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As the Wheels Turn – Favorites

In my world, driving, even long distances, is part convenience, part practicality and, a not insignificant part, pleasure.

I am called Road Warrior by my friends for the tens of thousands of miles I drive to dog shows each year. I bought Beulah3, the Sprinter van, in December 2011 with roughly 37,000 miles on the odometer. I picked her up on a Friday at a dog show in Vancouver, Wash. and left three days later driving to Eukanuba. In the intervening two and a half years, I’ve driven pretty close to 100,000 miles.

I have only recently learned to use the mapping app in my iPhone. I spent a solid 25 years driving by road atlas, dead reckoning, road signs and memory. I am firmly of the opinion that if the zombie apocalypse so beloved by the younger generations ever happens, the kids will be the first to go. Since I’m pretty sure the zombies will knock out the cell towers first thing, 90 percent of Americans under the age of 40, and a frightening contingent past that pull date, will be left completely incapable of crossing town without that obnoxious computer woman to guide them.

But I digress.

I’m just back from one of my all-time favorite trips, so felt compelled to share with the less fortunate who are stuck in maddening rush hour traffic on a 6- or 8-lane asphalt jungle while reading this column on their phone. (PS, you probably should pay attention to your driving.)

From my house I drive a few miles south on I-5 to the town of Rogue River. It’s a cutesy little place, surrounded by wineries and something called the House of Mystery, to which I’ve never been. I don’t want to know. There I cut off on state highway 234. This two lane road takes me behind the big, flat butte you see from the freeway near Medford and winds past u-pick berry farms and ranches, through a sweeping grassy valley to hook up with Highway 62 just south of Shady Cove. This hamlet is a major jumping off point for many of the river rafting trips available on the Rogue River. Highway 62 runs alongside the clear, tumbling Rogue River for more than 60 miles, with a turn off for Crater Lake National Park along the way.

City of Rogue River Oregon

One trip, when my driving muse and “don’t forget to have fun” director was along for the ride, and we had a couple extra hours, we even drove through the Park. Formed in the crater resulting from the eruption of Mount Mazama some 7,700 years ago, the 1,943′ deep Crater Lake and surrounding views are well worth the slight detour.

I love watching the forest landscape change with elevation and climate. The trees are predominately Douglas fir, oak, maple and madrone, with a heavy, brushy understory, at the low elevation and temperate zone of the Rogue Valley. They rapidly transition to lodgepole pine, Ponderosa pine, hemlock and some spruce with a wide open, tall canopy as you climb the mountains and reach the harsh environment and high altitude of the Cascade Mountains. My father was a timber cruiser. I learned to identify trees at 60 MPH by the time I was 8. The leaves, needles and bark of deciduous and coniferous species are as clearly distinguishable as the differences between an Akita, a Norwegian Elkhound and a Keeshond. As with everything, from wine to cuisine to literature, knowledge accentuates appreciation..

Mount Thielsen, or Big Cowhorn, is an extinct shield volcano in the Oregon High Cascades, near Mount Bailey

The road runs for miles in a shadowy old-growth forest that feels as if you’re driving through a tunnel to a different dimension. It winds sharply as it follows the dwindling width of the Rogue. It climbs and dips and twists like Nature’s roller coaster and fun park all in one. At the top of the mountain, it passes glittering Diamond Lake on the left, with crystalline views of Mount Thielsen ahead in the distance just before I turn right on Highway 138.

When I was a little kid, in my life pre-”dogs”, we routinely drove Highway 138 from Roseburg to Diamond Lake to go camping or further on to visit friends. As does every east-west thoroughfare in Oregon, the road follows a river drainage, in this case the Umpqua River, to the crest of the Cascade Range. My little brother and I called it “the long straight stretch,” this part just after the Crater Lake junction. It signified we’d passed the half-way point of our voyage to Klamath Falls and the chorus of “how much longer” was easily answered. At this point, Highway 138 is straight as an arrow for close to 20 miles, downhill, allowing an uninterrupted vista to the Eastern horizon (and safe, easy passing if needed on a two-lane road).

