Thursday, February 26, 2009

09/22/08 - Pocatello, ID - House Hunting

A couple of days later, we met Jared at Gate City Real Estate to begin looking into buildings around Pocatello that might fit for a Bed & Breakfast. (After an excellent breakfast at Red Hot Roasters, and a stroll around the neighborhood)

He had a pretty full list lined out for us, including a few we asked about and some surprises as well! Our first stop was one at the top of our list, but also one we were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to purchase. For all of these houses, we had come up with code names for them, to give them a bit of personality and help keep them straight in our heads. We aren't sure, but we think Jared might have thought us crazy for the code names.... At any rate, we went to see the Pink House first. The Pink House was an older building, currently used as apartments. It was less than a block from the ISU campus, and had been used pretty hard by the tenants. They were asking $299k for it, and with the amount of space and proximity to the college, it was probably worth it, it just wasn't something we could afford. Of course, not being able to afford something had never stopped us before, so we dove in! The Pink House, so named for the odd salmon pink colored stucco on the exterior, was really intriguing. There were five apartments in it, three below, one above and a large one on the main floor, and the building had a lot of character, lots of sliding doors, high ceilings, little cupboards built in. It was also obviously home to a pretty good sized pile of rowdy college kids, as evinced by the beer pong table, fence of beer cans, dings in walls and Bob Marley posters in places of honor. Lindsay fell in love with the attic apartment, partly because she's obsessed with attics, and partly because the tenants were a couple of cute co-eds with a cat, rather than loud frat boys. It was clear that with years of renovating and remodeling, the Pink House could become a really cool place, but it was too much money and work to seriously consider. There were a lot of interesting catacomb-style basement corridors and the craziest boiler system any of us had ever seen too.

Our next stop was one that Jared lined up, that we'd never seen before, afterwards dubbed the Yellow House. Obviously, the Yellow House was named for the exterior, bright yellow siding. It was just a block off of one of the main roads into town from the interstate, just far enough back to avoid the street noise, but easy to find still. It had a small apartment upstairs, with bedroom, bath, kitchen and a small living room, which we thought would be pretty easy to turn into 2 beds and 2 baths for the B&B. The Yellow House was full of odd little details, and some of the most phenomenal wall coverings I have ever seen in my entire life. Clearly, an older person had lived here previously, as there was a pretty decent security system installed, and it just kind of had that vibe, but whoever it was, they had some great taste in decor. The bathroom wallpaper was a metallic silver with gold and bronze fish, which beautifully set off the pink bathtub. In one bedroom of two on the main floor, it had an entire wall of 3 foot deep storage and the other had an entire wall of mirrored tiles. Clearly, where some people thought one of something would do, the previous owners of the Yellow House decided on 7 times that. The basement had an additional bathroom, family room, bedroom (With shag carpet) and an oddly sunken pantry/storage area. It also had a roomy laundry room and separate bonus room. The Yellow house had a nice sized yard too, with RV parking, a 3-4 car garage/shop, a little covered patio and a garden area. I really liked it, it had a nice feel and a lot more space than you'd think from the road. Lindsay was obviously dazzled by the wallpaper, and had trouble seeing it's potential.

We then hopped over the train tracks to the West side of town, where we toured a building that we kind of tacked on at the last minute, a big yellowish apartment building that had the feel of an old western Hotel. I call it the Old Hotel, Lindsay calls it The Yellow House... much to my confusion. We could only look at a couple of apartments, but the Old Hotel had clearly seen a LOT of work lately, all of the electrical was replaced, and all of the carpet and fixtures looked new. It had something like 10 apartments in it, on 3 floors, and while it could be a gorgeous place, it would have taken thousands of dollars to convert it, undoing much of the work already piled into it by the current owners. Lindsay is still obsessed over it however, because we never got to go up into the attic....

For our last stop of the day, we headed back towards the college, to the Old Frat House. Located about a block from Pocatello's gorgeous cemetery, the Old Frat House was a revelation. From the outside, it's very unique looking, all tall sides and sharp corners, essentially a box with a tall roof, but it still had a lot of personality, and inside we could instantly feel the potential. The Old Frat House had a spacious main room as you walked in, with 12 foot ceilings and old hardwood floors, opening up into a couple of staircases and a nice, modern kitchen. On the main floor, there was only a kitchen, main room, mud room, half bath, and some closets, which was kind of nice from a B&B logistic viewpoint, it would offer some separation between the guest rooms upstairs and our living space downstairs. On the second floor, there were 4 bedrooms, all quite spacious, and each sporting 2 closets, clearly left over from its Frat days. There was also one bathroom off of the main hall, and a second off of the huge master bedroom. On the third floor, we found an amazing attic room, with its own set of closets and plenty of room for Lindsay's crafts and writing. In the basement, the Old Frat House had another bedroom, a small den, a storage room, laundry area, one full bathroom, and one bathroom that I got a huge kick out of. Clearly all still remaining from the Frat days, the second bathroom in the basement had 2 toilets, 4 sinks and 3 showers in it, and the toilets were just chilling together without any kind of privacy measures taken at all. I loved it. Obviously, we could see the potential in the building immediately, it had such a great feel walking in, and enough rooms to comfortably fit guests. The only real problem we saw was the lack of private baths, but we figured with the half bath on the main floor and the crazy mutant bath available to guests as well, we could overcome that. It also had a nice sized yard and off street parking for about 5 cars.

