Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Columbia Plateau Trail, Amber Lake to Martin Road

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

11:00 AM
Left the homestead in Post Falls. Amber Lake is just a short drive south of Cheney, and you drive through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. If you're into that sort of thing.

12:30 PM
Arrived at Amber Lake trailhead/boat launch, where parking was definitely not an issue. As it goes in Washington, make sure you have a dumb Discovery Pass.

Yup, people are flocking to this place

The crew ready to roll, Amber Lake behind.
Mavis is wondering why my bike cost more
than hers and doesn't have a kickstand
12:40 PM
On the trail. The section right at the trailhead was fairly loose, course, and rough, so we questioned how far Mavis would make it on her cruiser bike. It smoothed out once we got going.

Loose, course, and rough. Like I said.

1:15 PM
Didn't take long to get into the groove. We immediately started riding through some rock cuts and large fills, one of my favorite aspects of rail trails.

Into a rock cut, full steam ahead
2:00 PM
After paralleling a beautiful canyon for awhile, we decided to stop for lunch. We picked out a nice little shady spot between the trail and the canyon (keep in mind, most everything outside of the trail itself is private property. Respect!) I took the opportunity to do our own version of a baptism for Kewpie. Places like this are what we consider church, and after all... it was Easter Sunday!

Chillin' in our church pews after Kewpie's ceremony
Never ones to pass up climbing opportunities

3:00 PM
Back on the trail for the return trip. We ended up being a couple miles short of the Martin Road trailhead, but we're not really into pushing the kids until they're miserable. The distance we went worked out perfect.

The Boo enjoyed finding old
railroad artifacts along the trail
4:30 PM
Back at the trailhead. Mavis nursed Kewpie while we went down to check out the boat launch, where we found MORE rocks to climb... which I made somewhat of a scene almost falling off of. Overall, this is a great trail that actually runs all the way to the Tri-Cities. However, much of it is not really improved, and currently some of the trestles and/or bridges are blocked off. I do know that just west of the Martin Road trailhead, the trail is nothing but huge chunks of aggregate roadbed. Hiking would probably be okay, but riding it would suck. It was around 65 degrees when we rode, which was fine. I'm not sure we'd have enjoyed doing this trail with it much warmer. The Palouse scablands get hot!

Distance: 7.5 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: Negligible

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bowl and Pitcher Loop

Friday, April 29th, 2013

Bowl and Pitcher is a sweet spot, no matter what your business is there. There are hiking trails (that exclude bikes), combo trails (that don't exclude bikers, a little to hiker's dismay), climbing rocks, and just plain great scenery for if you only want to sit on a rock and play a guitar. Or eat a sandwich. Or smoke a cigarette near the trail as non-smoking families ride by. I happened to be in Spokane to visit Mavis at her work, and decided to take the kids on a little adventure while we were there. This ride (and others in this area) are described in the book Mountain Biking Spokane and Coeur d'Alene.

Left from the Riverside State Park parking lot. Make sure you have a dumb Discovery Pass.

Very cool suspension bridge. There are some stairs you
have to carry your bike up, which kinda sucked 

1:45 PM
We'd barely started, and the kids already found rocks to climb. Which was perfect. This was a fun little knob that was safe enough for someone who takes their kids climbing regularly, sketchy to people walking by who didn't know that.

Going for the biking/climbing combo deal
2:15 PM
Reached the first Centennial Trail junction, which has one of those forest service-style outhouses. From here, you could ride north or south along the paved trail. We opted to cross and follow a dirt single track through a burned area.

Representative of the lower section. We came
across four deer, which I'm sure is common

2:30 PM
While riding through the burned area, several other bikers came screaming down from trails above. You could spend a lot of time exploring just this area.

2:45 PM
Curved around and ended up running into the paved Centennial Trail again. You could just double back on the single track, but The Goo was whining a bit (as was anticipated) so we rode back on the pavement.

3:00 PM
Back at the first Centennial Trail junction, and decided to stop and enjoy some view.

