I Failed My Test

I just sat down to write this blog post about getting ready to travel back to Jordan and having to get my PCR test done before I made it on to the flight when from upstairs at the house I am staying at, I heard the words I wanted to hear, “You’re negative!” It is a relief to know that I will not have to worry about that aspect of my travels right now. There are many other things I will have to think about as I try to make a couple of connections, and hope that all of the flights continue on the way that they are supposed to, but for right now the first hurdle has been cleared.

Flying across the world has always been a stressful experience because there are so many little factors and if one of them falls apart along the way, it will mess everything up in ways that could make the events a disaster. But now with Covid-19, there have been a few more wrinkles that have been thrown into the plans that add a few more factors that could make things fall apart happen more. Some countries are asking for a negative PCR test 72 hours before boarding a flight, and the United States has upped that by making the PCR test within the last 24 hours. It just means that any trip that I take internationally, I get to take a trip to a PCR testing site to get my test taken to make sure I can return back to the country where I live. I completely understand the reason why, but that does not mean that I will always enjoy the experience.

I had to actually go out twice to make sure that I had gotten my results in time. The new omicron variant complicated things as well. Because of the rise of Covid-19 right now, there are many people that are going out to get their tests done. This has created long lines not only at the testing sites, but also adding backing up the places where they processed the tests to get the results back to the people who took the test in the first place. I could also not just show up at a place to get a test done. I had to schedule an appointment and still sit in long lines before I was able to get a swab stuck up my nose. Luckily, my wife scheduled two appointments, one at a place that would get the results back in 72 hours, and rapid results place. Both of them were difficult to schedule, and we were lucky to have them.

I did go out on a rainy day two days ago to get my first test done. We were able to sit in our car as we waited to get to the place where we would get our test. This was nice because it was a rainy Oregon day, and I don’t know what that would have been like if I had to sit outside while waiting to get tested. I sat in the line for a couple of hours, and eventually got tested. As of right now, I still have not gotten the results back yet, and the lady that administered the test told us that getting the results back in 72 hours might not happen because of the amount of tests that they had been given recently.

I took my second test a couple of hours ago, and this was a completely different experience. I had to drive to downtown Portland, park the car, and stand outside to wait for my turn to get the test. Luckily, the rain had stopped while we were waiting. I could not imagine someone who was sick right now, standing in that line in order to get tested if it had been raining outside. That could not have been good for them, so I wonder what they do when that happens. This line only took about 45 minutes to get through, but you could only join it if you had an appointment. The lab where they were doing the results was at the site, and they were able to process it quickly. In fact, on the ride home, my wife was given her results. I had to wait a little longer, but it was within a couple of hours of having taken the test.

It was a little bit of an inconvenience to have to do this, but that is the kind of world we live in right now. It is nice to know that I am safe enough to fly and that the people I will be sharing the flight with will also have the same negative results. I also know that it should not be forever, and there will be a day when we can go back to taking a flight the way we always used to without having these extra hoops to jump through. I am glad I made it through that first hoop, and I know I have a few more to get through, but in the end, I should find myself back in the safety of my home with the memory of spending the holidays with family and friends to hold on to.

Wet versus Dry

It is a rare thing when Colorado gets to be in the national spotlight, or even talked about at a level internationally. Usually, when it happens, it is due to some extreme story that does not make this part of the United States look great. There have been many tragic shootings, and fires that have devastated much of the forests in the mountains. But the fire that took place recently outside of Boulder, Colorado might be one of the most tragic that Colorado has encountered. Though only a couple people have ended up missing, over a thousand home burned down, and has changed the lives of all those people who have been displaced.

At the time of this writing, it is still has not been determined how the fire in the middle of a residential area got started. The initial thought that high, strong winds knocked down some power lines has been ruled out, but one thing is sure that if it was an act of nature, an accident, or something more malicious, there is one factor that cannot be denied about why it was so destructive, the dry conditions that Colorado has been experiencing this winter. After talking with people there, I was told about how little moisture they had been getting. There was a heavy rain back in the end of July, and they had a snow that collected an inch during the early days of autumn, but besides that there has been nothing. Colorado is already a desolate looking place during the autumn months, but extend that into winter, and it is only a matter of time that a fire will get started and we will witness the destruction like we last week.

