Friday, October 28, 2011

Tonight's Menu Will Be . . .

...Ancho Chili-Spiced Grilled Chicken with Fennel.

The highly-attractive and functional Mrs Elliott and I will be tackling this recipe tonight.

It took me a bit of searching to find ancho chili powder. Struck out at the first two markets I tried. Drove to La Colima, the Mexican food store near the corner of Greenwood & 3rd. Looked around a bit at the spices, didn't see any ancho.

There was a tiny Latina stocking the shelf nearby.

"Necesito chile ancho molido," I said to her.

"Chile ancho molido!" she said cheerfully, and pointed to a bag of guajillo chili powder on the rack.

"Guajillo," I said. "Es lo mismo de ancho?"

"Si," she said, said seriously.

Not entirely convinced. "Es verdad?"

"Si, si, es lo mismo! Es ancho!"

Okay, well, what the heck. Maybe a regional difference. Besides, 99 cents ... a smaller amount of the same spice at Newport Market would have cost over two bucks. At Whole Foods it would have been $5 for a bottle, but it would be organically raised and fair traded, I'm sure.

I got the bag and wandered around the store to see what else they had. Found Diet Coke in a can. Do you know how hard it is to find a single, chilled, 12 oz can of Coke these days? All your Kwik-e-Marts sell anymore are the larger 16 oz Cokes in a plastic bottle. I don't like plastic bottles, they don't seem to keep the drink as cold as an aluminum can (probably not true but it feels that way), are probably laden with something horrible like BPA, and 16 oz is more than I care to drink at a sitting.

80 cents. Score!

The nice lady at the cash register asked if I needed a bag.

"Necesita bolsa?"

"No, gracias."

My Spanish exhausted, I got out of the shop for $1.79,  drove home, and checked the Google to see if guajillo chilies were the same as ancho chilies. Turns out that they are not exactly the same, but the two are often used in tandem in many traditional dishes. I'm sure it'll be tasty.

Tucking the Garden in

Here at chez Elliott, Jack has been getting the yard ready for winter's slumber and spring's awakening.

One thing we are focusing on is flowers. Mrs Elliott likes flowers and she likes lots of them, and we learned a few things about gardening in Bend last season.

First, perennials alone are not showy enough for her, so plenty of annuals need to be planted to plump up the yard; and second, if you're going to plant bulbs, which offer reliable flowers in late spring where annuals and the other perennials are not yet up to speed, you need to plant a buttload of them. ("Buttload" is a technical term meaning a large quantity but not as much as an assload, and a lot less than a shitload.)

This time last fall we planted a few dozen fancy bulbs I purchased from the Central Oregon Master Gardener Association. I've never done bulbs before and always wanted to. They all flowered and they were all pretty, but not showy enough, meaning there weren't enough of them to impress.

Meanwhile, over in the valley, our friend Michael Hill of Sweeney Pond had also planted bulbs, but rather than planting a few fancy ones, he planted great clusters of inexpensive Costco and Fred Meyer tulips. It looked spectacular and he had plenty for flower vases.

So that's what Jack did yesterday. With the help of a hired guy, something like 400 or 500 Fred Meyer bulbs went into the ground. Daffodils, anemones, hyacinths, and Dutch irises in the front yard, and a mess of tulips and ranunculus in the back yard, where deer can't get to them. To make room for the bulbs we moved a bunch of perennials and some of last year's bulbs out of the way, applying compost and root stimulant; I feel pretty confident that they'll survive the transplanting.

Knowing that after flowering, your bulb-y plants don't look so pretty while they are sittin' and gatherin' sunlight and nutrients, gettin' ready for the the following spring, we left plenty of room in front of the bulb gardens to plant annuals into.

In the back yard, petunias, annual geraniums, and marigolds provided Mrs Elliott with a lot of pleasure this summer, so we'll repeat that. Out front, I don't yet know what annuals to use. Don't need them ending up as deer pellets.

I reckon that that's something to research during winter.

I outlined the various bulb beds using bone meal for the planting guy, and while the bulbs were going in, I wandered about, deadheading and trimming the perennials, trimmed the lawn down to its final, short, length to reduce the amount of tender blades which are susceptible to frostbite (or the plant equivalent), and applied some winterizing fertilizer, which will be stored in the roots until spring and give the grass a robust start.

Sometime next week I'll spray a lawn antifungal on the grass to protect it from snow mold, something that chewed large holes in the lawn on the north terrace (i.e., front yard).

Of the three young aspens we planted between our house and the one next door, one dropped its leaves quickly without going through fall color, and I feared it might be dead and was mentally preparing to pull it and plug in a new one. But the guy at the nursery told me to check the trunk and see if the layer (the cambium) under the bark was green, which indicates that the tree is not dead, and lo and behold, it is green, so I won't lose hope yet.

Something else I did wrong last year was not water the rhododendrons in the front in winter. They dried up and died. Turns out that they, and other shrubs that are not yet established,  need water in winter like they do in summer. Who knew?

With the sprinkling system shut off, I guess I'll just water those plants with a bucket, trudging through the snow, and see if I can keep the replacement rhodies alive.

Anyway, at the end of the day yesterday, Jack was pretty darn tired. A cup of hot sencha and a bottle of Alsatian wine helped my flagging energy and spirits.

I've got a bit more to do before winter sets in. Plenty of leaves to rake, for sure. Still have four cords of firewood to source. Gonna try juniper this year.

There's a covering to be put under a part of our deck to keep rainwater and snowmelt off items I want to store there for the winter.

Each year I hope to make the yard prettier and prettier. It does so please Mrs Elliott.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Breaks My Heart

I placed an ad on the Bend branch of today for someone to help Mrs Elliott and me plant a buttload* of bulbs (my pot-metal knee and fused ankle don't make kneeling and doing ground-level work possible).

 I posted the ad eight hours ago. I've received nearly 30 call and a few emails. Here's an example of an email:

My name is (redacted) and I am interested in the garden help gig available. I am a 32 yr old father and husband with a strong work ethic and experienced in outdoor labor. I have open availability and transportation if the opportunity is still there. Thank you for reading and considering! I can be reached at (redacted).

Cripes. How's a girl to deal with such an onslaught of heart-tugging messages like that? Who do you hire?

* Buttload: technical term. noun; a great quantity. Not as much as an ass-load or a shit-load

Monday, October 24, 2011

Farm Fresh Eggs Hard to Find

My first taste of farm-fresh eggs came in spring when Mrs Elliott and I took a class in raising backyard chickens. The class was through C.O.C.C. and put on by the folks at Celebrate the Seasons on American Loop in S.E. Bend.

We decided that chickens required more care than we wanted to give, Mrs Elliott especially finding the idea of going out into the snow of winter every day to tend to them unappealing, so we had to take a pass on the idea. But we didn't take a pass on buying a dozen of their fresh eggs.

Jack found them revelatory. Such taste, such richness! It was like having your first cup of quality coffee from someone like Lone Pine or Thump after a lifetime of drinking Maxwell House.

And opening the carton was like opening a box of mixed chocolates: the eye is greeted with an assortment of eggs ranging in size from pretty darn small to quite large, and in various shades of green, browns and tans, and white. Uniform egg sizes and colors don't come from a random assortment of hens.

When eaten, my goodness. Jack vowed that supermarket eggs, with their uniformity and pallid, tasteless yolks, would no longer disgrace his breakfast plate.

