Wednesday, September 12, 2007

San Francisco

Pictures from SF. Descriptions to come later!


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pictures of the Dirty SUV

Upon our return to Portland, we took some pictures of the rental car before it got hosed off so I could avoid the "excessive cleaning" charge. A simple rinse wasn't enough -- had to bust out bucket, soap, and sponge for this one. All things considered, we did a pretty good job making the thing dirty.

Tailgate glass handle.

After cleaning the car, we drove downtown to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for dinner.

Inside the door well.

The following day, the car was due back to the airport in the evening to coincide with my departure from Portland. We took advantage of having a large vehicle for the day and ran a few errands for Darrick. First stop was to the Rock store, where Darrick bought probably close to 1,000 lbs of paver stones, loose rocks, and sand for a path on the South side of his house. In hindsight, we should have waited to clean the interior of the vehicle until after this excursion... but it wasn't too bad. Rock unloaded, we ventured over to the new Portland IKEA for lunch, people-watching, and to buy Darrick some cheap furniture for his kitchen and basement.

Back at his house, we performed a quick assembly session and I showered so as not to be stinky on the plane... and then departed for the airport, headed back to Sacramento.

Returning to Portland

On September 9, we finally said farewell to Eastern Oregon and headed back to Portland. This gallery consists mostly of pictures from the car window on our drive back to Portland from Enterprise.

Sign in Enterprise

Our drive back started on OR-82 towards I-84. When we met I-84, we took this west toward Portland. On the way back, we took a slight detour onto Interstate 82 into Washington, just so Darrick could say he's driven on every single bridge over the Columbia River that joins Oregon and Washington. This was the last one he hadn't been on. (Note: Oregon is weird. OR-82 and I-82 are NOT the same road. They're about an hour apart from each other, and both intersect I-84. Can you say confusing?

Frivolous trip into Washington.

We stopped at the Cascade Locks Dam on our way, and spent some time watching the fish try to climb up the fish ladder to complete their spawning trek on up the river. Some of these fish would end their journey at the hatchery here, but most would continue upstream through several more dams to spawn at other fish hatcheries along the river. They had this neat viewing room that allows you to look into the sides of the locks through a glass wall and see the massive salmon swimming through. We were both tired of taking pictures, so we left the cameras in the car for this stop.

Shortly thereafter, we completed the last bit of the drive and ended up back at Darrick's house in Portland.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hat Point Descent and McGraw Lookout

The return trip from Hat Point to Imnaha was via the same road we'd come up on, so there weren't too many surprises on the way back down. That said, the last seven miles to Imnaha were known to be especially trying, based on our experience coming up the hill. The first warning sign was tame:

First warning.

The second sign, however, was especially un-nerving:

Uh... this is gonna be fun!!!

The third sign takes the cake, though. There were several of these along the way; subtle reminders of people who had come before and not paid attention. I wasn't taking any chances on this road. It was 4L and low gears for most of the way down the hill.

Just in case you weren't paying attention before...

After safely making it back to Imnaha and getting back onto paved roads, we discovered we still had enough time to try to make it to McGraw Lookout before our daylight disappeared over the Wallowas. McGraw Lookout is the more traveled viewpoint of Hell's Canyon -- the roads are paved all the way there! Being the popular destination, the view was of course nowhere near as awesome as it was at Hat Point. See inside for pictures.

Hat Point

The first thing we noticed upon reaching Hat Point was the giant wooden fire lookout tower. The second thing we noticed is that there had recently been a fire in this area that seemed to burn every tree in the surrounding area while leaving said fire tower unscathed. Odd.

Charred tree near Hat Point tower.

Hat Point is situated on the rim of Hell's Canyon, at an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet. The Snake River flows through the valley of this canyon at an elevation of about 1,250 feet -- for a net difference of approximately 5,750 feet from the rim to the riverbed below.

The Snake River in Hell's Canyon

Much to our satisfaction, the lookout tower was open to visitors and we were allowed to climb almost all the way up to the top to take a look at the area from a much better vantage point than we could possibly get on the ground. I'm not particularly fond of heights, so the view off the ledge make me a bit nauseous. When I took the picture below, I was not looking through the camera's viewfinder. Even looking at the image now, I feel a bit queasy.