All in all, it was a really productive day, and we were pretty surprised and excited by how many good choices there were in Pocatello. Nearly all of them we viewed would make a passable B&B, and there were still 4 or 5 we couldn't line up viewings for!

Jared had also arranged for us to go look at the interior of Greystone 2 days later, and we needed to start in on the prospect of getting our house for sale, a project that we had been prepping for for months already at this point, so that we could afford to build a B&B!

(Sorry about the lack of photos for this post, I was using Lindsay's little camera, and was hesitant about taking photos of homes where people lived, and as of recently, my computer is broken, and hers has no Photoshop, so I'm a man with no cropping ability! I'll try and update with some photos later.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Richfather...

Don't even think about refusing him.

(One of around a thousand photos from my sister-in-law's wedding in Bozeman, MT, which are very slowly being edited for her album...)

Monday, February 23, 2009

09/20/08 - Lava Hot Springs, ID - The Greystone Manor

Jared immediately went to work for us, asking us to send any potential hits to him, and said he had a few ideas we might like too. Jared is kind of the tech guy at Gate City Realty, and he takes a lot of the other listing agents photos, so we figured if he knew of any gems that we'd have the inside track.

We weren't wrong! just a few days after returning home from Pendleton, Jared called and said he was lining up a few houses to look at, and that there was another place he wanted us to see that was no longer technically on the market, but one he thought we'd love.

The building was called The Greystone Manor, in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Jared told us that it had been used as a wedding and reception facility, and that the owners rented themed rooms from there as well. Frankly, it kind of sounded like a baby version of what we eventually wanted to open, so we excitedly found out where it was, and on a morning off, loaded up the dogs and drove the 35 miles to Lava to check out the exterior and get the lay of the land a bit. Lava Hot Springs is a small town of around 500 to the Southwest of Pocatello, and as the name suggests, is home to a pretty impressive Hot Springs system. They have an Olympic sized pool, some really nice hot pools, and a number of impressively good restaurants, including a Thai one that is supposed to be one of the best in the area. (Currently housed in an old gas station!) It had been a while since Lindsay and I had been to Lava, and then only at night, so it was kind of fun to cruise around the town a bit, looking at all of the tourist themed shops and restaurants. For a town of only 500, Lava has a pretty decent amount of commerce and is obviously pretty reliant on the steaming hot water coming from the earth. There are a number of hotels in the town, most seemingly owned by the same company, just spread out around town with different names. There's also a "luxury" Themed Hotel called the Lion's Gate Manor, which we wanted to cruise past and look at, as they were one of the businesses we tracked for a while.
The Greystone Manor, as viewed from the main street.

It took us a few attempts, but we finally tracked down the Greystone Manor, about a block and a half up from the main road. It was a gorgeous old grey building, roughly 1.5 stories high, that took up the corner of the block.

I fell in love with the stonework almost immediately. The Greystone was a very imposing building, especially in comparison to the residences around it. You could feel the age and history flowing from the cool stones as we walked around the exterior, trying to see if it was occupied, or not.

Soon, we decided that it was vacant, and though it showed signs of recent life, it was pretty clearly in a state of disrepair. A lot of the mortar between stones were crumbling, the area was very overgrown, and there were a few hornets nests hanging from the eaves. We got brave and tried to peek in a few windows, but for the most part could only see a staircase and an entry alcove, but what we saw made us want to see the inside. Badly.

There was also a yard across from the alley, that appeared to belong to the Greystone - either that or some enterprising waterer had usurped their hose to keep it green, which would be great to eventually build an area for outdoor weddings, or a secondary building for room rentals. Obviously, this was some pretty far flung thinking, but it was nice to see that it had some land attached.

Sadly, there was a lot of crumbling, dejected things around the manor, from dead plants to the old sign, a few desiccated strands of lights still hanging from it, as it leaned against the gorgeous old walls. We immediately called Jared and told him we wanted to see inside later in the week.
After wandering around long enough to get a feel for the place, but not long enough that someone reported us as trespassers, we headed into town and hit up the museum there. Their museum is a quaint, typical small town type, where a lot of emphasis was placed on small town individuals and events that scarcely figured outside of the area, but they managed to put it together in a clean and fun manner, and we spent a few minutes browsing around. We asked the proprietor if she knew anything about the Greystone Manor, and she said that she thought they did weddings there every once in a while, but that it was essentially vacant.

As we browsed the museum, we stumbled across a written history of the LDS church in Lava Hot Springs, where we found a short but informative page on the construction and early history of the Greystone. Amazingly, when it was built it took over 18 years, during which time, classes were held in the unfinished basement. It was only recently (In historical terms, which meant around 45 years ago) that the church was sold and became a hotel/wedding facility/wasp breeding ground.