So I continued to pop over to Celebrate the Seasons to buy eggs, a dozen at a time. It's an across-town drive for me, and they didn't always have eggs, and though I initially tried to call ahead to see if the trip would be worth it, they could not be counted on to answer the phone or return calls, so on a couple occasions, I returned empty-handed and had to subsist on supermarket eggs.

By happy chance I discovered that Devore's, the little hippy store on the west side, carried Great American Egg eggs and I tried a dozen and found them to be nearly as good as CTS's, but there was an availability problem there, too. Four times out of five there were no eggs to be had at Devores.

According to one of the fellows that worked there, Great American Egg diverted a lot of their eggs to their own booth at the farmer's markets and were selling the eggs for the same price as the store did, pocketing the difference between wholesale and retail price.

I twice attempted to buy my eggs from GAE's booth at the farmer's market, and they were sold out both times. Another vendor there also sold eggs, but they weren't as good.

Nature's Market in the Wagner Mall carries two brands of farm eggs, but they are spendier and also not as good, kind of straddling the world of factory eggs and farm eggs, age-, taste- and uniformity-wise. And they come in rattly clear plastic cartons. I rather preferred using the cardboard containers and returning them for possible re-use.

I struck out at Newport Market. They have a big selection of eggs, but all are the relatively-tasteless factory eggs. I guarantee that if you took an empty egg carton and filled it with one egg from each of the many brands they stock, you'd find they all tasted the same.

Ranging out to Whole Foods I found no fresh eggs. I buttonholed the egg guy to make sure I wasn't overlooking anything. "I won't lie to you," he said. "I grew up on a dairy farm and I know what you mean about fresh eggs being better than factory eggs, but we don't carry any."


So for this weekend, with a foodie houseguest, I wanted to have good eggs on hand for a Sunday omelette brunch. On Thursday I called CTS and was greeted by the answering machine. Without much hope of getting a response, I left a message anyway.

I was surprised the next day when Julie called me back on Friday. She said that egg production had been slow for a while due to the hens molting, but they had enough to set two dozen aside for me for pickup on Saturday.

But when we got there at midday, there was no Julie and there were no eggs. I was irritated.

That was my last straw with them. One expects a small operation to have an availability problem, but one shouldn't have to deal with being blown off.

There's gotta be a better way than dealing with flaky, undependable operations like that, and maybe this is as good as it's gonna get in Bend.

Or maybe not: Tom, the guy in charge of eggs at Newport Market, told me that the store was in negotiation with a poultry farm near Powell Butte to put farm-fresh eggs on the shelf.

Hurry up, Tom. You don't just sell crappy Yuban and MJB coffee, you also sell great coffee from local roasters; see what you can do in the egg department.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pear Flambé Redux: Jack Loses Hair, Eyebrows

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs Elliott and Jack hosted a dinner party for Bend's most beloved personality, H. Bruce Miller, and his lovely wife. For dessert, Jack attempted Pears Flambé and succeeded; i.e., he did not set fire to the kitchen.

This weekend, we had a house guest, long-time friend Michael Hill of  Sweeney Pond, in Alsea, Ore., and Jack wanted to reprise this spectacular dish, but not in the kitchen: for maximum ooh and aah factor, the dish would be prepared beside the dinner table.

I set up a portable butane stove, and used a brand-new 12-inch stainless skillet purpose-bought for this dish.

Over medium-high heat the pan heated, a little clarified butter added, the pears went in, followed by 1/3rd cup of spiced rum, then lit with a long-nose lighter.

There was a satisfactory fireball. Quite impressive.

Served with vanilla ice cream, a red wine and orange reduction sauce, a sprinkle of orange zest, and sprig of mint, it was a lovely dessert. As I sat to take my first taste, I wondered why the dish tasted like burnt hair.

I examined myself this morning. The damage isn't too bad: some loss of eyebrows and hair. Not a big deal. But next time I'll lean back more, and wear a hat.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Training to Seattle: The Road Home

Our sojourn back to Tacoma for our final night before returning the rented car and picking up the Coast Starlight took us across Puget Sound on a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Back in the old days, the '70s, when I was in that lounge band I mentioned previously, our Seattle-based agent's parents lived on Bainbridge. I've never been to the island and wanted to check it out.

Make him stop!
There was this guy playing Celtic harp on the ferry. He had his CDs on display for sale. I like Celtic music and their harp, but when he announced that the next tune he was going to play was one he wrote called "The Festival of the Orcas," I was, like, gag me. Seriously. I swear, only truly wimpy white guys would write songs with titles like "The Festival of the Orcas."

We knocked about Winslow, Bainbridge's main village. Not much there, there. Mainly a series of shops and restaurants bound together by a mutual disregard for any unifying architectural theme or style; a bunch of random but not particularly attractive buildings.

Though the shops obviously target tourists (the population of the island cannot support Winslow's candle and kitsch emporia alone), Bainbridge seems less a tourist attraction than a place where people live, which is fine. I've lived in a few tourist towns, like Santa Barbara, San Diego, and now Bend. Touristy towns put on an effort to appear charming or quirky, Winslow makes only little visible effort in that regard. It looks like the shops scrape enough dollars off the hides of passing tourists to satisfy the local economy without having to resort to tarting the place up.

Might be a pleasant-enough place to live. There are certainly many large, handsome houses along the waterfront, but Jack has a suspicion that the best he could afford on that island would be some little uninspired house well back from the water's edge, buried in the dark, dark forest.

We drove north, up the 305 (I'm from SoCal, we say "the 305"), crossed over the sound on Agate Pass Bridge, then south on highway 3, to the 16, across the Tacoma Narrow Bridge, and into Tacoma.

Before picking a hotel for our final night, we made a stop at the Harmon Pub to fetch a scarf that Mrs Elliott had left there three days before (I have written previously about her unique way of making room in her luggage for acquisitions: "She tends to lighten her suitcase as she travels. Not intentionally, but dependably. Hats, scarves, cell phone chargers are often left behind.")

On this trip she played it safe, bringing two jackets (one, a downhill ski jacket well-suited to take on Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the second a warm wool cape), and purchased a third jacket, also of sturdy and sensible wool, while in Seattle.

We settled at the Hotel Murano, in Tacoma's downtown. The hotel is quite nice and has an extensive collection of glass art. Since the dining room was too dark for reading; and Tacoma's downtown apparently shuts down at night (the streets are oddly quiet even in the day), we ended up back at the Harmon Pub, which is well-lit, not noisy, and has perfectly adequate food.

Returning the rental car and boarding the southbound Starlight Express was a stress-free experience (C.f. The Horrors Of Flying in a Post-9/11 World); and the trip back to Chemult was uneventful and perfectly comfortable.

I avoided the dining car's disconcerting texture-free chicken this time.

I brought along my Kindle with a few books on it. For those keeping track at home, the titles included Life, by Keith Richards; Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought)Into the Silence, by Wade Davis; and Role Models by John Waters. I didn't read them all, I'm not some kind of speed-reading fool, but did finish two.

Thank you for listening. There will be a pop quiz.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Training To Seattle: Jack Gets Man Pants -- really

After knocking about Seattle the rest of the day, we walked to the spa, Ummelina, where we had earlier booked our massages. A nice young woman led Mrs Elliott and me to the changing room.

"You will find bathrobes for both of you in your booths."

Holding open the curtain to my booth, she lowered her voice, "Jack, here are also pants for you."

