Thursday, January 01, 2009

DW&F: Smorgasbord Edition

Hello everyone!

I hope everyone had a great New Year's Eve, and I hope 2009 will kick at least three different types of ass for each of y'all. I'm thinking that the next 365 days has some pretty good potential, but we'll see what happens. My high school principal used to say, "Potential and 50 cents will buy you a can of Coke." We used to make fun of that saying (behind his back, of course). I think he would've had more luck if he used a different saying, such as, "Wish in one hand, crap in the other."

Anyway, I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, mainly because I tend to break them. But I thought this year I might resolve to be more appreciative of what I have in life. As it stands, I don't spend my time thinking my life sucks or that it would be better if things were different or anything like that. I'm also consciously aware that I'm pretty fortunate in many aspects. But I do have a bad habit of when things are going well, I get used to things going well--to the point that I sometimes expect it. Expecting things to go well is just a recipe for disappointment. So I'm going to try to be more appreciative from now on. We'll see how it goes.

Enough of this blathering on and on about stupid crap that no one cares about except two or three people! Let's get back on track for 2009!

Daily Win and FAIL (Bonus Edition)!

Win: Family and holidays!

We headed up to Sandpoint and my side of the family all gathered at my mom's house on Christmas Eve. Above is my great-niece Angela and the enormous stuffed dog we got her for Christmas, which she, after much soul-searching, contemplation, and deliberation, decided to name, "Wilbur." That's her mom and brother, Micah, to the right in the second photo. Micah is growing so quickly that he's almost a real person now!

This is where not having kids pays off. We can visit our relatives a couple times a year and ooh and aah about how adorable the kids are, but we don't have to worry about feeding and clothing them, changing their diapers, dealing with them if they throw a tantrum in public, worrying about them 24/7, and being completely responsible for them and everything they do for 18 years. When we go to the grocery store and hear a kid screaming twelve aisles away, we can just throw up our arms and say, "Not our problem!" Win!

Oh wait, that wasn't the original point of this "Win," was it? It was about family, and it was great see the North Idaho crew.

After Christmas, we headed west to Cathy's parents' house.

This is Cathy's sister, Christy, and her wanna-be lap dog, Kodi. The two of them flew down from Alaska to Sandpoint (actually Spokane), and if you're a regular reader, you may remember them as being our tour guides during our Alaska expedition last September. It was also great to see them again, as well as Cathy's parents.

It's always a treat to head up north and see the family, and no, I'm not just saying that because a few of them read this blog. Win!

Win: Sledding down my sister's road

My sister, Christine, lives on a road that is appropriately-named Hellroaring Road:

View Larger Map

For some reason, Google Maps calls a different road to the south "Hellroaring Road" and calls my sister's road "National Forest Develop Rd 2431," but they're wrong, and hers is actually Hellroaring Road, I assure you. I think. Anyway, she and her husband, Sam, have a beautiful home that Sam built as well as a yak farm, all of which is located in the satellite photo to the right of the clear-cuts. Hellroaring Road ends (and the sled route begins) right near the upper-right point on the clear-cut area. From there it goes up and to the right, then turns somewhat down and to right, before curving upward again and hitting a big, nasty switchback (where the sledding route ended) just before hitting Pack River Road. Just look at the above satellite/map that I went through all the trouble of posting. It's the main line across the satellite photo!

Though it's hard to tell from the photo, the road is downhill the entire time, sometimes rather steeply (click on the "Ter" button to see a topographic map), and when we were sledding down the hill, it was of course covered with plenty of snow:

Here's my niece, Aurae, and her boyfriend, Noah, as they are flying through the air after hitting the jump that Sam built with his plow at the bottom of the hill just before the big switchback. As if the mile-long sled run wasn't action-packed enough! I'm sure these two will make some chiropractor very happy some day, based on the audible "thud" I heard as they landed on the icy road surface just past the jump, which was then followed by them moaning and groaning in pain (and laughing).

Aside from the vertebrae-compressing Evel Knievel impressions, the sled ride down the hill is always fun, and it's something I look forward to every time we go to Sandpoint in the winter. The best part is that there's a truck waiting at the bottom to drive you back to the top so you can go again. And when you're wet and cold, you can always go inside the house and sit next to the wood stove and sip piping-hot cocoa. Win!

FAIL: Snow in Portland?

