Thursday, June 4, 2009

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.

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