Eastern Washington

40501026_341212819785571_3961651286883517682_nWe were only back for a week.  Our time on vacation had stoked my longings for a little more elbow room to roam.  I turned my attention toward Eastern Washington.  I had not spent much time there, but it was hotter in the summer, colder in the winter, and a lot roomier than the area of Western Washington where we lived.

I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the western part of the state.  Land and home prices there were a fraction of what they are in the areas we have lived on the west side.  I had sent my wife link after link to so sites with houses and land near towns with names like, Tonasket, Wakunda, Republic and Kettle Falls.  I told her I would love to at least have some vacation land there.  Her reply was always an encouraging, “Look me up when you get back.”

Before our vacation to Colorado and Utah, we had begun to explore more of Washington than we had before.  It had been nearly 9 years since we had done any real adventuring.  We started by going to the Olympic Peninsula.  I had lived in Washington nearly 30 years and had never been to the rain forest.  My wife grew up here and she hadn’t either.  So we went.  It was great.  It was sort of the primer to our next trip. The long one.

After a day or two of resting up from our vacation in Colorado, I suggested that we continue to explore Washington by going to Winthrop and Republic.  These were both well known as old western type towns, set in the wide open of Eastern Washington along Hwy 20.  Hwy 20 was well known as a lovely drive through the high Cascades, and was also known for being closed half the year due to snowfall. Instead of her usually dismissal of all things eastern, my lovely bride agreed with an almost disturbing amount of enthusiasm.  What was going on here? Such a turn around from one known for being quite consistent can chill the blood.

Whether it was her unsuspected survival of the desert heat in Utah and Colorado, or something else, Angie was as interested in our trip east as I was. We both had the spirit of adventure coursing through our veins.  We also had this shared sense that we were still in the process of following some Divine cookie crumbs that were leading to somewhere we hadn’t even imagined.

The following weekend we headed east on Hwy 20 from our rental home on Whidbey Island.  We stopped in the town of Newhalem, just at the western base of the Cascade Mountain Range.  They had a small park with an old steam train engine in it.  It was amazing and refreshing that this engine was open to the public to climb on, in, and over.  All the levers and valves still moved and the bell could still be rung from the cab.  Rather than allowing the fear of liability to keep people away, the local government let the warmth of personal responsibility free people to touch and experience this rare artifact of a bygone age up close and personal.  The boys loved it.

The drive over the Cascades was breathtaking.  There were lakes and waterfalls everywhere.  One could easily see why the road was closed for much of the year.  There were steep sides and rock avalanches all along the roadway.  At one point there was a pull out on the side of the road littered with rocks and a few small boulders that had recently fallen from the hillside above the road.

The road wound down the steep mountain range into a valley much like the ones I had grown up in.  There was a bit of hazy smoke from wildfires in the Canadian wilderness, and a large firefighter camp on the side of the road.  The road ran along a swiftly flowing crystal clear river and into the town of Winthrop.  Winthrop is what everyone sees in their mind when they think of Old West.  The sidewalks were wooden and most of the buildings constructed back in the mid 1800s.  We had coffee and the boys had their lunch sitting on stools made from real horseback saddles.  Old west style.

We left Winthrop and went to the town of Omak, where we rented a motel room.  In Omak was an amazing western store. It was like a farm and ranch, tractor supply and sporting goods store all rolled into one giant supermarket of cowboy coolness. I am not a store person, or a shopper, but even I enjoyed being in there.

We drove over to Republic.  We only had a few hours to spend before we needed to head back west.  It was odd. It wasn’t as old westey as Winthrop, but it was definitely from the same mold.  The entire downtown was 1890s.  While hot and desert like the surrounding hills and up to the edge of town was thick with Ponderosa pines.  The highway went right through the center of town. It was wide with plenty of parking on each side.  Being Sunday, it was nearly deserted, which was a big change from the west side where everything is expected to be available 24 X 7.

Republic in the year 2018 reminded me of a town I had lived in growing up in the 1960s, called Rifle Colorado.  Rifle is now much bigger and quite modernized.  Republic, not so much.  Oddly I felt like I was coming home.  Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming, and very hospitable.

When we stopped to eat, Angie was using her phone and some local publications to see what house and land prices were like in the area.  I was excited to see her looking with great interest and joy at the seemingly affordable land prices.  While I still had a bit of a longing to own some land, I had felt the imperative for the last couple of years to buy a home.  While not quite ready to be put out to pasture, I am getting a little long in the tooth to be renting.  Social Security and my small pension would never be enough as a renter, but as home owners we could live quite comfortably if I got to the place where I couldn’t work.

