Very bad dog

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Today T met me for lunch with the dreaded sentence “Do you want to see what your dog did?” If he’s being referred to as “my” dog, it isn’t going to be good news and if there’s visible evidence, it’s going to be really bad. We walked over to the car to see what “my” dog (Wally) did:

Apparently, my idiot dog was barking at another dog and bashed the windshield with his empty but really hard head and did this to it. Nice, right?

Good thing he’s cute:

It’s just too bad that cute isn’t a currency…

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Birthday aftermath

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So, I thought I’d fill you in on the rest of my birthday. When I got home T had a pretty little wrapped present on the table for me. (Such a sweet boy… )

Pretty paper and pretty bow, the boy gets many brownie points! Plus he got me an awesome card…

In case you can’t read it, it says “It’s amazing you’ve made it this far.” Inside it says “May your good fortune continue. Happy Birthday.” I particularly like the figure rollerskating with scissors and the “Wheeee!” (And the fact that it’s letterpress… )

Inside was a really cute hooded long-sleeved shirt:

I really like the pretty tree detail on the bottom:

Good job, T! But there was no time to appreciate the boy, we had to head out to dinner with the parents. We made it out to the restaurant to have enough time to peruse the new REI in the adjacent shopping center. So many nice things… We then wandered over just in time to meet my parents and headed on in.

It was a very pleasant dinner with everyone being on good behavior. 😀 The weirdest part was that all of the tables around us were also celebrating a birthday. (I don’t know what goes on at the end of August, but apparently it’s a VERY fertile time… ) The Claim Jumper features this crazy dessert called the Mother Lode Chocolate Cake. It’s a six layer chocolate cake and is ginormous. It is apparently their typical birthday offering, so who were we to buck tradition?

It also carries a bit of family history in my family, as my mom saw it and decided to make one for one of our birthdays. She had to buy some extra cake pans and shore it up with toothpicks because this is what the professionally made version looks like in the restaurant (pardon the lens flare… )

It was pretty funny seeing my mother bringing out this GIANT cake, especially since hers was the normal person’s homemade version – slightly crooked and askew. We talked about it for years afterwards, so I guess it was worth all of the effort. The four of us shared the giant piece of cake and there was still a couple of layers left over for T and I to take home. We had to ask the waiter how many of them they go through a night and he told us that he’d already served 7 of them and that’s pretty typical for a Thursday – on the weekends they serve more and that sometimes he’ll serve 2 to a table. That blew my mind!

And thus I celebrated my 38th year by consuming many delicious calories. Yummmm…

The big 3-8

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So it’s my birthday today, I’m now officially 38 years old. Birthdays are always weird, suddenly you’re a year older but you don’t really feel any different. When I was little I always expected to feel totally different – now I’m 8 and things are really going to change, but not so much. It’s a pretty low-key birthday, being a Thursday and all. Went to work where our department is reconfiguring the cubicles/desks to accommodate a new department moving into our area. Which basically means total pandemonium for a few hours and not a lot of productivity.

Today on my lunchtime run I was joined by special guest runner T. Running with T is a mixed blessing – it’s great to have the company and I like spending time with him, but he’s way faster than me (even injured) and is way too chipper, which is annoying. (I REALLY miss my old running partner who frequently reads this blog – you know who you are and you need to get back to running!) The Rose Festival is starting this weekend, so they had all of the carnival rides set up along the Waterfront and as we were running there were some neat boats coming into town on the river. (Sorry for the crappy cell phone pics, I didn’t think to bring my camera…) Here they are approaching us as we’re on the Steel Bridge:

Then after we turned around and headed back, we basically kept pace with them:

And then further on heading into town there was one of those water-spraying boats (I don’t know what they’re officially called… ) I haven’t seen one since we left New York – I think they are so cool.

It was nice to have cool new stuff to look at while running on my usual route. T and I parted ways at the Hawthorne Bridge, because he’d parked on the east side of the river. As I was running back, one of the old ships shot off a cannon, which reverberated off of the buildings and sounded like an explosion happening downtown. It startled the crap out of me and a woman walking by says “It’s a cannon.” like that’s the most natural thing in the world. Gotta love Oregonians…

Tonight the birthday festivities continue with dinner with my parents and T at the Claim Jumper. I haven’t been there since I lived in Southern California eons ago, so that will be interesting. And thanks to everyone for the happy birthday wishes, always appreciated!

