Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fishing with Jay

I am not much of a fisherman. I never have been. There are probably quite a few reasons but I will give you some thoughts of my own as for the reason why.

When I was young, I went out fishing with my brother and his friend. They were fishing up stream while I was swimming in the local swimming hole. I recall them coming around the corner and my brothers friend telling me to get out of his fishing hole. "You are swimming in my fishing hole.", he said. "You are fishing in my swimming hole.", I returned. "If you don't get out, I am going to just cast away.". "I don't care.", I said. Then, he did the unthinkable and cast catching me in the side of my head with a red and white wobbleright. My mom told me that it was quite a funny thing to see me walking up to the house with that lure swinging back and forth from my head. I did not see the humor at the time....I did later.
A few years later, I was fishing down at the pond in Gilchrist and I cast out over my head. The only problem was that I caught myself in the back of my head with the hook. Once again, I had to get a doctor to extract my miss cast. Dr. Goldsmith, who had done surgery on me a while before joked with me as he walked into the office. Something about being happy to see me but lets meet on different terms or something like that. I am sure my mom remembers the exact words. What is even more funny is that Dr. Goldsmith often comes into the diner now with all of the other retired docs from the area.
I did not fish for quite some time after that but towards the end of my high school years, I was asked by a fellow who worked with my brother at the mill if I wanted to join him and my brother fishing after church on Sunday. Little Joe McVey was the man that I looked up to there. I agreed and we all went out in Marvin's pickup to the river just below the dam at Wickiup. There were big signs back then saying 'No Fishing' but who reads signs. Little Joe said lets fish here. I was game but Marvin wanted to do the right thing and go down below the signs. Little Joe and I began catching fish right and left. I limited out in no time and went downstream to where Marv was not doing well at all. I left my catch close to him and returned for more. Little Joe was no where to be seen. I heard a horn honk behind me but thought nothing of it. I began casting out and was reeling in a whopper when a man standing next to me said "Hi, how is the fishing.". "Great", I said as I fought with my prey. The friendly man then said, "Did you know that it is illegal to fish here.". I looked down at his blue shirt and saw the symbol for a Fish and Wildlife officer. I was standing right next to one of the signs so what could I say.

I released my fish as he wrote me a ticket. "My dad will kill me.", I said to him. "He does not have to know if you just pay the fine.", came the return from the still friendly officer who I could tell was getting a kick out of my innocence.
I walked back to the truck to find Little Joe waiting for me. "I saw them coming across the dam and was trying to warn you by honking the horn.", he said. Little Joe and Marv agreed to pay my fine as I had no money and we thought that would be all that she wrote. But it wasn't.

A few days later at school, Rust Gilchrist slapped me on the back and said, "I didn't know that you had it in you.". He showed me that it was in the paper. Now, I never got into any trouble and was known for that so my peers got a kick out of teasing me over it. When I arrived home for lunch, Marvin took me to the side and told me that I needed to tell dad. He said that dad did not know what had happened but was hearing things that I was in trouble with the law.

So, when Dad came home that evening, I told him that we needed to talk. I explained what I had done and he began to laugh. "I thought that it was worse.", he said.

So...because of those and the fact that it is a very patient quiet sport, I guess I just found it....boring. Now, I have gone out fishing but not for the fishing part but the friendship and talk. That is why when Jay asked me to take him fishing last week, I agreed. I felt that it would be a good bonding time.

Jay and I got up early and headed to Jake's for breakfast before hitting the road. Our destination was the South Twin Lakes. We had gone there a few years back with the men from my church and I figured that we could go out in our raft that I had not taken out in quite some time but had checked the night before for air leaks and found none.

We turned at Fall River so that we could take the shorter route to the lake. No signs were on the road, however, saying that they were working on it. Soon, we were off of the pavement and on gravel for miles. But, we could still keep up a pretty good pace and so I figured that we would still get there much earlier. I came up on a truck and boat traveling twenty miles an hour and wondered if I would ever get by it. I found a short stretch and passed the two and we were back to around forty.
Then, we saw the signs for a stop ahead and a young lady standing with a stop sign. She came over to the window and told me that the pilot car was headed back our way so it should not be too long. I told her that I had taken this route for a short cut. "Some shortcut!", she laughed. As Jay and I waited, the slow poke that we had passed pulled in behind us.
We waited around five minutes and the pilot car showed up with no one coming from the other way. We began following her and we began to leave the truck and boat behind. The pilot car seemed to notice and slowed down to keep him behind us. We passed up one of those very large wheeled construction dump trucks who was just about loaded. It pulled out behind us after we drove by. I watched in the mirror as that same slow large wheeled construction dump truck had to slow down himself and fall in line behind Mr. Slowpoke behind me. We went through the rest of the zone at a speed of around 15mph at the most.
Free and clean again, I speeded up and was soon back on the pavement and turned off into the Twin Lakes. We drove into South Twin and the first thing I noticed was the sign saying that it was a fee zone. I looked over at the parking lot and than back to the lot of the store. If I was renting a boat from them, I could park there but i wasn't so I paid the fee and made ready the boat. Jay and I carried the boat with our supplies in it to the lake and pushed off.

We had not gone but a couple of feet when I felt it. The cold wetness in the back of my shorts. The boat held air but had a water leak in the bottom. Dejected, I turned around and headed to shore. We jumped out of the boat but the water had done the damage already. Jay laughed as he said that I looked like I had peed my pants in the back. I asked him how he felt about fishing from the bank. "I really wanted to go out in a boat, Papa.", came the answer. So, we loaded up the boat in the van and headed to the store that we could have parked at.

"Well, howdy, Jake's is here.", came the greeting, "What can I do for you guys.". We asked to rent a boat and the guys assistant, a very friendly jovial big guy, headed down to make the boat ready.
"Just go down to the dock.", I was told, "and look for the big butt sticking out of a boat. That will be yours.". We walked down to the dock and that big guy was bent over a boat at the end. "Hi", I said. The man looked up and at the same time slipped turning over the boat and falling in the water. I dropped everything to help him but he told me not to worry. "I knew that was going to happen sometime.", he said as he struggled to swim to the shore. "Number one is your boat.", he yelled. We found our boat on the opposite end of the dock and loaded up. I checked on the big guy before we left and he said that he was OK as he sat on the bench on the beach catching his breath.

We rowed out into the middle, baited out hooks, and cast out. I took a couple of pics for the record and we began fishing and talking. We sat there in the middle of the boat both thinking of how easy the one on the dock had gone over for the big guy. We sat and just talked....about anything, sports mainly. He opened his tackle box and asked me about the various lures that were there. He picked up a red and white wobble right and so I had to tell him that story at which he got a pretty good laugh.

We were not even getting a nibble and I noticed that we were drifting towards another boat with three people in it who seemed to be doing pretty well. I yelled over and asked them what they were using and they said power bait. "So are we, but we are not doing well.". "That is because you are using the wrong type.", he said, "Row over here, we got plenty and will share with you.". I rowed to the boat and he handed Jay a bottle of yellow maze power bait. We thanked him and rowed away as Jay baited his hook and threw it in. Almost instantaneously, Jay had one of the hook. I grabbed the net as he reeled the fish in. I scooped up his treasure and showed Jay how to string up the fish and put it back into the water.

I had not noticed our drift and with a bump, we came to the side of the lake. I rowed us back out and just over from our new friends and we began fishing some more watching the time so that we would keep it in the four hour limit that we had set up. We set anchor to keep us there and Jay soon had another on. We netted his catch, reset the hook and cast off again. Both of us had nibbles but nothing of substance. I soon had one on but lost it in the reel in. Jay also soon had a very large one on the line, his biggest so far but we lost it just before I was able to scoop it up.

We ate our lunches without any more bites and it was soon time to head back in. Jay asked if he could row so I let him row and guided him into the dock. He did a great job and I was sure that he enjoyed himself. We took a second to take a picture and then headed home with his prize. "Mom is going to cook these for supper.", he announced.