On the flip side of that coin is too much rain. I have also been lucky to have spent some time in Oregon during this break as well, and if the main color in Colorado in December was brown, the main color in Oregon has been a bright green. This is not true for the whole state, but I have only been able to see what life is like in Portland, and it has rained most of the time that I have gotten off of the plane until now. It hasn’t been the typical mist in the air kind of rain that Portland usually experiences during the holidays either. There have been significant downpours, and if you travel further west into the higher elevations, this rain has turned into snow. And they are getting a lot of snow too. I-84 and a lot of the mountain passes have been closed due to too much snow falling in a short period of time, and it does not look like it will be stopping anytime soon. In fact, in certain parts of Portland, there have been Flood Watches and Advisories issued through Friday afternoon.

It all comes down to a statement that a lot of people have been saying to others lately, “Odd weather we’ve been having lately.” These statements are not just uttered in Colorado or Oregon either. There have been December tornadoes in Kentucky, severe drought conditions in Jordan, cyclone warnings in Australia, and sunny days in Antartica. Weather is out of balance, and we sit around and comment about how that is odd. There is a simple explanation for this odd behavior, but seem to want to be too polite to actually say it out loud in the random chance that we might offend someone. But these occurrences are going to get stranger, and more frequent unless we acknowledge that there is a problem, and start to do something to correct this problem. We have to admit that climate change is happening, and we not only need to change our habits to try to correct it, but we need to make sure that our laws and economic future also reflect these changes in our behavior. But it all starts by admitting that it is out there. So the next time you talk about the tragedy of nature, or the odd weather that we are experience, let the person know who you are talking to that it is a matter of climate change. They need to hear it, and the only way we will change our ways if we quit being polite about it.

The Best Posts of 2021

2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.

#10 – Hindsight

This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.

#9 – The Dead Sea, Jordan

I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.

#8 – Rain on a Work Day

I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.

#7 – A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.

#6 – Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.

#5 – Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.

#4 – Problems and Possibilities

Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.

#3 – Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.

#2 – The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.

#1 – Wingspan versus Everdell

Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.

Honorable Mentions

Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Never Forget Dachau – Germany

A Toast to the End of the Semester

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Lessons from Angkor Wat

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

The River

Freedom can be found along the river.
I just need to follow the water north.
Across a certain line, they deliver
All who may be seeking who have come forth.
I know that my man will search for me there,
But it is my only form of guidance,
And it is within its rushing flow where
I can find a road map that gives a chance
To a diff’rent life than the one I live.
It is a life where I can have a voice,
And where all of the options that they give,
Allows me the right to make my own choice.
It is a journey that may take me years,
But it is worth facing all of those fears.

Saying Goodbye

It is hard to believe that a short two months ago, I sat at the Bangkok airport with all of my bags packed, getting ready to head back to the United States for the first time in two years. As for most people around the world, it had been an interesting two years, and I was excited to get back to see the people I loved. It was going to be a little different from other trips back home because the threat of the pandemic loomed large over everything everybody did, and I was also going to go through the process of moving to a new country at the same time.

Despite all of this fear that was plaguing the world, there was still hope. A vaccine had become available and people were starting to take off their masks to get life back to normal. We were a little worried when we first started looking at coming back that we would have a hard time finding a shot, but by the time we landed in Portland, Oregon, there was enough vaccine in the United States to where we could walk into a local Target and get a vaccine without an appointment. We also were able to leave Thailand just in time. The numbers have skyrocketed in that country for the first time ever with the latest numbers showing over 17,000 new cases just the other day, and it does not look like it is going to slow down anytime soon. I feel for all of the people I left behind in that country, and I worry about them as they struggle through another school year. I hope that they can get things under control soon, and find a place where they can start easing up the restrictions that I got to enjoy while I was living out there.

