Travels, Modifications, Experiences

Posts tagged “mcmichael piping

Quick Loop Oregon

Eurovan perspective

Leslie scans the landscape from the safety and comfort of the Eurovan Camper

With my new schedule and Leslie’s more flexible schedule, we occasionally get a batch of days with no particular requirements. Last week was the latest, and we blasted out of Boise on Wednesday headed to the Oregon coast in the Eurovan. Leslie and I were both eager to introduce Angus to the ocean, and to reacquaint Glenna with the salty water.

We made it to Bend in time to go to Trader Joe’s for “supplies.” Within minutes we were fighting over bran muffins, which I wanted for breakfast and Leslie did not. This made the rest of our shopping experience feel a bit awkward, and I was glad when we got out of there. Then we navigated our way to dinner at Deschutes Brewery where tempers calmed over a yummy CDA (Cascadia Dark Ale, also known as a “black IPA”) and a pilsener for Leslie. I forget what we ate as it didn’t really matter with that kind of beer. Then we headed toward Sisters, hoping to cross the Cascades on the windy Mackenzie Pass road, which I’d ridden up on our honeymoon seven years earlier. Closed because of the snow, we took the Santiam Highway past Suttle Lake (really), and turned up a Forest Service road looking for a “primitive” camping opportunity so the dogs could run unfettered and we could relax.

Cascade campspot

"Primitive" camping on a logging road high in the Cascades, view of Mt. Jefferson no extra charge

After some hunting and pecking we found a great spot, and the dogs began their high-speed, long-running exploration of the area, checking back in occasionally for water since we were on a mountain and not near any stream so far as we could tell. On one of Angus’s check-ins, I noticed he pooped something liquiddy and went over to look. Blood! A few minutes later, he did it again, and it was more profuse. Since I have a Ph.D. (not in science) I found a ziplock bag and obtained a sample of the bloody mucus so I could show it to a vet. Leslie and I both worried Angus was seriously ill and contemplated heading right home, but since he seemed normal otherwise we decided to try to find a vet in the morning somewhere on our way toward the coast.

Lebanon Oregon Animal Hospital

Angus got fixed up real good here

Which we did in Lebanon. The nice vet at Lebanon Animal Hospital  determined it was giardia, gave us some medication, and we made it to the ocean by lunch-time. Angus followed Glenna to the surf and romped in the sand, drinking only occasional mouthfuls of seawater as if to check again if it really tasted that bad. At one point he stopped to piss, and tasted his urine as if conducting a taste test. Glenna seemed right at home even though it was only her second time on the coast. Although it was gorgeous, the experience was mitigated severely by howling wind and Angus’ insistence on trying to eat every piece of flotsam and jetsam he could get in his mouth, which gave Leslie and me the willies, imagining more rectal expulsion of blood by the little guy we still affectionately call “Braindamage.”

Angus

Angus, aka "Braindamage"

At Pacific City we stopped at Pelican Pub & Brewery for a pint, where I got into an argument with our waitress about the date it was founded. I swore I was there in 1988 on my trip around the country, but she insisted it didn’t open until 1996. So I slayed them all, and we left without paying. Leslie mentioned something on the way back to the van that I might reconsider getting off the Efexxor.

We targeted Manzanita for dinner, and chose a pub that had good food and better beer. Manzanita is where Leslie’s dear friend Allan owns some property on which he plans to build a beach house soon, so she wanted to check out the town. It was quaint, clean, and not over-run with tourists or businesses. The pub’s clientele seemed pretty diverse but all fairly well-to-do, many probably weekenders from Portland (it’s only a couple hours from the big city but feels like several days away). Everyone including the employees were very friendly.

Heading north after dinner we stopped in Cannon Beach as dusk faded and found a nice RV campground, which, as with all non-primitive campgrounds, we had to keep the mutts on their leashes. This one was on a creek just a ways off the beach, and featured numerous rabbits who seemed to delight in taunting Glenna and Angus.

