This weekend I ventured out on a road trip Saturday morning. My directions were handwritten and included names of state roads marked different in real life, when marked at all. My map was large scale and missing details, and my confidence somewhere between why am I going and you owe me.
I like more specific directions when I'm going into unknown territory even though I'm the sort who, when giving directions, is much more detail oriented - like saying 'turn right' and pointing left.
I was road weary from my travels the past few weeks and really just thought I wanted to stay home and wallow in self pity. My life at home has been a challenge to say the least. My theory on Murphy's Law has re-established itself in my existence and I'm once again relying on my own abilities to fix and repair things like WiFi, fountain pumps, shredders and sprinklers. Now if I could just get my new wipers on... I've also had to resolve issues like my medical insurance coverage (thank you Obama-care), the new roof and windows.
Instead I loaded up the car and headed to eastern Oregon. It was going to be a long, hot day. I'll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say it included a barfing schnauzer, 100 degree temperatures, dirt roads, and a 16% grade.
The drive was easy enough. North off I-84 at LaGrande - through several small towns (Imbler, Elgin, Wallowa, and Longstine. Enterprise and Joseph were a bit larger and definitely places I wouldn't mind exploring another time.
The last stop for civilization is Imnaha. And I use the term civilization freely here... It's the true meaning of a cross road with a post office and a general store. From Imnaha the route continues up a dirt road. If it hadn't been marked I would have thought I was going into someone's ranch road.
The road is one gravel lane for six miles. There is an occasional (or maybe that's being generous) turnout (or wide spot in the road). Honestly it was a nail biter at times. I prayed I wouldn't meet anyone along the way. Toss in the 16% steep grade for good measure.
After the first six miles, the road becomes a main interstate highway by comparison - but it really is just now a lane and a half of hard gravel 'paved' road with more frequent wide spots. Once at my destination I was in awe - on top of the world. The scenery was beautiful and the temperatures at least 20 degrees cooler than below. I found it ironic I drove over 7 hours to be in a place directly across from Riggins, Idaho - where I could have driven in three hours. Maybe I should rent a helicopter next time.
We unloaded the supplies I was delivering and then went for a hike up the hill to the Top Hat Lookout Tower. I'm not much for high places and the public platform of the tower is at an altitude of 7,000 feet, overlooking the Snake River Canyon below at 1,250 feet. The actual 'look out' cab above where the fire watcher works is 82 feet above the ground, another 3 sets of ladder-like steps and a trap door. Ruger was no more interested in continuing than I was so we stayed on the platform. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Proof I went to the tower platform.
Mike's 'neighbor' at Heavens Gate across the River
Ironically I could see Slate Creek across the river. We've been passing this point for years on our many trips north to Moscow. Erin and I were just through that area two weeks ago.
Slate Creek on the Snake River
I learned about the Seven Devils. The folklore for the different mountains around us are interesting and from a lower elevation I never even knew they existed. Mike showed me the herd of big horn sheep just over on the next ridge and talked about a much older big horn ram which came to the cliff just under the tower to eat the yellow wild flowers. He is missing one horn and seems to struggle a big. Mike calls him "One Horn Billy". I think they relate to one another's arthritic moments.
Big Horn Sheep on the hillside under the lone fir.
We enjoyed dinner and a pleasant breeze out on the small deck of a 'humble yet modest' cabin (by Forest Service standards). There was no running water. It is delivered by Forest Service Squad 51 in five gallon bottles. There is no electricity. But there was three little wall lamps powered by propane, as was the refrigerator and stove. There is a porta-pottie for necessary facilities.
We enjoyed a visit with three hikers from Portland. Mike met them last week when they asked to park their car in his lot and a six pack of beer in his frig. He then drove them to the Enterprise airstrip where they caught a plane to fly to Riggins. From there they spent the night in Sheep Camp and convinced a river rafter to give them a lift across the river, where they proceeded to hike back UP the hill to Hat Point. It took them a week.
Until then I hadn't thought much about bugs. The flies were a bit intense late afternoon but seemed to dwindle with dusk. The hikers were pulling ticks off themselves. Suddenly Ruger's romps through the field of wild flowers wasn't quite so fun to watch. It was a leash for him from then on.
As the day wound down we enjoyed the sunset out one side of the cabin and then turned to watch the Super Moon rise over the Seven Devils across the river on the Idaho ridge.
We shared the moment with two large 12 passenger vans of Japanese tourist who were looking for a place to camp and saw us standing by the cabin.
This morning we were greeted by three elk in the yard at the cabin. A bull, a spike and one more, either a calf or a cow. Not a bad way to start your day.
