Friday, May 30, 2014

Idaho Half Marathon Is Done...And Not Soon Forgotten

There could be nothing more perfect than clear skies and 50 degree temperatures on race day morning.  Add to this a truly kick-butt route skimming the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene and you have a nearly perfect race experience.

The start line was just steps outside the doors of Coeur d'Alene Resort where I was staying so I had the luxury of staying in my room, eating a leisurely light breakfast of Cheerios, strawberries, a banana and water, then walking outside and toward the crowd of other runners waiting for the half marathon portion of the race to start.  The full distance marathon runners started 1/2 hour earlier than the half marathon runners, so these were just the 13.1 milers mingling and waiting.  I found our little group of Half Fanatics just in time for the group photo and then we scattered to our respective self-seeded positions in the start chute to await the gun to go off.
Runners from our Half Fanatics club, doing this race

This is at about 2200 feet elevation so I was a little concerned, but it really didn't affect me and I hardly noticed the difference as we started off on a slight uphill section before turning toward the lake and picking up the Centennial Trail, a paved pedestrian way that hugs the shoreline.  Some runners don't like out-and-back routes, but I rather like them, giving me a chance to see the marathon runners as they came back in the opposite direction and then, later, seeing the speedier half marathon runners coming back.

About a half mile before the turnaround point, I saw my friend coming back toward me.  So she was about a mile ahead of me, maybe a little less than that.  The course had two long hills which of course we had do do in both directions, but they were gradual enough that I could run sections of the inclines.

My Garmin GPS tracks

I wear a Garmin GPS watch which records my time and distance and maps my route along the way.  After I made it past the turnaround point, I noticed that my GPS watch was not agreeing much with the mile marker signs.  It had up until that point, but now it would mark the mile well before I reached the sign.  As I neared the last turn for finish line area, my watch was well past the 13.1 or 13.2 mile distance and I still had what looked to be a couple of tenths of a mile to go as I made the final left turn toward the park and the finish.  Sure I crossed the finish line I pressed the stop button on my watch.  Total distance:  13.5 miles.  Usually my watch will read somewhere between 13.1 and 13.2 miles for most races.  The measured distance for any USTAF course is always going to be done using the most direct tangents which no runner can replicate, hence the usual slight overage on my watch.  But 13.5 miles for what should be a 13.12 mile course definitely indicates the course was mismarked, most likely the turnaround point was placed too far down the road.

That aside, it was a great event!  I did it in good time.  Not my fastest, not my slowest, just average.  Now I can color in the state of Idaho on my 50 States-50 Half Marathons map and hang the lovely medal on my now-groaning medal rack!

The medal:
Finisher medal

What the map looks like how the Pacific Northwest area is starting to fill in:

Next:  A week as sole caretaker of the grandkids!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Time to See What's Around the Next Corner

The Knead Bakery in
downtown Hood River
My last day in Hood River and it was yet another gorgeous day!  I walked into town on the lovely river trail and had lunch at the Knead Bakery, a spot I'd discovered a couple of days earlier and vowed to return for lunch before leaving town.  A cute little chocolate mouse came back to the hotel with me for a snack to go along with a cappuccino later that afternoon.
a chocolate mouse!

This has been a wonderful few days spent in Hood River, but it's now time to move on down the road toward Coeur d'Alene ID.   My bags were packed and are now stowed in the trunk of my rental car and there's just one more thing to do before leaving town:  Go through the Starbucks drive-through next door and get a cappuccino for the road.

I-84 continued to take my breath away with spectacular views as I drove toward The Dalles.  Steep and rugged hills, heavily wooded with giant evergreens to my right, beautiful views of the wide Columbia River to my left.   This continued to be a stretch of roadway seen for the first time through my eyes.  

As I got near to The Dalles, the landscape changed abruptly.  Suddenly the thick forests of evergreens blanketing rugged mountainous promontories, gave way to high, grass-covered hills and what little vegetation was there was low and desert-like.  I drove past The Dalles dam on the west side of the town of The Dalles, and then past the John Day dam on the east side as I headed toward Hermiston.

The Dalles dam

From I-84 to I-82 to US 395 all the way to I-90 in Washington, the landscape changed very little.  Not much to see but miles and miles of brown mounded hillocks sometimes green with crops and irrigation.  But mostly just brown landscape as far as the eye could see.

Once on I-90, I drove east toward Spokane and, when I was within a few dozen miles of that city, the landscape changed abruptly once again to heavy forestation.  At one point, looking off into the forest, I spotted a black bear moving slowly between trees just 75-100 yards off the interstate.  I thought about how I'd be returning to this area - Spokane and then Missoula - in just little more than a month from now.  This is a part of the country that I've been to before on my motorcycle.  I will look forward to returning, as the beauty of this area continues to amaze me.

