Saturday, June 24, 2017

Grants Pass, revisited.

My first text to Patrick when I arrived in Grants Pass for a recent work trip: "Man, I do not miss this area of the world..."

Grants Pass is just up the highway from our short-lived 2016 farm internship, the experience that kind of ruined Southern Oregon for us. We didn't spend much time in Grants Pass last year but we liked what it had to offer - cool food co-ops, decent venues for bands, a small but thriving farmer's market... stores other than Ray's and Dollar General. You know, all the important stuff.

That was still true last week when I visited. Unlike last year, this time I also saw meth addicts, independent-to-the-point-of-obnoxious-obstructionist characters, Trump fanatics... and occasional rays of hope.

the only place I saw one of these

For those reasons, it reminded me a lot of Coos Bay.

But Coos Bay doesn't have bears.

My second text to Patrick that afternoon included the picture below and the message, "I kinda forgot about (blocked out??) the GP bears."

Rockabilly Bear and Margie

He didn't seem to remember them either. It seemed odd that we would've not remembered such a quirky feature of the city.

I had a few hours between appointments Thursday afternoon so I paid a visit to the visitor's center, where a young woman sat behind the desk engrossed in her laptop. "Hi," I said. "I have a question. What's the deal with the bears?" She handed me a "Bear Fest 2017" map showing the locations of all 53 bears around town. "Okay, thanks, but what's the deal? Are they new?" Five cub statues were new, the rest were here last year. "Okay, thanks, but what's up with them? I spent some time here last spring and I don't remember bears." They bring them out on Memorial Day and they're displayed until Labor Day. "Ohhhh, okay thanks, that makes sense, we didn't visit after Memorial Day. But... why are they here?" She gave me a blank stare.

So I did my own research. The story goes that in 2003, either former mayor/senator Brady Adams or Evergreen Federal Bank (depending on whose interview you read) asked a local artist to produce 20 bear sculptures to stimulate tourism. Since then over 180 bear sculptures have been produced, half of which have been auctioned off to raise over $250K for local nonprofits, the rest of which are now part of the sponsor's permanent art collection. They're displayed around town during the summer and they "hibernate" at Evergreen's Bear Hotel for the winter. Visitors can tour the Bear Hotel for free (reservation required).

That afternoon I played tourist, map in hand, taking photos of every bear I encountered during my 30 minute walk. I didn't get to all 53 of them, obviously, but I managed to collect quite a few photos. Some, like "Carmen Bearanda," were a little offensive and others, like "Circus Performer" and "Circus Ringmaster," were in poor taste (in my opinion). Others, like "Root Bearly-A-Float" and "Beary Potter," were just silly.

Here are my five favorites, in no particular order... except for maybe the first and the last:

Captain "Rogue" and "Applegate" the Cub-a-Neer
(aye, matey!)

Makah Wanji - "One Earth"
(lots of bears with Native American symbolism)

Vincent Barbera Merlot
(not silly - **absolutely ridiculous**)

"Beary Serenade" Jazzy
(I didn't say the names weren't silly)

Chinook (I think that was the name of this one -
I just liked that there was an antelope on his butt)

Supporting local artists and supporting local nonprofits in this unique approach to promoting tourism - other coastal towns in Oregon could learn a lot from this approach, instead of just aiming for straight tourist dollars via pricey waterfront hotels, restaurants, and events. (Ahem, Coos Bay.)

Thanks for the fun walk down memory lane, Grants Pass! See you in August for the Decemberists show...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Cape Blanco, revisited.

Our first camping road trip in 2012 included a stop at Cape Blanco State Park. We loved it so much we ended up staying an extra night. Even with the massive winds famous in that the area, it was beautiful and well worth the time we spent.

So when various factors including the purchase of a new tent, Free Camping Day in Oregon state parks, Cape Blanco being just an hour from our Coos Bay housesit, Patrick's birthday, and a desperate need to get into the woods for a little while all collided a few weeks ago, we headed back for another visit.

Let the record show that Patrick, who often cannot remember conversations we had 30 minutes ago, recognized our campsite from 2012 immediately. He even remembered the campsite on the other side of the road that was our first choice, before we found lucky campsite #44. Seriously, how many dozens of campgrounds have we visited over the last five years? I actually broke character for a few minutes to look up the blog post from our 2012 trip - and then I promptly turned off data like a good camper - but holy crap, he was right. (Seriously?)

Let the record also show that Patrick, who always has to drive around the entire campground at least once (if I'm lucky - usually there are multiple loops) to find just the right campsite, went no farther than campsite #44 before declaring #43 next door this trip's winner. Seriously, I think the only times he hasn't explored every single option have been when the campground only had one vacancy or when we were assigned campsites. Although in those cases, we still had to drive through the campground to see what spot we could have had. (Seriously?)

