This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Crater Lake, Oregon

After breakfast we made a very early start driving up to Crater Lake, a place neither of us had ever been but wished we had so many times when passing by this part of the world. Just never seemed like enough time or just wasn't the right time. Today was the day. We drove the 75 miles up Highway 62 into the hills through scenic scrubland and then into the Umpqua National Forest. Driving through the little town of Shady Cove you need to definately observe the speed limits. Cute town and very serious about their speed limits. I nearly got caught going just a little too fast before I spotted the cop at the side of the road. Not satisfied with my reduced speed, he followed behind me most of the way through town and finally turned off.

We continued on driving on up to the Crater Lake National Park stopping to pay our $10 entry fee and then at the visitor's center to get oriented. Crater Lake is actually within the ancient collapsed caldera of Mount Mazama, a volcano which erupted and collapsed hundreds of thousands of years ago. The lake contains the purest water in the U.S. being fed only by rainfall and snowmelt. At its deepest point it is nearly 2,000 feet deep. It is nearly impossible to get to the edge of the lake as it is a collapsed volcanic caldera, the rim of which is hundreds of feet below and with sheer drop offs it is accessible only by a hair raising mile-long trail which drops 700 feet. Of course, it must be navigated back up hill when you leave so it is not for the faint of heart. If you choose to take the trail you will be rewarded with some choices. You can fish and catch all the fish you want without a license. You can swim in the pristine water, though the August water temperature is around 59 degrees. Or, you can take a boat ride out to Wizard Island for a day hike. If you enlarge the photo above you might be able to see the tiny boat cruising back to shore after picking up visitors to Wizard Island. Wizard Island is itself an ancient caldera sticking up several hundred feet above the surface of the lake. The photo on the right was taken on Wizard Island looking at the edge of the Mount Mazama caldera and the rim above the caldera.

We hiked along the rim of the caldera stopping to take a photo or take in the amazing views that changed with each stop. Then we walked over to the Crater Lake Lodge to look around inside and have lunch overlooking the lake. Outside on the front deck of the lodge stood a row of very confortable rocking chairs that give the occupant an uninterrupted view of the lake and a peaceful spot to read, sketch, visit or just take in the beauty of the view. Wildflowers and wildlife were everywhere you looked. Though we saw no black bears, people were warned that they did enter campgrounds and to be careful. We saw these two characters straight out of Walt Disney's Chip and Dale cartoons playing along the trail.

We left about 1:00 in order to get back to town and get some last minute shopping we needed to do before our trip north to home. Apparently it was a good thing that we had left so early in the morning since the traffic coming up to the park was sigificantly heavier as we descended the mountain. We saw Crater Lake at its finest. Quiet breezes blowing through the pines, few people around to spoil the serenity and a chance to see one of nature's most beautiful creations nearly to ourselves.

We arrived back in Medford about 2:00, dropped by a couple of stores including the Rogue Creamery which we had visited on our way south to Atwater. Now we wanted to pick up some of their scrumpcious award-winning bleu cheeses to take back with us. We had even bought an Igloo ice chest just to keep it in. We especially liked their Oregonzola Bleu and the Crater Lake Bleu cheeses. They were melt in your mouth delicious!
Had dinner at the Black Bear Diner in Medford. We didn't have any great expectation. It looked pretty much like the average coffee shop. We ordered the classic comfort food entrees of meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. It was actually really good. Who knew? A stop at Harry and David's to pick up some fruit and nuts for gifts back home and then back to our room. A big day! Tomorrow, Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Medford, Oregon

Our first full day in Medford was pretty uneventful. Slept in late, had breakfast and then we got moved or rather upgarded to a suite room because we are Choice Rewards members of the hotel chain we usually stay with. It gets us an extra 10% off the room rate, free upgrades when available and we pile up points towards a free nights stay.

Not a lot to say about Medford and environs. We did drive up to Jacksonville which is a very small town in the foothills west of Medford famous mainly for the Britt Festival which takes place this time of year. Very famous classical, jazz and country performers come here to the open air stage. We wandered through the 3 block main street and into the few shops that attracted us. Not much going on.

Then we drove into downtown Medford. Again, not much there. We drove up and down the main street of downtown and found it pretty much dead. So after a while we drove over to the area nearer our hotel. Had dinner at Si Casa Flores again. So good we decided to go again tonight. Then we went to Fred Meyer to find some Oregon wines to take back with us. We found some pretty good deals on local Pinot Gris and bought 6 bottles so we could get the extra 10% discount, plus Oregon has no sales tax so we saved another 8% there.

Back in our room now and ready for a quiet evening watching a movie. Tomorrow we plan to drive up to Crater Lake, somewhere neither of us have ever been but have always wanted to go.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

On The Road Again

Okay, enough wallowing in nostalgic woe is me. This morning we got up and drove back over to Atwater. We had breakfast at Jantz Cafe, a fantastic Mennonite cafe that served great food, especially baked goods. Then over to the house to add a few last minute touches to it before heading north. We stopped by Big Lots last night to pick up a door mat, a wall clock, some new little curtains for the plant room windows. We installed all these touches and made a last swing through each room to pick up any last bit of throw aways. Bud stopped by to say goodbye. It was a bit of a misty eyed moment for all of us. We told him if the house didn't sell we might keep it as a vacation home. He perked up, smiled and said, "really!" We also said goodbye to Connie who lives across the street and who told us to give mom her best when we see her. A last look at the house and then we sped off towards the freeway that would take us due north and back to our home.