We had been turned down in all of our recent attempts to get financing to buy a home.  I really didn’t want he to get her hopes up, but I was so very pleased that I wouldn’t be alone if one day I was able to acquire land east of the Cascades. It would take a miracle to be able to get a home, but it was a miracle that my Norwegian descended wife actually liked it here, 85 degrees and all.

Finding the Dinosaurs

It was an epic journey, in so many different ways.

When we finally escaped the gravitational pull that had kept us in orbit around our business for 8 years straight, we headed due east.  We pulled out of the driveway at 8 AM and I was so enraptured by the escape that I drove through the night while my family slept.

The sun came up over Idaho.  We stopped for a while to buy a pillow and seek out the mandatory Starbucks, then headed out with Utah in our sights.  We stopped in Ogden for lunch an

40627040_106920560206239_2934176205741290163_n(1)

 

d saw a sign, “Dinosaur Park”. Well, we came to Utah to see dinosaurs. Not these, but some others. Since there was a sign and since we were already stopped, why not?

The Dinosaur Park in Ogden is on a winding drive up an attractive desert canyon.  While it was wasn’t exactly what we expected, it was pretty awesome.  Inside the building were exhibits and castings of fossils.  There were mineral and rock displays as well as animatronics.

Outside was a grassy, well treed park with life size replicas of the most well known dinosaur species.  We even fed Jurassic sized rainbow trout in the stream that led through the park.

That night, after checking into one hotel and promptly checking out (with some stressful moments in between) we ended up in Salt Lake City. We swam in the chilly indoor pool and I slept for the first time in 38 hours.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel.  It was somewhat difficult to find food that Angie and I could eat, as we are committed to eating on the ketogenic plan.  I will write more about that in another blog.

We left Salt Lake and headed toward Vernal Utah and Dinosaur National Monument.  DNM is a location I had visited as a little boy and as a grown man. When I visited about 25 years ago it seemed like the first time I saw it as a wide eyed 7 year old.  I wanted to see if it held the same magic 51 years later and to see if my two youngest, 8 and 3, would feel like I did.  I was also very interested in seeing if my lovely bride, an avowed enemy of the desert heat, would enjoy it as well.

We headed into the mountains past Park City and the Olympic village.  I remember when I used to drive truck over that road and all that we there were a few fences and a scattered cow or two.  It was so impressive we had to stop and find some espresso there as well.

We got to Vernal in the early afternoon.  It was hot, but not desert hot.  Even the lovely Angie of The North seemed OK in the dry 86 degree heat.  I was surprised at the town.  Vernal was far larger than I remembered it to be, but it seemed that half of it was abandoned.  Being on a road that really leads nowhere of much importance to the masses, it was like many other towns we were to pass through and at the mercy and whim of a fickle energy industry.

When we got to the Monument it took my breath away.  Not just the magnitude of what it is, but that I saw my family stare in amazement at the stone cliff, littered with hundreds of dinosaur bones, fossilized and immortalized in stone for us to see.  Even Kian, only three years old, seemed to be transfixed in looking at the display before him.  Perhaps he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing, but it was like entering a massive cathedral for the first time.  The feeling that it is so much bigger than just its size is overwhelming as well as uplifting.

The visitor center, the building that protects visitors from the elements (as well as the bones, I imagine) had been rebuilt since I had last visited.  The new design allowed visitors to actually step up to the wall and lay hands upon the real fossilized remains of an animal that had died there 145 million years earlier.

Never, until this moment, had I ever experienced a first time feeling on second visit.  This was actually my 6th visit and each time, especially this last one, was as good or better than the first.

We spent the evening splashing in the pool at the hotel in Vernal.  We had dinner, a great steak and salad, in town and spent the night full of what we had experienced.  I am taking my kids back.  I  hope that they do the same.

The next day we drove into Colorado and over Douglas Pass.  Just outside of Rangely we saw a badger.  I never saw one outside of a zoo so we turned around and came back to see him again.  He looked a bit annoyed at that, bared his teeth, and took off into the bush at high speed.

We stopped at a lone Douglas fir, all adorned with Christmas ornaments, near the summit. We gathered some rocks for painting back home (see yondesea rocks on Facebook) and headed to Fruita Colorado.

9 years earlier, Angie and I had passed by the Dinosaur Museum in Fruita and had opted not to stop.  This time we took the boys and had a great time inside.  Most of the exhibits were cast, but inside you could see an actual lab where fossilized dinosaur remains, mostly from the Rabbit Valley dig, were being classified and labeled.  I think our little guys were so dino crazed that they ate it up.  It was a bit of a step down from the last two dino sites, but it was fun anyway.

