Montana … go east young man

Well this time we have set off due east … destination Montana but first we have to traverse the width of Washington state and a slice of Idaho. East takes us off I-5 and onto route 2 over Stevens Pass at over 4,000 ft. Over the divide the evidence of the largest fire, the Carlton Complex, becomes obvious, luckily for us the road reopened only yesterday however they are still attempting to minimize the northward spread of the flames.image We reach Leavenworth for lunch, a quaint Bavarian village surrounded by mountains on all sides. Perhaps a convoy of German covered wagons came through and thought they were in the Alps and decided to stay. Anyway we find the Munchen Haus, a me friendly tavern where they can have beer (non-German) and wursts for lunch. The heat is getting to me (& Lisa), it’s 37c – no place for cool Dalmatians or dark-haired Chinese image We hang around for an ice cream or two and then on the way out-of-town bump into a winery that must be tried. Perched on the hill is Silvara, a winery, where as is common here, they don’t actually grow the grapes but just blend the juice from where they can actually grow proper grapes. After 6 samples the verdict is not bad though. A comfortably seated Lisa has to be persuaded to leave but we need to wander on to the Air BNB for tonight in East Wenatchee. image We arrive at just before 4, a large house high on the northern bank of the Columbia river. The resident dog greets us – a Japanese Sheba Imu called Loki, friendly enough but he traps me in the washroom where there is a cool tiled floor so I am not minded to object. Lisa collapses on the bed, claiming excessive heat so I also decide to rest. We are directed to dinner place by the river, Pybus market. I am illegally snuck in past the definitely no dogs sign to the patio breaking countless state and local hygiene laws in the process. Everyone in the restaurant doesn’t bat an eye lid so why can’t this be the norm. Seated, Lisa discovers it’s a pizza joint, albeit an OK one. Two pizzas and one rather small margarita later it’s time for a final walk before retreating to bed.image

Our 10+ miler in the land of the Lost

We set off from Arroyo Park in the Chuckanuts and head up hill of course. He has an idea of following the ridge line to Lost Lake, 5 miles to the south. Once we gain the elevation the trail levels out and becomes a pleasant and eerily quiet single track with not a soul in sight. Although it’s Sunday not many venture this far into the woods and even fewer dogs. We get to the lake and I celebrate the turn around by going dog mental, running at full speed in a circle feigning to take him out – shouldn’t really be doing this at my age. On the level track back there is a sign for Raptor ridge heading for a higher elevation, too tempting so we return to the cloud base and head up.

On the way down we bump into some friends who are on the way up at a more leisurely hiking pace, we discuss perhaps joining them for a group walk next weekend.

For the remainder of the run I find myself lagging behind and am thankful when the car comes into sight.

Stats: time 2hrs 20 mins, dist 10.47 miles, elevation 1,600 ft

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The Lost Lake

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Home and a return to a normality

It is amazing what nature has done to our garden in the time that we have been away, less than two weeks but we have almost missed the tulips and as someone predicted, the hosters (large spreading plant) have taken over once again. Our friends Daryl and Sharon have been around a couple of times it seems to water the plants but Daryl has also mowed the lawn, twice! Many thanks guys.

I am up and about early in the morning and we drive to Lake Padden to run our familiar home trails. I still haven’t eaten too much so he doesn’t push me that hard. We return home before the rain sets in, the necessary downside of having the garden spring to life, and catch up with all the things that have been left undone in our absence.

The evening brings a full house as Mark is hosting the ‘Filthy Dirty Dozen’, his running team for the 200 mile Ragnar relay that takes place in July. They are 9 for dinner around the kitchen island and the wine ensures that they have an animated conversation about the race. It will be a non stop 24 hour relay so should be fun!

Portland and home

Still drizzling as we return to the trail this morning, don’t see the long haired assailant but do encounter another forest person, this one less threatening.

By the time we leave to spend the day touring Portland the rain has ceased and the sun slowly coming out. We park in one of the city parks and walk some of the blocks looking for touristy things to do, we even stop locals and ask them, not much apparently goes on in Portland. In 2009 38,000 new people moved to the city because they thought that it was cool, unfortunately the economy was also cool so jobs non existent, the Governor had to issue a statement pleading with people not to come. The remnants of this influx can still be seen on the streets and evidently on the trail that we used last night. It is though a pleasant city centre to walk around, not subsumed by traffic noise, or any noise for that matter. We get the feeling that like their former home of Toronto it is a city of neighbourhoods and that life occurs in the burbs rather than the centre.

We sit outside and have lunch at Fish, a nice restaurant on SW Park Avenue, before heading to the Rose and Japanese Gardens, I am allowed in the former but not the latter so we tour a few home shops before departing the city and heading homeward, aiming to beat the Friday rush hours in Portland and Seattle.

We cross the river into Vancouver Washington with 260 miles to go to home. The sun has now come out and the scenery of southern Washington is reminiscent of parts of England, rolling mixed wooded hills and rivers.

