Saturday, July 31, 2010

Smoke in the Valley, Bikers in the Garage: Version2010

Here it is, the first weekend of August and once again the valley is thick with smoke. This time it's blowing in from the west, from fires near Lillooet, Barnhartvale and Barriere. A solid week of daytime temperatures in the high 30s and zero rainfall has made the fire situation keen.

And once again, the first weekend of August found our house full of riders, the garage full of motorcycles and the fridge full of beer. Not a bad situation, really.

Bryan, Gerald and John rolled in Friday afternoon after several days over at the coast. They had planned to go to Vancouver Is. but situations change and they found themselves taking in the local colour on Bowen Island. Not my first choice, nor theirs (I'm not really sure why they even went there) but they were pleasantly surprised and talking of return visits in the future.

I came home from work on Friday absolutely wiped. I was in the office at 6:30am, trying to get out from under the work on my desk: not only the real estate supplement but my Winfield weekly were due Friday because of the Monday holiday.The entire week was one big race to the finish line.

I wasn't sure when or even if the guys were coming to Falkland (they could very well have headed up the interior from Lillooet) so hadn't made any plans for supper.

Turns out they weren't all that hungry, what with the heat and a late lunch. Bryan made appies and then watermelon. That made for the nutritional needs of the night. Sheesh. What a hostess I am. In fact, not only did I not cook, I made a significant dent in a bottle of Rise wine all by myself.

Gerald savouring watermelon, dripping on the gravel!

John loves our 125 scooter and grabs a ride every chance he gets. This time it was down to the PetroCan station for heaven knows what snack food abomination. He lives on the stuff.

Got the foot out for the corner, a little steeper than you might think from this angle, and deep in round rock gravel, akin to skiing on marbles.

John, kicking back.

Gerald, pondering pecans.

The two guys left for the north country this morning following breakfast, thinking to get to Hinton, perhaps even Edson for the night.

John is very proud of his new Screamin' Eagle Harley. It certainly has all the bells and whistle - I mean ALL. And a far cry from his 20 year old HD.

Gerald is still riding his Victory with the sweet Arlen Ness design touches. We've ridden thousands of km's alongside him on this bike.

And they're off for home.

At which point Bryan and I did absolutely nothing for the rest of the day! I don't know about him, but I had nothing left to give once the laundry was hung on the clothesline. I've been reading and snoozing and grazing all day. Tomorrow we have some tentative plans but today was strictly a recharge-the-batteries day.

I did take half an hour after work Friday to cruise the Value Village thrift store. Never know what will turn up. Found a few good books and then came upon a nice find - a set of good white high thread count king size sheets and a new double size duvet cover, for $7 each. The duvet cover is for one of the guest beds, the sheets for our bed - or for summer shirts. I love cotton shirts. And one of the books I scored was David Coffins book on shirt construction from Interweave Press - a $30 almost new book for $2. Can't beat that.

My sewing gene is starting to twitch again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Midsummer Bliss

After a day that reaches 39C

riding a motorcycle at twilight

watching the setting sun turn the cliffs of Mt. Ida to gold

feeling the valley lift off its heavy burden of heat

carrying with it the familiar fragrances of

fresh mown hay and dairy cows

that stir deep longings

and fill my soul.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Revolving Door B&B

Greetings and salutations, my long-suffering friends! I have not fallen off the edge of the earth, only been somewhat preoccupied with all things summer in the southern Interior.

The garden, shown here a few weeks ago, is thriving - in part due to the thing orange strand I draw your attention to in the bottom third of the photo. That is an electric fence line, familiar to livestock producers on several continents. Darned good stuff for keeping deer out of the garden.... and wandering teenagers, too, if the yelps I heard one night after its installation are anything to go on. Apparently the old ticker is still pushing through the volts quite nicely.

The smoke at the top right is from the fire.....

shown here, ably stirred by The Girl. This isn't just any fire. Oh, no. This is a Heap Big White-man Fungi Burnin' Fire (as Brody texted "Annihilate with Authority!") ....

to combat this:

which is a terrible case of Hollyhock Rust, a destructive fungus that attacked our hollyhocks just as they were about to burst into bloom. However, as it is a fungus and as it will, with time, attack malva, we opted to eradicate the problem quickly and thoroughly.

And there was plenty of this:

with which to anesthetize the traumatized gardeners, which led to a lot of this:

and this:

Who says gardening aint fun?!

