Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn In The Northwest - Day Four and Five

It took me longer to get this posted than I'd planned, so I decided to lump the last two and a half days of our vacation into one post. It appears that I took virtually zero pictures of the last day in Oregon...


Sunday morning dawned gray, drizzly and gloomy, just the way we like it. We got up and out of the hotel pretty quickly, hitting the road just before 7:30. Our plan for the day was to head up to Astoria, spend a bit of time there admiring the quirky buildings there, possibly eating lunch, before heading along the coast.
We stuck pretty close to that, Though we were in Astoria pretty darned early, so we left quickly, just stopping to get lost amongst the rambling three story houses that are everywhere in that town. If we ever made enough money and could be convinced to forgo the beach, Astoria would quickly rise to the top of the list of places we would want to live.

After Astoria, we cut along the coast with a brief detour when I took the wrong road and got lost in the forest for a bit until we reached Rockaway Beach. Just out of curiosity, we drove around the coastal homes there for a while, scoping out prices of the houses for sale, of which there were a lot. It was a truly mixed bag in that crazy town. We found a 17,000 square foot place with three bedrooms and views of the ocean from the second and third floors for over two hundred thousand dollars less than a house less than a block away and twenty feet closer to the surf with unobstructed views that had less than 500 square feet.

The beach was great that day, and we wandered for the better part of an hour, prodding jellyfish and other mysterious things in the sand with my shoe and watching the seagulls play. The surf was especially dramatic, with high, beautiful waves and lots of different colors. If we could have, we would have set up shop right there and never left. Apart from the crappy food in Rockaway, that is... We talked on the phone to my sister in law, Marissa for a bit, sent her a phone picture of the ocean, then left for inland central Oregon, an area mysterious to us.

From Tillamook, we cut south and east, through the Suislaw National forest and towards a small town below Portland called McMinnville. Which, as we discovered is notable only for it's vaguely hard to navigate streets, another Walgreens, an extremely unremarkable and unsatisfying Mexican place and a very picturesque little college campus.

Once I figured out how to get out of town, we dropped further south, towards the towns of Dallas and Salem, Oregon, first stopping in the very charming little town of Amity. From it's very outskirts we liked Amity. The streets were quiet and clean, the air was crisp and smelled like autumn should smell. Cool and dry, slightly musty and fruity, like walking through a field of leaves. We stopped at a farmer's market there and marveled at the dozens fall colors displayed, buying a bag of homemade Hazelnut Brittle, which was made by a local with nuts from her own tree. It was great - buttery and sweet, with just enough heft to be crunchy but not impossible to bite.

Beyond Amity, we rolled through broad fields that seemed to alternate between groves of nut trees and rows of grapevines. It's obvious that a lot of the farmers there have decided that it's easier and swankier to open their own little winery rather than their old farms, but we thought that both had their charms. There was a nice balance between the posh wine cellars and traditional farmhouses and even the wine places have a spunky, young upstart feel to 'em.

We had high hopes for Dallas, Oregon. It's situated just far enough away from Salem to be realistic for me to commute and is large enough that Lindsay could possibly find a job locally and not have to commute. They also have a lot of pretty reasonably priced housing and a few good restaurants. If anything, the town managed to exceed our expectations, being closer to Salem than I'd thought, only around ten minutes, and having much more of a quaint rural village feel than anything that close to Salem has any right to have. We saw a lot of gorgeous old houses, many with three or more stories and a few that were for sale and in need of some love, maybe a few big dogs too. The biggest surprise of the evening however, were the kids.

They were everywhere! In the parks, on the basketball courts, walking along the street, sitting on park benches... and this was around three on a Sunday afternoon. I know what you're thinking and no, they didn't bring their tvs out to the park with them or have wireless game controllers with good ranges, these kids were actually playing outside. Some were even talking and laughing with each other. Clearly something has taken over the youth of Dallas. Pod-People perhaps, trained to act human based off of 1950's footage. This is a mystery I will have to investigate further if we move there.

Before hitting up Salem, we took a detour to a town called Falls City, which ended up being out too far to be realistic and not nearly as cheap as we'd hoped. Cutting back through Dallas, we headed to Salem itself, a city of around 175,000 with six Walgreens. I'm always leery of larger cities. I'm a good driver, but I have a tendency to get lost or distracted easily and big cities bring out the worst in me. (That and country roads, for that matter...)

I'm happy to say that Salem is not only easy to navigate, but it never once felt as large as it is. I suppose a large part of it is that a good chunk of the population commutes to Portland for work every day, but even on a Sunday evening, the streets moved well and people were considerate drivers. The city is laid out well, we were able to get around using a tiny map on the back of our Oregon map for the most part. We stopped at a good chunk of the Walgreens stores in Salem over the two days we were there, some were nice and new, some were nice and old and one was old, trashy and across the street from a couple of adult shops. With my luck, that'll be the one I get a transfer to.

