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View Full Version : A much needed getaway......



Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 10:39 AM
On July 8th I awoke to take my wife to the airport for her planned 4 week trip to visit her 87 year old Mom and I discovered I was deaf. I had lost a measured 84% of the hearing in my right ear 12 years ago but now my left ear is totally dead. I felt my wife's trip was important due to her Mom's age and insisted she go on as planned. For a month I battled this problem alone. After numerous tests by audiologists and MRIs, I await a 2nd opinion by a surgeon in September. Should he concur with the original ENT, he could be implanting a cochlear implant in my left inner ear. I await this appointment. This could result in my retirement 12 months earlier than planned. We will just see how this hand plays out.

As I can't hear, I didn't plan any attempts to reach out and visit any Creekers.

I planned this vacation in March while Sharon was in Houston babysitting the newborn twin granddaughters. We decided to go on the vacation. I needed the change.

I had lived in a sleepy little coal mining town in southwestern Wyoming for a few months when I was in the 3rd grade. I had always wanted to return just to see if it had changed and if my memories of it were correct. It has several moments of fame including it is the town where JC Penny opened his first store and the "Mother Store" is still open and in business today, though it's actually the 3rd store building he used. Each one got bigger. His home there is operated by the company as a museum. It was quite interesting. Sharon has wanted for years to visit a town in central Oregon where we lived for 20 months before moving to a Chicago suburb in 1978. We bought our first home in this Oregon town. It's population was approximately 15,000 when we lived there. It's current population is close to 83,000 and the surrounding county has experienced a population explosion and greater popularity. Though the scenery in the surrounding area is still just as beautiful, I don't know that I could live there today.

On Friday evening Sharon's mother suggested GPS so we made a mad dash to our local Costco and purchased a Garmin. It proved to be invaluable during the trip!

So a week ago on Saturday morning, we departed and made a leisurely drive to Dillon, Montana where we spent the night.

The next morning we continued down I-15 to Idaho Falls, Idaho where we got onto US-26 through the Swan Valley. The highway follows a gorgeous river until you end up at the Palisades Reservoir. What an absolute gorgeous drive. We could have stayed on I-15 and gotten to our first destination quicker but the scenery wouldn't have been as nice. Palisades Reservoir resides in both Wyoming and Idaho. On this "blue roads" portion of the trip we crossed back and forth into Idaho and Wyoming several times. This was a portion of Idaho we'd never seen before. Gorgeous scenery.

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 11:00 AM
Then onto Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Over 50 years ago, I lived in some old WW1 army officers apartments with my parents and 5 siblings. The apartments were located just north of Kemmerer and just south of Frontier, Wyoming. I attended 1 semester of 3rd grade in the town of Frontier.

JC Penny started his business in Kemmerer and the "Mother Store" is still in business though it's actually in the 3rd building Penny used. Each building was bigger than the previous one. His actual home is maintained as a museum by the company and we visited it. Pretty spartan living by today's standards.

There were several old coal mines there that had caught on fire and were still burning decades later. During our visit there last week, several locals told us they still burn today and attempts are being made to close them completely.


As kids we played in those potential deathtraps against the advice, warnings and threats from our parents. Myself and 2 of my friends brought home 21 sticks of dynamite I found when I crawled under an old building near the mouth of one of those mines. I crawled under the building, found a wooden box and drug it out. To prove we could do math, we divided 21 by 3 got the answer of 7 and each of us brought that many sticks of crystal encrusted dynamite home. One mother submerged her portion of the find in the tank of the toilet in their bathroom.

West of Kemmer is the Fossil Butte National Monument. The area was once part a subtropical forest and was covered by salt water and freshwater lakes though it is a high altitude desert today. Fossils from the surrounding area have been shipped around the world to museums. Ferns, fish and crocodiles in desert Wyoming.............Check it out!

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 11:19 AM
After 2 nights and 1 full day in Kemmerer, we drove as far as Nampa, Idaho. The next morning we drove to our 2nd destination, Bend, Oregon. I have seen a lot of the mountainous western United States. In my humble opinion, you would be hard pressed to find an area that has a more beautiful and diverse scenery than the area around Bend, Oregon in central Oregon. Apparently a lot folks agree with me as Bend has undergone a tremendous population increase since we left 32 years ago. The town had a population of around 15,000 then with a current population of nearly 83,000 today.

