*i decided to make this a series on my vacation after i saw the length of the post for just the first day. forgive me, i ramble*

i managed a restless night’s sleep on friday last. i was ready, but trying not to let my anxiety rob me of the pleasure of anticipation… i was moderately successful.

i got to work only to discover we were totally overstaffed and the ladies did not need me there. after all the buildup and going in to work anyway they shooed me out the door with prayers, best wishes, and no small amout of eye rolling. i scuttled out of town gleefully, but with no clear sense of what i was going to do with my extra 3/4 day of freedom…

well. my whole attitude here was “act on a whim” and so that’s pretty much what i did. i had all day to get out to my first destination, which was the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. originally, when i was planning on leaving after work, i wanted the fastest route to get there, since it is no small distance. as it was, i thought i’d take the scenic route. so, over Mt Hood i went. when i rolled into Madras, i saw the signs pointing out to the Cove Palisades and thought “what the hell, i’ve never been down there…” whim followed.

it was hot, it was really the perfect day for swimming, but though i had a suit, i didn’t have the $5 in cash to pay for the park fee. i also didn’t have patience required to listen to the 8,746 screaming children who were in evidence. so, i got back in my car and rolled out. it did however solve the mystery of just where exactly the hell lake billy chinook actually is.

next bit of excitement occurred as i drove into Prineville. before my entire concept of this little town was: Les Schwab is from there. and sure enough, as i came through the western edge of town i drove past the Les Schwab Retread Center, which, hilariously, was painted neon mint green on the outside. it gave me that same special thrill i always get at “free beef” time.  but this thrill was QUICKLY AND TOTALLY ECLIPSED when i got onto main street and saw: The Arctic Circle.

apparently, they do still exist. they have not gone the way of the dinosaur just yet. i wasn’t hungry, and couldn’t justify eating there for no reason, but i knew i’d be back through the next day and filed this information gleefully away under “opportunities for fry sauce.”

i drove east for a good while longer and noticed a high concentration of large animal roadkill. all told on this entire trip i saw: 2 deer, 1 antelope, 1 raccoon, 2 coyotes, and countless possum, squirrels, chipmunks, and unidentifiable smears in the road.  both deer and the antelope were on this one stretch between Prineville and Dayville. it’s a dangerous place to be a critter.

when i finally got to the Sheep Rock Unit i’d been in the car for about 5 hours and really needed to not be in the car for a while. i spied a little shoulder spot which looked to have creek access. i picked my way down to the water and had a little sit down. i have literally never put my feet in water that was a more perfect temperature for foot putting. i was quite pleased. slipping back into my leather flipflops and trying to climb out of the creek bed with wet feet too slippery to gain proper purchase in my shoes was a slightly frustrating if ultimately amusing experience.

i got out to the main interprative center area and looked over the museum artifacts and various fossil-related propaganda only to realize: i think geology is boring. i mean, i like looking at rocks, under the proper circumstances, but the whole “this is the product of MILLIONS OF YEARS OF VOLCANIC ACTIVITY AND SEDIMENTARY BUILDUP AND UNIMAGINABLE PRESSURE EXER- blah blah blah. i realize, this makes me a terrible person, and many of my friends who are much smarter and sciencey than me will learn of this and feel nothing but scorn, but its pretty much totally true. one thing i will say about my fossil beds experience; it is minimum effort required for fairly gratifying payoff. most of the best stuff can be seen from your car or a walk requiring less strain than carrying in the groceries. this lovely shot was taken from a parking lot across the street.

the drawback here, was that i had pretty much planned to spend an entire day poking around the monument and since i discovered that: a) i find rocks boring, and b) nothing here required much time or effort to enjoy, i realized i was about a day ahead of schedule and had no idea what to do about it. it was clearly time to smoke a cigarette.

i went out on thursday and GLEEFULLY purchased a pack of the smokes i used to like to smoke back when i periodically smoked. which was about 4 years ago. it is not as much fun as i remember. first i couldn’t get the damn thing lit until i got out of the wind. the only place i could find to get out of the wind was an outhouse. nothing quite like taking a deep breath and getting a lungful of smoke and potty-roma. eww. then i was going to finish the cigarette while driving. it’d be FUN! but instead i IMMEDIATELY burned klaus’ upholstery by carelessly leaning too far to the left with a burning tip. then i managed to ash on the inside of my car when i was trying to make it out the window and then i dropped tobacco all over the floor when i was trying to put it out inside the car without losing any burning cinders out the window into the extremely fire-prone desert. it was a serious cigarette FAIL. i didn’t even try to smoke another one. and now i have 19/20ths of a really fancy pack of smokes and no desire to smoke them. sweet. with that distractionary tactic out the window (or rather, not) i realized i had to revert to a more typical means of wasting time: it was clearly time to drink.

in order to do this, i needed to get to camp. had a few places picked out as possible campsites. i only had a vague idea of where they’d be or what the facilities would look like. when i arrived, there was smiling. i could see the John Day river from where i parked my car to sleep. i had a nice big tree to give me shade and scenery. a picnic table and fire pit rounded out the spot. $5 for a BLM site, so the price could not be beat. no running water, but i hadn’t been on the road long enough to lament that yet. what i DID lament was the realization that conditions were such as to prohibit fires. which, reeeeeeeeaally sucked. for, how was i to cook my din-din? and how was i to begin to use the 7.6 million tons of firewood i had crammed into every available space in my car?? i used the ENTIRE SPACE inside the cargo box my friend David lent me, and STILL brought more wood. i mean, i always overpack, but in this case it was harming my mpg for chrissakes. though, i will admit i like how the box makes me look EXTRA tough and outdoorsy.

there were a few families with kids, but for the most part they kept their screaming to a low roar. thanks to the tutelage of my friend Emma, i now know enough to always bring an eyemask and earplugs whenever i’m camping so i was content to ignore the din from the camp next door.

bummed out there would be no fire, i pulled out livingston and sang to myself for a while. this was apparently a signal to the attack chiuhauhas from the neighboring camp to come over and alert me of their fierce protective stance. they hopped and barked in outrage at my presumption until i told them solemnly what scary dogs they were and how i was deterred from taking any aggressive action against their families. they seemed contented with this and wandered away. i returned to my strumming and i plucked out the chords to two songs i really like and wanted to figure out how to play, and discovered a chord which led me to the first verse of a new song. it’s not a happy one, so i had to stop writing it when i started dripping tears into the soundhole. played with my nintendo for a while and fell asleep before the sun was even totally down.

NEXT: The Most Volcano Intensive Day of My Life Thusfar