Apart from a quick therapy stop at the outlet mall we are in the fast lane, with other cars that should really move over, the entIre way interrupted only briefly by traffic delays around Seattle.

We arrive home at 8pm in daylight and I am glad to be reunited with my toys in the garden, still off my food though and I haven’t eaten a proper meal for four days. Perhaps familiar surroundings will settle me down. My car towels are the first things to be washed, even I thought that things were becoming a bit pongy towards the end.

It’s been a fun trip covering over 3,000 miles, taking in 5 states experiencing different geographies, micro climates and varied cultures. We seem to have been constantly on the move and doing different things for the entire time, whether it be wine tasting, hiking, racing, eating, visiting national and state parks.

Of course the highlight, and main purpose, of the trip was to hook up with old friend. However it was also nice to experience new places and visit landmarks like Crater Lake that we didn’t see the first time around. Although the desert landscape of the interior can be stunning you cannot beat the greenery of the coastal hills and mountains, so it was nice to at last head home.

We thank our generous hosts Rex, Janie and Salsa in Vegas for inviting us to their lovely home.

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How much is that kitty in the window?

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Farewell from Portland

The illusive Mt Hood and Portland

I begin my day at one of Bend’s dog parks and we greet the only other early morning park user. The normal greeting of ‘how are you?’ is met with the tearing reply ‘ my grandmother died last night’, and so we strike up a conversation. It transpires that this guy knows the only other person that we know in Bend, Max King, world champion mountain runner, (well my guy has run with him once).

Reluctantly we depart Bend in bright sunshine and head north on 97, a road that takes us over the fertile plains of middle Oregon with the dramatic 3 Sisters volcanoes looming to the west. The weather forecast for Portland, today’s destination, is not so good, how can that be?! The intention is to take the quicker northern route to have more time in Portland and to view Mt Hood, the tallest mountain in the state. As we travel north the weather closes in and Hood never materialises, cloaked in clouds for our entire journey although Lisa insists that she can faintly see it.

We hook left and enter Portland from the east heading downtown in search of food and parking. We set upon a space next to a square of international street food stalls and as I alight from the car I am accosted by another Dal owner, we swap photos and compare dog notes: smile, shedding, temperament. He does look like me but not quite as handsome and some 20 lbs smaller – I have often been told that I am tall. Another well meaning diner provides vague directions to a series of parks, maps are not her strong point, nor are directions. Vietnamese street food in Portland, just like home.

We begin the downtown walk but I desperately need to go, where is private grass around here? There is none, so I just use the largest paved very public courthouse square in the city. Oh well, needs must. We leave Lisa to tour some shops while we return to the car for kip time.

An idea, let’s go to Ikea, across the river to the north of the city in rush hour when everyone else is heading home. Is Ikea the only store that sells paper napkins? We also buy some lanterns as therapy … and a frozen yogurt which I get to sample! Brief walk in the woods before seeking out the hotel which is deep in the industrial area of the city. Why do you put a jetted tub in the bedroom and not the bathroom?!

The hotel turns out to be next to the largest trail system in the city which we recce for a run tomorrow. The only other person we meet is a threatening insane one – quite literally. If we don’t return from tomorrow’s run look for a long black haired nutter!

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Bend, Oregon – a message to Bellingham with love

Given that first impressions are everything Bend probably deserves a few lines for itself. Why are we impressed with it? Why does it appear to be thriving and successful?

Bend promotes itself as the outdoor capital of Oregon and there is plenty of evidence to support this claim. Driving into Bend from the Mt Bachelor ski area you notice that you are on a well maintained 4 lane highway that takes urbanites to the base of the mountain from downtown in 15 minutes. The ski area promotes itself as the biggest in the NW and just by looking at it from the road there are a multitude of runs to choose from. Even though the ski lifts are closed for the season we see downhill skiers hiking along the road to access some of remaining white stuff. Trail running and biking is legendary here and the well presented city marketing literature focuses on the accessibility of outdoor pursuits.

Downtown Bend is laid out in the normal grid pattern but the ubiquitous retail Americana stores seem to have been banished from the centre, no Big Macs and KFC’s here, didn’t even see a Starbucks. Instead there is a focus and promotion of local. Being local extends to the beer industry, there are 14 craft breweries.

The outdoorsy nature of the city is also evident in the restaurant business and tables line the sidewalks. We have dinner at 900 Wall sitting outside on white tablecloths on one of the main intersections, not busy with traffic just pleasant.

The business (office) district is modern, separate from, but easily accessible to downtown. This would be a great place to live and work in. The message to businesses is, come here and you will attract employees who also enjoy life, be prepared for that.

Unlike many other American towns that we have visited they have made great use of their waterfront, in this case a bend in the river. It is a well laid out public park, a lung of greenery and water in the centre of the downtown area.

People here not only acknowledge you they actually stop to have a conversation – perhaps something to do with being a Dalmatian helps! However, we think it’s more than that, a nice town attracts nice people. Even the groups of young and restless, and probably homeless, are engaging but not threatening. We observe a Police Officer having a ‘chat’ with one particularly vocal group obviously giving them some ‘advice’ and the peace soon resumes.