Straight down.

Being up this high afforded us some nice Panoramas, and gave a great view of the surrounding terrain. It's a lot of data to take in, but if you scan slowly, the view is really quite amazing. I would've loved to have been able to be here for Sunset, but alas... it was not to be.

180-degree Panorama, with center at North.

Approaching Hat Point Lookout, Hell's Canyon

From Enterprise, we headed toward the town of Joseph, OR where we turned onto the road toward the town of Imnaha, OR.

The road to Imnaha, OR

From Imnaha, the road turns from asphalt to dirt/gravel (I'm sensing a pattern here...) for the 24-mile trek up the mountain to Hat Point. The first five miles are a straight, no-switchback, 16% grade up the side of a mountain. On a narrow dirt road with no guardrail. We gained 5,000 feet in elevation over the course of the first five miles, and stopped at the Five-Mile Viewpoint.

View from Five-Mile Viewpoint.

From there, we go through a series of windy switchback-type road that's (thankfully) NOT right on the edge of the cliff, and then the road straightens back out and we travel mostly along the mountain plateau to the Horse Creek Overlook and then on to Granny View Vista.

Granny View Vista.

From Granny View Vista, it's a short drive back down a short distance into a valley and then back up to Hat Point.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Enterprise, OR and Night Photos

For a change, Darrick drove the next day from Hines/Burns to Enterprise. We started off on US-395 North and stopped in Old Chinatown in the town of John Day, where we went on a private guided tour of the Kam Wah Chung Co., a partnership between two men -- a traditional Chinese doctor and a man who ran a general store. From there, we took US-26 to OR-7, where we met up with I-84 in Baker City. From Baker City, we travel West on I-84 toward OR-82, which goes toward Enterprise.

View from our Hotel in Enterprise, OR

Dinner was at Ming Li, a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of town. Turns out, the place was actually authentic and had pretty decent food. One weird quirk about the place: we had to specifically request chopsticks. The waiter didn't think much of this when Darrick asked, but when I asked, the look on his face betrayed his thoughts, which went something like this: "I've never had a white person ask me for chopsticks before."

After dark, we drove out to some dirt roads around the town of Joseph that turned out to be smack in the middle of some farmers' fields. The goal: take lots of pictures in the dark of the sky with Darrick's new lens, but this time in a better location and with more preparation after looking at the less-than-favorable results from the first time around. Shortly after getting out of the car, our surroundings became obvious: "Moo. moo." We were in the middle of cow pastures. Though separated from the cows by a barbed wire fence, it still freaked me out. Plus, it was cold and we only had one good night lens, so I let Darrick take most of the pictures. They came out decent enough after lots of post-processing.

Long exposures in near-pitch dark.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fields, OR and Denio, NV

When the North Loop met back up with OR-205, we had two choices: Drive 45 miles south to Fields, or drive 10 miles north to Frenchglen. Problem: after guzzling the gas on the mountain, we had about 50 miles of gas left. We'd heard a rumor that gas was available in Fields, and knew that Frenchglen had gas pumps (which appeared to not have been used in a long time.) Do we drive to Frenchglen and hope the pumps work? Or, do we drive to Fields hoping the "miles to empty" gauge is not overestimating? We went to Fields.

Fields Gas Station

The road to Fields was long and flat, and the trip there saw us flatten our first non-bug form of wildlife. There were a bunch of birds sitting on the road, and all of them but one scattered when we came through. The one that didn't... became a puff of feathers in the rearview mirror. The first sign of human life we saw along the way was Fields, which consisted of the Fields Station and not much else. We were in luck: the gas station was open. Eighteen gallons and $63 later, we had a full tank of $3.49/gal gasoline. Along with the rumor of good gas, we'd heard about the awesome milkshakes. We couldn't pass them up.

At this point, we were only 20 miles from being in Nevada instead of Oregon. Once we had the tank full of gas, there was no discussion -- we went to Nevada!

Nevada-Oregon State Line

The town of Denio, NV is right on the state line. We drove through town in about 20 seconds, continued for a coupe more miles, and then turned around and headed back toward Burns. There was exactly one hotel room left in town at the Comfort Inn in Hines (the Harney County Fair was in town, so all the rooms were full.) Once we got settled into our room, I turned on my cell phones and laptop and checked my messages for the first time since Bend. All of a sudden, bells, whistles, and alarms started going off -- Apple had released new iPods between Bend and Burns. Apparently, this was big news.