They were knee-length, made of unbleached cotton, with a drawstring. Puzzled, I took off my clothes, donned the shorts and bathrobe and the young woman led us out of the room.

"Now would be a good time to visit the bathroom before getting your footbath and shower," she said while we trailed behind.

"Well," I said, "I don't need to use the bathroom now, but when you get my age you never know!"

She laughed. "You're so funny, Jack!"

We were made comfortable in nice chairs in a special rest and relaxation room where the foot guy tried to get us to select our aromatherapy scents -- but we resisted, finding the whole concept of picking out a special fragrance for our feet absurdly indulgent. He was invited to pick.

After washing our feet, foot guy left, hauling out the wash water. Of course, no sooner than he was gone I found that the splashing of the water had sweet-talked my bladder into declaring that it was time for a pee.

But we were alone in the room, so I had to wait. I started to get a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, the young woman showed up.

"I have to go to the bathroom," I told her.

She laughed. "You're so funny, Jack!"

And left. She must have thought I was kidding around. After a few more minutes, she returned.

"Um, when I said I needed to go to the bathroom, I meant it," I explained.

"Oh, sorry. Okay, follow me!"

She led me through a minor labyrinth of corridors and through doorways to the bathroom. "Okay, when you're done, just come on back to where your wife is waiting."

Since I didn't know I'd need to find my own way back, I hadn't been paying attention. I told her I'd need a guide to lead me back.

She laughed. "You're so funny, Jack!"

I was getting a bit tired of being so funny.

Once back in the sitting room, I leaned over to Mrs Elliott and asked her why I needed to wear pants.

"You're wearing pants?"

"Yeah -- I was given pants in the changing room to put on."

She had no idea.

The young woman returned again to introduce us to our massage therapists. Mine was named Rose.

As Rose led me down the hall to the massage room, I asked in a low voice, "Rose, why do I need to wear pants?"

"You're wearing pants?"

"Yeah -- I was given pants in the changing room to put on."

She paused, looking a bit puzzled. "Well...I guess that sometimes men are uncomfortable and want to make sure to cover up when they are getting their feet washed."

"What -- afraid their dangly bits might be visible?" I found the idea silly. Women know how to keep their ladyparts covered . . . are my fellow men mentally deficient or something?

Anyway, Rose said they were optional and I didn't need to wear them during the massage.

Which, by the way, was exceptional. I've received (and given) lots of massages, taken course with Mrs Elliott, and like getting massaged. Rose's style of slow, deep pressure was perfect. Ummelina + Rose = highly recommended.

Next: We ferry to Bainbridge Island to check it out, then return to Tacoma for our last night before boarding the morning Starlight Express back to Chemult. 

Training to Seattle: Jack gets Man Pants

For our last full day in Seattle, Mrs Elliott proposed that we get massages in evening, her treat, an idea I heartily embraced (Jack knows a thing or two about sponging). The Inn at the Marketplace's in-room massage service was pretty spendy so we left to the streets in search of the city's equivalent of the Source Weekly and found two promising rags, both free.

Over breakfast we perused the classifieds. Although both publications sported two full pages of four-color ads promoting attractive ladies in revealing attire who were said to be qualified to provide a a number of pleasant experiences, Mrs Elliott, for some reason, refused to consider giving any of these nice-looking ladies (or gents, the ads target a number of predilections and orientations) a call, and instead focused on other, less-interesting ads placed by massage therapists who didn't even post their pictures, in revealing attire or otherwise!

She told me to settle down. 

And she says I'm not fun. 

We called the numbers of the half dozen or so massage therapists who looked promising but no one called back. 

So we did the Google thing and found a spa on 4th street, just three blocks from the hotel, and booked an appointment for two 60-minute massages, later that day. 

This accomplished, we continued to wander about the downtown. Some pictures:
Mrs Elliott, ominously backlit
Rat Man

Rat Dogs
Couple a nitwits.
Yesterday's tomorrow, today!
That expression on Mrs Elliott's face? That's her dopey "Me like roadside attractions" face. Click here to see it again. 
We rode the monorail from downtown to the Space Needle. In the future, it seems, monorails go very very slowly. As do the elevators that bring one up to the observation deck. It was a pretty impressive view of the city, at any rate, even though we had a hazy day. On the way back, the driver let Mrs Elliott honk the train's horn. Beep beep!

This post is long enough already. I must defer Jack Gets Man Pants for the next episode.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Training to Seattle: The Touristy Things

Before we could go to Seattle there were a couple more clients to visit in the south sound. We drove back to Tacoma from Olympia to visit the  Glass Museum before Mrs Elliott met with the day's first client at Indochine restaurant. She reports that it is a fine restaurant. While they were lunching on exotic foods, I was parked at the Harmon pub for pub food and a glass (or two) of wine. Nice pub, perfectly cromulent.

Then a brief stop in Bellevue for the final businessy meeting.

Since we didn't have a place in Seattle to stay, I remained in the car while Mrs Elliott visited her final client and plugged the address of a highly-regarded hotel, the Inn at the Market, into the GPS, figuring that that would get us downtown so we could scope out the situation. Meanwhile, Mrs Elliott asked her client where he'd recommend staying near the waterfront and he replied, "Inn at the Market."

So we parked in front the Inn at the Market and found they had an off-season deal, and the hotel was ideally-located next to the Pike Place Market and other shops, and looked great, so we booked a room for two nights.

And yeah, we did touristy things: visited the market, shopped the shops. I told Mrs Elliott that because she was being good that she could try on hats if she wanted. But only try, not buy. She completely ignored me and bought herself a new hat.
Looks pretty cute, too. 

We had quite good food in Seattle. A little French cafe next to the hotel was perfect for breakfast, and Etta's Seafood restaurant on Pike Place was delicious. The ling cod was extraordinary.

Downtown Seattle has its fair share of fearsome homeless and cracked-out street people. But the city and cops seem to have made it very clear that civilians are not to be frightened or hassled. No one pan-handled. Yeah, there was one scary-looking guy standing on the street shouting curses and threats, but he was pretty clearly lost in a delusion.

Making tourists feel safe is important, especially in a city like Seattle which is a destination for Chinese and Japanese people. Travel in America is viewed with a certain amount of fear -- we have a high-crime culture and physical crimes like robbery and muggings are far more common here than in Taiwan, mainland China, Hong Kong, and certainly Japan and Singapore. And scary black people in  tattered clothes panhandling or approaching could make your usual small group of Japanese tourists feel very nervous. But I saw none of that.

I spent some time trying to determine what it is that makes tourists look different from locals. Here are some of my conclusions:

  • Locals are usually alone, tourists travel in couples or brought the whole damn family along. 
  • Tourists rubberneck while walking, looking up at signs, into shops, scanning faces and landmarks, locals watch the ground in front of their feet. 
  • Tourists stop at intersections to regroup and decide where to go next, locals know where they are going. 
  • Tourists dress as though they are on safari, employing fanny packs and fisherman's pocketed vests for their travel tackle. Locals pack a wallet in a pocket. 
Here, some friendly gal took a shot of us in the Market. 
Puttering around Pike Place Market

Next: The Space Needle! And, Jack wears man pants at spa.

Training to Seattle: Best Western Tacoma Dome Hotel -- uh, no thanks.

Today's Amtrak diner is a bit less well-dressed. 
Once you've ridden a train in a third-world (or second world, for that matter) country, you realize that Amtrak could be a lot worse. It's not until one has taken trains in Europe and Japan that one sees how the shabby Amtrak is.

