Palouse

What almost ten month old doesn’t want to go on a vacation visiting wheat and legume fields?  For the long Memorial Day weekend, we headed off to the southeastern corner of the state to visit the Palouse.  Big shout out to Aunt Alex for coming from eastern Idaho to meet us.


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On the way to the Holiday Inn Express Pullman, we made a stop at Palouse Falls State Park—it’s a ~45 minute detour but well worth a quick look as this waterfall is seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Completely unexpected.

Outside of Colfax, WA we started to get our first looks at the fields of green:

Washington State Cougars will recognize where Jordi munched on some breadsticks:

The next morning we hit up Kamiak Butte State Park for an excellent 3.5 mile loop trail with some nice views out to the fields.  This was the longest/steepest jaunt to date with Jordi riding in the backpack.

As is standard after any Klugusamy hike, we grabbed some burgers and shakes after our descent.  This time from another Pullman mainstay—Cougar Country Drive In.

Final destination of the trip was Steptoe Butte State Park which provides some nice 360 views after a steep drive up.  If you poke around online for photos of this area, you’ll see just how spectacular it can be in the early morning sunrise and sunset hours with nice light. We weren’t quite nimble enough on this trip to work around those hours, but this will at least give you a flavor.

Thanks to Alex for wrangling one or the other of our two boys most of the weekend.

Long Road to the Rose Bowl

Since we all (Ziz included) work at the same place, we all had 11 days off between Christmas and New Year.  So naturally we embarked on a 3,100 mile road trip.


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December 24, 2009 | Missoula, Montana

Christmas Eve was spent in Missoula, Montana at the Holiday Inn (on Priority Club points, of course).  Dined on some excellent buffalo and elk at a cozy dinner across the street at the Pearl Cafe.


December 25, 2009 | Victor, Idaho

Our Christmas destination was an awesomely stylish cabin in Victor, Idaho with our college friends Cully and Rew.

Photo Credit: Cully's Facebook

As you might imagine, Victor is a small town so we didn’t have any dining out options.  Luckily we grabbed some generic pizza crust and beer at the Wal-Mart in Missoula.  Never has Christmas dinner been so classy.


December 26, 2009 | Victor, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming

On Boxing Day, we came to the realization that Zizou was incapable of laying down due to some sort of pain in his chest area.  We picked up some aspirin from the store in hopes of it reducing some inflammation.

Then instead of snowshoeing in the Grand Tetons, we did a little cruise in the Highlander through the National Elk Refuge outside of Jackson, Wyoming.  We saw some elk from several hundred yards away, but the real stars were bighorn sheep.

Also great views of the Tetons…


December 27, 2009 | Driggs, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Utah

"Woke up" after a very long night with a dog in considerable pain.  The only way I could get him to lay down through the night was to scoop him up and flip him like a Tetris piece onto his side.  Horrible stuff.

Of course things were further complicated because it was a Sunday, but I was easily able to get ahold of the Driggs Veterinary Clinic to line up an "emergency" vet visit.  After some poking, prodding, and x-raying, the vet agreed there must be some sort of pulled muscle in his chest area.  The sad part about that diagnosis is that he hadn’t done anything but sleep in the car to injure himself.

So with some good anti-inflammatory drugs in hand (Rimadyl), we crossed our fingers and set course for Salt Lake City.  Half way through the drive, Ziz laid down independently for the first time in almost two days.  Huzzah!

By the time we arrived in Salt Lake City, he was ready to hang out with his buddy Oscar…


December 28, 2009 | Salt Lake City, Utah

Showing off the diversity of the specie…

Great to see Adam and Juliette, our friends and former roommates in Chicago.  As touristy as we got in SLC was a stroll around Temple Square to check out the Christmas lights and some ice skating.  Next time we’ll visit the Mormon food bank that purportedly serves the best chocolate milk on earth at the end of the tour.


December 29, 2009 | Las Vegas, Nevada

The drive down to Vegas was amazingly our first poor road conditions of the trip (and the last stretch it was a concern).  Most of our friends will be horrified to know that we spent zero time on the strip and just went straight to our hotel west of the strip—Element in Summerlin, the eco-friendly version of Westin.

This turned out to be a really great hotel, and earned lots of Starwood points in the process.  From my research, this and the Westin on the strip are the only two (decent) hotels that allow big dogs.  Our night in Vegas consisted of running around with Zizou at a giant park (Gardens Park) and then eating a bunch of sushi at Lahaina Grill.  Easily in bed before midnight.