I arrived at the lovely Coeur d'Alene resort and gladly turned my car over to valet parking then went inside to check in.  It's a gorgeous resort hotel sitting right on Lake Coeur d'Alene!   I got up to my room and was instantly charmed by the furnishings and the view!

Gorgeous room at Coeur d'Alene Resort

My living space for the next few days...Coeur d'Alene Resort

I'd brought a bottle of wine with me from Wy'East winery, and sat on the balcony enjoying the wine and the beautiful view of Coeur d'Alene lake.

view from my balcony

view from my balcony

view from my balcony

Enjoying a glass of Pinot Gris on my balcony at Coeur d'Alene Resort

Another Half Fanatic/50-Stater and I hooked up on the 50-States Facebook page and agreed to meet up at the packet pickup expo here in Coeur d'Alene.  So Saturday morning I got dressed, ate breakfast and then headed downstairs to one of the hotel ballrooms for packet pickup.  There I met my friend and she and I browsed the small expo then went to the coffee bar in the hotel lobby where we sat and chatted and enjoyed each others' company.
Packet pickup tables

She's not staying at this hotel and had a late breakfast so wasn't hungry for lunch, so we parted company with plans to meet each other at the start line of the half marathon the next morning for a photo op.

Friend from 50 States Half Marathon club.
She's from Florida and is also running the race

I put my race packet in my room and then wandered outside and walked a block up to the little downtown area.   There's a pita pocket cafe in town that I want to try for lunch.

cute moose with little mouse friend on its antler
in downtown Coeur d'alene ID

view of downtown Coeur d'Alene

Then it was time to go back to my room, sit out on my lovely balcony overlooking the lake and enjoy my lunch and the afternoon.

Tomorrow morning:  Coeur d'Alene Half Marathon!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mountains and Wineries

Last time I was in Oregon was in 2010 for the BMW MOA rally in Redmond.  While I rode some fabulous roads to get there from Texas and took a day ride down to Crater Lake during the rally, the specter of Mount Hood floated on the horizon, seemingly unreachable and playing coy as it ducked behind hills and trees with every bend in the road.  I never got really close and in fact had no idea just how to get there from my routed direction.

This trip would be another matter.  I'm so close to Mount Hood while I'm here in Hood River, that an easy hour's drive would get me there  Lunch at Timberline Lodge would be the perfect reason to take the drive.

If I leave the hotel mid-morning, I'd get there just in time for the start of their lunch buffet.  There's an alpaca farm along the way, with a shop selling fiber and yarn....a definite must-stop on my way.  And coming back after lunch, I'll pass several wineries.  A plan begins to take shape!

Just a few miles south of Hood River I crested a hill and was greeted with this breathtaking view:

My first unobstructed glimpse of Mt Hood

The road climbed through beautiful evergreen forest, at one point carving through a canyon created by fast-moving snow-melt rapids.  I followed my GPS as it turned me off the highway and through lush orchards and vineyards to the alpaca farm.  Alas, the gate was shut and the sign said CLOSED.  Well, drat!  But I did see a few alpaca grazing in a nearby fenced-in grazing area.

I pressed on toward the turnoff for the road to the lodge.  Occasionally the road would turn in a way to reveal an ever-closer and ever more breathtaking view of Mount Hood.

Glimpse of Mt Hood from the highway just before the turn onto
the 6 mile approach road

The road up to the lodge was gorgeous, if curvy and steep.  I'd already gained 4,000 ft elevation at the turn, and continued to climb to 5,700 feet once I'd reached the lodge parking area.  The views were spectacular!  The lodge is aptly named, as this is just at the timberline.  Within 1,000 feet of reaching this point, I could see the dramatic change in vegetation, similar to that at Yellowstone.

Above the timberline.  On the approach road to the Lodge

Last few tenths of a mile before reaching the lodge

A few more photos from the roadside and then I pulled in and found a parking spot.  The lodge was just a short walk up the hill but first I ducked into the Ski Day Lodge to check it out and use the ladies room.  It reminded me so much of the day lodges I'd frequented when I lived in New England.  My girlfriends and I would pile into my VW and drive up to NH or VT to day ski.  They seem to all have the same utilitarian and practical atmosphere.
A snowboarder zips by

The lodge itself was surprisingly simple architecturally but had a disarmingly old-fashioned lodge interior with open beam ceiling, huge two story stone fireplace, and gorgeous views of the summit of Mount Hood.   They wouldn't start serving lunch until 11:30, so I had 45 minutes or so to explore the lodge.
Looking down on the 2nd floor from the 3rd floor loft

By today's standards, the lodge was somewhat spartan, with handhewn wooden tables and chairs, wooden benches, and only a few cushioned seating areas scattered around the big open main room.  The reception area on the first floor was cramped and dark and a warren of small rooms and hallways.  The ladies room was so old-fashioned that it was actually quaint, and reminded me so much of other lodges and buildings I'd been in as a young girl.
2nd floor of the lodge, the great room with huge stone fireplace

Tall windows on the north side of the lodge gave a spectacular view of the mountain summit.