We got to the house and with Judy's help we cleaned the fish and placed them in the fridge. I called Carrie up and told her to get ready to cook some fish. "I can't do that.", she announced, "I hate the smell of them. I might even throw up.". I told her that I would talk to Jay about it before she arrived.

Jay and I went down to Jake's and began setting up for the evening poker tourney. I told him not to expect his mom to cook the fish for him as it kind of turned her stomach to think of it. "Boy, am I relieved.", he said, "I hate fish except shrimp." With a good laugh, we finished our chores and waited for his mom to arrive.

A good day of fishing....another experience with my grandson.....and I can only hope it to be a good bonding for him.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Commissioner Jayden

Jayden is always trying to set up competitions here at the diner. A couple of years ago, when his school had cup stacking competitions, he tried setting up one in our back room. I felt so bad for him that evening just sitting back there at a table with his cups in front of him waiting. But, it has never deterred him.

His most recent venture was to set up a PlayStation game competition in the same back room. He asked if he could use the big screen TV and I agreed. He came to me last week and asked how I got people to come to my events. I told him that the best way was by making up posters for them. He asked how and I said on the computer.

So, off he went to my office and the next thing I notice is signs all around the diner advertising his first PlayStation Soccer Tourney. They were on the doors coming in, on the counter, by the employee sign in sheets, in the waitress station, cook line, and dish room. He then followed up the signs by asking all of the employees that he could if they would come.

He asked about a trophy so we went down to the dollar store and looked around. He was looking for an actual trophy when I challenged him to think outside the box. What he came up with was a small glass ornament of a young boy playing soccer. I applauded him on his choice. The day of the tourney, Jay texted me asking me for a free meal for the winner. I agreed and he texted again that second place should get a chocolate bar. I agreed again and we were set.

He had 6 people for his first competition. I was working in the office but agreed to compete and did quite well, winning my first two games. I was then called back out to be in the finals against the youngest kid there, Dominique (One of our cooks son). He beat me in a shootout for the win and championship of Jayden's first tourney.

Afterwards, we had an official awards ceremony with the commissioner giving the trophy to our proud winner.

I wonder what he will be when he grows up?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thunder Road

You could hear them from quite some distance away. Deep Low Rolling Thunder. The Black Sheep Christian Bikers clubs from all around were rolling into Jake's for a Pie Run.

We normally close at Nine PM but as prearranged, we stayed open for a dessert run for the club. There was suppose to be around seventy five or so show up for the event and we were told that they would come in staggered groups. Since we had never done anything like this, we knew that it might get interesting.

I was out in the parking lot, getting some shots when I spied Judy's car driving up. She had showed up to help. Jim had already planned to bring out the pies onto the counter so that we could cut and serve the pies while the girls took the order. I had told Ricci that she might want to have a third waitress on but she felt that since they were to come in spurts, that her and Kara could handle it.

I ran into KC Caldwell from the twins in the lot. She and her family had come in earlier that evening to support us after the break in. I am always at awe and very appreciative of the many people in the community that have done just that. I have been stopped quite often in the past few days, asked how things are going since the break in, and told that they are there specifically to support us. Many have voiced their anger and told me that when someone does something to Jake's it feels like they have done something to their family.

"Hey, it's Ten Dollar Dave!", shouted KC. A big bearded burly biker turned his head and smiled. I am soon introduced to a legend in their group. I have not asked what the 'ten dollar' is for but I am sure there is quite some story that goes along. KC had a local in the Redmond area and had ran across some problems with a 'local' man there. Ten Dollar and his buddies found out and ran security for the rest of her show.

As I took pictures, a couple of ladies drove by and stopped. "Hey, this is so cool.", they said. I smiled and waved at the possible biker mama wanna be ladies as they drove by slowly scanning all of the bikes that now almost completely filled the lot.

I began to notice that the stagger had become a spurt with all of the bikes coming in pretty much together so I came back in the diner barking orders to the cashier to call the third wait staff in. He was already on the phone. Jim had the counter filled with pies and cakes and the orders were already coming in. Judy, Jim, and I cut the pies and served while Chris, the cashier, put the ice cream on the specified orders. One problem we found right away was the shortness of pie cutters. Our pies are cut in fives instead of sixes like most restaurants. Years ago, I had special made pie cutters made to handle that problem. We soon set up a system to quickly wash off used cutters and have them in an area to cut more.

I jumped in and grabbed an order to fill it and put the order down on the end of the counter. As I dished up the pies, set them in a spot where they could be distributed and came back to the order form to finish the order, I found another problem. The waitstaff were all putting their tickets down in different places. Three or four tickets were now sitting on the one that I was filling. I grabbed up all of the tickets and placed them in a stack that we could work off of, yelling out compliance orders to the wait staff as they come up....I said yelled only because that was the only way anyone could hear anything above the din of all those happy riders.

Grabbing a pie cutter from the heated pot of water, I looked at my list and found a Strawberry Rhubarb pie ordered. We had made those special for the event and it looked to be the first one ordered. I grabbed a fresh pie and pushed the cutter down into it. Standing right next to me, Jim was doing the same to another fresh pie. And, as you probably already figured out, two Strawberry Rhubarb pies were cut at the same time. I looked over at his with probably a confused look on my face as Jim broke out in a belly laugh.

Pie after Pie was cut and served creating quiet a mess on the counter from dripping fruit and plops of cream. We all tried to wipe as we worked but the sheer volume created the blended mess on the counter that at times ended up on the bottom of a plate. Mistakes seemed to be covered by other orders coming in and as quickly as it all started, the last order came in and it was over. I loaded up cut pies into the pie case behind the counter while Kevin, our cook who had secured the line and had finished his clean up, loaded the full pies into the case at the register.

I ran coffee around the floor while Judy and Jim cleaned up the mess that we had made on the counter. Everyone on the floor seemed to be happy and jolly, enjoying their deserts and their company. The roar outside told me that the band was beginning to break up and head out to their respective motels. We looked up at the clock and it had not even reached ten. We had served eighty or so hungry bikers and cleaned up in less than an hour. I ran into 'Ten Dollar Dave' as he was leaving and he promised to bring in his family for me to breakfast one of these mornings. I asked him to make sure to ask for me as I wanted to meet them and he agreed.

Jim, Judy, and I left the crew to finish up their clean up for the night and headed home. Jim and I were going to get up early the next morning as a few of the bikers were planning on coming in for breakfast.

I arrived around seven or so on Saturday morning to see that the group of leaders had arrived for their breakfast and meeting. Soon after bike after bike rolled back up. The diner soon filled up the front room with hungry bikers. Many who had gone to their motels instead of dessert the night before were now joining their compatriots for breakfast.

Jim jumped in the kitchen to help Ted while I assisted the short staff on the floor. I was amazed and amused by how well the short crew stepped in for one another with Sandy, prep and baking, coming up on the line and jumping in on the toaster and Trin who was in the cashier station helping sit while I tried keeping up with the busing and sorting out orders.

More groups showed up and we let them into the back room overflow. Casey, who was on the counter, was to take them but his section filled up so fast that he was struggling to do so. As I took menus to them, one man asked me if he could have some water. I smiled and said 'sure' but knew that it might be a bit before he was gotten to. I then spied the pass bar was full of food, so I jumped in their to begin sorting out the various orders so that the wait staff could just grab and run. I looked over at the wait station in the middle and saw the same man pouring himself a glass of water. I smiled at him and he smiled back. "I'm sorry, I was parched from my ride and needed that.". "No worries, ", I replied, "I was just happy that you understood and handled the problem yourself without getting angry with us.".

Terry, the back room waitress showed up early and I quickly ushered her into her station. The bussers and greeters soon showed up also and now fully staffed, we could handle anything that came in front of us. The normal Saturday morning rush came and went in what seemed like minutes but was actually a few hours and before we knew it, it was time for the bussers to secure the back room and clean up.

Before I left for the evening, I ran into a group of bikers who were in for supper. I asked them if the group had moved on and they told me no, that they would be leaving the next day. As I left for the evening, I wondered openly what tomorrow would bring.

