Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009

Just a quick update. I hope to get back to the Motel search posts ASAP, but I need to edit the photos for the next part, and every time I sit down to do that, I decide that I should be working on my Sister-In-Law's wedding photos instead, but I'll get back to it. In the meantime, Linz and I are gradually becoming acclimated and resigned to giving up the search in an active fashion for the time being. Since we got home from our vacation, we've started getting the yard ready for summer, trimming the bushes, raking the yard, realizing that we'd dumped the boxes of yard sale stuff on top of all of my yard work supplies like the mower, buying a couple of shrubberies for the weird L in the back by the RV parking, trying to decide how to best create a little private patio area... Most of the work is in its infancy now, but once we do more than talk about it, I'll have to take some pictures. We have quite a few plans, all geared towards enjoying our time here more.

I've also been trying unsuccessfully for the last two days to drain and replace the element in our water heater. Turns out it's a bit more work than I'd anticipated, and the element itself is being extremely stubborn. For some reason, plumbing and I do not get along. The last one I attempted, replacing the spout on the tub, resulted in my tearing the entire pipe out of the setting, creating a huge mess, and had to beg a friend's husband to bail me out. If I can't manage to unscrew this damn element, I may have to do the same again. Maybe there's a trick I'm missing.

Bah to plumbing. Nice to have, crap to do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review - PIPSQUEAK by Brian M. Wiprud

Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud
2004, 294 pages
Brian M. Wiprud is a crazy man. His stories are usually off the wall and crazy, but also a tremendous amount of fun, with complex stories weaving between his cast of insane characters.

Pipsqeak is the tale (Or Tail...) of Garth Carson, a man that makes his living renting taxidermied animals to various movies, advertising and pretty much whoever needs a stuffed lion named Fred. While trolling thrift stores for forgotten gems, he stumbles across a squirrel puppet from an old TV show, a robbery in progress, a murder and eventually cults, hair pomade, balls in the head of a rodent, a Russian hot dog stand and all sorts of wackiness. Pipsqueak is cool, funny and demented, and I loved the ride.

Wiprud writes in a style that makes you feel like you're sitting in the main character's living room as he regales you with his adventures of the last day, a way of writing that adds a lot of humor and character to the book, and it is immensely readable. I've rad one of his other books, and enjoyed it just as much, I look forward to reading Tailed, another one I picked up on our recent vacation.


Next - Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Eight

Last day of freedom. Tomorrow, we both return to work and start unpacking our house from the aborted near hit on our last gasp attempt to run a motel this year. (Speaking of which, our last official "No" has come back, so I can start posting that portion again...)

We woke up bright and (really) early on day Eight, primarily due to a deflated air mattress and an inflated bladder. One of the drawbacks of sleeping in your car on some random street, bathrooms are pretty scarce. We'd planned to grab a pastry and get on the road, but the coffee kiosk we stopped at had nothing, nor did the next few places. Annoyed, I continued on until Biggs Junction, an odd little place in the middle of nowhere, and found a gas station that was serving some pretty adequate Biscuits and gravy and potato logs.

Not the most auspicious start, but the day turned out well, with the drive going fast, and conditions great. Lindsay typed on her little netbook and I listened to my iPod most of the way, trying not to sing and annoy her... I may have succeeded, but I was pretty tired and bit delirious, so I can't say for certain...

We stopped in Durkee for a late lunch, and drove around the little town first, which was full of neat looking older homes gone to seed, 2 nicely kept newer homes, and a lot of creepy looking shanty style structures that may have housed cannibal midgets. We ate at the Hungry Redneck, of course, and had a perfect mushroom burger and fries, and for dessert... something sublime. We debated for a while on the choice of pie, they had 8 choices, and while I had a soft spot for the strawberry, it didn't look as fresh as last time, so we went with the Butterscotch Pie. It was possibly the best thing I have ever put into my mouth. It was possibly the best thing that anyone has ever put into anyone's mouth. Surprisingly heavy and thick, it was rich and buttery, with a hint of real scotch flavor. It had a solid crust that perfectly held it together and complimented the rick copper filling, and had a thin layer of white cream across the top.

I could die tomorrow, and when the Hellions get a field day up in heaven and we get to eat in the cafeteria while we're up there, I'll feel safe skipping the pie, knowing I've had better in a weird little diner in podunk and slightly creepy Durkee, OR.

We made it home around 8pm, cuddled the dogs, made the bed and crashed.

All in all, it was really fun trip. As always, we wished there wasn't such a long drive on either side, naturally, we want to move closer to the ocean. Next time we'll undoubtedly stay in Sylvia Beach, and I think it is worth the splurge to stay someplace nice for longer. As nice as it was saving money by camping and sleeping in cheap motels, the 2 days in Rockaway were easily my favorite because we felt like we were comfortable. Maybe next time we'll rent a vacation house in Gearhart or something.

All told, here are our stats:

Miles - 2166.9
Gallons of Gas - 86.675
Average Mileage - 25.00MPG
Best Mileage - 27.27MPG
Worst - 21.78MPG
States Visited - ID, OR, WA
Meals Eaten Out - 24... all of em...
Meals Shared - 20 We ate our own meals at 2 Mexican Restaurants, the diner in Toledo, and the Thai Food
Nights spent sleeping in Strontium - 3
Nights in Motels - 4
Bookstores Visited - 8
Books Purchased - 37

Admissions into places - $0
Gas - $180.26
Books - $135.00
Lodging - $248.80
Misc Snacks and crap - $167.30
Souvenirs - $15.15
Gifts for others - $85.60
Meals - $295.12

Total - $1127.23

That's not bad at all! While I've inevitably forgotten something, and the book costs are estimated, that's not bad for an 8 day vacation on the coast. Go Frugal Us!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Seven

Our last day of the vacation that wasn't to be spent exclusively on the road turned out gorgeous. We loaded the car, ate some leftover Thai for breakfast, checked out of our little Motel room, and headed to the bay area to browse through some shops. We spoke for a while with the owner of one of the galleries and chatted with the owner of the little Irish shop, which was great, though pretty empty for being there for a year.