December 30, 2009 | Red Rock Canyon, Nevada and Los Angeles, California

After breakfast, we popped over to Red Rock to get a little hike in.  Some cool scenery that’s very different than anything in the Northwest.

Our only family photo from the trip:

The 250 mile drive to Los Angeles was our worst leg of the trip, by far—terrible traffic and rain when we arrived in LA!  No matter, we had a great dinner with family and friends at my parents’ house


December 31, 2009 | Los Angeles, California

Arun was kind enough to score Ziz (and us) an invite to an exclusive/hipster loft New Year’s party.  A great way to celebrate our fifth anniversary since picking him up from Idaho.

Check out this handsome dog at the party:


January 1, 2010 | Pasadena, California

Time for the Rose Bowl!

Good news: we had grandstand tickets for the Rose Bowl Parade.  Bad news: we had to be there before 7am—not ideal the morning after NYE.  It was surprisingly entertaining as we saw: Jack Hannah (Columbus Zoo), Jackie Chan, and Jared from Subway.

The weather was perfect for t
he game—not to mention a great stadium, loud fans, TBDBITL, sunset over the San Gabriel mountains, and an excellent win by the Buckeyes.

O-H-I-O.

Big thanks to Naveena for securing a boat load of game tickets, and my parents for scoring the parade tickets.


January 2, 2010 | Stockton, California and Portland, Oregon

After the Rose Bowl, we made the late night drive to Stockton so we could knock out ~330 miles from the 1,100 mile drive back home.  It would be mostly all-business just to hustle back home in time for work on the 4th.

We thought about trying to just plow all the way to Seattle from Stockton, but we sputtered out after 630 miles and decided to crash at Hotel Monaco in Portland.


January 3, 2010 | Seattle

3,100 miles later, Ziz took in the smell of home.

At the end of this trip, the states visited scoreboard for the Klugusamys looks like this:

  • Vinod – 42
  • Lillie – 36
  • Zizou – 9

Lillie and I will get to 50 eventually, but Ziz will probably have to settle with just cracking double digits.

Thanksgiving in Bend, Oregon

(Catching up on some old stuff…)

For a little change of pace this year, the Ponnusamy family rented a house on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon to celebrate Thanksgiving 2009.  Whoever’s idea it was, it was brilliant.

Zizou enjoyed staring down the hissing swans from the dock.  While he never jumped into the water to attack them, when we were canoeing on this same water he did jump out of the canoe and swim to shore.

A highlight was a loop hike around Smith Rock State Park—an especially popular spot for rock climbers.  Some nice views of Mount Bachelor in the distance:

A couple shots of the appropriately named Monkey Face rock—complete with rock climbers:

More rock climbers:

Labour Day Around Whistler

The weather has been amazing out here the past several weeks.  Except, of course, for the long Labor Day weekend.  Dreams of camping and strenuous hiking were quickly dashed.  Luckily, we scored a great Plan B at a rustic townhome in Whistler courtesy of Mark and Jen (mostly Jen, though).

Saturday afternoon we went out for a stroll and came upon some canoe rentals at Alta Lake.  The weather was looking sorta clear so we rented a couple of them.  We had a nice little paddle across the lake and down a narrow river.

Photo courtesy of Mark & Jen

Zizou’s enjoyment of the affair was questionable at times (he’d much rather be in the water).  Somehow, this is the third Labor Day in a row that we’ve all been on a watercraft together—powerboat in Tahoe 2007 and river raft in Idaho 2008 round out the list.

Photo courtesy of Mark & Jen

At this point it was time to cruise back up the river and back across the lake to the dock.  The only challenge was that the weather wasn’t really cooperating with us.  While Mark and Jen are professional paddlers and just cruised right out of there, the competencies in the Klugusamy canoe left much to be desired.

The first three times we thought we were out of the mouth to the river and into the lake, the gale force winds quickly blew us backwards into some reeds.  There was much frustration and cursing in our canoe.  On the other hand, the always optimistic Zizou seemed to enjoy this windy part the most—he had his nose in the air just taking it all in.

After a brief time out and rational discussion of our game plan, we were back in the lake…phew.  Mark and Jen seemed to be relieved that we weren’t forever lost.  And we were on our way back to the dock/rustic townhome.

Sunday took us to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park north of Pemberton, BC.  There are three alpine lakes on this supposedly excellent trail.  Sadly we only saw one of them, and it was all Zizou’s fault.  Part of the trail is a huge rock scramble and it was a bit too nerve wracking watching him work his way through it, so we turned around.