Finally, let the record show that we are sooooo out of practice with this camping thing. Seriously! One headlamp crapped out on us that night, plus we forgot pillows, utensils, spices, salt and pepper, aluminum foil, the wool blanket we always put over our thermarests for added warmth... Even BP was a very last minute grab on our way out the door. And, horror of horrors, I forgot to take a picture of dinner. (It was tofu and veggies via campfire. Looked a lot like every other picture I've taken of tofu and veggies via campfire. Seriously.)

Anyway - yay, camping!

After a late start out of Coos Bay Saturday morning, we were pretty worried that the campsite would be full when we arrived - free camping, why wouldn't it be? - but there were just a couple dozen sites taken and the park never did fill up that night. Even the camp host was surprised.

BP wants more sunlight
but the tent ignores his pleas

We set up camp and made a quick trip to Port Orford for supplies, then we were off on an afternoon adventure. We only had about 24 hours door-to-door this time so we had to make the most of it.

the not-so-long, not-so-winding road

clouds to the left of us...

... boulders to the right,
here we are, struck by the glorious view

The path was lined with tiny wildflowers and the lilies were out in full force. Such a change from our first visit in the fall!

sail away, kill off the hours
you belong somewhere you feel free


... my one and only...

... I can hardly wait till I see her

when the lilies grow wild they will always survive -
wild lilies don't care where they grow

The path takes you along the western coastline to the northern tip of the park by the lighthouse, which was a windstorm just like last time. The clouds were amazing, though.

hold on to the thread...

... the currents will shift

From the northern tip you can meander through the trees on trails and horse paths. The difference in scenery can be quite stark with just a few turns.

come closer and see, see into the trees
(4:17:03 pm)

come closer and see, see into the dark
(4:18:22 pm)

Like last time, the lighthouse was closed so we didn't get a tour. Also like last time, we skipped the Hughes House. That's our reason to go back again. (It will probably always be our reason to go back again, because neither of us is very interested in seeing it.)

Tent test successful, hearty breakfast complete, we took a quick stroll on the beach Sunday morning before heading out of town.

you don't have to stray the oceans away...

... the sea will rise - please stand by the shore

There was definitely a strange feeling in the air. We were both ready to move on to the next campsite, to see what was next. Alas, real life called. (I don't even usually work on Mondays and I had a serious case of the pre-Mondays that Sunday morning.)

Nothing like a World Famous Hot Dog from World Famous Langlois's market on the way home to cure those back-to-work blues...

are you feeling better now?

Yeah... Didn't really help. Adulting is HARD, people.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Slowly Global vs the Avenue of the Giants... and some future pondering.

For the first time in about three months, we did nothing this past weekend. It was amazing.

"Living like a local" for an extended period of time finds us with jobs, which means that the concept of "weekends" has meaning again, and man, are they precious! These Saturdays and Sundays, when we're not working on house and yard maintenance (which, honestly, is neither super time-consuming nor physically taxing), we're involved in local politics, which finds us attending weekend meetings and rallies on a regular basis. There's also a pleasantly surprising amount of weekend entertainment in Coos Bay which finds us enjoying everything from geology talks at the local college to drag shows downtown. "Living like a local" has been kind of exhausting, actually.

Speaking of exhausting, "living like a local" in Coos Bay also found us joining our Where Is Your Toothbrush/The Salad Lobby friends, Peter and Lindsay, for the Avenue of the Giants half-marathon a few weekends ago. They had raved about it last year and we figured the training prep would be a good way to stay in shape over the miserable, rainy-sometimes-snowy, southern coast winter. So we signed up, and joined a gym, and ran ran ran.

All those evening and weekend training hours turned out to be completely worth it. The run itself was pretty surreal - gigantic beautiful trees, perfect weather, and downhill both ways (or so it seemed - an illusion from the tall trees, perhaps?). We all finished with good times and no injuries.


 ran across some friends along the run


We camped in Myers Flat with our friends and some of their family who had driven up for the weekend. The campground was right next to the South Fork Eel River, and other than a pretty wicked wind each evening (and that kid riding his bike in circles playing awful country music on his portable radio), it was quite pleasant. 

 have river, need van

This was SG's first camping trip of the season. We're sad to report that we forgot to take pictures of the campsite, but we're happy to report that our tent, heretofore named Old Reliable, held up against the wind (and awful country music)... We're still buying a new tent someday, though - thanks, REI dividend!

Anyway. Monday morning, we broke camp and took the slow route home, first driving the Avenue that we'd run the day before and stopping for a few short walks.

another one for the "Subaru ad" file

    someone, somewhere, definitely heard this

 tree hugging me
or me hugging tree?

happy campers

We also took the scenic route through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which was well worth the detour, and spent an hour or so trying to find the Myrtle Creek Botanic Area just north of Crescent City (hint: if the park rangers at the info station haven't heard of it, maybe just keep going).

not the trail
(but turned out, we were sooooooooo close)

One last stop at Chetco Brewing Company for a taster flight, snack, and beer trivia...

Willa Nelson IPA for the win

And then it was home. "Home," I mean.

But that was two weekends ago. This past weekend? Nada. No meetings, no rallies, no entertainment, and best of all - no long runs. We got some things done, mind you, but other than a few quick errands and a short run, we didn't leave the house. It was lovely.