After driving long enough that we felt we had a pretty decent handle on Salem, we decided to find a hotel for the night. We checked into a couple of Best Westerns in town, hoping to use Lindsay's negligible employee discount, but all of them, even the one that was technically a Motel and looked trashy and empty wanted more than twenty dollars more than the one in Dallas. So once again, we drove the ten minutes and stayed in a tiny, set-back Best Western, manned by an extremely bored but very friendly desk clerk who was also named Lindsay.
She had moved from Portland to Dallas to help out her mom and found herself staying. She said the town was pretty safe and clean, but boring. That's pretty much what we were hoping for, frankly. She directed us to Murphy's Grill for dinner, a small chain-esque restaurant that was kind of an Applebees with fishing decor. We split a Mushroom Cheeseburger and headed to bed.

Our last day of vacation, like most of our trips was more an exercise in endurance than a vacation. We woke up at seven that morning and in less than 22 hours, we'd be back in Pocatello. Most people, when travelling between Salem and Idaho, head up to Portland, then take the interstate along the Columbia River Gorge, before cutting along it to Pendleton and the Idaho border. We've driven that route a lot. Something like 13 times in the last year or so, so we decided to take an alternate route, over the Cascades and through mid-eastern Oregon, and area that neither of us had ever seen.

The drive started promisingly, cruising through lush fields of grapes and spotted with farmhouses. Eventually agriculture gave way to thick autumn forests as the road got curvier and the elevation rose. The road over the Cascades is a gorgeous one, and I highly recommend that everyone take it at least once, but I can say this; It's much, much longer and not a good idea to burn through if you're in a hurry.

I stopped a lot, just to stand on the side of the car and admire the natural beauty of the area, though the obviously invected, bright yellow pine trees were an unusual curiosity. They're obviously sufferring from a blight of some sort, something that turns their needles fall colors before shrivelling and blackening. Eventually, after the road turned to dirt and back to pavement, after some rugged signs of humanity started trickling in, we left the Cascade region behind, first stopping at a funky little service station where we bought a bottle of barbecue sauce from a hippy couple named Something (I forget his name right now..) and Sue.

A shoe tree. Located somewhere in the middle of Oregon...

Beyond that, there isn't a lot to Oregon, likely one reason that no one really considers half of the state when thinking about it - Most of the state is desert. Covered in sagebrush, scrubby pines and jagged rocks, the desert region of Oregon still has more appeal that a lot of Idaho, but after the beauty of the last few days, it was a bit of a downer to drive.

We stopped in Sisters for lunch, eating at a small deli that served up fresh, large sandwiches and excellent homemade soups and rolls. Leaving town, we noticed a shabby clabboard sign on a corner with big red letters spelling out "JERKY" and an arrow pointing to the left. We are not the kind of people that will ever pass up the chance to buy possibly questionable slabs of dried meat in a strange town, so we followed that sign. It led us to a dead end street in the middle of a vaguely industrial area. Thinking we'd been led astray somehow, we circled back and tried again, finding nothing. Finally, I stopped and asked directions at a car detailing place. Turns out, the simple red arrow failed to elaborate that you then wanted to turn left, head two blocks, turn right, then left, and it would be right in front of you. Naturally.

Totally worth it though. You know it's a good jerky place when they're loading half of an unidentified, skinned animal from the back of a truck by giant metal hooks. Meat is so much sexier when it's not connected to other meat, forming a vaguely identifiable shape. Anyway, the jerky was great. We bought some teryaki, brown sugar, original and a tiny piece of their sweet jalapeno. Then, fortified with provisions in case of a treacherous pass, we left again, a straight out burn to Pocatello.

Not much to say after that. We stopped in Durkee again around 8pm and shared a Bo's Burger, which had two patties, ham, bacon, couple of cheeses, veggies, a greasy grilled bun and a side of fries, followed up with a slice of coconut creme pie.

Just over the border of Idaho, we made the bed and slept for a few hours, waking around 12:30am. I stopped in a gas station just outside of Boise to buy a Rockstar, in the hopes of  staving off sleep for another few hours, where the clerk did something strange and vaguely annoying. My change came to $2.83 and when he handed it to me, he handed me the $2.80 first, then dug out the pennies. Instead of handing them to me, he hovered them about a half inch over the "need a penny take a penny" container, and said "You don't need these, do ya?" then he dropped them in the pile.

I didn't need them, frankly, I had probably four dollars in pennies in various pockets and containers in my car, but the way he did it stuck in my craw. I can't help but assume that he turns that penny jar into a tidy little supplemental tip over the course of an evening, there was well over a dollar in pennies already, peppered with some silver too. Bah to you, Shady Graveyard Shift Chevron Guy!