Doing my civic duty

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Today I had to go in for Jury Duty. I was grumpy about it for no particular reason. I’m an hourly employee and my work will pay for any time that overlaps (which with my weird hours was going to be a potential hassle) and I just didn’t feel like going. I know, I’m a terrible citizen. And it’s funny because I generally think the judicial system and the legal process is very interesting. I did Mock Trial in high school (and won a prize for it, thank you very much!) and am passably versed in the whole thing.

But at 8:00 in the morning, I dragged my butt into the Multnomah County Courthouse to sit around with about a hundred of my fellow citizens ready to do my part for the judicial system. I must give Multnomah County props, because they have a pretty nice room for everyone to wait in and they do a good job of keeping everyone informed of the process. The judge oriented us to how juries are selected and was the first to tell us that it wasn’t personal if we didn’t get selected (he was the first of many people to tell us this, apparently more than a few people take not being selected as a personal affront – which I find hilarious given how most people feel about jury duty generally… )

I sat around for a few hours reading my book before getting called for a potential case. We had to answer a series of questions about ourselves that were written on a whiteboard and then the lawyers asked more specific follow-up questions. It was a very different process than the last time I’d been called back in the Bay Area, but that was for a murder trial that was anticipated to last at least three months and this was a one-day “harassment” and destruction of property case, so the stakes were a little lower. They only took six out of the fifteen of us and I wasn’t one of them. I was totally hurt, I mean why didn’t they want me? (kidding!)

The weirdest part was the fact that the defendant was in the room during the whole selection process and then again during our break while the lawyers and the judge were deliberating. I kept wondering what he thought of our responses to some of the questions and the type of conversation during the break. There’s such a wide range of people that are called for jury duty. I wonder if that’s a comfort or a concern when you’re on the other side.

After about fifteen minutes of being back in the waiting room, they announced that they had filled all of the juries that they were going to need for the day and we were free to go, which was pretty sweet. I had time to eat some lunch, go to the gym for some weight training and 30 minutes of elliptical (I was supposed to run, but just didn’t have the inclination – I’ll make up for it tomorrow.) And then it was off to work for a second late shift tonight to cover for someone on vacation.

Just another exciting day in my life…

Handsome boy

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I forgot to include a dog story in the camping novella, I mean post. Because Wally is a rescue and apparently was raised by horses, he isn’t well socialized with other dogs. Usually, he settles down after he gets used to them, but sometimes he jumps on them, barks obsessively at them or tries to lunge and bite them so we tend to keep him on leash pretty much all the time. While camping we generally keep the dogs on a long metal cable, tied to a tree so that we can relax our vigilant eye on them, until the evening rolls around and they are too tired to do anything but sleep by the campfire.

Being the Northwest, I think every other campsite had a dog (or two, or three… ) and one of the more notable dogs that we encountered was named Bear. Bear was a tiny little Lhaso Apso (or similar purse-sized breed) who was very friendly, hyper and had a running game with his owners where he would run out to greet people at top speed and run merrily around the new people, dodging his owner’s attempts at retrieval and acting as if the sound of his own name was entirely foreign to him.

So, one afternoon while we’re lazing around the campfire and the dogs are dozing on their blanket, I see a tiny white puffy streak heading our way. I have enough time to think “Oh crap, that’s going to… ” before Bear streaks past the dogs, startling them awake. Both dogs spring into chase mode and lunge after Bear, hitting the end of their cable at full speed. Wally’s collar explodes and luckily T is able to catch him with a flying tackle so that he doesn’t eat Bear. For the rest of the trip, Wally had to wear his prong collar and not surprisingly, we didn’t see Bear again. (I imagine the sight of his dog nearly being eaten by Wally probably convinced them to keep Bear on a leash… )

Being that Wally is the second dog, I feel sort of bad that he’s always had hand-me-down collars and is sort of in Smokey Joe’s shadow. (Smokey Joe has many cute collars because he was an only dog and his ‘mom’ is sort of goofy with stuff like that… ) So, here’s Wally in his first brand new collar:

Isn’t he handsome?