Good Morning "Usie"
I had a lot of anxiety about the six mile one lane section of the road and was anxious to get off the mountain, but sad to leave. Mike had to go up to the tower to work at 9am. I was on the road by 7. Fortunately travel time was only six hours (only one stop in LaGrande) because the trip home went better.
Ruger dispelled my theory he was car sick by managing a clean return
The only Sunday morning commuters were cattle enjoying their ‘Open
One of the little towns had this cute little shop on the
corner – The Blue Banana . As I passed
it the first time I recalled someone telling me about the smoothies, etc. Despite my aging brain I even remembered it
was Erin and naturally had to send her a picture.
The Blue Banana, Longstine, OR
The car is once again free of mountain road commuter-droppings,
interstate bugs and about 11” of dust.
Ironically one of those interstate bugs must have had loved one s clinging on to mourn the loss of family. When I was cleaning the front, a bee stung
me. What a little bugger... (pun intended).
It's been awhile since I've solo'd a road trip and I enjoyed getting to spend time with Mike. Sorry for the picture-palooza but there was just soooo much to share.
Now it's back to my routine and weather watching to the northwest - keeping an eye on our summer storms.
The 4th of July has always been the annual commemorative celebration of my longevity.
Growing up the day would be spent with a holiday parade viewed from the curb of the street in a small Midwest town.
The 4th of July was all about BBQ chicken served in the Park, swimming at the community pool with cousins or friends, and time spent with family.
We watched the fireworks displayed over Lake Leota in the park after dusk and walked through the hometown streets where we returned to twirl with sparklers in the lawn.
With our own family, I'd always hope to recreate the same feeling of contentedness with my children - glossing over the whole longevity celebration. I just wanted them to feel what I felt on the 4th of July.
Ok so realistically that probably didn't happen.
We tried family picnics.
We tried parties in the backyard with friends.
We scrambled every year to figure out from where we would watch the fireworks when we weren't in the Midwest.
Every year I was asked "what do you want to do?"
Honestly I just wanted someone else to make that decision but I am the designated family 'Julie McCoy, Cruise Director'.
There were special longevity celebrations. Neighbors surprised me on the 4th of July with a 30 year party in our culdesac in Puerto Rico. I didn't even realize it was happening until cake was brought out for dessert.
Our children pulled off a 50 year celebration right under my nose with 50 black flamingos in our front yard and a BBQ, as well as watching the fireworks together in the park.
Often times we end up having a meal together, then going our separate ways. We'd opt to stay home from fireworks and avoid the crowd
Earlier this year I retired as family cruise director. Mike and I decided to take a road trip for the week of the 4th. I selfishly wanted to go back to Wisconsin and Illinois where I could hang out with my parents and visit my sister's family house on Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver, Indiana.
After Mike was chosen to have his own special summer adventure, I decided to fly back to Chicago instead and took an entire week off.
Because my flight brought me in late at night my folks drove down to Chicago to spend time with me at my sister's home. They weren't going to join us at the lake but would return for the last two days of my time in Chicago.
This is my sister Di, and 1 year old Pez. My sister works miracles to keep track of her five children and husband. Somehow with multiple vehicles and schedules we all managed to get to Culver, Indiana safe and sound.
We had a fabulous weekend. Boating, tubing on the lake, fireworks on the lake, delicious food and lots of laughs. It was exactly what the doctor ordered for a week of rest and relaxation after a month of wedding travels, photo shooting and editing.
Road trip-Culver style. We hopped in the golf cart and drove over to the grocery store.
Every morning my sister and family would get up and head out to train for a triathalon. Seriously! I on the other hand was on vacation and started my morning with my book, a cup of coffee and my golden friends.
My sister's 'cool down' was spent walking 3+ miles with me. Hey - don't judge!
My nieces - Lauren, Mackenzie and Nicole; and oldest nephew Kevin
Culver is an adorable little town with friendly folks.
Time to spend the day on the lake.
My beautiful niece Lauren
The Culver Cadillac
Nicole, Lauren and Mackenzie
Nicole, Lauren and Mackenzie
My oldest nephew keeps an eye on his sisters.
Time for the 'old lady run' with my sister Di and friend Michelle.
Nicole, Kevin and Mackenzie
Getting a little air.
Nicole goes splash.
Always with a smile!
Kevin, Lauren and Di
Mike stays dry in the park.
On the beach
Lauren helps the dogs cool down.
Emma and Pez
Card games in the park.
My nieces cheat - BTW
Here's the scoop. If Auntie Deb tossed and scored it would be cancelled by someone else's near miss.