We got home around 5am Tuesday morning, sixteen hours before we had to be at work again to a couple of extremely giddy dogs and some slightly interested in saying hi cats.

All said, it was a pretty great trip. We saw some beautiful areas, many new to us and it was the first time we'd ever been to either state in the Autumn. We decided that there were enough possibilites for transfers that we don't have to be as picky as we'd feared. We drove over 2,100 miles in just over five days, averaged 22mpg, and saw desert, prairie, farmlands, the Pacific Ocean, forests and towns in every shape and size. Pretty cool.

Now we just have to find a way to get out there permanently, sell our books, open a motel, become successful and go on to live our dreams. Easy enough, right?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn In The Northwest Trip - Day Three, Part Two

After lunch, we headed into Centralia for a bit, cruising around their downtown and industrial section. Chevalis and Centralia are interesting little towns, Centralia is clearly the larger population, but Chevalis has most of the bigger box stores and retail sections. Both are pleasant though, and Centralia has some gorgeous older houses in the number street area.

When we felt that we'd seen most of what there was to see, we retired back to the hotel, where we spent a few hours napping and goofing around. I read some of my book and wrote a blog post, then we looked up ratings of restaurants online.

One we found was rated very highly overall, with just a few dissenters, most of which complained more about the restaurant's exterior and appearance than anything. So we decided to hit the Golden Palace for dinner.

Man, what a great choice. Their exterior is a bit crummy, just a simple building with a plain looking sign, but inside, the decor was nice enough, and it was pretty crowded. Their prices were comparable to pretty much any Chinese restaurant, and they have a few unique dishes, some that we'd never seen before.

After a bit of debate, we chose the Peking Dinner For Two. What I like about this place is that unlike many Asian food places, when you choose the meal for two, instead of getting one assigned meal, just in varying quantities, these guys let you choose a different meal from the list for each diner. It adds a great amount of flexibility to them and makes them a lot more appealing to me. We went with the Garlic Beef and Mushrooms and the General Tseng's chicken.

The meal also came with a dumpling soup and some assorted starters, paper wrapped chicken, egg
roll, pork, a different kind of pork, a won-ton, all of them hot and quite good. The soup blew us away too, instead of two small bowls of it, they bring you a large dish of it that you can ladle into your bowls. There was easily enough for each of us to have three bowls of it.

The main entrees were generous to an almost ridiculous extreme and full of fresh, unusual choices of vegetables, including at least four different kinds of mushrooms between the two dishes. The Garlic Beef was very garlicky, with a slightly oily feel, but not in a bad way, it just made the dish seem rich and it had really big chunks of a black mushroom. The General Tseng's was similar in sauce to General Tsao's, a typical dish in Chinese places, but in addition to the spicy sauce and battered chicken, it was loaded with veggies; Corn, peas, a couple of different mushrooms, bamboo, water chestnuts, celery, broccoli... a little bit of everything.

Overall, the meal was spectacular, an A+. We also got a couple of interesting fortunes.

"Traveling to the south will bring you unexpected happiness."

"You will attend an unusual party and meet someone important."

We were heading south the next morning and that fortune proved surprisingly accurate, and we have our Sixth Annual Brain Eaters Party hitting in a week, so we'll see how that plays out...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn In The NorthWest Trip - Day Three

Day three, the day in which we had a home base and in theory had planned for a pretty simple day, yet I still managed to spend most of driving...

Started out the day getting harassed by the breakfast lady, bright and early. She made my waffles and dispensed abuse. In a good, friendly way, but still. It was pretty early in the morning, thanks to Lindsay. The breakfast at the Motel was pretty generic. All of the usual suspects for a continental breakfast at a chain. Bagels, Muffins, Hard Boiled Eggs, Bad Coffee, Keyser Soze.

After that, we headed North to check out a few of the towns that way. There's a little town called Vader that we thought looked intriguing and even further up is another Walgreens, in the small town of Chehalis, so we thought it'd be a good idea to see how far that would be to commute and whether the town was too close to the craziness of Seattle.

We fell instantly in love with Vader. It's a little village off to the side of the road, really more of a couple roads than any real cohesive unit. And the roads are fabulous. Lined with thick, gold and red trees, thick ferns, quaint buildings - many rotting away to moss and spongy wood. It had a lot of the details that we liked about Rainier so much. Isolated and quiet, pretty reasonably priced, yet within driving distance of both Longview and Chehalis.

Beyond Vader, down the same tree-lined path was a surprise. Ryderwood. What appears to be a really quiet place at the end of a long, winding road turned out to be a really quiet place at the end of the road filled exclusively with old people! Ryderwood is a 55+ retirement community, nestled away in the forest. While I kind of question socking away our elderly down a twisting road a good distance for them to travel for food and for medical assistance to reach them, the place was really charming. Mostly single level places, not many larger than a one bedroom, and all along the streets, healthy, happy looking retirees were out walking their little doggies and chatting.

