Walks to waterfalls, beaches, and other amusements

I didn’t manage to post last week as I planned to, because I took an unexpected trip with my brother. The day I usually post, I was staying in a motel with a poor internet connection.

My brother John arrived the Wednesday before last. His flight was an hour late, and it was already due in latish, so we didn’t get home from the airport until midnight. Then, of course, the two of us stayed up late talking. That was the first of many nights in a row where I didn’t go to bed at my usual time, which is tough for me these days, but it was fun to stay up and chat. Some of the evenings, we sat out on our deck and listened to frogs, watched bats, and heard a pack of coyotes in the distance.

Most of the time John was here we all sat around talking, one day playing in the kid’s pool. For dinner, I was responsible for portions of two meals. The first was the Indian meal. I underestimated the time it would take to get my Big Green Egg up to temperature, so we ended up eating about an hour later than planned. Still, the tandoori chicken came out great. The naan didn’t seem to have the right texture, but I had trouble with the dough and will continue to experiment.

I also made almost all of a Mexican meal, enchiladas Suisses, topopo salad, black beans, and flan. It had been years since I did the beans, and I misread my cookbook to the result of destroying the crock for my crock pot. I thought it said to cook the beans in a crock on the stove, which I thought odd, but did it anyway. The author had been talking about crocks, and I was the victim of my own skim reading. The crock seemed to be okay, and then it went “Bang!” and it cracked clear around the bottom. All the black bean water went out onto the stove and into the cupboard below and on the floor. I managed to salvage the beans and spent quite some time cleaning up the water. Then I rechecked the recipe, and sure enough it said to cook the beans in a pot on the stove. Yikes! Later, that evening, my great niece remarked that my feet were completely black on the bottom because of wading around in the bean water trying to clean it up.

On the first Saturday John was here, we all decided to go for a hike. We were having a hard time deciding where to go, trying to find a hike that I could do but that would take us near water so that we could cool off, as it was supposed to be a very hot day. We drove way up into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the part that is near the east side of Mt. St. Helens, and we went on a series of short hikes. When it came to going somewhere with water, though, we hadn’t reckoned with the fact that all the trails in the Gorge near last year’s fires are closed, bringing all of the people who would usually go there up here. We went to Lower Falls on the Lewis River, and it was packed with people. The descent to the river was too steep for me, although it looked lovely, with a beautiful blue swimming hole. We couldn’t believe the number of people there, with boom boxes, umbrellas, and rolling coolers. Not our idea of a getaway. There was even a traffic jam.

Here’s a selfie we took while out hiking. That’s my sister, me, my brother, and my niece and her two kids, with her husband taking the picture.

I was able to cool off at Lower Falls and Middle Falls by walking farther down the river. At the one, I found a place where I could put my feet in the river, but it was too rocky and shallow to go swimming. At the other, we found our own private waterfall, just a little one with a hole at the bottom where you could sit and let the water trickle down on you. I will be detailing all four of these hikes this week and the following weeks on my blog The Fat Girl’s Guide to Hiking.

Steve, his son Will, John, Steve’s daughter Nadia, and Sage, the dog. Steve’s wife Mary and his daughter Áine were back at the hotel.

On Monday, John was due to go to Seattle to visit my youngest brother, Steve, and his family. Up until he left, they tried to get him to change his plans, offering a variety of reasons. Finally, they announced that they would actually be in Ocean Shores, and then they would be camping, and he was welcome to join them. John is a big camper, but he came prepared for hot weather here and Seattle, not for cooler coastal weather and camping. He didn’t even bring a long-sleeved shirt or socks. We brought up a load of camping equipment for him to borrow. Then Steve invited us all to come along. At that point, I decided to go as a surprise, although I would not be camping.

So, I unexpectedly went out of town on Monday and spent the next four days with them. We were in Ocean Shores for two days, which we spent at the beach and doing other things to amuse the kids, playing put-put golf, playing games at an arcade, and bowling. Then we started out on a tour of the Olympic Peninsula. We saw some beautiful beaches and did a couple more hikes, which I will also detail on Fat Girls. John was happy that I had gotten a room in a motel in Forks, because when he saw Steve’s camp site outside of Forks, he realized another tent wouldn’t fit, so he stayed with me. We spent a late night around the campfire with them and then went back to our motel. It rained all night, though, and so they did not camp the last night in Sequim.

