Well-Laid Plans and Best Intentions

Early morning near Susanville,California - Oct. 3 ,2016 - bruce witzel photo

You may be asking yourself: What became of the road trip you invited us on? Life does interfere in my well-laid plans and best intentions. While contemplating a trip or in the early days of high enthusiasm, it’s easy to forget how tiring travel can be. The endings of each day get pushed later and later with the pursuit of things that must be experienced. Wi-fi connections are not always what one would like. Living in the moment soon takes precedence over everything else.

And then, to our great surprise and horror, Bruce and I succumbed to a nasty bit of traveller’s tummy. We can’t pinpoint exactly what was to blame but we have our suspicions. Bruce recovered after thirty-six hours but I took a full seventy-two hours to feel half-way normal and I still need to follow that acronym for the bland diet – BRAT – bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. Not exactly what one looks forward to on a travelling holiday.

So, I didn’t blog any of the great travel stories I wanted to. We are on Day 14 and I have a long list of blog topics with not much writing to show for the constant barrage of ideas that come to me as I see new things and meet interesting people.

I’m guessing now the highlights of this trip will be shared after the fact but rest assured, those blogs to come will be worth waiting for.  Here is just a small taste.

Sand Mountain (2) Nevada - bruce witzel photo

This is a shot of Sand Mountain located on the loneliest highway in America which runs from Fallon Nevada to Ely. The native people compared the shifting dune to a large snake constantly slithering towards its hole in the desert floor. And they spoke of how, if you listened very carefully, you could hear that snake hissing.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada

Silver Terrace Cemetery

Virginia City, Nevada is quite the place. The area’s history as an old west mining town has been used to turn the town into a tourist mecca. I’m betting that most people who visit are interested in the main street of funky western shops, bars and eateries. Well, we aren’t most travellers. We choose a quiet walk around the Silver Terrace Cemetery and we did not feel we had missed out on a thing.

Here is what I picked up from one of the informative signs. Established in 1867, the thirty-acre cemetery was once fully irrigated and sustained a wide variety of non-indigenous flowering plants and trees. A stroll through the shady, rose scented paths tapped into the senses in a transformative way. I was surprised to learn that these early cemeteries were so beautiful and inviting that they became the forerunners of the public parks system in America.

Rose bud at Silver Terrace Cemetery

Silver Terrace is an American West collective memory. Filled with symbols that emphasized a belief in everlasting life, a stroll through the cemetery immerses one in a socially infused cultural landscape.

Angel grave stone

These grounds was once described as the loveliest place of burial in Nevada. Not so anymore. A vast majority of the grave markers have been stolen or vandalized. In 2005, such theft became a crime in the state of Nevada and the cemetery is now remotely monitored twenty-four hours a day. This has served to halt the devastation.

Silver Terrace Cemetery - Virginia City, Nevada

I was taken by the sadness of this stone – baby Horace lived only one month and died on the same day my daughter was born – albeit one-hundred and eight years before!

Child's grave stone

I wondered about Mary Jane Simpson. Was she actually a mule or just a woman who could be mulish when it suited her.

Mary Simpson

And what more can be said of James F. Brown from Ireland but that after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well. May we all be immortalized with such simple yet significant words.

James F. Brown grave stone

Day Three and Making Peace with the GPS

Road shot

Day three on the road and we have made peace with the GPS. We purchased it for a trip in 2012 and barely used it. We are old-school and we like our fold-out paper maps. It does seem a waste not to give the electronic gadgetry at least one more try.

We had a glitch on the I-5 as we tried to get past Seattle in Friday afternoon rush-hour. The GPS kept up a steady patter related to lengthening delays and offered tantalizing changes of route that would save us time. Finally, we gave in to the temptation. Four changes later and desperate to find a bathroom in the middle of nowhere, we truly considered throwing the GPS out the nearest window. Well, as my daughter said when I told her of our mishap – oh my, never leave the I-5. Words to live by.

So, imagine how surprised we were to discover, over the last two days, how useful the GPS can be. I can monitor when major turns and route changes will occur. As the directionally challenged navigator, I don’t want to be caught napping in the passenger seat.

Drum roll, please. Travel update:

By the end of our first day on the road, we had only made our way as far as Centralia, Washington. That rush hour traffic and those GPS induced detours really set us back. No worries – most of day one is always spent getting off Vancouver Island!

Crooked River Gorge



Day two we headed toward Bend, Oregon. Travelled the Mount Hood highway and had a picnic lunch at the Crooked River Gorge in Peter Ogden State Park. Bungee Jumping was possible but, as my granddaughter Britney often says – I’m just not ready.





Bungee Jumping at Crooked River

I took particular interest in the sign warning of the danger to dogs. Short of throwing your dog’s favourite toy over the concrete barrier, I’m not sure why a dog would do what the dog on this sign is doing. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

Watch your dogs at Crooked River Viewpoint

By mid-afternoon we were in Bend to enjoy the downtown Fall Festival with a delightful variety of vendors and musicians. Did I mention, they had Blackberry Cider. Very tasty.

They have Blackberry Cider

Band at the Bend Fall Festival

We lucked into seeing a whole hour of Tom Vandenavond with Larry and His Flask! Vandenavond is billed as part John Prine and a bit Mark Twain. He sang a song – How the West was Lost – inspired by his reading of Dee Browne’s book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The lyrics nearly made me weep. Well done, Tom! I’m feeling certain that Alexander is going to travel to Bend, Oregon in my next Crater Lake book and he’ll hear Tom singing that song.

Outback Scenic Highway


This morning we headed out along the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. Well worth the time. I love the high desert sights and smells. The scrub brush rolls out across the landscape like a wave of muted yellows, golds and greys. The pungent smell of the sage brush is something I would never get tired of breathing.



High Desert scrub brush

Outback of Oregon

Had a quick stop at Summer Lake Hot Springs. The setting is rustic and that high desert wind sure whistled through the boards of the old barn that houses the pool. Interesting experience.


We’ve parked ourselves at the Super 8 in Susanville, California for the night and are glad to kick back with a tall glass of wine and a couple of slices of pizza. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Rainbows, anyone?

Rainbow on the Outback Scenic hwy - Oregon