Then we hopped over to Georgie's Grill, in the Hallmark Resort, which is right on the beach, and has a spectacular view of the ocean. Their food is pretty reasonable too, and we ordered a bread bowl of chowder, which was in a pretty solid sourdough bowl, and was impossible to eat neatly. Note to self, never order bread bowls when trying to impress people.

The Sylvia Beach Hotel, which looks much larger from the beach.

We wandered on the beach for a bit after that, before deciding to shake some dust and head home, with a goal of sleeping in Mary Hill again for the night. Naturally, as we left the beach, Newport had to throw one last weather patch at us, and it hailed.

The drive back was pretty fun, we stopped briefly in Tillamook, where we were underwhelmed again by the cheese factory and enjoyed the french cheese factory, the Blue Heron, where they make some utterly stellar Blue Cheese dressing. We headed from there to Portland, taking the direct route, rather than heading up through Astoria, and it was a nice drive, very scenic, and a lot of cute little spots that look touristy if it was later in the year. We hit Portland at 5pm, rush hour, but we escaped far quicker than in the past, and hit Mary Hill around 8pm.

We ate at a little Mexican cantina that had unimpressive salsa and great Pollo De La Crema and parked in the same obscure back road for the night. Next stop, home.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review - SEA CHANGE by James Powlik

Sea Change by James Powlik
2000, 496 pages

A quick review. A group of scientists and doctors attempt to identify and defeat a strange force or creature that is killing people and animals along the coast of the Northwest, rapidly eating them alive and horribly dissolving their flesh.

Pretty fun book, it took me longer to read than usual, though a big part of that was being on vacation and working on some writing instead of reading, but the description of the killer in this is great, and appropriately gruesome, and reading in a hotel room looking out at the ocean was a perfect setting.


Next - Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Six

Turns out, Tourism easily trumps Religion in a tourist town like Newport. Not only were most shops open on an Easter Sunday, the place we were planning for breakfast was packed to the gills. Also, Easter Sunday in a tourist town apparently brings huge storms, with sheets of wind, 12 foot waves and lots and lots of rain. Huh, so a tourist town that doesn't shut down for a religious holiday gets slammed by storms from the heaven....

Undeterred by the weather and lack of brunch, we decided to check out a couple of little used bookstores in the Nye Beach area, and tour the majestic and awesome Sylvia Beach Hotel. We absolutely love this 4 story blue hotel on the beach. It's extremely book and reading focused, with Author Themed rooms, a gift shop of primarily book and writing nature, cats roaming the property, a third and fourth floor that gives the ocean view to the library rather than the rooms, and a lot of old school charm. We've always wanted to stay at Sylvia Beach, but their website is pretty poorly designed, and gives no sense of the rooms, just a literary, but kind of cheesy drawing of each, and when you're shelling out $130 for something, you want to see what you're getting. We'd toured part on our last visit to Newport, and luckily they were mostly open for viewing while were there this time.

Most of the rooms are great. There's no phones in Sylvia Beach, no TVs, just comfy beds, eclectic decor and lots of books. We even saw the maids reading before their shifts in the gorgeous dining room. Nearly all of the rooms have a great view, and a private bath, and while none are large or feature the latest amenities, you get a sense of comfort. There were a few people lounging in the library, reading and watching the stormy ocean, and we envied them greatly.

Then we got lost. Unintentionally, of course. I decided to see if there were any restaurants on the far side of the bay, and ended up driving around 13 miles, the long way to Toledo, a little logging town on the extreme far side of the bay. We ate at a pretty good and almost completely empty diner, where our only competition for our waitress's attention was a strangely shaped gentleman that looked for all the wold like Charlie Brown made flesh, down to the spit curl on his brow. Good Grief! Then, on the way out of town, we noticed a green Cemetery sign, and detoured.

The Toledo Cemetery is the most amazing cemetery ever. Through a combination of poor upkeep (whether intentional or not, we're unsure) and Oregon's weather, the entire thing was overgrown and sunken. We found headstones buried under feet of vines, moss coating graves from 1918, and headstones buried deep into what had become jungle. We were enchanted, and wandered in the storm, trees whipping overhead for over an hour.
On the way back, the short, easy way back, we stopped and drove around a second one, but it was modern and boring in comparison. Back in Newport, we stopped into the Aquarium, but they were closing, which was too bad. The Aquarium there is spectacular, clean and well organized and a lot of great rotating displays. We looked around the gift shop, then took off.

On the way back to veg at the Motel, I stopped and wandered around the otherwise vacant beach, fighting the wind and pelting rain, chatted with a seagull, and almost sunk into the sand.

For dinner, we ate at the Thai Elephant, where we had some great Thai. Not too shabby, though I never found any eggs, apart from the creepy tapioca balls in my dessert.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Five

Our last view from the window of our room at the Getaway.

Farewell to Rockaway beach. Sigh.

We woke up pretty early, and took a nice walk on the beach, one last time. It was quite stormy again, a change from last night, but still a nice walk. Then we ate some leftover pizza for breakfast and checked out of the Getaway.