After we left the museum, we travelled in a large and essentially fruitless search to find the graveyard, one of our little passions, but while we looked for it we did find the Lion's Gate. Surprisingly, it was a very modern looking house on a hill, and from the outside at least, utterly charmless. While we'd seen pictures of the interior, if we'd rented a room here, we would have been pretty dismayed to see the plain exterior and untrimmed lawn.

As we headed back to Poky, we passed the world's slowest granny, who had a line of 15 cars piled up behind her, and pottied the dogs at the Flying J, where we discovered that the only place they had that wasn't decorative and useless Lava rock was their pretty little grass patch in the very front of the store. As a result, the lawn was absolutely covered in dog poop. (Though none of it our dogs, we clean up after ours! ) You should really consider a doggy rest area, Flying J!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book Review - FREE FALL by Robert Crais

Free Fall by Robert Crais
1994, 304pgs

Free Fall is one of the books I read on my recent trip to Boseman, and it was a welcome switch after the mildly disappointing B&B mystery I'd read earlier. Elvis Cole, the main character of Crais' detective novels is a great creation. A detective with a sharp tongue, quick wit, good with a gun and the ladies, and sporting a Hawaiian shirt. He manages to be classic nior while feeling fresh and fun, and once you add his super quiet, super effective partner Joe Pike to the mix, you have a team to be reckoned with. Crais likes a lot of over the top characters and plots in his stories, but somehow he manages to make them seem fun and natural in his twisted vision of LA, and the books are always a kick.

Free Fall concerns an incriminating video, bad cops, good cops, gangs, a drive in theater, an angry cat and is a fun escape. I'll keep this review short, and say simply that if you're looking for a good LA Noir book that takes place in the sun and goes to some dark places, then Free Fall is for you!


Next Up - The Alligator's Farewell by Hialeah Jackson

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Our next step: Closer To Home

As we worked on our dream to own a Motel, Lindsay and I quite often found ourselves in a reflective mood, looking back on our lives in Pocatello and what we would miss or be happy to leave behind. One thing we kept coming back to was our large group of friends, family, associates and for lack of a better word, connections we had in Poky. I ran a gas station for a few years and in that time built up a group of friendly customers in virtually every aspect of life, from college professors to construction crews, and Lindsay had steadily done the same a block away at Budget Tapes & Records. As we talked more about it, we started to wonder whether we should look into doing something closer to home. Obviously, a motel on the beach was out of the question, and Pocatello already has a few excellent wedding facilities and a a romance themed hotel, but it was lacking a different aspect of hospitality, a Bed & Breakfast.

There had been a B&B in Pocatello a few years back, a block from where Lindsay had grown up, and according to the scuttlebutt when we looked into it, it no longer existed because she had made enough money to open one on a tropical island. That sounded like a pretty good reason to consider it to us! On the trip home from Pendleton, we began seriously batting around the idea of starting a B&B in Pocatello. Unfortunately, we kept butting up against the likely ROUS of startup cash again, but thought that with our drive and ambition, the right location, and using our network of people in Pocatello, we could build a thriving little business and get our foot in the door.

When we arrived home, we immediately started in, looking up properties and contacting our Realtor extraordinaire, Jared.

The hunt was on, yet again!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Movie Review - CORALINE (2009)

3D, 2009, 100 min, PG

Wow. Going into this movie, I figured I'd enjoy it but I never counted on the depth of my love for this movie after today.

Coraline is a story about a young girl, freshly moved to the rainy woods of the Northwest with her loving but extremely distracted and dysfunctional parents. Their new home is a gorgeous old Victorian house, transformed into apartments with a swirling stone garden behind it and eccentric neighbors above and below her. While her parents are utterly absorbed in the gardening catalog that they are writing, Coraline is left by herself in a huge, mysterious house. As she explores, she meets a slightly off-kilter neighbor boy, whose grandmother owns the house, an even more off-kilter circus showman and his trained kangaroo rats, and a couple of old burlesque dancers who are off their rockers. One night, Coraline discovers a small door in the wall, locked by an old skeleton key with a button on the end. By day, the door is bricked up, but that night, led by the mice, she discovers a mirror universe, where her parents are loving and friendly, good cooks and successful, and her neighbors are even more over the big top than before. They also have buttons sewed onto their faces where their eyes should be.

Each night, Coraline escapes into the other life, where she plays with her increasingly odd "Other parents" and the mirror version of her talkative neighbor friend, who is mute in the night realm. Then, one night, her "Other mother" asks Coraline to stay forever with them...All she has to do is give up her eyes, and sew on buttons.

From there, Coraline's worlds begin to go creepier and crazier, as her "Other Mother" does all she can to steal Coraline forever!