But the Coast Starlight departed from Chemult on time, and Mrs Elliott and I grabbed a table in the observation car so we could watch the scenery as we cruised over the Cascades through some lovely countryside. We had a commentator in the car, a volunteer railfan guy who described the history of the railroad and the area we were passing through. He was exceptionally good at pointing out various geographic and railroad-y features . . . usually right after we passed them.

"On the left will be the longest covered bridge in . . . oh, we just passed it."

The mountains and even the farmland of the valley were pretty, showing early fall colors and that hazy light that I associate with autumn.

We ate meals in the dining car. Those who travel on Amtrak know that the food is so-so though expensive, and tables are shared. I  had your standard burger for lunch, Mrs E had chicken cacciatore, the special. Our two companions at table were Swiss, male, and reserved and expressionless in that way that Swiss men are. They hailed from Zurich, from the Schweizerdeutsch-(Swiss German) speaking part of Switzerland, a city famous worldwide for its banks, its lack of nightlife, and for being really boring.

I've been there, and seeing how this was playing out, I ordered a bottle of red wine for myself.

At dinnertime, I thought to give the baked chicken a try. It was oddly . . . textureless. It was shaped like baked chicken, smelled like baked chicken, looked like baked chicken and had bones like real chicken, but the meat gave no hint that it was originally muscles and sinews; it was instead, a featurelessly even density of meatlike substance wrapped around bones. I ate it, but with a puzzled expression on my face and a vague sense that this bird owed its origins more to the factory than the farm.

I do not recall who we shared a table with that night. Following on the heels of the unsmiling Swiss couple, they would have to have been pretty unremarkable to leave no trace in memory.

The train arrived in Tacoma around 8:30 in the evening, on time.

Mrs Elliott had three appointments in the south sound area over the next two days and so the plan was to get a room in Tacoma for the first night, rent a car in the morning, and visit her clients in Tacoma and Olympia before moving to Seattle, making hotel choices using reviews online. For convenience and price, we picked the Best Western Tacoma Dome for the first night, took a cab there, and found that the hotel was pretty terrible.

The first room we were given was unsuitable. It was noisy, being right next to the elevator, the Coke machine, and the ice machine. The toilet took five minutes to stop running after it was flushed, and the vent in the bathroom emitted a depressing moaning sound. The room felt creepy.

The fellow at the front desk was more irritated than helpful. "Here, try this room, it's the best I can give you." The second room was visually identical to the first, but it was somewhat quieter, being located well away from the noisy hallway machines.

Both rooms had old analog TVs with giant cathode ray picture tubes. It was just like a trip to 1995!

We unpacked then wandered out to do something (I forget what it was now), but when we returned, the cardkey no longer unlocked the door.

I went back to the front desk to get a new card. The same fellow was behind the counter and he didn't look too happy to see me.

"How's your evening going?" I asked while he was programming a new card.

He paused, then smiled sardonically. "I was hoping to study, but I'll never have a chance if I have to keep dealing with this kind of thing."

I could not tell whether "this kind of thing" referred to residents pestering him for new cards, or having to re-program new cards. We heard from someone else that their cards stopped working, too.

In the morning, Mrs Elliott gleefully occupied herself with writing a devastating review of the joint on before we checked out, rented our car, and drove to Olympia and Mrs Elliott met with her client at Evergreen College while I had tea in the student lounge until she finished up.

We drove around the town afterward to get a sense of the area.

Mrs Elliott likes to window shop a lot more than I. Though we have no intention of moving to the area, she wanted to explore the neighborhoods anyway. Downtown Olympia appeared shabby, rough, gritty; the young people were seedy and ratty-looking.

Lodging seemed to be your choice of one very Bates Motel-looking bed and breakfast (the Swantown Inn), a handful of your standard Comfort/Ramada/La Quinta Inns, the Governor Hotel (which receives high marks on places like Tripadvisor,com, but which looks rundown on the outside), and a few other places like a Phoenix sitting all by itself between downtown and the waterfront. We decided to stay at the Red Lion Olympia -- it was in a nice parklike setting with a view of Capitol Lake, but like many conference hotels, it's located nowhere near restaurants that might compete with the establishment's dining room; as a result, the kitchen will be mediocre but the prices high.

Before hotels cheaped out and brought karaoke machines into their lounges, I was in a band in the late '70s that played the PNW motel lounge circuit. We covered pop music hits and played in towns like Yakima, them tri-cities (Pasco, Kennewick, Richland), Corvallis, and others that I have well-forgotten. Five-piece group, guitar, drums, bass, keyboard and the requisite blond chick singer. "Legs Feeny" we were called.

I bring this up because nearly every tune that plays over the ceiling speakers in the Red Lion Olympia's dining room and bar was a tune that we played. Chicago's "Feeling Stronger Every Day," Aretha Franklin's "Until You Come Back To Me,"  lounge essentials like "Car Wash," "Play that Funky Music (White Boy)," your Bee Gees and Fleetwood Mac hits...heck, we had a set list with over 80 popular songs on it. Ballads, dance tunes, the usual pop stuff. We played most of them every night, four or five sets a night, six nights a week. I thought I'd forgotten them, but as late '70s tunes played, one after another, I realized that this hotel apparently had a canonical collection of the era's music, and wasn't afraid to play it. It was a puzzle.

The room was fine, though, large and in the corner so it had one more window than the usual room.

Next: Mrs Elliott finishes with her obligations and we drive to Seattle for touristing. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jack and Mrs Elliott take the Train to Seattle

Mrs Elliott had to visit a couple clients in the south Puget Sound area, so we decided to take the train to Tacoma, then rent a car, and putter about.

Amtrak's train #11, the Starlight Express, goes between Los Angeles and Seattle and is, along with their Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, and other named routes, a full-service train, with sleeping compartments, dining, observation, and cafe cars.

There is no passenger train service in Bend, the nearest station this side of the Cascades is in Chemult, and Amtrak provides Amtrak "Thruway" bus service for Bend travelers. We bought a couple tickets and were told that the bus would be at the Hawthorn St. travel center in Bend at 7:35 am.

So we got up early on a below-freezing Wednesday morning, showered, final-packed, called a cab, and were at the station by 7:15. After Mrs Elliott and I were settled inside the center -- nice facility! -- I wandered around inside, looking for some information about the Amtrak bus. Like, where it parks, its schedule, anything. Nothing anywhere indicated that an Amtrak bus existed. The words "Amtrak" or "train" don't appear on any of the literature or signage.

The fellow that sold the snacks and coffee said the bus is usually late, but didn't know anything else about it.

So we sat and waited.

7:30, I looked outside. Plenty of Bend Transit buses out front. Off to the left, on 4th, a sign indicated that intercity buses, such as HighDesert Point, Eastern Point, and the Central Oregon Breeze, all park there. No mention of Amtrak on the sign, and there was only an Eastern Point bus idling at the curb, with no "Amtrak" markings on it.

At 7:45, Mrs Elliott asked if anyone in the lobby knew anything about the Amtrak bus. "That bus left a few minutes ago," a fellow said. "It was parked over there," pointing to where the Eastern Point bus has been idling.

Amtrak never said that Eastern Point was the carrier, the bus was unmarked, and no one popped their head in to announce boarding for Amtrak.

We missed the bus. Mrs Elliott was fuming.

