Friday, May 30, 2014

“The Mountains Win Again …”

This blog post is brought to you by my awesome and crazy husband, J.

The above title is one of my favorite Blues Traveler songs and for this post it stands true for my latest adventure.  In the pursuit to climb the highest peak in every state, my latest adventure brought me to Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak at 11,249 ft. Now while you are enjoying the wonders of summer with shorts and trips to the beach, I was freezing to death (literally) while attempting my 35th high point.  

After last year’s successful summit bids of Borah Peak in Idaho, Mt. Whitney in California and Mt. Rainier in Washington, I was ready to conquer Hood.  I summoned up my hiking and climbing partner Bolt (Bobby) for the adventure and warned him that we would not be putting our life in danger like our lighting filled climb of Mt. Washington in 2008.  Luckily he agreed this was not a time to temp our fate, as he knows we have many more mountains in our sights, including Denali.  Upon arriving at the base of the mountain at just before 2am at an elevation of about 5500ft, the snow and winds had already started.  

We immediately started out in snow and after less than ½ mile the snow turned to white out conditions and left our visibility at less than 10 ft.  The winds picked up and the snow/ice was pelting us.  Now some things struck me as odd as we began our climb.  First, there were close to no cars in the lot that morning (Hood is the second most climbed peak after Mt. Fuji).  Then there was no trail and no people!  We did see two other guys leave about 30 minutes before us and thought there would be a foot-beaten path to the summit, but we quickly saw no people and no path.  So we had to stop almost every 5 minutes to gather compass readings to make sure we did not walk off the mountain.  
With the heavy snow, winds and us stopping too much to read the compass we started to realize this may not be right.  As my Father-in-Law says, “if does not look right, smell right or feel right, it aint right.” And this day was not right.  At around 4:30am  at an elevation of 8500ft, we gathered our senses and came up with two options. 1) Hunker down and get in our sleeping bags to wait for the sun and see if we can find our location or 2) Start heading down. Knowing that the summit was not in our future we decided the safest option was to get down.  Of course our tracks were gone so we blazed a new path down this beast of a mountain.  

We got to our car around 6:30am, slept for about an hour, got a cup of coffee and when the sun came up since we were already suited up we hit the mountain again to hike up to and beyond our initial turn around spot.  Don’t worry, we had no intention to summit or even enter the danger zone.  The conditions on the second hike were just about the same but we had some daylight and could actually see much further.  

We felt accomplished on both hikes and upon getting off the mountain the second time around 2pm, we ate a big meal and slept hard.  
So the next morning, this is what we saw from the base.  This would have been the night to climb, we missed it by one day.  

But that mountain will be there forever, and it will see me again.  Hopefully next time I will be standing atop with a big "I gotcha"  grin on my face. You can't win them all. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

High Points and Low Points

Well, this week has been going much better than last week in terms of breathing a lot easier and having things under control. I felt like I was at the bottom of a pile of something (laundry? diced tomatoes? tipi liners?) and kept trying to stay afloat. But the thing about the hospitality business is that usually you can't measure productivity in a to do list. There's just too much going on at once. I'm guessing this is how it feels to be a stay-at-home mom or dad. Honestly, last week I'm not even sure I remembered to put on pants all week and I even put it on my to do list. 

Monday was my first day off in who knows how long and even though I was still here at RR, I felt like I was able to take a breather and reassess my "to-do" list. Blogging made it on there twice, which is why you get TWO blog posts in ONE week. 

The subject of today's blog post: a different kind of anxiety.

J took off today and guess where he is? No, not at a concert. This is the one time I WISH he was at a concert. Nope, he is attempting to climb Mt. Hood, the highest point in Oregon at 11,249. Like Rainier, it is a snow-covered peak that requires mountaineering skills and common sense because of the crevasses, falling rocks, unpredictable, inclement weather and avalanches. I opted not to join him because, well, crevasses, falling rocks, unpredictable, inclement weather and avalanches. 

In any case, I am worried! It seems people are falling into crevasses and fumaroles and dying left and right on Hood this summer!! 

Plus, he is going with our good friend from VA, Bobby, aka Bolt. Bobby is not the best litmus test when it come to danger. In 2008, the 3 of us almost died in a thunderstorm on Mt. Washington because Bolt insisted we play Frogger through the lightening strikes. Still remains in my top 5 scariest moments. 

So do me a solid. Send good vibes J's way. I don't even care if he makes it all the way to the summit. I just want him down with all 10 fingers and 10 toes! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Open for Business

Well, RR opened for business this weekend!

Let me tell you, we were putting finishing touches on everything up until the minute guests walked in on Friday at 3pm. The stress of last week was probably far worse for my health than a bloomin' onion from Outback, but we had happy guests this weekend and that's all that matters. While there are still PLENTY of things to do, I think things will calm down going forward.

One of the checklist items that caused total consuming madness for awhile were those darn tipis. It turns out there is a part II of my tipi tutorial. There is an internal liner that gets roped--tightly--inside. The rope is scratchy. I think if we put our hands through a patch of thorny plants, it might have been less painful. Then, we had to build the futons because they were delivered in pieces. So the last several days leading up to opening night went something like this. Put up ropes for liner, put up liner, put together futon, set up tipi. Rinse. Repeat. Four tipis are complete, but we haven't even started step 1 for the last tipi. 

I imagine this summer will be full of firsts, so we also checked off sleeping in a tipi. 

Friday was our first night open to the public. We open at 3pm for check in and just to open our bar. We only had 2 walk-ins for beer & apps and 3 overnight guests (2 for dinner). So it was a very soft, calm opening. On Saturday, we had 15 reserved for dinner (steaks were on the menu!!), 11 of which were overnight guests. We expected chaos, but we did pretty well. Sundays, our chef has off, so that's when J & I step up to the plate for cooking pizzas. I'm happy to say that one of our guests asked me if I went to school for cooking pizzas because they were so good!! 

Can I remind everyone that I have never been a cook or server in my life? I had one 6-month stint working at Carrabba's, but I was a hostess. And more recently, I worked a few catering jobs, but I didn't do much more than dish washing for those. When I was younger, my mom used to volunteer for Bingo nights at the church (in fact, she still does … 40 years strong). In any case, she used to take me with her when she couldn't leave me at home alone and I would play "waitress," which means the little old ladies with raspy voices playing Bingo would give me money to get them coffee from the snack bar. Nine times out of 10, I had to ask the Bingo caller to make an announcement and ask who ordered coffee from the cute blond 11-year-old. 

So, there is a bit of a learning curve for me with this restaurant business. We have the hospitality/lodging part down. We can clean a toilet like no other. But, pouring beer from the tap, opening (and knowing) wine, remembering food orders, building salads, carrying big trays of food … brand new territory. 
J is definitely more experienced than I am, but we are both learning A LOT about food prep, food care and food in general. We both passed our food handler's test. We learned from the food handlers test that you should not go to work if you have loose bowels and diarrhea. Well, damn it. J can never go to work then.

Our chef is a phenomenal cook. She makes us taste everything & we are eating good. I would say I might gain weight from this experience, except that I haven't stopped moving at all. In fact, I am dancing as I am typing this. Okay, maybe not, but today was really the first time I had a few minutes of downtime in the past 2-3 weeks. 

So yeah, long days, long hours. Start at 6:30am (no more sleeping in until 9am for us!), end by 10pm or so. We are so busy, we haven't even played the Bean game!! But, rest assured, we are having fun in this new adventure. 

And I've only flooded the kitchen twice via the commercial dishwasher so far … fair to say we are off to a good start for the season?

Don't forget to follow us on RimRock's Facebook page!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Anniversaries in the Hospital

My family seems to have this trend going on in that wedding anniversaries should be spent in the hospital.

First, J & I spent our 7th anniversary in the hospital this past October due to my blood clot. Now my mom & dad celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in the hospital, as my dad had a toe on his right foot amputated after a bad fall that left it broken, then infected. He is okay and coming home this week!
Now I should clarify that my parents don't really care about their anniversary. In fact, they would much rather spend it apart (I'm half kidding). You see, they fight … a lot. It is what they due best and they will tell you that themselves. I really do wonder how they managed 45 years, let alone 7.

