- Where We Started: Klamath Falls, Ore.
- Where We Ended: Portland, Ore.
- Miles Driven: 377 (13,565 total).
- New States: None.
- States So Far: 20 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
The seeds of what ended up being a rather annoying day on the FHMA tour were planted at 3am on Saturday morning, when young Hank decided he really needed to go outside and began scratching our hotel room door. It's a rare occurrence when either dog needs a middle-of-the-night pit stop, but it would be indicative of a day where things never quite came together.
After Joan took Hank right outside the front door so he could relieve himself, she tried to go back to sleep. No luck. So she decided to watch a little TV. That turned into a lot of TV, as she laid awake until dawn, finally nodding back off around 6am. Two hours later, she was up again, this time for good, thanks to some restless dogs. About the same time, I woke up to work on our post about Friday's activities. We had a brutally slow Web connection at our hotel in Klamath Falls, and my wireless card wasn't much better, so pulling links and doing research was a tedious process. The slow connection meant saving the blog frequently was not practical, since it was taking 2-3 minutes to save each time. (You see where this is going, don't you?) After getting about 80 percent done with the blog post, something strange happened -- I'm still not sure what -- and, suddenly, all of my work from the previous two hours was gone. Despite frantic attempts to recover this work, it was soon clear it was gone. I handled this with great aplomb, throwing our road atlas and other small objects across the room and screaming a number of choice expletives. After a minute or so, I decided I did not want to be featured on the next episode of "Cops," so I took a shower to cool off.
Then there were Fred and Hank, who were restless and uncooperative. Through no fault of their own, they'd spent most of Thursday and Friday in the car, and they were bored. Bored dogs tend to be annoying when they're in an enclosed space. Then, to top it off, Joan was exhausted and felt lousy. All in all, a flying start to the day.
Usually, when we get a little frayed like this, we can always depend on getting in the car and seeing something beautiful to fix the problem. And when Joan walked the dogs first thing in the morning, it was a beautiful, blue day. So, a few hours later, we packed up the room, threw open the door to begin our adventure and realized the day had turned to complete shit. The blue sky was gone, replaced by clouds as far as the eye could see. The temperature had dipped into the mid-40s. And it was drizzling.
So the one pissy human (me), one tired human (Joan) and two restless dogs piled into the car, hoping the trip to Crater Lake National Park would heal all wounds. And it probably would have, if we'd ever seen the lake.
I was already aware that much of the rim drive around Crater Lake was still closed for the season, but knew that the rim village was open, as was a one-mile stretch of West Rim Drive, which would afford a great view of lake. So, despite the weather, I was still hopeful when we arrived at the park's south entrance. But the ranger at the booth doused those hopes with his first words: "You won't be able to see the lake today." I viewed this as a bit of an issue seeing that we were at Crater LAKE National Park. Nonetheless, being the eternal optimist, we headed in anyway, hoping for a break in the clouds similar to the one we got at the Grand Canyon a few weeks back. But it was soon clear that wasn't going to happen, not only because the weather was brutal, but also because snow drifts that made it impossible to see the lake.
There was only one point along the open portion of the rim road where the drifts were low enough so that you could see the lake. And that's where the weather screwed us.
As you can see, it was quite a gray day at Crater Lake. The only color we saw was the park's official flower: the orange traffic cone.
While the drifts and the scenery were certainly interesting, we hadn't come all this way to see snow drifts and traffic cones. Luckily, the gift shop and cafe were open for us and the other idiots who decided to come on this day, so we were at least able to use a bathroom.
We soon realized sticking around was fruitless, so we set our GPS for the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, about 100 miles north of Crater Lake. We figured this would work because volcanic rock tends to be, you know, on the ground. But our trip there was worse than Crater Lake. We were told by the woman at the visitors' center that the road to the crater lakes was open. Unfortunately, that part was the 15 miles of boring road that led right up to the first lake. Just as we reached Paulina Lake, we once again saw the orange cones of death. We managed to drive into the parking lot of a hotel there to snap another half-blind lake photo.
Joan was not happy and wanted to go to the visitors' center to complain. I wanted to go to get a park map. But turned out, by the time we got there, it was closed and blocked off. At this point, we were both frustrated and tired. So we decided that, instead of starting the long drive to Portland, we'd stop for an early dinner in Bend to get some time to relax. It was here our luck started to change.