As I went through my stuff in storage, my sights switched over to Jordan to see how they were handling this crisis. The numbers there a lot lower, but there has been a new creep up that I will keep an eye on. I also look at those numbers for overall vaccination, and though Jordan is not in a place where America is at, they still steadily move in the right direction. It gives me hope for the next year that it will be closer to a normal school year as opposed to the last two, and I will also be going on a new adventure in a new country at the same time.

The summer was still a great time to catch up with friends and family, and meet new characters along the way. I always find myself falling into that comfortability that it means being an American in America. The old relationships feel like we pick them up right where we left them off, and the conveniences that we have come to crave while away are once again taken for granted.

But we were able to discover some new ways that America has evolved as well. I remember being excited about the movie, Chef, right before we started our overseas adventures, but thinking that the land of food trucks that it described was a little taken out of context. There might have been a couple of places where these existed, but there seemed to be more of them during our return visit. It almost seemed that this was the preferred way of dining out, but summertime and Covid might have had something to do with it as well.

That didn’t stop me from searching out the more traditional way of eating out. Of course, I hit my fair share of Mexican restaurants while in Colorado because I needed to get as much green chili as I could. This is my favorite of all food groups, and everybody I meet who has ever eaten green chili understands my love for it, yet I am still confused as to why it can still only be found in three of the four states connected with the four corners region. It makes coming home that much better because I get to have this food again. I still do not believe that I got enough on this trip out, but I still enjoyed what I had.

I also love being able to see the beauty of America every time I am home as well. I am really lucky to be associated with what I consider to be two of the more beautiful states, Oregon and Colorado. I love seeing the mountains and forests that both of these places have to offer. Though I have seen some beautiful and amazing sights all over the world, my heart always returns to the mountains and I don’t think of any place better than these two for me to connect back with them. I was able to spend a good amount of time in them in Oregon, and I wish I would have ventured beyond the foothills during my stay in Colorado.

I was still able to make it outside quite a bit and enjoy the majesty that is Colorado. Whether it was taking long walks in many of the green spaces that can be found in many of Colorado’s neighborhood, or going out to Chatfield Reservoir, I was able to spend a lot of time outside. This is not something that is as enjoyable in a more tropical climate, and there are times of the year where Colorado is better spent indoors, but I was out here during the summertime and this is the perfect time to be outside there.

I was even lucky enough to experience some of the wildlife during my trip. During the last couple of years, I had run into what many would consider exotic animals, with Thailand filled with many types of monkeys, tropical birds, and a variety of reptiles, and snakes. But this is only a matter of perspective. From the other side of the world, a herd of deer or elk is just as exotic as a monitor lizard is to the people of America. Being deprived of this view for so long has made it exciting once again, and I enjoyed it every time I came across the usual herds of animals that I grew up with.

Not everything ended up in taking me to the great outdoors. There were a couple of stops that showed me other great things that America had to offer, and they were not always Target stores. The greatest had to be the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs. It was nice to get out to museums once again, and though I had to spend my time in there wearing a mask, I have been doing it so much lately that it no longer bugs me. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon and a great way of celebrating the Olympics this year.

It has been great to get back to America, especially after two years away, but nobody can spend their whole life in rest and relaxation. Like an international school teacher under normal circumstances, I have to get back to the country where my work is, and I am complicating the process by changing schools and countries to Amman, Jordan. So I have packed up my bags, eaten those last meals, and given those last hugs to family and friends, and I have headed off the airport. I am confident that the world is moving in the right direction, and I will not be forced to stay away for as long this time around. So as I head off to a brand new adventure, I say goodbye to America, and guarantee I will be back soon.

A Change for Downtown Littleton

The sunset from the View House in downtown Littleton.

Last night, I got to travel to my old stomping grounds of Downtown Littleton. It is the place I used to work as a bartender, and the building which housed the brewery still stands though the brewpub is no longer in operation. It is not the only changes that have come from this quaint section of metropolitan Denver. A street that was filled with barber shops and dive bars has turned into a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings and high-end restaurants. The only thing that is holding this place back is the main streets that have cars traveling through to get to busier parts of the city. I was told that during the pandemic that they closed off the streets and allowed these restaurants to spill their tables out into the roads so they could stay in operation. It created something that could be found in Europe with the walking streets, giving it a feel of something more out of the 18th century rather than modern times. If they would just add cobblestones over the pavement, they would have something spectacular. People would take the light rail from Denver to this exciting location, and certain buildings that have remained empty might actually get filled up again, adding more to the atmosphere.

