Category Archives: Travel

Heaven In Hood River?

by Kimberly A. Cook                               (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Last month I took off on a day adventure with my family to celebrate my birthday. One of those decade birthdays and I’m not telling which one. Now this trip came about because the two special places I wanted to go for lunch only served dinner. Drat it all. After trying other ideas, I asked myself what I really wanted to do; road trip to Hood River was the answer.

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Packer Orchard and Bakery pre-made pie fillings. Seriously, the easy button for pie bakers. 


Born and raised in Oregon, sometimes it’s easy to take our amazing state for granted. A quick trip up Interstate 84 and I feel miles from Portland. It’s a short trip unless it’s winter, then it can be a skating rink for semi trucks. Which is why Troutdale has a big truck stop for the gazillion truck drivers who need to sleepover when the Gorge highway closes to all rigs.

This summer day was perfect with fabulous sun, a great view of the Columbia River, waterfalls on our right and excellent company. Ever the operations officer/sergeant, my mission op was in place; first stop Packer Orchards and Bakery, at 3900 Highway 35, on the road up to Mt. Hood.


North View from the Packard Orchard and Bakery parking lot. They have picnic tables you can use in the orchard. The view is Mt. Adams in Washington state.   


This is the mother ship for big cookies and the fabulous cookie bar. In addition, there are pie fillings you can buy, jams and jellies and even pickled asparagus and white honey to name just a few treats. Since I’d bought a bargain tiara before the trip I’d decided to wear it only in the car, but upon a few glances from other patrons I realized it was still on my head. Every woman should wear a tiara into a fruit stand at least once in her life.

After loading up on jams and cookies, piled back into the car and headed for? Foothills Yarn & Fiber, 4207 Sylvester Drive, my favorite alpaca yarn store that comes complete with alpacas. The herd had been shorn for the summer and they were quite happy to bound toward us to get the feed we purchased from the former quarter candy machine.

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Sunny day, shorn alpaca, daisies. Be still my heart.


After playing with the alpaca kids and the greeter dog, bounced into the store and bought more yarn I don’t need for my collection. It was my birthday so I could buy yarn; it’s the law.

Next it was off to the Sixth Street Bistro and Loft, 509 Cascade Avenue, for my favorite salad of all time and a grilled cheese sandwich where cheese goes to die. The 6th street pear and walnut salad with maple vinaigrette is the closest I’ve come licking a dish in public, every time.


Local pears, sugar coated walnuts, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, maple vinaigrette, sourdough bread, three cheeses; my life is complete.


Went for the gusto and finished off the meal with the chocolate mousse, which I hope is served in heaven or I’m not going. Amazing dessert. Almost licked the glass too.

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Local chocolate mousse!


All in all a wonderful day with family, food and laughs; life doesn’t get much better when you throw in sun and alpacas too.

I’ll let you in on a little secret about the Hood River area; it’s the setting for both fiction series I’m writing. More about them in the months to come.

Also explains why more Hood River road trips are necessary to eat and soak up the ambiance with a chocolate mousse chaser. I LOVE research!

Got a favorite summer place? Hit the road and explore!


P.S. Working on combining my web site and blog, moving domains and a web page redesign. If everything disappears it’s not my fault.  Heading off to get a dump truck load of Dove Dark Chocolate to make this happen in the coming weeks. Pray for me, send chocolate or tech help. Preferably all three…….


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Back To The Rock Shop?

by Kimberly A. Cook                     (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

A great joy of my recent vacation was sharing the Richardson Rock Shop and Ranch with my Mom. She’d heard the stories and seen some pictures, but it’s not the same as being there. It was our second stop after driving over Mt. Hood; had to fuel up with pancakes at the Black Bear Diner in Madras first, before heading to the rock shop. Another excuse to carbo load!


Enough to make a girl swoon, the geode rock pile!


Upon arrival at the rock shop what to my wondering eyes appeared ? A virtual mountain of Moroccan geodes, mine for the picking. Before there had been a small pile of these uncut beauties at the end of the rock slab shopping table. Now it was a virtual mountain. Be still my little geode lov’in heart.

