Thursday, September 30, 2010

John Hiatt-The Open Road: Oct 1

“Shrunken head and Mardi Gras beads,” songwriter John Hiatt sings as guitars cut loose on The Open Road’s title track, “hanging on the rearview mirror that bleeds/Keeping her eyes on the open road/No telling where that son-a-bitch goes.”

We've just landed at a wi-fi RV park on a harbor in the tiny town of Charleston on the spectacular Oregon coast. First some work, and then we'll load up the blog post hopper and tell you about some beautiful locations over the past few days.

Thanks for coming along for the ride...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Game Day in Boise: Sept 25

Early today we hear the boys up at 3:30...and they arrive early enough to make it into the ESPN camera area, texting their location. We see them on TV about 8 am, over coffee. This town is abuzz. Marta brings me up to date on game details:

Since 1999, Boise State has had 71 wins and just two losses at home. Tonight BSU meets Oregon State University (Corvallis). Oregon is in position 4 and Boise State's in 3rd, making it a big showdown.
Last year, she tells me, BSU just barely beat OSU. BSU hasn't lost any games this year, having just beat Virginia Tech--quite the accomplishment.

Tomorrow's Marta's big birthday dinner celebration--and we are hitting the road again--so today is shopping for all and a little tweaking of the Avion for Art, who has settled in nicely on Camille's driveway workshop.

A tour of the camper as I re-sheet the bed and stow the clean laundry (like I said, this campsite is glorious).

Then a driving tour on our way to the groceries. Here's the stadium, packed with tailgaters.

And the museum campus, with an expansive rose garden. Boise is a beautiful city, pedestrian friendly, certainly smaller scale than Chicago, but with much to commend it.

The fine arts theater.

And capitol building.

Small neighborhoods in the North End feel a bit like Lincoln Park.

And the Boise co-op is magnificent, beautifully stocked and filled with happy people. We pick up lovely salads and chicken sausages to grill tonight and I fill my cart with organic produce for the road ahead.

Back at the ranch, Art is washing the camper and filling our freshwater tanks.

It's time for dinner and the kick-off. I tell Camille we have a dear friend attending OSU and wonder if our allegiance is compromised. She says: you're in Boise, so there's no question you're rooting for the Broncos. So we did and Boise won handily.

A little Mad Men after the game and a then review of all the fun we've had here. Thanks, Camille, brother John, Marta, Jonathan, and Forrest (and Charles+Barkely) for the warm visit and spectacular accommodations. It couldn't have been more fun.

We're pulling out for Oregon tomorrow.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beautiful Boise, Fabulous Friends: Sept 22-24

Up and at 'em on Sept 22, heading for Camille's and Boise, Idaho. The pine forest beckons and the road is twisty, turny, and nothing but gorgeous.

We arrive at the nicest campsite evah--Camille's house--with perfect temps and a cool patio. It's time to throw down and enjoy the generous hospitality.

Plus, there are new dog friends here: this is Charles. His pal is Barkley.

Camille's sister Marta and her sons Forrest (left) and Jonathan make us feel right at home.

A toast to our host!

Soon the salmon is sizzling in the pan, with a confit of tomato, wine, and capers simmering in the background. Mmm.

Here's a welcoming dinner to remember.

We gather around the family table and hear about Forrest's job and Jonathon's biology lab the next day at Boise State University, involving dissected rats and identifying the innards.

After dinner, we learn to play bocce ball. This was fun, but you should know there were three teams and nobody picked Camille or me, so we comprised the third group. A little like fourth grade.

Jonathan measures. You toss out the white ball and then try to come close with your larger colored ball.

With semi-professionals in the family, who do you think took the tournament? (That'll teach 'em to leave us on the sidelines.)

The next day, I visited Marta in her studio, where she makes the most creative cards, sent far and wide. If you're really lucky, you get also get confetti.

We stay in our jammies enjoying coffee and fruit and catching up on old times...and the Idaho Statesman, which carries this story:

Camille, Art, and I cross the street to confer with her brother John, a retired petroleum engineer who has a restored Shelby Cobra in his garage that's polished to within an inch of its life. Art wants a refer to a good mechanic who can install the mechanical fuel pump.

Camille then ferries Art over to the mechanic and Art's pleased with the guy, so they leave the truck. This is the start of an endless stream of Camille driving us around on various errands--the hostess extraordinaire.

Tonight we're welcoming another old Chicago friend who now lives in Sedona but has a working stint in Boise--Stuart. Marta's made a fab salad.

Hi Stuart--after 20 years.

We enjoy a delectable grilled steak and Mediterranean potato salad, with a little red wine, outside in the clear cool Boise air, learning more about Stuart's life.