Even more lovely was the wanderlust inspiration that came from this Redwoods road trip. It's ironic - or maybe not? - that prolonged stability has resulted in our need for motion again. And prolonged residence next to a major town road, in a town devoid of pine trees, has resulted in our need for nature again.

We are here for a while yet, in part because our housesit hosts have a bit of wanderlust inspiration themselves and they are still figuring out their plan for returning to the area. And in part because we are (mostly) enjoying our jobs and (definitely) enjoying the bank account replenishment.

But talk has begun. Research has initiated. Ideas are being mentally filed away. Things are being assessed for long-term viability (in other words, does it fit in the car?). The jar has been counted and set aside for a planned purchase, and will be replenished according to the original methodology.

We're nowhere near a plan, and we don't expect to have one anytime soon. We want to be certain that we're running toward something. (But that's a much longer post that would be better shared over a beer someday. Come visit!)

For now, photosynthesis certainly ain't the plan, but we'll enjoy the post-yard-work happy hours in the sun while we have them.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Slowly Global goes to Washington, part two.

In 2013, I got the first day of President Obama's second term for my birthday. At the time I honestly wasn't sure what could top that (although the Cares Gorge hike in Picos de Europa National Park back in 2014 did come close).

And then there was 2017, the Women's March on Washington. Helloooooo, 42!

"the fempire strikes back"


The plan was to leave the house at 8am that morning. At 7:59am my boots were laced. At 8:15am I started nervously bouncing around my friend's townhouse, edging them toward the door as politely as possible. At 8:45am my friend suggested making eggs for breakfast and my heart actually sank for a moment. But! The egg idea was scrapped in favor of bagels en route and by 9am we were on our way.

 "hands too small, can't build a wall!"

"this is what a feminist looks like"

Streams of pink knitted hats started to appear around Lincoln Park. After quick stops at the bagel and coffee shops - as quick as the crowds would allow, anyway - we headed up Pennsylvania Avenue. This was the same route I'd taken the day before and the crowds had picked up significantly.

"I know signs - I make the best signs -
they're terrific - everyone agrees"

Unlike the steady trickle of red ballcaps around this area the day before, this was a mob. A purposeful, peaceful, pink mob. I couldn't look around too often, or too long, for fear of tearing up.

"we will not go away, welcome to your first day!"

"I'm too angry to be clever"

"my mama don't like Trump... and she likes everybody"

A mass swarmed in front of the Capitol for photo ops. I have to admit, it was a pretty good photo op.

"this is what democracy looks like!"

We wiggled our way into the masses near the first jumbotron. We could hear, but we couldn't see, and the crowds were insane. There was no cell or internet service and all hopes of hooking up with other friends were immediately abandoned. Didn't matter. We were amongst 500,000 friends.

"if you take away my birth control, 
I'll just make more feminists"

Eventually we backed up a bit for more space and found a good spot to stand, sit, wander, listen, and watch the edge of the jumbotron for a few hours. We missed Gloria Steinem's speech, but Ashley Judd's speech was energizing. Cecile Richards' speech was full of hope. Sophie Cruz's speech brought the crowd to a roar. Van Jones was blunt yet positive, Michael Moore was... well, Michael Moore, and all of the march organizers were so grateful for such a wonderful turnout. Once again, I had to keep moving around the crowd to keep from tearing up.

"not really a sign gal, but OMG WTF"

"so bad, even introverts are here"

Around 1pm the crowd got restless and started moving toward the march route. We heard rumors that the mass was too big and the march had to be cancelled, but that turned out to be an alternative fact - after a short wait we slowly made our collective way up Independence Avenue and around to the Mall.

"it's 2017 - I should be advocating for honey bees, 
not basic human rights"

"there are more people here today than yesterday"

"we need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter!"

"my body, my choice!"

"without immigrants, Trump would have no wives"

"grab 'em by the patriarchy!"

"just... UGH"

My friends and I reached the turnoff for the White House around 4pm and, drained physically and mentally, ditched the crowd and started the long walk home. Along the way march volunteers collected random, small pockets of trash and cars honked in support at the waves of pink knitted hats heading toward Union Station.

I know there were controversies about this march, on a whole lot of levels, and I also know that some good, hard conversations have finally started to happen because of this. (Because of all of this, actually.) That's good. Keep them up.

I know there are alternative facts about the number of attendees (in DC and around the world), the number of arrests, the amounts of trash left behind, the women who can afford plane tickets and posterboard but can't afford birth control, and so on. Luckily, I know that alternative facts are not reality, and all the people who believe this stuff will get a good dose of reality pretty soon (if they haven't already).

I also know that a lot of people doubt that this momentum will last. I don't care that the right thinks this - I would expect nothing less. But I do care that this comment is also being thrown about by men on the left. To those men, I say this:

"It's OK, America - moms will clean this up... 

Onward, people. Onward.


(Note: pictures are mine; quotes below pictures are from signs or chants seen or heard in DC or around the world on Saturday.)