Chehalis was tiny, much smaller than I'd expected of a place with a Walgreens, but had a lot of appeal. Nice, older houses and a cute downtown. Wasn't much to see, really but we did decide that we could live there happily. We stopped at a fruit stand selling some ridiculously colorful fall produce and asked the girl there where we could find some good pizza for lunch. In between adjusting something in the crotch reigion of her pants and selling us some huge apples, she sent us up the road a bit to Centralia.

The slightly butch fruitstand girl gave good directions and it didn't take us long to reach the place, a pizza joint in what appeared to have been a bar or something earlier, maybe a mexican restaurant. They served pretty passable 'za, though they used too much corn meal or whatever that grainy stuff is they put on the bottom of pizza to keep it from sticking. They also served gelato, made onsite, which was pretty great.

Sadly, I'm gonna have to split this post, I'd planned to make it all in one go, but our washer broke and we had to spend half of the morning running around to get some laundry done. Also, lazy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn In The NorthWest Trip - Intermission

We stayed in a hotel with internet access last night, but we retired pretty late, and I was too tired and loopy to make a post. The next update will likely not be until Wed, when we get back into town! I will say that we are loving the Dallas and Amity area during harvest time, so many gorgeous colors!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Autumn In The Northwest Trip - Day Two

Now Playing -
Bang, Bang  by  Nancy Sinatra

Life - 
This was a pretty great day. Friday dawned Grey and cool, with a faint haze on the horizon. I slept well in the car, though I must have drank more water than I'd thought, or the devious coffee at Shari's was punishing me for mocking it, and I had to get up a few times in the night and stagger into the house, which was a little awkward to me. Better than staggering to a darkened corner or a port-a-potty like we usually have when we camp out in the car.

We're early risers, so we had gotten up, showered, resituated the car and read in the house for a while before Jen roused herself and we followed her on a merry chase into Portland. The roads she took were windy and pretty, lined with thick trees and undergrowth, eventually evolving into groomed shrubberies, planters, then city streets. A note to anyone that finds themselves following someone like Jen - Stay close and keep your foot on the gas! We're used to following folks like my father-in-law, who, when followed, drives 10 miles an hour, signals blocks before turning and often supplements those signals with hand gestures and sky writing. Jen however, had the uncanny talent to hit a light just as it turned yellow, forcing us to quickly floor it to keep up with her. This happened something like 3 times in the drive, and teased us a couple of other times.

She led us to the best breakfast restaurant in the world, The Original Hotcake House. Just a little, dive-styled place, this joint has some of the best food and biggest portions I've ever had in a restaurant. Absolutely heavenly! You stand in line and order first, weaving around a circular dining area, then find your table. Luckily, we arrived between rushes and managed to get a table with little effort, judging by their signage, on weekends and at other times, some folks have to wait for a table after ordering and paying. They're also open 24 hours a day. My friend Rob and I have driven 40 miles out of our way for food at 3am before. If we had grown up here, I would imagine that we'd know the cooks by name.

I ordered the biscuits and gravy with a side of hotcakes, Linz ordered the Gyro omelet with hashbrowns (That's right, a GYRO OMELET!) and Jen got the chicken fried steak. All of our meals were amazing tasting, complimented by some excellent coffee and big enough to stretch the stomach of a grizzly bear after hibernation.

Sated, bloated, gravy spattered and ready for a nap, we once again braved the streets of Portland following the red blaze of Jen as she led us to our exit, and we left, heading Northwest towards St. Helens.

Our main goal here was to look at areas that had Walgreens that I might be able to transfer to and see if there was an area nearby that we liked and could afford to live in. St. Helens and area certainly fit that bill. Picturesque and fairly quaint, it was almost hard to believe that those towns were theoretically close enough to commute into Portland for. Other towns in the area, like Ridgefield and BattleGround have slowly been taken over by the tract housing and cookie cutter housing complexes, but St. Helens and Rainier have managed to keep the ramshackle homes and crusty shoppes that make them feel original and special. We especially loved Rainier, cruising along their hilly roads, admiring the varied Autumn colors.

Then we hopped over the bridge to Longview. Since the first day we started looking into moving out this way, we'd considered Longview/Kelso pretty high on our list of potentials. There was something about it that seemed like it had the best aspects of Pocatello without a lot of the negatives, the housing was still pretty doable and it is in such a great location, an hour to Portland, an hour to Astoria... A long, but doable drive to the parents back in Idaho... Plusses all around!