Brian and Cheryl were out for the July 1 weekend, and we had a great time (even if I did have to work Friday). Saturday was the nicest of their visit weather-wise and we took advantage of it to visit the Heritage Gardens in Kelowna. The gardens are an inspiration to me, to remind me and help Bryan visualize where I'd like to go with our yard in the coming years. He's on board completely, which is great.

By the way, the resident horticulturalist told me (when I asked) that we did the right thing when we eradicated our infected hollyhocks with flame, and suggestions to avoid the blight should I recover enough to try hollyhocks again.

My Bryan, at just under 6'4" (that old age shrinkage, you know) to put the height of the roses into perspective:

Cheryl's Brian, below, checking out some of the lovely drifts of heritage flowers.

Brian and Cheryl rounding the back of the garden.

There's a lovely 100+ year old house on the grounds - if I recall correctly, it was one of Lord & Lady Aberdeen's residences (or they had some association with it). Anyway, it's now a restaurant, very popular for fancy do's . We went in for lunch and were very impressed.

As our drinks arrived and we waited for the first course, a table of three women beside us had finished their meal and we about to leave: two middle-age ladies and a quite elderly but neat and trim woman. As they got up to leave, I noticed that the eldest one was wearing a lovely sand-coloured linen jacket with a floral pattern. When they passed our table, I spoke to her and commented on how lovely it was.

"Why thank you!" she replied and made to continued on. But just then, she stopped, turned back towards me, sweeping back the jacket and posing her hand on her hip, and archly asked, "Anything else you'd like to admire?"

We almost wet ourselves laughing. The table behind us was also in tears. She grinned, one of other ladies turned a bit pink but also grinned and said, "We've always got a story to tell when we take Mom out for the day!"

Now that's what I call a role model!

B&G left on Sunday morning to travel east. We did laundry and tidied the house.

Monday night and I arrived home from work to find Don and Renee, friends from Valleyview, just pulled into the yard.

Renee is going to kill me when she sees this:

but I know the pictures she has of me!

And of course, because it's us, it's time for another fire out back, so's the boys can philosophize around their white-man fire.

You know, almost everyone around us has beautifully landscaped yards and fancy fire pits with decorator furniture. You'll note our stylist appointments: old kitchen chairs, stumps and the rim fire pit we've dragged from farm to farm to hamlet.

As Roland said at Bryan's 60th birthday party: "Can you believe we drove almost 1000 km to sit in the same chairs, wrapped in the same old blankets around the same fire ring talking and drinking with the same people!"

Why yes I can. Shows good taste.

What I was going to say before Roland interrupted was that for all that, we're almost the only ones who use our yard! We're growing vegetables, cutting flowers for the house, playing outside, entertaining outside. Not a week has gone by since snow melt that there hasn't been at least one evening (or rainy afternoon) spent out there by a fire.

Who needs TV when you have a fire pit?

It's time to get other evening tasks done, like turning irrigation lines off and on (in different places, silly!). The drip lines are the greatest thing ever for this yard. I can keep the moisture levels around the plants just right and not waste any water. It was 39C today when I left the office - doesn't take long for things to get parched in that heat.

I want to leave you with a parting shot of some of the flowers around the veranda. The lilies have been outstanding this year. Cheryl, these ones opened a week after you left!

And the volunteer sweetpeas are breathtaking, both in foliage and scent. I come home and just stand here, breathing deeply for a few minutes when I get home. It puts my whole day back into perspective!

And one last shot, the neighbourhood bathed in an intense golden glow after a powerful lightning storm moved through. This picture doesn't do it justice, but I tried.

There are saskatoons to be picked, as big as blueberries this year with the moisture and heat. Saskatoon pie!!! Don't you wish you were here for supper?!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Road Trip

"Road Trip" - one of the best phrases in the world. Two weeks ago, we saddled up the bikes and headed south across the US of A border, not knowing or really caring what the road held for us.

It's just under 3 hours to the Nighthawk border crossing (just west of the Osoyoos port) and we were in Tonasket, WA for lunch. From there we travelled east, arriving in Kettle Falls for the evening.

We met Deb & Stu Robinson, managers of the fine Kettle Valley Inn (see below)

who brought sympathy and cold beverages while we contemplated this (see below).

That, my friends, is an ailing Moto Guzzi V11 Bellabio. As we entered town and the signal light turned red, Bryan did a quick double downshift and found himself locked into second gear.