This movie was phenomenal. Based on a story by Neal Gaiman, author of many respected comic books and novels, and directed by Henry Sellick, the director and animator for Nightmare Before Christmas, the flick is a seamless combination of traditional stop motion animation, computer wizardry, and pure, unadulterated magic. The voice acting is all flawless, and perfectly cast, especially Dakota Fanning as Coraline, and the Oregon landscape of the movie, with drizzly days and creepy crags made me very homesick for a home I don't yet know. Every once in a while, you find a movie where everything just clicks together seamlessly to create a perfect union, and this movie is that kind of rare beast. From the music (By French composer Bruno Coulais and They Might Be Giants) to the design, to the humor, to the slow building sense of wrongness, everything in this was flawless. Coraline was filmed in true 3D, so when you go in a properly equipped theater, they give you a pair of magic Clark Kent glasses to wear. I've always wanted to love 3D, but for me and my heavily prescribed glasses, they've never seemed to work for me, but the new digital theater 3D is great. Frankly, events like this could be the savior of theaters. (Along with my long professed plan to re-introduce serials...) While there were a few events that went oddly colored and double for me (Though not for Lindsay, so I assume it was the results of the glasses having to perch over my regular glasses) the rest of the movie had an amazing level of depth, texture and color, from any angle or position in the theater. I loved it.

I had a friend tell me that she loved this movie more than Nightmare Before Christmas, a movie that she and Lindsay both revere, and about halfway into Coraline, my wife turned to me, and wholeheartedly agreed. It is probably one of the best animated films I have ever seen, both scary and hilarious at the same time. That said, it is obviously not for everyone. Some people might be a bit dismayed at the themes in the movie, and I would strongly discourage any youngsters attending, as there are a lot of scary moments, creepy creatures, a general feeling of dread at times and, well, the old burlesque dancers that live in the basement aren't completely retired....

I loved Coraline ever so much!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pack Rat s

For the last seven months or so, Lindsay and I have been in a constant state of unknown. Each time we head out on a trip to visit a property, although there is a slim chance of it going through, it always exists, just enough to make us constantly aware that we may need to pack up and move with a fairly short notice. As we started evaluating that, we realized how much junk we own. We're both collectors, be it books, magazines, toys, yarn, art supplies, CDs, DVDs, Candles, you name it. If it's something that interests us, we have a lot of it, and having as many hobbies as we do, that adds up! We currently live in a good sized 3 bedroom house with a garage, office, 2 storage sheds, and a couple of large closets, and as we started contemplating a move, we realized how things had started to fill up over the last few years in this house.

So we started trying to whittle it down. This is no easy task here, as just with our DVD collection alone, we have close to 4,000, many of which we've bought to watch and have yet to do so. Although we currently have no sound destination, we've started packing and condensing our lives into boxes. At my work, all of our prescription vials come in the same, uniformly sized boxes, and I've started taking every empty one they get, in the hopes of using them almost exclusively. They're a nice size, well suited for moving, both large enough to fit a decent amount in, but small enough to still carry easily. As we pack, we've started throwing out things, attempting to streamline and condense our "stuff." Some of it is easy, we've thrown out old clothes and adapters to things long lost and broken, some of it is difficult. I had boxes of magazines that I'd saved for some inscrutable reason, and I've spent months now slowly browsing through them, cutting out anything I think is truly worth saving and disposing of the rest. I'd estimate that something close to 10 large boxes of magazines has been condensed into one large and heavy one. Some things we haven't shrunk at all, like our books. Though some are certainly disposable, most are either worth reading one more time, or they're things we could possibly sell used in the lobby of our motel when we find one.

Unfortunately, while all of the work is rewarding in a way, it also has a side effect of making us feel very out of sorts, kind of transitory with no goal in sight. It also makes me a bit nervous about fitting all of it in a moving van if the time comes....

Sometime in the next week or so, we will have definitive word back on a property we are working with. If it is positive, we'll have to be fully packed and ready to roll within 3 weeks. This is very exciting. If things go south, in a way this is exciting too. We've decided that after this property, if it falls through, we are going to take a break for a while, lick our wounds, pay off some debt and try to get our enthusiasm back for the hunt. This current place looks pretty good, so maybe we wont have to worry, but if it fails we're kind of okay with that too, because at least then we know what we're doing for around a year. It's not what we want to be doing by any means, but at least it's a solid goal, and we can plan around it.

Of course, that means we have to unpack everything......

Saturday, February 14, 2009

September 15th, 2008 - Pendleton, OR - Part VI

This chapter is also known as Failure, Yet Again!

Not that it really ended up too bad, and we not only saw it coming, but were OK with it, but waking up the next morning in The Rugged Country Lodge, it was still a bit of a bitter pill to realize that we'd once again put a good amount of effort, time and money prepping for another failure. Of course, we still had to actually go to the bank and talk to Kris, but we were pretty sure that nothing would come of it.

We got up and greeted the surprisingly brisk morning, and ate some decent, but unimpressive breakfast in the Rooster Room, and checked out. It was still a bit until our meeting, so we parked at the bank, and wandered around downtown for a half hour or so, anxious and nervous, despite being pretty consigned to our inevitable outcome.