Kinda makes you forget that you're just slightly
downriver from busy downtown Spokane and a
gigantic sewage treatment plant...
3:30 PM
Back at the parking lot. Keep in mind that we rode fairly slow and stopped a lot.

Distance: 1.82 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: Negligible

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lewis & Clark Commemorative and Cowiche Canyon Trails

It's been awhile (almost 3 years!) since I've posted on this thing, but Mavis has encouraged me to start posting some of our weekend "experiences". So, here goes!

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

5:00 PM
We left Idaho at the time we had previously agreed to. Weird.

7:30 PM
Stopped for dinner at Michael Jay's in Connell, WA. I asked the waitress to tell me about Connell. She thought for a moment, and replied, "Well... we have a prison. It's one of those prisons for criminals who follow the rules." If only criminals could follow the rules PRIOR to going to prison...

Mavis enjoying a signature "MJ" burger:
beef patty, ham, bacon, and fried egg! At least
she opted for the side salad, I had the same
thing with fries.
8:30 PM
Arrived at the Kennewick Quality Inn, which I had previously booked on Hotels.com. I immediately noticed while walking to the room that the floors were incredibly creaky. The room itself was fairly dated (I haven't seen a Zenith TV in years!), but clean and comfortable. Having a TV with cable is a bit of a treat for us, because we don't really watch TV at home. I ended up watching a couple reruns of American Pickers, and found myself irritated with how Frank talks to Danielle on speakerphone while they're driving... like she's an annoying idiot. Get over yourself, Frank.

Extra bed for the baby... nice!

 Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

6:00 AM
I woke up expecting, as usual, for it to be caused by Kewpie G fussing. He and Mavis were out cold, but the neighbors were loudly "renewing their vows" (turns out, the beds are creakier than the floors in this joint!) Good for them, I say.

8:00 AM
Dressed and ready to go, we headed down for breakfast. We love hotel continental breakfast rooms, partly because it's fun to watch the freak show and/or train wreck people milling around trying to figure out how to operate toasters and such. My favorite pick on this morning was an old couple watching cartoons on an iPad (with the volume cranked) laughing hysterically... like they were 6 years old.

8:30 AM
On the road to Umatilla, which is near the trail we were going to ride. Mavis asked why we didn't just stay in Umatilla, and I said that I only found one hotel there... called the Tillicum Inn. And it was full. She asked if it was named as such because it was an "hourly rate" kinda place. Oh, that Mavis.

9:00 AM
Made it to Umatilla, and realized I forgot to get gas before we left Kennewick. Which really bothered me, because I absolutely hate having someone pump my gas for me. Feels incredibly awkward, for whatever reason.

9:30 AM
Arrived at McNary Beach State Park. It was 34 degrees, which I felt would be fine for Kewpie because I had a covered bike trailer, and he could wear his coat. Unfortunately, I forgot the bike trailer cover, and Mavis forgot his coat. With bike ride cancellation looming, Mavis decided to feed the baby a bit, and I explored the parking lot. I discovered that the rock wall nearby had some great climbing potential, and even ended up free-soloing a 5.4-ish wall... all while carrying a Dutch Bros. coffee cup! (How do you like them apples, Alex Honnold!)

Google Street View image of parking lot rock wall

When I made it back to the car, Mavis had bundled Kewpie up in a pair of pajamas under his clothes, and we papoosed him up with blankets. It was supposed to start warming up, so we decided to hit it.

Kewpie G, in the mix!

10:00 AM
We were now riding on the Lewis & Clark Commemorative Trail. (Described in the book Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest) It's an old railroad bed, so it's fairly level. My Marin mountain bike had no trouble on the gravel/sandy surface, but Mavis rides a Cannondale cruiser that bogged down in a few places. The worst spots were where the original roadbed washed away, and they had to reroute up and over. The powers that be surfaced these spots with loose basalt rock that is somewhat sketchy to traverse. There were three areas like this, but they were short.

