Friday, June 27, 2014

Contemplating Change


This has been an interesting week for us. Thanks to our friend who is allowing us to park on her property, we have really been able to  get a feel for Bend, Oregon and we love it here. So much so that we actually went and looked at a couple of condos for sale. In our nearly six years of full time travel, this is the first town we’ve found that we could see living in, at least during part of the year. And who knows, maybe we could even tolerate the winters here if we get some snowshoes and cross country skis.

Beautiful Sparks Lake, just up the road from Bend.


The condos were okay. They have great views of the Deschutes River and are just a couple blocks from downtown next to a lovely park. But the building is old, and most of the units are in a rental pool as part of a motel, which makes them less desirable. We liked the third floor unit, but there are no elevators. Good exercise, but if one of us had a mobility problem down the road that would be tough. On the other hand the complex is gated and would be a place that would be easy to lock up and leave for months at a time.

Then as we were thinking about that possibility, we found out that an acquaintance was getting ready to sell his 36’ Foretravel class A, which Jim has lusted over for years. When we purchased our 30’ Lazy Daze in 2007 we had no intentions of retiring and living in it. But we’ve managed just fine in it for all this time, with the exception of the fact that we have limited storage, trouble keeping our weight within the limits, very little kitchen counter space, no automatic leveling jacks, and small holding tanks. We have adapted to all of this and are quite comfortable in our tiny house.

The Foretravel would give us all those things we wish we had in our Lazy Daze, plus it’s already rigged for boondocking with solar and greater battery capacity, and a whole house inverter, which we don’t have.

So our big dilemma is are we ready to settle down, spend our summers in Oregon, and keep the Lazy Daze for winter travels? Or do we buy the Foretravel and keep traveling as we are now? Or as a friend told us, buy both, it’s only money!

Jim called our insurance company yesterday and they quoted $1,000 more per year just to insure the Foretravel, so that gave us pause. And we already know that maintenance expenses would be greater with all the extra systems in a diesel class A. And it is a 2000 model, 6 years older than the Lazy Daze, so more likely to have problems down the road.

A happy family with no decisions to make.


As it turns out, someone else is going to look at the Foretravel today, and if they decide to buy it that will make it easy for us. Unfortunately it’s in North Carolina, so if we decide we want it that means Jim would fly to Charlotte and have to drive the FT back to Bend, or we would both fly there which means boarding the cats. Then we’d have to get the Lazy Daze ready for sale and transfer all our stuff, another big chore.

The easiest thing would be to do nothing. And after thinking all this through, that is most likely what will happen. But sometimes it’s fun to contemplate change even if nothing changes.

So where do we go from here?


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Black Butte Lookout, A Tough Hike But Worth the Effort



On Monday we drove north of Sisters, Oregon to the upper Black Butte trailhead. Chris, our camp host friend at Camp Sherman, met us there for a relatively short hike of 1.9 miles to the top of the stratovolcano, aka butte. What the hike lacked in distance it certainly made up for in elevation. We climbed 1,500 feet to the top, with no let up the entire way.

Jim was trying to talk to Chris, but it’s not easy when you’re climbing, so he used that as an excuse to stop frequently.


About halfway up the trees began to thin out and we finally got a glimpse of the area.

Mt. Washington.


Looking down over Black Butte Ranch, a vacation resort with lodges, cabins, condos, restaurants and golf courses, with the Three Sisters snow covered peaks.


At one point we could see the fire tower at the top of the butte and it sure looked a lot farther up and a long way off. Jim was not enjoying the climb but I cheerfully told him to just keep walking and not look ahead. He doesn’t always appreciate my optimism! By this time we were out in the open and the views were great. I will admit it was a steep trail and a tiring climb, though.


We had hoped for a little clearer day, but it is always exhilarating getting to the top. And there was a bench to sit and eat a bite.

Chris and I taking in the views. Mt. Jefferson on the left and a faint view of Mt. Hood to the right.