We headed towards Newport, stopping in at most of the little towns along the way, driving through neat little rows of cottages and ugly clumps of new construction. It was depressing to see how many previously cute older motels had been bought up by the big Motel next to it and incorporated into their big, ugly group. Every time that happens, our chances of finding a place to run gets slimmer, and the chance of finding a little independently run motel to stay at gets slimmer. Unfortunately, they're essentially extinct in Newport, all that remains are large, corporate monsters and swanky independent places that are very nice, but closer to $200 a night.
Pacific City
Great place, if you like Time Share Condos.

At any rate, we got list in Oceanside; a strange little place built on a hill with a lot of great houses and what appears to be a pretty vocal and close minded group of full time residents, Pacific City, which was quickly being overrun with huge time shares and expensive new houses, but had a lot of gorgeous beaches, and a few other little towns that all fell somewhere in between.

On Cape Foulweather, home of the lookout point gift shop, we bought a couple of souvenirs and marvelled at the view below. Great location, run by some people that have a good sense of humor about things, which is great!
The Lookout Gift Shop at Cape Foulweather

We spent a good amount of time in Depoe Bay as well, a nice little town that manages to balance tourism, fishing and beach life while still feeling small and welcome. We ate at the Spouting Horn, and had some of the best fish and chips we'd ever had. Fresh fish, lightly battered and fresh cut potatoes with lots of malt vinegar on the side. We ate looking out the window at the bay and fishing ships, while a seagull made faces at us through the window. A great meal. Then we strolled along the main street, stopping in to sample freshly pulled taffy, shop for awesome nautical brass and got lost in a used bookstore so overflowing with books that they started to form their own rooms.

Once in Newport, we quickly became depressed at the lack of fun motels that were in our price range and eventually stopped in a stretch of cheap ones. After seeing the type of people residing in the motel we stopped in, we jumped to the next and were very glad we did. The desk clerk at the America Inn & Suites, Gary, hooked us up with a decent little room for a great price, just over $90 for two nights. It wasn't a block from the beach or anything, and was a nice, simple motel with a bed and mini fridge, but it worked for us, and was still centrally located and clean. It also had wi-fi and boasted a continental breakfast, which was a nice bonus!

After relaxing for a second, we headed down to the bay district to look at a few shops. Unfortunately, it was nearly 6pm, so most were closed, but we still had a good time wandering the streets and looking at the sea lions on the docks below. We spotted a few shops to hit on Monday morning before leaving town, then returned to our motel to relax before dinner.

Relaxing ended up turning into a 3 hour nap... Waking late and kind of grumpy at wasting the day, we tried to find a food place that wasn't closed at 10pm on a Saturday. Luckily, up the road was Super Oscar's, a 24 hour Mexican food place. After eating our greasy but pretty good food, we read for a bit and hit the sack, curious what Easter Sunday would bring in a tourist town...

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Four

Day four was a great lazy day. We spent most of the day in Rockaway Beach, OR, just hanging around, walking on the beach and popping into the little shops along the main drag.

First thing, we took a stroll on their phenomenal beach. We love Rockaway because of it, its gorgeous and clean, there's never anyone on it and the water is amazing. It was pretty cool and stormy in the morning so we only walked for a bit, but it was a great start to the day.

We headed into town and ate at a little diner for breakfast, eating some good, but unspectacular chowder and chicken fried steak, (A little bit country, a little bit... lunch.) then headed back to the room, where we read books and wrote for a while, before taking a little nap.

When we got up, the day had gotten quite nice, sunny and clear with just a slight breeze. The Getaway had been working on their parking lot since we arrived, smoothing it out and rolling it flat, which made everything in the room vibrate pretty wildly, so we decided to take off and spend the day in town. First stop, Flamingo Jim's, a great, crazy shop with everything from lawn gnomes to alligator heads. We wandered around town a bit more, before we decided to look into lunch. That's when we started identifying a problem with Rockaway. While its charming and has a great mix of tourist and non-tourism feels, there's not really a great place to eat there. There are a few restaurants, but they're without fail, all mediocre. There isn't a single one that you walk away happy and satisfied from. It really seems like people are running them because they want to make money, not because they love the job or have something truly great to cook. We stopped in the Tourism Info booth to ask her where she recommended, and without hesitation, she told me the Pirate's Cove was the only place she ate at. Which is in a different city. Time and time again, when we asked someone, they would name a restaurant somewhere else. Eventually we decided to take their advice, and headed back North, to Wheeler, OR. After mailing a postcard and wandering around the exterior of the Old Wheeler Hotel, one of the many that is for sale in the area, we got lost in a crazy old antique mall, where we bought a couple of great, but mildly creepy photographs and some sea glass.

After that, seeing that the place the girl at the post office recommended was closed, we decided to eat at the pub across the street. Best. Chowder. Ever. The place itself was kind of a shambles, unsure of what kind of decor it wanted to have, classy expensive stuff or old-school ocean, but the view of the bay was nice, and the chowder was perfect, creamy without being too thick, and just the right mix of clam, potato and bacon.

When we got back from Wheeler, we checked out a fun little shop where the sweet little hippy lady that runs it collects rainwater everyday, storing it and making beautiful little gifts out of it by putting the water in cleaned, recycled light bulbs, adding a Tibetan prayer bell on top, and forming what they call Oregon Du Drops. Lindsay and I found this fascinating, especially as we both celebrate their rain as well, and they really did look absolutely gorgeous! I did find it a bit odd that she seemed to spend the day listening to her CD of her own singing, but i suppose she had to have it playing to sell it. We got a real kick out of her, she was friendly and cool, hand fed a raven outside and had found a way to make money off of something unique that allowed them to live on the coast and write. An enviable accomplishment!

