Sleeping in my tent is extremely uncomfortable when you have to share it with someone else. Yes, it is a two-person tent, but the sleeping pad I gave to Mike, while very comfortable, is so large that I cannot actually fit flat in the tent next to another sleeping pad. Therefore, I slept on a non-level surface. Nonetheless, I rallied and we woke up at 6:30 am. I made the executive decision to attempt to go to the Oregon Caves, which I took off the itinerary because I thought it would take too long. The road to the cave (from the nearest town) is 1 hour each direction plus the 2-hour cave tour would eat up almost the entire day. That said, we pushed the car and made it there in time for the first tour of the day at 9 am in part because it was Mike’s first time every in a cave.
The cave was intimate (aka small) and did not have as many formations as I had expected, but that is largely due to lots of visitors over the years and the marble composition of the cave, as the formations are less common in marble caves as compared to limestone caves. As this was Mike’s very first time going into a cave and luckily, Ranger Bill made him feel special by giving him the flashlight to point at various things in the cave- kind of like a Junior Ranger. One of Mike’s quirks (which is a very St. Louis thing to do) is to talk to everyone he meets and tell them about St. Louis even if they do not want to hear about it. Every ranger we would meet, Mike would tell the story of how the Secretary of the Interior (who controls all national parks) was at the Arch grounds in St. Louis to celebrate the beginning of the renovations. Most people would politely roll their eyes, but it was very cool to see Mike so passionate in talking about a city where people from the West Coast rarely (never) visit.
From the cave we booked it to Medford, Oregon (which interestingly included a 30 minute trip southbound along I-5) to get sandwiches at R & D’s Sandwich Factory. My pastrami sandwich should not be classified as a sandwich, but rather a plate of pastrami with a bread plate because there was so much meat. The food was delightful albeit incredibly unhealthy.
From Medford, we drove up to Crater Lake National Park, which is a lake inside the caldera of a huge volcano. The lake was so much larger than expected- almost 35 miles in circumference. The views were spectacular; unfortunately, smog from recent fires clouded the view and at some points, it was impossible to see across the lake. We drove almost around the entire lake before heading out the north entrance.
We then drove to Bend, where met Mike’s friends the Meyers, who are basically who I want to be. They are ex-CIA agents and have traveled to a lot of different places including Syria, Pakistan, Iran, Panama, Afghanistan, and beyond and have collected amazing treasures. So many that they have a treasure room of their greatest finds where each piece has a story. The two met on “The Farm” during training and have been together on assignment ever since. They have retired and can talk a little about their work. Right now they live on a beautiful plot of open land northwest of Bend. After drinks and cocktails, we went on a brewery tour of Bend, a town of 80,000 people and 20 (but soon to be 26) microbreweries. We first went to Crux Fermentation Project and finally Deschutes Brewery for dinner. The beer and food was amazing. It was cool to try and fail to pick their brains about the CIA. I am definitely going to stay in contact with them.