Walking at Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon: a great place to walk your dog

After our EVC breakfast (coffee and instant oatmeal), we took the dogs to Cannon Beach to run free on the massive stretches of flatflat sand, and both pooches took full advantage of their unfetteredness. It was a joy to watch. I took more “Taisie” modeling shots of Leslie, thinking some of the pix might end up on her website (stay tuned for a post on that in the near future).

Leslie doing Taisie Design pose at Cannon Beach, Oregon

Leslie doing her Taisie Design pose at Cannon Beach, Oregon

Astoria was next, where we could not for the life of us remember which street we bombed down to the dock at the end of our first Cycle Oregon several years ago (2007 I think?). Soon we were fighting, once again, over how to get to IKEA, which was “near” Portland International Airport. Finally inside, the miraculously huge selection of quality, reasonably priced household items calmed us both and we made it out of there alive. We stopped for a brief visit with my dear friend Joan in southeast Portland before heading off to Maupin, along the Deschutes River, to camp.

salmon flies mating

Salmon flies mating

The salmon flies had just hatched, and filled the dusk sky with their huge (for insects) silhouettes. I found lots of mating pairs on the grass leaves along the river, accompanied by lots of large stoneflies. This has got to be the favorite mealtime for trout because of the comparative enormity of the food unit these insects represent. A fish would have to eat 100 times the number of small mayflies to get the same bang that one salmonfly provides. I felt happy for the fish, and a bit sad that I didn’t have my fly rod with me.

I was also sad I did not bring my bagpipes when a man named Steve Hughes from Portland stopped by our campsite. He saw the “McMichael Piping” sign on the van and asked if I was the piper. It turned out that Steve was a fairly new piper also, at about 65 years of age, from Portland. We chatted for a while and I showed him my electronic chanter (good for practicing when you don’t want to bother anyone because you use earphones). Note to self: bring pipes on all road trips from now on.

After a decent night of sleep, we headed back toward Boise, driving through Fossil and along the John Day River to Unity, and Leslie and I reminisced about the Columbia Plateau and Elkhorn Classic stage races we’d done years ago. Gorgeous country, no traffic, good (Oregon) roads (Idaho roads, by contrast, are horrible as a rule). 1300 some-odd miles, lots of looking (not enough doing stuff outside the car, we both agreed), and several more ideas on how to configure the Eurovan camper for a more comfortable living/traveling experience. I hope to have time to add a post about those details soon.

My darling Glenna

My darling Glenna

Cannon Beach dogs

Angus and Glenna - a good summary of their personalities

Ten-year-old Glenna, one foot on the sand...

Ten-year-old Glenna, one foot on the sand...

Sage dogs

Sage dogs on a rest stop in central Oregon


Snowy Pipe Gig

City of Trees Pipes & Drums get up close & personal in the Eurovan. Clockwise from foreground: P/M John McDade, Josh White's wee head, D/S Gene "More Cowbell" Fisher

City of Trees Pipes & Drums get up close & personal in the Eurovan. P/M McDade, Josh White

Yesterday I and seven other dedicated members of the City of Trees Pipes & Drums hunkered down in the snow to play at a wedding. We do stuff like this to make money for the band. For this gig we earned $300. It involved the eight of us putting on the “kit”: off-white hose (except for Josh White, who wore snow white hose), red flash (the ribbons that get folded into the top of the hose), sgian doubh (black knife) inserted into the top of the right hose (in case one needs to slit the throat of one’s adversary or cut a piece of salami while waiting for the go signal), ghillie brogues (sort of a wing-tip shoe with long laces that get tied in a certain criss-crossy way in the front and back of the hose, with tassels that swagger about while marching), undershirt, white long-sleeve dress shirt, dark tie, kilt (for our band, we wear the Royal Stewart Black tartan – a 15 ounce, 8-yard wool kilt), kilt belt with large cast pewter buckle, kilt pin (mine was a lovely deer antler tip until I lost it – the second kilt pin I have lost in less than two years), sporran (the “purse” covering the crotch of the piper (drummers wear theirs on their sides so as not to interfere with the drum harness) – our band sporrans are made of skunk fur and are very soft and black; they provide a pocket for one’s car keys, wallet, cell phone, condoms, or whatever – the kilt has no pockets), Prince Charlie vest (mine is fine wool with three diamond-shaped buttons and made in Pakistan – a cheap version of the 5-button gabardine wool versions made in Scotland), and glengarry with red feather plume and clan crest (the boat-shaped wool felt hat). After dozens of gigs I now have the dressing routine dialed in at about 25 minutes. To remove everything and get changed back into normal duds after a gig takes about half that.