Back to the Getaway after that for more relaxing, reading, wandering the beach and a little packing, the next day we were checking out. Sigh.

That night we ordered a most spectacular pizza meal. Earlier in the day, as we wandered the town looking for food, we stopped in at the local pizza place, which wasn't open yet. As Linz looked at the window menu, the owner slipped a menu out to her. As we were driving off, he leapt out and started chatting, turns out he'd been shopping for a car and liked the Honda Element. We talked for a while about it and other things, and after meeting the charming owner and looking at the menu, we'd chosen it for dinner. We ordered a Greek Gyro pizza with gyro meat, feta, garlic, olives and more on it, and a calzone style cheesy garlic bread thing that looked intriguing. When I picked the pizza up, the owner, Chuck chatted with me again, and expressed some hope that we'd be able to move out there. A cool guy. The food was friggin' great. The pizza was every bit as good as it sounded, and the garlic bread, while initially leery, was one of the best things I've ever had at a pizza place, with just the right amount of pesto, cheese and creamy garlic sauce. Very filling, and we had enough left over for breakfast the next day.

All in all, a great day. It was going to be hard to leave Rockaway Beach the next day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Three

Day three came bright and early. Just after going to sleep in the cow field, a pickup drove past and kind of hesitated by us, honking its horn a bit as it drove on. I was slightly concerned that we'd be subject to some hillbilly harassment, but the night passed uneventfully. We did lose all air from our mattress again, and it rained heavily that night. We woke early the next day, around 6:30 and took off, heading South with the plans to hit Rockaway Beach around 1pm, where we would then spend the next two days.

Along the way, we drove past an exit for a state park and we impulsively took it. It was gorgeous. For around 20 minutes, we weaved through a primordial jungle on a narrow road, curving around thick old trees and lush undergrowth, before dropping us out in a beautiful big picnic and trailhead area. We wandered for a bit in the early morning mist, marvelling at the views of cannon beach below and Tillamook Head Lighthouse to the right. We had the place to ourselves aside from a few ravens, a half dozen robins and a woodpecker, and it was a great morning.

We followed a trail down to the beach. where we took the obligatory timer photo of ourselves, which was harder than usual, due to the sinking tripod, sneaky waves behind us and the difficulty making it to the photo spot before the timer finished.

On the way back to civilization, we had an elk leap across the road in front of us, then pause in the thicket, watching us carefully. As we continued, we happened to glance to the right and over a dozen more materialized from the woods, like magic.

They didn't even move, just one second it seemed empty, the next full of half ton animals. And people ask how Bigfoot could possibly exist if we've never found him...

We stopped and ate breakfast... somewhere, possibly Seaside, as we slowly cruised the residential areas of the cities, trying to get a feel for their non-tourist ambiance. We really liked Gearhart, a small town north of Seaside that had a great feel to it, a lot of cool houses and a city with a lot of character, but not a large commercial feel to it. We also came away more favorably towards Cannon Beach, where we'd previously found it far too tourism oriented.

We also found another little cemetery along the way, though I forget where now, that was the most unique cemetery I've ever visited. All of the plots were encircled in stone, with plants and bushes planted atop them. Everything was canted at different angles and some had sunken dramatically. There was also a section to the side that had been fenced off, for what appeared to be an anti-deer measure, but they'd easily bypassed it, and the sand around the graves was trampled and many of the fake flowers were half eaten.

The graveyard was full of gorgeous and unique monuments, many with lush bushes or little mementos on the headstones. It was drizzling again and as we walked through the cemetery with our umbrellas, there was a great peaceful feeling.

We hit Rockaway Beach pretty early, and spent the afternoon cruising around, checking rates on Motels, considering staying in a different place than our usual. Everywhere else in town however, was more expensive and had less character than our motel of choice, the Getaway Oceanfront Condos we first stayed here in 2007 with my mom and brother, in the middle of a 13 day road trip down 101, and it was one of the highlights of the trip for us. Each of the rooms is an individually owned condo, that is then rented as a motel when the owner isn't using it. That gives each of the rooms a unique feel, and all that we've stayed in have been comfortable and nice. It's also just a dune away from the ocean, and most of the room have a great view of the Pacific. We rented a room for 2 nights, unloaded our gear and relaxed most of the rest of the evening, eating some fish and chips from the Foghorn bar and watching the ocean from our window.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day Two

Day two was a much more enjoyable day, our vacation finally started feeling like a real vacation, rather than a long car ride. It didn't start out too great; our air mattress, despite trying both ours and my moms before leaving and choosing the best one, still leaked pretty badly throughout the night. There must be something about air mattresses that even after being stored carefully for a few months, they will inevitably leak air. We got up around 4am and reinflated, and by morning it was like sleeping on a sack full of jellyfish. Despite that, we were both rested by morning, and after a quick stop at the nearby gas station to brush our teeth and a rest stop, we were on the road again.

Turns out, we were almost a half mile off from the bridge... apparently I'm a horrible navigator in the dark. We hopped across the river, both grey and amazing in the gloomy morning sky, and started Northwest on the Washington side. We planned to hit Camas for breakfast, and we were leaving hood river almost an hour earlier than planned.