Camille's being VERY laid back about how long we're staying (!). The truck's in the shop and today we're taking a walk along the Boise River to lunch.

This is the river on which Camille had her near-death experience while tubing.
It's peaceful and relaxing.

With wildlife...

...and plenty of support for flying friends. Anyone know what kind of birdhouse this is?
Hey you two--get a room!

Through the bird sanctuary to a small neighborhood cluster of restaurants, shops, and services. Several miles down the river, dotted with fly fishermen, families, and boaters, we land at Locavore.

Does Camille know us or what? (Shrimp are probably not local.) All local Idaho farm food and another dry mid-70s day, perfect for sitting outside. Lunch was yummy.

Then to a candy store down the street. We have to walk home, remember...
 Kids in a candy store.

On the walk home, we run into Mr Mudd and Camille stops for a quick consult on her driveway (yeah--right. Wouldn't you consult with this guy on just about anything?)

Then a return trip to the mechanic, where the truck is retrieved in fine fiddle. It's family pizza dinner night, with Jonathon and Forrest abuzz about tomorrow's big game. 

They're in bed by 9:30 with a 3 am call to head out to the stadium to get positioned in the ESPN Game Day zone. Boise State vs Oregon State. It's big and it's tomorrow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Comments are Open

If you tried to leave a comment and were stymied, our tech support in Chicago (thanks Bruce) tells us he's flipped the big comments are now open. We love hearing from you...

A Walk on the Moon, A Drive Through the Mountains, A Soak in Paradise: Sept 21

Friends, I'm writing you with prune-like fingertips, and let's see if by the end of this post you can guess why. It's been a most salutory day, in my view the pinnacle of our trip to date, starting with a bacon and egg breakfast (thanks for the paper plates, Hol!) and a quick review of the literature.

I hoped to see a pika but never did...

People, listen up: these are caves of molten stone! The trail is beautifully poured in black asphalt and wends its way about a mile to the caves.
This landscape is simply crazy.
A closeup of the lava shows it's almost like glass, with some pieces having razor-sharp edges.

The caves are wild. We check out a couple smaller ones...

 Then we go into a big one--see tiny Art in the first picture? (Click to embiggen.)

These caves are immense, with a stairway down but then you're on your own.

They tell you to bring a flashlight and my small one is worthless, but Art's giant Fox Mulder X Files flashlight shows the way.

Crazy wonderful. Here's the map:

Driving Through the Sawtooth Range
It's clear one of the most important items to pack is a sense of wonder. You seriously never know when you'll need to pull it out. After Craters of the Moon, the run-up to the Sawtooth Range took us via Route 75 toward Hailey and Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho.

Talk about trendy ski towns...

More dramatic was the unfolding over the next 100 miles, with the Sawtooth ever more imposing...

...and the switchbacks more intimidating (well, for me anyway).

There seems to be little here except for a few fishing lodges. We have our eye on Stanley, the sole town on this route. It calls itself the Gateway to the Sawtooth Wilderness. We're elated to be in the Ponderosa Pine Byway, smelling scents of this lush forest.

A quick turn-off brings us to Bonneville Campground.

Soaking in Paradise
Forever grateful are we to the couple we met at the gas fill-up in Stanley. They wanted to know more about our Avion camper, and soon I met their elderly schnauzer and baby dachshund-schnauzer mix, the latter in a tiny crate in the back of their tow vehicle. (I won't go into the woman's story about how they also were traveling with a baby pet goat that had died the first night of their trip, sending them 90 minutes in the wrong direction for vet help.)

She cried when she told me.

You meet the nicest people on the road. They sent us here, to Bonneville, and specifically mentioned the hot springs. It would have been enough to pull into a pine-scented dream campsite with the pick of any spot, most of them perched above the roaring Peyette River.

I was already in heaven, the sun warming us as we set up.

After too many photos (dear readers, am I inundating you?) of the splendor around us--and a cup of black bean soup--the sun went down behind the mountains and we loaded up for the half-mile walk to the hot springs.

A tiny shack held an actual hot tub, fed by the springs...


But we were looking for some in-river action. Hot beyond touch, the first spring Art tested burned his foot.

 He slid into a pool several levels down from the source and he found his temp at about 104 degrees.

Sliding over the smooth rocks into a shallow pool immediately above Art's, I found my perfect heat, likely about 107 degrees, with a slipstream of cooler water adjacent into which I could float to cool off. Amazing, incredible and straight from the earth hot springs.

This was heaven. We soaked for nearly an hour.
 Then a dry-off...

...and after the hike back, suits dry on the line and Art torches up a nice pine fire as the nearly full moon rises overhead, lighting the campsite like a torch.

A perfect day, pruney fingers and all.

And a pine bark screensaver for you.