Mavis walking her bike around one of the washout areas

Beautiful undeveloped stretch of the Columbia River Valley

10:45 AM
Arrived at Hat Rock State Park. Nice area with grass and picnic tables, and several people were fishing in a little pond. Hat Rock itself is a little underwhelming, kinda reminded me of a miniature devil's tower. It is cool that it was named after a description in the original Lewis & Clark journals.

Mavis doing her favorite thing with Hat Rock in the background.
I realized I had previously made this landmark out of mashed
potatoes during dinner one night

You know those cool pictures where people
are holding sunsets? Hat Rock is not an
awesome application of that technique.

This thing would be fun to climb on, but it's
fenced off. At least this interpretive sign was
incredibly informative.

12:00 PM
Back on the trail for our return trip. By now it had warmed up a bit, and Kewpie was sound asleep in the trailer.

Rock cut near Hat Rock was completely full of tumbleweeds!

1:00 PM
After knocking off the trail, we decided to visit nearby McNary Dam. Interesting place that you can actually peruse without much oversight (suck it, terrorists!) There's a fish viewing room that allows you to watch migrating fish run up the ladders, and an interpretive center with a viewing platform that would be fun to watch when they're actually sorting and routing fish.

Kewpie at the fish viewing windows (minus the fish),
hoping that we will not be leaving him there

McNary Dam from the visitor center

4:00 PM
Back in Kennewick. We relaxed for a few, and then walked to an Indian restaurant that Mavis had eaten at before, and was excited to take me. It was closed. For good, apparently. So we walked to Red Robin. Which was packed. So we walked to Red Lobster. Which had a 30 minute wait. So we walked to Shari's, where we had the nicest waiter ever... along with some of the crappiest food ever. Back at the room, we had a quick swim in the decent pool and cashed out.

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

10:30 AM
On the road again (headed for Yakima) after a leisurely morning. The continental breakfast group was not nearly as entertaining that morning. Although there was the chunky woman in the mini-skirt ranting about an upcoming Stevie Nicks concert...

12:00 PM
After being misguided by our GPS (which was fun, because we ended up driving through some vineyards), we arrived at the Cowiche Canyon Trailhead. (Described in the book Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest) It kinda feels like you're in the wrong place, as some of the nearby houses look as though the occupants would not be pleased that you're there poking around. Regardless, we loaded up and headed out.

Trailhead/broken vehicle storage

Cowiche Canyon is beautiful. You have somewhat of an "old west" feeling riding through it. While it's only around 3 miles long, the narrowness of the canyon coupled with the substantial basalt cliffs really gives an impression of enormity and length. There are several river crossings over old trestles (no railings, so be careful!) and deep rock cuts. The trail itself was easily navigable (another old railbed), even for Mavis on her cruiser bike.

Always finding things I want to climb...

One of the bridges that had been replaced at a higher elevation.
In the distance you can see the Upland Trail, which leads
to some wineries up on the bluff

Lunch break at the eastern trailhead, where Kewpie enjoyed
rubbing a banana in dirt... and then eating it

On the ride back, I asked these young fellas if they
were headed in to climb some stuff. They said no,
obviously thinking they shouldn't admit it. I was
 thinking yes, looking at sweet walls such as this one

2:00 PM
Back at the car, ready to head on home. Just outside of Yakima we stopped at a large fruit/antique stand place (similar to the Thorp stand near Ellensburg, for those who know). Mavis picked up some fun jars of stuff, and a few other goodies... including some white-chocolate covered pretzels that lasted about an hour.

I'd never heard of this organization, but I thought the sign was
super cool. Before buying it, I googled Altrusa in the parking lot...
and it was legit. I have a few other things like this hanging in our
living room at home.

4:30 PM
We stopped off in the town of Sprague to get some gas. While there, I noticed some "Columbia Plateau Trail State Park" signage. We followed those for awhile, and ended up at the Martin Road trailhead. While we didn't have time to try it out this time, this trail looked out-of-the-way fun and is definitely on our "pretty soon" list.

Stopped in downtown Spokane for some victory sushi at Sushi Maru!
Kewpie decided he likes the spam and egg sushi. Sort of.