COTPAD Crackup

Josh comes unglued, making Gene laugh.

We arrive at the designated spot – today at the Stone House: a pub adjacent to the Greenbelt. This is our second or third wedding gig here in the past year. I drove our Eurovan because I knew it would be snowing and that we’d be waiting for a while and wanted to have a heated haven where some of us could hang out until we were signaled to line up and march in. Six of us managed to fit in the van, cozy and warm with the propane heater running. I snapped a couple shots with my iPhone, hoping to catch some “regimental” images of my kilted buddies, but – alas – the iPhone’s lack of a flash prevented any compromising photos. John McDade, our dedicated pipe major, and the band’s only bona fide Scot, upon thinking I had snapped a shot of his privates yelled, “It’s bloody cold – I’m claiming shrinkage!”

We finally got the go signal, and burst from the Eurovan into the falling flakes and lined up. Two drummers – Gene, the Drum Sergeant, and Rhonda, our unflagging bass drummer – followed the six pipers (John, Josh, me, Tim, “Junior” McKay) and Jayce – our next to be initiated band member and current gig gopher, whom – today – served as band photographer and official door opener. On P/M McDade’s command, we fired up outside and began with Mairi’s Wedding/42nd Highlanders and someone’s drones were dreadfully misfiring. As we played and marched toward the entrance to the Stone House Josh – in front of me – shut down all his drones, thinking the wounded rhino sound was coming from his pipes. I had a perversely satisfied feeling the offending sonic malady was emanating from my bass drone but managed to ignore it and revel in the horrific dissonance as we marched into the absolutely packed interior and continued playing to wild applause.
For me at least, and I suspect many of my colleagues in the band, the most exciting moment of any gig is when we enter the interior of the venue, full of people – in this and many other cases, unsuspecting – and we are rewarded with facial expressions of childlike exuberance and fascination, hoots, hollers, whistles, and all other types of boisterous expressions of approval and visceral pleasure.
It is this dynamic that makes it worth the 25 minutes it takes to get dressed, and however long it takes to drive to the gig, and however long we wait in the wings before we are unleashed like rabid rats on a rotting feral cat carcass. It is this moment when I feel the righteousness of strutting, when I feel the loss of self that historical actors from Nazi storm troopers to the starting players in the World Series must have felt. My uncooperative bass drone notwithstanding, this moment is indeed what the great French social theorist Roland Barthes referred to as “jouissance” – the proto-orgasmic loss of self in the cataclysmic moment of pure pleasure…
We finish the two tunes and the ceremony begins. We scurry to stand out of the way so the guests can see. I watch the bride and groom – two middle-aged people whom I think are starting over with great hope, and surrounded by an impressive assortment of people I hope feel the same way – and remember with great warmth my own wedding atop a mountain in central Idaho. The bride’s gaze upon her soon-to-be-betrothed is so angelic that I cannot stop staring at her makes me think that this is really a special moment and I’m privileged to be a part of it.
After a decent amount of time and words the ceremony is over and we’re lining up to begin the march-out tune, which John calls out at the last second: Scotland the Brave. We play it through twice, marching elegiacally through the crowd of gleeful attendees, following the bride and groom, out the door into the falling snow. It sounded great. The bride and groom stood in the snow for a moment with us and expressed their gratitude. Gig over, we scurried to our vehicles and headed to our homes to remove the kit and get on with our separate lives, the weekend half completed, thoughts of what’s ahead and what’s due in the offing.