We got back Friday afternoon and went over to Katrina’s for dinner, and then my sister took John to the airport on Saturday morning. I was so tired from all the late nights that I did a lot of sleeping that weekend. And as it has worked out, I have missed most of my usual activities this week. On Monday, I was still too tired to go to tai chi class. Monday night, I was driving my great niece to tae kwan do class and picking up my sister at her mechanic’s when I hit a pothole and got a flat tire. We changed to the spare, and since I already had an appointment for yesterday at the dealership (to replace a piece of our rear-view mirror that went missing on our trip around the Peninsula), I just thought I’d take my tire in for them to repair.

However, on Tuesday morning I finally talked my husband into going with me to the Y to take the arthritis water class while I did my deep water exercise class. We were on our way to that, after which we were going to the dealership, when practically every warning light on our dashboard lit up. This was so alarming that we pulled over and called up the dealership, who told us to come on in. Of course, we were there for hours, and it turned out I had bent both the front and back rims of the wheels.

Then we had to deal with the insurance person, who wanted us to let the car sit at the dealership for three days until some sort of inspector could get there to look at the damage to our car before the repair. We thought this was ridiculous, because the dealership said they could get the parts the next day or the day after. That would have delayed the repair on our car to the point where we would be without it for at least a week. My husband worked out a deal where we could pay for the repair ourselves, take our rims to the inspector afterwards, and get reimbursed.

Then the insurance person was supposed to send us a rental car. We waited and waited. Finally, I called the only office in Vancouver for that rental car outfit, and they had no order from the insurance people. We didn’t have our claim number because they emailed it to us at my husband’s email address instead of mine, where I could have got it on my phone. So, I went back to the dealership rep and asked him to get us a rental car, as I didn’t want to spend the whole day there. Enterprise was there to pick us up within 10 minutes. When we were at the Enterprise desk filling out the paperwork, the other rental company called me FROM OREGON! That’s right. Our insurance company contacted a rental car company that wasn’t even in the same state as we were. She knew we were in Vancouver, because she gave us the name of an inspector in Vancouver that we had to take our rims to. We don’t know how they’re going to handle the fact that we cancelled the rental car company, but we didn’t care.

On the garden front, while I was gone, my peas finally gave up the ghost because of the heat. I got another cup or so of them, and then I pulled them all up. Now, my onions and my beans will get some more sunlight.

And that’s about it. No art this last two weeks, just lots of sightseeing. However, my sister contacted me while I was away to tell me she had gotten a call from our art school. She is back in my class!

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The play’s the thing

After a week of cancellations, there was a big one on Friday. As I reported last week, first my husband said he wanted to go to Portland on Saturday, then he wanted to go to Harbor Freight instead. Then he wanted to go to Portland on Sunday, then he didn’t. Then he wanted to go to the movies on Tuesday, then he didn’t. Well, this was the pattern all week until we got to Friday.

Unfortunately, Friday was the day we planned to leave for Ashland, Oregon, to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My friend Deb and I have had tickets since January or February. I was initially surprised when my husband said he would go with us and visit his friend from Air Force days in Medford while we went to the plays. I should have known something was up on Thursday because he was mopey all day and at one point he asked me if we had already paid for the tickets. (Of course I had, and they were very expensive.) But I did not pay attention.

So, I got up on Friday and started to get ready to go, and he told me he wasn’t coming. I had some choice thoughts about that, as you can imagine, but I just packed up and left. In fact, I was able to leave early and tell my niece she didn’t need to worry about feeding Hillary. We didn’t get off to a good start. There was my husband’s cancellation and the rainy, dreary morning, and then we got a half hour away from Deb’s house when I realized my purse was sitting in her living room, so we had to go back. Thank goodness I realized then, though, rather than later, and after that things went fine.

We stopped for lunch on the way down and ate at a place called Addy’s Diner in Springfield. I was trying to behave myself for Weight Watchers and found we had picked a place where that was almost impossible. At one point we saw a guy receive a pancake that was served on a platter-sized plate, yet was too big to fit it without being folded in half. My guess is that the pancake was a good two feet in diameter! Deb said I should take a picture of the pancake, but I didn’t have the nerve to walk over and take a picture of his food.

