Summer in Oregon – from the Cascades to the Coast!

It’s a known fact that people don’t watch much TV in Oregon in the summertime.  Why?  It’s stopped raining –well, for the most part, that is — and everyone is out of doors.  From the beautiful mountain trails in the Cascades to the wonderful beaches and towns all along the coast; from sailing on Fern Ridge Lake just west of Eugene to horseback riding, cycling, zip-lining, touring Oregon’s increasingly popular wineries – you name it, Oregon has it.  Here are some links for you to explore the best of what Oregon offers to her delighted residents and visitors each summer:


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Autumn driving tips and autumn trip ideas for Oregonians

Safe travels this fall in our beautiful state!

Oregon Fall Foliage from Travel Lane County:

Scenic Byways of Oregon from Oregon Interactive Corp:

Autumn Driving Safety Tips from 

Fall Driving Safety Tips from AARP:


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Summer dreams


I can almost taste it.   There is mint growing in the garden, and the scent makes me think of mint in my iced tea.  Roses are blooming – and so is the honeysuckle, whose scent makes me feel like I just want to sit down and breathe in the perfumed air for the rest of the season.

The tomato plants have started to bloom, and beans and peas are next.  There is still a little cleanup to do from the winter, but it’s not bad: root out the blackberry vines which creep around the edge of the shed; tie up or cut the stray arborvitae branches which were battered in the last big storm; find someone to replant the beautiful lilac after that months-ago snowfall caused it to lean nearly to the ground.  But it’s all coming together.  The last vestiges of spring are a good time to finish cleanup and get to all the planting, so that those long, lazy summer days can spill over one another like the froth of the incoming tide spills onto the beach.  A deck.  Sunshine.  Dreaming summer dreams.

I was driving my car this morning back from the store, and looked down at the mileage – time for a little more maintenance.  The car needs to take me to some good places this summer – up to see grandchildren on the 4th of July, then back in August for the Sandpoint Festival, where we can all see Pink Martini, Kenny Loggins and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  There’s a festival near here in August with Sugarland and Jennifer Nettles, whose energy I’d like to bottle and keep.   I need my car; with gas as expensive as it is, I can’t afford for anything to go wrong.  I think I need a new set of breaks, and the usual oil change.  Have to budget those for June; July and August are for family.

Thank goodness, you know?  Thank goodness I have a car that’s so reliable and comfortable.  It’s been eight years now, 124,000 miles.  I expect it to go another five years at the very least.  It will, because I’ve actually taken care of it; rather amazing for someone who remains pretty ignorant about cars even after all these years.  But I don’t think about it much once I’m at the location where I want to be; it’s so often relegated to the background of my life, to a trusted servant’s role.  It’s cherished for its reliable utility.

The background silence – the lack of crisis, especially in such a tough economy – is remarkable for what it really says about the guys who take the most care of my car.

They’re hanging out at Pit Stop.

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Music for Road Trips

I just came back from a long trip to the Idaho Panhandle, to help celebrate a family birthday.  On the road, my thoughts turned, as they always do, to music – what kind of music did I want to listen to for this segment of the trip?  Or would the radio be better?   I realized I have very defined habits and opinions.  For this particular trip, I like:

1.  Starting out – “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson – what else?  Then Oldies but Goodies – as I drive through the Columbia River Gorge.  AM 1400 or FM 97.7 work well.

2.  Turning north and heading to Tri-Cities – and even quite far beyond – Northwest Public Radio is superb.  It comes out of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University – good job, you guys!  Always something new, interesting and unusual to keep my mind busy during the long hours. I think it’s 91.5 FM.

3.  In spots of northern Idaho (and sometimes in the Gorge) it’s difficult to pick up a radio signal, so then I switch over to Credence Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac, or Simon & Garfunkel on the CD player.   I know, old-fashioned stuff for many people.  But the energy of Credence Clearwater is always a pick-me-up; and there’s both joy and irony in the music of Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel – not to mention gorgeous rhythms and harmonies.  And yes, I sing along – sometimes quietly, sometimes at the top of my lungs.

4.  Spokane has a couple of great Oldies but Goodies stations as well.

5.  If the music becomes too much during 6 or 7 hours on the road, I sometimes switch over to AM talk radio.  I like to yell at one particular advice-giver when she’s rude to her guests, which seems to happen quite often.  I like to listen to different political opinion and discussions just to see if I still feel the same or if new information might change my opinionated ways.  And once in a while, again on PBS, I’ll catch a version of “Prairie Home Companion” and revel in Garrison Keillor’s wonderful storytelling abilities.

That’s the Idaho trip.  But there are special occasions which require special music.  If you find yourself driving through the California redwoods – or over some of Montana’s most spectacular mountain passes – you really should be listening to Mozart.  Maybe Brahms.


If you’re on the coast, well, obviously Jimmy Buffet – it’s bound to be 5 o’clock somewhere, isn’t it?

If you’re stuck in commute traffic, put on a CD of Rod Stewart’s “Great American Songbook.”  It will help you mellow out.

Nope – not into rap, not into hip-hop, not into anything that has too much noise and is liable to make driving harder.  But there are songs that belong on the road, and many years after they’ve been produced, they still work beautifully.

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For sale: 1964 Mercury, one lady owner, 576,000 miles

Such a great story!

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Staycation this summer?

Planning on taking a staycation this summer? If you’re concerned about the high cost of gas – not to mention plane tickets and rental cars – staying in the local area is often a good option.  One of the nicest things about Oregon is that Oregonians make the state’s own best tourists: we love it here!

To help with your planning, here are a few sites that give you lots of deals to consider for your break – whether it be a weekend, or a week or two: – Good deals from Eugene to the coast – Eugene Day Trips – Best Oregon Weekend Getaways and Day Trips

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You won’t believe this: 11 Crazy Things We Do While We Drive

This is from Reader’s Digest:

Perspectives from truckers, who can look down into our cars – and are probably more considerate than we ever knew!


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Fun car and commute facts from AARP

The latest edition of AARP Bulletin has some fun facts about our use of cars and our commutes in the Jan.-Feb. 2012 edition.  Titled “50 Minutes on the Road,” the article says – among many other things – that the biggest distraction when we’re driving is talking to other passengers, followed by adjusting climate and radio controls (I had a fender-bender at an intersection one day while trying to memorize the lyrics to a favorite Dixieland Jazz tune!), eating, using a cellphone, taking care of children, reading a map – and grooming.  Grooming, for me, would come just after the Dixieland Jazz item, because that’s what I tend to do at stop lights. I know, I know.  But most of the time I’m headed to some kind of appointment, and I tend to forget things when I’m dashing out the door.

Missoula, Montana, from the trails at Blue Mountain south of town

Another fun fact is that Missoula, Montana has the shortest commute in the nation, at just 15.8 minutes.  Part of the reason is Montana’s low population base; it’s just hit 1 million people, but they are spread out over 147,000 square miles.  But the main reason is that Missoula is situated in a small valley at the base of five canyons, or other valleys.  The geography of the area is not wide open and spread out  The longest commute in the nation?  As you would expect, that’s New York City at 34.6 minutes – and I have to assume most of those minutes are spent on public transportation like trains, subways and taxis.

Another fact mentioned in the AARP article is much closer to home: it turns out that more people in Corvallis, Oregon ride their bikes to work than in other communities.  Portland probably won’t like that statistic.  But I don’t think anyone will be disturbed in Eugene, because everyone knows that Ducks swim.

Oh yes – AND THEY WIN THE ROSE BOWL!!!! (I keep trying to calm down on that one,  but it’s really impossible.)

Anyway… enjoy your commute or your distractions, but please balance them out!  Hope you are enjoying our warm winter so far!

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More tips on winter driving

If you ever drive through (or even near) the northern half of the northern hemisphere during the winter – above or near the 45th north parallel – you know that the weather can change rapidly and unexpectedly.

I drove through a snowstorm recently – a brief one, not a bad one.  But it was a reminder that I’d neglected some important things about winter driving.  I ran out of windshield washer fluid, and had to stop and stock up.

As the storm got a little heavier, I remembered that there was no  shovel in the car, and I always drive with a shovel in the wintertime.  Why?  Because if I get stuck or if someone else gets stuck, it comes in pretty handing for digging out of the snow.  I didn’t manage to bring along any snow-melt, either, or just plain old rock salt.  You never really know when snow might be unexpectedly heavy.

I did have a small first-aid kit in the car; I never travel without one, even in good weather.  And I did have some bottled water.  But I didn’t have any food or chocolate.

What kind of food, and why chocolate?  Well, I favor cheese, crackers, and processed meats like salami.  Buying the little sealed packages of  these in the grocery story is not a bad idea.  And the chocolate is there for energy; if you get stuck, chocolate might just come into its own as one of the major food   groups!

Needless to say (consider the source of this blog, after all) you should be sure you have the proper winter oil in your car, and that your local quick lube – say, Pit Stop U.S.A. – has checked out all your fluids and performed a good winterization service on your car.

But perhaps the major tip for safe winter driving is that you should always, always tell someone where you are going; what route you intend to take; and when you anticipate arriving at your destination.  You should do this even if your cell phone has GPS tracking on it, as mine does; it’s just a double safeguard.  In you’re driving in the great American West, just be sure that you stick to the main roads.  Some of those backwoods logging roads can be especially treacherous in the winter.

This weekend, many of us will be hitting the road again to celebrate the New Year.  Let’s start it off right!  Drive safely; drive sober; and have a happy and prosperous New Year!

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The cars – and trucks – in our lives

Somehow, that Thanksgiving holiday passed way too quickly!  In my family, it’s the Grandma’ – me – who goes over the river and through the woods to join family for any given holiday, an 8-hour drive.  I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to drive so far for a few days, but I do know that asking my daughter to pack up a husband and three kids (the youngest is 3-1/2) and drive that far is a major production – and, most likely, an interruption in school for the older boys.

This year, the drive got me to thinking about the cars and trucks in our lives, and what they mean to us.  I have a housemate at the moment, a woman originally from Russia, who grew up in Moscow.  There’s no need to drive in Moscow any more than there is a need to drive in New York City; there’s plenty of public transportation, and the crowded city streets make owning a car and driving a pretty unreasonable proposition.  So at my house, Natalia is gradually learning to drive; we live in a suburb, and there’s just no way she can get to her internship and various appointments unless she learns.  She remains astonished at how much the West is dependent upon the car.  But then, it was the railroad which opened up the West to white settlement, so speed and wide-open spaces were built into the idea of transportation here from the very beginning.

At my daughter’s house in northern Idaho – up on a hillside overlooking the stunning Lake Pend O’reille – not having a car is unthinkable.  Diana’s husband, Bob, is a relief pharmacist who works several days a week in Yakima, Washington, a 5-hour drive away; he’s home intermittently, for a few days each week or every couple of weeks, depending on the needs of his job.  As a result, Diana drives her three boys eight miles southeast to church on Sundays; 15 miles northwest to go shopping or to activities at the charter school the older boys attend; back eight miles southeast for a youth group that the boys enjoy, or for events like the annual 4th of July parade (in small-town America, those are the best kinds of parades!); and back 15 miles northwest for doctor’s appointments, getting repairs done on the car, or football and soccer practice.  She lives in her car, as do the parents of millions of teenagers.  Bob drives a little Ford Taurus for his long commutes to and from work; Diana and the boys enjoy the combination of toughness and luxury found in their Lincoln Navigator.

Because Diana and Bob live on some extremely rural, forested acreage, they also have an old beater truck they inherited from friends who left the area.  That old truck scarcely works, but it is pressed into service for trips to the local landfill and to haul wood off the property as needed.  This is the kind of country for which pickup trucks were invented.

For all the years that I lived in Montana – 24, to be precise – I had four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles.  These are necessary in the high mountain snow country, when you find yourself traveling somewhere in the state on a narrow, two-lane road that is getting pummeled by a harsh snowstorm.  I used to love heading south to parts of Oregon or California and to gaze in wonder at what I called the “land of shiny cars and convertibles.”  These weren’t new to me; I grew up in California.  But now those cars had become a novelty. How nice it would be, I would think, to have some sporty little convertible to drive around in on warm summer afternoons.  My mid-life crisis passed with my giving into the temptation – hang it all anyway!

I still have my all-wheel drive “baby SUV” – a Toyota Highlander – that I bought in Montana about 8 years ago.  With just 117,000 miles on it, I intend to drive it into the ground before giving it up for a newer vehicle.  It should go to 200,000 miles easily; and although I find myself, this year, drooling over the newer models, there’s just no way I can afford one right now.  I’m glad I made a good, solid investment in a good vehicle when I had the chance; next to the mortgage, it’s been the big-ticket item in my life.

That’s probably true for most of us.  Living in the West means, for the most part, living in an area that is heavily dependent on the automobile, and despite all our wishes to live differently – less dependent upon foreign oil, more environmentally responsible – that’s not going to change any time soon in this part of the country.  As a result, our love affair with cars continues.  When I first dated my husband back in high school, he had a royal blue ’57 Chevy station wagon with blue fur on the dashboard.  If you pressed the horn, you heard chimes. I remember the first car I ever bought in my own name many years later, a little green Chevy; and I so well remember the first rush of gratitude I felt in Montana after learning the benefits of a four-wheel drive vehicle in rough terrain and rough weather.  I cannot look at a Ford F-150 truck without remembering a ranch we once owned; was there ever a better ranch vehicle?

The cars and trucks of our lives: they aren’t merely practical.  They cause a rush of sentimental memory many years after their useful lives are over.

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