Along the way, Lindsay spotted a cemetery, one of our must-stop sites. Some may think it morbid, but we love to wander old cemeteries, the older and more forgotten, the better. Though we might not know the people in it, we like to think that by reading their headstones, by being there, in a way we are remembering them and honoring them in our own way. I'll likely post more of my photos from the graveyards we visited on my other blog, Bewildering Bugaboos, but here's a picture of the cemetery, it was amazing, with rambling hills and old, overgrown stones. It was raining slightly, and wandering between the old graves with an umbrella, with an amazing view of the gorge was great way to start the day.

We continued along the gorge, a rainy, gloomy day surrounding us in mist as we listened to Nick Cave. We arrived in Camas pretty early, and found a little diner to eat breakfast in. Camas is a gorgeous little town, with little diners and cafes, and a lot of well to do younger people. Our waiter was discussing his Mercedes with a second patron, and how paying over $300 for an oil change was a good deal, that he had paid twice that for the oil change on the Mustang. The food was great though, cooked by the Russian owner, who was wearing a nice sweater and pearls as she cooked our crepes and biscuits and gravy.

After Camas, we cut back a bit and went to a thrift store, hoping to find a decently priced Twin Mattress that we could use instead of the faulty air mattress. Strangely, the thrift store was exclusively small items, no furniture or appliances of any kind, but the did have a couple of books for a great price, so we bought a few and took off. Next stop, Portland and Powell's City Of Books!

Never let my wife navigate for you. I'm bad with directions, but my wife, lovely as she is, is even worse. Even using the Garmin GPS we borrowed from my mom, we got lost on the way to the book store. Luckily, Portland is a pretty nice city to drive around, and eventually we tracked it down. Powell's is a giant. In addition to the main store, Powell's has at least three annex stores, and the main building itself is over 70,000 feet of books. It takes up an entire city block, and has its own parking garage. I love it oh so much. We ended up spending around $100 bucks and two hours there, buying around 23 books. I fear that we end up moving too close to Portland in the future, I'll eventually die buried under a pile of books.

We then headed north from Portland, stopping in St Helen's for lunch, eating at an awesome little country cooking place. They were running a special where if you bought a dinner, you could get a couple of movie tickets for that evening too, sort of a Dinner and a Movie recession special. It was good to see an independent little family business fighting the downturn with ideas rather than giving up like a lot of stores seem to be doing. They also had excellent chili.

We spent the bulk of the evening in Astoria, OR. We love Astoria. It's downtown is charming, its houses are full of interesting architecture and design, its in a great spot, and has some of the best chowder we've ever had. We had planned an entire day in Astoria, arriving the next morning, but we were running ahead of schedule, anxious to get to the beach, and got there around 5pm instead. Unfortunately, we couldn't justify sticking around until the next day when some of the attractions, like the Flavel House, the Maritime Museum and the art gallery that was showing one of our Realtor's wife's paintings was open, so we wandered around the Flavel House's grounds, marvelling at the huge house and even larger Redwood next to it, visited the excellent comic shop there, Amazing Stories, where we had a long chat with an employee who couldn't seem to decide if we were shoplifters or if he just really wanted to chat with us, and headed out of town, towards the Fort Stevens State Park, located in the northern corner of Oregon. Primarily a collection of beach access points, Fort Stevens also houses a few barracks and presumably, some sort of military presence still. All we really did was drive around the campgrounds, that were depressingly RV-centric ( We hate paying $20 for a campsite because they have hookups and hate sharing a site with rumbling RVs on either side even more.) but they did have some cool Yurts, though it was too late to be worth renting them.

We did find one amazing beach turn off too, with a sign labeled Shipwreck. I cannot resist that. Turned out, it was even cooler than we thought, with a legit, slowly rusting away ship buried in the beach. Amazing. I haven't had time to look up many details of the wreck, I'm sure I'll have to get some info when we get back home, but it was a stunning stretch of beach.

We also found a small military cemetery, originally founded in 1889. It was really stunning to look at the collection of military and support personnel, all neatly arranged in a small plot of land, some from over a century ago.

Afterwards, we returned to Astoria for dinner, ate at the sublime Andrew and Steve's, a diner with the best Clam Chowder we've found, and cheese bread that is even better.

Then we headed out, trying to get closer to Seaside before we turned in. We eventually found a secluded little farm road, parked in a turnoff next to some cows, and turned in for the night.
Our Campsite for Day Two

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vacation - Oregon Coast - Day One

Not many pictures to share for day one, but it was an eventful and LONG start to our vacation this year. I worked Mon night/Tues Morn on the graveyard shift. Our plan was to leave immediately after I got off work, heading for Oregon ASAP. I'd forgotten that Tues mornings were truck day at work though, so after I got off I needed to shower, and we decided to take the dogs for a quick walk as well. We ended up gettinbg out of town around 9:45, which wasn't too bad, and headed towards Boise on I-15, munching on a Taco Time breakfast burro. We hoped to get to Baker City for lunch, but we planned a nap in there too, knowing that with me as the driver, someone who had been up for work since 9pm the previous day, we'd need to rest eventually. Turns out it was about an hour later, before we'd even reached Twin Falls, ID. We parked at a truck stop and I caught about 20 minutes of sleep and we took off again.

Slightly energized, we blew through the state of Idaho, crossing the Oregon border without noticing we were there until we passed into the Pacific time zone. We reached Baker City, OR around 3pm, where we ate at the Prospector's Candy Co. one of our favorite restaurants. Its a little place, only around 4 tables and none really big enough for four people, but the food is stellar. All of it is pre-made, and heated after you order, so the food arrives lightning fast, and it it stellar. The owners/cooks/waitress is friendly, and they rotate their menu. They never have more than three or four options available, but each time there's been something we can't resist. This time we had an artichoke and sun-dried tomato quiche with a caesar salad. Splendid. Our plan for this trip was to share meals as much as we can, and because we shared here, we felt fully justified in induging in a mocha chocolate cheesecake as well. Yum.
The Prospector's Chocolate Co.
Great Food and Desserts, so-so chocolate

Baker City is a cool little town and we always plan to visit it more thoroughly, but we had a long way to drive still, so we adjusted some curtains we were planning to make for Strontium, and took off again.
A Couple of eccentric vehicles in Baker City, along with our ride/motel for the night, Strontium.