We'd been here a few times before, but never spent more than an hour or two, just stopped into a Target, bought some beads, got gas, that kind of thing, so our plan for this trip was to really spend some time getting to know the place. Walk the streets, drive around looking at houses, get lost, talk to some locals, see if we could spend the next 2-15 years in this area.

Longview and Kelso are a couple of towns straddling three rivers, so close together that they may as well be one town. It's not overly picturesque, there's a pretty good amount of industrial area and according to the internet, there's a problem with Meth, though not to the extreme of Pocatello. It (By 'it' I mean Kelso and Longview) does have a certain charm though. There are a lot of parks, the trees are plentiful and especially colorful and gorgeous in the Autumn, and so far, the residents have either been slightly goofy and helpful or crazy and friendly.

We spent the afternoon and evening wandering and driving around the towns. A couple of our favorite things -

The lake. There's a long, narrow lake in the middle of town, ringed by a gorgeous, similarly narrow park. Though it's lined on both sides by fairly busy streets, it never really felt loud or surrounded. We walked around it a bit and drove the length.

Especially charming is a tiny island in the middle, carefully groomed and planted as a Japanese garden. We spent quite a bit of time here, wandering the paths, playing with the Gray sqirrels, looking at perfect spiderwebs and relaxing.
Though I'm sure it's far busier in "nicer" weather (It was drizzling and around 60 degrees, perfect weather as far as I'm concerned) it was impressive how tranquil it seemed and how clean it was.

The library. Man, what an amazing building. Built in 1926, it's the original building with a few additions. High ceilings, a pretty good selection of books and a quiet, slightly ominous feeling made it one of my favorite libraries that I've wandered around. Only the banks of computer tables marred the feeling.

Longview's downtown is really nice too, full of amazing older buildings,most of them in use. We wandered up and down most of the streets, sipping a coffee and eating a ridiculously rich almond chocolate bar we bought from a chocolatier. There was an old, abandoned theater there however that made me wish I could baby it back to life.

We're staying in the Super 8, which we got for a great price and while it's a basic room, generic as all get out, the desk/waffle maker at breakfast is manned by a truly batty older lady that wont stop giving me a hard time. I dig her.

We also wandered around the mall for a while and I can't decide if it was truly that lame or if I just don't like malls any more. Either way, there was very little to recommend.

For dinner that night, Lindsay decided she wanted pizza, so we stopped into the Rite Aid near our hotel to ask about a pizza place. (The one in the same strip mall was closed down, which was just as well, it looked crappy.) The clerk looked at me like a deer in the headlights and finally paged his manager to help. She was a little Hispanic lady and recommended us to a place that she'd never eaten at, but some of the girls that worked there liked. This made me a bit leery, but I figured it would be a start, if we didn't like it, it was on a busier street and we could just find a place.

The restaurant she sent us to, Nikki's, was a revelation. It won't be for everyone, but it should be. It's in a little bit of a shady building, the name painted on the front window a little sloppily, and the parking lot is poorly lit. Inside, there's a hodge podge of things that shouldn't work at all, and maybe some nights they don't but last night, they were great. They have a family dining section, just a few tables, a group of four pool tables, a small lounge section, a tiny second dining area and a stage with dance floor attached, beyond that, they had a room filled with gaming tables, where people were playing poker and blackjack. And in this place, they served very nice quality Italian food.

Our server, dressed in a white shirt and black vest was polite and friendly, with just the right amount of sarcastic humor. He let us chose a romantic little table by the stage and offered us a daily special that they have exclusively for couples. An entree, salad and dessert for twenty bucks. That night it was Roasted Garlic Pork Chops and red potatoes. We jumped on that.

It was freaking great. The cook there knows how to use a small amount of seasoning to let the natural flavors show through and everything was cooked just right. The Blue Cheese dressing was made there and perfect, the garlic on the pork chops were roasted like a coffee bean, hard and crunchy, adding an amazing flavor to the meat and the potatoes had just enough seasoning that all they needed was a little pepper. We also had a Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream Cake with Rum/Caramel drizzles for dessert. Twenty bucks, man. What a deal!

We left incredibly satisfied. Bravo, Nikki's!

After dinner, Linz crashed hard, asleep before 9:30pm, only waking up when her sister called from a Karaoke bar asking about a singer's name.

On to Day Three!

Writing - 
Yeah... nothing again. Maybe tonight!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Autumn In The NorthWest Trip - Day One

Now Playing -
Mulder and Scully by Catatonia

Life - 
Thursday morning, I picked Lindsay up from work and we took off for our promised land, the Northwest. Specifically the roughly rectangular area between Long Beach, WA, Portland, OR, Salem, OR and Lincoln City, OR. Our plan is to check out the area, looking specifically with an eye towards living there full time. Previously, all we've done is head out here with the intention of hitting the beach and enjoying ourselves, but this trip is different. We want to know if we can happily live out here full time.