Tomorrow....Sunday (busiest day of the week)....Fathers Day (Traditionally busiest day of the year)....Judy's Steak Breakfast......Hundreds of Bikers......hmm this might get very interesting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here we go again

I learned in College that the first thing you do in business when looking for a place to run it is: Location, Location, Location. It seems that must have been taught in burglary school also. For the fourth time in four years and the second time in eight months, we have been hit again.

Believe me, being the first story on both TV stations is not what I wanted this week. Let me walk you through at least a part of my day on Sunday.

I was awoken around 4:30 by Ted, our cook who opens on Sunday morning. "Lyle, we have been broken into.", he told me. "Are you sure?", I asked. "Yes", he answered, "they came in through the door to the deck. I have already called the police and they are on their way."

I jumped up and threw on my clothes. As I backed out of the drive, I was calling security. I told them who I was and asked them about any alarms at the diner. The told me that the security had been set sometime after ten pm the night before. As we talked, the told me that alarms were going off as we speak. "That must be the police.", I said. "It seems that we were broken into and the alarms did not go off.".

I arrived at the diner with police cars everywhere. The police asked me to stay outside until they had secured the building. I walked around the side of the building and looked over a broken in glass door from the deck area. I could not see inside and began to wonder about what I would see. I began to physically shake and could not believe that such a thing could happen to us again. I called the security again and told them that I needed to find out how this could be that none of the motion detectors had gone off. She had no explanation and promised to send a service rep down to look it over.

The police invited me in to turn off the alarms but wanted the break in area to be secure as they were bringing in their fingerprint people. I could not believe how trashed the site was with boards, papers, coin, and a broken register laying on the floor. I begged the officer to at least let me look over at the safe and was relieved to see that although the dial was off, the safe was secure. Not that they could have gotten much from it as the only thing in it was the money needed to start the business off for the day.

I told the police that I had cameras and they asked me to show one of them. I was still walking around in somewhat of a funk and I remember apologising to many people for what, I cannot remember. Slowly, I began to pull my thoughts together and I told the police that I needed to set up a register area for my cashier so that we could get ready for the busiest day of the week. I sent Ted into the kitchen to get all ready there and instructed Toni, the waitress, who was already solving the crime for us to make the floor ready for serving.

I grabbed an old register from storage and placed it out on the counter. I then found the phone extension cord that we had used during our remodel last year and brought the visa machine out to the same counter area. With all of the papers needed to complete the cashiers job, I then went to the police and told them that I was ready to look at the video.

We set the video back to around 3 AM and soon found the two burglars coming into view. The calmly walked into the cashier area and began destroying everything in sight. They threw papers and boards. They pried open the tip safe and stole the envelopes of tips left over from waitresses that had left before the end of their shift. One grabbed the chair and threw it out of the station. They worked but seemed to have no worries of time. They left the station for a few minutes and I can only assume it was when they busted into the stuffed animal machine. They then came back into view as they returned from the kitchen with a hammer and one of them began working on the safe while the other looked for anything else that he could find on the counter. That man took quite a bit of time banging on the can that the vets have left to collect money to help homeless vets in the area. He banged and pried and seem to spend more time on this can than he had anything else. He finally broke in through the top and pulled out a bill or two. As I later looked at that can, it became the light point that allowed Judy and I to walk through this stressful time better. He had spent so much time on that can for a dollar or two while all he would have had to do was turn it over and pop the access cover off on the bottom. On Monday, KOHD came in and we talked about this same can on air. "Let's embarrass this guy.", she said. That same guy later turned on the light and looked up right around the camera area not even noticing that it was there. Soon afterwards, the other turned off the light and they made one more pass before leaving the building.

The police asked for a copy of the taping and so I went out and purchased a recorder from Walmart. Before I left, I called Jim in and he went to work securing the back door so that our perimeter could be complete again. He had the door finished before I returned and Canyon, the fingerprint specialist, who just so happens to be married to a distant cousin of mine was about to leave. He had worked very hard to pull every shred of evidence that he could. I thanked him for coming in on his time off to handle this and for getting the job done so that I could open up for business.

Customers started rolling in and shaken employees manned their various posts. Judy did a tremendous job of keeping the crew focused while I made copies of the surveillance video. Ricci and Kara showed up shortly. Both of them are a part of the swing crew and often responsible for setting security. I assured them that they had set things properly the night before and that a tech would be in shortly to see if he could figure out the problem there.

They asked if they could look around and were soon calling me on the phone. They asked me to come out behind the building and they showed me where the burglars had thrown the hammer on their way out. Soon an officer was back for evidence and after further look, my two detectives had found the gloves of one of the criminals also.

I made a couple of copies for the police, one for Chris (our own video expert), and one for myself. All during this time, I would go out into the diner while the taping was going on and help out with the crowd there. I remember walking in the back door once while someone was talking about it with one of our waitstaff. "Ask him yourself.", she said, "But he has a smile on his face, so he must be OK.". I smiled and nodded and told them that their wasn't much that I could do so why not smile.

Some of the crew had cleaned up the cashier station and we soon discovered that the register was still working. So, after cleaning it up, we loaded it up from the other makeshift till and kept on working, bringing in the cashier back into his station. He worked on taking in the money while cleaning up his area.

I tried calling one of those 24 hour emergency glass places but they did not answer their phone and Jim had done such a good job on the door, I decided to wait until Monday.

Kara soon called me back again and told me that she noticed that the register was already on the floor when the robbers came in. So, back to the recording, I began to work backwards and sure enough, the robbers had come in hard shortly after 2, stayed for a couple of minutes while destroying as much as they could and robbing the Habitat Money box that was on the counter due to the problems from the break in back in November.

I then called the police and made them a copy of this entry also. The business began to start to slow down and the crew began to clean up from the busy day. I wanted to just keep busy just to keep me more focused so I shortly went home with Judy but left there and took over some plants for Carrie to plant in her yard. As I walked in the door, she asked me about my shirt. I looked down and discovered that in my hast that morning, I had buttoned it wrong with one side lower than the other. I had walked around all day that way, talking to customers and police with no one telling me of my oddity. I laughed and just left it that way.

Around three, I met up with one of our old cooks who is coming back to work with us and was coming in to clean the kitchen after closing up. I worked out in the office as he began his work and shortly noticed that he was the only crew member left so I asked him to call me when he was done.

I then drove over to the china doll for a bit of supper and took it home, eating it while watching a movie and waiting for the call. With the show over, and the employee still not calling, I drove back to the diner and sent him home for the night. Before he left, we checked out the video only finding that the alarms were still acting up. I sent the employee home and called the alarm company again. The tech called me and we agreed that their was nothing we could do that evening but would address the issue first thing Monday morning.

With that, I went home and to a fit full night of sleep.

The assessment?

A broken door that can be fixed. A banged up register that still works. Drawers and papers now back in and organized. A banged up safe that has been fixed and is now secure again. The robbers had spent nearly forty five minutes in our place trying to get as much money as they could. They ended up with less than a hundred dollars and allot of frustration. Our safe had held and we are still in business. And we have now added yet more security. So...for now, I guess we just wait until the next time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Ideas

It is important in our game to be constantly changing and attempting to improve on our menu. My biggest problem and you might call downfall there is I don't always know what to keep and what to take off which makes the menu quite large. One person even said that it reads like a book. I know that sometimes makes in harder in the kitchen but I just want to give them what they want.

Lately, I have been playing around with two things. Dishes with avocado and a new burger of which I have named the 'Lava' burger.

The lava burger is a stuffed burger that always has some sort of cheese in it thus the 'lava' as it oozes out from within. This weeks lava is the California with Avocado, Bacon, and Swiss cheese inside of it. I have had it on an introductory price of $8.50 of which includes fries and for the coming weeks will have a different one on every lunch special menu. Depending on it's popularity, I will probably try and start a 'Lava' burger section of the menu. Who knows, Jake's might just become the 'Home of the Lava' with maybe a catchy phrase like 'You'll love our Lava' or something like that.

I try and always keep my ear to the ground and have listened lately to a couple of customers who have taken the time to take me to the side with ideas.