Dinner was at a crappy Denny's wannabe called "The Apple Peddler."

Steens Mountain Descent

At the point where the summit's spur road re-joins the loop road, we have a choice: 26 miles back to Frenchglen on the South Loop road we came on (boring) or to take the 18-mile North Loop road, which includes a treacherous 4 mile stretch of road called the "Rooster Comb."

Warning! Rooster Comb!

Being the daring people we were, we took the Rooster Comb. Of course, Darrick's enthusiasm for doing this was influenced by the fact that I was the one driving, and not him. If it's even possible, this road was even more dusty than the other dirt roads we'd been on... probably because this one was truly non-maintained -- not even a nice bed of gravel to drive on in the Rooster Comb section... just red dirt.

Just a little dust...

There were a couple nice places to turn out and take pictures along the way, so we did.

Dead Tree Series

Driving down the Rooster Comb was a bit stressful. The combination of trying to keep the car at a reasonable speed without burning up the brakes, engine, or transmission or popping a tire or three takes an awful lot of concentration. In the end, I accomplished this best by putting the car in 4L and 2nd gear, and more or less letting the thing coast and engine brake down the hill. We got AWESOME gas mileage doing this -- something like 4mpg. Hot.

The Rooster Comb

Steens Mountain Summit

The parking lot at the Steens Summit isn't actually at the summit of the mountain, but is instead at 9,600 feet. Another 1/2 mile of trail and 133 feet of elevation gain gets us to the actual summit. We of course made the trek up the last half mile to the mountain summit, against the objections of my wimpy sea-level lungs.

Along the path to the top, we were afforded a great view of Wildhorse Lake, situated about 1000' below the parking lot.

Wildhorse Lake Valley

Once we got to the top, we of course started snapping tons and tons of pictures. Not only of the view, but also of the Cell and Radio towers situated at the top of the mountain -- what self-respecting mountain doesn't have these at its summit these days?

Panorama from Steens Summit

At Steens Mountain Summit

Climbing Steens Mountain

On Thursday morning, we woke up early, packed up, and headed out to explore Steens Mountain. Before we did that we stopped in the Lobby/Dining Room to have breakfast, since we knew it was the only food we'd be eating all day that didn't come out of the cooler.

The western side of Steens Mountain rises in a gradual slope, gaining 5,700 feet over the course of about 20 miles. The Eastern side drops the same distance in a near-cliff -- maybe a quarter to half mile from the summit down to the floor of the Alvord Desert below. We took advantage of the slow ascent from the West side and drove to the rim on Steens Mountain Loop, a ~40 mile gravel/dirt road. Like the roads around the Newberry Volcano, long stretches of this road were more or less flat and straight, allowing us to drive at speeds resembling those we'd be able to attain on a normal paved road. The only real difference is the amount of dust we kicked up in the process.

Our first stop was at Little Blitzen Gorge, which is a glacier-carved valley very similar to what you'd expect a glacier carved valley to look like.

Me, looking out at Little Blitzen Gorge

From here, we proceed onto the East Rim, which is a lookout that is literally on the edge of the mountain. The drop from here is very, very steep. As you can see below, I walked out just a short distance beyond the ridge and had already lost several feet of elevation. Beyond where I'm standing, the drop is much more pronounced.

East Rim

After taking a bunch of pictures from the East Rim, we drove to the REAL summit.

Insane cyclists

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


The town of Frenchglen consists of a General Store, a Hotel, and a couple private residences. Their souvenir memorabilia claims the town has a population of 11, but they might be overstating things a bit. At any rate, Frenchglen is the first sign of civilization aside from cows since we left Burns, and is a full 60 miles away. We would later discover that the next closest town, Fields, is 55 miles to the south and has a population of... 14.

