I was determined to have a decent breakfast and get an early start on the trip over to Ashland Oregon, a full day's drive away. I wanted to visit Ashland and check out the town I'd heard so much about from friends Alex Tosheff (whose brother has a restaurant called "Dragonfly" there) and Stuart Henigson of the Allegiant time of my life (so long ago in the mid-90's). Etho and I broke camp quickly and headed to Boise where I was confident we'd find a good joint. Turned out to be a Perkins "Cake & Steak" house, so famous in the Midwest but certainly scarce on the West coast.
I had planned the entire trip, in fact before leaving, to contact Stuart and sort things out so we could stay with him in Ashland. As you can guess from the first sentence, as I was heading INTO Oregon I still hadn't reached out. Ahhh well, par for the course. I plotted our route (over a veggie omelet) that would take us the fastest way through the state (or so I thought) and as we hit the highway I dialed 411 for Ashland. *brringgg - briinnnggg* There was NO Stuart Henigson in Ashland, nor Sarah his wife, BUT there was a Lena Henigson. The operator asked if I wanted to be connected - sure. I think to myself: how many Henigson's can there be?
Turns out, Lena was Stuarts SISTER! Stuart had moved to Portland several years earlier (my heart sunk). Lena and I had a terrific talk and finally she said that Stuart was actually going to be in Ashland *tomorrow* for a consulting gig. But that he would have to relay a complicated, but shorter and more beautiful driving route to Ashland from Boise. He knew the routes well as his mother lives near Boise. Fortune was truly smiling on us!
Stuart called a couple hours later and man was it great to talk with him! Just like old times. Plus, Etho and I had just stopped for a vanilla milk shake in a small town of less than a couple hundred people. Lena wasn't kidding - Stuart gave me a route only a native could follow, but I had good maps and a strong instinct for a Westerly direction!
One of the key things Stu told me was that we needed to "turn left" to get to Christmas Valley (LOL), that the Klamath Basin Marshlands would be a terrific sight (it was), and that we should try and camp in Shady Cove just North of Ashland if we wanted to do a little rafting on the Rogue River (we did). But... it was a BIG danged day of driving. 3 hours from Boise to Christmas Valley (great lunch at the town cafe, by the way), then I happened to mention to Etho that Crater Lake was nearby. Off we went!
Sadly some of the areas around Crater Lake were closed due to a late snowfall., but we went up as far as we could. The best part was our EPIC snowball fight which included an errant throw by Yours Truly *through* the open windows of my truck. I was trying to "thread the needle" from the driver's side and pick Ethan off, but he smiled, whooped and closed the passenger door. SMACK went the iceball, splatting into and all over the *interior* of the truck. Uggh! We laughed almost until we cried...
Pulling into Shady Cove a couple hours later, dusk was upon us when we happened upon a fellow washing down some rafts at the "Rogue River Rafting Company." We talked about renting one of those "bad boys" the next morning. Then got some directions to camp at a State campground called "Rogue Elk." After driving back North about 6-7 miles, the campground appeared. We quickly set up camp in the dark, and soon thereafter I shot some of the most beautiful pictures of the trip - the moon over the Rogue. I was psyched!
I hadn't rafted in a long, long time - maybe 15 years? - but the Rogue where we put in was pretty mellow - Class 3 in only certain places, but otherwise a leisurely float trip. Ethan had a good time getting us into a squirtgun fight with another raft, and I enjoyed steering from the back - Captain of the ship, as it were!
Ashland reminded me a little of La Jolla, only in the wood vs. along the coast. High-class shops, tourists, terrific restaurants, and the welcome mat to browse. Only it was HOT and all we really wanted to do was take a shower. We found a hotel and relaxed for awhile - I'd made arrangements to meet Stu at "Dragonfly", Marla and Billy's restaurant, later in the evening, but I still wanted to shop a bit and poke around the town. Ashland is known for it's Shakespeare Festival that lasts much of the year. It's a real draw and I'm sure helps upscale joints like Dragonfly thrive. Ethan and I walked around downtown (ask him to show you his fly-fishing "flies"), and did a "walk-by" Dragonfly so there would be no problems finding it later.
It was great to see Stuart again - he hadn't changed much at all (no more than I have over the last dozen years!). Good times catching up on family and work, and the food was marvelous. We bagged some ice cream down the hill and called it a night - long day, which foreshadowed the next day's drive as well!
The next morning, Ethan and I got a reasonably early start towards home. We were heading to Southern California finally after nearly 2 weeks on the road. Mary (Kim's mom) and David (her bro) expected us for dinner in Oxnard, and I vowed not to disappoint. Man I hate the "super-slab" highway through the middle of California. The "Grapevine" is a major dread, and the stupid people who do not know how to interact with fast-moving commerce truckers are a major pain as well. Still, a little route planning and a lead foot, and we were at Grandma's house by nightfall...
The trip is clearly coming to an end now. We were bunking for just a night in Oxnard, then booking for San Diego and OUR family in the morning. My two-week road trip/adventure with Ethan was nearly done. We'd clashed a bit, smelled each other's farts, ate together, hiked, rafted and spelunked, laughed heartily (usually fart-related), pitched tents at night, and met more than our share of other Americans on the road just livin' their lives. What a great country we belong to, to travel so effortlessly! And, without a doubt, what a great kid I have in Ethan - I'm truly blessed with a superb traveling companion. Can't wait for the next adventure!