We made great time, stopping along the way in far northern California. We stopped for lunch at Granzella's a good deli in Williams that also sells olives. They let you taste them too. We also stopped and tasted olives and olive oil at the Olive Pit and the Olive Hut, both in Corning. It was over 100 degrees and the landscape in all directions was dead grass and occasional ramshackle farms baking in the afternoon sun. We drove on passed Redding, Lake Shasta, Mount Shasta, Weed, Yreka and finally, climbing to nearly 4000 feet, the town of Hilt, the last settlement before the Oregon border. "Welcome to Oregon" the sign proclaimed and for the first time in 3 days my tummy stopped flip flopping. After reaching the highest elevation along I-5 the road began a quick descent into Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 15 minutes later we arrived in Medford for the night. Halfway home. We are stopping here for the next 3 days just to rest and relax, explore the area and take in a couple of shows in Ashland.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Home Bittersweet Home

Arrived back in our hometown and parked the VW in the garage for the night. As the house is completely empty we had arranged to stay with the next door neighbor who has lived there since 1972 and been a terrific neighbor and friend to our family over the years. Bud also knows everything that goes on in the little town of Atwater. We walked next door and Bud, who has a set of keys so he can check in on things, handed them over and we walked in for the first time since all the contents of the house had been removed. It was completely empty, something I had never seen in the 35 years I have been going to that house. It was a surreal feeling knowing everything was gone and that we were there possibly for the last time ever. We walked around the house looking for anything that needed attention so we could talk to the realtor the next morning. As we wandered the house looking into cupboards and closets, we discovered little reminders of the family that had lived there for 45 years. A yard stick, a little oil can in the furnace closet used to oil the motor every fall, a remnant of one of mom's many arts and crafts hobbies. My tummy would do flip flips just thinking of what a huge change this was going to be in our lives. The end of an era.

A man, our dad, had spent many years of his air force career while living here. His daughter, my wife, grew up here. It occured to me how fleeting life is. You live your life enjoying its moments, its highs and lows. Life comes to an end and nearly everything that you have accumulated, considered dear and valuable, is sold at a garage sale or thrown out with the trash or given to Goodwill. It's gone and can never be relived or reaccumulated. Life, for the rest of us goes on. We are left only with memories, a photo album and maybe a few possessions we kept to remind us of that life that was lived. The center of so much of a life's activity, the most intimate moments in the life of a family are experienced in the home and this home is about to pass on to another family who will live their lives, have their special moments, holidays, and celebrations, never thinking a minute about those that came before. Life goes on.
Our daughter spent many weekends, almost all her major holidays and so many lazy summer days in this house. My wife grew up here. I courted my wife and asked her father for her hand in marriage in that house. Our wedding rehearsal dinner was held at the house. I cooked her parent's 25th and 50th wedding anniversary dinners in the kitchen. So many wonderful memories. So many bittersweet memories.

Bud's wife had passed away a few years ago and so he lives alone now. It was nice to spend the evening catching up with him and getting to know his super dog--Annie. She is a beautiful 2 year old blonde Lab with lots of energy. We went out to dinner at Rizonelli's, a local Italian joint we've been to so many times for their awesome hot salami sandwiches. Then back to Bud's place and more visiting before bed.

This morning Bud fixed us breakfast and then we wandered over to the house to wait for the realtor and to get started cleaning. Andy, our realtor, arrived about 9:30 and we walked through the house and discussed options for fixing certain things that might improve the chances of selling the house. We decided on new carpet in a couple of rooms and to expose the beautiful hardwood floors in the original part of the house--the living room and bedrooms. We also picked out a new vinyl floor for the kitchen. The house will be painted inside and completely cleaned inside and out. Funny, we will probably never see the house when it is finished. Maybe that is good since I will always remember it the way it was. And it gives the house and the lucky family who buys it a new start. So much was taken off our hands that we found ourselves with nothing much more to do except clean out the remaining belongings of our family, place them in trash bags and fill up 2 garbage bins.

So without any further reason to stay, we rearranged our schedule to head home early. Tomorrow, after one last bit of work on the house, one last goodbye to Bud and Annie, we will load up the VW and begin the drive back towards our home. We leave sadly but our home is in Bellingham now. We love it and all our friends. But a part of our hearts will always remain here in little Atwater.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Road Trip To California

We are making a quick road trip down to California and what may be one of the final times we ever have a need to go back to our hometowns of Merced and Atwater, California. The last remaining connection to California is my mother-in-law's home in Atwater. Atwater is a small agricultural community located in central California. Its biggest claim to fame is that it was once the site of Castle Air Force Base which closed down in the late 80's, early 90's. Now it is home to a prison, the billing headquarters for Cingular/ATT cellular, an air museum (a vestige of the old base) and not much else. A photo of the SR-71 Blackbird at the museum is pictured at right. We need to go there to check out the house and see what can be done to sell it. So for the next 7 days, we will be on the road and mostly dealing with mom's house. But in between we will have some fun.

Today, day 1: Monday, July 30th we left Bellingham about 8:00 am and drove south along I-5. We stopped in Portland to get gas and then on to Albany Oregon where we met Carolyn and Sam Darby, very old family friends, for lunch. We met them at Novak's, a famous Hungarian restaurant there in town. We have eaten there before and loved it. We had a great time catching up with Sam and Carolyn's adventures traveling all over the world. They are both well into their retirement years but just don't seem to be slowing down. The food at Novaks was a disappointment. We remembered it being so much better. Anyway, another hour and a half and we arrived at our first day destination of Roseburg, Oregon. That is where I am right now writing this to you. We are staying at the Quality Inn (picture on the right) where we were upgraded to a suite so it is a nice room.
Tomorrow we travel on to our final destination--Atwater, California, our hometown. I will keep you informed about our adventures along the way so stay tuned!