At 9am sharp, we wandered to the bank just as Kris was unlocking it. She introduced herself and shook our hands, guiding us into a conference room. Kris chatted with us for a while, telling us that she had been quite excited to meet us, and had been working on our project since we talked. She knew we had virtually nothing in the way of a down payment and had arranged for a gentleman to come in and talk to us about helping finance the RCL, what some people refer to as Angels. I suddenly got a little nervous that this might actually go through. Kris seemed incredibly confident in the Angel, and was really excited to look over our plans. We explained our intent to add some romantic themed rooms and she told us that she had visited a few like that in a different city and loved it, she got even more excited as we elaborated on our future plans to overhaul the website and the image of the Lodge, turning it into a locals spot as well as quality lodging for travelers. Just as we were about to go further into detail, showing her the business plan we'd written up, the Angel arrived.

Sweeping into the room, he shook our hands firmly and sat at the head of the table. He introduced himself and what he did, which was essentially be the bag man for investors, a kind of local Small Business Loan Association, and proceeded to mention the people he worked for, or knew. Now Pendleton is a pretty small city, around 16,000 people, and apparently the people he named were pretty big wigs there, but to us, they were just names, and while we tried to seem impressed, it wasn't easy. Shockingly, he went on for another 10 minutes, name dropping in a vastly important manner. Finally, he got to the nitty gritty and explained to us that he'd looked into the Motel, and that it looked like a great property, and he was interesting in assisting with the financing. We would just need to gather up our credit report, business plan, $70,000.00, a couple of worksheets, pack some bags and we'd be on our way to owning a motel! We kindly asked him to back up a bit, just in case we misheard him, $70,000.00 you say? The Angel nodded solemnly. "You do have at least that much, don't you?" he asked. Across the table, Kris' eyes were huge, she had obviously not seen that number coming either, and she seemed like she was pretty pissed off. "No, not even close to that, sir" we said. He looked at us and said, serious as a heart attack, "Well, you probably know someone you can borrow it from. Borrow it from your parents." Clearly, he was under the mistaken impression that Lindsay's parents who own a little local record store, and my mother, a divorced kindergarten teacher, made ridiculous amounts of money and could easily peel a thousand C-notes off of their rolls to help out their kids. Maybe my mom should have taught school in Pendleton! We tactfully and somewhat incredulously informed him that we really didn't know anyone that could help us, that's why we were talking to him. Kris, seeing our obvious gobsmackery, quickly started closing things up, gathering the Angel of Death's paperwork and handing them to us, telling him that she wanted to talk with us about our options, and we would most certainly be getting ahold of him soon, as she could clearly find an extra 70k chilling in our offseas account, don't you worry none, you betcha!

After the Angel swept out of the room, the papers on the table rustling like leaves in his wake, Kris deflated. Clearly she had thought him to be our savior, a cowboy in a white hat, bursting in with guns blazing, spurs jingling, and moneybags overflowing and instead he came in, twirled his moustache diabolically and foreclosed on the family farm. She apologized profusely, and attempted to fill us with hope that she would find a way for us to get the property, promising to get in touch with us and explain our options. We were told to not give up hope!

We never heard from Kris again. Really, as we climbed back in to Strontium, to begin the long drive back to Pocatello, we felt sorry for Kris and the Cowboy Angel. Kris, because she had been SO CERTAIN of our success, to the extent that some of the papers I glimpsed in her hands looked pretty clearly to be preliminary purchasing worksheets, and instead the Angel had been exactly what we assumed he would be. A businessman, not an Angel. A Businessman is never going to go out on a limb and loan two "kids" thousands of dollars for a business, regardless of their vision and drive. We knew this and it's the main ROUS we've struggled with since day one. We don't have rich parents (Though Lindsay's dad is named Rich...) and we don't have some secret Ace up our sleeve. All we have is our vision, some management and hotel experience and whole hell of a lot of drive, motivation and energy. All we have to do is find someone that believes in us and those qualities to do them right, not in the almighty dollar.

As we drove home, we also started feeling really sorry for the Businessman. He was someone that was clearly successful, well off, but at the same time, he seemed kind of sad to us. He placed such a large amount of importance on dropping names of big people in the city, and then seemed kind of crushed when we weren't awed by them. We love little towns, absolutely LOVE them, but Pendleton had a strange feel to it, like instead of this crazy little western town in a valley like it was, it seemed like some odd subdivision full of gossipy housewives.
We tipped our hats to Pendleton, and The Rugged Country Lodge (or the Silver Rose, as we had considered changing its name to...) and headed towards the rising sun.

If you ever pass through Pendleton, Oregon you should stay at The Rugged Country. The staff is friendly, they have fresh cookies in the lobby, and as long as you don't read the mildly creepy "About Me" letters in the room book, it's utterly charming! You can visit them here.

If you're looking for a genuine bed and breakfast, you couldn't choose a better one than the Riverwalk B&B.

Other points of interest in Pendleton:

The Underground Tour - An absolute GEM. I'll have to do a post on this later, I love it SO much!

The Pendleton Woolen Mills - They have a great store and museum here. Eventually I'm buying a nice wool greatcoat from them. They'll last forever.

The Wildhorse Resort and Casino - I couldn't begin to tell you how to get there, but I've heard they have some good grub!

As we drove home, we stopped at the Hungry Redneck Cafe again, and ate our fill of some excellent diner food and a berry pie that was almost as good as their strawberry. We also formulated our plot for our next step, something that had slowly climbed its way into our consciousness over the last couple of days..... Something exciting, and a little closer to home.....