7:30 PM
Back at the homestead.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Milk, Cigarettes, and Wedding Rings

Once in awhile, I'll cruise the local pawn shops at lunchtime with my buddy Boggs. He's always in search of music gear, and I'm always in search of life's meaning.

A couple days ago, we stopped into Axel's Pawn Shop on Sprague Avenue. A couple walked in the same time as we did, the guy holding a motorcycle helmet. They approached the man behind the counter.

"Any chance we can sell this helmet? We need to get milk. And cigarettes."

"Sorry," the man replied, "We're loaded up on helmets right now." The couple gave each other a frantic look, and then the woman said, "How about my wedding ring?"

"Sure, let's take a look," the man said as he leaned over the counter. "Yeah, I'll give you (whatever) for it."

"Great!" the husband exclaimed. "That's perfect! Now I can still ride my motorcycle!"

Boggs and I left... neither of us finding what we were looking for.

Friday, May 14, 2010

To Scream or Ask Not to Scream

At my son's Little League game yesterday, I witnessed a scenario that I found somewhat interesting.

Another kid on our team got out. He immediately started to throw a fit, and was escorted out of the dugout to an area adjacent to another field. Once there, he proceeded to spend... oh, about 10 minutes or so... wailing. He kept ranting "I ALWAYS get out!" accompanied with a "Give me attention!" cry, which was working. At one point, a woman at the adjacent field had had enough. She came over and politely said, "Honey, if you want to cry, maybe you should move away from the fields. It's distracting to the other players." Mom #1 exploded with, "You don't talk to my son like that!", and the other woman responded by going back to the other field. Mom #1 starting pacing around and ranting herself, saying things like "If she thinks THAT'S bad, I should make him REALLY cry!" Eventually, the howling kid received a stern talk from his coach about being a "big boy", and he was escorted to the parking lot. Situation... settled? Not quite.

The other woman apparently felt guilty about saying anything in the first place. Later, she walked by, and made a point of apologizing to Mom #1. Mom #1 wouldn't take it, as she was just "too offended". The other woman gave up, and started walking towards the parking lot... at which point Mom #1 belted, "It's a baseball game, not the library!" Well, that's true... but part of playing baseball is being a good sport, of which her son was definitely not.

All of this makes me think about how I handle my own kids, and what I hope to see from other people's kids.

First of all, I've never allowed my kids to misbehave in a public place. If we're in a restaurant, I take them outside. I know I don't like listening to other kids cry when I'm enjoying a meal out, so I don't expect anyone else to have to listen to mine. In the grocery store? Take them outside until they calm down. And if they don't? Go home, and come back for your stuff later. I also struggle with wailing kids in churches, movies, or other sit-down public events. The parents are spending so much time fussing with them, they're not even aware of what's going on. So why go? It never really seemed that big of a deal to me to just remove them from the situation.

Now, back to the game scenario... I could never do what the other woman did. I would never have the gumption to actually say something. I just grin and bear it, and hope that they eventually stop. I also think it was quite admirable on her part to go apologize, feeling full well (I'm sure) that she was right. Still, I don't blame her for saying something. Quite frankly, I was tired of listening to him wail myself.

I guess my question is... who was out of line? What's more obnoxious, letting your kid scream, or telling someone else's screaming kid to stop? I'm a bit biased, as I'm fairly militant about disciplining my kids. I'm curious what the common consensus would be.

And one disclaimer: I'm not claiming my kids are always perfect angels; as they also have their moments. This thought is more about what you allow them to get away with in public.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saga of a Broken Leg

When I was younger, I told myself that I'd skateboard forever. It stemmed from a fear of growing up; as if stepping off that skateboard would mean I was suddenly old. I made a pact with myself that I would continue doing it as long as I was physically capable. One day, I found myself in my mid 30's. My skateboarding days were long gone, and I actually felt a little guilty, like I had cheaped out.