There are also several structures on the top, an active manned fire tower.


The old lookout tower, built in 1923 and now on the National Register of Historic Places.


And a cabin which is the private residence of the fire lookout staff. Not a bad place to live.


Sadly the lookout didn’t prevent a fire here in 2009.



Our big wildlife sightings included plenty of begging chipmunks and noisy Clark’s nutcrackers.


And this white-spotted Sawyer beetle.


We had a nice easy walk going back down, but we could sure feel it in our legs yesterday. Clearly we haven’t been doing enough steep trails! No beer was consumed after this hike, we were even too tired for that. If you happen to be a serious hiker and this sounds like just a walk in the park, there is also a lower trailhead which makes it a 5 mile hike up with 3,200 feet of elevation gain.

Yesterday was a day of rest and chores, and Jim took the Subaru in to get new tires installed. May as well take advantage of the no sales tax in Oregon while we’re here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Scenic Drive and Biking in Bend


The 66 mile Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway takes you southwest of Bend up to Mount Bachelor and a string of mountain lakes. I’m not very good at sitting in the car for hours looking at pretty scenery, no matter how great it is, so after over 20 miles of riding a five mile hike at the first lake we came to, Todd Lake, sounded like a perfect place to stretch our legs. What we failed to consider is that there is still an awful lot of snow at 6,100 feet in June in the Oregon Cascades.

Mt. Bachelor (9,068’) from the road to Todd Lake. It was closed and gated but we parked outside the gate and walked the road to the lake.


A surprising amount of snow and even a waterfall.



Todd Lake. The trail we planned to hike was completely buried. We did manage to walk 1.5 miles to the lake and back to the car over the snow but some spots were a bit treacherous.


So we drove on a few more miles to Sparks Lake, which at only 5,400 feet was completely snow-free, and hiked the Sparks Lake trail. It was an interesting loop through volcanic terrain and circled back along the lake shore.


We did find a little snow deep in the crevices of the rock.


Now this is a picturesque lake. Because it was Saturday there were people out on the lake in every conceivable watercraft.


But it’s a big lake so there is plenty of room for everyone.



Beautiful scenery with South Sister and Broken Top Mountains as the backdrop.



We drove on a few more miles to check out Elk and Hosmer Lakes where there were lots more people kayaking and canoeing. There are trailhead parking areas all along the scenic drive but we’ll do some research and come back another day.

Mt. Bachelor and Sparks Lake from the Scenic Byway.


On Sunday morning we wanted to take a bike ride but knew our favorite trails would be crowded, so we just took off from our site to see what we could find. We didn’t realize we were just a couple miles away from accessing the Deschutes River trail at Sawyer Park. Ended up making a 19 mile loop along both sides of the river, through downtown Bend and the Old Mill area. Maybe 5 miles was on pavement, and the rest on dirt and gravel trails.

The scenery wasn’t bad, either. We did encounter quite a few walkers and cyclists around the Old Mill district but everyone was polite. Some even thanked us for telling them we were passing.


We stopped to watch these obviously experienced kayakers. Looked like they were having fun.

Bend, OR Marial's pasture2

And naturally we rounded out another weekend in Bend with beer, by meeting up with Debbie and Marial at Broken Top Bottle Shop and Ale Cafe, a beer store and restaurant that we discovered last week. They have a large selection of beers on tap and hundreds of bottles. The vegan black bean chili is excellent. I would highly recommend it!

Oh, and the cats have been behaving.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Another Week in Bend


We are still in Bend, Oregon, enjoying the outdoor activities and breweries. This past week we hiked from Lava Island Falls along the Deschutes River,


got sleeted on while mountain biking on the Phil’s trail system, did a couple more rides there on warmer days, went to see Marc Cohn (from Walking in Memphis fame) in concert at the intimate Tower Theater, and tried some more local brews. So far Crux and 10 Barrel are our favorites.

We’ve been seeing a black and white cat wandering around the pasture we’re parked in, and the other morning it apparently noticed Elvis sitting in the dash and came up for a closer look. They seemed to be having a staring contest, and when Sophie realized what Elvis was looking at she ran up on the dash. It startled Elvis so much that he went berserk and attacked Sophie. It was like watching Linda Blair in The Exorcist.


He literally transformed into a demon cat in an instant. The two of them went tearing around the rig hissing and swatting, knocked a full cup of coffee onto the iPad keyboard, ran across the stove which had a couple bagels sitting on it. They and the pan went flying, we couldn’t get the cats separated, and I was hysterical. Jim was able to grab Sophie and get her in the bedroom but I couldn’t keep Elvis out quick enough and he was right after her again. At last we got Elvis locked in the bedroom, and proceeded to clean up the mess. Coffee was all over the table, chair, and carpet. What a mess! And the following day we had to order a new keyboard for the iPad.


We were ready right then and there to take them to the Humane Society. In all our years of cat ownership it was the first time anything like like this has ever happened, and we don’t want it to happen again. Part of the problem is we live in such a small space, and the other part is that although Elvis is adorable and sweet, he is probably the least intelligent cat we’ve ever had. I did some research on fear-induced aggression in cats, and I read that it is not an uncommon problem when cats see a strange one outside of their home. Guess we’ve been lucky this never happened before.

I also read that it can cause irreparable damage to the cats relationships with each other, but by that evening things were back to normal and Elvis and Sophie are best buddies again. We put our sunshade in the windshield so the cat can’t see in, and so far a few days have passed and although we’ve seen the black and white cat out in the pasture, it hasn’t come close. Maybe all the commotion scared it enough that it never wants to come near us again. I hope!

We had one other episode that we stopped before it started, when our friend’s sweet cat came up to Jim near our door. Jim was talking to and petting him, and with the windows open our cats could hear him. When Jim came back in Elvis got all worked up and Sophie started making a weird almost howling noise to warn him off. Jim put Sophie back in the bedroom for a few minutes, the other cat left, and Elvis settled down.

As much as we love these cats, if someone were to come along who could give them a bigger, better home, we would gladly give them up for the sake of our sanity.

These marmots live in the rocks in our “yard”. Elvis isn’t bothered by them. Guess since they aren’t cats he doesn’t think they pose a threat.



Yesterday we took a drive and a couple short hikes along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, but we took so many photos I will save that for another post. Here’s a little preview.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Oregon Badlands


Although a mere 15 miles east of Bend, it feels like another world when you enter the Oregon Badlands Wilderness area, 29,000 acres of volcanic high desert managed by the BLM. We found the parking area for the Flatiron trail just off Hwy 20 at mile marker 16 and hiked along the Ancient Juniper trail for almost two miles until it intersected the Flatiron Rock trail. The ground was covered with wildflowers surrounding 200-400 year old juniper trees.




It was another 1.6 miles to Flatiron, the volcanic rock formation that the trail is named for.





We saw 3 other people the entire time, and one wildlife sighting.



You have to love the desert to appreciate this hike. We do so we really enjoyed it, especially with all of the flowers in bloom. Quite a colorful contrast to the sage and lava rock.

Bend, OR Marial's pasture1

Naturally after our 6.6 mile hike we had to stop at a brewery. We wanted to try Boneyard, but their tasting room is just that, a small taproom next to the brewery with no tables and no real bar to even set your glass down on. And this was Saturday afternoon so it was packed with people.

Our next choice was 10 Barrel, but there was nowhere to park and we could see a huge crowd standing out on the patio. So it was on to Cascade Lakes, which we had been to in Redmond but not in Bend. There was plenty of room at the bar, Jim was able to drink another Misery Ridge stout, and we had a fun conversation with a guy from California who was in Bend to do some mountain biking.

Our friend who is letting us stay on her pasture had been a bit under the weather, but she is feeling much better so yesterday we took her to 10 Barrel Brewing Co. for dinner. Great pizza and Jim found his favorite beer so far, Knight Ryder, a small batch (only 10 barrels!) smooth dark beer. I have a feeling we’ll be going back there again before it is sold out. We may be in Bend for awhile….

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More Biking and Breweries



We had signed up as volunteers for the Blitz 2 The Barrel mountain bike race scheduled for Wednesday. Unfortunately it had to be postponed since the ride went through a fire evacuation route. Darn, we were looking forward to helping out and getting a free t-shirt and 10 Barrel beer.

Even though the Two Bulls Fire (which is now under control) has some of the best mountain biking and hiking trails closed, there are still plenty of other places to ride. Since our “work” was cancelled for Wednesday we took the bikes down to the Lava Lands Visitor Center about 10 miles south of Bend and rode a little over 4 miles on the Black Rock trail to Benham Falls. It is fun single track with lots of ups and downs and some lava rock. The trail goes right along the lava bed, which made for interesting scenery.


At Benham Falls, which we were unable to view because the bridge is closed due to construction, we found the Deschutes River trail to Sunriver, a planned residential and resort community. Miles of paved trails go through the community, which although lovely was a bit too groomed for our tastes, and it must be too early in the summer as there were very few people around other than some golfers.

Parts of the trail had nice views of the river.


We ended up coming back on the new asphalt trail from Sunriver to the visitor center, even though it isn’t quite finished. We were tired and just didn’t feel like fighting the uphill rocky parts of the single track, so we snuck around where they were working and managed to ride a good portion. We ended up doing a 20 mile ride, which of course required another brewery stop on the way home.

Jim had to return something at NAPA, and Worthy Brewing just happened to be around the corner. The beer was good and their veggie burger was great. They have a really nice outdoor patio, where we sat to keep an eye on our bikes since we forgot the locks.

Thursday we took another bike ride on a different part of the Deschutes River Trail. This time we started at Lava Island Falls off the road going to Mt. Bachelor. We were determined to see Benham Falls, and it was about a 6.5 mile trail to get there from that side. We read that this was fairly easy single track, but somehow early on we must have diverted to the difficult trail, as we were doing lots of steep ups and downs over rocks and roots, and had to do quite a bit of hike and bike. It finally got better so we continued riding and made it to the falls.

We had views of the river almost the entire trail.



Benham Falls, we made it.



This is a popular rafting and kayaking area since there are lots of rapids.



We were dreading the ride back over the technical parts, but somehow we must have stayed on the right trail and our ride back was fun, fast and mostly downhill. Time for a beer!

We had heard good things about Crux Fermentation Project, so that was our choice of the day. We thought there must be an event going on because cars were parked everywhere and an employee was directing traffic. But he said that it was just a normal afternoon. They don’t even have happy hour prices but it was packed with people inside and out. Apparently it is THE place to go in Bend for a beer. The other brewpubs we’ve visited have not been crowded at all. We did get a table and ordered a six beer sampler because they had so many different kinds. Jim really liked the Doublecross Strong Dark Belgian Ale and ordered a pint for himself. I just drank the rest of the samples, and saved my favorite for last, the Half Hitch IPA. Best one I’ve tasted so far, and the Drunken Mushroom sandwich was very tasty.

Colder temps and rain were in the forecast for yesterday, so we hung around and researched some options for when we leave Bend. Still no decision. I did go pick up a few groceries and got rained on by maybe a dozen drops. Today is cooler and partly cloudy, so it looks like a good day for a hike.

Our friend gave us some presents for the cats that hers doesn’t like. We have resisted getting something like this and have a couple of small scratching places for them, but since this fits between the front seats and we don’t use that area anyway, it looks like it’s a keeper. Elvis and Sophie are loving it!


This is a 12 week old St. Bernard puppy we met at one of the breweries the other day. Talk about a people magnet! How could you resist that face? The owner told me her parents are big so they are expecting her to get to 160 pounds. Won’t be so cute then!