Friday, February 13, 2009

September 14th, 2008 - Pendleton, OR - Part V

Lindsay and I have always had a hard time deciding on where to eat so we asked Mike where a good, non-chain place was and he recommended the Casino. I'd eaten at a few casinos before and was pretty impressed with their food, but Lindsay was kind of leery. Eventually, we decided to head there and took off East. Now, as we travel, my wife and I are notorious for getting lost. It's not that we're adverse to asking directions so much as we're really bad at following them and in a way, we kind of enjoy the adventure of it. One time we got lost for around 5 hours, ended up in a different state than we had been in previously and scared our family to death, but the gravel road I took eventually led us back to civilization. This trip was no exception and I managed to blow clean past the Casino and ended up heading back towards Idaho, weaving up a gorgeous mountainside with absolutely no way of getting to the lanes heading the other direction.

However, at the top, we did stop at a viewpoint and I snapped off a few photos in the dying light.
Farmland and desert, not something that springs to mind when people mention Oregon

Somewhere out there is Pendleton, OR....

Or maybe its out this direction....

At any rate I eventually found a way back to the interstate heading West back into Pendleton, upon which we blew clean past the Casino again, around Pendleton and ended up on the opposite end of town. We stopped in for a soda at a gas station and noticed a pizza joint across the street, so we headed there. We ordered a Greek pizza of some sort with grilled feta and chicken and some breadsticks, and decided to head back to the Rugged Country, and book a room. We paid full price and got a single in the basement and settled in to eat some pizza, which turned out to be quite excellent, and discuss our thoughts.

After a lot of talking, we decided that the RCL would not work for us. Not only was it much larger than we wanted, but there wasn't really any easy way to live there, especially with our dogs. We would have needed to commandeer a couple of rooms above the office, and to get the dogs to the backyard would have been an ordeal. We were still very confident that if we took over and converted a few of the rooms to more romantic, specialized rooms, we could attract the bored, stranded locals, and really increase our income, but we were pretty sure that it would be a LOT of work, and that we wouldn't enjoy living there much. However, it was a step that would make us enough money to move on to our dream place, so we didn't discount it completely, We decided to wait and talk to Kris at the bank the next day. The bed was pretty comfy, though I can't say I
"Dreamed Soft" like their logo wanted me to. Their shower was hot too, and while the shower head wasn't at full height, it didn't hit me in the belly button like a lot of other hotels either.

All in all, a pretty full and busy day. We really enjoyed meeting and spending it with Mike, and while we weren't utterly enchanted with Pendleton, we decided we could learn to enjoy it's unique mix of small town & wild west craziness. The Rugged Country Lodge was a great motel, well run, clean, unique in the city, and quite frankly, too good for us as a first attempt. That knowledge would make us less nervous the next morning, as we met the bank people......

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

September 14th, 2008 - Pendleton, OR - Part IV

The Rugged Country Lodge
With a view of the far cheaper and trashier motel across the street.

Finally, we arrived at The Rugged Country Lodge to tour the place. We met the current caretaker.... whose name I forgot.... for the purposes of this blog, we'll pretend like it was Mary. My wife will undoubtedly remind me of her name after she reads this.... Mary introduced herself and we talked for a while. She told us that the current owners of the RCL were friends of hers, and she was essentially helping them out by running the motel, though it was immediately obvious that she held a great deal of affection for the place, and ran it like a big mother hen.

The exterior of the lodge.... apparently I failed to get any full photos of the exterior of the building

We chatted in a room off of the office, kind of a small lobby area with a couch and chair. Off of it was the "commercial kitchen" featuring some nice appliances, and an ice maker. Mary talked about the cookies they bake, and how it would need to have a second sink installed soon.

The Kitchen

Off of the sitting room, there was also a small bedroom, with a country style quilt. We were sort of surprised to see it off of what was clearly used as an employee gathering area, and it turned out that the area we were in was considered the "manager's quarters".
The Manager's Quarters... such as they were....

This was a bit disappointing, as the RCL was clearly too large to run by ourselves, and if we lived there, we would have employees in and out all of the time, as the access to the kitchen, dining room, restroom and hall were all through there.
The Office. To the rear and left is the entrance to the Manager's Quarters.

Starting our tour, we passed through their small, but efficient office, and headed over to the Rooster Room, where they served breakfast.
Rise and shine in the Rooster Room!

The Rooster room was nice, Mary took a lot of pride in the country decor, and had Cowboy'd it up in honor of the Round Up, which we had just caught the tail end of.
Bandannas and Bananas for breakfast!

The RCL served a pretty nice expanded continental breakfast with waffles, biscuits, and some pretty phenomenal little yogurts.

We toured an example of each of the room types, which were all clean and nice, though a bit generic.
Single w/ Hide-a-bed

They all suffered from what I call PDS (Plopped Down Syndrome) where at some point in the past, they decided each room needed a fridge and microwave, so they bought a bunch and plopped them down in a corner somewhere, without making any effort to make them blend in or look good. A lot of motels suffer from PDS. The rooms did however, feature excellent artwork, prints by Albert Bierstadt, one of my personal favorites, and other western artists.
PDS in action, with added coffeemaker!