So happy 45 years, Mom & Dad, even though you didn't recognize your own anniversary.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Build a Tipi

We open in 10 days and our to do list seems to be growing instead of shrinking! 

Our have projects varied, of course. Aside from the whole business of hiring a new chef (DONE!), we had to clean the whole lodge from top to bottom and perform care on the grounds as well. This is what happens when a building is shut down through the whole winter and takes a beating from the weather. J & I are really good at divide and conquer, fostering our individual talents. While J climbed ladders, painted, restained almost every piece of wood around and other traditionally manly duties, I handled the computer-oriented communication end of things (marketing, reservations). 

But, the one project we have been tackling together is building tipis! If someone told me I would building tipis at the age of 35, I would have snorted my chocolate milk out my nostrils. But, here I am and I wouldn't have chosen a better path for my life to follow … 

So, building tipis. RR has 4 tipis for rent, plus one where the cook will live. I know you are dying to know what this entails. So I will tell you, step by grueling step.

1) Spread a layer of gravel as the base.
Now, this wouldn't be so bad if the gravel delivery truck would not have delivered the gravel on a day it was raining sheets, causing the truck to get stuck in the mud and have to drop its 2-ton load in the WRONG spot. Hahahahaaha. Ha. Ha. I get it. The joke was on us. J & I spent a good 3 days moving gravel. Not recommended for a fun family activity. 

2) Build a platform and stain it. We were not on this task, mainly because it would have taken us a good 37 days to complete this task, whereas it has taken a trained carpenter only a week or so. Although, it was wood, so on J's task list to stain. 

3) Take a trip into the forest to collect lodgepole pine trees ranging between 18 feet to 27 feet. These are the same poles used by Native Americans for their tipis. Each tipi needs 17 poles, which equals 85 poles. RR had some poles leftover from last year, but we had to gather about 30 new ones. The tree huggers in us were a little miffed to be taking down trees from the forest, but we took dead and down when possible. Plus, the Forest Service welcomed us to thin the forest. In fact, the day we were out and about, we saw several controlled burns to do just that. But back to gathering and carrying 30 poles from deep in the forest to the truck. I never wanted some Oompa Loompas to appear more than in that moment. 
 on a side note, how cool would it be to be that guy who gets to go into the forest with a blow torch and set fires?

4) Strip the pine trees of knobs and branches and give them a fresh look using a draw knife. This was fun at first, but got old quickly. The dead trees were much harder to strip, while the greener trees baptized us with sap. We are still finding tree bark in our pockets. 

5) Stain the poles. More staining for J. Continuous motion over and over again. Mr. Miyagi would say, "show me, paint the house." J only passed out 25 times from the fumes. 

6) Build the tipi!! This is about a 3-hour process involving a comedy of errors. In another life, J was not a star javelin thrower. For the record, I wasn't either. 

And, that my friends, is how you build a tipi.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Meet Us in Spokane

We have a *few* friends/family willing to make the long haul out to visit us this summer. But we know we are a far way from anywhere. So, we are willing to take second best, which is meeting up in Spokane, a quick 3.5 hours from us. 

Our kindred spirits from NH (Paul/Second Nature and Kristen/SoGr8ful) were coming to the great city of Spokane to visit family for Kristen's (29th again) bday. They and their family invited us to crash their party. 
 Kristen with her sister and our lovely host
Paul finally made us a traditional Thai meal
As much as J & I are not city people, Spokane left a good impression on us. It could be because much of Spokane is laden with parks and gardens. Back when the city was preparing to host the 1974 World's Fair, they completely revitalized the downtown to incorporate more green space. Forward thinkers, they were. 

Visiting these said parks and gardens were definitely on our agenda, as Paul & Kristen remain title winners as our most active friends. As we were pulling into Spokane, these two crazy birds were running a 12K in a city where they don't live on a certain someone's bday. Who does that? They do, that's who. 

The parks were impressive, but even more impressive was the 111-mile Spokane River. This time of year, it is running with just a wee bit of force. We would never attempt these rapids; we've learned our limits! 

It was a short, but sweet and refreshing, visit with our kindred spirits. It could have been anywhere, but we are glad we finally got to explore another city we've only driven through before.