We called back our taxi (he'd been waiting around the transit center for trade) to take us back home, Mrs Elliott called Amtrak to unload on them, tried to get them to contact the bus driver and have her wait, which they said they had no way of doing, and got the times and locations of the bus's route down the Chemult.

We loaded our baggage into Mrs Elliott's car, and while she started to chase down the bus, I called the Sunriver lodge, the bus's next stop, where a very helpful fellow at the front desk contacted the bell captain who said that the bus had already gone by: it hadn't come to the lodge that morning because there was no one scheduled to be picked up or dropped off. He gave me the phone number of the driver, a bit of information Amtrak didn't have.

I called the driver and told her that we had missed the connection in Bend, and were on our way to her next schedule stop in La Pine, and told her that according to our GPS we'd be there before she was scheduled to leave, and asked that she not leave early.

With minutes to spare, we met the bus in the McDonald's parking lot. While Mrs Elliott was making arrangements at a nearby motel for us to leave the car until our return, I started to complain to the driver.

She was having none of it. Bristled. Paid to drive from Point A to Point B. Nothing about going into terminals to call for customers. It was the only bus there aside from the BAT buses, how could I have missed it? If I got a problem, contact her boss.

It was obvious I was dealing with one tough old bird, standing there smoking her cigarette, one eye squinted at me, her expression saying that she'd raised and beaten into submission two or three generations of little bus drivers and no pissant twerp like me was going to spoil her morning without sustaining serious injuries.

Knowing a brier patch when I see one, I changed the tone of the conversation. Made a few knock-knock jokes, did a little soft-shoe routine, praised her for her intelligence and good looks. She stared at me suspiciously, uncertain how to react to my sucking up. But after a few minutes she softened and started to grunt responses to my expert observations about the bus, such as, "Say, I see this bus has six tires! I'll bet it takes some practice to drive something with six tires."

When Mrs Elliott returned from the motel, I drew her aside and warned her that the driver would brook no complaints about what happened.

So we made it to the Chemult Amtrak passenger platform before the train did. We made small-talk during the drive. Several points were agreed on: 1. The driver agreed that the bus should have something on it to indicate that it provided Amtrak Thruway service, and in fact, the bus that normally does that route has "Amtrak" printed on the sides, but it had been injured in a fender-bender so this bus, which has "Amtrak" on the rear only, was pressed into service; 2. It was agreed that it would be helpful if a sign were posted inside the travel center explaining where the bus parks and what it looks like; 3. This is something to bring up with the owner of Eastern Point; and finally, (4), That even tough old bus drivers have hearts: she didn't charge us for the ride.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vinturi Wine Aerator - Don't Waste Your Money

Once again, Jack throws himself on top of a grenade to save everyone else. 

My fellow blogger-in-Bend and man of letters H. Bruce Miller and Sharon, his beautiful and brilliant wife, came over this weekend for dinner at maison Elliott. I cooked rack of lamb, Mrs Elliott made mashed garlic cauliflower and appetizers.

And there was wine, plenty of wine.

Bruce brought over his swell new Vinturi wine aerator. If you're into wine, you may have seen this device which goes for anywhere between $25 to $40, depending on where you shop. They claim that it aerates wine while it's being poured, eliminating that horrible horrible tedious entirely old-fashioned decanting and waiting for the wine to breathe and open up.

When he first told me about it, I expressed my doubts about the claims and suggested we do a double-blind tasting session. Bruce agreed and offered to bring three bottles of the same wine. He selected a moderately-priced, moderately-tannic Zinfandel, which pairs well with lamb.

The experiment was set up so each person got three glasses of wine: one poured straight out of the bottle, one decanted traditionally, and one poured through the Vinturi. Each glass had a label (A, B, or C) on the bottom, which they could not see without lifting and looking at the underside of the glass. Bruce and I did the pouring, Mrs Elliott, who was not in the room, then mixed up the glasses and set them up for our panel of distinguished tasters.

At this point, no one knew what glass was what.

Uncle Jack says, "Don't bother!"
So we tasted, we discussed, and we tasted some more.

There was no difference between the wines.

Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of preparing dinner, it didn't occur to me that the decanted bottle should have been allowed to breathe for a half hour or so, in the traditional manner, but considering that the Vinturi is claimed to speed the breathing process, the wine poured through it should at least have tasted better than the wine that came straight out of the bottle.

But no one could taste it.

The Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator: Not recommended. 

Dessert was Pear Flambé in a red wine and orange reduction sauce. Jack nearly set fire to his eyebrows, but the end result was delicious. This, followed by cigars on the back porch. Until the cold drove us indoors to see what the ladies were chatting about.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another, Long-Lost Campin' Cookin with Uncle Jack Recipe

Uncle Jack
I thought that this one was long lost. Many years ago I posted my recipe for Campin' Pizza Margherita on my blogspot blog on Google. Google cancelled that service to start Blogger, but didn't provide any way to migrate posts from the old to the new site. 

Well, nothing on the Internet is forgotten. Which is a Good Thing because if you're campin' and have a hankerin' for some pizza, I provide here, for your delectation, a link to the recipe:

One thing: that was an early version. Later iterations used wild sourdough yeasts and cooking without the stone, directly over the fire. 

Uncle Jack's Campin' Barbecue Ribs

Uncle Jack
That's right kids, it's time to gather 'round and let your old friend Uncle Jack show you how he barbecues ribs on a portable charcoal grill. Move in close, kids.

Not that damn close, jeez.

Timmy, your nose is running and you're creeping me out.

Jeremy, get your hands out of your pockets. What are you playing with in there? Cripes.

Brie . . . Jeezus, Brie, who names their kid after a cheese? . . . bring me that bottle of wine, will you?

Now settle down and watch how Uncle Jack does ribs.

We're going to make a rub. Here, I use fajita seasoning, paprika, some crushed red chili pepper, Saigon cinnamon, dry mustard, salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and garlic salt. Have a sip of wine.

I put a half-rack of room-temperature ribs into a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and sprinkle both sides liberally with the rub. Then press the rub into the meat through the plastic. My fingers get dirty enough when camping, so I do what I can to minimize goop. 

(Not shown: The bone side of the ribs has a tough membrane that needs to be removed before the ribs are rubbed. Basically you insert something like the probe on a meat thermometer or similar pointy thing under the membrane between two ribs to start the peeling job, then complete the job by pulling the membrane off with your fingers. But it's slippery, so I grip the membrane with a paper towel when peeling. It's a sticky job and I didn't want to get the camera all gummed up so I took no photo. )

Drizzle about a tablespoon of honey on both sides of the meat before closing the bag. It's going to marinate for about a half hour while I get the grill started and make the mop. And now is a good time to have a sip of wine.

Using heavy-duty foil, make a drip pan to go under half of your $19 portable charcoal grill. Heap enough charcoal on the other side to fill it.

I used charcoal lighting fluid to start the file. I'd-a preferred to avoid petrochemicals when cooking, but I need to build or find a smaller chimney-style starter than the ones I see in the stores. They are just too bulky for my needs. Anyway, I used the the lid as a windscreen to let the fire get a good start. Once lit, a sip of wine is nice to have. 

While the coals get started and the meat marinates, I make the mop on the stovetop. In a mason jar I have salt, apple cider vinegar, and butter. A saucepan with an inch or so of water makes a nice bain-marie. ("Bain-marie" is a term from alchemy and it's pretty much a double boiler, but sounds fancier; Wikipedia has a nice writeup about this much-maligned process.)
After about 30 minutes and a few more sips of wine, the coals are going well. Spread them out and put on the grill, place the ribs over the drip pan, bone-side down, and stick in oven thermometer.  The ribs will be slow-cooked for somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours, and the temperature wants to be between 275 and 350. Cover the grill and have another sip of wine. 