There are other places that I know of that would benefit from this kind of arrangement, downtown Castle Rock in Colorado, and downtown West Linn in Oregon, but I also know the biggest argument against them as well. The roads that would be closed happen to be main thoroughfares that would have many motorists mad if they were changed into a place where only walking people could go. These places already have sidewalks, and people can wait for the lights to change before they walk across the street.

I do understand their points, but at the same time, the pedestrian outdoor areas are the busiest places in Europe. They are always filled with tourists looking for ways to spend their money. They also add a certain amount of charm to the cities they reside in, making people want to visit more. There are a couple of these locations in Colorado that I know of: Pearl Street in Boulder, Old Town in Fort Collins, and 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, and they are always busy. As some of the older parts of smaller towns are looking to revive their older parts of town, I can see them eventually make this slight change to bring back the business they lost, and this is the best time to do it. Many of these proposed locations did the same thing that downtown Littleton did during Covid, and they can see how the conversion can transform their part of town.

Bend is proposing to do this right now with Minnesota Avenue. Some of the trendier restaurants in Bend are on this street, and they want it to stay the pedestrian mall that they had during the Covid crisis. The town is currently considering this, but it is meeting with the same resistance that other places will meet, traffic, and why should people put up with this for something that will only be in use for at most six months out of the year.

It is just a trend that I noticed last night as I visited the place where I used to work, and I wonder if it will take hold or not. I am pretty sure that if it does, it will take a couple more decades before it is considered because the American society is not ready to go there yet, but I am sure there will be a couple more of them popping up from time to time as towns start to see the benefit to them.

Things

I am already thinking about winter. It was one of the chores that I knew I had to do while I was in the United States because I knew that the clothes I had shipped to Jordan from Thailand would only be appropriate during the first couple of months out there, and then I would need some long sleeves, pants, and hats. I had some of that stuff in Thailand because my thought was we would travel to cooler places to get away from the tropical heat, but then, Covid. So I do have a weeks worth of clothes that will allow me survive in those conditions, and they are not for the really cold temperature that Amman can sometimes get to.

So this is why I have been thinking about winter.

Growing up in Colorado, and visiting Oregon often means that I do have these clothes, but I pushed them in some boxes and bags and left them in storage some place in one of these two states, and even then, I am not sure where I left them in those states. It has been a little game of hide and seek so far this summer, rummaging through this box and that one trying to find what I know is out there, and yesterday, I went to my storage unit in Colorado.

Lo and behold, I found the missing clothes among piles of things that I am not sure what they are anymore. This little game made me realize what has become of my life, and my things as they are strewn across the world. Of course right now I am living out of bags and have to rummage through them every morning to find the things that I need to be a part of society. I have some rare discs and records tucked away in a closet at my parents’ house, and a couple boxes of random stuff at my in-laws’ house. And somewhere, en route, there is a shipping container full of more stuff and things finding its way to my new place in Jordan. I have truly become a man of the world, and like a teenager does in their room, I have left myself wherever I just happen to drop it.

While looking at my stuff, and all of the places where it is, I am constantly thinking about a story I taught a couple of times early in my teaching career by D.H. Lawrence called “Things”. It told the story of a couple who started taking teaching jobs overseas. Of course, they did not want to bring all of their stuff with them, so they put some stuff in storage here, and other things in storage over there. They bought art and mementos along the way, but they did not have a place in their house to display them, so they stored those in other countries. They ended up having places all over the world to hold their stuff for them. I now thing of that story and realize that I am now living it. (I will put a link to the story at the end of the post if you are interested to read for yourself.)