First off, Bend is a very cute town, with a nice downtown area, lots of parks and a general feel-good vibe. We then had one of the best meals of the trip at the Pine Tavern Restaurant (details below). Then, after we started our drive west, we encountered the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint, and out of desperation to see something interesting, we decided to stop. It was our luckiest move of the day, by far. The viewpoint overlooks the Crooked River Gorge, and features beautiful views of three bridges that cross the gorge: the Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge, which ranks among the nation's highest railroad bridges; the Crooked River High Bridge, an automobile bridge completed in 1926 and, until 2000, the main route over U.S.-97; and the wider Rex T. Barber Memorial Bridge, which replaced the Crooked River Bridge in 2000. We were planning to bring the dogs to the overlook, but after seeing this sign, decided against it.
The warning signs at the Peter Skene State Scenic Viewpoint, near Bend, Ore. Look at the bottom sign in particular. These are my favorite kinds of warning signs: blunt and directive. Object lessons are always better than bland warnings, if you ask me. As a result, we did as the sign instructed.
As soon as arrived at the viewpoint, and saw the short stone fence and the huge drop off directly behind it, we understood why this was not a place for dogs. But it was beautiful.
The Crooked River High Bridge, with the reddish Rex T. Barber Memorial Bridge right behind it.
The other things that helped salvage a rough Saturday were animal photos. (No, not of the dogs; to be honest, they had another crappy day in the car, because of the nasty, cold weather). On the road Saturday, we passed by a ton of farms and took advantage of every photo op we could.
Eventually, we made a late arrival into Portland, hoping for improved weather, improved spirits and improved health on Sunday, and thankful that our stops at Bend and the Ogden viewpoint had saved the day from being a complete disaster.
- Because of the Klamath Falls TypePad Disaster on Saturday morning, you may have noticed I have fallen a day behind on the blog. I will try and get caught up by Tuesday morning, but I can't make any promises.
- On the way to Bend, we stopped for gas in the odd little town of Crescent, Ore. I stopped the car, hopped out and was headed to the pump, only to nearly run right over the gas station attendant, who was waiting there to pump my gas. Until that moment, I had forgotten that Oregon is one of two states -- New Jersey is the other -- that forbids customers from pumping their own gas. The Oregon law has been on the books since 1951, and although motorcyclists won their freedom in 2001, us idiot motorists apparently still can't be trusted to handle the complicated task of swiping a credit card, choosing a grade and jamming a nozzle into a gas tank. I'm sure you've heard all about the wave of self-immolations occurring at gas stations in the other 48 states, right? Ridiculous. Here's some background on the Oregon and New Jersey laws, and Oregon's silly justifications for why pumping gas is apparently so much more dangerous than, you know, operating the vehicle itself. Here are a few of the reasons Oregon cites (and my responses):
- [Having self-service pumps] discriminates against customers with lower incomes, who are under greater economic pressure to subject themselves to the inconvenience and hazards of self-service; (Huh? Is Oregon saying lower-income people are less capable of pumping their own gas?)
- The increased use of self-service at retail in other states has contributed to diminishing the availability of automotive repair facilities at gasoline stations. (And how exactly does having someone without automotive repair capabilities pumping my gas solve this problem? I must have missed the wave of auto repair shops in Oregon.)
- The dangers of crime and slick surfaces described in subsection (3) of this section are enhanced because Oregon’s weather is uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility. (Last I checked, Alaskans and Minnesotans could pump their own gas).
- As a result of these gas rules, I told Joan I would not fill up again until we got to lunch Sunday with one of Joan's junior high and high school friends in Vancouver, Wash. Another reason I hate this law so much: My hometown of Huntington, N.Y., is one of the few towns outside Oregon and New Jersey that has enacted its own ban on citizens pumping their own gas. Bad, Huntington, bad!
- One of the subjects we -- thankfully -- have not had to discuss on the FHMA tour is speeding tickets. I got two on the 2003 trip, one in Salem, Va., and the other near Pendleton, Ore. I thought I was getting my first one on Friday, when a cop car in Klamath Falls pulled a U-turn right after I zoomed past at about 15 miles over the speed limit. He pulled up behind me, and I was already trying to remember where my registration was in the glove compartment. But, after following me for about a mile, the cop suddenly pulled another U-turn, which meant he decided I wasn't worth the bother, or someone committed a crime somewhere else that was more of a priority. Is it wrong for me to have been relieved, even if it was the latter? Anyway, Sunday''s travels will take us back through Pendleton, and since I believe in karma, I plan on rolling slowly through town this time.