For me in addition to the 7 dog parks there are trails everywhere and easily accessible from town.

In short, Bend appears to be a great place not only to work but to live. Perhaps if our original travels had crossed this bend in the river things would be different today. Our adopted home of Bellingham could learn a lot from to this tidy town. Please do something with the waterfront at least!

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Crater Lake and Bend

We leave our resort at Klamath Falls after an early morning run through the golf course, no time to play unfortunately. Skirting Klamath lake we take the back roads to Crater Lake, the rim road has still not been cleared of snow so we just go to see the magnificent view of the deepest lake in the US and the 9th deepest in the world. So quiet up here.

Back tracking to the south to join the road north to Bend we of course detour around a scenic drive and circumnavigate Bachelor mountain, the local ski area for Bend, the destination of the day. We stop briefly for a paddle in one of the many lakes that dot the route.

We arrive in Bend, Oregon (perhaps our new favorite town). It has a laid back quality feel and is the outdoor capital of the State. Lisa enthuses about the shops while we head off to the park by the river, where luckily there is a cafe selling local beer, and so we sit.

We sit having dinner on the street, good food, happy hour prices and water for me, what more could we want?

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Crater Lake

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Paddling at Elk Lake

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Bachelor Mt

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Wigwam in the forest

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Beautiful Bend

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Beer in Bend

Cutting the California corner

We leave Reno and the state of Nevada and go diagonally across the NE corner of California, today’s journey thankfully much less than yesterday’s marathon, which was like driving south-north through the length of England. Today we merely do three states.

We leave Nevada and cross into California through the originally named Bordertown. At Susanville we detour via the back roads and leave the trucks behind climbing into the the Californian Sierras. We stop at the small town of Adin for lunch at a local but very nice deli with views of the distant Mt Shasta to the west – we decided not to make that side trip due to the extra distance. The country roads today are single lane and windy so the speed is reduced by nearly 20 miles from yesterday. Lisa insists on having the windows down so I am able to pick up the scents of horses. Much to their annoyance, I bark my ‘I want to be with my soul mate’ barks. I stick my nose out to sniff a different scent and have yet to figure out the many herds of cows. Perhaps they can stop the car tomorrow so I can get closer to them.

We finally arrive in Klamath Falls and following advice from fellow dog lover Erin at the visitor centre, we go for a walk along the river to see the falls, in reality a series of rapids. Never mind at least it’s a walk. We then head off to the brewery restaurant and I am forced to watch them eat from outside the patio area, silly Oregon health rules.

We retire to the Running Ranch hotel, in fact a very up market Holiday Inn with a great golf course. What a surprise that I am allowed. Also had a rare play with a yellow lab of all dogs.

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Leaving Las Vegas and the Longest Day

Las Vegas to Reno was over 500 miles (the way we did it) or 10 hours 15 minutes of mainly desert driving with a couple of mountain ranges thrown in for good measure. We had a send off from the Taiwan gang moreorless dead on 8am following the final Janie breakfast – and as usual i wasn’t served any! I bid farewell to Salsa and her humans and settle down in the back of the car unaware of the length of the journey ahead of us. We get straight on 95 which will take us to the northwest, it begins as an 8 lane highway but once out of LV constricts to a mere 2 lanes.

The sun to the south beats down through the rear window, the oven like conditions only mitigated by my personal AC. Mercifully it’s Sunday so the trucking industry is for the most part having a day off, although given the long sighted straight roads overtaking is not a problem.

Lunch stop is the town of Tonopah, apparently the stargazing capital of the country, we should have travelled at night then! I finally get to cool down with a paddle in Walker Lake, the nearby town of Hawthorn is home to some deep sea Naval base – go figure that one, a naval base in the middle of the desert.

We then take an unplanned detour to Lake Tahoe, didn’t look very far on the map but the route entailed a climb up and over a 9,000 ft mountain pass, and we experience snow once again, albeit of the weathered dirty kind. We crest the ridge and the lake reflects back the late afternoon sun. We descend to a State park with a beach only to discover that my kind is forbidden, never mind we access the shore a mile or so further north.

The road then meanders acutely and steeply up the other side of the lake and we drop down into Reno, our welcome stop for the night. This La Quinta is not the greatest, but wariness exceeds the need for luxury as all 3 of us are close to brain dead after the extended journey.

They go for Thai food while I wait, again, in the back of the car and thankfully, the temperature has dropped to a tolerable measure.

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Walker Lake

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Me lake paddling

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Stunning Lake Tahoe

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An evening with Reg at Caesars

At the very last minute they hear that Elton John is playing in Vegas at Caesars Palace tonight so dinner plans are hastily re-arranged to a restaurant within the sprawling hotel and tickets purchased. They get the last block of 6 on the front row on the mezzanine level.

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Joe and two strange girls

And what a show it was, his final Vegas show of the tour and it didn’t disappoint.

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