At the bottom of the hill, Highway 138 meets up with Highway 97, Oregon’s “other” north-south conduit, just south of Chemult. From there I drive north across the high desert, the stark landscape shaped by ancient volcanic activity. Central Oregon’s resort-town crown jewel, Bend, is about an hour away. The area features an embarrassment of riches in the entertainment department, from the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Black Butte Ranch, Mount Bachelor and Hoodoo ski resorts, to hiking, fishing, horseback riding, shopping, dining, you name it.

Just north of Bend is the small town of Redmond, with breathtaking westerly views of the Three Sisters, Three Fingered Jack and other famous peaks in the Cascade Range.

Three Fingered Jack, named for its distinctive shape, is a Pleistocene volcano in the Cascade Range of Oregon

Redmond hosts the Mt. Bachelor Kennel Club shows each year in late June. A few times the show has carried into the local Fourth of July celebrations, with fireworks that sent dogs scuttling under the bed in the old RV. The setting, the weather, the club, the friends and, admittedly, many memorable wins, make this one of my very favorite shows on the calendar. Not to put too fine a point on it, I once went Best in Show there wearing my mother’s underwear. Yes, it’s a long story, the short version of which is: I forgot my suitcase. And my sainted mother is always prepared for ANY occasion, up to and including an unopened package of brand new “mom” undies in her RV.

Winning Best In Show Mt. Bachelor Kennel Club

Favorite shows, favorite drives and favorite memories are sort of a theme for the summer months. Bring it on! Share some of yours.

As always, this is JMHO.

Written by

Our family always had dogs. Mutt dogs, purebred dogs, but always dogs. I grew up with dogs everywhere. My mother eventually enrolled me in dog care 4-H because I was “shy and retiring and lacked people skills”….. I am the living testimonial to the success of the 4-H program! I continued into AKC shows as my family transitioned from “dogs” to the wonderful world of Purebred Dogs. I showed all of our family dogs in conformation and participated in Junior Showmanship competition. I went to college, earned a degree and worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer. Today, I am an AKC Breeder of Merit and a member of the Professional Handlers Association.
  • Karyn Cowdrey July 9, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Hwy 2 WA state from Monroe WA up to Spokane WA area for the Spokane shows (now held in Idaho in July and where I’m headed in 2 hours!)… Love that drive. It is a bit longer and slower than taking the Interstate but there is so much beauty and interesting sight seeing along they way it is worth the few extra hours to me :)

    Another favorite drive is the drive up from BlackFoot, ID through West Yellowstone to go to the Montana Circuit. I’ll never forget seeing Moose standing in the stream and just like National Geographic, raising their heads out of the stream and having water and weeds pouring off their racks….

    Going BOB and Grp 2 over a top ranked special with my just 9ms old Terv Puppy at Sequim WA Shows on a HOT humid day. Love that ferry ride over too!

    I’m hearing that open road calling my name, I better finish packing up to go!

  • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
    Deb E July 9, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    I think I may also qualify as a Road Warrior – 2 cross country trips to Eukanuba, one from North to South for Eukanuba & a trip from Ithaca NY to Portland Oregon for a Terv Natl. I live by my road atlas too (occasionally supplemented with mapquest). My Xmas gift every other year is a new road atlas :)

  • Janet Oatney July 9, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    I attended the Mt. Bachelor KC shows in Redmond this year for the first time, not only is the scenery breathtaking, the club puts on a first rate show that hearkens back to the “good old days’ of community dog shows. Great Club, great time, unbelievable raffle, and fantastic venue make this a jewel of a show.

  • Bob Pierce
    Bob Pierce July 14, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Great article…

    Reminds me of my road warrior days back in the 70’s-80’s. As a licensed assistant handler I often did the after BIS drives to the next show location, many times arriving well after midnight. Back then we went from show location to show location often not even knowing where we were unless we looked at a premium list or someplace circled on a well folded map. Then there were the years as a licensed handler on my own, once arriving so early the superintendent had not even arrived because I had crossed a time zone! I admit to missing those days, and a lot of scenery too!

    Thanks for the memories though…to this day I miss the mad rush back at the crates when you were always pressed to get to two rings at the same time… :)

    Keep sharing your world…there are many more like me Im sure who enjoy and appreciate your work…

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