We passed a huge accident on the north side of the freeway just outside Grant’s Pass. First, we saw the wreck. Then we both remembered, after the initial backup, a gap. But then we suddenly saw cars everywhere, parked all over the exits, parking up the freeway, and people getting out and walking around. The cars stretched back for miles and miles. We learned later that the traffic was stuck there for at least four hours.

We arrived in Ashland at about 4 PM and checked into our motel. It was the Bard’s Inn, an old-fashioned roadside motel that has been remodeled and is comfortable, clean, and quiet. Not fancy at all, but it was just fine for us. The Bard’s Inn has other, fancier accommodations, and we looked at a lot of B&B’s when we were trying to decide where to stay, but many of them were already booked, and most were expensive. Because we thought my husband would have the car, we were looking for something right near town, and this place was just a few blocks from the theaters.

The first thing we did was go to the box office to pick up our tickets. We had bought tickets for two plays on Saturday, Sense and Sensibility in the afternoon and Henry V at night. Deb suggested we see if there were any tickets left for Othello that night. Now, if you read my review of Othello, you’ll know it isn’t one of my favorite plays, because I don’t like the main character. However, we asked, and they had the last two seats together for $34 apiece (cheap), so we bought them.

The Elizabethan Theater on the hill behind Lithia Park

Then we had time to look around town and have something to eat. Ashland is a small town tucked into the side of foothills, with a mountain nearby. It isn’t super picturesque, but it is a nice town. It has a lovely park right next to the river downtown, with the Elizabethan theater on a hill behind it. The park offers lots of woodland walks, and is beautifully landscaped. It was a little rainy on Friday afternoon and evening, but most of the time we had perfect weather.

The pastry case at Mix. A little problematic for someone on a diet

We ate dinner at a nice restaurant called Greenleaf and then made our greatest culinary discovery of the trip—Mix, a bake and coffee shop. We split a lemon meringue tart, and it was delicious! We returned there several times during the course of the trip, buying bread, coffee, lunch, and delicious pastries.

In the evening we went to Othello. The town has three theaters devoted to the Shakespeare Festival, during which they perform all kinds of plays and musicals. Othello was in the middle-sized theater, which seats about 600 people. The play was performed in modern dress with most of the men in military uniforms, but it was otherwise done fairly traditionally. However, doing it in modern times provided some opportunities to use media. For example, instead of having servants deliver messages, the characters got calls on their cell phones, which raised a laugh.

I have to tell you, Othello was terrific! It was really dramatic at times, funnier than I thought it was when reading it, just a revelation. I was really glad I went. I have often had it demonstrated to me that theater so much depends on who is doing it and how they do it. I have had occasion to see the same play be, when done by one company, depressing, and by another company, hilarious, for example.

The Elizabethan Theater from the inside during our tour. That’s our guide’s hand on the left. The Elizabethan theater, which is an open-air reconstruction of a theater in England, is not open until June and only for evening performances.

In the morning we went on the backstage tour, which was very interesting. I heartily recommend it. Our guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He took us all through all three of the theaters, backstage and underneath, talked about the history of the festival, told us funny stories. It was a great tour. I told Deb that if I lived within an hour of Ashland, I’d be volunteering to work there.

Ashland on the way to downtown from our motel. Of course, it would have been nice if I’d found a shot without so many streetlights in it. I was trying to get the mountain, which is just barely visible in the middle of the picture. That hump with the clouds over it.

The play I was looking forward to the most was Sense and Sensibility, being a major Jane Austen fan. I had very mixed feelings about it, though. It was performed in the middle-sized theater again. The set and costumes were of the period, but they did the play as a farce! Now, if you like Austen, like I do, because she is funny while being very delicate, as reflects her culture, this is not the play for you. I think  that some viewers were shocked by it. I had to admit it made very good theater, though. The audience shouted when it was over. But was it Jane Austen? It was not. They just used her story. Still, I had a good time, so the whole issue was very complicated for me.