Last November, I decided to go see my buddy Brent in Nashville, Tennessee. He'd ventured to North Idaho many times; one visit even lasted a few years. But, nobody had returned the favor by going down there, so I figured it was time. It turned out to be a great trip, complete with civil war battlefield visits, a night in downtown Nashville, and even a leisurely drive across the beautiful Tennessee countryside. The night before I was due to fly back home, Brent asked if I'd like to check out the Nashville skatepark.

It was time to revisit that childhood promise I had made with myself.

I wasn't any good anymore, but hell... I could do it, and I was having a great time. We skated until the park was due to close in a few minutes. I was determined to stick that 50-50 grind... a trick that was so easy when I was younger. I went for that infamous "last try"...

I'm still not sure why, but my board flipped out from under me. When I hit the transition, I felt something slide in my knee. As I lay there assessing the situation, Brent asked what I thought was wrong. At that point, all I knew was that it felt really weird... and my foot was pointing in the wrong direction.

"I think my knee came out of joint. Maybe I can twist it back."

"Dude... if you can get yourself out of this pool, then I could get you to the hospital... and you won't have to pay for an ambulance."

I was immediately feeling the weight of hospital bills. Skipping the ambulance sounded good, so I did probably the worst possible thing - and tried twisting my leg back into joint. After feeling a couple snap crackle pops, I decided that probably wasn't a good idea.

"I'm not going to make it out. Call 911."

After what seemed like an eternity, Nashville's finest was on the scene. I was immediately given some morphine (not nearly enough), and strapped to a gurney. It took some effort getting me out, since I was in the bottom of a pool. They even enlisted the help of some straggler skateboarders to help push me out. They slid me into an ambulance, gave me some more morphine, and headed for Summit Medical Center. On the way, all I could think about was how much morphine I'd had, how much my leg still hurt, and hoped that all those shot-up Vietnam vets back in the day had received a way bigger dose than I had.

"Isn't this stuff supposed to make the pain go away?" I asked the emergency tech.

"No," he replied. "It just makes you not care that it hurts."

We made it to the hospital. They immediately took some x-rays, and stuck a needle in my leg to drain all the fluid that was accumulating. I didn't care at this point, as the drugs had finally kicked in. The resulting x-ray didn't look good.

Before saying anything to me, the ER doctor high-fived some other dude, and said, "I knew it! A tibial plateau fracture!" which really meant nothing to me at the time. Apparently, my femur (thigh bone) had pile-drived into my tibia (shin bone) and completely blown my knee apart. Even worse, it had split the tibia like firewood... from my knee to about halfway down my shin. The dark space in the x-ray (outlined by the dashed line) isn't supposed to be there. By this time, it was around midnight. They called a surgeon, and he said that he'd be there in the morning. I was carted to a room, where I immediately called Mavis.


"Hi. What's up?"

"Well... I blew it, Mavis."

"Oh. What's going on?"

"I broke my leg tonight. Skateboarding."

"Oh. Well, I just got back from a debate tournament."


"I guess I'm having surgery in the morning. I gotta go."

"Okay. I love you!"

Suddenly, it was morning, and the surgeon had come in. His name was Dr. Cook, and he had a very calming, pleasant demeanor. Honestly, I really have no idea what he said to me, other than I was going in for surgery. All I knew is that I trusted him. They put me out, and after a day-long surgery I woke up back in the room to find Mavis sitting there looking at me. It was almost like she had teleported down there. Dr. Cook came in, and said the surgery went well. I asked for some pictures (kinda hoping for some gory shots of my leg cut open), but instead he brought in the x-ray of my new leg.

It took 2 plates and 15 screws to put me back together again. I immediately felt a little strange, knowing I had a pile of foreign metal objects in my leg. Soon after, the bandages came off and I got my first look at Frankenleg.

I had two huge incisions, around 50 staples, and a gigantic swollen foot that looked a bit like a haggis sausage. I knew I was in for some good times. To make an already long story shorter, I'll sum up my week stay in the hospital:

Having to use a walker instantly makes you feel about 80 years old.

I really don't understand why people steal Oxycontin. I woke up feeling like I had bugs crawling all over me, and saw creepy apparitions all over the place.