Century Drive which was once a clay and red lava rock road is now a blacktopped highway that is ranked #4 on the list of National Scenic Highways. I about had a heart attack!

Lakes that we used to visit and seldom see other folks with parking for 3 or 4 cars, now has parking for 20-30 cars and while they used to be free, now require a Use Fee. On lakes that you might have seen a canoe or two, now 20-30 sail boats?

But the weather and the surrounding scenery is just as beautiful as it ever was!

Down town Bend, OR....Drake Park....on the Deschutes River.....

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 11:30 AM
Lava Butte south of Bend provides a fatastic view of the surrounding area. The area is widely enveloped by lava beds that were created when the volcanic Cascade mountains were created.

Gorgeous scenery from the top of Lava Butte!

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 11:36 AM
Then we stumbled on to the High Desert Museum. While you have to pay, it is certainly worth the price. Sharon figured it would be boring. She thoroughly enjoyed the place and we left just before closing time.

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 11:38 AM
A few more from the Museum:

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 12:13 PM
Tumalo Falls was in an almost magical, mystical dark forest until a forest fire occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago.

It's recovering nicely, however! The view from the top of the falls isn't bad, either.

Mitchell Andrus
08-23-2010, 12:13 PM
I've got a soft spot for those fossils. Got a few mounted on the wall.

They've gotten so expensive now.... I bought them when a 10" fish could be had for a few dollars and a shrimp for about $20.00.
.

Ben Franz
08-23-2010, 12:18 PM
Ken - sorry to find out about your sudden hearing loss. It must be scary having to wait through several weeks for a resolution, esp. if your main support is elsewhere. Your trip looks like it was fantastic. I much prefer car trips over planes - the pace is more relaxing and being able to stop wherever you want is great. Maybe 20 years ago after visiting some friends in Post Falls, we drove south toward Lewiston and took a scenic detour over some mountains. The road was partially gravel and when we came upon a road crew they were surprised to see a tourist with California plates out in the middle of nowhere. Living in NM the last four years has given us many chances to take the back roads and see some amazing places - much better than an interstate freeway.

I have some moderate hearing loss caused by too many years of running tools without hearing protection. I was also too stupid to wear safety glasses but luckily got away with that. Mainly, the loss of high frequency hearing makes it seem like everyone is mumbling - I watch TV with the CC on all the time as a result. I hope the implant can restore some of your hearing. Good luck and keep us posted.

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 12:25 PM
Ben,

Thanks for your concern. It's not really scarey. I have worked in the medical field for 34 years this year. Once they performed an MRI and didn't find a tumor, I was much relieved. I am just hoping that I am one of the majority of people who find some relief with an implant. Some folks don't.

I could probably have gotten into several other places and seen several other doctors and got some resolution quicker. The problem is the followup visits after an implant would be a pain. This doctor is experienced and in Spokane which is about 100 miles away. The other quick alternatives were Seattle or Houston and the followups would be a killer either time wise or monetarily.

The biggest concern is not being able to use the telephone and communicate and of course, there is the safety issues. Those I can adjust to over time.

Idaho has it's beautiful scenery too as you found out on your trip.

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 12:43 PM
33 years ago when we lived in Bend, Century Drive was a red clay and cinder road. Today it is a full fledged highway , marked and listed on the list of National Scenic Highways.

You can leave town and make a 100 mile loop and the scenery is incredible. Numerous lakes and streams along the wayside.



Todd Lake159276 Mount Bachelor 159277

Sparks Lake 159278 North Twin Lakes 159279

Lava Lake 159280 159281

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 12:53 PM
Often 33 years ago, we would visit these lakes and not see anyone else or maybe another car or two. Now it's changed......there were no boats on the lakes

Elk Lake

159282 159283




and Smokey was right....Davis Lake used to have some unequaled scenery. Now........ but it will recover.

159284

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 12:57 PM
and even driving across the high country desert you get some unbelieveable scenery......

Steve Schlumpf
08-23-2010, 1:00 PM
Ken

Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Looks like you had a great time and I am sure the break was just what you needed!

Sure is some beautiful country! Glad you had fun!

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 1:10 PM
Sharon liked the resort I selected in Bend.

Here is a view of the Deschutes River from our 2nd floor balcony.




159290



and here's Sharon enjoying it.