Frenchglen serves as a gateway to the Steens Mountains, and most people who come through here do so either because they're visiting Steens Mountain or the Wildlife Refuge to go bird-watching. The Frenchglen Hotel is itself an Oregon State Park because it's a historic building. To give you an idea of the hotel's size, we park out front practically on the shoulder of the highway and about 8 feet from the front steps. You first enter into the covered patio, and then into the hotel itself. The lobby doubles as a dining room complete with picnic table style seating. Instantly, Darrick is greeted with "Hello! You must be Darrick Wong! You're in room 2 -- it's up the stairs and to the left." This hotel has two live-in employees, eight guest rooms, one bathroom (single toilet/shower/sink) for each gender, and no keys. At 11x15 feet, room 2 is the largest room in the hotel and the only one with two beds. They were booked to capacity. That means there were more people staying in the hotel than live in the town.

We unpacked the basics from the car and took a quick walk around town before dinnertime. Dinner was served family style, which allowed us to mingle with the other hotel guests down in the lobby. It turns out there was only one couple even remotely close to our age. The rest of the people there were retired folks -- you know, the kind of people who actually travel after Labor Day. After dinner, we snuck back outside to take a few more pictures in what sunlight was left, and then retired to our room, where I spent a few hours making sure the cameras were charged up and reading a book in the super-comfy rocking chair.

Frenchglen Hotel

Heading to Frenchglen

With our allotted time in the Bend area over sooner than I'd have preferred, we got back in the car and headed off to our next destination: Frenchglen, OR. The 190-mile drive was both incredibly straightforward (US-20 East for 130 miles to Burns, OR and then OR-205 South for 60 miles to Frenchglen) and incredibly boring... especially the part on US-20. We came across a 20-mile or so section of highway that was being resurfaced by ODOT via the tar-and-chip method even though there was no discernible reason to do so, as the portion of road being treated to the new surface was in far better shape than probably 90% of the roads in San Diego.
US-20 is boring.

About two miles south of Burns on OR-205, we're minding our own business going on down the highway when all of a sudden, the Ford Explorer in front of us starts slowing to a stop right at about the spot where there's a giant blob of something black on the road. Confused, I stop as well, and then we quickly realize what's going on -- a giant group of cows was being herded from one grazing pasture to another ON THE HIGHWAY!!! We stopped for five minutes or so to let the cows pass us. They're incredibly stupid, but at least they're bright enough to walk around the cars instead of into them.

The next 50 or so miles of roadway stays relatively flat while winding along the edge of the Malheur Wildlife Preserve up against various hills and buttes until it reaches the town of Frenchglen.

Lava River Cave

On the morning of September 5 after a filling dinner of steak and mashed potatoes the night before at Kayo's Roadhouse and a comfortable bed at Sleep Inn in Bend, we re-packed the car in anticipation of the day's drive. Having cleaned off all the dirty/muddy camping gear, reorganized the cooler, and cleaned the camping dishes, the drive promised to be much more organized and not quite so musty/smelly as the day before.

We departed the hotel just after 10am, stopped for gas, and headed to Lava River Cave, just south of Bend. Because of the Newberry Volcano, there are lots of lava "features" around this area, and we had a plan: see as much as we could see before we had to be on the road toward Frenchglen. Working backward from the time we had to be there (6pm for dinner) we determined we had to leave Bend no later than 2:00 PM. After the Lava River Cave and lunch at Taco Time, we were out of time and had to head on down the road. The area around Bend was fascinating -- I would've easily spent another entire day there had the time been available.

Darrick in the Lava River Cave

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Newberry Volcano: Big Obsidian Flow

From Paulina Peak, we drove around to East Lake and pulled into the East Lake Resort, which didn't look all that impressive even though we got some good pictures there.

East Lake Resort

We continued on through a campground, half of which had been closed that morning for the winter season. When the road ended, we turned around and headed back toward the Big Obsidian Flow. As you could see form Paulina Peak, there's a part of the flow which comes very close to where the road is, and there's a parking lot carved out of the trees at that point. From there, a loop trail meanders up onto the Obsidian flow and provides both a glimpse into the amazing destructive properties of volcanoes, as well as a good vantage point above the trees to see the greater valley area.

Obsidian Flow

After finishing up at the Obsidian Flow, I let Darrick convince me to drive 50 miles on dirt Forest Service roads to get back to US-20 instead of taking the paved roads back to US-97. This would put us on the highway about 20 miles East of Bend instead of 20 miles South.