There are a couple of themes that could be looked at while reading this story, but the one that stuck with me and the one that I always return to is how we no longer own our possessions, but instead they start to own us. Part of the lives of these characters was to tend to their things, and I am participating in the same ritual. Some of these things are easy to attend to; whereas, others are going to be a surprise when I return to them years later. I will have forgotten that I have some of these things, and it will be like a return to Christmas when I find them again. But it makes me start to wonder how much of it I really need, and how much of it I can give away.

My wife and I always talk about going to the storage unit every summer and reorganizing it to move to a smaller storage unit, but something always comes up that makes us put that off for another year. Basically, it is easier to maintain my things than to deal with them, but someday I will have to deal with them. Until then, I will just lock the door to the storage unit, push that box in the corner of the room where I found it, and track my shipment over the internet until it arrives, and I will continue to play this game with my things.

“Things” by D.H. Lawrence

Until We Meet Again, Oregon

The time I spend in Oregon always seems a little short. It feels like I get there and before I know it, I need to move on again. Most of the time I get there after a long grueling time of work, and I need a big break. By the time I leave, I feel well rested and ready to take on another year of teaching.

This time was no different.

I spent most of my time in Central Oregon during my last visit, and though it was incredibly hot while I was there, I still found time to get among the forests and mountains that surrounded me. It was exactly what I needed. I have learned a lot about myself over the last couple of years, as I am sure that many people have. The biggest thing that I learned after spending time on beaches and diving in the ocean is that I am a mountain man. I need those rugged landscapes, and the opportunity to play in the lakes and trails that take me to hidden gems.

Oregon allowed me to visit these again after a long time away from them.

I also learned that I am a dog person. I really always knew this already, but after spending a good month with Maggie, a new dog that my in-laws rescued, I got remember how great it is to have a dog around all the time. She was a little nervous around me as she is with all males, but after a month of getting used to me being around, she started to allow me to pet her and even put a leash on her to take her out on a walk. We created a bond that I hope she does not forget about by the next time I come around again.

That unconditional companionship brings a smile to my face even thinking about it.

Even though I have been to Oregon on numerous occasions, I am still able to be surprised by the beauty that it has to offer. Around any corner in the central part of the state, I don’t know what I will find around it. It might be the perfect landscape picture. It might be a herd of deer or elk frozen in jump waiting for one of us to make or move. Or it might be a rainbow reaching over the trees framing one of my favorite places in the world.

Thank you, Oregon, for the time I got to spend with you, and I look forward to the next time we will meet again.

Sparks Lake, Oregon

As my time in Oregon started to come to a close, I took the opportunity to get out on one of its many lakes one last time before I am able to get back out here. I am pretty sure that it will be in a year, but I have said stuff like that before and was disappointed in the results. I also don’t see another world wide catastrophe happen again any time soon that would cause me to delay this plan, but at the same time I understand that I need to make the most out of the moments while they are still available.

This time I went behind the Sisters and up by Mount Bachelor, one of Oregon’s premiere ski resorts, to check out one of those lakes. There are many lakes in this area, and I have been to Elk Lake before even though that was many years ago, so I decided to check out the other big lake they have out there, Sparks Lake. This is one of the more popular lakes in the area, and is one of the ones that allow motor boats though they cannot travel faster than ten miles per hour while out on the lake.

I was really surprised that they allowed motors out on this lake, and I didn’t see anybody out there with one while I spent the day there. The lake is sprawling and it is rather deceptive about the area that it covers. I entered on the eastern side of the lake, and the water was not that deep over there. In fact, there were many times that I was worried that I would beach my kayak as I tried to navigate through the weeds and the rocks that were all over the place. I couldn’t imagine how difficult this would be if there was a motor attached to the boat. I think most of the people that were out there thought the same way, and that is why the whole lake was covered with canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards.

Once I got over to the other side of the lake, the depth changed and landscape changed drastically. There were many places over on this side where I could not see the bottom, and there were a lot of little tributaries that I could explore. The coastline of the lake was also covered with lava rock that gave for many interesting formations to stare at and ponder. As I looked closer at the coast I could also see a yellow line where the pollen in the area showed where the height of the water reached recently. It shocked me to see that the water in the lake was easily a foot or two below where it usually rested. It explained the problem that was occurring with other side of the lake and why the water was so shallow. It also reminded me how dry Oregon has been this year, and makes me worried about what might happen in the next couple of months if they do not start getting some rain.