On man the other day told me of an old friend of his who had a base similar to ours. This man noticed that I have tried various things to improve and increase the business between the hours of 3 and 5 PM. Those are quiet hours in most all places but also a good play time to work on ideas. He told me how this friend of his ran desert specials during that time targeting seniors who would enjoy coming in at a quieter time.

Now, I have tried a couple of ideas in the past that I have talked up on the floor before doing. The first was copied by another local restaurant close by when I decided to have a non alcohol 'Happy Hour' where my drinks were half price with meals. Since he put it up on his sign in front of his restaurant, I dropped that idea and began to work on another. My thought was to run a burger special during those hours. I talked to a variety of customers first trying to see if this was an idea that they might like. Before I was even able to run with it, that same restaurant had placed it up on their sign and were running with that same idea.

Now, that could be coincidence and I am certainly not accusing them of anything but this time, I am not talking to anyone on the floor but am putting my thoughts out here in the public where all can see my timing. My thoughts are this and are similar to his friends idea. Actually, Judy came up with the main part of the idea when I was brainstorming with her one day. We can call it 'Jake's High Tea'. In England, towards the later part of the afternoon, some places have what they call their high tea. That is where they have a little tea with some savory or scones. My thought is to have a table out with small scones, jam, and whip cream. For all who come in for a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever, they can go over to that table and fix themselves up a small desert to go along with it. It would be an idea that would be targeted to mainly seniors and my hope is that some of them might just find it as a good place to go in the afternoon to just socialize. I will let you know how it goes.

Quick Thinking Customers

I have always known that some of my waitstaff are pretty creative in how they handle their floor. They know just who and how much to tease or harass certain customers. But Cindy got it right back yesterday. A couple of our regular coffee drinkers came in and were bouncing around the tables a little, talking to some of the guys.

So, Cindy filled a thermos with coffee and placed it in front of them with a napkin that read: "Fill you own day!".

Both of the guys later came back to their usual place at the counter and with a smile on their own faces, placed the same napkin right in front of them where Cindy could plainly read it. Under her phrase was written their own: "Tip yourself day!".

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Random Thoughts and Ramblings

I am back to work now and finally feel like I am somewhat caught up (at least as caught up as normal). The first few days of work after the small break were brutal with at least twice feeling very overwhelmed but I am still glad we did it and am working on our next break probably towards the beginning of fall.

Fathers Day is just a little over a week away and we are going to be doing something that goes against the grain of traditional business thought. We are going to be giving away food on the busiest day of the year! While Judy and I were driving down the road on our trip, she came up with this bright idea and it felt good so I jumped on it and ran. We will be selling Steak and Eggs for $8.99 of which by my restaurateur's mind is at or below cost. Why am I doing such a crazy thing? Well, I actually have three reasons: First, I am doing it for Judy. I value her contribution in our diner, I could not ask for a better partner and Jimmy is willing to come in on his days off and fire up our BBQ to do up the steaks even better (Hmmm, I just realized that I am not marketing this one right. This is actually, BBQ Steak and Eggs for $8.99). Secondly, cause it just feels good. Now, I know that is not always the best thing for a business man to do but it has worked for me in the past a time or two so who knows. And lastly but not least, I am doing this as yet another thank you to the public for a very good year. I don't have the figures right now but this year is definitely up from last quite a bit and what better way to say 'Thanks' than on the busiest day of the year. My kids will undoubtedly have to start without me at the demolition derby in Redmond because I think that I will be working just a little later than normal that day. BTW, it looks as if we will be sponsoring the event yet another year which by my figures makes us a sponsor for around twenty years.

Our next big event shortly on the heals of that will be our Fourth of July BBQ and Blues. This was the first big event that we ever had at the new Jake's which makes it our fifth annual fourth event. And since we turned it over to the Vietnam Veterans in 2007 it will be our fifth annual fourth event with the third straight year of the same sponsor. I cannot think of anything that is unique for the second year but their is a first and that is the name. It just seems to flow better as the Taelour Project (of which I did coin the name last year) is primarily a blues type band. This will be our fifth year for them and I don't see us doing anything different in the coming years there. Last years event was a success and I don't see this as being much different. Many of the vets will be here to help us serve while many others will be coming to support the event. Once more, out of the norm of marketing, next Monday, I am bringing in a man to meet up with the Band of Brothers to promote an event that conflicts with this one. Why would I do such a thing? Because I believe in this other event, I feel that there is room in our town for more than one event, and I honor our customers decision to choose what they feel to be where they want to go. That event is another 'Tax Day' event down at the old mill district. They will be having a parade of vets at 3PM and speakers talking from four till dusk of which will be the same time as our BBQ.

Now, I will probably be way to busy preparing for our own event but if I can swing it will at least be there to march or ride along with some of my other fellow vets for this huge cause. I will attempt this because I feel personally that it is way past time that we stand up and be counted on the issue of the direction that our country is taking as of late.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue but one of realism. As we go about our daily business, I don't know of any business man out there who is not preparing for an up and coming very real possibility of hard and inflationary times and nearly every day we seem to hear things coming from Washington that can only feed this.

We have lost quite a few businesses in the last year here in Bend and many of them were lost because of debt problems. So, how can we possibly figure that we can survive and thrive in a larger scale as a country by increasing our debt? Other businesses that have failed have done so by expanding to much. So, once more how can we possibly see a brighter future in our country by expanding our government and adding more to our tax structure?

We bailed out banks of which just led us to a smaller amount of larger bigger banks that have tightened their rules for loans making it harder for businesses and individuals to borrow. We have set up programs to assist the ones who have not been as careful with their debts and are ignoring the ones who are hurting but have worked hard to do the right thing and keep up with their payments. This at times seems to go against the grain of personal responsibility. Now, I realize that their are and will be some very needing persons who will be helped but I am looking at this from an over all viewpoint.

And the latest bail out seems to be above and beyond all measure of reason. We bailed out two of our largest automakers only to see them both go into a government induced form of bankruptcy where we now own the major stock in one of them and have allowed the sale of the other to a foreign firm thus harming our local investors of that same stock. Within the realm of these same decisions someone some where has decided that it will be better off for both of these companies if they reduce the amount of distributors. This decision just does not make any sense and of even lesser sense is how the decision of who stays or goes is made.

First off, is only makes sense if the distributors harm the larger companies cash flow or bottom line. But all of these distributors cost the main company nothing and have no feasible bearing on their bottom line. All of these distributors paid well to be one, have paid for all of their vehicles and parts, employ many people, and influence businesses that are close by. Part of the fall out of this might be seen right in front of our business as the Chevron station that was probably highly supported by the Chrysler lot that sat next door is now not selling gas. We used to have problems with our lot being encroached with cars from that same Chrysler lot that had not enough parking spots for all of their crew. Now, there are tons of spots for the same much smaller crew.

Making even less sense is the closing down of the local Chevrolet dealership. That dealership has been in this community for nearly one hundred years. I have watched it owners give back to the community over and over and to my understanding was a very profitable business. The same could be said of the Hamilton's up in Redmond. Since the passing of Dave, his wife and daughter have gone to great lengths to let it be known to the community that they would keep the business running just as it was before and now we are pulling the rug out from under a widows feet both in the Jeep and Chevrolet line.

Do they honestly think that we as customers will drive fifty miles to buy one of their cars when their is so much more of a variety right here in town of vehicles that we know that we can count on? None of these decisions have done anything to help the customers trust. I have a friend who has always purchased new Chevies. He always bought them from Bob Thomas of whom he trusts. He was recently sent a letter from the regional VP of Sales for General Motors asking him to keep his trust and his business. He promptly sent a letter back with a copy to Bob Thomas that told of his disappointment in their recent decisions and of his intentions in the future of driving a Honda from the same dealership that he has always had trust in.

Now I have always and will always respect our governing bodies. But the last I knew it was still our government of which is to make it's decisions based upon the desires of it's people. So, if you don't agree with what is happening, now is the time to make those disagreements known.

