Day 5 – Scary Clowns and Elvis is in town.

I mentioned before that one of the best things about Vegas for us is that it forces Mike to relax a little. I know, Vegas and relaxation don’t really go together, but for a guy who sets his alarm at 5am whether he needs to or not, a place that keeps the sidewalks rolled up until 10am is a good way to force him to slow the heck down.

It’s even more important right now, since he’s picked up a cold somewhere along the way and is hacking and coughing his way through the night. If he were a normal person, I’d be sad that he’s having to deal with this on vacation, but it’s better than having to deal with it at home where he’s working 12 hour days delivering packages in frigid weather.

So, he still gets up at 5am, but instead of racing through his morning routine he gets to relax and drink a few cups of coffee while he’s reading a magazine or watching a movie.

Speaking of coffee, they’ve got a Keurig in the room. Yay! But they have cups packaged with a sticker on top saying its $3.50 a pop. I’ve honestly never stayed in a room where they charge for the coffee packets, until now. So of course our first stop this afternoon is a Target where we buy some k-cups (after stopping at McDonalds for cheap coffee).

After that, we had the “what do YOU want to do?”, “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” talk. I hate those. I had a list (of course I had a list!) of a variety of things that we could do that were within budget and that might interest both of us. Mike was in a mood where nothing sounded interesting, so “we” spent the afternoon at antique stores. Yay. My favorite. ZZZZzzzzzzzz… Good thing I brought the Kindle. Continue reading

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Day 4 – Taking the dam road to Las Vegas, with a stop in a dam town for a little antiquing along the way.

Mike loves looking for motorcycle stuff at antique stores, he could do it for days on end. I like wandering around antique stores for about 2 hours, then I’m done. Actually, I think it’s a good thing that only one of us likes to own “stuff”. Our place is packed to the gills as it is, I can’t imagine how insanely over-stuffed it would be if I also collected fripperies.

This is not to say I don’t love spending money. I do. But it’s on tools and electronic gizmos. I might try and act all high and mighty sometimes, and say Mike’s stuff is all just dust-gathering shelf art, and my stuff is used to create things – but when my stuff is a few years old it’s worth nothing, where his stuff just keeps gaining in value. So who is smarter? Don’t answer that.

We get up early this morning, pack up the car, and we’re on the road by 9am. It’s cooler today, and a little windy. Perfect on-the-road and in-the-stores kind of weather. I can’t figure out why the rocks would be flipping us off, but back at ‘ya, buddy.

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Day 3 – Two clowns visit ghost towns. And donkeys. Lots and lots of donkeys.

Fair warning for those of you who either don’t like hoof stock or who have a fear of long ears and teeth, this report has more pictures of burros than humans, architecture, and plants combined. However, there is a sort of hidden Mickey (if you tilt your head and squint a little) to make up for it all.

Although it started as a mining town, for the greater part of its lifespan Oatman has been a tourist trap…er…destination.

Admittedly it’s more fake than real, but we do still enjoy spending an afternoon here.

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Day 2 – Visit to our pig-in-a-poke and see how the other half lives.

The last time we visited Las Vegas we gambled on some property, buying a piece of dirt sight-unseen in a Podunk little subdivision in Arizona.

See, we like to spend money on dirt. I’ll bet you’re sensing a theme here.

Okay, it’s not THAT bad, we’d driven through Mohave County quite a few times over the years. We liked the feel of the place; mostly retirees, some “interesting” desert rats, and a few younger families. An added plus was the proximity to the Colorado River, so this dusty little spot in the desert felt significantly less dusty than many other desert locales. We felt it would be a good place to snowbird.

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Day 1 – Drive from Terrebonne Oregon to Laughlin Nevada

Today’s journey consists of 934 miles of mostly 2-lane roads in the middle of nowhere, but that’s okay, we sort of like “middle of nowhere”.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we woke early, then got going pretty much on time. Mike wanted to be on the road by 5am, and we rolled out of the garage at 5:30.

We usually enjoy long rides like this. Mike drives the whole way because if I drive he gets motion sick (does this say something about my driving skills? Probably), so it’s my job to stay awake and keep the music flowing.

Mike’s Christmas present from me this year was a new stereo for the car, it has a USB port, so I basically dumped all the music from my computer onto an 8-gig flash drive (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007V9SNNY/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1 ) and voila! DJ duties handled! So much easier than shuffling through CD’s like we did in olden times (last month).