That did not stop the wildlife making its way to the lake. You have to look carefully in this picture, but beyond the ducks, there are a couple of deer grazing on the edge of the lake. I tried to get a little closer to get a better picture, but as soon as they heard me creeping closer, they dashed off into the wilderness. I am sure that on any given day out there, the opportunity to see the wildlife is always present which just adds to what this lake has to offer.

Sparks Lake is a treasure, and a great place to go out kayaking on. Just to warn you though, I have been told that it gets rather busy during the summer and it might be hard to find a place to park. It is also a little more rustic than other lakes in the region, but there are plenty of places to camp, and if you get there early enough you should be able to stake out your own spot somewhere along the shore. The road in has not been groomed recently, so if you are going out there, you will want to go with an SUV or truck though I did see a couple of sedans struggle up the path just fine. It will probably be really busy during the Fourth of July weekend, but after that, it is a great day trip if you find yourself in Bend or the surrounding area.

The Food Truck Stop

When did this start to happen?

Don’t get me wrong. It is pretty cool, and it is fun to have this dedicated place where you can get a drink, and a choice of some delicious food from five or six options. But I did not know that food truck stops have become such a big thing. I traveled down to Bend last night to visit with an old friend at one of these places, and along the way I could see a collection of food trucks gathered together like a small herd at many locations along the way. According the local news, there are even more of these spots all over Bend. I was even invited to go to a different one while I was staying outside of Portland but couldn’t make it because I was still under quarantine protocol at the time.

My point is that I have been away from the country for a couple of years, and all of a sudden, it has become a thing. I know that the food truck is not a new thing. It had been around long before John Favreau highlighted the story of a man’s adventure with one in his great movie, Chef, and I had even eaten from a few of them from time to time. I also knew that there were places where they would gather in order to sell their feasts; I had visited them in Colorado and Seoul, but usually during some kind of festival so they had a reason for gathering. It is just that they are all over the place now, and seem to be more ubiquitous than a regular restaurant, especially in the Central Oregon area.

The one I went to last night was called On Tap, and it was located by the St. Charles hospital underneath the shadow of Pilot Butte in the eastern part of Bend. It boasts of having the most beer on tap than any other location in Bend, even though it does not brew any of the beer that it serves. Most of the selection comes from local breweries even though I did see a couple from the east coast and one from Colorado on the list. They also had a nice selection of wines, and various ciders (which has also become a thing while I was gone). You go up to the counter, order your drink from a couple of pushy bartenders (they could have been a little more patient as I read through the selection), and then find a spot at one of the many picnic tables found on their grounds. It has a very communal atmosphere, and I would imagine would be even better if people did not have to socially distance themselves due to the straggling effects of the pandemic still lingering on. I don’t know what happens during the winter. The bar is located in a permanent structure that can be closed up with some seating still available, but the amount is severely reduced because of this. But then again, Bend is a big tourist destination during the summer, so maybe On Tap can make a bigger chunk of its money during these months, and allow that to give them what they need to coast during the rest of year.

The food I had was really good as well. I had a shrimp po’ boy, and it was nice to have some cajun food again after not seeing a place where you could get for so long. It was really tasty though I wish it could have a little bit more of a kick with it, but then again I am in the Pacific Northwest, and this is not something that is always offered with the food out here. They had a lot of other selections as well with vegetarian, Mexican, Asian fusion, bar-b-q, and Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Of course, I couldn’t taste it all, but the food that I saw being carried around all looked delicious.

Families and dogs were even welcomed. I saw many children run and duck through the tables, and they even gathered on the grassy patch at the far end for a game of tag. The dogs were always looking for a piece of dropped food or a pat on the head from the people passing by. The food, drink, outdoors, and people created the perfect atmosphere for a great summer evening. It does not mean that I will hunt out another one of these herds every night, but I would enjoy finding different ones, or coming back to this one so I could try some of the other cuisine. It was all around a fun evening.

I guess I now understand why this has become a thing.