Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Welcome to Central Oregon! We woke up to crisp air, a beautiful view of snow capped mountains and a cozy cabin that soon rang with holiday tunes and a laughing little munchkin. We have so much to be thankful for this year, not the least of which are our family and friends. We have an incredible support system, near and far, and are grateful for everyone. We appreciate the challenges and adventures we've faced during the past few years and look forward to those ahead. I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgiving, know that you're an important part of our lives and we look forward to seeing everyone soon.

The view from our cabin.

Pat's loft view.

Family photo with Buddy, one of Mikayla's favorite horses at the ranch.

Mikayla would pet Buddy then run over to pet Lil and vice verse, she loves horses.


The girls.

Such sweet horses.

Looking down on the resort from Spirit Rock.
Pat's riding Spirit and I'm on Scout - Tennessee Walkers.
Saying farewell to my new friend.

Handsome boy.

One happy couple.
Poor Mikayla, fighting with a sore mouth as new molars come in.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back in Oregon!

With a relatively short drive from Winnemucca to Powell Butte, we’re back in Oregon and settled into the beautiful Brasada Ranch to spend Thanksgiving. The drive continues to go well and it definitely feels like winter outside. The mountains are dusted with snow and from within 10 minutes of driving across the state line, it was clear we were back in the Northwest. The mountains were closer, there were signs of water, the roads wound back and forth, and, even if it was only our imagination, the air was a little bit fresher.
When we first crossed into Oregon, there was no
Welcome to Oregon sign so we took one with the county sign.

Then we found it.

We're back!

Mikayla continues to be an amazing traveler. Her little body clock is all thrown off, making for some early mornings, yet she’s completely comfortable with the car and does really well entertaining herself or playing with all of us as we travel along. Tomorrow we’re staying put to celebrate Thanksgiving and the many gifts in our lives. It will be a nice break and a good refresher for all of us before we head into Portland to unpack.

We tried to have lunch in Frenchglen, but it was a bit smaller than expected and all closed.
There was however a prime hunting spot, picketed
fence and all. (Inside joke)
After seeing the deer, Mikayla
decided to feed the animals.

Lunch in Burns, OR.

So tired she just flopped.

I think I can, I think I can...keep my eyes open.

John and Pat saving Oregon from what would
have surely been the biggest wild fire EVER!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Day 4 - Nevada

Just when you think you've seen it all, watch out. You may find yourself in the middle of nowhere, traveling for hundreds of miles without so much as a mailbox. Suddenly, from a distance, is it a mirage? Is it a joke? Or is it really...a giant barn labeled: "Nude Girls Bikinis"? That's right - welcome to Nevada. I've been a lot of places in this country, driven every state West of the Mississippi, lived in North Dakota and Texas and never, never have I seen so many miles of absolutely nothing.

We kicked off the day in Las Vegas where we picked up a quick crepe in Paris, snapped a few photos and hit the road.

We also observed a dedicated porn stand re-filler man carefully cleaning out the stands to make certain that his product is well represented on the streets. Only in Vegas baby!

The road from Vegas to Winnemucca, NV where we're camping out for the evening is long (472 miles), straight (with the exception of a few s-turns through the hills as you get closer to Battle Mountain) and really dark when the sun goes down (did I mention middle of nowhere?). To most, this may all sound like a pretty boring way to spend a day on the road, but watch closely and in addition to the Toiyabe, Toiquima and Austin mountain ranges which decorated the horizon and delivered a gorgeous valley sunset, you will find...

·         The Shady Lady Brothel: A single-wide trailer along HWY 95 N. No idea what the Shady Lady looks like, but the cardboard ads along the road promise class.

·         Wild Asses: Nope, not being crude, the four-legged fuzzy friends were spotted grazing amongst the tree like cacti and are prevalent enough to warrant their own traffic crossing sign.

·         Book Tour by Covered Wagon: I'm not sure what book they were touring or why they chose to go by miniature covered wagon pulled by a donkey and painted with red lettering, nor could I snap a photo fast enough, but it was one more treasure along our journey through Nevada.

