A Ryan Carpenter Production

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Ryan’s Great Adventures

Volume 21: Sat Oct 23, 2002

I stand on the top of the world (also known as the Watchtower) in Sequoia National Park

For some bizarre reason, I've had LOTS of people writing me over the last couple of months asking strange questions such as, "What ever happened to you?" or "Where are you now?" or even simple statements such as, "I miss hearing about your great adventures!" Even my own mother, always the worry wart, misses hearing about my life-harrowing moments via e-mail. (She's still been hearing them by phone on a regular basis, so it's not like she doesn't know about them like most of you!)

Thus, I am once again breaking down to e-mail my most recent adventures across this land called the United States, or los Estados Unidos as they say in Central America. =)

I last left off leaving Universal Studios and heading towards San Luis Obispo to finally rest and relax. Did some hiking in the area, where Amanda discovered the joys of poison oak. I hope my pictures of her horribly disfigured legs turn out well. =)

John Muir called Crescent Meadow the "Gem of the Sequoias"—I don't think he was far off the mark

Unable stay still for very long, we headed off to Sequoia National Park for some camping. It's been years since I've visited this wonderful place, and I had a great time. The park is famous for the General Sherman tree, proclaimed as being largest living thing on Earth. I did some volunteer work there a few years back helping to put up split-rail fences to protect the area from the barrage of tourists, and I'm glad to report it's still doing well.

Upon getting to the park, Amanda and I proceeded to look for campgrounds. We had no reservations—that would have required way too much planning ahead, and it took a couple of tries before we found one with room. It seems raging forest fires had closed many campgrounds nearby, so everyone was going to these otherwise not-so-full campgrounds in and around the park.

You'd think with the harrowing adventures Amanda and I shared in Central America, nothing could phase her. But you'd be wrong. She didn't tell me until we were up there, but she's claustrophobic in tents and sleeping bags. The door for the tent must stay open at all times while she's in it, and her sleeping bag couldn't be zipped up. In addition, her head must stay by the open door. Fortunately, it didn't really bother me much since when I camp by myself I usually don't set up a tent at all, but it still seemed like very bizarre behavior to me. In any case, in the event of a sudden wildfire or bear attack, we'd have no trouble making a hasty evacuation.

Sunset in the Sequoias

We did the usual stuff hiking and hiding letterboxes. We didn't find any elusive bears that Amanda was anxious to see. (She's never seen one in the wild before.) I dropped her off at the airport in San Francisco and I headed back to San Luis.

For a week or two, I bummed around San Luis, visiting my old haunts and taking life easy. I did get an interesting phone call from Amanda, though. You see, I was planning to drive to the Pacific Northwest that weekend to visit other friends and old haunts, and Amanda knew this. She flew into San Francisco for a family reunion, and somehow accidentally managed to buy a bed. (Only a girl could "accidentally" buy a bed!) I tried reminding her that she already has a bed, but it was to no available. She got it for a great deal, and thus it was meant to be. But, since I'd be passing through San Francisco on my way to Portland and beyond, could I perhaps pick it up and transport the bed about 1,000 miles to Seattle in my Ford Taurus.

A cute little fountain found in Ashland, Oregon

Being the good guy that I am, I said okay, and thus would begin my journey traveling around the countryside with a bed in my back seat. I could just imagine the questions that might occur. A cop, catching me sleeping in my car at a rest area. "Is that a bed you have in the back seat?"

"Yes, officer."

"Is there a reason you travel around with a bed in your backseat but don't use it?"

"It's a long story, officer...."

That Sunday I met up with Amanda in Gilroy, a town not far from San Francisco and famous for their garlic. Without garlic, Gilroy probably wouldn't even exist. But you've got to love the scent of garlic filling the air.

I took this boat out to Wizard Island, which is now leaving me behind to hike and stretch my legs. It's supposed to come back later to me up!

Amanda and I made a brief trip to the Jelly Belly factory to learn how these candies were made and admire huge works of art of famous people such as Ronald Regan made out of Jelly Bellies. Jelly Bellies that don't make the cut are called Jelly Flops, and they're sold at the visitor center for a substantial discount. It's a fascinating tour (and FREE!), so if you ever find yourself near Fairfield, California, it's definitely worth a stop. They'll even give you free samples and "recipes" for how to make such things as banana splits and root beer floats out of Jelly Bellies. You can read all about this fascinating place at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/CAFAIjellybelly.html.

Then Amanda and I parted ways, me with a bed in the back seat and her to destinations unknown.

I drove up I-5, taking several detours along the way to pick up and plant letterboxes. I stopped for some hiking near Mount Shasta. More letterboxing.

The Phantom Ship, with each mast and spar, cross the moon like a prison bar....

And finally, I arrived at Crater Lake. I've seen it from the air at 30,000 feet before, but this is the first time I got to visit the place up close. I took the little boat ride to Wizard island in search of a letterbox, but alas, I failed. I don't know if I was in the right place or not, but it was a nice little hike and the tour around the lake is very interesting.

Upon getting back to my car, one couple walked past saying something like, "Ahhh, so you're the guy with the bed in the back seat! We think that's a GREAT idea! Go camping, and take your whole freaking bed with you!" So I explained the whole story about why I'm hiking around Crater Lake with a bed in the back seat of my car.

Wizard Island—late in the day when I took this picture, smoke from nearby wildfires had filled Crater Lake

Eventually I made it back to Portland for a little over a week, visiting friends and old haunts. Hunted down some letterboxes, of course. It really felt great to be back in Portland because I really did miss the place and all my friends. =) Got some more ribbing about the bed in the back seat. (Mostly comments like, "My, you really DO come prepared, don't you?" or "You've got a bed in the backseat of your car? Is that supposed to be a pick-up line or something?")

But I still had a bed in the back seat of my car that needed delivering! So off I went to Seattle, to finally deliver the bed after it's thousand or so mile adventure. I got to see a pretty exciting crash just south of Tacoma with broken glass flying everywhere. I don't have a clue what caused it—just listening to the radio minding my own business, driving down I-5 at a reasonable speed, and noticed all these cars in front of me crashing, glass flying, cars spinning, break lights all over the place lighting up. Slammed on my breaks missing the car in front of me by inches. When the dust had cleared, two of the three lanes were blocked by a half-dozen crashed-up cars. It was pretty exciting, but fortunately nobody seemed hurt. (Sorry mom, I must have forgotten to tell you about THAT close call.... *smile*)

At long last, I made it to Seattle and after a couple of wrong turns, finally arrived at Amanda's place and dropped off her bed. The next couple of days we did lots of letterboxing.

Another view from Wizard Island

And we visited the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. Amanda wants to go there because it seems there's a plane (or part of it) from her airline that had crashed and the airline "donated" to the museum as an exhibit, and she wanted to see this plane. It must not have been a very bad crash, though, because it looked in pretty good shape. And naturally, nowhere were there signs saying "this plane is here because it CRASHED and it was cheaper to turn it into a museum exhibit than it was to get back in the air again." I guess US Air doesn't like that sort of publicity, and they probably donated it with the requirement that they can't say how it ended up there. Fortunately, I know someone in the know who likes to tell me that sort of morbid stuff. ;o)

And, that makes a good ending spot for now on the continuing adventure of Ryan Carpenter. In my next installment, you'll get to hear about more exciting crashes, buffalo jams (made with real buffalo!), prison visits, how to identify roadkill, and the numerous ways one can die in Yellowstone. Never a dull moment! =)

— Ryan

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