Deschutes National Forest - Forest Road 18

Now, on these roads, there is truly nobody around. Even though they're mostly gravel and rock, I drive "like a bat out of hell" (Darrick's words) for a good 30 miles before we stop for lunch and to change drivers, since I'd driven all day and was getting tired of it. Truthfully though, the washboard-textured roads are a much smoother ride at 50mph than they are at 20mph, mostly because at that speed your tires aren't on the ground long enough to notice the non-flat nature of said ground. We were, of course, safe drivers... the fast speeds were attained on very straight, flat portions of the road where we could see plenty around us.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We left the park at Crater Lake quickly after discovering that there was literally nothing to see because the Lake was completely fogged over. From there, we headed East on OR-138 (see pictures in the gallery attached to previous post) to US-97 North, toward Bend.

We were on track to arrive in Bend before noon and knew we wouldn't be able to do much there that early in the day, especially if the weather there was not so great. After a consultation with the road atlas we decided to take a quick detour through Deschutes National Forest and go see the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The thinking here was this was something we could do from the car should the rain continue to be an issue. By the time we arrived, the rain was no longer a problem -- we seemingly had gotten ahead (or north?) of the storm.

The Newberry area is about twenty miles south of Bend and features two standard-fare recreational lakes in the caldera -- Paulina Lake and East Lake. There is also a mountain (the top of which is called Paulina Peak) and a big Obsidian Lava flow.

We make our first stop at Paulina Lake and take some general photos of the area and go out on the boat launch docks and screw around a bit with the cameras. From there, we test out the 4WD on the car and head up to the top of Paulina Peak, which tops out at 7,984 feet of elevation and provides breathtaking 360-degree views of the entire volcanic caldera as well as the surrounding area. About 15 minutes after we arrived at the top, the storm clouds started moving in and the temperature began dropping very quickly -- about 40 degrees with light snow flurries. Satisfied we'd taken enough photos, we headed back down the hill... but not before I drew a Figure-8 on the gravel parking lot with the 4L setting on the car and took a picture. This worked especially well because the ground was damp, and allowed me to get a particularly good picture without actually causing any damage to the parking lot.

Me, at the summit.

From the summit.

Crater Lake, Part 5: Leaving Crater lake

Since the boat tours of the Lake had been canceled for the next several days and we'd basically seen everything there was so see around the rim on Monday, our loose plans before going to bed that night were to do a bit more sightseeing in the immediate area first thing in the morning, and then decide what else we wanted to do from there. We had the campsite for another night if we wanted to keep it and didn't have to be in Frenchglen for another day.

Early the next morning, I wake up and decide to go ahead and get up and start making breakfast. It was quite a bit cooler than the previous morning, and the best way to combat that is to be close to a good source of heat. The camping stove, in this case, worked perfectly for that. First things first though, I head to the bathroom. On my way there, I think to myself "Self, it looks like it's going to rain today." Well I was only really in there long enough to brush my teeth, but before I exited I heard the unmistakable "tap tap" sound of raindrops on a metal roof. Surely enough, rain was coming down in a pretty steady downpour. I run back to the campsite and quickly decide to take shelter in the car for a few minutes to let the rain subside. After it dies down a bit, I venture back out to fire up the stove and start making breakfast. After juggling all sorts of wet and soggy plates and containers, Darrick finally emerges from the tent equally annoyed about the rain during breakfast, and we quickly confirm that our camping adventure has come to an end. We just simply didn't have the necessary gear to deal with rainy camping. I finish cooking breakfast while Darrick "packs" the tent (aka throws the whole muddy mess into a giant duffel bag and tosses it into the back of the car) along with the rest of the camping gear. Really, it was quite fast and efficient.

Soggy breakfast burritos safely ingested, we head out with hopes of rain-less skies at our next destination: Bend.