Gone campin’

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WARNING: the following blog post is going to be LONG, but it will have lots of photos and minimal talk of training, so enjoy!

Apologies on the hiatus from posting, I spent last week getting ready for and then going on a camping trip with some friends. When I lived in New York, I would go camping with these same friends a few times a year and then they all moved to Seattle, so the tradition has moved to the West Coast. Now when I say camping, I’m not talking about the kind where you hike in and spend a weekend getting back to nature and “roughing it”, I’m referring to the kind where you drive your car to a campground, unload a crap load of stuff and then sit around eating, talking and generally loafing around for a weekend. (I throw some training in there, but otherwise it’s a pretty lazy weekend… )

FRIDAY, MAY 23
We pack up the car in a steady drizzle, which really dampens ones enthusiasm for camping (pun definitely intended!) After cramming an improbable amount of crap into the station wagon we borrowed from S and loaded the dogs into the cozy little amount of space we left for them, we hit the road. Here’s Wally sharing space with my bicycle wheel:

And here are the boys cuddling (against Smokey Joe’s will) in the car:

And of course, the glorious weather:

As we got closer, the weather started to clear and the scenery was really beautiful. We were camping up at a Washington State Park called Penrose Point, which is on the Key Peninsula, across the sound from Tacoma. The campsites are all nestled in a pine forest, which gave a great feeling of privacy even though there are other people camping all around you. (Shout out to M for picking a great camping spot!)

When we got there, M & J had already arrived and whipped the campsite into shape and plotted out tent arrangement. We had booked two sites for the six of us, because you can never tell from the pictures on the website if you can actually fit three tents onto one site, but it turned out everyone could set their tents up in the site, so we lugged the picnic table over from the other site and parked our cars over there. (Sadly, I didn’t get pictures of that because I was one of the folks lugging it over, but trust me it was pretty funny… )

Here, however are some other pictures of the set up process. First we have T sorting through the many, many bags:

The dogs contributing in their own special way, by being tied up out of range:

And M & J ham it up for the camera… okay, maybe just J hamming it up:

T and I finished pitching our tent and getting things organized while M&J made a firewood and ice run. They returned at the same time as the Cyclones arrived and the setting up and organizing continued. After we got everything ready, M, Ms. Cyclone, T and I decided to take the dogs on a little walk down to the beach, while Mr. Cyclone and J set up the gazebo/shelter thing we put up over the food tent (oh yeah, it’s Yuppie Camping, baby!)

When we walked down to the water, the tide was out and we noticed a large group of sand dollars – but ones totally different than anything we’d ever seen before. They were still alive!

I always had assumed that they looked different alive than the ones you find on the beach, but apparently not. They do have little tendrils on the bottom, not unlike a starfish. Very weird. There was a huge group of them on the beach, seen here to Smokey Joe’s left. (Told you the scenery was beautiful!)

Heading back to camp:

After being on the beach, we noticed this sign:

This is why design matters – the terrible hierarchy makes you think the beach is closed, instead of just being closed to shellfish harvesting. Shame on you Washington Department of Health. 😀 (thank god we didn’t eat those sand dollars!)

When we got back, it was time to start eating! For night one, we decided to go easy and grill some burgers and dogs. I made a potato salad to have with them and we had a big can of baked beans, which we cooked “hobo style” right over the fire (sorry for the blur, the fire confuses my camera’s auto-focus):

While waiting for the burgers to cook, I snapped a few more pics of my fellow campers:

Mmmm… burgers. A little while later it was s’more time. T is a constant innovator, always trying to create a better s’more. Here is experiment one – put the chocolate in the middle of the marshmallow:

And the verdict…

Pretty good, but perhaps we can do better. Experiment two, a double decker s’more. This one requires tongs:

First attempt: failure…

But eventually, success!

Sweet, delicious success… We chatted, roasted a few more marshmallows (not quite so fancy as Todd – though Ms. Cyclone experimented with replacing the graham crackers with Snickerdoodle cookies… ) But then it was time for bed.

