Friday, January 02, 2009

JOURNEYS: Hip Pit Stops through Central Oregon

My "How I Almost Died Getting Home for Christmas" Photo Essay

Other possible headlines:
Why my mother's date roll is so good I'd risk my life on Stinkingwater Summit after the worst storm since Oregon's statehood.

My Christmas Odyssey: Getting home to Utah- 760 miles, 30 miles per hour, 3 days, and a flight out of Boise(yeah, it took me THAT to get home for Christmas!!)

This barren snow scape should be admired in photos and not out the window of a totoya corolla while driving through the remote parts of central Oregon in the middle of a storm.

For those of you who were unaware, this year in the Northwest there was record-breaking snow, which means record-breaking storms right around the Christmas break.

FYI: Don't drive through central Oregon to Utah during the winter, especially after one of the worst snow storms in years!! This trip was one of the longest of my life, it took me twice as long to get half as far. The first day, I went from Lebanon to Bend. The second day from Bend to Crane and the third day I made it to Boise in the evening and caught a flight at 7 o'clock to Salt Lake because the freeway was closed to Utah. I'm actually glad it was closed because I was so exhausted from driving on crappy roads, I didn't want to drive anymore. I made it home just in time for Christmas. There were only 2 other passengers on the Delta flight that evening; I rode home with the mechanics and all the flight attendants.

But when you have a mom this cute to go home to... and all her Christmas treats, it's hard not to want to brave the journey.

And not to mention the cutest nieces and nephews in the WORLD:

I know this may sound a little dramatic, but I'm not a girl who grew up in temperate conditions, I grew up in snow-ville, Idaho, where the snow didn't melt until June and where we actually got snowed in (so we couldn't open the front door and had to dig the dog out of his house!) The roads on this trip crazy at times and I wouldn't have made it without those chains and a lot of prayer, regular calls to my friend John -who reassured me he'd call the local sheriff if I didn't call back- and some help by gas station attendants and random people along the way.

Here's a little recap of my journey:

Before driving to Utah, I had spent a day in panic mode in front of the Internet on the "trip check" road report site, looking at Web cams of snow packed roads and chain advisories and thinking I may not be able to see my fam for Christmas. The Portland airport even closed down for a few days. I planned to drive through the blue mountains, but the road CLOSED along the Columbia Gorge, but being the adventurer that I am (the impractical, risk-my-life on snowy, icy roads girl) I ventured out, after buying new tires and stopping by Les Schab to buy those expensive "do-it-yourself" chains. I plunked down $80 and the Les Schab guy gave me a little lesson on how to strap on the chains (only to discover while laying on the snowy ground with my hands hugging my freezing tire that the lesson the guy gave me included a tire that was suspended in mid-air... how was I to put chain on a tire that was planted on the ground??) Needless to say, I managed to get those things on twice and take them off twice. Something I think everyone should learn how to do!

1 p.m., I've got my chains and I'm headed over Santiam Pass, I plan to drive until I get tired and get a hotel.

The Santiam Pass was my first feat and I pulled over to put on chains with a caravan of about 4 strangers. we helped each other figure things out and I even helped a guy put his chains on! I made it up the pass driving 30 miles per hour the entire way, hanging onto the steering wheel with a death grip and my butt frozen from laying on the snow trying to put my chains on earlier.

What was most eerie about the trip was that at moments, there were so few cars on the road, I was convinced if I went off, they wouldn't find my body until spring.

(It's taken me 5 hours to drive what should have taken 2 1/2 hours!)First stop, almost seduced by the rugged men at the sports bar of Three Creeks cozy restaurant in Sisters, Oregon... after braving the Santiam Pass, I consider staying in Sisters for Christmas

I made it to Sisters by dark, it was freezing and I took the chains off my tires and went inside to warm my hands by the fire and sat at the bar and had "dollar tacos" here. FYI: on Monday night in Sisters, Oregon, men gather to watch football and eat dollar tacos. The men are rugged and cute, it was almost worth the trip over the Santiam Pass (not really.)

Post-traumatic stress about my trek over the Santiam pass... consider turning around, but I don't want to drive over that crazy pass again, so I continued on. (The worst part wasn't driving on snow-packed roads, but merging onto the freeway which felt treacherous

I stayed over night in Bend at a friend of a friend's house, woke up early and headed out again. I started a little later, the sun was out; snow melting off the highway, luckily, but still, not a lot of traffic on the roads.

I stopped to take a breather at little town called Brothers.

Roads are better along this stretch!

This is a super nice lady that helped me look for my wallet, that fell out of my purse while I was thawing at the cafe. If you click on the photo, you can see the advertisement for a COWPOKE BURGER.

Back on the road, next stop: Burns

I almost spent Christmas watching Twilight in Burns and wondering how in the H.E. double hockey sticks a Mormon BYU graduate became a multi-millionaire by writing a love story about a vegetarian vampire. But it wasn't dark yet, so I drove to a town called Buchannan, then diverged a bit to drive to a dinky town called Crane.( I say almost spent Christmas at these random places because I think I timed it just right between storms so I could make it up and down passes to get to Boise.)

Back on the road:

I made it just outside of Burns to a little town called Crane where I almost spent Christmas eating a burger at this place.

But instead, a lady at a little shop called Oards, told me about a hotsprings off the main road, with cabins where I could stay for the night. I wasn't too excited about driving another 3 hours at 30 miles per hour in the dark up to Stinking Water pass, no less.... a place that ran along the river and was very icy. I had a foreboding.... Knowing my flare, I surely was destined to leave this life going over a pass called Stinking Water....

The Crystal Crane hotsprings were amazing and the cabins were toasty warm and really clean. I floated for hours in a hotsprings pond and watched the stars overheard... I felt like I was paddling around in circles through the milky way, it was truly one of the most fantastic experiences.

6 a.m.- snowing, packed snow, enroute to Stinking Water Pass:

The next morning, I woke up early and headed out at 7 a.m. It was snowing and I put my chains on in the dark and headed out into the unknown on packed snow roads. The cows looked really cold, almost frozen and I had bizarre imaginings about running off the road and getting stuck by some remote pasture and having to kill a cow and climb inside the carcass to keep from freezing to death. :) I love my sense of melodrama, it kept me entertained while driving 30 miles per hour ALL DAY.

I was heading up two passes... Stinking Water and Drinkwater. I was a little freaked out actually. It's not that I'm unaccustomed to driving on snowy roads, but it was so early and I was alone with chains on my car. I passed one guy who came motoring down the road in a wimpy looking car. He said he's been driving since 4 that morning from Vail, Oregon and had only seen two other cars on the road, but he didn't have chains, so I figured if he could make it, so could I.

I stopped at a place called Juntura to get biscuits and gravy at the Oasis Cafe.

This is Scott, who's the cook, his fiance owns the place. He insisted I eat the biscuits and gravy while there and not try to eat as I drove (the roads were terrible.) He insisted I take my time driving too- though I was trying to catch a flight. It took me twice as long to get from Juntura to Ontario than it might have, but there roads were terrible, soo much built-up ice in places that I may not have made it had it not been for the chains.

Made it to Ontario, alive and exhausted! Here's a girl at a gas station who's getting into the Christmas spirit.

I made it to Boise and got on a flight, which barely made it up and out of the storm and landed in Salt Lake at 9 p.m. Christmas eve.

Here's the only other paying passengers (besides myself) a couple from Portland who's plane to Salt Lake was cancelled and they had to go later.

The airplane was empty... we had a really short take-off, the pilot had the plane climbing in 5 seconds.

And at last I made it home!!

Mom Sweet Mom!

Home Sweet Home!


The Rambler said...

Umm hello, you still left us all hanging! Remember that date roll you mentioned at the beginning? Actually you mentioned it in both of your last posts, and then gave us no further info on it.

I actually just spent the evening making date candy, essentially pitted dates mushed and flavored in the cuisinart and then rolled in something. Tonight I added cocoa, coconut extract, and chopped almonds to one batch before rolling it in unflavored coconut.

I was going more for a carmel flavor with the other batch so I added vanilla, salt, maple syrup flavoring, and cinnamon before rolling in crushed almonds. That second batch also recieved a little boost of milled flax seed, powdered milk, and a tablespoon of oats to thicken it up.

Tomorrow I may toss in some raisins and rum flavoring with cocoa for a rum raising thing to finish off the dates I thawed and pitted tonight. Needless to say I'm pretty obessed with treats made with dates that seem healthier than alternatives but in reality have just as many calories (but more potassium!).

The Rambler said...

Ok, apparently I already commented but I just finished actually reading your blog so I felt like commenting again.

So Sisters in Oregon are better then Brothers, and Drinkingwater is better than Stinkingwater. That's what I've learned from your blog.

Jen said...


I'll have to update the post with my mom's daterool recipe! It is great. It's not nearly as healthy as yours and involves sweet and condensed milk and fruity minuature marshmellows.

And I like your analysis of my trip! That's hilarious! Yes, Sisters is better than Brothers, Oregon and Drinking water is better than Stinking water!

By the way, I loved your saguaro syrup for Christmas and the prickly pear juice helped me get over a cold, I'm not kidding. Is it full of vitamins or something?

Keep in touch!!