While he laid it on its side and waited for it to cool, I went down the street for some First Aid Frosty Malt Beverages. We sipped Coronas and Bryan got his hands greasy.

If you look at the photo again, you'll see a hacksaw in the grass. That's never a good sign in motorcycle mechanics - it was, in fact, in case an Allan wrench needed to be shortened.

Problem was not diagnosed, but Bryan managed to find third gear.

During the field medic process, some State employees returned to their rooms from a job somewhere in the area. Sipping their beers out by us, expressing sympathy and chitchat, we watched a big bitchin' bass boat cruise into the parking area. A major walleye tourney was to be held the following weekend and serious contenders were already moving into town. This rig was enormous, complete with custom trailer, gloss metal-flake paint and a 280hp Honda outboard. We watched without comment as he backed into the stall, and then one of the State guys quietly asked, "Just how fast can them fish swim?"

I wandered across the street to a small store where I purchased my road read, an almost-new copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a big favorite of mine which disappeared from my stacks at home. My current read is Reading Lolita in Tehran, an engrossing book but far too 'heavy' for a road read (in fact, I'm reading it concurrently with Remembering Kate, a Katherine Hepburn bio that I've read several times, to tide me over the emotionally hard parts of Lolita).

Next morning, Deb gave stern instructions that if ANYTHING went wrong, she'd send out Stu with the pickup to fetch us. I'm happy to report that drastic measures were not required, and that half an hour south of town, headed for Walla Walla, Bryan inadvertently but gratefully found fourth gear.

It's easier to see the countryside when tootling along in fourth gear. This is looking back where we cross the river just before Davenport, our breakfast stop.

And below is the first of many WTF moments on this trip (the W being 'where' in this case, as opposed to 'what').

Made it to Walla Walla, Washington, marking the achievement of a small goal for me. I always liked the sound of 'Walla Walla' and as I've already been to Wawa (Ontario), it sorted of completed things (don't ask what things... just 'things'!). 800 km, more or less, so far.

Another early start and the enticing smell of Walla Walla sweet onions thick in the air. Yes, there are tremendously large onion fields. Further on was a herb farm with acres of what I thin was thyme. Heady odors.

As we travelled west into a serious headwind, I noticed hundreds of wind turbines on the ridges. Not a good sign. Wind turbines = big wind.

Finally found a place to escape the state highway at Cold Spring Canyon, and that's when the fun really started. Without any help, we discovered canyon country and spent that day and the next on some of the greatest motorcycling roads we've ever encountered.

We travelled through Heppner and stayed the night at Condon, Oregon. Midway, or actually just before Heppner, we came upon high dry rangeland. Time for an afternoon nap.

I laid back in the grass, basking in the first sunshine we'd seen in a month, listening to sounds from my childhood: meadowlarks, redtail hawks, killdeer and grasshoppers, the wind in the grass and finally the rattle of an old farm truck.

What you can't see in this photo is the tortured canyon country just at the edge, about the same sightline as the fencepost tops. Those blue hills in the back are on the other side.

Just before Condon, we stopped to consult the map and a rider who'd been behind us since Heppner stopped to visit. Another Brian, this one an engineer from Enterprise, OR on his way to Bend. He owns an RV campground up there and cordially invited us to come on by. Just might do that.

From Condon we travelled south to Fossil, and a wrong turn (both of us read the map wrong this time) took us farther west than we anticipated. Figured this out when we stopped to check out the scenery at the John Day Fossil Beds.

11 am breakfast at Madras, then a swing east to Prineville for fuel before continuing on to John Day. 30km out of Prineville and fate again played silly with us. The Guzzi dropped back into second gear.

We pulled off a small siding just outside Ochoco National Park to ponder the situation. Bryan had a nap, and about then a VW station wagon stopped by. When praying for a angel to help us, I never envisioned one clad in denim coveralls and leather cap. Enter Hutch.

"Where y'all headed?" When we said John Day, "We'll that's where I live. I suppose you're going to the Guzzi rally? Tell you what. I'll go home, get my bike trailer hitched to the car and come get you."

It was 70 miles each way! (Yes'm, it's still miles in the US, and I got brain-weary sometimes trying to remember the translation.)

We didn't wait for Hutch but began our long limp east. It was very, very hot, and at 25 khm, at was also exhausting. We stopped several times to cool Bryan's bike, because the air cooling system doesn't do much at a snail crawl. We were within 20 miles of John Day when Hutch found us.

Photographic proof that at least once in it's life, the Guzzi was a Trailer Queen.