SATURDAY, MAY 24th

There was a little rain in the night, but nothing too bad and I awoke to the sound of noisy birds and the crackling fire that Mr. Cyclone had started. T got up and got the coffee going and I sat by the fire. Little by little, everyone emerged from their tents and we sat around the fire, sipping coffee. Then it was time for breakfast – T made pancakes and Mr. Cyclone cooked bacon on a cast iron griddle over the fire. Pure deliciousness. While we ate, we discussed plans for the day. I wanted to do some open water swimming, so after breakfast we walked the dogs down to the water to check out the possibilities.

We went to a different section of beach than before, but the tide was still not fully in and the water was really shallow – so much so that I could walk way out into the bay with the water up to my knees – which was pretty cool in general, but not so great for swimming. The weather was sunny and gorgeous so we opted to drive to a lake that M and J had passed on their way in. The Cyclones decided to stay behind, so M, J, T and I piled into our car with the dogs and a bunch of towels. We had a little problem finding the place they passed and had to ask at a local market, but they put us on the right path and we ended up at beautiful little Horseshoe Lake.

Not only was it a pretty lake, but there were no jetskies or motorboats on it – so we could swim all the way across without worrying about getting hit by somebody. We found a little spot where the dogs could swim, M could read her book in the shade and we could put on our wetsuits without the locals gawking at us. J had to seek a sunny spot for napping in an adjacent meadow. T and I did a “lap” of across and back (probably about 250-300 yards to the other side) which was amusing, given that T has not been doing enough swimming lately. I wanted him on my breathing side, so I could keep an eye on him – but he was not so good at the going in a straight line, so that proved challenging. There were also a few stop and rest breaks, but he made it there and back in relatively good fashion and I was proud of his efforts. Then I got to do a lap by myself, to get a feel for the wetsuit again before the open water swim “race” I’m doing next weekend. It felt really good and I felt pretty fast zipping across the lake, given that I didn’t have to stop and look out for yahoos on jet-skis.

Afterward, we rousted J from his sun-nap and headed back to camp. Ms. Cyclone had organized the campsite and made it all neat and orderly in our absence. We had some lunch and I took a nice little nap in the tent. I also had a short run on my training plan, so I coaxed T into coming with me. After the hamburger and chicken sausage I’d eaten earlier, it wasn’t the greatest run ever. Plus, we had to run along the shoulder of a road so it was really warm in the sunshine. I’d only brought along long-sleeved shirts, so I ended up tying it around my waist and violating my self-imposed “no running in only a jog bra” rule. It was not a great run – there was some cramping and numerous walk breaks. But we went, and that’s the important part.

Some friends of the Cyclones were meeting us for just one night and they showed up while I was showering post-run. I’d heard a lot of great things about these friends and they did not disappoint. The husband Dave kept us entertained with some really appalling (but hilarious) tales from his frat-boy past (he’s slept in seven different dumpsters) and his wife Shelly was really nice and laid back. They added a very nice energy to the group. The ladies took another walk down to the beach, but the tide was actually in and the sand dollars were covered up.

On the menu tonight was packets – basically chicken (or fish) with some veggies and seasoning wrapped in tin foil and cooked over the fire. Easy to make, easy to clean up and really delicious.

After some more s’mores, delicious wine and more raucous conversation it was off to bed. I fell asleep pretty much instantly, only waking up to the surprising sound of rain (it had been so clear and relatively warm when we went to bed.)

SUNDAY, MAY 25th

Luckily, it pretty much tapered off by the time we were ready to get up and we managed to get a fire going. Dave and Shelly had to take off early, so they didn’t even stay for bacon and eggs. After the bacon was done, J used the bacon griddle to cook up some canned corned beef hash which looked just like dog food. He and Mr. Cyclone were alone in that breakfast choice, while the rest of us enjoyed some delicious bacon, eggs and toast.

The weather was more overcast today and it was a much more lazy day around camp. T and Mr. Cyclone played cribbage:

Ms. Cyclone gave herself a manicure:

We took the dogs for a little walk and I lazed around the campsite for much of the day. I had a bike ride on my schedule, so finally I dragged myself onto my bike and out onto the road. I left my bike computer at home, so I have no idea how far I road or how fast I went, but it was a nice little hour and a half on the bike and it felt good to get a little exercise.

