Thursday, October 29, 2015

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Final Thoughts

As far as I can remember, this 30-day, 5,500 mile trip was our longest road trip since I retired.  I have to admit that we were wearing down a bit towards the end, but we really did enjoy every minute of it.  The highlights were the week we spent at the Canyon Ranch in Big Horn with our friends, and our visit with Hilary and Jason's family in Portland, but the whole trip was wonderful.

There is something about a road trip that Val and I really enjoy.  You see every bit of country you travel through; the small towns, the ever changing scenery that we pass through, and the beautiful parks and natural wonders that we visit.  When you travel by car you get a much better appreciation of what a great and diverse country we live in here in the US.  Road trips aren’t for everyone as it can get tiring, but what a way to see the country.

For one of the few times since I retired, we don’t have much planned for future travels, but we have plenty of ideas so we will probably do something in the near future.   Our next scheduled big trip is in July when we take a 35-day cruise crossing the North Atlantic and it's called the Voyage of the Vikings.  That’s it for now, see you on down the road.

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - The Trip Home

Day 29 – Portland to Corning, CA

We had a 500 mile drive ahead of us today so we were up early.  We decided to have a full breakfast at the hotel breakfast buffet and skip lunch since we had such a long drive. We were on the road by 8:30 and the day passed quickly as we were listening to a very interesting audio book.  There isn’t much to say about the drive as it was just I-5 all day.  We made good time and arrived in Corning about 4:00; not too bad.  We stayed at The Lodge at Rolling Hills, which is a nice, reasonably priced hotel, which just happens to have a very nice casino, surprise, surprise!  We checked in, and then headed for the casino for a little entertainment for our last night on the road.  We had fun, and got to play for quite a while, but I was just about to lose all of my gambling allowance for the day when I hit a $400 jackpot and went back to the room happy.  Val didn’t have quite as much luck, but she did have a good time.  Time to call it a day; tomorrow is our last day of the trip.

Day 30 – Corning to Home

Not much to say about today, it was us and the trucks traveling down I-5 together.  As part of the cost of our room we got breakfast at the casino buffet so we once again decided to eat a large breakfast and skip lunch.  The day again passed quickly as we listened to the end of our audio book and we were home by 4:30.  It was great to be home as we were both pretty road weary after being gone for a month, but it was also sad to reach the end of another wonderful trip.

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Portland Day 2

Day 28

We slept in this morning as we weren’t going over to Jason and Hilary’s until around noon.  The forecast was for partly cloudy skies, but it was foggy and overcast all morning so it didn’t look promising.  When we arrived at Jason and Hilary’s we found all the fixings for sandwiches laid out and we enjoyed an excellent lunch.

After lunch everyone (except Avery, who had gone to an art show) headed off to one of Portland’s many urban park areas and did some hiking up a beautiful canyon; it was almost like a rain forest.  By this time the sky was clearing and the fog was burning off and it was turning into a beautiful day.  Val’s knee has improved enough so she was able to hike without too much discomfort which made the day even better.  

Hilary and I

Hilary, Jason and one of their whippet dogs (the dogs are very well behaved)

After our hike we headed out of town to the stable where Ella and Hilary keep their horses.  Both are accomplished horse women and have many trophies to show for it.  Several years ago Hilary won the National Paint Horse Championship, so she is really an expert and an excellent example for Ella, Avery and Anderson who have all shown horses at some point. Hilary and Ella both got their horses out and it was fun watching them ride and put their horses through the paces.

Ella and her horse.
Hilary and her horse.

For our final night in Portland, Val’s ex-sister-in-law Penny, her husband Nate and Val’s nephew Garrett were coming up from Salem for dinner.  Everyone soon arrived and we got caught up on what’s been going on with everyone.  Nate is a great story teller and we were entertained by stories of his recent motorcycle trips and other (mis)adventures.  We had a very tasty dinner prepared by Jason and Anderson, along with a wonderful fruit salad that Penny contributed (Val and I have been eating so much road food we have been feeling fruit deprived so the salad really hit the spot).  Too soon it was time for the Salem contingent to head home and for us to head back to the hotel.

We have had a great time in Portland; Jason and Hilary along with Avery, Anderson and Ella have been great hosts.  They have shown us Portland, fed us, opened up their home to us and made us feel very welcome; we have really had a great time and it's sad to leave.  Our trip is almost over as we head south tomorrow for the two day drive home.

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Portland Day 1

Day 27

We weren’t going to be meeting Hilary, Jason, Avery, Anderson and Ella until around 10:00 so Val and I slept in before heading over to their house.  It was partly cloudy and we could see heavy clouds to the west so it looked like the predictions of rain might come true.

We all (including the family dogs) piled into their Suburban and were on our way.  We started out through a beautiful forested area, which we found to our surprise was a still part of the city of Portland.  We arrived at the top of a hill with a great view of Portland below us and it was also the sight of the Pittock Mansion, which was the home of one of the early prominent families in the area.  We took a tour of the mansion, which was very interesting, but the view, at least for me, was really the star of this stop.

The Pittock Mansion
A view of Portland from the Mansion.

Ella, Avery and Jason
Our next stop was the Rose Garden, which was the biggest garden of roses I had ever seen.  Despite being late in the year, there were many roses still in full bloom with, what seemed like, all the colors you could imagine. The rain was really starting now so we decided it was time to look for a place for lunch.

A view of Portland from the Rose Garden.
Hilary takes time to smell the roses, while Anderson patiently waits.

Ella and Anderson
Ella's turn to smell the roses.

Anderson, Ella, Avery, Jason and Hilary
As we drove around it was evident that Portland was a food lover’s city.  There were restaurants everywhere with an eclectic array of food and styles.  We had a great lunch at The Fireside restaurant, and ordered some interesting appitizers such as "pig candy" and beet chips (everything was exceptional). Then we walked down the street to a very popular ice cream shop called the Salt and Straw.  Hilary and Jason told us that sometimes the lines are very long and there is a wait of two or three hours to be served.  Luckily on a rainy afternoon, it was a short line and only about a fifteen minute wait.  Val, Hilary, Avery, Anderson and Ella got in line for ice cream and Jason and I headed across the street to a specialty donut shop.  The donuts were very good although they were almost out as they bake one batch in the morning and when they’re gone, that’s it for the day.  After our donuts, Jason and I headed back across the street to catch up with the ice cream eaters.  I sampled Val’s ice cream and while I’m not a big ice cream eater, it was really, really good; I can see why people might line up for hours for it.  Val actually rated it better than the Taos Cow in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico that we sampled last year.

The line in front of the Salt & Straw ice cream shop.

The very interesting ice cream menu.
By this time rain was falling harder so it was back in the Suburban and we took  a driving tour of Portland.  Portland is a very interesting and beautiful city. Jason is an excellent tour guide and we were impressed with Portland's ability to mix very old and very new architecture, which makes for a beautiful city.  After our tour, Val and I went back to the hotel to relax a bit and get ready for dinner.

We met Jason and Hilary back at their house around 6:30 and they took us out to dinner.  The kids all had their own activities tonight so it was just the four of us.  I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but dinner was very good and the conversation even better.  Jason and Hilary are very easy to talk to and we had a great time.  We actually ended up sitting there for four hours talking and enjoying the evening.  Eventually we called it a night and Val and I headed back to our hotel.

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Crater Lake to Portland

Day 26

We had a relatively short drive today so we slept in a little, but we were on the road by 9:00.  We returned to US 97 the way we came in and drove a few miles north before we took the road east through the Cascades to I-5 in Eugene, OR.  It was a beautiful drive through the mountains with sunny skies, but we could see overcast skies ahead and rain is predicted for tomorrow.  After lunch in Eugene we drove north on I-5 into Portland and were checked into our hotel by 2:30.

I couldn't resist one more picture of Crater Lake before we left.
The back of Crater Lake Lodge.

We had a beautiful drive through the Cascades.
After a bit of rest, we made our way to Val’s niece Hilary’s home.  We hadn’t seen Hilary and her family for a couple of years so we were really looking forward to seeing them again.  When we arrived we got a warm welcome from Hilary and her kids Avery, Anderson and Ella.  Hilary's husband, Jason, was still at work and arrived a little later.  They have a beautiful home and a really wonderful family so it was a great to reunite with them and catch up on all that had happened since we saw them last.  Jason has a very successful design business in Portland and has made numerous trips to China and many other countries so had some interesting stories to tell.  Avery (going to an arts influenced high school), Anderson (a Lacrosse athlete) and Ella (involved in riding and showing her horse) are active in many different activities so we were able to catch up on what they were doing.  I don’t know how they keep up with all they are doing.

We had a very good home cooked dinner, which was so welcome after being on the road for so many days. We spent the rest of the evening talking before Val and I returned to our hotel.  Tomorrow they are going to take us on a tour of Portland, which we have driven through on the interstate before, but really haven’t explored at all.

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - Crater Lake National Park

Day 25

The weather today was supposed to be partly cloudy so we were disappointed to wake up to gray skies.  We decided to have breakfast in the lodge before starting our exploration of Crater Lake today.  After breakfast we started driving the Rim Road, which goes all the way around Crater Lake.

The skies continued to be gray, which was not good for our photography as the normally deep blue colored lake is gray.  We stopped at various spots along the road and despite the weather, enjoyed the views.  By late morning we were halfway around the lake and the sun had started to come out; the clouds were blowing away to the east leaving mostly blue skies behind.  We continued our way around the lake taking pictures and enjoying the views so we saw of Crater Lake from every direction.

Very gray skies for the start of our drive around the lake.


Wizard Island
Crater Lake Lodge from across the lake.

We finally started to see the sun and blue sky.
Towards the end of the Rim Road there was a turnoff to the Pinnacles Area which featured some interesting rock formations so we decided to do that.  Part way to the Pinnacles there was a trail that led to some waterfalls so I decided to take the two mile hike to the waterfall while Val drove on to Pinnacles Overlook. The waterfalls were beautiful and Val really enjoyed the Pinnacles so we both enjoyed our choices.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and we decided to return to the lodge and relax out on the patio enjoying the beautiful view of the lake.  There are chairs on the back patio where you can relax and just enjoy the beauty of the area.  After a couple of drinks and a lot of relaxation, a breeze came up and it cooled off so we decided to move ourselves inside and sit in front of the big fireplace and warm up for a bit.

The Crater Lake Lodge
The entrance.

The deck overlooking the lake.
We spent an enjoyable, relaxing afternoon out on the deck.
After being thoroughly warmed by the fire, we made our way back to our room to get cleaned up and prepared for dinner.  The only dinner reservations times available were 5:45 or after 8:00 so we opted for the 5:45. After a good dinner, we decided to sit out on the patio again and watch the lake grow darker in the twilight.  We started talking to several couples who were sitting nearby and had an enjoyable time hearing about their travels and where they had come from.  After a while it became a bit too cool outside so we decided to call it a night.

We have enjoyed our stay at the Crater Lake Lodge, but of all the national park lodges we have stayed at so far, the service has been the worst, particularly housekeeping.  When we commented on it we were told it was because they were getting ready to close for the season and a lot of the staff had left, but we were at the Old Faithful Inn last year just before it closed and experienced no problems at all.  Anyway it was a good stay and it certainly didn’t ruin our enjoyment of Crater Lake.  Tomorrow it’s off to Portland to visit Val’s niece and her family for a couple of days before we head for home.