Percocet, on the other hand, was a little too wonderful. Mavis did a great job intervening, and I felt like I'd been to rehab about 27 times.

I had one physical therapist who was really pushy about me getting out of bed, and I couldn't do it. I got another one who made me feel like I could do it, and I got right up. Big difference.

I'm not sure how anyone could survive in a hospital room without a loved one. Mavis made all the difference, and guided me through figuring out how to get around (and... uh... do other things!) all over again.

After my extra week of... vacation?... it was time to figure out how to get me home. Remember that movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"? Imagine John Candy's character... only with a broken leg, and that's kinda how it went. We crammed my broken self into a rental car, airport shuttle bus, taxi, train station, and finally into an Amtrak sleeper car. A couple days and several pain pills later, we finally made it home.

A few days after that, I was back at work, lucky to have a desk job.

Around 2 months later, I was down to using a cane.

At 3 months, I started walking on my own, and was able to go to the gym again.

At 5 months, I walked and finished a 3 mile fun run.

Now, I'm approaching 6 months of recovery time. Last weekend, I went on a whitewater rafting trip I do every year and didn't have any problems. I still can't run (or even jog) at this point, but I do feel like I'm easing back into the things I was able to do before.

So... I guess it's time I accept the fact that somehow along the line, I got a little older. But, at least I can now confidently say...

I've officially retired from skateboarding.

And that's okay. :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dirty Dogs and White Lies

I came in through the back slider door, to find Mavis sitting on the couch petting the dog.

"Honey, why is Cleo all wet?" she asked.

I drew a blank. "I don't know."

"Well, it's all over her face...," she retorted as the dog licked hers.

We went upstairs to get ready for bed. She carried up the dog, and said, "Whatever it is, it smells weird and is kinda sticky."

I suddenly realized what it was, and was immediately horrified. It seemed too late to tell the truth, so I replied, "Uhhhh... maybe it's water from the kids' pool behind the shed."

About 10 minutes prior, I had been in the backyard with the dog. There's no easy way to say this... but I have this thing. A guy thing, a freedom thing, a whatever you want to call it "thing."

I like to pee in the backyard.

On this particular occasion, I was in a dark corner of the yard doing my business... hoping the dog was doing hers. I looked down, and realized she was next to me in her pounce position. She had never seen a pee stream before, and was ready to attack it. I shooed her away, and finished up. Afterwards, I went over to the shed to put some tires away. Meanwhile, Mavis had let the dog in. I didn't think anything of it.

By the time I realized what was on her, Mavis had been petting, playing with, and... (gulp)... kissing the dog. I really didn't know how she would react.

"I think I better give her a bath," she said.

While trying to sound nonchalant, I replied, "Ohhh.... yeah! That would probably be a good idea."

She washed her off, and got ready for bed. I slithered in with her, and laid awake for awhile. I really wanted to say something, but by that time it didn't seem to matter anymore. Regardless, I felt very guilty. VERY guilty. I have an insanely guilty conscience.

The next day at work, I told a few people about what had happened. It was a fairly even split over me being a Big Fat Liar (with pants on fire), and it being something that I should NEVER tell her. I was extremely torn.

A few nights later, Mavis and I were driving home from having dinner. As we pulled into our driveway, I blurted out "I THINK I PEED ON THE DOG!"

She stared at me blankly for a moment, and replied, ".....What?"

"The other night, when the dog was all wet... I'm pretty sure it's because she jumped into my pee."

This was possibly going to be a major turning point in our relationship. If she lashed out in anger, I knew I'd forever be perceived as the disguting lying backyard pee-er. If she forgave me, I knew I would be forever grateful and appreciative.

Another milli-second of silent eternity passed, when she suddenly burst out laughing.

I knew immediately I had made the right choice. In many ways.

"Why didn't you just tell me, silly?" she asked. She seemed to find it a little bit cute that I had been so tormented about the whole situation, with an emphasis on "little."

So, we both survived. From now on, I think I'll save the white lies for haircuts, apparel, and ugly babies. :)