Initially, we planned on leaving Eugene the Monday afternoon/evening before Christmas and staying the night in Portland with some friends. To make a long story short, Portland ended up with something like 67 feet of snow, and since they never get snow, the two plows owned by the city and county (one apiece) were not nearly enough to open the roads. Our only route to go east from Portland, I-84, was ostensibly closed between Troutdale and Hood River, so we ended up having to go over Santiam Pass to Redmond on Tuesday morning and didn't get to see anyone in Portland like we'd planned. To make matters worse, our friend who was going to fly into Portland for the holidays and see some other friends in Portland apparently ended up stuck in Seattle, and I don't think any of them got to see each other, either. FAIL!

Win/FAIL: The drive

After leaving Eugene, we crossed Santiam Pass without too much difficulty. Even though the pass got much more snow than I-84, those mountain people are prepared and know how to remove it. We were supposed to chain up to go over the pass, but the road was pretty clear, and I didn't feel like pulling over and getting dirty. So I just pushed on without chains or snow tires, and of course the Subaru handled brilliantly. The Beauty of All-Wheel Drive! Just ask this guy. Win!

After the pass and a quick pit stop in Sisters (the biggest tourist crap trap in Oregon), we turned left in Redmond and headed north up highway 97 toward Biggs. This was Cathy's first time and my second time ever driving this section of the route, so it was interesting to see new stuff but simultaneously annoying that we had no choice but to go that way. We hit I-84 well to the east of the closed area in Biggs (where we learned that the closed part had actually opened that morning and we probably could've gone that route), and the roads weren't as bad as they could've been the rest of the trip. Win!

Here we are traveling through the Gorge. I should probably be paying more attention to my driving than taking pictures, but what can I say? I like to live dangerously!

Unlike most people in Eugene, I learned how to drive in snow, which included my first winter in Michigan in 1991, when I put my 1987 Plymouth Horizon in the same ditch twice--the second time rolling and totaling it. That was a tough lesson to learn, but I learned it, and now I'm for the most part comfortable and confident driving in snow, other than the knowledge that there are lots of other people on the road who don't know what they're doing. Those people frankly scare the crap out of me. Fortunately, they decided not to crash into us. Win!

Anyway, we made it to Sandpoint in a little over 12 hours, which is not bad considering the drive was 568 miles (give or take). Tired and Hungry Win!

The drive back home was a different story. The night before we left, we heard about a "Severe Winter Storm Warning" scheduled for 10 am the day we were supposed to be leaving in North Idaho. No problem, I thought, we'd just be on the road before 8 am and be long gone before it gets nasty.


Apparently, the storm didn't watch the news report we were watching, and didn't realize that it was about three hours early, so it hit just before we left. FAIL!

This is what we ended up dealing with in Spokane. It was snowy, the roads were terrible, there were people going way too fast, there were people going way too slow, and we were hung up in morning rush hour traffic in Spokane. Did I mention that we were stuck in Spokane? FAIL!

We finally made it through the nastiness, and once we turned south on 395, things cleared up, and the sun actually came out a little bit! Win!

From then on it was smooth sailing weather-wise, but because we were behind schedule, we hit evening rush-hour traffic in Portland. FAIL!

u-fail.jpgFortunately, we didn't encounter this car or its driver. We did, however, manage to make it home after about 10 hours of driving thanks to my insistence on the three-quick-stop-maximum rule. Win!

Win: New Year's Eve

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with New Year's Eve. On one hand it has all the makings of a great holiday: socializing, celebrating, alcohol, optimism, and hardly any religious leaders presumptuously trying to convince you of its "true meaning." But on the other hand, it never lives up to its expectations. I've had great Fourth of Julys, Memorial and Labor Day weekends, Halloweens, and even Thanksgivings, yet my New Year's Eves usually run the gamut from not bad to downright pitiful, but never great.

However, this one was pretty good, and in many ways it was just what I needed. We spent the evening at some friends' house, and six of us just hung out and played cards. It certainly was no epic night to remember, but it was exactly what I was in the mood to do at the time. I also discovered a new champagne, "Cristalino," which gave me the opportunity to tell anyone who would listen that I brought a bottle of Cristal.... ino. Win!

Win: Tonight's dinner

Cathy made a fantastic dinner tonight, featuring tofu parmigiana, angel hair pasta, and steamed broccoli:

It was delicious. And I appreciated every single bite, which also helped me follow my resolution. Win!

Well, that's it for my deluxe edition of Daily Win and FAIL. Tomorrow, I'll probably be back to the regular version with one Win and one FAIL. But I'll appreciate every word of the blog posting!

So will you.


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