Soggy Campsite

Monday, September 3, 2007

Crater Lake, Part 4: Sunset at Crater Lake

By the time we had finished on the Castle Crest Wildflower trail, we had basically come full circle around Crater Lake and were back near our campsite at the Mazamas Campground. It was about 3:00 and not sufficiently late enough to go back to the campsite, so we headed back up to the rim and took a look around at the Crater Lake Lodge. After a very quick peek inside the gift shop and snack bar (to see if anything looked appealing enough to turn into a late lunch -- nothing did) we walked out and took a look down at the lake from the rim and did a bit of people-watching, then went over to the hotel just to see what it looked like inside. On our way back to the car we stopped into the visitor center, where we saw a sign (much to our disappointment) that due to "critical staff shortages" there would be no boat tours of the lake for the next three days. So much for our idea of avoiding the crowds by doing this tour on Tuesday morning. Our cameras remained behind in the car, so there are no pictures of this part of the trip. From here, we go back to the campsite for dinner and then head back out later in the evening to take some pictures of the Sunset around the rim.

In short, quite a few of these pictures came out beautifully. I wish I could've been at about 30 different places simultaneously to take the photos of this Sunset, but I'll have to settle with the two locations we chose. We initially tried to get photos from a higher vantage point closer to the East side of the North rim, but when we got there the winds were just too strong for us to set anything up without risking losing camera equipment and/or freezing to death.

At any rate, enjoy the photos:

Crater Lake, Part 3: Vidae Falls and Castle Crest Wildflower Trail

After rejoining the main Loop Road, we made stops at Vidae Falls and the Castle Crest Wildflower trail. I took some time at both of these places to experiment a little bit with taking photos of running water at different shutter speeds -- I wanted to see what kind of effects I could get in the different amounts of blurring in the water.

Crater Lake, Part 2: Fumaroles

On the east side of the rim, there's a spur road that heads approx. 7 miles off the main loop road toward the Pinnacles Overlook, which is an area in a valley which (surprise!) contains pinnacles. More specifically, these are fumaroles -- lava vents left over from times when this area vented steam from the volcano. Since that time, most of the looser ground around these vents has eroded away via the stream bed these are in, and what we're left with are the hollow vertical tubes of lava rock through which the steam once vented.

I decided it would be nice to take a short hike down the trail that left the parking area (mostly flat trail along the canyon rim) and see where it led us. Lo and behold, about 15 minutes into the walk, we found ourselves literally walking out of the park on foot and into Winema National Forest. There's even a sign and everything along the trail, which is absurdly large considering the trail is strictly for pedestrians.

Crater Lake, Part 1: Rim Loop

After waking up and cooking a standard-fare camping type breakfast we headed over to the registration booth to check in. As alluded to earlier, check-in was a complete disaster. There were two other couples ahead of me in line when I arrived. About 45 minutes later, I made it to the front of the line. (Darrick went and filled the car with gas and did some shopping in the general store while I waited.) It turns out that their registration and check-in system was some proprietary Windows app, and the man attempting to use it appeared to be about 60 and had probably never used a computer in his life. The lady in the booth with him wasn't much help, either. Plus, their printer was "broken" so they couldn't print receipts for anyone and had to hand-write them. To further complicate matters, it turns out their system is incapable of back billing... so their solution for charging us for the first night we stayed was to tell their computer system we stayed in the campsite for a night longer than we really did. Never mind that doing so made the site unavailable in the reservation system for the night after we left. A full 20 or so minutes later, and we were finally good to go.

We then set out in a clockwise pattern around Crater Lake, headed toward the boat ramp. While standing in line for the aforementioned campsite check-in, I had ample time to read about boat tours of Wizard Island, and we decided it would be worthwhile. Upon getting to the boat ramp, we discovered that all tours for the day were sold out and continued around the lake loop to take pictures.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Around Oregon in Seven Days

On September 2, 2007 I flew to Portland from Sacramento and met up with Darrick to begin our now-traditional Labor Day Weekend road trip/vacation. This year's destination was the state of Oregon itself, which is more or less Darrick's "backyard" since he lives in Portland. I had to travel just a bit to get there.

Having arrived at the airport, we proceeded to the Alamo rental car counter and attempted to pick up our rented vehicle. We were checked in and instructed to take the bus instead; Alamo is one of the few car companies that keeps its vehicles off-airport in Portland. Paperwork in hand, my instructions are to proceed to stalls E6 through E9 and pick any vehicle that is there. I get off the bus and wait two minutes for Darrick to catch up (he had driven his own car to the airport and had to bring it with him to the rental location so I wouldn't get lost getting back to his house) and while waiting, the two Toyota highlanders in slots E6 and E7, along with the Chevy Equinox in slot E9 were gobbled up by other eager tourists. E8 was empty to begin with. This left me with four empty stalls form which to choose from. Unsure what to do, I begin aimlessly wandering the lot to see if there's anything else that looks rentable, when a lot attendant asks me if I need assistance. I explain my predicament, and he points me to a fully loaded Chevy TrailBlazer that was probably intended for the elite customers. I nod, smile, and take it before he changes his mind.