They also put a little sprig of (really dry) lavender and some bath salts on each pillow. A nice, if somewhat half hearted gesture.
I did like that the bedspreads were slightly less generic than usual.

The bathrooms were really quite nice too, with real tiles, decent towels and supplies, and pedestal sinks (which Mary and Mike kept raving about, though they seemed to leave Lindsay and I unaffected... maybe it's a Pendleton thing...)
We liked the towel rack, but got tired of seeing it after the 7th room....

They did all have the same fixtures and layouts too, in fact most of the rooms we saw were pretty indistinguishable, apart from the number of beds.

Then came the fun part for me, a tour of the guts of the operation, the stuff normal people never get to see.
A Staircase. Typically used to ascend or descend from one floor to another. Also for stumbling down while drunk.

Their laundry room was really quite nice, and very "large hotel" designed with a full industrial washer, separate folding room and a nice cleaning supply system. Frankly, this was pretty daunting for us, and one of the first signs that this place was a lot larger scale than we really wanted.
Yikes. Intimidating washing machine alert!

The backyard was pretty generic, and barely qualified as a yard at all, more just a strip behind the building, but had some potential for the dogs and a little barbecue.
Potential seen, but not too thrilling.

After touring the facility, we sat with Mary and chatted for quite a while, about her history, the RCL, hospitality in general and Pendleton. It was actually a really great talk, we learned a few things, and it was really kind of fun to watch Mary and Mike talk, as both ran very different types of hospitality businesses in town, one had been doing it for quite a while, and the other was just starting. It was cool to see the way their different outlooks affected their opinion of their jobs and the city. After a while, we decided it was time to get going. We thanked Mary, asked her about a few good places to eat, and told her we might be back for a room later that evening. We headed back to Mike's, told him we'd call the next day, and headed into Pendleton to experience the city's post-rodeo hospitality, find some grub, and discuss what we thought about the Rugged Country Lodge....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Review - THE WOOD NYMPH AND THE CRANKY SAINT by C. Dale Brittain

The Wood Nymph & The Cranky Saint by C. Dale Brittain
1993, 320pgs

I love the title to this book. My last review was supposed to be a brief one, and I ended up rambling, so I'll make this one short instead. The somewhat bumbling court magician of Yurt, Daimbert manages to get into all sorts of adventures in this one, with an enchanted grove, a consecrated toe, big ol' magic Jackalopes and more! It's a really fun book, moves quickly, and manages to tell a rousing and humorous story without ever resorting to slapstick.



Next Up: Free Fall by Robert Crais

New Logo is GO!


That's more like it!

Man, I love old motel signs, and lest someone thinks this is where we hope to be working, as my wife fears, it's not. The neon for the word "vacancy" doesn't work on the place we're looking at.

Updating... Please Stand By....

Uhh, disregard the rather crappy appearance of the blog and it's assorted colored words, I'm in the process of playing with the HTML, and got bored and went to bed.... Maybe I'll fix it tomorrow.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review - HOCUS CROAKUS by Mary Daheim

Hocus Croakus by Mary Daheim
2004, 384pgs

Growing up, my family used to take a lot of Road Trips. We weren't well off, and it was the closest thing we had to a real vacation, so every once in a while, we'd take off, car loaded, and explore the mountains of southeastern Idaho. There would be rolling hills and dangerous crags, deer, elk, moose, chipmunks and Sasquatches, hairpin turns and dangerous descents.... I assume. I always had my nose buried in a book. Road trips were a time for me to block the world out, crack a library book and read to my hearts content, stopping for potty breaks (A Marley family tradition) and grub. Since I've gotten married, most of that has stopped. My wife hates to drive, and will only drive my element when forced, so all of the driving on our trips has fallen to me. I've learned to find a special enjoyment from these trips too, daydreaming about the landscape and watching the fellow vehicles, but I still miss reading in the back seat of a car as it rumbles along the road. That was why this recent trip to Bozeman was kind of exciting for me. My father in law, realizing that I owned the only safe and reliable four wheel drive vehicle for the still snowy stretches of Montana between the two of us, asked if he could drive it to the wedding, allowing me to ride in the back. I agreed, naturally. Not only would this let me relax and read, but it would give us my car while we were in Bozeman (Which turned out to be a real boon) and it would also be the first time I'd actually ridden in the back seat of my car! Honda Elements are kind of unusual beasts to that end, I discovered. Their back seats, which I usually have removed to accommodate my dogs, are kind of stadium style seats. Which was pretty cool for watching the road, as we could look right over the tops of the front seats (when my mother in law didn't have the visor down, one of my inexplicable pet peeves...) and while immobile, offered a pretty ample amount of leg and head room. I did notice pretty quickly though, that the space between the seat and the floor was smaller than usual, causing my knees to get kind of sore after a while...

Anyway, this gave me a great chance to read a few books on the 5 hour drive there and back.

