and then usually never gets around to it. Well, this was our chance, so we took it. Arriving at the trailhead after some nice washboard gravel and a bit of boulder-dodging for the final few miles, there were only two other cars in the parking lot, and one looked abandoned. We donned our gear and started up. The trail winds through huge ponderosa pine and ferns for a mile or so, switching back and forth and always climbing. The trees get spindlier and more gnarled the higher you go, and then the forest gives way to wind-blown hillsides that slope steeply away in every direction.

Wildflowers dot the path, little bright-yellow birds swoop and sing, the sun is rising straight ahead, and that darned trail still climbs. Huffing and puffing I finally hauled my butt over the last outcrop of rock and we made it to the top. The view was softened by some haze or smoke, but it’s still an awesome sight. Very quiet and peaceful, and definitely worth the work.

A breakfast of pb&j, a few more pictures, and we were headed back down the hill, greeting a bunch of folks who were just starting the hike up. It would be a hot and dusty walk for them – this one’s definitely worth getting up early for!

We got back to Sisters around 10:30am, and checked out their Antiques Faire (they added the stupid extra “e”, not me!) then headed to the Ski Inn for a much-deserved “real” breakfast.

Back home early, resting and getting ready for Green Lakes hike tomorrow. Geesh, any more hiking and we’ll have to join Sierra Club or something stupid like that.

A visit to the top of Tom Dick and Harry

Really! What is it with the names of some very beautiful places in Oregon? I mean, we’ve got Crack in the Ground, and Tom, Dick and Harry mountain. It’s just not very inspiring.

Fortunately, aside from a rediculous name, the hike past Mirror Lake and up the talus slopes to an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of pretty much the entire state is really cool.

Weston Oregon

Digging up information on Weston is a little like digging for gold that someone already found but for some reason decided to rebury! I think money was spent by the town a few years ago towards an online presence and information about the history and historic buildings were posted at that time, unfortunately some of the sites have either been removed or the links are broken.

Because I spent a few hours digging, I thought there might be others doing the same thing and I could save them some time. Below are links and quotes to help you explore this town and understand its history.

First off, here is a map that I made using the locations listed on the Chamber Of Commerce web pages:


This is as close as I can get, but probably there are some mistakes – if you know different, please contact me and I’ll fix it!

More information on each building can be found on the Chamber Site here.
Short History from the Chamber Site
Historic Weston
Weston was named for Weston, Missouri, by T.T. Lieuallen who came from Missouri. Lieuallen was the first postmaster at Weston, Oregon. The community is located east of Athena, and South of Milton-Freewater.

Weston is the second oldest town in Umatilla County, after Umatilla. Lieuallen erected the first two houses, a dwelling and a blacksmith shop. Rube Baskett, lawyer, and R.A. Steele, notary public, were the dispensers of law and justice.

Charles Patterson drove the first stage coach from Walla Walla through Weston to Pendleton. Barney Keenan, a farmer, was the second man to hold the reins of the stage coach. S.F. Neff was Weston’s first schoolmaster.

Hill & Baker operated a general merchandise store at Weston and were succeeded by Saling & Reese.

Weston was incorporated in 1878 and T.J. Lucy was Weston’s first mayor. The Weston Leader was established by W.L. Black.

Weston was the home for the Eastern Oregon State Normal School. It was established about 1882, but it wasn’t until 1893 that the school became a bona fide state school. The school served as a training school for teachers.
Novelist Nard Jones and Weston
http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Weston%2C-Oregon Weston is best known for its connection with novelist Nard Jones (1904 – 1972), who lived in the city with his parents between 1919 and 1927, and whose first novel Oregon Detour was set in an Oregon town of 600 inhabitants called “Creston”.

When his novel, written according to the tenets of the New Realism literary movement (established years before by Sherwood Anderson,Sinclair Lewis and others) was published in 1930, many of the residents were convinced that his characters were based on local inhabitants, and considered the work a slander against the town. While the legned that Jones was sued and ran out of town for his book is not true, members of the town made an effort to local suppress access to the book: copies of the novel were stolen from the local library; after the novel became the subject for a high school student’s book report, his English teacher removed the book from both the reading list and the high school library. According to George Venn, local litarary historian, even in the 1980s “trying to figure out or trying to remember who the ‘real people’ in the novel is still a local pastime.”
Isham Saling and his House:

I’ve searched everywhere and can’t find anything about this place other than it is listed on the National Register and was built in 1880. Very cool structure, and completely intriguing.

Some info about Mr. Saling:
From: History of Pacific Northwest – Oregon and Washington, 1889 Volume II
ISHAM E. SALING. – The gentleman whose name appears above is the leading merchant in the thriving city of Weston, Oregon. He came to his position by that firm and steady application to business which is everywhere the guaranty of success.