159291

Belinda Williamson
08-23-2010, 2:27 PM
Ken, thanks for sharing the pics of your trip. I'm glad you guys got to go. Still prayin', buddy.

Charlie Reals
08-23-2010, 3:01 PM
My thoughts are with you on the hearing. Mine is going but I cant imagine it gone.
Many many moons ago I worked all over the Kemmerer area and at the green river power plant. I chuckled over the dynamite :D:D lucky it wasn't a snake.
Charlie

Harvey M. Taylor
08-23-2010, 4:23 PM
I feel like I just put a copy of National Geographic down. Quite different from Texas. All the best on your hearing problem. Max

Ken Fitzgerald
08-23-2010, 5:22 PM
My thoughts are with you on the hearing. Mine is going but I cant imagine it gone.
Many many moons ago I worked all over the Kemmerer area and at the green river power plant. I chuckled over the dynamite :D:D lucky it wasn't a snake.
Charlie


Charlie,

Looking back on it, we are lucky I didn't find a den of snakes under that old building.

Charlie Reals
08-23-2010, 6:19 PM
Charlie,

Looking back on it, we are lucky I didn't find a den of snakes under that old building.

Ahhh your memory jogs ;) butt that's another thread, Snake stories!

Jim O'Dell
08-23-2010, 7:29 PM
Thanks for the pictures my friend! Just beautiful!!
And here's another one praying for a great outcome with the hearing issue. Jim.

Brian Ashton
08-23-2010, 7:49 PM
Tumalo Falls was in an almost magical, mystical dark forest until a forest fire occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago.

It's recovering nicely, however! The view from the top of the falls isn't bad, either.

You're killing me man!

I look at your pictures and I can feel the dry warmth and smell all the smells all over again! Travelled all through those areas. Can't wait to get back to North America

Paul Ryan
08-23-2010, 8:00 PM
Beautiful pictures Ken. Sorry to hear about your hearing loss too. I will keep my fingers crossed for you hoping the implant will help you out. I am jealous of your trip. Someday I would love to visit those areas.

Bruce Page
08-23-2010, 8:56 PM
Ken, I'm glad you & Sharon had a good time. The pictures are beautiful, I can almost smell that high desert air!

Joe Shinall
08-23-2010, 11:22 PM
Ken, like others, I am extremely sorry to hear about your hearing loss and am praying for you buddy.

Those pictures are great, glad you enjoyed your trip. Beautiful laid back scenery. Sounds like somewhere I'd love to go.

Mike Cruz
08-24-2010, 8:01 AM
Ken, sorry to learn about your recent challenge. Hope all goes well with your future treatments and procedures.

That said, you almost deserve a YOU SUCK. Wow, that looks like a trip of a lifetime. Looks like you really, truly enjoyed yourself.

Thanks for sharing it (well, them both) with us.

Brian Brown
08-28-2010, 9:26 AM
Ahhh... the first three pics look like home. Oh wait, they are home. :D Glad you enjoyed you trip, and I hope the docs are progressing well with helping you with the hearing loss. You never know what you have 'til it's gone. Tamara adds her best wishes as well.

Oddly enough, I passed you on the highway somewhere near Kemmerer, while returning from my whirlwind trip back east. Got an unusual job back east. Over 6000 miles, 14 states 10 days, all driven in a Volkswagon bug. Idaho to Maine and back. I may never walk again. :eek::D

Ken Fitzgerald
08-28-2010, 9:35 AM
Ahhh... the first three pics look like home. Oh wait, they are home. :D Glad you enjoyed you trip, and I hope the docs are progressing well with helping you with the hearing loss. You never know what you have 'til it's gone. Tamara adds her best wishes as well.

Oddly enough, I passed you on the highway somewhere near Kemmerer, while returning from my whirlwind trip back east. Got an unusual job back east. Over 6000 miles, 14 states 10 days, all driven in a Volkswagon bug. Idaho to Maine and back. I may never walk again. :eek::D

Brian,

Thanks for the well wishes.

I can't imagine that length of time and miles in a VW bug. My sympathies!

Jim O'Dell
08-28-2010, 11:28 AM
Brian,

snip

I can't imagine that length of time and miles in a VW bug. My sympathies!


I can't either. Sounds like "Death of a Salesman" for real!!! Jim.