After a tour of the premises to show Mom all the great rock areas, it was time to get on with the geode shopping. Ever helpful handsome cutter guy told me the best geodes were lightweight. With his help I then proceeded to hand weigh and compare about half that rock pile. Almost. My Mom enjoyed the serious nature of this geode picking business from the shop.


Cutter Guy with the pick of the pile. 


Cutter guy tried to get me to break protocol by peeking into some of the geodes which had small broken holes so you could look inside. Told him there were no peeking guidelines when it came to picking the perfect geode. Finally decided on three to try for cutting after deciding only one would not do.


Fabulous geodes on the half shell! And now for the rock glue geode puzzle to put together. 


Ended up with three great specimens, except when the largest one was cut in half, part of the geode broke on the final cut. Sweet sea biscuits! I gathered up the pieces anyway so now I have TWO geode halves to try and piece back together with the special rock glue. Which means when Gate Girl and I head back this Fall to do some serious digging, I’m going to have to go for another large geode to cut. Good thing we’re taking her truck next time. I may need to load up the back with geodes.


Guard rooster defending the petrified wood block. Notice the committed look in his eye.   


Orlando: Hugs and prayers to all the families, friends, law enforcement personnel, emergency responders and medical staff in Orlando, Florida and across the United States affected by this tragedy. Let’s all hug our families and friends and make memories today.


Making rock shopping memories with Mom. Priceless. And she puts up with me!




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Got Commute Crazies?

by Kimberly A. Cook               (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Is everybody out driving today possessed by demons or is this just commuting? Everyday I head for the day job I see all sorts of bizarre and dangerous driving tricks. My hope is to get to work and back in one piece.


And we’re off into the slowdown! I always feel like a dragster at these ramp lights. But I never get very far in rush hour. Yes, I took the pic when the light was red and before I accelerated. Don’t try this at home campers, I’m a professional photographer. 


I don’t text, talk on a phone or even sing to myself in order to keep track of everyone who thinks they are in a video game. With a long weekend coming up I wanted to list a few of my pet peeves and see if I can get some cooperation out there on the roads.

Turn Signals – These are not an accessory, they are driving tools. The goal is to use the tool BEFORE you make a move. Pulling into the left turn lane and then signaling means you must think I’m psychic. In the military when we marched cadence we had two commands to listen for: the prepatory command and the command of execution. Like RIGHT…… FACE. When a dril sergeant yelled RIGHT, we all knew in a breath to get ready to turn, then when FACE came, we pivoted and turned right together. Most of the time. Turn signals are the same. Put on the turn signal as the preparatory command, then execute a move. Simple.

Bumper Stickers: To amuse myself while stuck in traffic jams or driving I like to catch up on the latest bumper stickers. Favs include “Bark Less, Wag More,” “Cowgirl Mafia” and “Silly Cowboy, Trucks Are For Girls.” So imagine my consternation on a recent drive to work when I spotted a Grumpy Cat bumper sticker that said, “Grumpy Cat Doesn’t Care” and I couldn’t read the rest of it because the type got smaller! So I tried to cuddle up to this person’s bumper at the four way Stop sign, but they took off. I had to Google the darn thing and it turns out “Grumpy Cat Doesn’t Care About Your Stick Figure Family.” Great. Bigger type please.

Off Road: You cannot be too careful when you are out of the car also. A recent shopping trip to Home Depot found me almost getting t-boned in my shopping cart when a dude on an electric cart shot out from a potted palms display and almost took me broad side. It was like being attacked by a tiger popping out of the jungle. Not the best for ones nerves.

So be careful out there in the traffic and keep alert. That includes watching out around palm tree displays. Stay safe out there!



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Got Your 2016 Vacations Planned?

by Kimberly A. Cook              (Twitter@ WarriorTales)

It’s a dark and stormy day here in Oregon with heavy rain and high wind warnings. So what better time to daydream about where and when to take vacations this year? I’ve already requested time off from the day job and I’m looking forward to playing in Oregon.


Suttle Lake outside of Sisters, Oregon – one of my top favorite lakes to visit. Priceless!


The 2015 vacations were all about flying to places and one staycation at home. This year is all about not flying anywhere and motoring around my home state. Places on the travel list are my favorites; