Archive for September, 2009

Bagby, Baby!

Posted on September 30, 2009 by 11 Comments

With a couple hundred arbitrary miles left on the van before the check up, we headed inland to Bagby Hot Springs. This place was described by some Portland locals as a ‘must see’ and ‘magical,’ and by others as a place ‘full of dirty hippies’. Depending on your perspective, it was all of the above.

Bagby is about 40 miles from the nearest semblance of civilization and it’s another 1.5 mile wooded hike from there.  It’s a beautiful drive – you follow the Clackamas River East from Portland on Forest Service roads.

Anyway, we made it out to the springs around twilight (take a flashlight for the hike back!) and enjoyed what we found.  We haven’t seen anything quite like it.

The place was created some time in the early 1900’s and consists of the natural hot springs bubbling out of the ground and into hollowed out cedar logs and tree branches that duct the water to a series of wooden tubs.  The tubs are, of course, hollowed out tree trunks.  Pick a tub, plug the bung hole, and open the wooden chute until your tub is full of hot spring water (136 degrees!)  Add a bucket of cool spring water from a well to set the desired temperature.  Soak, relax, repeat.

Bode has turned into a hot-tubber, so he had a great time.

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We met some interesting folks too – the smokey hippies, the annihilated good ‘ole boy drinking whiskey from a Pepsi can (yeah, it’s obvious), the Russians, etc.  Everyone was friendly and enjoyed themselves.

Bode suggested that instead of hiking out here, there should be a roller coaster.  Everyone agreed that a roller coaster ride through the forest out to the springs would be far out, man.

We were given random advice on investing in gold and were told about when the Hell’s Angels took over the place.  Apparently, it can get pretty crowded and rowdy on the weekends too.  Even though we were here on a weekday, it would only take a few more people with a few more vices and things could get out of hand quickly.

After camping at the springs for a night and having huge spiders drop out of the trees on us, we’re now on our way to get the final engine check up. I expect we may actually leave Oregon today. We couldn’t have broken down in a better town, or met nicer people.

By the way, Angela found the Lonely Planet forum Long-Term Family Travel and Sabbatical. The moderator, Sarah Smith blogs about roadschooling her 2 kids while they travel the world for a year. We can’t imagine having to add the responsibility of formally educating Bode (at least not at this point in the journey) and find her story really inspirational.

She held a Q&A with Angela and you can read it here.

I think she said it best:

Long-term family travel is ripe for self-doubt. We rented out our home, pulled the kids out of school, dug deep into savings, reduced our stuff to what we can carry, jeopardized professional relationships, drove away from our neighborhood, and promptly stopped hearing from more than half of our friends.

Are we doing the right thing? And what exactly are we doing, anyway?

–Sarah Smith at

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Filed Under: Oregon

Hangin’ with Jim

Posted on September 29, 2009 by 6 Comments

At the start of the engine problems, Jim had answered Jason’s email to some of Portland area AIRS members…a group of VW folks that will come help anyone with in an air-cooled VW. How awesome is that? Anyway, Jim had answered and offered assistance. One area we needed help with was a diversion from car problems, so one evening during our engine-swap debacle he picked us up at the TriMet station downtown and took us out for dinner and drinks and a friendship was born.

Today, we met Jim around Tillamook for a cruise down the coast.  Not much here but dairy farms and cheesy tours, so we met at an undisclosed location out of town.   Jim was in the lead, and took us around to some of his favorite spots and some of the best off-the-beaten path places. A slow drive down the coast and getting farther away from Portland was just what we needed.

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Along the way, we pulled over for a break and discovered a possible new Oregon rule.  Two VW’s will attract a third. A cool couple and their dog had driven from Denver for a few weeks R&R.  Nice folks – maybe we’ll see them in Colorado.  Pretty much every person we meet in a VW bus is our kind of people.

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Down the coast, we camped on a small island with a great view, lots of white herons and a couple other VW vans.  70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  More interesting folk.  We met yet another cool couple, from Canada via Berlin, who were out for a few weeks drive down the coast with a three year-old and 4-month old.  Bode and the girl ran around all morning and the grown-ups toured all the VW vans and exchanged contact info.  We now have people to visit in B.C.  Things just keep getting better.

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After a lazy morning and afternoon on the coast, we made our way back to Portland.

With no other major plans and an offer to camp in another backyard, the choice was obvious.  Jim’s in landscaping, and his home and yard were absolutely beautiful. 2.5 acres of gardens and hills for Bode to roll down. The 4 cats gave us a temporary reprieve from Bode’s requests to go back to Moe’s and drive the streets of Paris. Plus, we have a photo of Bode and a cat on a leash.

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Filed Under: Oregon

The Dude Abides

Posted on September 28, 2009 by 3 Comments

Beach time!

Christin needed to get one of her fire pots to her friend in Seaside and we were all over the mission. The weather was stellar, so we were off. When we arrived at Moe’s we were greeted by a wide open door and the sign below. Nice.

Moe is the quintessential surfer dude.  He came riding in on a rusty old Schwinn cruiser with a tall boy in the drink holder. He’d surfed two sessions that day already. The dude abides.

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Within an hour he had gathered a group of friends and we walked, guitar and blankets in hand, to the beach for a bonfire. He said that he loved to ‘make home’ and that we should go down to the water and enjoy the sunset. Um, no problem, Moe.

He did his best to convince us that the weather was normal, and if I didn’t know any better I think I’d be staying at Moe’s forever. Clear and warm Oregon coastal evenings?

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Downtown Seaside is a bit touristy – Oregon’s Santa Cruz, but out at Moe’s it’s a little different. A bonfire, warm sand, friends, hot dogs (did I mention I LOVE hot dogs), sunset…  you just can’t take too many photos at Magic Hour.

A forty year-old beach bum and a four year-old kid have a lot in common.   Playing is the one and only priority.  Bode has a new hero and who’s to say he’s wrong.  Moe might be our new hero.

Oh, and Bode’s #1 favorite thing about Moe – he had an XBox. I’m not sure what game it was, but Bode got to drive a garbage truck through the streets of Paris.  He’s asked every day since to go back to Moe’s. According to him,  the beach and bonfire were okay but he wants to play his video game and drive around Paris.

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Filed Under: Oregon

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s the Alternator

Posted on September 26, 2009 by 2 Comments

As we’ve mentioned, Christin and Amanda were amazing hosts to us for nearly a week. While waiting on our engine, Jason helped Christin with one of her many projects: creating an apocalyptic vehicle for Lady Wasteland, a Mad Max style movie to be made soon in Portland. How cool.

I tried to keep Bode occupied, but there was a workshop full of  stuff for him to explore.  We never made it to the zoo, as the OMSI was Bode’s preferred destination. We were members at the Exploratorium, and Bode loved going. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is much better suited for a 4 year old. Still hands on, but with bottle rockets, a green screen for recording a weather forecast, and a room full of balls and tubes that shoot Mom. Great stuff for both of us.

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We made it out of Amanda and Christin’s backyard last Saturday afternoon and had the new engine checked out at the new shop. Boy, was it good to be in a running van. The girls had convinced Jason to upgrade to dual carbs, and as Amanda put it “Your bus goes from 5 hippie power, to 30 hippie power”. And it did!

We headed straight to the Alberta Street Fair. Very fun but the best part was seeing Christin’s art gallery. Check out her cool stuff here:

But, just barely out of Portland the tachometer stopped working, then the lights. Luckily, it wasn’t dark (yet) and we coasted to a motel in Beaverton. So we actually made it from Gresham to Beaverton. 10-15 miles?

The motel we stayed at was an interesting place. I believe it is circa 1960, complete with full on smoke smell and casino carpeting. Our non-smoking room was in the back building. If nothing else, it was a good chance to catch up on laundry and sleep somewhere other than someone’s backyard.

Bode starting getting a cold – damn you, conveniently located Chuck E Cheese!  So, it was also a good chance for some good ‘ole cartoon watching. Jason took advantage of our new friend Jim’s offer for help and they went off for a new alternator.  This was a part re-used from the old engine,  so we pretty much decided the old engine was a ticking time-bomb.