Mr. Saling is a native of Monroe county, Missouri, and was born in 1830. In 1852 he came to Oregon across the plains. At Salmon Falls on the Snake he exchanged his oxen for horses, packing in from that point to the Jacksonville mines, and remaining in that section until 1855. Coming to Yamhill county he engaged in farming until 1859, when he crossed with his stock into the Walla Walla country. The hard winter of 1863 starving to death many of his cattle, he decided to confine himself to farming. This occupation he followed until 1874, being among the first to prove the fertility of the general upland soil.

In that year he established himself at Weston in the merchandise business, and is now head of the largest business in the county. His other interests are also large. He owns a half interest in the brick hotel, three brick stores, and also the tract known as Saling’s Addition, and a farm of two hundred and thirty acres nearby. With his two sons he has three hundred head of horses and cattle on a place near the Columbia in Washington; and he is also much occupied there with operations in farming.

He was married in 1856 to Miss Melinda Morton of McMinnville. They have eight children. The eldest daughters are now married, and are conducting homes of their own. His sons are in business.

The labors of Mr. Saling and his compeers have even yet but slightly lifted the curtain of the future of the valley of the Columbia and its boundless possibilities. From this starting point, however, for him his children, as well as for many others, has begun a new world.
History of Frank Saling (son of Isham) can be found by clicking his name.

Travel maps!

Wandering the web, reading moto-travel blogs on a rainy Friday afternoon, I found some cool stuff. First is http://www.mytriplogs.com which is an easy way to keep track of your travels, including things like fuel prices and other goodies. Plugging in just the states (no maps for Canada that I could find), our travels look pathetically left-coastie and decidedly unfinished. It gives me the urge to do more riding just for the sake of placing more pushpins in our virtual map.

Free, personalized travel maps at mytriplogs.com

The question is, does this kind of travel really make us happy, or does the joy and discovery of simply wandering make for better memories?

This should be a cut and dried answer, but for me it’s not. I loved Alaska, I loved Newfoundland, I also loved wandering around little ghost towns on our weekend trips last summer, and I think our favorite motorcycle vacations have been  week-long excursions to Colorado last summer and following California’s Route 49 a few years ago. Then again, it’s pretty cool to say we rode North until we ran into the ocean.

There’s good and bad about both types of riding. Point-to-point travel takes us to places that make you do the fist-pump and want to scream YEA!!!! WE MADE IT!!!! Along with the quiet satisfaction of pushing my brain and body past a typical comfort zone and accomplishing a goal despite sometimes difficult and frustrating situations, that pushpin in the map gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Yea, we're here! We broke a bike, are stranded on an island, but we made it!

Exploration travel with no real goal on the map creates more lasting memories for me, I guess because I have more time to drink it all in! Simply stopping because something looks cool has brought us to some truly amazing discoveries and places we would have never known about had we just been “passing through”.

No way I would have seen this if we'd been jamming through Colorado on the way to somewhere else.

With Mike home recuperating from knee surgery for the past few weeks, it’s brought a few things to the front of my brain. First, having someone else in the house is completely disruptive for me! Second, that’s not a bad thing, just different. Third, we are okay hanging around the house when we need to and we don’t drive each other crazy(er). Fourth and most important, although we’re okay around the house we are happier when we’re either planning a trip, or on a trip – even a short jaunt to Seattle makes us smile.

So I think, for us the answer is a mix of both go-to-say-we’ve-been-there trips, and explore-for-the-heck-of-it wanderings will make us happiest.

Here’s to longer trips, fewer problems, and more great memories!

Loves that never die?

For some reason today I was thinking about things I loved as a child which are still favorites in my life today.

This place comes to mind.

Though I feel like I’m a radically different person than the one I planned on growing into, there’s still lots of things that made me happy as a kid that still put a grin on my face today. Favorite books like Chronicles of Narnia, that perfect color of red that’s so hard to find (but it’s on my Ducati!), creating something with my own hands (artwork or a photo that really captures the moment), spending quiet time alone.

I think I love traveling much more now than I did as a child, ask my Mom and she’ll probably say we were the worst long distance car companions she could imagine, but my memories of those trips really do make me smile even if we were probably a  handful at the time.

The amazing thing here isn't Dad's ability to carry us both, but that Mom didn't get her thumb in the picture.

For a period of time growing up I went through a phase where I thought posing with an exhausted look on my face was cool – looking as if I’d just finished something truly epic like climbing K2 instead of just hiking to the rim of Crater Lake. I’ll bet Dad looked through the viewfinder and cringed every time he saw me in this pose.

Wow, epic. I probably walked 100 yards from the car for this one.

Really glad I grew out of that affectation.

I’m also glad I had parents who loved us enough to let us do stupid stuff that didn’t matter in the great scheme of things, and also loved us enough to keep us from doing stupid things that would scar us for life. How the heck did they know the difference?

We are in Dallas Texas, wearing cowboy hats. Yea, we bought them at Nieman Marcus then wore them EVERYWHERE so we would look like 'locals'. Dave kicked the 'cool' up a notch with a toy knife and holster.

So, here’s to Mac and Mary, great parents who introduced me to some of my favorite things, and documented it all with embarrassingly candid photos so I’ll always know that no matter how cool I think I am, I’m not.