Can only imagine what the upper and middle lakes look like because the lower one is just gorgeous.  Here Ziz took a swim while some random hooligans did some of the pot.

Back at the rustic townhome, I drank Baileys while Lillie and Jen made Red Lobster style biscuits, and Mark whipped up some soup from scratch.

Then Lillie ice grilled Jen while everyone else tried to have fun playing Taboo…

The rest of the Whistler trip was just more eating and sleeping.  Props again to Mark for playing chef.  A trip through Vancouver on the way home Monday wouldn’t be complete without some Japanese food.  We hit up Motomachi Shokudo and it was awesome.  Here’s my $10 pork ramen in a charcoal broth:

Great celebration of Labor/Labour.

Space Shuttle Discovery

We had a long planned quick weekend trip to Florida to visit a dear Ponnusamy family friend in Clearwater.  As a bonus, I was able to change my flight last minute (through amazing magic with no fees) to arrive a day early to catch a night launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.  The bummer being that Lillie stayed back to wrap up business and take our originally scheduled flight.  She’s a trouper.

With my parents and sister, we made the 2.5 hour drive from Tampa over to Space Walk Park in Titusville, Florida.  It’s the closest spot you can get to (without tickets) with a clear view of the launch pad.  This clear view is still a whopping 12 miles away from the launch pad.

Quick aside: I’d be remiss to not mention Linda’s Crab Shack en route in Plant City, Florida.  This is the kind of place you dream of finding on a little road trip.  I ate/covered myself in garlic butter drenched blue crabs, fried corn on the cob, and a baked potato for a whopping $11.  I could eat this stuff every day.

 

Anyway…in Titusville about 1hr 45min before launch time, we staked out a pretty decent spot and I threw down my tripod amongst the hordes of other tripods.  Here’s the launch pad lights in the distance:

 

Everything I read about taking photos of a launch is that it’s not easy, and not to waste your time with it your first time so you can just enjoy the spectacle.  So my plan of attack was to go for a single long exposure that wouldn’t even require me to even touch the camera after setting it up.

Of course I blew it–totally overexposed, but oh well!  You should at least be able to make out the fireball at the launch, and then the trail arcing up and a bit to the left is the shuttle taking off.  Pretty amazing that this was taken at basically the stroke of midnight.  Really does light up the sky.

 

My sister snagged some video on her little point and shoot.  The first 30-seconds are worth watching both for the visuals and hearing my sister drop some OMGs.  (email and RSS subscribers will have to click over to the site)

 

My brother and I have talked for years about needing/wanting to see a launch.  Sadly, he watched this one back in LA on the internet.  Sorry bro!  (You’ve got six more launches to make it down there…)  And I don’t care how much the shuttle program costs us taxpayers because it’s awesome.  If only we spent more money on such awesomeness.

Finally, we’ll end with this photo from Clearwater Beach.  It would be a throwaway photo had it not been for the shirtless dude walking by in the background…

SnoochFest

Our friend Keith turning 30 got us on the plane to Burlington to celebrate SnoochFest with many other college chums.  Basecamp was at Mad River Glen near Fayston, Vermont (word is this is where the real skiing heads go to avoid the lodge crowd).

It was quite the celebration, though most of the photos are under lock and key.  Though this one of most of the crew is fit for public consumption:

Excellent stops on the weekend included:

Based on our 48 hours in Vermont, we are huge fans.  Love the feeling when we visit someplace new inside our borders and are completely blown away–gorgeous scenery, good food, gay marriage, Ben & Jerry’s, etc.  Plus some of the best driving roads I’ve ever been on.  A fall colors foliage tour in 2010 is certainly on the calendar…

Floating the Payette River in Idaho

Excited by sub $4/gallon petrol, we took off to Boise to hang out with some Chicago (now SLC) chums over the Labor Day weekend.

Night 1 – I-90/82 to Yakima

After Obama’s (excellent) acceptance speech, we cruised out to Yakima to knock out a little bit of the drive.  Another free night thanks to Wyndham Rewards’ BRG program, this time a lovely king room with kitchenette (complete with spatulas and whisks) at the HoJo Yakima.

I spent the next morning trying to replace a headlight in the parking lot…and failed.  I can’t believe you have to remove the bumper to swap a light bulb.  That’s the patio of our HoJo room…convenient.

 

Day 2 – I-84 to Boise

The temperatures were well in the 90s which means Zizou just laid in the back seat panting nonstop.  And sadly, there’s not a whole lot of water in Eastern Oregon to cool off in.  But we did find some sprinklers at Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area.  Also spotted a few Pileated Woodpeckers here–never seen ’em before, so it was a fun random sighting.