The first book I chose was one I picked up at the used book store here in town, Circle C Books, while I was waiting for my wife to get her hair cut across the street the day before. I decided to buy it for a couple of reasons; there was a frog and witty title on the cover, implying magic, something I love reading about, it was labeled "A bed-and-breakfast mystery" and being interested in the career that I am, made it appealing, and I couldn't really find much of anything else, and I always feel bad wandering around in a used book store for a while without doing anything but petting the dog that lives there.

The idea of a bed and breakfast mystery series of books sounded like a GREAT hook, and I was excited to see what it was like. Unfortunately, I happened to pick one from the series that took place while the B&B was closed, and the main characters were on vacation in an Indian Reservation casino. The main character, the ridiculously named JUDITH MCMONIGLE FLYNN, is the sixty year old owner of a B&B and apparently has a knack for finding dead bodies. Essentially Jessica Fletcher of the hospitality industry. Along with her are her husband, a former detective, his annoying cousin and her OCD hubby, and their even more obnoxious mothers. Soon enough, a member of the magic act dies, and they're all trying to solve the mystery, prevent further deaths, deal with B&B repairs, and winning unrealistically often at the casino games. Honestly, I had a hard time finishing this book. I read 2 others, skimmed a non fiction book and a couple of magazines after this one in less time. While I think I'll check out some other books in the series, I found the characters really hard to enjoy, and some of the twists so contrived that at one point I found myself groaning and saying "Oh brother" loud enough to make my wife think something was wrong. Maybe it was the age of the characters, or the completely unnecessary addition of the mothers, but every time I started getting into the story, something silly would happen, and I'd get distracted and watch the scenery outside of the car instead of reading.

In my defense, the view outside the window really was quite stunning.....

At any rate, it was an okay read, but probably something I'll resell nonetheless.


Next: The Wood Nymph & The Cranky Saint by C. Dale Brittain

September 14th, 2008 - Pendleton, OR - Part III

Getting back on track here...

Before heading to the Rugged Country, Mike took us on a brief tour around the historic section of houses by his, dishing the inside dirt on what they cost, what improvements had been done, which ones were in a sad state of disrepair, before we headed to an alternate property to look at. He prefaced it by saying that it most likely wouldn't work for what we wanted, but it was an unusual structure, and he thought we might like to see it. Obviously, Mike had gotten the wholly accurate impression that we like odd things and challenges.

He brought us to this building, a somewhat unassuming office building on a corner just a few blocks from the main drag.
From the outside, it was pretty average looking, just a few offices along the street, and a couple of garage bays on the side. Where it got intriguing was from the inside. The entire ground floor, with the exception of the offices along the street was an underground style parking garage.

Over to the side there were two staircases as well, one leading into the depths of a basement area, which we didn't explore unfortunately, and one leading upwards, to an open courtyard surrounded by offices that opened into it. It was kind of a strange setup, but it had kind of a cool feel to it, like you were in some strange urban secret garden.

With a lot of work, and we mean a LOT of work, we could have possibly transformed the place into a neat little motel & wedding site, with a downstairs reception hall/dance floor, a small rooftop garden, and few rental suites. We decided it wasn't worth the effort unless we stumbled across the place for a song, and as no one seemed to be serenading us, we moved on to the Rugged Country. A fun little place nonetheless!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Home From The Frigid North

Marissa & Jason

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. That was an interesting trip! My Sister-in-law's wedding was simply lovely, though it had it's fair share of excitement and trials. My personal trial came, as I'd feared, from the lighting of the site. I'll likely get into that fiasco later, for now, I've got a tremendous number of images to sort through and find some gems for the happy couple when they return from Cancun. (Lucky Dogs...)

Book Review - NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND by Bill Bryson

Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
1997, 324pgs.

I love books about other places. Maybe it's just the need to get away from the city I've lived in for most of my life, or some hidden wanderlust within, but I've always loved reading books about other places, whether they were dry, travel guides, or novels with vivid descriptions of the locales, or books like this, where the author regales you with tales from their travels. I first read Bill Bryson a few years ago while I was living in Missoula, MT. I'd found one of his books, A Walk In The Woods, in an excellent used book store. Bryson has a talent for writing about the most mundane things, like changing his boot laces, and makes them seem worth reading about. His adventures are never particularly adventurous, but he seems like the kind of person you'd love to take a hike with. (If you could keep up, the fellow knows his walks!)

In Notes From A Small Island, Bryson takes one last trip around Britain before moving back to the United States. He travels in a pretty large loop, taking some crazy side trips, lots of long walks, and drinks more than a few beers as well. He has a talent for finding bad restaurants worse hotels, and constantly gets caught in the rain. I really enjoyed Notes, it gave a great picture of the strange little world across the sea, their traditions, how some are fading, and how some will survive regardless of time. It's a quick read, and while some people will likely come away from it wanting to avoid Britain and it's dreary little villages, lonely pubs, erratic transportation, and quiant outlook on things, I loved the fact that he avoided most of the touristy things in the country, and focused on the little out of the way places. Sometimes I think trips would all be better if we avoided the given attractions and found our own magic.


Next - The Wood Nymph & The Cranky Saint by C. Dale Brittain