View of the summit through a large pane window

view of the summit from a window in the lodge

Along the northwest side of the building, snow was still drifted up against the lodge, blocking much of the windows on that side.
Snow drifts half way up the windows on the northwest side of the Lodge

Snow drifts are still deep...these are blocking the windows

At precisely 11:30 AM, I was seated at a window table giving me a view looking south across the tops of lower mountains, a lake and the snow-capped Mount Jefferson.  The buffet was luscious!  For $20 all-inclusive, they had several salad bowls - tossed salad, pasta with freshly shaved parmesan, a delicious carrot and cherry salad - a charcuterie board, two different freshly made soups, vegetable medley, rice pilaf, beef tips, turkey breast meat, and a whole array of patisserie desserts.  Oh, my!!  A wonderful cup of espresso finished my lunch off very nicely.
Looking south from the Timberline Lodge, with Mt Jefferson in the distance

Time to drive down the mountain and then north toward Hood River.  I had three wineries waypointed in my GPS.  The first was Wy'East Vineyards.  The word "wy'east" is native name for the mountain we call Mount Hood.

I sampled 6 different wines, from a light Pinot Gris to a finishing wine, a fortified port.  The $10 tasting fee was waived by purchasing a bottle each of the Pinot Gris and the Port.  I'll work on the Pinot while I'm here in OR and the Port will get packed in my checked suitcase.   I enjoyed speaking with the proprietress about their wines and their grapes.  Very relaxing and enjoyable.

A few miles further along, I came to Mount Hood Winery.

Mt Hood Winery tasting room

The beautiful tasting room was surrounded by pear orchards and vineyards and I was determined to taste their signature pear wine.   Rather than do a tasting, I purchased a full glass of pear wine and sat outside on their gorgeous patio sipping the wine and enjoying the spectacular view.

Enjoying a glass of pear wine while enjoying the view of Mt Hood

My last planned stop was at The Gorge White House, just 1/4 mile north of Mt Hood Winery.  I pulled into their parking lot and walked up to the house.  The sign said they were open but to walk next door to the Cider House.  When I got there, a sign on the door said closed.  Very perplexing as it was only 3:00 PM and their website said they'd be open.  Oh, well...some other time.

The Gorge White House Cider House and Winery

Vineyards and orchards of The White House

Before leaving, I did capture this photo of a beautiful giant Iris!

All the way back to Hood River I had a beautiful view of Mount Adams to the north in Washington.

Mt Adams
Another perfect day in the Columbia River Gorge!

Tomorrow:  Another walk into town in search of coffee, lunch, and a couple of the little tasting rooms.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hood River Stroll

Breakfast on an open patio overlooking the Columbia River on a sunny and pleasant morning.  What a perfect way to start the day!  As I sat there enjoying my coffee and breakfast, a lone tug passed under the bridge, pushing two barges ahead of it.

A barge passes under the bridge and moves east on the river

I'd worn a jacket to breakfast but quickly shed it in the warm sun.  I returned to my room to drop it off before taking the shoreline path to downtown to mail some postcards and check out the downtown area.

A gaggle of geese with dozens of babies
My walk route into downtown Hood River

Some of the sights along the path:

Suspension pedestrian bridge along the path

History Museum of Hood River County

Correction:  Scotch Broom (thank you, Brandy!):  These are everywhere, turning shoulders
and banks of highways bright yellow

Tree-sized shrubs in bloom

Pretty blue bachelor buttons

Cute and colorful and everywhere!

Paddle wheel, all that remains of the Henderson, a paddle-wheel
barge that worked the river for more than half a century before
it grounded on a bank.

Beautiful and huge roses in front of the museum

I dropped the postcards off at the post office then walked up the hill to Oak Street and sat on a bench enjoying the town.  A little coffee shop was just across the street so I walked over and bought a cappuccino to sip on my walk back to the hotel.

As always, I definitely over-packed for this trip.  I'd also accumulated a full bag of dirty laundry, so did what any sane woman would do while away on a trip.  I drove to a UPS Store and shipped it all home.  Dirty clothes.  Excess clothes.  One pair of sandals.  My load has now been lightened considerably!

A restaurant next door proved to be the perfect place to have lunch and then, as luck would have it, there was a grocery store right there in the same strip mall.  It didn't come up in a Google search so I was so pleased that I could check one more errand off the list with ease.  I purchased some bananas, fresh strawberries, a small box of Cheerios, and a box of Nature Valley granola bars.

I returned to the hotel, walked next door to Starbucks for another cappucino, then sat out on my balcony planning my next day.

Tomorrow:  A drive to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood for lunch, with stops along the way.
All photos are here:  Oregon Trip Album