Hutch not only hauled the bike, he found us THE last available motel room in town. For a population of only 1800 souls, it's a very busy and popular place.

Wednesday morning found us at the County fairgrounds, looking for assistance. Lo and behold, one of the best Moto Guzzi mechanics in North America was already on site: Matt from New Mexico.

Matt and his partner Debbie were there with their 5th wheel, of which 2/3 is a mobile shop. He had everything to fix any and all MG's.....except the transmission spring for a 6 speed. He had two...back home. Brought ones for a 5 spd. Ah well.

Matt's two Great Danes, Diesel and T.

Matt was a remarkable guy. Knowing he'd been up to his eyeballs the next few days with bike repairs, and seeing as Bryan's was out of commission until at least Friday while we waited for a $6 part to arrive from Seattle, he offered the use of his Norge.

After an R&R day, it was time to see more country. We did a little there-and-back trip to Baker City. It was lovely countryside. We hit a brief but soggy T-storm, and then a very strange phenomena - a pollen storm. The rain released heavy loads of conifer pollen, which the storm's tailwinds then blew through the valley in a thick cloud. Being wet from the rain, the pollen covered everything in an eerie lime green coating.

Stopped at a lookout above Prairie City, OR. Matt's red MG Norge and my little Suzi.

Looking southwest to Prairie City, with John Day somewhere down the valley to the west of it.

By Friday, the rally was in full swing. It was the US National Moto Guzzi rally, and representative from across the US and a few Canadian locations were on hand. I think somewhere around 350 participants were registered.

Bryan's part still hadn't arrived, so I did a solo run to Burns, south of JD. OK but uneventful. Bryan met some fine fellows and had a social afternoon. One of the small group from Langley, BC turned out to be a fellow originally from Waitara! He immigrated to Canada in the late 70s. Another Kiwi from Dannevirk and one from Dunedin road over from Maine - long trip.

John Day is a great little town. In the 1860s, gold was discovered and 10,000 people lived there. Now it's ranching country with lots of tourists and travellers like us, government services and fall hunters. The food was great wherever we ate (avoiding the fast food places as always) and people were very nice. We discovered a new favorite snackie: deep fried dill pickles. I kid you not! They're great! They were made with a crumb batter. I'm going to try making them at home using panko crumbs.

Saturday morning and the part was due 'sometime', but I was out of time. I had to be back at work on Monday, and with around 950 km to ride home, I wasn't going to linger. Bryan and I agreed to keep in contact, and if he got the bike function in a reasonable time, he'd try to catch up to me. I shot up Hwy 395 from Mt. Vernon to Pendleton, then onto the Interstate through the Tri-Cities for a lunch break and onward to Moses Lake, arriving around 1:30 after a 420 km ride. Stopped for coffee and texted Bryan. He called right back, had the bike repaired with Matt's assistance and was just packing to leave. We decided I'd find a room and wait for him; he pulled in around 7pm, tired and hungry.

It was uneventful final 520 km the last day, other than Bryan taking a wrong turn at a critical junction not once but three times!!!! And the only bad weather was torrential rain between Kelowna and Vernon. Typical. But not bad for a trip of just over 3,000 km.

This is a very long post, and I haven't written half of what I scribbled down during the trip. I do want to say a big thank you to all our road angels: Debbie and Stuart, Hutch and Mrs. Hutch, Matt and Deb. And also highly recommend any motorcyclist, or prairie enthusiast, to visit the High Desert of east-central Oregon. I known we're going back!

We're having a breather while the sheets dry from the last in an on-going stream of visitors. I've got more to show and tell about that, but it can wait for another day.

Love you lots!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All's Well

Just a quick note to say I've not dropped off the face of the earth. Rather, I've been snorkling through the piles of paper at work and at home. Reg's book is in the final stages.... if he'd stop adding photos, that is! With July 1st falling on a Thursday, that created a minor crisis with our work flow at the paper. And we've had a steady stream of company coming through the house... greatly welcomed and appreciated, but leaving little-to-no time for the blog .... or letters ... or any on-line communication. I have a whole raft of photos in my droplet box, waiting to be uploaded. Road trip stories to share. Ancedotes from recent days to laugh over with you. Gardening agonies to relate per the Great Hollyhock Purging Fire of 2010. As Brody Goodswimmer told us, "Annihilate with Authority!" Wine helps, too. Heck, wine helps always.

Patience, people, and all will be revealed.