Thursday, July 11, 2013

Washington Trip, Fourth of July

The kiddo and I went to Washington to visit my sister and mom (and cross paths with my dad at my sister's) over the long Fourth of July weekend (well, we only get the 4th as the actual holiday at my company, of course, but I took the 5th off as PTO).

I actually left on Wednesday after work, and headed up Highway 97, which I pretty much know like the back of my hand by now.  It has a few scenic spots, but for the most part is rather boring.  Rather than take the even MORE boring route the rest of the way, I took Highway 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River, rather than Interstate 84 on the Oregon side.  Sadly (or happily?  it definitely shaped my decision), due to our dumb speed limit laws here in Oregon, the winding 2-lane highway with barely any shoulder and cross streets every so often in Washington has the same speed limit as the 4-lane divided highway with wide shoulders and convenient on- and off-ramps.  Go figure.  So I made decent time and got to Jen's a little before 10:00.

Sunset photo from the road

That night, we (she has a roommate, plus of course Nathan was there, too) just sat around and chatted, catching up.

Thursday was the 4th of July.  We (me, Nathan, Jen, and the two dogs that belong to Jen [she has four in her house--another belongs to her roommate, and the fourth is a foster dog]) attempted to go geocaching right in her neighborhood, and the site was pretty cool, but we were unsuccessful in locating the cache.  Meanwhile, the humans and the dogs were all pretty hot and thirsty, even though it had only been a short walk, so we headed back to the house.

Later, when it was even hotter, we took two dogs (this time, one of Jen's and also the roommate's dog--the two who are known swimmers) and went to Finley to go swimming--there's a kind of cove that's protected from the river current, but is near where the Snake joins the Columbia.  Not sure which we were swimming in, but the water was the PERFECT temperature, whichever it was.  The dogs LOVED chasing their bumpers (floating toys for them to fetch), and Nathan and I had fun in the water, too.  Jen and her roommate mostly stayed on shore or only wading depth, throwing the toys for the dogs.

We headed back to the house, and although we had talked about possibly going somewhere to watch professional fireworks, it's probably best we just stayed home so Jen could be with her dogs.  It's an understatement to say they're not fans of fireworks.  :-)  Meanwhile, we played various games, including Risk, and I tried to get some photos of the dogs.

Jen's dog, Sasha

Their foster dog, Bailey

Sasha in the background, and Jen's other dog, Dylan

Jen's roommate's dog, Ariel

Bailey has magical ears

 Friday, I worked for an hour or so, then we went to the local humane society (the other shelter Jen would have taken me to was unfortunately on a quarantine due to parvo).  They'd recently moved into the building, so even Jen and her roommate hadn't been there before.  It was interesting to see another one, since I've volunteered at our local one for a while now.  While the other two met a pit bull, Nathan and I (who, while we both like dogs well enough, are definitely more cat-oriented) went and found the kitten room.

Kitten pile!!

 Friday afternoon, my dad and his girlfriend arrived--they are on a road trip, and while I saw my dad a couple weeks prior, he was alone because she flew to meet him partway along his trip in order to miss the boring parts :-) and since I haven't met her yet, it was nice to see her.  We all had a very pleasant evening, grilling outside (and the temperature was much more mild than it had been the prior day) and chatting, an then played games late into the evening again.

Saturday, we had a leisurely breakfast and more chatting, then all the houseguests cleared out so Jen and her roommate could resume their normal lives.  :-)

Nathan and I headed toward my mom's house.  More chatting, some popcorn and plums for dinner, then we (mom, step-dad, their dog, Nathan, and I) set out on a short geocaching excursion.  The first cache was a pretty quick find once I realized I shouldn't trust my GPS, which was telling me to walk up someone's driveway.  The next one we went for was a multi-stage in a playground.  The hint indicated that the clue to the real coordinates would be near the top, so I was surreptitiously hanging out on the jungle gym, looking around, groping in small places, and pretending to take photos of Nathan, who was goofing off on all the equipment.

I was getting frustrated...I'd checked under and behind everything I could, poked my fingers into all the holes I could, and hadn't found anything that didn't belong (though I realized that a tunnel in mid-air wasn't fully connected to the tower on my side).  All of a sudden I realized I'd been looking for something physical and tangible, when often these things are just written on something, and sure enough, when I looked up, I saw a clear sticker with black printing on one of the pillars, near the top, and it had the last few digits of the coordinates (the first few were the same as the coords that had led us to the playground in the first place) written like:



So we set off to the final location, put Nathan to work looking in bushes for suspicious packages, and signed off.  We hit one final cache--a LARGE one located behind a church and intended as a book swap.  My step-dad swapped books, and I took the two travel bugs that were there so I could move them along to Oregon.

When we got home, there was more chatting, Nathan and my step-dad played a two-person game of Risk, and I'm pretty sure either Nathan rigged it or Gary let him win, but whatever.  :-)  

In the morning, my step-sister, her husband, and their two kids came over.  The youngest, 8 months old or so, got a kick out of playing with Nathan, another fellow redhead, who also has GLASSES.  Babies love glasses!

I had decided I really didn't want to go home on Highway 97 again, and after some discussion with my mom, decided to take 395 south, then 26 west.  (There's no DIRECT route between there and here, unfortunately.)

It was a gorgeous drive, for sure.  We wound our way leisurely along the road, stopping a few times for geocaching.  Some success, some failures.  Such is life.  And geocaching.

No, the cache wasn't in the dilapidated outhouse.

We went to one cache that was near a fire tower.  The cache description said the tower is often vacant on weekends, and that if the gate was locked, you could always park and hike to the cache.  There was A gate that was shut an locked, but there was a road that went around it.  Well, a "road."  It's probably best if only high-clearance and/or 4-wheel-drive vehicles attempt it, but I gave it a shot in my Camry, taking care to keep the tires on the high ground rather than IN the ruts, so I didn't high-center it, and watching the rocks to make sure I didn't slam the undercarriage of my car into them.  There was a spot where it got steep enough that I wasn't sure I would make it up, but I gunned, and made it.

When we arrived at the tower, it turns out there WAS someone there, and the first think he said when I got out of my car was, "Wow, impressive driving to have made it up here in that."  Apparently he was watching me the whole time.  Ha!  I didn't tell him I used to drive actual four-wheel-drive trucks, occasionally, and that while no one would accuse me of being GOOD at it, maybe I did learn a few things.  :-)  He actually invited us up to look around, but I didn't want to intrude, so I told him we were just there for the geocache, and would poke around a bit then get out of his way.  We did find it, and I took a photo from the top of the hill while we were there, too.

We made a few more caching stops, including at this overlook of a cool canyon:

But Nathan got tired of me making stops, and it WAS getting late, so eventually we just hit the road and stayed there, until we got to Prineville and stopped for some Mexican food.  Just as we were leaving town, and I had promised Nathan we would be home in 30-40 minutes, I realized I HAD to pull over one more time--there was an overlook and this sunset (click to view larger):

But we did eventually arrive home, around 10:00 p.m., to some hungry lonely kitties.  

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