Day one, like any first day of vacation when you live in Idaho and can't afford to fly, was spent driving ridiculous distances. I picked Linz up from work at 7am, we grabbed some unremarkable and over priced breakfast at Taco Johns and left town by 7:30. Apart from a couple of gas breaks and an enjoyable if mean-spirited game of "Don't let him pass" with a pissy speeder in a pickup, we didn't stop until Durkee, OR - Home of one of our favorite stops, The Redneck Cafe. Love this place. Huge portions, a good sense of humor, sassy waitresses, decent prices and some of the best pie I've ever had.

This time around, we went with Bo's Sandwich. Bo is the proprieter, cook, repairman, and barstool warmer there, and is exactly how you would picture a dude that owns a diner and is surrounded by coffee and excellent pie all day.  His sandwich is swiss, corned beef, sauteed onions on grilled rye bread, served with a side of fries. So awesome.

After sharing that (The above photo, taken with my new phone, a habit I'll likely create on this trip) we had to have some pie, and after a bit of debate between it and the Sour Cream Butterscotch, we decided on the Creamy LemonCake Pie, which was a heavenly concoction of lemon filling, some sort of creamy, yet cakey layers, candied lemons and real whipped cream. Wow.

After that, with a very full stomach, we drove again... for a really long time. The drive from Pocatello, ID to the Portland area is a very pretty one, but even the most attractive thing can get boring after staring at it for so long. We stopped just outside of Portland, where one of Lindsay's friends lives, freshly returned from a stint in the UK cutting up bodies. She was meeting with some other friends for dinner so we fended for ourselves for food, unwisely choosing a Shari's, due exclusively to the fact that Troutdale is deceptively small-looking and closed up to the uninitiated in the dark, and because the only other restaurant, another "Family Dining" place had some very shady looking characters lurking outside of it.

Yeah... Shari's, a 24-hour chain diner blows. They have shabby coffee, reluctant waitresses that have cultivated an air of hostile indifference due to loitering high school kids in the middle of the night, really generic food in small portions and pretty filthy bathrooms. Also, they seemed ludicrously obsessed with pie. The waitress mentioned it at least four times and in addition to the flip chart of glossy photos, they had a display of them and had notices about remembering it on six or seven places. It was like Pie had gotten killed overseas and they were running a tribute P.O.W. special.  (Pies of War)

After dinner, we met Jen at the outlet mall nearby and followed her lead foot to her mother's house, on the outskirts of Boring, Oregon. (I REALLY want to own and run the Boring Motel there. I have some great ideas for that.)

We chatted for a bit, I took a shower, in which I was reminded that not everyone has a firehose-like pressure in their showers, sadly, and retired to our car. We were both asleep within minutes, breathing easily in the cool, moist, Oregon air.

Writing - 
I drove for something like 16 hours... no time to write!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bruise your knuckles on the blacktop, Jack

Now Playing -
Wrong About Me by Brett Dennen

Life - 
In a few brief hours, my wife and I will be on the road for a short vacation, scouting areas that we hope to transfer to in the next six months. Some are areas we've never been to, others ones that we've been through but would like to see better before moving. If anyone has any words of wisdom pertaining to the Longview/Kelso area or the Salem area in particular, let me know! We want to make as an informed decision about the towns as we can in a day or two each.

My dogs are not happy about the packing and prepping for a vacation...

I'll have internet access half of the time, so I'll try and update as I go!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn in Idaho = Winter

Now Playing -
Another Postcard by Barenaked Ladies

Life - 
We've been so busy lately that I've unintenionally kept up on my internet fast that I started a while back. I still check the basic pages, here, Mail, facebook, R3, the blueboards, but I rarely have time to do more than check the headlines and run, rarely making any comments.

A big part of that is work, we've got inventory tomorrow, just after a huge couple of shipments of Christmas crap, pile on an unreliable graves employee that has the flu and all I've really done for days is come home, eat a bit, take a long shower and go to bed, where I've slept fitfully.

I've very gradually been trying to get Halloween prepped and ready, but not much has been done. I've got the sinking suspicion that it may all have to happen on the 29th and 30th when I get off rotation again.

There's a lot of yard work that needs done too, some dead plants that are ready for the trash and a lot of summer-type objects literally chilling in the backyard. Unfortunately, we squandered the 2 days of Autumn weather we had and everything is all frozen, all the time.

On the "I accomplished something!" side though, I did clean up the half frozen dog poop in the yard today. This is a very good thing, as it's getting to the weather when our inbred fool of a dog, Pooka remembers how much he loves the.... taste? Texture? Scandal? of eating frozen dog crap, a little treat we call Poopsicles. This is something that needs nipping in the bud.