Controlling temperature is no Swiss picnic when it's windy, I can tell you. Here, I have about a 3/4'' opening on the windward (left) side. Every five minutes, check the oven thermometer and adjust the size of the opening as needed to try to keep the temperature in the target range, and have some more wine. 

After 45 minutes and many sips of wine, baste both sides of the ribs with the mop. With the ribs still bone side down, re-cover, and keep cooking, checking temp as you go along. Re-mop every 15 minutes while making sure that the wine glass never goes empty. A second bottle of wine might need to be opened right about now. 
Somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours, (or one to one-half bottles of wine) depending on temperature, the ribs will be protruding about 1/4'' out of the meat, indicating that the meat is done.  

We're going to want some barbecue sauce at this time. 

Brush the sauce the ribs and sear them directly over the coals, about a minute per side. 

Bon Appétit! Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy some lip-smackin' ribs. 

One final note: the composition of the rub, the mop, and your barbecue sauce are up to you. I used the stuff I had on hand. 

So until next time, this is your old friend Uncle Jack, telling you to have fun trying this recipe, and to be careful with fire when camping in the woods.

Goddamn it, which one of you little bastards spilled my wine?!?

And Finally, This Season's Last Camping Trip

Before moving onto my next post, Uncle Jack's Campin' Ribs, I'd like to post a few pics from last weekend's Goodbye to 2011's Camping Camping Trip.

There's this spot south of Pine Mountain out near Millican that I like to camp at early in the season, like May or June. I wanted to see the place at the end of the season, and soak up the scenery.

I arrived on Thursday morning to find that my usual spot had already been snagged by someone who left a humongous fifth wheel trailer there to hold down the spot for the weekend. Big game hunting season (deer, elk) was opening on Saturday, so the population density was going to go up. Same for the flying projectile density, so I made sure to bring my undeer-like bright red and orange colors.

I backtracked to a spot I normally drive by. It was unoccupied and I set up. Some pictures:
First, here's what the place looked like in June. As always, clicking on the picture
will provide a larger version.

And in September. Much drier.
Sunny, crisp weather. Perfect for wandering about in shorts, no shirt. 

Typical skies.

Hunters beware! Old hippie warning! I often hang these colorful
flags where I camp, to add cheer and mark the spot.

The previous occupants left a lot of firewood behind. With the lengthening nights,
a fire provides a nice reason to stay out after dark. Although the fire restrictions had been
lifted a few days earlier, the area was a tinderbox, and the ground covered with dry
pine needles and flammable debris. I kept the requisite bucket, ax, and shovel on hand
as well as a 6-gallon container of water.

Quite independent from me, Jim had been planning a trip to the same area with
his buddies to play poker. Prior to setting up camp at a nearby site, they pay a visit
(having seen my flags) to say howdy.
Jim and friends Cameron and Joe. 

The weather in Central Oregon is changeable, to say the least, and Jim usually has the misfortune to miss the sunny days and bring with him overcast, colder days. This trip was no exception. I like the fickleness of the weather: it keeps me on my toes and I've gotten real good at changing the camp to suit the weather. Awnings, heaters, sunny areas, sheltered areas; attire ranging from warm fleece and windbreaker to birthday suit.

Next up: Uncle Jack's Campin' Ribs recipe.

Here's Uncle Jack:
Would you cook anything this
man recommends?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Overnight Backpack Trip to Lancelot Lake

Okay, so the weekend right after my Big Fat Trip to Wickiup Reservoir in the middle of September, my son, Jim, and I backpacked to Lancelot Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness. This was the first time we did any backpacking together since 2003, when he, Mrs Elliott's son, Brian, and I did a weeklong backpack in the High Sierras.

I did a solo overnight trip to Lancelot Lake at the beginning of September and had such a good time, found the place every bit as pretty as places I've hiked in the Sierra Nevadas, that I wanted to show Jim.

During the days leading up to our hike date, I watched the weather forecasts pretty closely, not wanting to get stuck in a winter storm. The forecast called for an unusually warm day, possibility of thundershowers in the evening, then a cold front and rain on Sunday. The best guess was that the rain would start falling in the afternoon.

On Saturday, the forecast was the same, I didn't see any alerts or warnings -- even though things can get real ugly real fast in the mountains -- so we decided to go for it. We adapted to the conditions by adding our little lightweight one-man shelters, a spare tarp, and rain gear to our packs.
Half a foot taller than me, and all the
energy of youth. 

It's an easy walk of about four miles or so, passing through some very pretty country. In 2003, Jim was still an adolescent of 15 years, and had not yet gotten his muscles. I was able to outwalk him. My how the tables have turned. He can outwalk his old man easily now.

Due to various reasons, we didn't get to the trailhead until about noon. The weather was sunny when we started hiking, but when we reached camp on a pretty knoll above the lake, the cumulonimbus clouds started building, and the mutter of thunder could be heard in the distance.

We no sooner got the tarp rigged above the kitchen area when rain started to spatter the surface of the lake and us.

It rained off and on throughout the evening. I brought all my fishing tackle, but my attention was focused on making sure that we stayed dry and warm.

I am a very conscientious packer. To make sure that I don't forget to bring some necessity, I make checklists, I lay everything out ahead of time, I consider alternate clothing and gear ... I just don't want to be caught out without something important like food, or shelter or a stove or something.

But I totally overlooked two important things: First, a small nylon bag in which I carry useful items like my little amateur radio walkie-talkie for emergency use, eyedrops, medications, 100' of light rope, and water treatment chemicals; second, I forgot my insulated jacket. All I had for warmth was a rain jacket, essentially a Gore-Tex windbreaker.

Camp site above Lancelot Lake. 
So Jim loaned me his Primaloft vest, and since he'd brought a light sweater, he used my rain jacket as a windbreaker. We both had collapsible umbrellas for real showers, a good Primus canister stove, and plenty of (untreated but safe) lake water to make hot tea and soup.

It was a bit harder rigging the tarp over the kitchen without the extra rope. We had to get real clever and use fallen branches and spare tent stakes to lift the corners. But it all worked and we had a nice log to sit on and watch the scenery while eating our dinner and making fart jokes.

We both slept warm and dry, but the cold front moved in earlier than expected and we had to make breakfast and pack up in gusty winds and cold fall rain.

Having grown up in SoCal, this was Jim's first backpack where rain was a factor. But I learned him good when I taught him to backpack -- something he does frequently when he visits his friends in the Old Country -- and I passed on some of my old man wisdom about preparing for, and staying warm and safe in the rain. A fellow can become hypothermic in even cool temperatures if he's wet, wearing something stupid like cotton, and there is a breeze.

I've done more backpacking in the rain than I care to consider. One thing about the backcountry behind Santa Barbara, where I grew up, is that the window between the torrential spring storms and the oven of summer is very small. Preferring cool over hot, I usually planned my trips earlier, rather than later, in the year, so I have been caught out in three, four, and five day solo backpack trips in the San Rafael Wilderness and other places where it literally rained the whole time.

Anyway, the hike back down to the trailhead was uneventful except for when I stumbled on some damn rock or root or something and fell down, face forward. Smack. Like a cartoon. Oof, grumble grumble.