Many hours later we were in Boise for two nights at the Red Lion–$85/night was quite attractive with their “Stay two nights, earn one night free” promotion.  And here we met up with newlyweds Adam and Juliette, and more importantly Oscar the Italian greyhound.  We (including Ziz and Oscar) went to Bungalow in the Hyde Park neighborhood for dinner–good grub and the young waiter volunteered that he’d be voting Democratic for the first time in his life.  Excellent.

Day 3 – Floating on the Payette River

First of all, the folks at Idaho River Sports couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful.  We rented a 13′ Super Duper Puma for the four of us and two dogs.  Sweet ride that could be purchased for just $2,700.

We took a 9+ mile float down the Payette between the towns of Horseshoe Bend and Montour–less than 30 minutes outside of Boise.  None of us had a clue what we were doing and it showed.  But the waters were calm as can be allowing for plenty of time to eat Pik-Nik Sticks.  Nothing whitewater about this trip.

Zizou was a bit of nuisance to get into the boat, but eventually got his bearings.  Oscar who had never been in the water before could have cared less and was usually seen napping on the raft. 

 

About five hours in the water and we saw just a handful of other people.  Good times.  After cleaning up at the Red Lion, we had a 10:40pm dinner at Cafe Ole.

Day 4 – Farewell Idaho

After returning the raft rental in the morning, we hit up Wheat Montana for coffee/hot chocolate/bear claws–I’m a big fan of this place.  Check it out next time you’re in Eastern WA/Montana/Idaho.

Strolled around the Hyde Park area and Camel’s Back Park and ate some pizza at Lucky 13 Pizza–the waitress brought many, many biscuits to feed the dogs.

At 3pm, Oscar and Zizou said farewell to one another.  And we both began our respective long drives.  Farewell Bend State Recreation Area in Oregon along the Snake River was a real gem.  Zizou took a dip in the river to cool off and then we lazed around the green grass for awhile with barely anyone else in sight.

Lillie and Zizou both staring blankly…

And finally, here’s Zizou looking a bit like a real hunting dog a bit southeast of Pendleton, Oregon…

What kind of dog is that?!

For whatever reason, Zizou seems to draw attention.  Today in Coeur d’Alene was off the charts however.  At least two dozen groups of people had to be told today "he’s a wirehaired pointing griffon".  An equal number of groups were content walking by smiling and saying, "look at that shaggy dog!"

Moose Market on the main drag of Coeur d’Alene earns high marks, however.  We spent a couple hours there drinking beers with Zizou.  They’ve got a small food menu including gourmet bratwurst and cheeses.

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Worn out by his admiring fans, he finally just went to sleep at my feet.

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Earlier in the day we did a quick 3.5 mile nature trail at Mineral Ridge 10 miles east of Coeur d’Alene—I’m purposefully not calling it a hike.  But it was a nice little stroll with a sweet view of the lake at the peak.

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After a long nap at the excellent Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn, the three of us found a table at Le Piastre for dinner.  Our neighbors were our same neighbors from our afternoon drinks so we obviously did a good job finding the places the locals go.  And add another half dozen "what kind of dog is that?!" questions to the scoreboard.

4th in Spokane

For whatever reason we decided to spend the 4th in Spokane.

Along I-90, the Roslyn Brewing Company is worth a stop for a drink.  They’ve got a nice little outdoor area where Zizou was able to roll around in the grass while we boozed.  Very dog-friendly as the bar tender had plenty of biscuits to dispense.

Word is this is the town Northern Exposure was filmed.  (awaiting delivery of a new battery charger for the D-SLR, so my Blackjack took these)

roslyn

Further east in Ellensburg, we stopped at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park after eating an Arby’s Roast Beef.  Not a groundbreaking place, but it was perfect for Zizou to stretch his legs and take a dip in the Yakima River.  Important to note that the Yak is moving pretty darn fast—there was a brief moment where we thought Ziz was going to be swept away.

ziz-yakima

In Spokane, the Howard Johnson downtown was our home—thanks to the excellent Best Rate Guarantee program from Wyndham.  An average room with way above average service—we’re about to go make our own waffles in the lobby before checking out and heading to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

And Zizou was a complete rockstar at the fireworks last night on the Spokane river front.  Hordes of people and loud noises and he didn’t bat an eye.  He was no doubt enjoying all the compliments being thrown his way by passer-by.