Speaking of presents, did I mention today is my birthday? No, because no one else mentioned it today either. Yep, Mike forgot my birthday. Not as in “completely spaced the fact that my wife has a birthday in January”, more of an “I even bought you a card and everything but because everything was so crazy I forgot today was it” kind of thing. Continue reading

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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Steens Mountain with stops in Diamond, Frenchglen, and the Round Barn

Continuing on our quest to finally go all the places we’re surprised that we haven’t been before, we decided to ride out to the Steens on Saturday. We were thinking we’d make a weekend of it, heading home through Silver Lake, but ended up making it an epic one-day 625-mile ride instead.

2013-07-06map

Besides the Steens loop, we wanted to check out Diamond and also the Peter French Round Barn. We got started nice and early, on the road by a little  after 6am (note to other riders, yes, we know this is deer-thirty, and yes, we know it’s stupid to ride this early and also ride as late as we did). We had a fun sighting of a beautiful hot air balloon hovering over Hwy 97, sure was a nice way to start the day.

Hot air balloon on the road out of town in the morning.

Hot air balloon on the road out of town in the morning.

The remainder of our ride to Burns was uneventful, it’s not an ugly road, but there’s really nothing very beautiful about it either. Continue reading

Exploring Burns, Seneca & home through John Day

Checking weather reports on Thursday, it looked like we would be getting one gorgeous Saturday, and Sunday would be a good day to stay home, so we started looking at maps and checking for back roads we haven’t done before, or it’s been so long we’ve pretty much forgotten. We’d never done 395 from Burns towards John Day, and there was a jaunt on some Forest Service roads that took a minor detour from Seneca to Prairie City so we added that in too.

Overall, this is an enjoyable ride, with no major “oh wow!” moments as far as scenery. The roads are all in very good shape, even the short gravel sections. At 450 miles, it’s probably a bit long for a casual day ride, but it worked out fine for us.

Burns is sort of a gloomy place to visit right now, their sad little casino is closed with a sign out front saying “Closed, New Building to be open Spring 2013!” which makes it even more depressing. A town that used to house plenty of industry is now home to picturesque and crumbling old warehouses and other buildings. Good people live here, I hope more business comes to the area soon.

450 mile jaunt through the Eastern Oregon backcountry
Here’s the loop.
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Prineville Car Show – 2013 Crook County Rodders

Mike is lucky enough to have some pretty neat businesses on his route, one of which is Ricky B’s Restoration. Rick and his gang of talented and slightly crazy employees do an impressive array of restoration work on old parts. Every year Ricky has a bunch of cars in the Rodders show, and also sponsors a huge barbeque at his house after the event, it all adds up to a very fun day.

This was our first year visiting the car show, so I didn’t know what to expect, I guess I was thinking probably quite a few older pickup trucks with flame paint jobs and nice rims from Les Schwab. Well, there were a few of those, but the quality, variety, and quantity of participants really blew us away. If you have a chance to attend the show next year, definitely do it. Added bonus? It’s free!

Gorgeous Orange

Gorgeous Orange

Cruz Oregon, sounds like a plan to me

Cruz Oregon, sounds like a plan to me

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A Prison of Their Own Making

A few years ago, riding from somewhere to somewhere else, Mike and I spent the night in Deer Lodge Montana. Riding into town at dusk, we turned a corner and saw what appeared to be a castle. A closer look revealed barbed wire and sentry turrets. This imposing structure was the old Montana State Prison, originally opened in 1871 and overcrowded nearly from day one, it was the site of deplorable conditions, riots, and the occasional humorous story.

The prisoners happily vacated the these antiquated digs and moved in to a modern prison in 1979. New inmates began showing up shortly afterward, although in this case their stays were short and they paid to get in. Mike and I joined these ranks today by walking in the front door and plunking down $9 apiece (with AAA discount!) to enjoy an afternoon with old cars and iron bars.

This prison complex has a much different feel to it than Alcatraz (one of the few other prison museums we’ve visited). Because Alcatraz was left derelict for many years, it has a feeling of separation from its time as a prison. The Old Montana State Prison doesn’t have that softening of years and layering of other experiences. It went directly from being a prison to being a museum with very little “restoration” done. There is peeling paint hanging from ceilings, the sound of dripping water greets your entry into the basement showers and the cold is bitter even though summer sun is warm outside, rust runs down brick like dried blood, voices echo through hallways, and solid steel doors can still swing shut on dark cells with a touch (thankfully locks have been disabled).

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