November wrap-up

Much of November was uneventful—it mostly consisted of the usual routine for the first few weeks minus a kid’s birthday—but for the week of Thanksgiving we visited Burbank to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.

That trip started out slightly awry, as we tried to leave town on Friday the 18th, right after work, and only managed to travel all of 50 miles or so to Crescent before being stopped for several hours only to learn that the road (Highway 97) was closed entirely. See, that was the night of the big statewide winter storm that dumped snow and ice everywhere. So instead of getting to Redding that Friday night we ended up turning around and coming back home (after about 5 hours on the road) and left again the next morning. That was more successful; there was still snow on the roads but it was daylight and the road was open, and once we crossed over into California the roads were pretty much cleared up.

So we drove all the way through to Burbank (north of Los Angeles) in the one day. Which isn’t as bad as all the way to San Diego in one day (we’ve done that one too) but still makes for a long drive all in one sitting.

The rest of the holiday week was good; we drank a lot of good beer, toured the Warner Brothers Studios lot, checked out Burbank and the area a bit, and had a nice Thanksgiving.

Coming back was easy in some respects—as far as the drive went as we split it out over two days—and hard in others (whaddya mean I gotta go back to work?). We got back Sunday relatively early which left time for unpacking and cleaning and such but not a lot of decompression time before going right back into the routine.

Let’s see, what else went on in November… read a good book that I’d recommend, Ready Player One, which has its flaws but is a fun, clever, engaging read. It’s essentially a caper novel masquerading as a near-future/video game/pop-culture/MMO sci-fi adventure, set some 30 years in the future and mostly taking place in an online game/virtual world. And it heavily mines the pop culture of the 80s (and 70s to a lesser extent), particularly that of music, movies, and videogames, which makes it catnip to the contemporary Gen X geek who spent a lot of time playing with computers and videogames during the 80s.

Hmm… is it bad when that’s all I have for the highlights for the month? The rest has been filled with work, and the family stuff—a school concert and other school functions, birthday parties, the usual kind of things.

But! We’re going into the Christmas season, which is one of my favorite times of the year. That always livens things up!

Bandon

My wife and I just spent an anniversary weekend over on the Oregon Coast, in the southern town of Bandon. I think I’ve written before about how I really like this town; we’ve been three times previous but the last time was some nine years ago, which is too long.

Bandon is small (about 3300 people) and relatively touristy; it has a mix of the cutesy tourist shops (used books, candy stores, ocean art, antiques and gifts), a small but decent selection of restaurants, and mostly-nice lodging combined with the working-class presence of an Oregon coast fishing town. Add in several good state parks and fantastic beaches, and very decent weather (by Oregon Coast standards), and I do think it’s one of the coast’s gems.

Without going into full travelogue mode, I will say both Edgewaters and The Loft (both right downtown in the Old Town Bandon area) are fantastic restaurants, and the two candy stores of Cranberry Sweets and Coastal Mist are must-visits.

One thing I do notice however, is a distinct lack of beer. Not to say there’s no beer there—there is—but ironically the best selection of craft beers that we found on this trip was at the Mill Casino up north in Coos Bay/North Bend. In fact the entire southern stretch of coast below Florence is completely devoid of breweries, probably making it the most under-served area of Oregon in that regard.

To that end I have to say I think Bandon would be a natural location for someone to open up a brewpub; I suspect it’s got the tourist traffic that would support at least a small one, plus you have a population of at least 25,000 some 20 miles to the north from “Oregon’s Bay Area” (which, no joke, we saw on a sign entering Coos Bay). So naturally, I’ve already started formulating beer ideas in my head and wondering how the numbers might pencil. (You’d ideally need to be located in Old Town Bandon, I think, where you’d get the majority of foot traffic and tourists.)

So, who’d want to go in on such a venture…?

A weekend in Ashland

We left Friday morning (just the wife and I; Grandma had the kids for the weekend) and headed down to southern Oregon for a play and a getaway. The weather turned out great, and the trip was largely a winery tour, among other things; we visited four wineries and ended up buying just over a case of wine.

The last time we’d been to Ashland was nine years ago, before the kids were born. Compared to Bend over the past decade, few things in the area have changed; both Medford and Ashland have remained pretty stable, and even though there are signs of growth, much of it (particularly downtown Ashland) is as I remember it.

(Holy smokes, this post got long.)

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Cowboy Dinner Tree

Tonight my wife and I are driving down to Silver Lake to eat at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. This is actually something we’ve wanted to try out for years, but it was this article in the Bend Bulletin which finally prompted us to make reservations.

Probably the best description I could give is one I’ll lift from the Bulletin article:

The Cowboy Dinner Tree, about 85 miles from Bend, is about as rustic as a restaurant can get. Made of rough poles and barn planks, the building itself has the look of a hermit’s cabin. A sign on the wall proclaims “No electricity – No credit cards – No kidding,” and it’s not. A 12-volt solar-powered battery provides the juice for a couple of bare light bulbs in the dining room, but when the sun sets, the lights dim. All the food is cooked from scratch with propane.

When you make your reservations, you get the choice of either the steak or the chicken for dinner. And their serious about they’re food; when they say chicken, they mean a whole chicken. And the steaks are 26 to 30 ounces. That’s almost two pounds of steak!

Should be an experience, one I’ll write about sometime in the near future, if I’m not comatose from that much red meat.

Back from Florida; local happenings

We’re back from Florida none the worse for wear; we actually got back Saturday late, missing hurricane Wilma by two days. As my friend Kerry said, ironic that the one time we should pick to visit Florida, the biggest storm ever tracked starts building up nearby.

Florida was… flat and humid. No, really.

Well, it was. Anyway, we had a good time. My wife’s grandparents have a swimming pool (of course) so we spent a lot of time in it. And of course we drove up to Disney World for a few days (three and a half hours each way), that was a trip; it’s utterly mind-boggling just how big Disney World is. We only had time to visit the Magic Kingdom (which is basically all of Disney Land), and part of Epcot.

Some general Florida observations, from an outsider: what’s up with drivers there? Nobody uses turn signals! And apparently they’ll hit-and-run other cars in parking lots (which seemed to happen to us— borrowing the grandparents’ car— on our mini-trip to Disney) all the time, we’re told. Also, everywhere you go— and I mean everywhere— there’s air conditioning. All the time. Many times we were in restaurants and it was too cold— people were wearing sweaters or jackets. Not what you expect to see in Florida, of all places.

Didn’t see any gators (in the wild, anyway). I was kind of hoping.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note some of the local goings-on while we were away:

  • There was an E. coli outbreak at McGrath’s; Bulletin story here, Bend.com here. Damn, I knew there was a reason I’m always resisting going to eat there… What really worries me though is the Bulletin’s article states, “No changes in McGrath’s operating procedure were suggested”— say what? Yeah, I’m done.
  • More information has come to light regarding Deschutes County Commissioner Tom DeWolf’s sex abuse scandal: details from the investigation reveal that he allegedly put his hand down two separate women’s pants and groped their genitals. Bulletin story here, Bend.com story here. Not surprisingly, DeWolf is resigning. His statement is here. Not really much more to say, other than I’m not really surprised. That’s some seriously stupid shit to do, Tom.

Anything exciting anybody wants to tell me about?

Off to Florida tomorrow

Ah, we’re quite the travelers this year: tomorrow we’re flying out to Florida for a week. We’ll be visiting my wife’s grandparents near Fort Lauderdale and yes, taking some time to drive up to Orlando for Disney World.

It probably goes without saying that I won’t be online much, or at all. We’re taking the laptop, but time and connectivity may not permit much. I’m not too devastated by this.

See y’all on the other side.