Writing - 

I wrote 748 words in the last two nights... Kind of sad, apart from the amount of work I got done at work to offset it.

The Last Sentence - 

We're gonna need at least two people up here, folks that can make it up and down this ladder fast.

From - "Graves" (WIP)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

One day closer.

Now Playing -
Bye Bye Bye by Dan Bern

Life - 
Not a lot to report today, apart from the fact that I finally got a new phone yesterday, after an hour wait at the Verizon store, which would have been infinitely longer if the people in front of me hadn't gotten fed up and left. Thanks impatient people! Luckily, it gave me plenty of time to examine all of the phones and find one with the right amount of features and lack of cost. I ended up going with the Alias 2, which is notable primarily because it uses the same electronic ink technology as a Kindle or other E-Reader to change the key functions depending on what you're using the phone for at the time. It seems kind of gimmicky, but it works surprisingly well. The keys are easy to read and change really efficiently. What's nice about this is that it allows the phone to have larger keys and still have full functionality, something important for a thick fingered neanderthal such as myself.

We leave for Oregon in six days, I can't wait to flee this burg and see something new for a few days.

Writing - 
I'm at 52,000 words so far, and just wrote about an accidental shooting, a slow motion chase and what movie opened the week of October 27, 2007.

The Last Sentence - 

"In real life, Marlin? In real life we use people like that for bait."

From - "Graves" (WIP)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's A Dog's Life...

Now Playing -
Beep Beep by The Playmates

Life - 

Today was my first day back at work after an abbreviated rotation, putting me on a better schedule for the holidays. Because it was only three days off, rather than my typical six, I was scrambling to do all of the things I don't do when I'm working, not to mention the additional drama that we've been dealing with. To that end, I slept very little and kept my night rotation, averaging less than four hours a night. Because our dogs are used to sleeping with us in the bedroom during the day/night, me sleeping so little and being home really threw off their groove. They spent most of the three days pouting and sighing sleepily. Poor guys.

It is officially COLD here. We had roughly three days of Autumn, before 'Ol Jack decided to move in. And I still have a pretty significant chunk of yard work to do.

Really, that's all I have to report today.

Book Reviews - 

by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
2009, 401 pages

A stunning combination of new ideas and classic folklore  --  Suspenseful and Terrifying  --  Near Perfect  --  Can't wait for the next book in the trilogy!  --  Del Toro and Hogan's story create a beautiful and creepy image in your head


by Wayne Barcomb
2009, 309 pages

Stereotypical Characters in an Original Plot  --  Female Serial Killer!  --  Kind of boring  --  Russo, the main character is a bit too handsome to be realistic  --  Wine can be a pain in the butt in Barcomb's universe!


by John Sandford
1998, 384 pages

Sandford's character, Lucas Davenport feels grumpy and unlikeable  --  An obvious villain  --  Some great supporting characters  --  A weak entry in the "Prey" series  --  Far too much banking intrigue


by Lester Dent
2009, 248 pages

Intentionally despicable characters make life hard for each other and everyone else  --  Written in 1959, by the creator of Doc Savage, this is the first publication  --  Kind Of A Hardboiled Freaky Friday for the Whiskey and Dames set  --  Great period dialogue  --  Gorgeous Cover and Book Design


This was the first book I've received as a member of Hard Case Crime's mail order club, and it's so cool to get a classic crime rag in the mail every other month. The dictator is dead, long live Hard Case Crime!

Writing - 

Got a couple hundred words in, nothing much.

The Last Sentence - 

It's like a horrible, plus-sized nightmare!

From - "Graves" (WIP)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yet another Anniversary goes uncelebrated.

Now Playing -
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life by Monty Python

Life - 

Last night (Sunday Evening) Lindsay and I spent a great evening at our friends Allison and Anthony's apartment, eating some great soup and pasta, chatting for five hours or so and playing with their adorable pets. This isn't something that we do often, in fact since we've been together, I can count on one hand, the number of times that we've done things with other couples in a vaguely adult double dinner date type of thing. Usually it's hard enough finding time to see friends and family, but the stars happened to align and it was a lot of fun.

Which is a good thing, because the next day was shot all to hell in a spectacular explosion of crap hitting the fan. When I started this blog I told myself that I would use it as a way to express my opinion, update my friends and family on our lives warts and all, holding nothing back. Good or bad, but in recent days a few things have happened to members of my extended family that has put a lot of stress on my wife that, were I to discuss them here, would likely open a whole new can of worms.

So instead, for now, I will leave it by saying that when someone loses something important in their life, the people around them deal with those things in different ways. Some treat the wound with humor, trying show that person the brighter side of things, keep them moving on to the next bright point, a sarcastic shoulder to lean on. Others treat the same situation with sorrow, crying, wallowing in tears for things lost. No eye for the future and what needs to be done to reach there with a healthy attitude, preferring to constantly rehash the (In theory) tragic events of the recent past.