After driving essentially nonstop, we got to Hood River pretty late, just before dark. We jumped into Wal-Mart to buy Linz some sandals for the beach, and ate at Pizzicato's Gourmet Pizza for dinner. We'd eaten here before too, and they have really unique pizzas and pretty cool employees. Tuesday we ate a Mixed Wild Mushroom pizza with feta, garlic butter sauce, sundried tomatoes and an assortment of mushrooms, we counted around 6 kinds. It was excellent. Their pizzas are alittle pricey, we paid around $13 for a 12" 'za, but it was good, fresh and fast, and it filled us up with a couple of slices to spare.

That night, we'd planned to sleep behind the Safeway, where we'd parked before, about a year ago. Unfortunately, when we got there, they'd installed a new floodlight, and there were two young women behind the store doing something that looked like a mixture of stretching, piggy back rides and something that would likely get them arrested, so we debated for a bit, tried to figure out what they were doing and gave up, and drove off. We'd planned to head across the bridge to Washington, where we knew there's be plenty of places to turn off and park eventually, but I got a bit lost in the dark and ended up somewhere else entirely, down a dark industrial road. We decided that would be as good as place as any, inflated our bed and crashed.

Road Stats - 612 miles, around 24mpg. Not too bad!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Review - SPIDER LEGS by Piers Anthony and Clifford A Pickover

Spider Legs by Piers Anthony and Clifford A. Pickover
1998, 301 pages

Growing up, Piers Anthony was my favorite author. I was introduced to him by a librarian, and started with A Spell For Chameleon, which had just won an award at the library, I guess it would have been around ... 1989 or so... It was technically the first "Grown Up" book I checked out, previously reading all young adult stuff. I really enjoyed it and never looked back, reading all sorts of things, but quickly amassing a huge collection of Piers Anthony books. Eventually, at some point, I realized that I didn't really care for his, or at least liked other authors more, and the collection moved to the back row on the bookshelf. As we were unpacking and rearranging the Library this week, I decided to try and read some Piers Anthony books again, and decide if they were worth keeping, or if I should shift them to the "Sell" pile. I chose Spider Legs to start with, because it's a departure for him, being Horror/thriller-esque, and not part of a series. I remember enjoying it.

I was a fool. Spider Legs is one of the worst books I've read in a very long time. It was an absolute chore to finish, slogging my way through the rather short 301 pages was a kind of bizarre torture.Spider Legs is the story of a Norway village, under siege by a giant Sea Spider, which is essentially a long legged crab with a feeding snout and no claws. Typically small, around the size of a hand, this puppy was the size of a Elephant, mutated and grown in the back room of a fish shop by it's over the top crazy, but apparently skilled at genetic manipulation owner, Martha. She also installs a trap door in it's stomach and rides around in it when she's not acting like The Penguin from Batman Returns. I have hard time even writing a description of this book; essentially it's one attack, a LOT of horrible dialogue between a few characters, and pages of scientific description that is so poorly written it feels fake. The Sea Spider kills one girl, lets a guy survive, naked on an iceberg in the ocean.. somehow. Suddenly, the entire town accepts its existence, forms a posse to hunt it down, and all of the major characters decide that of slightly greater importance is getting some awkward action from the other major characters.

I couldn't believe how bad the writing was in this book. It's laughably bad. Like circus sideshow advertising bad. Witness, if you dare, these random passages:

After discussing options for finding and catching the elephant sized killer invertebrate: "Good idea. I'll make sure the police department sets up some huge spring loaded cages with chunks of meat." This is said with no irony or sarcasm. It is a legitimate plan for them.

Or this passage, where our awkward leads get to the end of a sightseeing trip on a motorcycle: They dismounted. Natalie found that her legs were stiff; the ride had stretched her thighs in unaccustomed ways. As if, she thought naughtily, she had just had endless sex with a monster. The shaking of the motorcycle had also put her kidneys into gear; she had to find a bathroom. Naturally, she had not considered that before guiding him here to the uninhabited countryside. They could so readily have stopped in Sunnyside. But he understood well enough. "Lets take a brief break." He said. "Apart. Choose your region." She chose a gully with good bushes for concealment. He went somewhere else. It was a great relief.

Also a great relief? Finishing this book! Though I have to admit that right around the time they tried to kill an armored beast aboard a ferry loaded with civilians with small handguns and the lead female got an old man's dentures stuck in here hair, I began to get a perversely insane giggly pleasure from reading it...

Obviously, I'll have to try one of his other books before selling all of them, maybe it was his cowriter on this book, but the scenes here are not the worst by any means, I could have quoted the "sex" scene and how they flail around like blind people, running into chairs, regardless of the TV running in the same room as them, or any paragraph at all with Martha, but this was one of the most embarrassingly bad books I have ever read, and it's worse to know that I've read it 3 or 4 times now....



Now Reading - Nothing yet, still recovering from this book!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Saturdays In The Graveyard

How does a typical night go, working a graveyard shift at a 24 hour Pharmacy, you ask?

2:45pm - Finally stagger into bed.