Then it was shower time, a little snacking, a hilarious game of Apples to Apples, a few Mikes and then we grilled up some steaks and baked some potatoes in the fire. Mmmmmmmm! Some folks, including Mr. Cyclone moved on to wine:

Oh yeah! Then there were more s’mores, more conversation and the sad realization that it was the last night and time for bed. Sadness.

MONDAY, MAY 26th

Up early and got the water boiling for coffee and oatmeal packets. We dealt with the money stuff and then bid farewell to the Cyclones. M, J, T and I finished breaking camp and teased each other about all of the crap we had. It was sad to leave, I could have used another day of camping and I really miss my friends. Plus, when you realize how much work you have ahead of you, cleaning up all of the stuff and in our case, switching cars with S. it’s hard to want to leave.

After much driving, cleaning and whatnot I was exhausted. I watched a little bad T.V. and fell asleep on the couch so it was off to bed. Happy Memorial Day everyone! (Told you it was going to be long!)

On the road again

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So our brilliant plan to go down to Salem last night to get a good night’s sleep had a small snag. Well, actually a big snag by the name of Wally. Because S. had gone to bed already with her dogs, he just wouldn’t settle down, and his pacing kept T awake. (I slept just fine, thank you very much!) But even if the morning started early, it was nice to spend the first half hour or so in S’s pretty backyard, chatting.

We decided to go to a favorite breakfast spot of S, a quirky little local spot called The Off-Center Cafe. It’s named because it sits on a corner next to Center St – get it “off Center”? While we waited, I snapped this picture of S, because she’s cute:

And here’s a shot of my delicious breakfast – the bread is homemade and everything.

After fueling up, it was time to head home and get ready for our ride. I had a four hour ride on my training plan, so I’d printed out the route from a metric century that we’d done last year. That way, I figured if T and S didn’t want to ride for the whole time, they could bail out and I wouldn’t be totally hosed. Plus, we’d missed doing the ride this year, the route was really beautiful and not too hilly, so I figured it was a good choice.

We managed to get on the road by 10:00 and the weather was perfect – sunny, but not as hot as the last few days, so everyone was in good spirits as we left Salem and headed out into the country-side. As we were leaving a suburb of Salem, called Keizer we passed a half-marathon in progress and got to cheer on the last runners and walkers coming in. Then we headed into fields of irises in bloom and it was like riding through an Impressionist painting:

Gorgeous, right? From there we rode through lush green farmland under a bright blue sky. We had a brief stop next to this hops field, so I snapped a quick pic:

It’s a little hard to see from the photo, but the plants wind their way up the wires and eventually will go all the way to the top – a good 12 feet up. It’s a pretty cool sight when it’s all filled in. A little agricultural trivia for the beer-lovers out there…

Before long, we reached Champoeg State Park, which was our turnaround point. Ironically, that same park was on the route that I took last weekend to go to my parents house, but I turned around early because of getting lost so often – so I apparently could ride my bike to Salem, if I so desired. The park has nice restrooms and even a little shop where you could get a cold beverage and a Snickers bar – a fact that I took full advantage of.

After a quick re-fueling break, we headed back. The ride back was uneventful, except for how much better I felt this year than last year. Last year, I literally had to stop a few times on the way home to stretch because my legs were cramping up and I was much slower. This year, I actually out-lasted S, which has NEVER happened – usually she and T are kind enough to wait for me when I’m lagging way behind, so I rode the last few miles into town with her. We stopped at S’s ex-husband Joe’s bike shop, so that T could get the horrible creaking noise on his bike fixed. After a quick repair and good-natured teasing of Joe and his staff, we climbed the last big hill to S’s house.

T was kind enough to go to Jamba Juice while I took a shower, which turned into a much longer affair than expected – as it’s only a few blocks away from S’s house. But he brought back yummy recovery beverages, which S and I enjoyed in the backyard while he took his shower. We lounged for a little while until S’s other local ex-husband Rudy (a.k.a. Husband #2) came over to join us for dinner. We went to the same Mexican place we went to last time and I indulged in a margarita to go with my chicken sopitas. Yum!

When we got back, T helped S get her DSL working. Unfortunately, this involved a VERY lengthy call to Qwest’s stupidest Tech Support person. Finally, he was able to get the problem fixed and we were soon on our way home. The dogs slept the whole way back and have been sacked out ever since. All in all, a very lovely Sunday.