For the rest of the day I took the family around the town of Grand Junction.  It was where I had spent most of my youth.  I took pictures of Cavan in front of the house we lived in as well as my Grandparents home.  We had dinner and spent the evening visiting with my highschool friend, Mike.

The next day was a bit tough.  I took the family for a drive over the Colorado National Monument.  Its a place a bit like the Grand Canyon on a much smaller, but in my opinion much more colorful scale.  Everyone was road weary and I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the trip.  That was too bad.

We spent a second night in Grand Junction, making full use of the swimming pool at the hotel.  It also gave us a second evening to spend with Mike.

The following morning we headed to Rifle Colorado.  I had lived there for a time when I was growing up as well.  We went to Rifle Falls and had an amazing time exploring the falls and the limestone caves.  As a side note, as a result of our ketogenic way of eating, my wife led us on a hike.  Not just a walk around the falls and pools, but up steep and winding trails leading to the top of the falls and around the rim of the canyon.  The boys were huffing and puffing, but Angie led out with the grace of mountain goat.

We reluctantly left Rifle Falls and headed north through Meeker and Craig, stopping for a while in Meeker at the old original Cavalry garrison which was now a museum.  I have never seen a more impressive collection of Americana and I got to sit with the boys inside the original Rifle to Meeker Stage Coach.

The rest of the trip back toward home was more of a chore than a joy.  There is a lot of nothing out there.  I was being renewed by the nothing, but the family was just tired of hours in the car.  We spent a night again in Vernal, then Next in Nampa Idaho, and then finally back home to Whidbey Island.

When we left, Angie and I had the feeling that we were actually being led by the Spirit.  We made no plans and set no agendas.  We just went. We came back feeling that simply going was all that was needed.  I felt renewed, somehow.  The wide expanses of desert and mountains, rocks and canyons, healed some raw spots on my soul.  The boys had a grand adventure and a few tokens to remember it by.  Angie and I felt even closer, if that were at all possible.  We somehow didn’t feel like the adventure was over, even though we were back.  All the joys and pains of owning a couple of barber shops, the intricate relationships, and the unpredictability of humankind reminded us we weren’t on vacation any more.  Even so, we both felt it.  We felt like the adventure wasn’t over.  Guess what.  It wasn’t!

What is a Barbershop?

barber pole ferndaleWhat is a barbershop? Mind you, I am not referring to the little unisex hair place that hung a barber pole outside its door hoping to lure in a few men to round out their daily payroll, or a local salon.  I am talking about a barbershop. I am talking about the kind of place your grandpa went.  Hopefully your dad was lucky enough to spend time there as well. What is it that makes it that place special. What makes it a barbershop?

As intangible as it might seem there are qualities that make up a barbershop. For those who’s senses are attuned authenticity can be apparent in an instant.  You can often tell the moment you walk inside and are greeted by the smell of bay rum aftershave, barbicide and talc. Pause a moment , let your senses drink in the sound of conversations, some whispered some loud, and even some laughter. Clippers buzz, shears snip with their gentle click clicking and the pop of the drape shaken out as a new guest ascends the manly throne of tonsorial supremacy.

Each barbershop is different. While there may be replication there is always revelation. A barbershop, a real barbershop, cannot be duplicated. It is as different as  many children of the same parents. They may look similar, but each is a treasure chest of personality, special ability, strengths and weaknesses. They may sound similar, smell similar and look similar, but like snowflakes and faces, no two are exactly alike.

There are those who have tried, but once exact duplication takes place the intangible magic that is the barbershop disappears, the salon slowly creeps in. It covers, smothers, and takes over its host. What started as a living breathing example of classic Americana is quickly transformed into a franchises. No heart. No soul. Simply a gathering of automatons cutting off men’s hair to the end of payment, driven by volume, preying upon the next pour soul who is doomed to this purgatory or even hell only because no one has told them the good news;  man-topia is real, accessible, and they are welcome there.

What is a barbershop? It is like the old Celtic Monasteries. It is people gathered around mission. It is a reflection of the community around and in, presided over by a loving Abbot and cared for by tonsiary monks, apprentices and masters.  It is a gathering of all the folk from as far as the news will spread. It is nobleman and proletarian equal, as the floor is always level in the barbershop.  It is at its core hospitality, a depository of thought, and a dispensary of good will as well as good looks. What a barbershop really is, is community.

What is a barbershop? It is you. It is the sum total of all those who come in. Some  may take away more than they leave, and others may deposit extravagantly, but it is a mixture of all the men who come and engage, granting others a fifteen minute audience of their own unique value, allowing that to be blended into the pot of humanity that is The Barbershop.