I thought that all I hurt was my pride, but a couple days later it was clear that I had broken a rib. I've broken ribs before, twice, (bike accident and bar fight, respectively) so I know what a broken rib feels like. Blowing your nose, sneezing, coughing -- those really hurt.

(I didn't tell Mrs Elliott about the rib. No sense in worrying her. Besides, there's not a damn thing you can do about a broken rib except take aspirin and wait for it to heal.)

On the drive back to Bend, Jim allowed that he'd like to go on another trip next season. Me, I might do two or three hikes. Easy overnighters.

This trip was suggested by Bob Woodward's wife, Ilene, who does hiking hereabouts. If anyone knows of other easy hikes to pretty places to camp overnight, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Camping on the Shore of Wickiup Reservoir, Pt. 10

View from my campsite, the day before I depart.
Just a reminder. So far on my trip I have sighted sheriffs, fire crew, and state troopers. But so far, no one with the Deschutes National Forest, the folk that have direct jurisdiction over the area.

On my second day (or was it the third?) I had been asked to move from Camp 1, which was below the high water mark of the reservoir, to a second location, higher up.

So thar I was, minding my own business when a forestry service office appeared.

"Are you aware of the travel restrictions," she asked.

I said I was, that I had no fires and was above the high water mark. I thought I was bulletproof.

Well, I wasn't.

The fire crew-woman who moved me from that lovely below-high-water site a few days ago only gave me part of the information about the travel restrictions. Turns out that I have no business camping where I was, either, as it is not on an established road. She handed me a flyer with the details on it, and told me that I would have to leave. Now.

I dickered a bit, she allowed that she'd give me until sundown. No ticket at this time. But if she will come by tomorrow, early, she says, and if she finds me, then, well . . . the choice is mine.

So. I am an early riser. I think I will take my chances, and get everything ready to go so that all I have to do is drop the poptop and drive. I'll catch breakfast in town. My guess is that she doesn't even clock in until 8 am and I'd be long gone by then.

I proceeded to start packing for an early departure, when a couple of sheriffs came by. They paused to ask how I was doing and I explained that I was packing up to leave on account of the forestry service.

"Are you aware of the travel restrictions?" I asked the driver.

He looked puzzled They knew about the travel restrictions but didn't know I could not camp here.

I asked the office if he wanted to see the flyer and he said, yeah, and followed me around to the side of the van where I gave him the document that the FS official gave me. His partner joined quickly, what with the two of us being out of sight and all.

After reading the bulletin, he said he didn't see where I could not camp here. We looked it over and decided that the relevant sentence was that travel was restricted only to paved, gravel, or cinder roads bearing USFS 2, 3, or 4-digit numbers, and that this shoreline road is a dirt "use road," not a USFS road.

"Aw," he said. "That's splitting hairs."

I agreed that he might be right but that I was in no position to argue, and pointed at the declaration on the bulletin that said that a ticket could be as expensive as $5,000.

"Now if it was you camping here," I said, "you might be able to argue the point with her."

He said that was probably true. He said if he came across her he'd chat about it, and promised to come back if she agreed that she was being a bit officious.

They drove off, I continued to pack. About 30 minutes later, the sheriffs returned and said that they had been wondering about my situation and called the USFS office and spoke to a law enforcement officer. the driver pulled out a pad and started to write in it. Are they giving me a ticket? He tore out a piece of paper and on it was the name of the LEO they had spoken to.

This fellow, it seems, sided with the sheriffs on the matter, and told them that the matter came down to the interpretation of "gravel/cinder" roads vis a vis this dirt road.

Interestingly enough, the LEO asked if I was the guy in the yellow VW van who has been here for a week and was asked to move earlier on and did.

So I'm famous.

The sheriff said that if the USFS gal came by again to tell her that the LEO requested that she call him.

Not quite the same as the famous (and imaginary) "Letters of Transit" in Casablanca, but close enough!

I proceeded to open a bottle of Rortteus "Rattlesnake Red," but needed to avoid getting drunk, in case the FS gal comes by, but I decided I'd not lose any sleep over her..

Well before the sun set, the solar panels and all the gear were packed in the trailer, it was closed, and the  kayak tied on top.

Most things have been stowed for departure, dirty linens in the "launder me" bag, dirty cookware in the dishwasher tote, rugs have been addressed with the carpet beater and rolled up, floor swept, stovetop and cabinets wiped clean.

I was surprised by the sheer number of lawmen up there, having camped here a couple - three times before, and not seen a single badge.

I attributed their presence to the extreme fire hazard. The ranger told me that she doesn't usually patrol this area, is usually fighting fires. When I mentioned that to the sheriff, he pointed out that there was a fire on Mount Hood -- the implication being that she might be of better use there.

View from my campsite, the last sunset.
One does not want to get caught up in a dispute between two different law enforcement agencies. But I found his comment amusing. 

I was up early the next day and had an incident-free trip back to Bend.

Camping on the Shore of Wickiup Reservoir, Pt. 9

My camping trip continues, but tomorrow would be the day I have to go back to Bend -- Redmond, actually, to pick up Mrs Elliott at the airport.

I decided that after my abject failure at getting even one salmon to strike my hookless fly, the day nevertheless held promise as a good one for projects, not too hot, not too cold.

Cleaned out the camping gear tote boxes and re-organized them into "basic" camping gear and "extended trip" gear. I guess was doing this with an eye on next season, this one feels like it is drawing to a close, although that might just be this cold front and the high, thin clouds stealing some of the sun's heat, all putting me in mind of Autumn. It felt fall-like. But we can have some lovely Indian summer days, too, so I mustn't be too hasty to pack things away!

I also worked on a couple items in my "recovery" kit -- the chains and slings and hooks and other bits I bring when I think there is a chance the van could get stuck in mud or sand.

For sand, one of the best things a fellow with a two-wheel skinny-tire vehicle can do to improve traction is to air down the tires. 16 psi makes for some very squishy tires that are less-likely to get stuck.

So I have these new automatic tire deflators, little dinguses that you screw onto the tires' valves and which let air out of the tires until they reach the desired pressure. They are adjustable and I needed to set them so they shut off at 16 psi.

A tire pressure gauge and an allen wrench are all that's needed. Oh, and a tire to deflate, then re-inflate as needed until all four deflators are dialed in. But that takes a long time with a passenger car tire, so I brought along one of the little tires from my bicycle trailer.

I also brought an air compressor for re-inflating the tire after each adjustment. This becomes part of my rough road gear, and it was something I hadn't yet opened up and tested to make sure it works -- don't want the first time it's used to be somewhere where I'm stuck and then to discover that the thing doesn't work.

Well, it worked, although it makes that fearsome BRRRRRRR sound that compressors make, sounding even louder here in the silence of the lake.

I noticed how dirty the van was, and broke out the 409 and the carpet beater.

By midafternoon it had become a gray day with weak sunlight. I spent my time indoors, mostly, going out only to use the facilities, tidy up camp, and other trivial chores. Quiet, peaceful, only the sound of the wind and the cries of the shorebirds. Have you read "Into the Wild"? This puts me in mind of Alaska. Or northern Canada a la "Never Cry Wolf." Thankfully, there are no mosquitoes here that rival the sparrow-sized ones found farther north. Dry climes do not breed mozzies.

The copse of trees in which I sited the my commode has been used by others for years as the toilet area. It's littered with scraps of toilet paper, a urine-filled bottle, and other disagreeable rubbish. Here we find the reason why they don't want people camping below the high water mark -- people downstream boat, swim, fish, and raft in this water.

