Monday, October 29, 2007

This past weekend I took Kerry out to Smith Rock for her first outdoor climbing experience and our first time camping together. It was also the 3rd Annual Skull Hallow Halloween bash. Saturday morning we met up with Ryan and Jannelle and their friend Stacey in the parking lot. Then we headed over to the popular Morning Glory Wall and Dihedrals area to find some beginner routes. It was probably the busiest weekend I've ever seen at Smith. A combination of great weather, being the last "good weekend" before winter and several large groups made it difficult to find an easy route to start out on.

We eventually settled in at Bunny Face, a easy 5.7 route. My friends Al and Claudia were just finishing so I had them trail our rope up rather than leading it myself. We spent a couple of hours at Bunny Face while Ryan and Kerry climbed it. After that we went over to an unnamed 5.5 route near Cinnamon Slab. I lead it, then Ryan climbed it. As soon as Kerry started several obnoxiously loud climbers descended on us and literally crowded us off the route. Their lack of etiquette was the only low point of the weekend. Rather than try to find a less crowded route, we decided to bail and head off to the campground early to claim a good spot near the party but far enough away to sleep in case the party raged on all night long.

The party Saturday night was a great success. There about 50 friends and friends of friends there. We had beer, food, a bonfire, a game of corn hole, and lots of good fun. The party went on till close to midnight and it was great to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen all summer.

Sunday we cured our hangovers with breakfast at the Smith Rock Cafe and then opted to do the 4 mile hike up and over Misery Ridge and around the backside of Smith Rock. At the top we spotted another friend John climbing the famous Monkey Face, a detached 350-foot spire with insane exposure and great views. One of these days I really need to go climb it myself. After watching John lead the aid climbing pitch we headed down the backside and back along the Crooked River to the trailhead.

It was a perfect way to wrap-up the summer. Probably my last trip to Smith until next spring. Now I'm hoping for a good winter with lots of snow so we can ski, ski, ski!

Click here to see more photos from the weekend.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The great kitchen remodel project of 2007 is FINALLY finished. Here is what our kitchen used to look like earlier this summer:

and here is what it looks like now after 3 months of work by Neil Kelly with all new electrical, plumbing, cabinets, granite counters and stainless steel appliances:

Click here for more photos of the Shack's kitchen remodel project.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I spent the weekend out at Horsethief Butte, across the Columbia River from The Dalles. I was there to help teach the Mazamas ICS class. We had the best weather I've seen out there - 70 degrees, no wind and sunny skies. The students had a great time and I even got in a couple of climbs myself.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Three months after getting back from Denali I have finally finished my trip report. Here is the entire three part story:

Part 1 - Talkeetna to Camp 1
Part 2 - Camp 2 to Camp 4
Part 3 - Camp 4 to the summit and back to Talkeetna

I've also uploaded all 1200+ photos we collectively took to my website. Check out the Best of the Best to see the highlights.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Last weekend Kerry and I had a great 4-day trip wine tasting in the Umpqua Valley and then exploring the southern Oregon coast. We decided to avoid the usual crowds in the Willamette Valley and left Friday morning to drive down to Elkton, the northern most part of the Umpqua Valley, about 20 miles west of I-5 exit 162.

Elkton is a small town of about 120 people with 3 wineries, a cafe, a gas station and a city hall. Our first stop there was the Brandborg Winery which has its tasting room right in town. Across the street is Tomaselli's Pastry Mill & Cafe where we stopped for lunch. Their pulled pork panini sandwich is awesome! After lunch we made a brief stop at River's Edge Winery then headed south of town to Bradley Vineyards. We found Bradley's location out in the country to be very peaceful and the owner was great to talk with.

We then headed south toward Roseburg on OR-138 which is a very scenic drive that winds along next to the Umpqua River. Along the way we stopped in at the Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards. It was a little difficult to find (especially when using the back entrance) but the tasting room is located in a small, picturesque valley surrounded by vineyards.

That evening we drove on into Roseburg and stayed at the Windmill Inn. The inn itself was nothing extraordinary but it was clean, quiet and comfortable. For dinner we went to Anthony's Italian Cafe in the historic downtown. It seemed like a popular place for Friday night and the food was excellent, especially for garlic lovers like myself.

Saturday morning we started our wine tour at Melrose Vineyards. It has a large tasting room overlooking a grassy picnic area and vineyards in the valley. Afterwards we drove over to HillCrest Vineyards. We had tasted their wines at the Bite of Oregon and they were one of the reason we had come down to the Umpqua Valley. It's a small family run winery that doesn't distribute their wines through stores. We stayed and talked with the owner for a while who suggested we check out Palotai Vineywards.

Palotai was by far our favorite. The owner, Gabor, had come to the US from Hungary in 1980s. Other than at harvest time, he runs the winery entirely by himself. He loves to talk and has some great stories. The winery is located in his vineyards down a gravel road and the tasting room looks like an Old World cafe. Definitely worth the drive and we're planning to go back next time we're in the area.

Our last stop on the wine tour was Girardet Wine Cellars. Their Grand Rouge is one of our everyday wine staples. We ended up liking their Baco Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon and added those to our growing collection in the trunk. After having tasted mostly Pinot Noir the last two days it was nice to finish with something different.

Saturday afternoon we headed west on OR-42 to Bandon on the southern Oregon coast. We stayed at the Bandon Inn overlooking historic downtown. The inn is probably the nicest hotel in Bandon and their service is great. Every night they have fresh chocolate chip cookies in the lobby and every morning fresh cranberry bread and coffee. Saturday night we had dinner at the Bandon Boatworks. It's location near the ocean was great for watching the waves and the service good, but the food was somehow lacking.

Sunday morning we got up and hiked a 5 mile loop along the beach and back up on the bluff. It was stormy and we watched the waves crashing in on the Bandon Rocks. Afterwards we had a late breakfast at the Minute Cafe back in the historic downtown. That afternoon we headed north to the small fishing village of Charleston, near Coos Bay. We were there to check out Shore Acres State Park, built around the 1906 estate of timber baron Louis Simpson who gave it to his wife as a gift. The mansion has since burnt down but the English formal gardens, rose gardens and Japanese gardens are still there. It's a strange find on the Oregon coast and would definitely be worth visiting in the summer, although I bet it gets crowded on the weekends.

After exploring the gardens in the rain we drove back to Charleston for an early dinner at a crusty placed called the Portside Restaurant. I love oysters on the half shell and this place by far had the best I've tasted. The Crab Louie Salad was very good too. That night we played cards, drank a bottle of wine and watched the rain from our room back at the Bandon Inn.

Monday morning we checked out of the inn and headed north on US-101. Our first stop was the sand dunes outside of Florence. I've tried to visit these on several occasions but always ended up getting rained out. Despite the rainy weekend forecast, we managed to time our visit to the dunes between showers. We did a short hike thru the dunes to a isolated beach that we had completely to ourselves. I'd love to go back there some day to explore some of the larger dunes and maybe do some camping.

For lunch we stopped in Florence's historic downtown. After walking up and down the main road we settled on a seafood restaurant near the end of the dock. It had a nice view of the bay, but unfortunately some of the worse service I've experienced and the seafood tasted horrible. So far the lesson learned with these coastal "historic downtowns" is that they're very touristy and don't have the best food. It's much better to find some off the beaten path place like we did the day before in Charleston (which was actually recommended to us by Gabor at Palotai).

Anyway, worried about getting sick from our lunch we decided to cut out the afternoon hike we had planned and continue north on US-101 to Yahacts and Waldport. Between those two small towns we drove past several beach houses that looked promising for a trip to the central Oregon coast. From Waldport we cut inland on OR-34, itself a very scenic drive, to I-5 then back home.

All in all it was a great 4-day weekend. A little late in the season for wine tasting and going to the coast, but we manage to avoid all the crowds you'll find in the middle of the summer. Most of the places we went we were the only ones there or maybe there were a couple of locals. Next time we had back down there I want to explore the central part of the Oregon coast. It looks like it would have some great hiking.

For more photos be sure to check out the photo album from our trip.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Had another fabulous weekend out at Smith Rock. Spent most of my time top roping 5.10's and checked out several new (to me) routes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Shack remodel project of 2007 is inching across the finish line. Everything is painted. Now we're just waiting on light fixtures and some cleanup work.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I had a great weekend out at Smith Rock. I led some sport routes and did my first real trad lead on Super Slab. Can't wait for the next trip.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Sunday I ran Pints to Pasta with my friend Ryan. It's a fun 10K along the waterfront in downtown Portland. The race finishes at the Spaghetti Factory with free pasta, beer and music. It's my third official road race and I have found yet another excuse to not go back to work.

Back at the Shack we're finally in the last week of the great remodel project of 2007. The kitchen & laundry rooms are almost complete. We're only waiting for a replacement cabinet in the laundry room, painting, light fixtures and a few other minor things.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today Ryan and I hiked up Mount Defiance in the Columbia Gorge. Other than the sweltering 90 degree temperatures it was a perfect day with good views of a nearly snow-less Mount Hood. Round trip time was 7 hours with a beer and lunch break at the top. Afterwards we went to the Pacific Crest Pub (formerly the Salmon Row Pub) in Cascade Locks.

Monday, August 27, 2007

This past weekend I participated in Hood to Coast for the first time. I ran legs 12, 24, and 36 for Kerry after she injured her knee a few hours before her team started and couldn't run. I've always wanted to run the world's longest relay race but felt bad that it happened in under such circumstances. Regardless it was a lot of fun and I definitely want to run it again next year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The cabinets are almost finished. Tomorrow our appliances are being delivered and the counter tops will be installed. We can't wait to have our kitchen and laundry room back!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Last week the Shack was turned into a cabinet warehouse. Every free spot was covered with cabinets and parts to cabinets:

After about three days of work most of the base cabinets in the kitchen have been installed:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I spent the last couple of days in the Goat Rocks Wilderness with my friend Ryan D McCoy. Before heading home today we slogged our way up Old Snowy, which ironically had almost no snow on it. We had some great weather and made it back to the car right before it started raining. The only down side was the bee sting I received on the way out and the ankle that is now swollen to twice its normal size. Click here to see my photos from the trip.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The drywall is finished. The cabinets and appliances are being delivered later this week and will be installed over the next couple of weeks. We can't wait to have our kitchen back!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Last night the "We Survived Denali" BBQ & party was a huge success. We had 40-50 people at the Shack and polished off a half keg of Wasco Indian Summer Ale from the Alameda Brewhouse along with tons of food. Our photos looked so much more impressive on Jim's projection screen. We definitely need to do a slideshow...

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Shack has completely new plumbing, electrical and insulation:

Drywall hanging starts today...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yesterday I had a fun time at the Oregon Brewers Festival, maybe too much fun since I didn't get out of bed until almost 1pm this afternoon. I tried several IPAs, my favorite of which was Racer X, a double IPA from the Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, CA.

On Friday Don the Hiker and I hiked Eagle Creek out to Punch Bowl Falls in the Columbia Gorge.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Our new "rustic" kitchen and utility room at the end of day 3:

Monday, July 16, 2007

The great kitchen remodel of 2007 is now underway at the Shack. The Neil Kelly crew has been hard at work all day. This is what our kitchen looked like this morning after we cleared out everything we wanted to keep:

This is what it looks like now:

Tomorrow they take out the laundry room and demolish the walls down to the studs...
I just got back last night from Chicago. Kerry and I were there to attend a friend's wedding and decided to make a long weekend out of it. Prior to the wedding we spent a couple of nights at Hotel Burnham, a hip boutique hotel right in downtown Chicago. Friday morning we visited the Art Institute of Chicago and the new Millennium Park. Afterwards we had a long lunch at The Gage restaurant.

That afternoon we fought the crowds on Michigan Avenue (aka the Magnificent Mile) to go to the Hancock Observatory on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. We had some pretty amazing views including one of my future penthouses when I become the next Donald Trump. That evening we had a delicious dinner at Fulton's on the River along the newly restored Chicago River waterfront.

Saturday morning we checked out of our hotel and rode the Metra to Woodstock, Illinois about 60 miles northwest of Chicago. The ride took about 90 minutes and we watched suburb after suburb pass by. It wasn't until the last 15 minutes that we finally made it out of the suburbs and into the countryside. Woodstock is small town of about 20,000 and was the location for the movie Groundhog Day. I've seen the movie a couple of times and recognized several of the buildings from the film.

Once off the train we rolled through the historic downtown with our luggage in tow and stopped by the Woodside Public House for lunch. Their pulled pork sandwich is excellent. Afterwards we continued on through the historic town square and checked into the Bundling Board Inn. A quick shower and change of clothes later and we were off to the wedding.

The wedding was about 15 minutes outside of town on a farm. The farmhouse and barn were on top of a small hill with views of the surrounding corn and wheat fields. They had a short, outdoor ceremony and the reception was held inside the barn. It was my first country wedding and we stayed for about 6 hours before catching a ride back to the inn.

Sunday was a LONG trip home - 2 trains, 2 planes and 1 automobile. It took us a total of 12 hours and I have to admit I'm getting a little tired of traveling. After 13 months of my self-imposed sabbatical I think I'll enjoy the rest of the summer as LLC then head back to work this fall...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I had a great time on Unicorn Peak with Shawn yesterday. We did the climb in 6 hours car-to-car and had perfect weather with the mountain to ourselves. Here are the photos from what we dubbed a "mini climb".

Monday, July 02, 2007

I've been home for a little over a week from my trip to climb Denali. In the meantime I've made it a crusade to eat at all my favorite restaurants around the neighborhood, regaining 5 of the 10 lbs I lost while on the mountain. I've been trying to get back into my running routine but after 3 weeks in below freezing weather I'm having a hard time adjusting to the heat. Even still I was able to run my Maple-Wildwood loop this past weekend. Keeping busy with projects around the Shack and trying to finish up my Denali trip report. Tomorrow I'm heading to Rainier National Park to climb Unicorn Peak.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

After 4 days of chipping, hammering, tamping and laying brick, LBD Landscaping has added a new stone patio to the Shack... we just need the rain to stop so we can enjoy some patio time!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For all my fans chomping at the bit here is the link to my Denali photos. For those more patient my trip report will be posted shortly...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tomorrow is the start of the most challenging adventure of my life - our Denali 2007 Expedition to climb Mount McKinley. It's hard to believe that after more than a year of planning and months of intense training the start date is finally here. The past few weeks I've been feeling increasingly anxious as the date approaches. I'm physically prepared, possibly in the best shape of my life. I have the skills I need to climb this mountain. I'm part of a great team, we're all Mazamas and have climbed with each other many times. Still this is much bigger than anything I've tried before. Up to 25 days on the mountain, 120+ lbs of gear, below zero temps every night, high camp at 17,000 feet and pushing my altitude high mark to 20,320 feet. I'm sure we'll all be fine. The big question is the weather, will the mountain let us climb it? We'll just have to wait and see...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Only 11 days left before I leave for Denali! I've created a new web page just for our expedition. Hopefully I'll be able to post updates and photos from the side of the mountain via my cell phone. Here's the link:

Monday, May 14, 2007

I just got back from a 3-day checkout climb of Mount Rainier with my Denali team. Friday we each hauled about 110 lbs of gear from the Paradise Visitor Center to around 7600 feet on the Muir snow field. We established a full camp of 2 tents and the megamid which we use as a kitchen and common area. Saturday we cached our sleds, the megamid and extra gear then slogged further up to the Ingraham Flats at around 11300 feet. Shortly after digging platforms for our tents the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and it started snow. We cooked dinner and went to bed early intending to wake at 2am for the summit attempt. However around midnight we called the climb due to high winds and 6 inches of fresh snow (where were my skis!). Sunday morning we woke to tents buried in snow drifts and a relentless wind. We hurriedly broke camp and descended back down to Camp Muir at around 10200 feet. At times the wind was so strong you had to stop moving and practically lay down just to keep from getting blown over.

Even though we didn't summit we all learned valuable lessons for Denali. The hardest part of the climb isn't going to be the physical effort to get up the mountain but the challenge of camping on snow for 3 weeks - establishing camps, food prep, melting water from snow, staying dry. Denali is going to be a long, hard trip.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wednesday Preston, Russ and I had a perfect windless, sunny day skinning up Mount Hood in the morning then climbing at Carver Cliffs in the afternoon. If was my first time at Carver and it's a fun place to climb. It's shaded and mankie like Broughton's Bluff and Rocky Butte but more secluded and in a much better setting with the Clackamas River near by. Afterwards we finished the day with a great burger and a pint of beer at the Stone Cliff Inn.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Just got home from a long weekend in Spokane to run Bloomsday 2007. Even though I grew up in Spokane it was my first time running it. The race was a lot of fun, with bands playing all along the course and plenty of people watching with the 40,000 runners. I ran the first part of the race with Kerry, then at the infamous Doomsday Hill blasted off to finish the race in 1:01:14. I'm definitely heading back next year and will run it in under an hour.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

We just got back last last night from honeymoon #2 - 6 days of sunshine in Zihuatenajo, Mexico. We stayed at the Hotel Brisas del Mar, a smaller, locally-owned hotel right on the beach. Originally we had booked a small suite but when we checked in they gave us a villa that slept 12. Evidently a wedding party wanted the suite so we were upgraded for free. The villa was amazing - 4 bedrooms, a TV room, full kitchen, huge sitting area, private pool, hammocks and hot tubs. We stayed in the master suite which was almost as big as our house.

We spent most of the time by the main pool with the bartender "Freddie" keeping us well stocked with beer, wine, margaritas and pina coladas. Kerry was the translator and being a la chica bonita we got great service everywhere we went. We ate most of our meals in town and especially liked La Casa and Restaurant Margarita for breakfast. The night before we came home we had a beautiful sunset dinner at Restaurant Il Mare.

Zihuatenajo is just north of Acapulco and only about 5-6 hours from Portland on Alaska Airlines. It's a small town without any of those big mega-resorts. We're definitely planning to go back again some day. If you want to see more photos our complete album is here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's been a month since my last post and several people have asked what's up with the blog? I've been keeping myself busy getting ready for my Denali (Mount McKinley) trip. I leave in 7 weeks and still have so much to prepare for. Physical training has been a non-stop activity for the past several months. For example, this past weekend I hauled a 60 lb pack up Mount Defiance, ran the 8 mile Maple-Wildwood loop and then attempted to climb Mount Hood. We got turned around on Hood at around 10,500 feet on the Hogsback due to complete whiteout conditions and freezing rain. My Denali team has been meeting monthly for over a year to work out logistics, develop teamwork and improve technical skills.

Gear purchasing for Denali has been non-stop as well. Even though I have an enormous pile of climbing equipment most of it is for the relatively warm temperatures of climbing in the PNW. I've had to purchase a whole new set of clothing able to keep me warm at temperatures down to 40 below zero. The route we are climbing (West Buttress) is not very technical so fortunately I haven't had to purchased much technical climbing gear. However, I have added a bunch of expedition quality gear - tent, stove, backpack, etc - to my ever growing pile.

I'm very excited about this expedition. It will be by far the most difficult challenge I've ever taken on. Besides climbing a 20,320 foot mountain, we're snow camping from the moment we get off the plane. Every drop of water has to be melted from snow. Every piece of gear and food for 4 weeks is carried on our backs. Daytime temperatures hover around freezing. Nighttime temperatures can dip to 40 below zero. Winds can shred an unprotected tent instantly and storms can keep you trapped in camp for days on end.

We're planning for a 4 week trip but hope to be finished in 3 weeks. We fly to Anchorage on June 2nd and then take a shuttle to Talkeetna. Weather permitting we fly onto the Kahiltna Glacier on June 3rd. After a series of intermediary camps we hope to reach High Camp at 17,200 feet on June 16th where we have a week of possible summit bids. Our return flight to Portland is July 1st. If we finish early we could possibly climb something else in the area, explore Alaska or return home early.

We're looking into the possibility of making real time updates of our climb. This might be just text messages or could include some photos. I'll post something when I know more. Of course when I return I'll have the full blown LLC Report to share.

Anyway, that's all for now...

Friday, March 16, 2007

I finally finished the slide show our of wedding photos I've been working on the last couple of days.

The other big news is I finished my first 5.11 route at PRG today! It was more of scrapping my way to the top than climbing - very ugly - zero style points. I fell once and needed a second take. Next week I hope to climb it clean and with at least a little grace. I really need to get over whatever mental block I have against lead climbing. If I'm starting to top rope 5.11 there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to lead 5.8 or 5.9.

This weekend... more Denali training. I'm very excited about the expedition but after more than a year of planning I'm getting anxious to get started and not just talking about it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Just got back yesterday from a ski week at Big Mountain. Friday we took the overnight Amtrak from Portland to Whitefish, Montana at the base of the mountain. After we checked into our ski in/out condo on Saturday we hit the slopes and skied most of the day. Saturday evening Kerry treated me to a moonlight dine and ski at the top of the mountain for my birthday. The food was awesome and the ski down very interesting. The full moon was not visible due to fog so thick you could almost cut it. Still we followed the trees and our guides' flashing red lights down Big Ravine. Lots of fun!

We downhill skied some more on Sunday and tried cross country skiing on Monday. It was Kerry's second time and my third time on cross country skies. Tuesday and Wednesday the skies clear and we had beautiful views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park. I don't remember seeing so far into Glacier on previous trips to Big Mountain and was completely engrossed with all the peaks that looked like fun to climb.

Wednesday evening we had planned to take the overnight Amtrak home but the train was 10 hours late so instead of spending the night in the station we headed back to the condo and spent another day on the mountain. The Thursday night Amtrak was on time and we slept most of the 14 hour trip home.

Unfortunately I forgot the camera so I have no photos to share of the amazing views from the top. However we did take a few photos with our cell phones. As soon as I figure out how to get them from our phones to the computer I'll post them on my site.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spent the weekend up on Hood with my Denali team practicing snow camping. We arrived to 9 inches of fresh snow and picked up several more inches while we were there. Here are some photos from the weekend.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Our wedding photos from Holland Studios are now online. Eric and Roberta did an AMAZING job and were so much fun to work with! We're going to have a hard time picking the photos we want to print from so many excellent shots.

Monday, February 12, 2007

On Friday, February 9th Kerry and I got married at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. We had a short fireside ceremony followed by very delicious dinner with our immediate families. The lodge has a "keep it simple" fireside wedding package that includes everything for a single price. We did hire an amazing photographer from Holland Studios to take a bunch of fun photos of Kerry and I before the ceremony. We hiked around in the snow above the lodge with the mountain in the background and even donned our skis & boots. We're eagerly waiting to see Eric's photos and I'll be sure to let everyone know once they are on the studio's website. Until then here is our collection of photos.

After the ceremony and dinner we all spent the weekend at the lodge. We skied Saturday morning, relaxed in the heated outdoor pool in the middle of the snow, toured the lodge's extensive wine cellar and played card games with the family Saturday night by the fireplace. With the exception of a brief visit to the Blue Ox bar several years ago, it was my first time in this historic lodge What a beautiful place!!! There is plenty to do for everyone and the staff really knows what customer service is about. We enjoyed it so much we've already decided to go back next year for our anniversary.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

After 3 weeks of looking at cars I finally found one I liked. My previous car was a 2004 Honda Civic EX 2-door coupe which was totaled by a drunk on New Years Eve. For my next car I wanted to upgrade to a 4-door sedan and something "a little nicer" with less road noise.

At first I was thinking about the new Volkswagen Jetta. However the 2006/07 models are now as big as a Passat and look like a big boat - just sitting in one was enough to change my mind. So I took a look at the new, smaller Volkswagen GTI and the Audi A3 which are basically the same car. They're very sporty (200 hp) 4-door hatchbacks that are a lot of fun to drive. The Audi dealer was especially generous on my test drive, letting me try how sporty the A3 really is on some curvy backroads. However both cars require studded tires or those spider spike things since the tires are too wide for chains.

I did some more new car research on but couldn't find anything else that I wanted to look at. Everything was either too big, too ugly, too expensive or got horrible gas mileage. So I started looking at used cars and after a couple of days found a red 2002 Jetta GLS 1.8T.

It has 40K miles on it and is loaded with every option except the leather seats. The Turbo is great and kicks out 180 hp compared to the 127 hp my Civic had. It gets about 30 mpg on the highway, a little less than my Civic but not a bad trade-off for a car 50% heavier with a more powerful engine. The car was inspected by the same place I use to take my Civic and they provided me with a complete maintenance report. It also came with a 6 month/6,000 mile warranty. The salesman was pretty cool, feed me lunch and helped me return my rental car afterwards.

At first I had some reservations about buying a used car. I purchased my Civic new from and sat at home drinking coffee while the local Honda dealers kept calling back, lowering their prices. In the end I only spent 45 minutes at the dealership and that included a test drive and all the paperwork. This time I used to look for used cars in the area. When I found the one I liked I called the salesman and went for a test drive. The sticker price was almost 25% more than the price I was quoted online, but they immediately gave me the lower price. While I was there I overheard someone else trying to come to a fair price the old fashion way - haggling. It was the usual back and forth, I need to check with my manager stuff - not a lot of fun unless you like haggling for the sake of it. From now on I will only buy a car - used or new - from the Internet.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I spent the weekend with my Denali team up on Mount Hood practicing our winter camping skills. The weather was "perfect" with temperatures around 20 and 35-40 mph winds with gusts to 50 mph. We each hauled about 80 lbs of gear half a mile uphill and directly into the wind then spent most of Saturday building our campsite. At one point the wind was so strong it knocked over our snow wall and partially crushed one of the tents. Lesson learned - don't build a long, high wall without bracing it properly. Around 6pm we finally got the 2 tents and megamid setup and tried out some new recipes we plan to use on Denali. After dinner the wind suddenly disappeared and all became clear and calm, so we decided to take the opportunity to rehydrate at the Timberline day lodge before going to sleep. Sunday morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise, broke camp and stopped at the Huckleberry Inn in Government Camp on our way for a well deserved breakfast.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yes, I have too much time on my hands... Here's the Shack on October 31, 2006 and today...


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Yesterday I hiked up Dog Mountain with my friend Ryan aka Microwave. When we started it was about 25F at the trailhead and chilled off to about 15F on the summit. We had a snow covered trail most of the way up. The wind at the top wasn't too bad but made the traverse a bit chilly. The snow was super dry and the trees caked in windblown snow and ice. While we were ascending the clouds cleared giving us a spectacular view of gorge. Click here for the complete photo album.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I'm back from a fun week-long trip with the Slinkard clan (Kerry's family) to the Big Island of Hawaii. Here is a link to our photos.

Monday morning (stiff and sore with only 4 hours of sleep after our New Years Eve mishap) Kerry and I hopped on the plane and met everyone else at the Royal Kona Resort near the beach town of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. After checking into our room and changing out of our cold and rainy weather Portland clothes, we headed down to Don's Mai Tai Bar for an evening of oceanside food and drinks.

Tuesday morning we all piled into our Grand Marquee rental car and drove out to Volcanoes National Park on the other side of the island. It was an interesting drive and we crossed many older lava flows along the way. The main visitors center lies on the rim of a giant caldera with a rather large crater in the middle. After eating lunch at the visitor center we drove down the Chain of Craters Road toward the coast were the active lava flows are at dumping into the sea. The road itself is cutoff at around the 19 mile mark by a recent flow. We had hoped to drive close enough to the active flows to see the lava but it was too far across the new Hawaiian real estate to hike there and back before sunset. Interestingly the USGS has a eruption & lava flow report similar to the avalanche & snow pack reports we have from NOAA here in the PNW.

Wednesday was a down day and we relaxed pool side reading, playing cards, drinking Mai Tai's and cooling off in the pool.

Thursday we grabbed an early morning inter-island shuttle and flew to Honolulu to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial itself was somber and well done, but the visitor center had a definite tourist trap feeling to it. It was overcrowded and the gift shop had the standard cheap trinkets you find at any of America's war related sites. After the memorial we headed to Waikiki Beach for lunch at Lulu's before flying back to Kona.

Friday Kerry's brother Bryan aka "the Ironman" and I aka "the Mountainman" decided to hike/climb up Mauna Kea, Hawaii's highest peak. Although there is a access road to the top for the astronomers we opted to take the Mauna Kea-Humu'ula Trail which parallels the access road most the way before joining the road for the last mile. The hike itself is on a relatively easy trail, however it starts at 9,200 feet and then goes 6.5 miles through a barren wasteland of scree to the summit at 13,796 feet. Considering our acclimation at sea level the challenge was in the rapid elevation gain, only 5.5 hours from sea level to 13,796 feet. The weather was mostly cloudy but we did get a view of the slightly lower Mauna Loa through the clouds to the south. We spent about 20 minutes on the summit taking photos, eating lunch and admiring the array of telescopes before descending back to the car.

Saturday was another down day for us and we spent it relaxing at Hapuna Beach about 30 miles north of Kona. I tried boogie boarding for the first time and completely enjoyed myself in the surf. That night we had an amazing sunset dinner overlooking the ocean at Huggo's.

Sunday morning everyone but Kerry and I took off to fly home. Our only flight option to Portland was a late night red eye so we spent Sunday morning wandering around Kona and then ate lunch at the Kona Inn Restaurant, a historic hotel turned restaurant and shops which looked like it would have been THE place to stay in its day. Sunday afternoon we spent playing cards and drinking more Mai Tai's by the pool. On our flight home we got bumped to first class because the plane was overbooked - the perfect ending to a great trip.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It has been almost a month since my last entry so I figured I'd make this a Year in Review post.

2006 was an exciting year for me. It started with a trip to Mexico to climb Pico de Orizaba, the third highest mountain in North America. In March Kerry and I rode the train to Whitefish, Montana for a ski week at Big Mountain. In April I went trekking in Costa Rica for 10 days then met Kerry in New Orleans for Jazz Fest. In August I spent 3 weeks with the Mazamas visiting Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia, then climbed Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. In September I went to Washington DC for a week where I proposed to Kerry and she said yes. In November I accompanied Kerry to San Francisco and finally walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.

We've also had several weekend getaways to the Oregon coast and an overnight tour of the Willamette wine country. Of course I made many, many trips to the mountains climbing Mount Hood, Whitehorse Mountain, Diamond Peak, Mount Olympus, Sahale Peak, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington and attempted Mount Rainier for the first time. No to mention all the usual hiking in the Columbia Gorge, back country skiing around Mount Hood and rock climbing at local crags.

Halfway through the year I left my job at EMC and started Leisure Life Chuck and the LLC Report. Several years in the making it was one of the best decisions of my life. However I do miss my co-workers and having something to work on when the weather doesn't cooperate with my LLC plans.

For the holidays Kerry and I had my dad and brother over for Thanksgiving and another weekend in December. For Christmas we drove down to Alturas, California for a long weekend with Kerry's family. In between the two holidays I moved into the Shack and turned my condo aka the Train Station into a rental property.

2006 really was a perfect year for me - almost. You know the expression "in every life a little rain must fall". Well I guess "when it rains it pours". With only 90 minutes left in 2006 Kerry and I got hit by a drunk driver with a suspended license and an open container who fled the scene on foot. We were stopped on I-84 because of another accident when he plowed into the back of my car without even using his brakes. My car is crumpled all the way to the back seat. It is a miracle we weren't more seriously injured. Someone who witnessed the whole thing called 911 and the police arrested the guy stumbling around in a nearby neighborhood. After getting my car towed we went to the ER to get checked out. Fortunately it appears we both just have a case of whiplash. I'm just so happy it was nothing more serious.

Anyway, not to have LLC derailed by a low life loser, Kerry and I hopped on a plane Monday morning to start 2007 with a week on the Big Island of Hawaii. Lots of sun, warm weather and tropical drinks are making the last 90 minutes of 2006 a distant memory and a just a small glitch in an otherwise perfect year. I hope everyone else had a safe and happy New Year and I'll be sure to post my Hawaii LLC Report when I get home.