- In addition to its annoying gas pump law, Oregon is also the only Western state that doesn't allow you to go 70 miles per hour. The highest speed limit in the state is 65. This was actually part of the reason I got the 2003 ticket in Pendleton. We were coming from Idaho, where the speed limit on interstates is normally 75mph (and hardly enforced anyway). So when we crossed the border into Oregon, it marked one of the few places in the nation where crossing a state line changes the interstate speed limit by 10mph. In fact, I even predicted earlier that day in 2003 that I would get a ticket, and sadly, I was right. This time, we'll be going from Oregon into Idaho, so reaching the border will instead be cause for joy.
- For the record, despite the gas thing and the speed limit thing, we really do love Oregon. We did the Oregon coast on the 2003 trip, and for all the pub that California's Pacific Coast Highway gets, the Oregon coast matches up, in my opinion.
- We didn't quite make it to Eugene on this trip, but we passed close enough that I still feel I can report that Eugene's University of Oregon was the filming location for one of our country's finest films, that being "Animal House," of course. Here's a summary of what was filmed where in Eugene. Funny story: Because of the film's relatively low budget, director John Landis decided he needed to find a real college campus to film. He was turned down by a dozen schools before Oregon's president said yes. That same school president, while at another school earlier in his career, had once refused to allow parts of "The Graduate" from being filmed on his campus. His reason: Too vulgar. I'm sure the scene where Pinto wheels home a drunk, half-naked underage girl in a shopping cart read much cleaner in the script.
- One more movie location note. On our way to Portland on Saturday, we passed the Timberline Lodge, near Mount Hood. This was the hotel used for the exterior shots of The Overlook Hotel in "The Shining." Here's a picture that will bring back creepy memories. Any mention of "The Shining" brings back memories of our 2003 stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo. The morning after our stay at that lousy hotel, I reported that I felt like I was staying in the hotel from "The Shining," especially after I kept encountering the movie on TV that night. It was only the next day, thanks to some tips from readers, that I discovered it wasn't an accident, and that The Stanley was the hotel Stephen King had stayed at in 1974 that inspired the book. And the reason I kept seeing the movie on TV the night we were there? The hotel runs the movie 24/7 as a homage to its role in its creation. Here's some more background on the genesis of "The Shining."
- Joan has been saying since our 2003 trip that she wanted to read John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley." For those who don't know, "Travels With Charley" is about Steinbeck's trip around the United States with his dog (hey, that sounds like a great idea!). This book has been mentioned to me a number of times by readers of this blog, but I have to confess I have never read it. Joan downloaded it onto her Kindle a few days ago and has been regaling me with snippets as we go. First off, she was stunned to discover that Steinbeck's traveling companion was a standard poodle. A poodle? Really? Doesn't sound like Steinbeck to me. Seems to me a struggling mutt would have been more his taste. Anyway, once Joan got past the seeming incongruity, she was hooked. Steinbeck's journey differed from either of ours in many ways. For one, he had four wheel drive. He also left his wife behind. In addition, his truck was rigged out with a little trailer home, so he didn't need to stay at hotels. He frequently commented on the quality of the bathrooms he encountered on the road, but shockingly, because he found them clean and wonderfully convenient. Let's just say some of the public restrooms we've seen haven't been cleaned since Steinbeck visited them. Strangely, Steinbeck is not a fan of national parks, suggesting they are no more indicative of America than Disney. While that may be true, I'm not sure why that makes them any less amazing. She's not quite done yet, but in the book, Steinbeck -- like us -- is starting to work his way home.
- The green movement is in full force out west. For the first time ever, we encountered toilets with a water saving device besides "low flow." At the public restroom at Lava Beds National Monument, users were instructed to push the lever up if "No. 1" was the purpose of their visit, and down if it was "No. 2." This apparently saves 0.6 gallons of water per flush. I won't even attempt a joke here, I'll just let that swirl through your brains.
- Sign of the Day, on an adult club in Gresham, Ore.: "Nude Women & Dining." Now, let's be honest: Is the "dining" part really necessary? Are there a lot of people who say, "You know, Bill, I'm not really in the mood for naked chicks tonight, but how about trying the food??" If you're in this joint, you're there for the ladies, and the food exists merely to soak up the alcohol. Show me a strip joint where great food is the focus, and I'll show you a boarded-up strip joint.
- Another great sign we saw on the way to Portland. It's hard to describe, so I'll just link to a picture of this sign from Wikipedia. As you probably guessed, Boring and Oregon City are two towns near Portland. But the combination is priceless.