While we are talking of stimulating the countries economy, let me give you my tongue in cheek version of a stimulus package that seems to me to be a very workable smart idea ( I only wish that I had thought of it first). Give every person over the age of 55 one million dollars. This money will have the following three requirements to it: One, they must retire. Our unemployment rate will immediately drop. Two, they must purchase or pay off their existing houses. This will stimulate the building, solve housing problems, and feed the banks. And thirdly, they must purchase a new American made car thus shoring up the auto industry. I understand the financial figures of such a plan will be greatly less than what we have already paid out.

Now, I am not a politician and know that I could never be one. I also know that things are far more complicated than this simple man's mind. So, with that, I will get back down off of my soap box and continue to run our small business in the best way that I can.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day Six...Columbia and Home

We woke up to the sound of the roaring waters of the dam at the Dalles. Leaving Mia in the room, we went down to their restaurant that looked over the same view. We walked across the small dining room and found ourselves a booth along the long window side. The room was a bit dingy with the windows badly needing to be washed. I sat down at the booth and placed my arms down on a table that was crying out for a good scrubbing. I ran my fingernail along the top of the surface peeling off some of the substance that attached itself there. As we waited for our order taker (as was the case in Idaho, you could not call her a server), I looked around at the decoration or lack of in the room. All of the walls were bare and the only decorations were cheap Christmas lights that hung from the ceilings and were attached to a web of extension cords that insurance companies would have a field day with as they seemed to be attached to the lights in some sort of way so that they would come on when the light switch was turned on.

Our order taker took our order and I walked over to the drink table. Judy had asked for a cup of decaf coffee. The only thing available was some cheap orange juice, apple juice, and a small pot of regular coffee. Only one cup was available and a tray of very small six ounce glasses were there for the juice. I poured myself a cup of coffee in the last cup (when I left there were still no more available) and filled my small glass as far up as I felt comfortable with. Judy decided to just drink from the water that we had been served. Our meals took a bit to get to us even though we noticed that all of the others in the room were guests also and we only were given three options. Judy chose the ham and eggs while I picked the biscuits and gravy with fresh fruit. My biscuits were the thaw and serve type, my gravy was from a can, and my fresh fruit from a refrigerated bag of presliced melon and pineapple. As we ate, I told Judy that John Gothberg would have a field day here in this place. We never saw our order taker again and did not leave a tip as we walked across the uncrowded room I was kind of hoping that I would see her to tell her why but she was busy talking in the kitchen so we just left.

We had promised Trin that we would meet her at the Bonneville dam at nine but thanks to our lengthy stay in the restaurant were just pulling out of the parking lot at that time. I jumped out on the freeway and quickly got up to a comfortable seventy miles an hour both of us enjoying the wind in our hair and the beauty of the canyon walls of the Columbia as you approach Portland.

Just a little ways before our turn off and riding along in the right lane, we had two cars passing us on the left faster lane. The first car seemed to back off just a bit, maybe talking on the phone or maybe just easing on his foot just a bit who really knows. This infuriated the man in the car behind him; a small white Plymouth Neon. The motor on the Neon began to scream as it's driver punched the gas with all he was worth. Seeing what was unfolding, I backed off my gas and speed of still around seventy to give the young man the room that he needed to pass on my side. He swerved his small car into my lane just in front of me still making his small motor cry out. Then he swerved hard into the car that had been in front of him. That man hit his brakes allowing the Neon to swerve inches in front of his car instead of hitting him in the front. The young man driving the Neon struggled to keep it on the road and then hit his brakes making the man behind stop hard. All along, I am backing off also but if the two would have tangled there would have been no way that I would not have been involved. The Neon then swerved back into across our lane and to the side of the road. Judy yelled to please not pass him up as he was crazy and I obliged keeping a safe distance behind his car. The Neon turned at the next off ramp but not without a fist shaking at the other driver and words screamed that I knew that I did not want to hear.

It all got me thinking as we closed the gap between us and our daughter. What if I had not packed up before going to the restaurant. What if I had taken more time when taking Mia outside to do her business. What if we would taken our keys to the desk instead of leaving them in the room. We live in pockets of time that are influenced by the things that we and others do. And even the smallest thing can make the largest changes in our lives. Mere seconds, or small stops can mean the difference in some cases of life or death. My mind went to one of our employees of whom Judy and I care very much for who recently lost his brother. How will the loss of his brother affect the rest of his life. Or given other circumstances, would his brother still be alive.

Our small bubble of life is very fragile and even somewhat small events can change that bubbles course and thus change our lives for ever. Five years ago, if that bookkeeper had not stolen that money would the Wolfe's not have sold the truck stop and would I still be working for them instead of myself. And that being the case, would I have even met that same employee or all of the vets that my life seems to be tied into or the car cruisers who stop by the diner on Wednesday nights. The list can be staggering and kind of blow your mind when you think on it. The trick as I see it is to appreciate every thing that God places in front of you and cherish the adventure of life that you have.

Getting back to our trip, we met Trin at Bonneville and enjoyed a visit there. A rose garden of sorts was along the side of the parking lot that looked over the spillway on the dam. I think I took my best picture of the trip there when I took a close up of one of the blooming flowers with the out of focus water in the back ground. I knew that I had a good photo when I looked at it in the camera and saw the small bee that was flying around it.

We then drove down to Multnomah falls and walked up to the bridge for more pictures before stopping at the small sandwich bar for lunch. Arriving there, we found a small area of tables tucked into the side of the cliff above that there was no one there. We felt that we were going to have a quiet little lunch as we ordered our food and sat down. Then the two buss loads of kids on a field trip showed up. They were well minded for kids but put that many kids together in one small space and you will have noise. I smiled at Judy while I ate my lunch unable to talk much from the loud din around us. We made our way through the mass of kids and back to our car where we said goodbye to Trin.

Judy and I drove back to the beginning of the old scenic road and enjoyed the various falls along the way. We both talked of coming back to Portland in the fall, staying at Edgefield in Troutdale, and taking some of the various paths that come off of that same road. We agree that will be a good adventure sometime in Sept or Oct after the kids go back to school. We fueled up in Troutdale and headed our car back to Bend and home. As we approached Bend, the storm clouds were brewing and we ended up putting the top up not blocks away from the house. We both ran into the house and waited for the down pour to subside before unloading the car.

Six days and Sixteen hundred miles most of with the top down. Judy's road trip for our thirty fifth anniversary of committing our lives to one another. A trip that neither one of us probably will ever forget. A memory etched in a catalog of memories every day bringing a picture of my experience in my mind.

Now, back to our world and our next up and coming events. First Fathers day of which we are going to have a special steak and egg breakfast available for all fathers. And then the VVA Fourth of July BBQ and Blues. It looks like it might just be a busy summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day Five.....Pendleton

When we first started, we only had two places on our agenda. Baker City and Hells Canyon. But many people who we had talked with told us that if we were anywhere near Pendleton, we needed to see the underground city. So, here we were in Pendleton.

We woke up that morning and went down to our continental breakfast. This motel had a large sign outside that labeled it a bed and breakfast motel. The breakfast was considerably better than the Budget in Baker but I am not sure that I would call it breakfast. While I was there, I looked for the ice machine that the lady on the phone had told me about the night before. After not finding one, Judy and I went to the office to ask. The lady on the phone who I assumed was the owner was there. This time fully dressed and smiling, at least until I asked her for the where abouts of the ice machine. With a little scowl, she said, "The ice machine is in the kitchen. We get the ice for you.". So, I asked her to get me some ice. I wanted to ask her why she hid the ice machine and if there were vicious ice thieves around but she didn't seem like the type who would get that sort of humor so I let it go.

We checked out knowing that we had an hour or so before the office for the underground tour opened up. We decided to take a walk along the river path that ran the length of the town. The people in Pendleton were almost as different as night and day from the ones that we had met in Baker. As we met them on our walk, very few drew eye contact and most did not answer an hello. The path itself didn't seem that inviting either. The hill down to the river was littered with a variety of trash including an old discarded diaper that was beginning to crust. We saw a man with a bag of cans cross over the cement fence that guarded the path from the river with his dog. He actually drug his dog across the fence and then went down the small hill to a patch of trees that I figured held his camp. Before we got back to our car, we ran across a group of gang banger wanna be kids on their bikes. It was really not very inviting so we got back in our car and drove to the office for the underground tour.