Having completed the rental process, we head to Darrick's house to drop off his car and pick up his camping gear. From there, we begin the trek. First stop: Beaverton, where we pick up perishables and lunch.

From Chipotle, we begin our real trek. First destination: Crater Lake. We take a maze of roads to get there: US 26 from Beaverton to OR-217 to I-5 in Tigard, I-5 South to Eugene, OR-58 east to the US 97 junction, and finally US 97 South to OR-138. We arrived at Crater Lake at about 9:30 PM, passed through the closed entrance gate without paying, and stopped at a turnout to take some night photos. While doing this, I flagged down a passing Park Ranger and asked where we might have the best luck with campgrounds, and were informed that the offices for all of them would be closed at this late hour and that we should attempt to find an open site (on Labor day weekend, good luck!) and then just go pay for it first thing in the morning. We ended up stealing a site from someone who had apparently checked out early, but more on that later.

Photos are below as always.

Shannon's Wedding

On Saturday, September 1, I headed off to Shingle Springs to attend Shannon's Wedding. This event was the reason for my short two-night stay in Orangevale before heading off to Portland for the remainder of my vacation. Shannon and her husband Leo will be living in Italy after the wedding and for an undetermined amount of time in the future (he's Italian and she's always loved Europe, so this makes sense) and because of this, the wedding was relatively small and nearly everyone in attendance was family or friend to the bride. Some of Leo's immediate family members were able to come from Italy to attend, so the entire wedding, ceremony, reception, etc. was bilingual -- English and Italian. Clicky below for pictures.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Drive to Sac

I left San Diego at 4:30 on Friday morning to drive to Sacramento. The idea was to beat the morning rush hour traffic in LA and to get as much driving as possible done in the dark or in the early hours of daylight so that it wouldn't be too hot. A couple unusual things I saw on the way up:

- A semi with propeller spinner rims. No joke. I wish I had someone in the car with me who could've taken a picture, it was pretty ridiculous.

- CHP was actually patrolling the freeway. In the 500 mile drive, I saw 8 CHP patrol cars. Only one was a standard-issue Crown Vic in the black and white livery. The other seven consisted of one unmarked Crown Vic, one black-and-white Expedition, and five black-and white pickup trucks with camper shells. At least one of the pickups was a Dodge Ram, I had though the others looked like Chevys but am not 100% sure. In other news, CHP doesn't just drive blatantly obvious cop cars anymore. A couple years ago, I saw an all-white Camaro with gold lettering in LA somewhere...

As I was nearing Sacramento, I was going through a stretch of freeway where I had a concrete construction barrier on my left, a semi on my right, and an Explorer in front of me. The Explorer hit a GIANT truck tire retread and kicked it directly into the middle of my lane, leaving me no choice but to hit it dead on and hope for the best. I'm lucky in that I didn't catch it and drag it, but on its path under and out the side of my car it smashed up the front license plate and its frame, and left a dent and some scratches on the front bumper. On its exit from the driver's side of the car between the front and rear tires, it hit the under body spoiler and knocked it almost completely off the car. I did not notice this until I got home... and stuck it back on with its little plastic clip things as best as I could. I took some pictures (see below) of what it looks like after I stuck most of it back on. I'm just lucky that thing didn't do more damage -- I took a look at the underside of the car and everything seems to be OK.

I made it to my parents' house by 11:45 AM, but it was already 101 degrees outside. Super hot weather plus a car with a black interior makes for a not-fun time trying to unload things after the car had been sitting in the driveway for a few hours. It was so hot that the plastic knobs that you use to fold my front seat flat melted to the point where the plastic clip that holds them to the metal got soft, and when pulling said knobs... they came off. My car is starting to fall apart. :(

Images from this set:

Damage to my car.

Grape vines.