As with amateur radio licenses, I think that people should be required to pass a test to prove their competence and sense of responsibility before being allowed to camp in certain sensitive areas. Those who show they understand and can be counted on to take care of the area would have access to sites like where I was a few days ago. The lazy, the irresponsible, the ignorant, mouthbreathers, rednecks, knuckledraggers and morons need to be penned up in Kampgrounds of America where they can play with their chainsaws and turn their campfires into garbage fires.

Camping on the Shore of Wickiup Reservoir, Pt. 8

The day of reckoning. So okay, there was good news and there was bad news.

I got up at 6:30, temp in van 41 degrees, calm -- no wind, mostly clear skies. Checked the NWS online forecast and saw that today will (might) be windy, like 15 to 18 mph all day. At least in La Pine, which is the closest location they got to where I am.

If I was going to go fishing upriver, I needed to jump on it, to skip breakfast until I got back.

Rigged my pole with a hookless bug-like fly, installed the Mk. II version of my makeshift killig (big rock tied to a line off the stern of the kayak, with means to lift and lower it inside cockpit), put my iPhone into a dry bag, donned my rugged outdoorsy kayakin' attire, and paddled upriver.

The new anchor did not drag in the water like yesterday's Mk I version, so I made good time.

Dropped anchor in a likely spot near the outfall of the springs above the Sheep Bridge cable crossing where there were plenty of kokanee salmon at the bottom and striking at bugs on the surface. Stowed the paddle, unfurled the pole, and proceeded to try the bug. Nothing. Then a wet fly. Nothing. Then a couple of dry flies. Nothing. Yet the darn salmon were noshing on low-flying bugs. A couple of the bugs landed on me, so I saw they were little black critters, but I had no fly that matched.

Had to pee, lifted anchor, beached boat, relieved myself, kayaked further upstream and let myself drift while tossing the bait hither an yon, but no takers.

Maybe the wrong fly, maybe the float, maybe both of those + my amateur angling. I must learn more about how to use a spinning rig with flies.

I'm tellin' ya, the stupid fish were striking bugs just feet within my kayak.

Returned, changed out of wet clothes, had a cup of tea. Breakfast was eggs, fried sweet potato with onion, cheese and Spam.

Hey -- they can't all be classy meals!

Camping on the Shore of Wickiup Reservoir, Pt. 7

Since the fire crew that moved me two days ago had already noticed that I had a charcoal grill set up at a time when all fires, including charcoal ones, were prohibited, I was left with a culinary puzzle: how to cook these pork ribs? My plan had been to slow-cook them for a couple hours in a covered half-filled grill, but  stealth barbecuing is pretty much impossible, and I didn't need a ticket.

My friend Michael Hill and I exchanged many emails about this. The man is a cook. His partner is a cook. If there's anything those two guys don't know how to cook, I'm not aware of it. The dishes they make are spectacular. Michael suggested boiling the ribs in my saucepan for an hour to cook them, then sear them in the skillet.

Which I did, and it was tasty. Made a right nice dinner. Still and all, it wasn't the same a grilling them. But we do what we have to do.

The following morning I took my makeshift kayak anchor out for a test drive. It was a partial success.

Yeah, when lowered it held me in the current so I could-a tossed a line into the river to tempt fishies with, but it could not be raised enough to get it out of the water when paddling, so it caused a lot of drag. The line goes from the cockpit back through a carabiner at the stern. The anchor was a sack filled with rocks, and it hung down too far. The boat wanted to veer to the right because the dangle was on the starboard side, and when working up a current I moved at a snail's pace.

So after testing it, I beached the kayak and took down the rigging for the return trip, which went much faster and more easily.

While I was staring at the fish, another sheriff's boat bearing two sheriffs came upstream. Kokanee salmon, according to the constables. And brown trout. The salmon are spawning, I saw several of their corpses on the bottom of the lake.

The sheriffs beached their vessel and hung about onshore for a bit. One lit up a cigar. We all agreed the place was beautiful. We watched a bald eagle atop a dead snag.  As I started downstream, one of the sheriffs apologized in advance for the noise his motor was going to make when they did their return journey. It really wasn't an obnoxiously-loud engine, but it was nice of him to acknowledge how the sound of the engine disturbed the serenity of the place.

So back to camp and back to anchor R&D.

I tossed the dangly bag of rocks in favor of a single stone. A single stone has not the dangleage of a bag of rocks. I lashed the rope to the stone using a kellick -- or kellig -- hitch -- a "kellick" being a rock used in lieu of an anchor in places where an anchor might foul. See this excerpt from the excellent Ashley Book of Knots.

Equipped with fishing pole and new improved Mark II version of drag anchor, I planned to set out on the next day to see about messing with fish.

No breeze, but overcast and cool. The lake is like a mirror.

Finally positively identified a large black one: double-crested cormorant. The beak isn't exactly like the photo, but everything else matches. So I'm sticking to my claim.

No sandhill cranes, no one here admits to having a red beanie.

Great blue herons; killdeer, yeah; blackbirds; and Cassin's finches. Also spotted: three sheriffs, two fire fighters, one Oregon State Trooper.

Camping on the Shore of Wickiup Reservoir, Pt. 6

I slept much better the next night. The two comforters kept me snug in bed, and the new propane heater warmed up the cabin quickly. 

I took a kayak cruise upstream, above Sheep Bridge (an old cable crossing over the Deschutes river where it empties into the reservoir) and prowled along the north bank, where massive springs empty into the river. In the deep, clear turquoise spring water I saw some massive salmonoids prowling along the bottom. I don't know my trouts and suchlike. All I could determine was that they had cinnamon-colored bodies, and maybe some blue markings, too. 

They were rising, too, and snapping low-flying bugs out of the air. I decided that it would be fun to try my hand coaxing one or two to rise to a dry fly, but didn't know if I could do it legally. I wanted to learn how to set up my little spinning rig to toss dry and wet flies. And I'd need a way to anchor the kayak out in the middle of the stream so I could put down the paddle for a while. 

So when I got back to camp, I emailed Bruce to see if he could find the ODFW's definition of "fishing" and see whether hookless flies are permitted. Is tossing a line with just a float on it fishing? How about a totally hookless fly? After all, I really would not know what to do with a trout if I caught one, anyway.

 I need to learn to clean and cook trout. That's for next year.

Bruce got back in a few minutes. He wrote,
"The ODFW definition of angling is 'to take or attempt to take fish for
personal use by hook and line'; therefore a person using a rod and reel
with a baited hookless line would not fall under the definition of angling."
-- ODF memo, July 12, 2006.  
"Bottom line: If there's no hook you ain't angling."
After all, the verb "to angle" comes from the sharp bends in early fishermen's hooks. 

With that cleared, I needed to invent an anchor. I know nothing of anchors. I studied articles online for tips on making a kayak anchor and rigged the kayak with a DIY drag anchor: a nylon stuffsack with about 5 lb of rocks in it, with a couple carabiners for the line to pass through. With such a thing, I thought, I should be able to park myself in a likely location. And I'd bring a knife if the line gets fouled. 

The day finished pretty, with blue blue skies, enough clouds to make it interesting, and a brisk breeze. Too brisk for kayaking, so I wandered along the shoreline a piece. There are other campers, oddly buried in the woods, in the dark shadow of the trees. Why anyone would camp where there is no view or sunlight baffles me. 

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