The office opened and I took Mia in for them to see hoping that I could talk them into letting her come while in her bag. The very friendly lady at the desk said no but that she would gladly watch Mia while we took the tour. Judy came in to meet her and felt comfortable with that so we booked the first open tour an hour later. We found a nice shady spot across the street in front of a small bakery and sat out on one of their outdoor tables with a cup of coffee while we waited.

I really enjoyed the tour which took us through some very interesting parts of old Pendleton including a Chinese laundry, an ice cream parlor, and a full meat market ran by four brothers where they took in the beef in a yard across the street, One brother slaughtered, one butchered, one sold, and one did the books.

The main part of the series of tunnels that was under the town were dug by the Chinese people who lived there who feared coming up into the town for fear of losing their lives. I was saddened by how we treated these peoples and wondered how a society could be so cruel as to allow that but if we go to many other countries today we will see very much the same thing. We were taken to where they slept, ate, and to one of their opium dens where they deadened their minds to what they were going through.

We were also taken to some of the underground clubs that were in the town during the prohibition days. The designed ceilings showed that at one time, these speak easy clubs were highly decorated plush establishments. We were shown the bells system that were used to warn the clubs of impending police and the escape routes taken from the raids.

But the most interesting part of the tour was through a old brothel that was uncovered years later after it was boarded up. The brothel was very much in place and we were taken through it's rooms while given the story of the lady who ran it. Many women who found themselves single back in those days had to take this type of route to just survive but this lady did something that you would not expect. Back in those days for a woman to survive, she needed a man to protect her. This madam taught these prostitutes to be ladies and to help them out of the business. She taught them how to cook, sew, and dress. She also brought a preacher in on Sunday mornings to have a service. She worked in the community helping people in need and it was said that she rarely turned down anyone who came to her for support.

A pastor of a local church got a hold of two lists. One being the women that were working in the brothel and the other being the men in town who frequented the establishment. He threatened to read that list from his pulpit on Sunday unless the city fathers did something. The city fathers, some of whom were on the list, shut down the brothel and made the madam move to a less noticeable part of the town.

As I listened to the story of this woman who when she died had the second largest funeral in the town's history. I contrasted her story to the one of the pastor of the church and wondered just which one of these people truly had the mind of Christ. Now I am sure that there are more to both of them but if their works are a sign of their mind, then one would truly have to wonder.

After leaving this enjoyable interlude on our trip, we jumped back in the car and headed towards the Columbia. We had decided to take the Washington side as we felt that it might be more scenic. We crossed over and hit Highway 14 and drove it all the way to Biggs Junction where we stopped at the rebuild of Stonehenge. As we drove we noticed miles and miles of wind generators that are in place and being built along the windy area of the Columbia. The looked like something from outer space and we both wondered how effiecient the electricity that they provide is. We then drove back over to the Oregon side and down to Hood River where we intended to stay for the night. Hood River seemed to be over flowing with people so we turned back to the Dalles hoping to stay in a small motel up on the hill that I had stayed in years back. We found the motel and drove up to it. All of the signs were in place but as we drove around to the back of the motel, we noticed things that seemed out of place and when we arrived at the parking lot found no cars and a closed up office. The motel had either closed down or was being renovated. Judy really liked the view there however so we checked in at the Shilo Inn that was right down the hill. Our room over looked the dam and the bridge going over the river and also had some very old buildings just below the motel that were very photographic.

It was by far the most expensive room that we had along the way but it was to be the last night and the view was very nice so we settled down for our last night on the road besides they also offered us breakfast in their restaurant before we were to leave.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day Four....Selway Falls

I got up early to see my brother one more time before he was off to work. Judy showed up right after he left and we talked as Roxanne brought out yet more cat toys for Mia to destroy. We then got our cameras out and walked over to the frog pond to get some close ups and then took a walk down the road to a small stream that fed into the little river below their house. Gypsy and Mia came with us and Gypsy promptly plopped into the stream while dainty Mia wanted no part of the cold flowing mass. We teased her as being the city dog who would not get her feet wet.

We met their next door neighbors who were out trying to retrieve a horse that had gotten out. They both seemed to fit right in to their sleepy little community. He was wearing suspenders and leather chaps while she was fitted in shorts with what looked like pink and blue cowboy boots on her somewhat chubby legs. They seemed to be a happy couple with animals all around including many dogs who came out to greet us. We thanked them for the lettuce that we had eaten the night before in our scrumptious salad that went along with our BBQ.

After our walk, Roxanne drove us to Selway Falls. The drive was about thirty miles most of which was on a small gravel road. When we turned into the Selway river, we noticed something in the middle of the raging river that was swelled by the spring run off. A small deers head was bobbing up and down in the middle of the river. Helpless to do anything, we could only watch as the small deer was swept down the river. It must have been grazing too close to the river and fell in. We all openly agreed that this river was not one to be living by with small children.

Selway falls was very beautiful and reminded me of Benham falls here in Bend. The water was very high from the run off and in most cases ran over the tops of the rocks that it usually swirled around. We took many pictures of the beautiful site before heading back to their house to continue on our journey. We stopped along the way and a small diner to have a bite. Once again, Judy and I had a great appreciation for our crew as we watched our order taker (you could not call her a server) wait while leaning against the counter for us to finish eating so that she could get her tip before she left. As I paid, she openly told me how tired she was and the manager in me wanted to agree and tell her that I was sure that counter was a pretty hard thing to keep in place. She had only been at our table twice. Once to take the order and once to deliver it. With no one else in her section, the rest of her time seemed to be spent leaning on the counter and talking there.

We said our goodbyes and off we went back to Lewiston and over to Walla Walla to turn south headed towards Pendleton and the underground city tour. It rained almost all the way to Lewiston which lead us to the only time on the trip that we actually drove very far with the top up. With the top up, the trip seemed to go by much slower than when we were out in the air with the sun on our heads.

We fueled up in Lewiston, put the top back down and headed into Washington. The rolling hills were a deep green and they contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and white puffy clouds. We threatened to stop and take pictures but for some reason, we never did. I can still see the sight of it, however, and mere words cannot begin to describe the beauty.

As we neared Walla Walla, I saw a billboard for a business in Pendleton. I told Judy to watch close for the Pendleton sign so that we would not miss the road. We drove and drove but saw no sign. Around 20 miles or so down the road, we came upon a small gas station store. I stopped and enquired about the where abouts of the road. The lady laughed and told me that I best head back to Walla Walla. She said that when they put in the new road, someone had taken out the sign. It seems that I was not the first person to be duped by that. One would wonder if someone might have done it on purpose and gotten quite a laugh off of others like my demise. We could only head back and follow the ladies instructions. We found that the road going east was very well marked, however, and we had no problems finding the right turn.

We pulled into Milton Freewater and called my friend, Steve, who had a small ranch there. He had told me that we were welcome to stay there if we were in the area. As Judy went in and purchased some sandwiches, I took down the page and a half worth of directions into his cabin. It was about 20 miles out of town. But what he did not say was that it was 20 miles up a mountain on some steep, dusty, and rocky roads to the top of the mountain. And that their were no other houses anywhere around it. We followed his directions and eventually came to the cabin up on top of Steve's mountain.

It was very beautiful there. A small white cabin with green shutters that sat up against some trees at the top of the mountain. Rolling hills spread out below for as far as one could see. Judy thought that it looked like something that you would find up in the Alps. We had not seen anyone for the last 10 miles or so but as we drove in the gate another truck drove by going the other way. We went in the cabin and fired up the generator. The lights glowed but were somewhat dim. The light in the bedroom blew out as I turned it on and I quickly found another bulb and fixed it. I could tell that Judy was a little uneasy and quite frankly so was I. I called Steve and talked to him on the phone and told him that we might not stay. He laughed and told me that he had stayed up there many times and had not died yet.

The sun was going down, there were no flashlights, the generator had to be turned off when we went to bed, and we had a decision to make. I asked Judy if she wanted to stay and she said not really. I told her that we needed to get things closed up and off the mountain then before the sun went down and we would have a hard time finding the turns that we needed to make coming back down. I came down much faster than I went up and pulled into Pendleton shortly after 9:30. We stopped at the first motel on the road into town.

After securing the room and bringing in the bags, Judy asked me to get some ice. I walked back to the office to find it locked up and dark. I came back to the room and by the instructions on the phone pushed 0. A lady answered the phone and I asked about where the ice was. "It is in the kitchen.", she said, "and it is after 10 and the office is now closed. There is no ice after 10." I told her that was well and good if we had been told when we first got there and that we had only checked in minutes before. She reluctantly agreed to bring us out some ice. I met her outside. She came out in her nightdress with a bag of ice that she placed in my bucket. I thanked her but she said nothing as she turned and went back inside. I brought Judy her ice and told her that I thought that I had made the lady mad.

With a nice hot shower and a very soft bed, we both settled down from another very long and yet fulfilling day. We laughed and talked of the things and experiences we had gone through for the day before both of us drifted off to sleep and to another day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Road Trip Day 3 A Brotherly visit

The pen is a much better way to communicate than the tongue. I think the reason for that is that you can think things through before you write them but sometimes when we speak, we speak without thinking of the consequences of what we might say. And then we end up with a tread mark on our tongue.

We woke up this morning and headed down to the dining room for breakfast. The Chandler Inn had been a very comfortable place to stay, it was my first time in a bed and breakfast and I was anxious to see what our breakfast would be like. We dined on fresh fruit, yogurt, and scones while we waited for the main course which was a light omelette with ham, cheese, and asparagus in it. The food was very nice and there was a couple from Washington sitting across from us. We chatted with them and asked them what brought them here. They in turn asked us the same. I gave them the story of the day before and how we had driving all the way to La Grande and when we found out it wasn't so grand, we returned. As I spoke, two other couples joined us at the table. When I finished, the couple from Washington told me that it was a very good story and then asked the other two couples where they were from. The first couple said, "La Grande" and then the second couple said the same.

With egg on my face and a foot in my mouth, I apologised to both of the couples. They both told me no worry and that they didn't think much of La Grande either. But I knew better and felt like crawling out under the table and out the door. Before I left, I apologised once more and we headed back to our room to pack up for our next journey.

We left Mia with Lisa and drove up to Wallowa Lake and took the tram to the top of the mountain. It was a very steep climb up the tram but with a very outstanding view. The ride was a little unnerving and we discussed that with the crew at the top. One of them laughed and told us that a helicopter pilot had told them just the day before that it freaked him out. We took a few pictures at the top before taking the small box hanging on the wire back down the steep embankment. We made a short visit to Chief Joseph's grave before picking up our bags and Mia for the next leg of the trip.

We had decided to drive to Lewiston, Idaho. My brother, Rudy and his wife Roxanne lived about an hour below the town and we hoped to meet them there to say hello. I called Rudy before we left but I figured that he was probably in church. We headed north from Enterprise through Rattlesnake pass. Lisa warned us that their were quite a few switchbacks on the road. The road was beautiful and Judy's car hugged the road as we maneuvered through the tight turns and switchbacks. We arrived in Lewiston a couple of hours later and received a message from Rudy saying that he was going down to the mill for a while. We ate lunch in Lewiston and decided to drive south towards the small town that he lived in. We arrived in Grangeville and had still not heard from his so we drove further. As we drove down into the canyon where the river that runs through the town was, Rudy called back. Before we could get directions, however, we lost all cell service. We kept on driving and when we found a small store, we stopped and asked to use their phone. Roxanne answered and gave me directions to their house. We had no idea just how far out of town they were. But the distance was well worth it as we drove into their drive and was welcomed by them.

I could not believe how beautiful the setting was and the first thing that I heard when I got out of the car was a low and rather loud sound coming from across the road. Rudy laughed and told me that it was the bull frogs that lived in the pond there. There house sits in a very fertile ground above a rushing river that can be heard from the house. From their front porch, you can see past the meadow to the river below. We had a very tasty BBQ out on their deck and then watched as the deer came into the meadow for the evening. I have never seen deer dance and play as they did. It was truly a relaxing peaceful sight.

After dark, we went inside and while Mia played on the floor, we talked into the night only stopped by the fact that Rudy had to get up early the next morning for work. Judy and I then retired also, happy to see Rudy and Roxanne and sleeping very well in their guest room.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day Two...Hells Canyon

We got up in the morning and went down to the lobby for a taste of their advertised "Deluxe Continental Breakfast". That consisted of a choice of cheap white bread or sliced up "Debbies" Cinnamon Rolls. A pot of coffee was close by to help wash it down. We decided we were not that hungry and went back to the room to pack. I had my best breakfast of the trip with my leftover Stromboli from the night before. Even after being in the fridge all night and not being heated back up, it still tasted very yummy. So....when in Baker City, heed these words: You have to stop at Piazano's, paisan.

We figured that the Budget Inn must have been sold to this Indian couple and that they had made changes to cut costs which lead us even more to have wished that we would have stopped by and seen Kina first. After all, we stayed here:

But could have stayed here:

Oh well, maybe next time.

We gassed up in Baker before leaving and found the people at the gas station to be just as friendly as all of the others that we had met in Baker. As I drove up with our top down, I asked if they accepted credit cards. "You bet and we will even swipe them.", came the answer. As one of the guys started the pump, the other tackled the front window. "I'll get the back window, Bill!", joked the one attendant to the other. They even wiped the dust off of my trunk.

We started up the hill to the Oregon Trail interpretative center. It was due to open at Nine so we walked around the grounds a bit taking pictures of the great view back towards Baker City. We ran into a man wearing authentic old gear that some of the old travelers may have worn and Judy talked with him for a bit before heading to the door that stated clearly, "No Pets". We knew that taking Mia with us might have some certain drawbacks and we had just met our first. So, we walked around the grounds some more taking pictures as we went. We could see down the hill where the actual ruts from the old wagons were but did not want to take the extra hour or so both ways to get to them so I just took a picture from a far.

We then headed towards Hells Canyon driving through along a very pretty section of the Powder river. The music playing on the car stereo seemed to highlight the beauty that we were seeing as we drove up through the small canyon with the river meandering through it. We stopped at a small town called Halfway. It was a very beautiful setting with the snowy Wallowa mountains in the back ground. We noticed that most of the town must have been at the baseball field watching the youngsters from the town play. It seemed so fitting and added to the lure of the place. We both commented just how down home the small village seemed to be.

From there we drove to Copperfield but noticed that the road to the dam was some forty miles longer on a windy road and since we did not intend to ride the jet boats, we turned back and then up the small road that takes you to the top of Hells Canyon and to the overlook. We enjoyed the overlook but even though the canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon, it still wanes in it's splendor. We kept on the road until we came to the small town of Joseph. We loved this town that sits just below Wallowa lake. Once again, the snowy mountains accentuated the town and made it very picturesque. We stopped at the store to pick up some sandwiches and when I came out, Judy was standing in the shade of a tree talking to one of the locals. She was British and owned a bed and breakfast up the street.

We then drove up to Wallowa lake and had a nice picnic lunch before heading to the tram. I left Judy and Mia in the car to see if the tram would allow for pets. A family was standing at the ticket booth trying to decide if they wanted to all go up or not. They took no notice to me standing there and continued to argue asking the ticket person question after question. Finally, they decided to go up and had to purchase the tickets, each couple buying their own. Finally, I got up to the window to ask my question. They would not allow for any type of pets, even those in small bags so we went back to Joseph to try and find the British lady hoping that she would watch Mia. We could not find her but noticed a small white rabbit going across the road. We followed the rabbit and watched as it jumped into one of the many flower gardens and munched on the flowers there. It was obviously not a wild rabbit and was very much enjoying it's lunch.

Disappointed from not being able to ride the tram,we hit the road again and drove all the way to LaGrande. We had heard good things of this town but when we got there, was very disappointed. There seemed to be nothing there for us to see. So after a pee break for Mia, Judy asked if I would mind driving back to Joseph. I already had that in my mind so we turned and drove the seventy five miles or so back to Joseph. We stopped in the only motel that we had seen there and asked if they would allow Mia. We were told quite frankly that only if we kept her in a kennel. I said that she had a bag that she stayed in and was told, "No, only a hard sided kennel and she must stay in it at all times.". We thanked her and left. I called up the British lady at the Bed and Breakfast and she said that she would gladly take us so we drove up to her place and were put in a small cabin out back. Judy loved this quaint little cabin and Our new friends, Lisa and Syd promised to watch Mia the next morning so we could take our ride up the tram. She also told us the story of the towns domestic rabbit population. Evidently, some one had let out their rabbits and as you well know, rabbits breed. Now Joseph seems to have a pretty but pesty problem. Not only do the deer eat the flowers, but so do the rabbits.

We thought that we might eat out that night on the deck above the cabin but the mosquitoes were so thick that we chose to eat in the little kitchen instead. We had Internet access and read Kina's blog of our visit before going off to bed to make ready for day three.

The Road Trip...Day One

We woke up casually that morning. Laying there in bed, Judy and I discussed our trip. This trip was to be a remembrance for our Thirty Fifth wedding anniversary. We got up and loaded up Judy's convertible, gassed up at Kent's Shell, grabbed a bite to eat at Jake's, and we were on our way.

We stopped in Prineville to say hi to my little sister, Teresa. I don't get to see her that often and it seemed a fitting start to our adventure. A hug from my sis and we were on our way. Going up the draw out of Ochoco Reservoir a small stream twisted down the mountain accentuated with grassy slopes and yellow wild flowers. With the top down, Judy said something about being footloose and fancy free.

Our first stop was the painted hills. We had both been there a couple of times before but this time being the hottest. The temperature peaked at 96 on our car thermometer. As we drove up the hill to the lookout, we both had flashbacks of coming up the the hills with Judy's mother who passed on earlier this year. The hills were beautiful but we didn't stay long wanting the miles and the breeze from the top being down to help cool us off. Judy put sunburn cream on us to keep that from being a problem also.

After a couple of viewpoint stops, we arrived in John Day. We stopped and picked up some sandwiches and then drove to the city park for some cooling shade to eat them. The park ended up being the historical site of old China Town with the actual old Chinese store still standing close to where we ate. We watched a small group of tourists as they were led by a local tour guide through the store. Refreshed with food and drink, we got on our way once more.

Shortly after John Day, we hit the road north towards Baker City. We had already figured on that being our first destination since I wanted to stop and see Whitey and Kina's Paizano's Pizza there. Kina is an avid blogger that I enjoy reading loving her style of writing. We made a small side trip to Sumptner along the way to look at the large gold dredging barge there. Many people told us that it was a must see if we were anywhere near it. The barge seemed out of place so far away from any large amount of water as the size seemed to dwarf anything around it. We walked in and around the barge and you could imagine how things must have been on it as the giant scoops carved through the rocky bottom washing away the mud and uncovering gold nuggets that lay amongst the rocky ground. There were things inside of it that I likened to the old mill at Gilchrist as I grew up. Walking through the barge, you could almost see the men as they manned their various stations in what was probably a very noisy working environment. We looked all over for what my friend Al wanted me to look for which was the toilet on board. Seeing only a couple of holes in the floor that might have been used, we went over to the small store and asked the lady there if she knew anything about them. She did not, so we got on our way only to have Al call me on the phone as we drove out of the town. I told him that I had not found the toilets and he laughed asking me if I had noticed holes in the floor. Those holes had been the toilets for the barge inhabitants. Obviously, there were no women on the barge.

We arrived in Baker City and found the small motel that I had scoped out on line. It had been listed as the number one rated motel in town even though it was also one of the cheapest. Both of those things seemed perfect as we drove up and checked into the Budget Inn. We were greeted by an man from India which seemed to surprise me since the web reports had stated that it was local Mom and Pop operation. Getting our room and our bearings, we found that we were within walking distance of Piazanos. We decided to walk and especially Mia seemed to enjoy the break from the miles in the car. A block from the motel we ran across an old hospital that had been converted into condos. Judy really enjoyed to look of the old building and openly stated so. She commented on the setting and openly stated how she would love to have stayed in one of these condos instead of our small room.

As we walked through the neighborhood towards the pizza joint, we were taken back by the friendliness of all of whom we met. Everyone seemed to smile and greet us as we met along the sidewalk. We walked by a old house with a large front porch where two couples were engaged in some cool drinks and happy conversation. We did not even walk by the front of the house but both couple stopped as they saw us, waved, and said hello.

Arriving at Piazanos, I left Judy outside with Mia while I went in to see if Whitey or Kina were around. I walked into the establishment behind two rather large burly leather vested bikers. I heard Kina before I saw her. "Jake's is here!", she yelled out as she blew right by both of those big bikers and gave me a hug. I was amazed at how she recognized my grizzled old face especially since we had only seen each other once before. But the pen can lay open the true person much better than any conversation can and we seemed to know each other as old friends having read each others writings. Kina came outside and met Judy and Mia (our miniature Pomeranian) and gave Mia a much needed drink of water. Kina commented that if she knew we were coming, she would have put us up in her folks condo not far away. I told her of the hospital condo that Judy love so much and she laughed telling us that it was one and the same. She did mention that the Budget was a good family owned business and that we had made a good choice there. Kina was called back inside because of the rush but would not go until we had promised to stop by later for supper of which we gladly consented to. On our way back to the motel, we ran across a few more of the friendly locals of which none did not smile or greet us. We really felt welcome in this town.

After freshening up, we drove back to Piazanos, watching the ominous clouds as they came over the beautiful snowy capped mountain range that stood watch over the beautiful old town. The clouds cooled off the air and we felt comfortable leaving Mia in the car with the windows rolled down a bit for some fresh air. We both decided to sneak in and order and then get the dinner paid for before Kina would see us but we were caught and busted. Kina sent word out that there was no way that we were just going to have a slice of pizza with the demand that we both pick something more filling off of their menu to satisfy our hunger after that long drive. Judy picked a salad while I found one of their Stromboli. The best way to describe a Stromboli would be to say that it is like a pizza wrap with the cheesy ingredients inside minus the sauce that is in a small ramekin much like aus jus for a french dip.

Judy loved her salad and commented openly on the sun dried tomatoes that were on it giving it a extra special touch. I fell in love with my Stromboli and happily ate it while watching the basketball game on the big screen on the floor. We both loved the touches that the two had put into the restaurant with me being especially partial to the statue of the old golfer that graced my table. I excused myself and visited their bathroom and was equally taken by their decorations there with a cowboy face softening the contrast of the white toilet back. I would never have thought of such an easy decoration and wondered if that was some of Kina's creativity. After all, most guys would not think of anything like that.

As we ate, I listened to others conversations around us and caught some pretty flattering remarks to their establishment. One person told their friends that it was the best food in town and that their was not a thing on the menu that is not both filling and delicious. I heartily agreed with them as each bite of my newly discovered dish seemed to bring more flavor.

Kina joined us and we had a great conversation as she explained how her and Whitey found the small community that reminded her of Bend in the older days and how they had fell in love with both the setting and the friendliness of it's people. They took the huge gamble of selling off everything that they had and making a whole new start which included an equally larger gamble of starting a fresh and new business. Looking around at the fruit of their hard work, I could see that they had made a good decision and had done the things needed to make it work. Mainly, hard work, determination, creativity, and more hard work.

We were tired from our drive and Kina needed to get back to work so we wrapped up my other half of the very ample pizza sandwich and headed back to the motel and needed rest. We went to get online at the motel and could not access. I called the office but had trouble with the man's strong accent so I ended up going down while his wife walked me through the Internet access. Arriving back at the room, I found that we were too far away from the base unit and Internet was not an option in our room. With Mia passed out between our two pillows we settled down to our first night on the road.