Other moments of the day include: passing a giant gold mine with mounds of sifted dirt higher than the surrounding hillsides; herds of antelope running across the prairies; Mikayla roaring (unprompted) at one of the giant stuffed elk mounted on the wall above our table at the Hide Away Steak House in Battle Mountain; and pulling up to the Holiday Inn Express in Winnemucca to discover that it too, has its own casino.

So the next time you find yourself on a long, seemingly boring drive, take a look around. You just never know what you might least if you're in Nevada. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Canyons, Dams and Vegas!

Day 3 was a shorter mileage day with three fun stops. Our first stop was Grand Canyon National Park, which marked Mikayla’s third national park. Needless to say, it is huge! The colors and sheer expanse of the canyon was truly amazing. It was also cold, particularly when the wind blew, but between a fleece pajama body suit, fleece pants, fleece vest, fleece jacket and a rabbit eared stocking cap, Mikayla stayed toasty warm, practiced going up and down the steps at the lookout points, and lived to play monster trucks with a couple little boys from Puerto Rico following our rim walk.  

From Williams, AZ (outside the Canyon) where the town Christmas tree was in the process of arriving by tractor, accompanied by every sheriff in the county, we didn’t stop until we reached Nevada and Hoover Dam. Nevada is Mikayla’s first new state along our trip and with the exception of Montana and Wyoming, she’s now been to every state West of the Mississippi.

The terrain of the day didn’t change a lot, but we had some fluctuation. Arizona was speckled with juniper blobs and became more and more green the further West we came. There were areas of round rocks that scattered the desert – somewhat fraggle rock style. The elevation started to show some distinction and a couple times we crested ridges and were greeted by sprawling picturesque valleys.

The sun had just done down when we reached Nevada and the Pacific Time Zone, but we could see just fine as we went jogging across the new bridge parallel to the dam to take pictures. It was certainly impressive to see and the fact that it only took about five years to construct is incredible. Funny though, that after visiting Grand Coulee Dam, one’s impression of these massive concrete structures becomes relative.

And then, there was Las Vegas. Even days from Thanksgiving, the town never stops. The streets were crowded with tourists watching the water show at the Bellagio or the torches of the Mirage. People were wearing far more clothing than I’d remembered in the past, however that was likely attributed to the chill in the air. From the casinos to billboards to light show Christmas décor, Vegas will always be, Vegas.
So here we go, getting ready for our day. We’ll head to Paris for breakfast and a bowl of latte and then off we’ll be again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 2: Desert, dust and one HUGE grasshopper!

Just shy of 575 miles, we arrived in Flagstaff, AZ. It was dark when we got here, so I’m not sure what it looks like but from what we can see it reminds us of Bend, OR. Flagstaff is a high desert town located at 7,000 ft. There are some trees, though they’re scrawny and scattered and it’s cold! At only 36 degrees, this is the first stop on our journey that feels like winter.
Today went well. We started out a little late following some car checks, but were able to hit the road before noon. We said farewell to Texas shortly after leaving El Paso (the area is quite an eyesore by day) and hit two states along our way– New Mexico and Arizona, both of which Mikayla has visited before. Mikayla was a trooper. Sleeping on and off, we played with her new piano from Grammy, sang songs and danced to whatever beat we could come up with. We didn’t stop much, but there may have been a roadside diaper change that resulted in the discovery of the biggest grasshopper ever!
"Bye, bye Texas!"

"I'm going to get 'em"

The Wild West goes solar!

Taking in the view, and the breeze!

One of the prettier views along the way ;-)

King of the grasshoppers!

Halfway through, we relaxed for dinner in Tuscan where we explored the University of Arizona and found real grass! For anyone who has lived in Del Rio, you’ll understand the significance of being able to sit in the grass without being pricked! Mikayla ran around until she wobbled and when she decided to setup her plate and cup in the sidewalk, we figured it was time to find food.

"Here I come!"

"If I sit here, food will come..."

Happy girl with her Daddy

I’d tell you more about the scenery, if there was more to see. Hopefully it will get more colorful from here. For the most part everything is brown, New Mexico had lots of warning signs about dust storms and zero visibility and I’m pretty sure that we passed all of Arizona’s people-like cactus after dark.
We’re not sure where we’ll end up tomorrow night, but we’re headed to the Grand Canyon in the morning which none of us have been to before. Stay tuned for more on our adventure.