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Jim hung around to make sure we got it installed and gave us jump – bus to bus.  We made plans to meet up on the coast later, then headed out for the beach!


Filed Under: Oregon

All’s Well That Ends Well

Posted on September 25, 2009 by 24 Comments

Sorry for the long delay in updating the blog.  We’ve had lot’s of stuff happen and not much in the way of internet access over the past few days.  Anyway, this is the blog entry I did not want to write. The good news is that we are up and running and putting some miles on the new engine. The bad news is that I got taken by a con artist.

Here’s what happened…

After getting lot’s of recommendations for VW shops in the Portland area (thanks!), I called pretty much every one of them to see what they could do. Most folks could rebuild what I had, but weren’t sure when they could get started or when it would be ready. I did more research and ended up calling every other shop in the greater Portland area and found the same story – nobody has a rebuilt bus engine ready to go and pretty much none of them could start on mine right away – except one.

Enter Joseph “The Hawaiian.”  He sounded like he knew his VW’s and I took my long block down to his shop. There were two or three VW’s out front and a cherry ’56 oval window Beetle with a 2100cc performance motor inside the shop – his ride. We talked for a while and he seemed to be on the ball, seemed to know his stuff. Enough that I pulled out my motor and decided to have him rebuild it.  Ready in a couple of days.

Two days go by. Angela and Bode go to the OMSI – twice. I adjust my rear spring plates and splines – more greasy filth and more effort than I thought (but worth it.) Joseph calls – the engine is ready. We boogie on down to the shop to pick it up.

“Here ya go!” says Joseph.

“Umm.  That’s not my engine.”

“What do you mean?  That’s your engine.  It’s all ready to go!”

“So, first of all I know the serial number and that’s not it. Second, I drive a bus – that’s a bug motor. No mounting points.”

He proceeds to hem and haw. Well, your motor is at ‘the other shop.’ Later, it was “Actually, I don’t have it anymore. This one will work fine – just go buy an adapter plate.”   etc. etc. etc. I actually listen to him and consider taking the thing. I’ve haven’t got many options – I don’t have an engine – I’m from out of town – I’m perfect for scamming.

I tell him I’m going to the bank to get some cash, and take off to collect my thoughts and go visit a few other shops nearby and see what they have to say. The first shop says, ‘Yeah that Hawaiian guy. I know him. He comes in and buys stuff. I didn’t know he had a shop.’  I ask about the mounting plate and they say it’s a terrible idea and guaranteed to wreck my oil pump and leak oil quickly. I tell them what just happened and they suggested I go back with a baseball bat and demand my engine back and get the hell out of there. If that doesn’t do the trick, call the cops.

I’m not exactly the physically imposing type and threatening people isn’t really my style, so I didn’t head to the sporting goods store for a bat. I go to another shop.

This time I don’t have to do any explaining. About 10 seconds into the story, the shop owner says with a knowing smirk, “Yeah – the Hawaiian guy.  He’s a scam artist. He rips people off on Craigslist and The Samba. He spray paints engines and calls them rebuilt. He’s an idiot. I bet he talked a good game – didn’t he?”

I finish my story and they just grin. Heard it a few times already. People buy crap from Joseph and then come to them to get it fixed or start over. That 2100cc engine in his showpiece? They built it – not him. They suggest a gun instead of a baseball bat. They also tell me I can come into their shop and use all their stuff an they will teach me how to rebuild my engine – for free. Finally, back to the real awesome air-cooled VW folks.

I go back to Joseph’s shop and try to use reasoning and logic to no avail. While standing over the engine he’s trying to push off on me, it’s obvious that there are three case studs missing from this one. I imagine if I turned it over, there would be more missing. If you don’t know, these are what actually hold the whole thing together. There’s no way you should even attempt to start an engine without these. He says no biggie, just go buy some more and install them myself. Christin suggests there’s a workmanship issue here and he just goes off.  We’re the bad guys. I told Joseph I would be back the next day and I wanted my engine back – whatever he had – and he agreed.

So now I’m in a quandry – I know I’m never seeing my engine again. I go back to Christin’s place and call every shop again and see what they have and what they can do. Same story – if I’ve got an engine, they can rebuild it, otherwise go look for a brand new motor or buy another bus. Turns out, one of the most recommended (and most expensive) shops has a BRAND NEW (like, no serial number) engine in stock and ready to go. Brazilian magnesium case and all-German components. Basically screwed, I head down to go open my wallet and do what maybe I should have done all along.

I get a message from Joseph right before I walk in to buy the new engine – he wants $xxx for his time or I’ll never see my engine again. Nice touch, douchebag.

I buy the new long block. I buy new dual carbs. Time to start over. Christin stays up with me until 2 am to get the thing put together and installed.

The next morning, we drive down to the new shop and they check it out and give me some great instructions: don’t do anything. Put 500 miles on the engine and come right back here. That’s what we’re doing right now.

The jackass that scammed me out of my engine – he’s still got it. I walked away form the whole thing without picking up a baseball bat. He didn’t get my cash, but he got my engine. If you’re buying a rebuilt bus engine in Portland or thereabouts, it may be mine. I wouldn’t recommend it.

In the end, we got what we needed. A reliable brand new new engine from a respected local VW shop.  A wake-up call that not all “VW folks” are as amazing as the rest (it’s not all peace, love and hippie beads.)  Lots of new friends around Portland that we can call to hang out, dinner, a haircut, a beer, or whatever we need.  Not what we were expecting – but exactly what we expect from now on. Keep Portland Weird.


One monkey don’t stop the show.

-Willie Nelson

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Filed Under: Oregon

Cats on Leashes, and other Portland Stories

Posted on September 19, 2009 by 14 Comments

Things aren’t going as smoothly as hoped on the VW front, so we’ve asked Julie to write our post about Portland.


Hello! Julie here. The aforementioned, very good friend, who had the very good fortune, to visit the very traveling Rehm’s in sunny Portland. You should know that my general day-to-day goal is to get a good story so I can tell a good story … and you don’t always get what you want, but sometimes you do. And boy, did I.

The story ends (for me at least) in a van down by the river, but I should tell the whole story, from start to finish.

I haven’t seen my pals since July and I was missing them a bunch. When Angela called on Weds. 9/9 and mentioned they were near Portland and flexible on timing, I looked for a plane ticket. Four hundred and forty one dollars before fees and taxes – ouch. But it only took me 24 hours to remember my miles! Right on – 25,000 from SFO to Portland on 9/11. Packed my bag, boarded the plane and arrived Friday night at about 9pm, greeted by the smiles and hugs I’ve missed over the past 2 months. And my first ride in the van – who knew it had a name?! We sat around and drank lots of delicious boxed red wine, ate elk salami and caught up on all that we’ve missed recently. Happy.

I’ve never been to Portland and did practically zero research before the trip. I had only 2 things on my list of things to do: Saturday Market and visit the new, cool neighborhood called The Pearl District. Angela had one thing on her list: Voodoo Doughnuts. Needless to say that was our first stop. And success! Not only do they have many of the most delicious and inventive flavors ever, they have an entire menu worth of VEGAN doughnuts!! This allowed us all, even Bode, to enjoy the most delicious and not healthy breakfast together. Sucks when you have to hide good food from the kid who can’t eat it. And if you’ve never had a bacon maple bar – think about Violet’s gum that is a three-course dinner: tomato soup, roast beef and blueberry pie. Then forget the gum and think about a doughnut that is pancakes with syrup and a side of bacon. Is there anything better? And if you tell them it’s your birthday you get a sticker. Or 2 stickers.

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Saturday market was slightly unusual. Lots of wood, creepy clowns, a cute t-shirt with a slice of pizza on it, cats on leashes, tons of homeless people, a guy who would sculpt your face out of clay for $9 in 10 minutes and a great fountain which Bode loved a lot, ice cold water and all. Sadly he wasn’t wearing any undies, so the water absorbing, fleece shorts had to do. A little insight into the Rehms’ world – they have rules about underwear and pants. You can wear your underwear backwards, but not your pants. And undies – not required.

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A visit to The Pearl District, lunch and many local Portland beers later, our afternoon ends at the indoor pool at the hotel. Did I mention Bode is the best swimmer in the entire world? Oh wait, that was Bode who mentioned that. He can’t actually swim yet, but he has grand plans, none of which include swim lessons. Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s not the milkman’s kid.

Dinner at the very spooky pizza place that was a hotel at some point on the past. OK, I may have that completely wrong – but what I do know is that the scary stories we told Bode all day long about people getting Shanghaied at the pizza place did indeed scare him! Poor kid believes in ghosts.

After dinner, Jason insisted Angela and I go the party we had been invited to earlier in the day by some guys in a VW van. They just seem to find each other … So off to the WEND magazine party and the kegs of beer we saw being loaded into that van earlier. On the way over we spot a block party where an odd couple, he in all white/she in all black, was singing rap-ish, pop songs to recorded music. Lots of Portland hipster types – think 20 something guys in slim fitting, mid-thigh length, cut-off shorts (denim, khaki, corduroy.) Now I was taught by my boyfriend in the 90’s that guys weren’t allowed to wear jean shorts which pretty much confirms I’m old, not to mention the disgusting deterioration of my body. But that’s another story.

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From the block party to the WEND party. A free fund raiser, with free beer, adult bike races on kid-sized bikes (with live helmet-cams broadcast on a big screen), a guy in a chicken outfit and more guys in short shorts. These guys are different than Brooklyn hipsters – more athletic. Bike shoes. But still not good. One good reason to be old, I don’t have to date them. We made it home by 11pm. I think Jason was asleep and Bode was pulling a Scooby Doo all-nighter.

Sunday – the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Since we were pretty much done with Portland, or at least the 3 things on our very short list, we pile into the van and head out of town. It’s really beautiful. Trees, the river, waterfalls, breweries. Since the Rehms had been to the Full Sail brewery earlier that week, we tried the Big Horse Brew Pub and grabbed a table outside that kinda had view of the river and of the out of control wind and kite surfers – wind was cranking on Sunday. I had the mombo burrito (hint – a bit of foreshadowing of trouble later). Down to the river for a closer look at the action, but it’s getting late and I’ve got to get to the airport for a 7:30pm flight.

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At this point I’m not terribly concerned that the van goes SO SLOW and happy that Jason follows the “Slow Traffic Stays to the Right” rule. I’m a big a fan of this rule. I’m just soaking in the sights and sad that the weekend is coming to an end already. Then the VERY LOUD RATTLE you may have read about in an earlier post. Now, I’m a baker who until 2 weekends ago didn’t know how to pop my hood (it was REALLY hard to see that little handle), but can tell a bad car sound when I hear one and I heard one.

We pull over immediately onto the very narrow shoulder, Jason hops out and checks out the engine. Not good. Angela turns the key – RATTLE. Bad. Jason announces “It’s bad. Very bad. Julie, you’re going to miss your flight”. Now I’m thinking “WOO HOO!!! No work tomorrow!”. I hate working on Mondays. So Angela calls Geico for their awesome roadside service. Unfortunately, they unknowingly opted out of the awesome roadside service. But not to worry, money talks and the tow truck guy listened. And we listened to the tow truck guy tell us all about his one and only real vacation he had with his wife in their 13 years of marriage – they had a great time in the classy part of Cancun.

But before the ride with that guy back to Gresham, a very handsome, very tattooed guy in a VW van (apparently they are a dime a dozen) pulled over to help us. He hops out of his van, completely unaware of the fact that his tiny, extremely nervous Chihuahua also exited the vehicle and RAN RIGHT INTO THE FREEWAY. I had an instant heart attack and just covered my eyes. Thankfully there were no cars or BIG RIGS zooming by at that particular moment, but man, that little doggie’s life flashed before my eyes. But before the near death experience, we waited on the side of the road. It’s pretty scary actually. You can feel the cars passing – lots of whooshing – and you just hope some crazy drunk driver filled with Portland’s best doesn’t veer over into the shoulder, into the van, into the family and their pretty visitor. And it’s even scarier when you have to go to the bathroom. But not to worry, Bode shares another Rehm rule with me – you can go to the bathroom outside if you have to pee, but not if you have to poop. D’oh! Just when you think it couldn’t get worse. I really should not have ordered the mombo burrito. But someone was looking out for me and I made it Gresham without going poop outside or behind the makeshift potty Angela offered to rig up.