7pm - Wake up, get a drink, take some Ibuprofen, check email. (Learn that another potential Motel has officially been crossed off the list) Briefly call wife, fall back to sleep.

8pm - Pooka wants to cuddle; briefly tolerate the big galoot, eventually telling him to go lay down; go back to sleep.

8:45 - Pooka wants to cuddle again, signals such by sitting on face.

9pm - Give up and get out of bed.

9:30 - Make a sandwich, feed the pets, gather work stuff, try not to fall back to sleep, read for a few minutes.

10:32pm - Get to work, count safe, run end of day, make list of work for evening, sort new ad tags, double check pulling of old ad tags, make clever collage of missed tags on previous manager's locker.

11:15pm - The crazies start arriving; 300lb mumbling lady, twitchy meth head, 14 year old teens goofing off, native mother with kids that she doesn't watch, the regulars, the sick folks from the ER.


12:15am - Crazies finally stop, buy Guava Rockstar, Popcorn, discuss list of work with clerk, briefly talk on phone to wife to tell her goodnight, get interrupted 3 times in a 4 minute call.

1:15am - Start hanging ad tags, follow likely shoplifter around store.

1:30am - Legitimately insane customers arrive; Tweakers asking about spray paint, Meth Heads in midget smuggling pants trying to pass fake scripts, 90 year olds buying 12oz bottles of lube, the guy that rides his bike with his oxygen tank in the flower basket in the front to buy cigs, the schizo lady that always calls you the wrong name and gets angry when you correct her, the clearance price tag swappers, the drunken bar ejects, the heavyset Hispanic lady in clothes 3 sizes too small that asks everyone she meets if they like her new shoes; a pair of firetruck red 6 inch stilettos, the cross dresser that's better looking than most of the other women in the store, the cool gay couple that freaks out my clerk when they buy the Trojan His and Hers lube, the vegan New Yorker with the large growth on the side of her face that often tells me stories of UFOs, Conspiracies, her father running a speakeasy during prohibition, and all of the television shows she tapes to watch over and over, we often discuss Commentary tracks on DVDs, the "dancers" from the strip club; just off shift, replenishing my singles supply, the hunched over man that looks like Santa Claus who follows me for hours some nights, towing his O2 tank and telling me horribly off color jokes...

2:15am - a new one; a guy comes in asking me if I can change the photo on his passport; he's lost weight, and wants a new picture. He also tells me that he's unhappy with his cat's passport photo. Sadly, he never shows me his cat's passport. The customer then proceeds to follow me for a half hour, talking about his Winnebago, his job as a airplane repairman, crossing the border in his scooter, how he chemically removed his fingerprints on accident, ("They're like Teflon, now!") his guns, lifting his shirt to show me his operation scars, asking me to stitch up a cut on his finger, and finally asking me out to see his guns in his Winnebago. Sadly, I could not leave the store and view the guns that belong to the man with no fingerprints and a face that doesn't match his passport...

3am - Finally start moving the 300 cases of Coke 12 packs that we will likely sell by Monday afternoon to the front.

3:15am - Send clerk to Rolbertos 24 hour Mexican restaurant for lunch, we (Me, him, the Pharmacist) each order a breakfast burrito, I ordered Sausage, egg, cheese & Potato with sour cream, mine comes labeled "Sasaugoa" on the wrapper and sans egg and sour cream. It appears my sour cream ended up in my clerk's Ham burro, my eggs are likely in someones taco salad somewhere... all in all, a pretty accurate night for Rolbertos. Drink Rockstar, AKA Purple Meth.

4:15am - Attempt to motivate clerk to continue stacking endless piles of Coke, finish most of ad tags. Regular customer comes in, an awesome older lady that is slowly dying. She's almost 10lbs lighter than when I saw her last week, her otherwise frail frame thrown crooked by her left leg, swollen with fluid. She tells me that her upcoming operation has a 50/50 chance of survival. I sell her Ice, a pair of pajama pants and a package of ham, and wish her luck. She tells me to cross my fingers, but not my toes, or I'll walk funny.

6am - Finally finish all of the ad and Coke, clean up store, scrub bathrooms, clean up mess from Cadbury egg fight on aisle 6, wake my clerk, asleep on the photo counter, catch breath outside in the thankfully snow free air.

7am - Light pours through the front windows, blinding me, and making me shy away, Nosferatu style. The second the sun hits, I start getting tired, eyes drooping. Browse through Sunday paper, "Shoplifting" information.

8:45 - reinforcements arrive. Flee building, the combination of clocking out, putting on my jacket and staggering into the sun energizing me slightly, though still daunted by the list of chores ahead at home, concerned about what time I'll make it to bed.....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Marshall Public Library 2009 Book Sale

This morning Pocatello's Marshall Public Library held their semi-annual (I think they may hold it 2 or 3 times a year, I'm not sure) Used Book Sale. I've always attended this when possible, as its always a great chance to pick up some good authors and try some new stuff, as well as find reader preview copies and older, mid 60s books. This year, they held a pre-sale the night before, to coincide with Old Town's First Friday celebrations, and then the main sale portion began at 9am on Saturday. The Friday portion was very under advertised, only receiving a small notice in the paper a few days previously, but the Saturday sale had a nice banner up, and when I arrived after my shift there were around a half dozen people waiting in line to get in, around 20 minutes early.