Our last play was Henry V, performed in the smaller theater, which was configured in a horseshoe. This theater seats 300 people. It was very intimate, and they tried a lot of symbolism in the performance, not all of which worked. For example, the play started with players turning this huge wall around and around for quite some time. It must have symbolized something, but we didn’t know what. The only scenery for this play was that wall and a bunch of boxes. For the fighting, since Henry V is mostly about a war with France, they had red undershirts that they flapped vigorously or wrapped around themselves to signify wounds. Hmm. The acting seemed a little less practiced than in the other plays, and Henry was uneven. Of course, he has all the best speeches. Still, we enjoyed the play very much, but we both decided that Othello was our favorite. In fact, after the first play, we were already talking about when we would come back and saying that we would like to see a play in the Elizabethan Theater.

After breakfast in the morning, we skipped down to Mix to buy bread to take home with us, and that bread was yummy. If you ever get to Ashland, do not miss going to Mix!

The carousel in Albany

On the way home, just as a topper to our great weekend, we stopped for lunch in Albany, Oregon. The lunch was fine, but on the way back out of town, we happened to notice a building with the word “Carousel” on it. That made us both remember that we had seen an article and program about a historic carousel that had been thought lost but had been discovered in pieces stored away. The town had raised money to restore it, and this was it! Needless to say, we had to stop and look at the carousel. I’m sorry I didn’t get good enough pictures to show you that the animals are very imaginative. Instead of just being colorfully painted, they have crazy touches. One horse has a mermaid tail, making it a seahorse. Another animal might have a monkey crawling on its neck or fish on its side. It is all beautifully done and restored.

So, that was the highlight of my week, and I’m champing at the bit to go back. We are already planning a trip back next June, and my friend from Denver said he would like to go with us. My sister has also expressed an interest and my husband says he’d like to go to the Elizabethan theater (I’ll believe that when I see it), so if we all go, we may have to caravan next year!

In other news, my neighbor and I found a beautiful trail last week. It’s in Whipple Creek Park, which is right jammed up next to Vancouver. It is very close to where I go for my art class. We didn’t expect much from it, but in fact found ourselves in a lovely oak forest. The trail had ups and downs and was mostly in very good condition. It is a park used by horses, and although we did not see any horses, we saw lots of things to walk around, if you get my drift, and lots of hoof prints. I got very tired in the 3.1 miles, because of all the ups and downs, but I’ll improve.

P. S. After I published this post the first time, Deb sent me the attached link to an article about the carousel with much better pictures than the one I posted.

 

 

 

A fairly smooth day

On October 15 we got started fairly early, taking a route through northwest New Mexico, nipping a corner of Colorado, and continuing in to Utah. The day went pretty well except for the slow speed at which the truck managed the hills, and there were many.

I was worried about my husband’s hand, which was swollen and red, but he insisted on continuing on, doing a lot of the truck driving. His dog was a problem at first, because he would not be separated from my husband but didn’t like getting into the cab of the truck. I suggested my husband get into the truck first and call Hans. That was dismissed as a stupid idea, but was exactly what worked for the rest of the trip (after his brother suggested the same thing).

We made it all the way to Provo and stopped relatively early to get a good rest. That gave us delusions that we could make it to Washington the next day, because that was where we stopped four years ago on our first drive up there.

We finally had real internet for the first time at that hotel, so I found out that my niece didn’t even know that we left yet. The other motels claimed to have internet, but all my messages had gone into the ozone.

 

A slight impact and the wilds of New Mexico

This is my entry of October 14. I am way behind, because I’ve had no internet access for days.

We started out the morning when I went to my husband’s brother’s room and asked him to take my husband to the emergency room. My husband’s dog had to be with either him or me the whole time, which was why I couldn’t go. At the hospital, they gave him an antibiotic and Ibuprofen and made him wait for the animal control officer, who turned out not to be interested, since the cat was in Austin.

We left town around 10, with my husband insisting on driving the truck, even though I had driven it without incident for hours the day before. This turned out to be a mistake, as he drove quite some way through a crowded New Mexican town to get gas instead of driving through town on the freeway and stopping for gas on the other side. At this gas station, he managed to scrape a car. What fun we were having! But the guy was nice, and after exchanging insurance info, we were on our merry way.

My husband and I had mapped out a relatively flat route, but his brother talked us into a more direct one, which is why we found ourselves in the wilds of NW New Mexico late at night. I think he was perhaps a little more concerned with the scenery than we were. We tried to stop for the night in an itty bitty town but decided the motel looked too dicey. So, we drove until almost 2 AM, stopping in a town east of Farmington.