Oh boy, are the Rehms crazy? You can be the judge, but I never judge them. I love them but think what they are doing is really hard. But if there’s one thing that’s true in life, the grass is always greener. I thought they had a very lucky life in Alameda – a great home with a great yard in a very fun place to live, a beautiful, smart and mostly healthy child who loves to eat unhealthy food, good looking, funny friends – a great life. But as I mentioned, the grass is always greener. For me, for them. And lucky for them, they are doing what they want, and lucky for me, I get to ride along sometimes. That is, until the van breaks down by the river.

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Filed Under: Oregon

Starry Starry Night

Posted on September 17, 2009 by 4 Comments

Enough about our car troubles. I could use a day without VW talk. Here’s what we did last week after leaving Mt. Hood…

After relaxing and living the high-life for a few days, it was time to get back to reality and head out into the wild once again. We made our way up to one of the ski areas at Mt. Hood that has an alpine slide ½ mile long. We all wanted to do it (maybe me more than anyone), but we arrived to find out they had switched to ‘September hours’ and on a weekday we were out of luck. We were able to make Bode happy with the promise of candy, but I was really bummed. Someday.

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Down the other side of Mt. Hood we hit the back end of the Fruit Loop and got some freshly-picked produce before rolling into Hood River. Yet another nice little town and appealing lifestyle here. It’s supposedly affordable too. The two things to do around here seem to be windsurfing and making beer. We stopped in at the Full Sail brewery for a tour and tasting and were not disappointed. They’ve got a nice little place overlooking the river too. I never made the connection between Full Sail and windsurfing, but now I know. Apparently, the wind really gets ripping through here and all the local hot-shots have photos of themselves 20 feet in the air clinging to their board. I didn’t see a single photo of someone actually windsurfing in the water. Kind of comical when you see twenty in a row. One more tidbit – they’re working on a whiskey-flavored brew that is currently aging in the barrels. It will be ready in February and sold out shortly afterward. Mark your calendars.

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We started making our way east through The Dalles and pulled over for a roadside attraction near Marysville – Stonehenge! There you go, Sarah. Please leave your Spinal Tap quotes below. I loved it, but Jason has been to the real Stonehenge and said there is no comparison. I think they did get the scale correct, but its otherwise just a bunch of concrete.

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We received some great recommendations of things to do further east, but the timing just wasn’t going to work out for us. The Pendleton Roundup looks like a good time, but I’m starting to worry that we will eventually be chased out of the Great White North by snow drifts if we don’t get going soon.

So, we turned the bus around and headed back down the Washington side of the gorge and spent the night at a state park right on the river. Since we were right on the river, we got watch (and hear!) the frequent trains barreling down the Gorge all night. Not for everyone, but Bode loves trains. After having a pretty thorough conversation about meteors and falling stars a few hours earlier, we laid out on the grass in the dark and did some star-gazing. It only took about 30 seconds before we all saw a long and bright falling star that crossed a quarter of the sky and broke in two. Serendipity at it’s finest.

We all managed to find our own satellite to track across the sky, did our best to identify some planets, and realized we really need to get a star chart of some kind.

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We decided to just snack for dinner and broke out some cheese, crackers, and the elk sausage we bought a few days back. Not really knowing what we had, we dared each other to take the first bite and ultimately decided to all try it at the same time. It was sublime. Not gamey at all. Delicious. We ate and ate. For the record, Jason ate the skorkel.

I’m working on my Portland observations, and will post that soon.

And if anyone has recommendations for Washington, let us know. I’d love to have an actual route planned when we get moving again!

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