- And, last, but not least: We encountered this car alongside the road during our fruitless drive through the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. How the hell did this happen? Were the bullet holes added later or were they the reason for this unfortunate accident? This screams out for a caption contest. Hey, at least the guy had a spare tire. And maybe even a jack, unlike some morons.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Knowing Me, Knowing You," by ABBA. I managed to survive most of the trip without any guilty pleasures showing up on this random play, unless you include movie music. But now that this has surfaced, I am forced to admit a certain fondness for this Swedish quartet. But there is a certain irresistible quality to songs like "Dancing Queen" and "Take a Chance on Me," although because I detest musicals so much, I will still never go see "Mamma Mia." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.
- Here's our Day 4 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "Always With Me, Always With You," by Joe Satriani.
- Last Song of the Day: "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," by The Who.
- Best Songs: "America," by Simon & Garfunkel; "American Girl," by Tom Petty; "American Pie," by Don McLean; "Amused to Death," by Roger Waters; "And I Moved," by Pete Townshend; "And She Was," by the Talking Heads; "Angel," by Massive Attack; "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," by Pink Floyd.
- Pleasant Surprises: "American Land," by Bruce Springsteen; "American Skin (41 Shots)," by Bruce Springsteen; "Angola," by Ry Cooder; "Anonymous Collective," by Stereolab; "Another Man Done Gone," by Johnny Cash; "The Antikythera Mechanism," by BT.
- Guilty Pleasures: "Amazed," by Lonestar; "America," by Neil Diamond; "Annie's Song," by John Denver.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "Ampresand'," by Adrian Belew; "Angel of Harlem," by U2; "Anybody Seen My Baby," by the Rolling Stones.
- Lunch: Denny's, Klamath Falls, Ore.: We tried to go back to the Black Bear Diner for Saturday brunch, but encountered a wait, and being that we were already crabby, decided to go someplace that would get us in and out quicker. So, hello, Denny's! I got a ham and egg sandwich and toast, and Joan had scrambled eggs, hash browns and pancake hush puppies. It was all perfectly solid, if unremarkable. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). It's Denny's. What did you expect? Restaurant Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Pine Tavern Restaurant, Bend, Ore.: We hadn't expected to eat in Bend, so I was unprepared with a restaurant idea. Some quick research on the BlackBerry turned up this place, so we headed on over, not sure what to expect. The end result was one of the great pleasant surprises of the FHMA journey. This meal had it all: ambiance, great food and excellent service. First off, we happened upon Bend on prom night, and the Pine Tavern Restaurant -- one of the nicer joints in town -- was the site of a half-dozen pre-prom meals for decked-out couples. So we had lots of people-watching opportunities. Second, the restaurant has a few real live trees growing out of the floor of the dining room and out through the roof. Third, our waitress, Betsy, was hilarious, continuing a running commentary on the prom-goers throughout the meal. Last, but not definitely not least, was the food. We both decided to for a good old piece of meat, as Joan got the prime rib, and I got the filet mignon. Both were tremendous, as were the baked potatoes, snap peas and mushrooms that accompanied the meals. The bread for the table was accompanied by honey butter than Joan was still raving about halfway to Portland. The only problem was that we ate so much, we had no room for dessert. On second thought, maybe that was a good thing. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 5 stars (out of 5). One of the best meals of the trip, hands down. Watching all the self-conscious, well-dressed high school kids was an added benefit.
- La Quinta Inn Portland Convention Center, Portland, Ore.: The woman at the front desk told Joan this La Quinta was the oldest hotel in the chain's fleet. Since the subject was hotels and not wine, this was not a good thing. Yet despite a sketchy location and sketchy patrons, the room was fine and the wireless blazing fast, so it wasn't the disaster we originally feared. Unfortunately, we had to settle for two queen beds, and the last person who slept in Joan's bed was apparently a sumo wrestler, since there was a crater in her bed that she (and Hank) immediately fell into upon trying to go to sleep. Hotel rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5, on the budget hotel scale). We've generally been happy with La Quintas, but this was not one to remember. It didn't help that the last two times I brought stuff up from the car, there was an ominous-looking 300-pound guy standing in the hallway near our room. Joan finally asked him if he was waiting for someone, and luckily, he didn't say, "Yes. You." Turns out he was just waiting for the people who were staying in the room across the hall. Let's just say the chain lock would not have been much of a deterrent for this guy.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO