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.