Needless to say, those two types will never see eye to eye and indeed, if they both attack the situation at the same time, disaster will almost inevitably occur, often bringing up many other problems unrelated to the matter at hand. I think it's obvious that we have a tendency to stand very firmly on the sarcastically optimistic side of life, if we didn't, quite frankly, the last couple of years could have been a crushing disappointment that we would not have gotten through. Instead, we are as optimistic as ever and willing to keep plugging away. As far as I'm concerned, to indulge in anything else is to invite despair into your life.

Today is our third anniversary, and had planned to celebrate it yesterday, as we both head back to work today. We didn't have a lot planned, hanging some Halloween decorations, writing a bit, watching a movie. Possibly not leaving the house at all, drinking hot cocoa and watching the unseasonably snowy weather outside. Instead, the day erupted into a head-on collision with something that left the house tense, tear-filled and literally running for the hills to avoid getting deeper into something that could only end up hurting the parties involved. This is a really vague entry, but suffice to say that our anniversary, the first that we'd been together to celebrate (We'd previously lived in different towns while she went to school or we both had to work and didn't see each other) didn't really happen, and what caused the drama is still lurking behind the curtains, waiting to cut a line and drop a sandbag in the middle of a big scene.

Anyway, after we left town ten minutes ahead of the posse, we went up to our wedding site, which, three years ago was a leafy, misty, gold and green wonderland of untouched in years mystery. Today it was no less gorgeous and mysterious but this time it was because of almost three inches of snow covering everything. It's a good thing we didn't wait till we'd been together for nine years before getting hitched, I guess! We had, at one point, thought about renting a tux for me and heading up there to recreate a few wedding pictures (Nearly all of them from our ceremony were uselessly blurry and we didn't get any video) Looks like it's a good thing we didn't! After that, we got lost in the back roads of McCammon and Inkom and wandered around Lava Hot Springs for a while.

Later in the evening, after returning home, we took a nap and went out to dinner for my brother's 29th birthday. Came home, slept for a couple of fitful hours, and now it's time to try and cram the things we'd planned for the last 24 into the 9 we have before our work rotation begins.

On the bright side of life, When Lindsay gets off work a week from Thursday, we leave for the promised land, Oregon and Washington for six days, scouting potential relocation sites and recharging our batteries on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Writing - 

I wrote around 1,500 words last night, but it doesn't look like I'm gonna make it to the finish line before Halloween... That's okay, I'm always in the mood for horror!

The Last Sentence - 

Not pausing, Clay straddles the twice-dead zombie and starts smashing it over and over with the hammer, pummeling it until all that's left is a smear of gore on the shattered tiles.

From - "Graves" (WIP)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hair Today, Oregon Tomorrow?

Now Playing -
Nothing, Lindsay's asleep in the other room...

Life - 
Man has the weather changed in the last two days. Tuesday, I was wearing shorts and contemplating mowing my lawn. Wednesday morning, we got near-freezing temperatures and snow in the mountains, along with a good chunk of rain in the valley. My mom's house started leaking where a windstorm had torn off her sattelite dish and a good chunk of the roof with it and our previously abundant and lovely tomato and squash plants got a pretty heavy dose of the cold weather.

After work, I MacGyvered a solution on the roof of my mom's, involving some tarp, a ladder, couple of boards and a rock or three. It aint pretty, but when the asbestos roofing is so old that it cracks with any weight or nails driven into it, I don't know that I have much choice. On the plus side, theer wasn't any water when I checked last night, so it may hold up for a while. After that, I got my hair cut. She ended up lopping almost 3 inches off of my hair. I'm always amazed at how much I have up there. I just knew that I had to wet it thoroughly to get my hat on, so it was time for a chopping.

We made some possible plans for moving out to the WA/OR area early next year and made a tentative itinerary for our trip out there in October as well. It should be fun. We aren't spending much time on the coast, but we're checking out an area we want to move to, a few other towns we've never been to and getting away from Idaho for a while. All good things.

This morning, after an even colder night, the town feels like winter. SO much for autumn. I'm pretty sure our plants are goners, though I've been too chicken to check. I guess we'll just have to hope that the squash we picked will ripen inside. For old times sake, here is what they looked like a few days ago, abundant and thriving!

That is a tomato by Lindsay there... Somewhere in the depths of it is a cage, long since dwarfed by the plant.

Writing - 

Wrote another couple of chapters, up to 45,000 words. Another 4,000 and it will be the longest book I've written. They're about to try and make a break for it, should be fun to write.

The Last Sentence - 

They shot a bazooka at it one time and it barely scratched the walls of this place.

From - "Graves" (WIP)