Huddled together for warmth, we chatted a bit and most of them were unaware of the Friday sale. I missed it because I had to work that night, so I was trying to sleep at home, but there had always been a plethora of good books at the sale, so we weren't too concerned. Turns out we should have been. Friday night, a gentleman that had recently opened his own used book store in the area somewhere, walked in within the first few minutes, and plucked up the entire collection of boxes of romance, sci-fi, mystery and fiction, and purchased all of them, spending over a hundred dollars on $.25 books, and utterly clearing out their entire selection of books. The library held none in reserve for Saturday, so we walked into a collection of old hardbacks, some self help books from the 70s, and oddly, a couple of travel guides for Illinois from 2001. I eventually found a couple of hardbacks that looked interesting, and snagged a couple of 60s detective paperbacks, but I, along with the rest of the people I saw there were thoroughly disappointed in their sale. I'm shocked that they didn't impose a limit or hold some of the selection back for the second day.



Book Review - KILLER HEAT by Linda Fairstein

Killer Heat (An Alex Cooper Novel) by Linda Fairstein
2009, 480 pages

Note - Quick review, I need to hit the sack before work....

The 10th legal thriller by Linda Fairstein featuring her lawyer creation Alex Cooper takes place during a heat wave in New York, as she attempts to track down a killer that soon turns serial killer. This is the first book I've read by Fairstein, and she does an admirable job of running a decent sized cast that's both enjoyable, and easy to dive into without much background needed. The story is tight, and moves at a great pace, with some believable dialogue and great settings. I enjoyed her partner/friend Mike, the killer was suitably crazy, scary and had some memorable traits. I do feel like the ending was a bit too pat and that certain aspects were glossed over in the end, like what happened to the pub owners, and I think the summer heat wave, something that had a lot of potential as an atmosphere booster was given criminally short attention.

Overall, a pretty good read!


Now Reading - Spider Legs.... still.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April 02, 2009

Boy, this blog is turning more into Book Review Corner than a blog about our attempts to buy and run a Motel... Part of that is that we've both been sick for the last week, and are desperately trying to get better. Also, it's snowing outside. Still. So some of my plans to work in the garden, improve the house, take some new photos, go camping, etc, have been scuttled for the time being. It snowing also means that my poorly insulated Garage/Studio is freezing cold, so no art has been done.

On the plus side, Lindsay has been getting some pages written on her book, and I've written up a pretty good outline on my zombie book, and started in on my mystery novel. (Which I'm currently writing without being entirely sure whodunnit, or where it's headed. I figure I'll let the characters tell the story until I need to guide it along...)

I've also held off on the next post of the Quest, because the next post concerns a property that may end up being significant in the near future, so we're waiting to hear back some news before I continue.

In the meantime, you'll probably get a couple of more book reviews, maybe some posts with photos of the dogs playing in the snow, if I ever get my memory card cleared off and Pooka stops eating Poopsicles long enough for a photo op.

Of course, on Tuesday, we leave to spend a week on the coast for a brief Quest-Free vacation from the madness, and I'm planning to update with some photos and stories from that along the way!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review - TOUCHED BY THE GODS by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Touched By The Gods by Lawrence Watt-Evans
527 pages, 1997

I should preface this by saying that Lawrence Watt-Evans is my favorite author, so anything written by him is going to get a biased review. Just a fact of life, so there.

That said, I love this book. I've always convinced myself that I should love big fat epic fantasy, and then, as I read them, either get bored, confused, distracted or derailed halfway through. In Touched By The Gods, Lawrence Watt-Evans manages to write a big fat epic while still keeping a tight little character focused story. Touched tells the story of Malledd, a blacksmith in a small village, content in his life. He has a nice family and enjoys working as a smith, an occupation he inherited from his father. Malledd also happens to be the chosen Champion Of The Gods. Exciting title, eh? Every generation, the gods, of which there are hundreds in the world, each with its own moon, choose a new champion, someone with great strength, endurance, leadership skills and abilities to uphold the Domdur Kingdom's way of life and secure foothold as ruler of the world. Luckily for Malledd, who is perfectly content to be ordinary, the champion hasn't been needed in ages.

Of course, no one would bother writing a story about a smith with great powers that just pounds out horse shoes for 500+ pages, so unfortunately for Malledd, a new, dark force arises and begins attempting to crumble the Domdur's hold on the world, harnessing the dark powers of the earth, conspiring with a rogue God, and bringing an army of night walking zombies along with him! Even with a Romero level of danger treading inexorably towards the center of power for the kingdom, Malledd tries to stay an ordinary man, obstinately staying home, and only joining the war efforts after they ask for smiths to help with weapon making. Eventually, he comes around, the gods make their will known, zombies are walloped, and Malledd comes to terms with his destiny.

I love Watt-Evans books, and one reason is that he has a way of turning conventional stories in a new direction. I don't think I've ever read any other book about a hero so stubborn about staying ordinary. Even the more curmudgeonly of reluctant heroes holds a small glimmer of excitement about their path, a need to be the hero. Malledd doesn't, and holds out until he doesn't have much choice, and even then, waiting until the gods make their wishes pretty explicit. Touched By The Gods also has a unique world, with clearly established cultures, all revolving around the many moons, and the gods that reside on each. Their world is figured in triads of days, during each, a different god stokes the fire of the sun. I like that it seemed that each culture in the world, whether Domdur or a kingdom subjugated by them believed in the same gods, just followed the teachings of one over the others and had a different lifestyle. It added a different feel to the world.

All in all, a great read, and a fast one. I read the book, which is a pretty hefty size, in a couple of evenings. The only real quibble I had with it was that some of the names were a bit similar, or sort of difficult to keep separate in my head. Recommended!


Now Reading - Spider Legs by Piers Anthony & Clifford A Pickover (If I can finish it...)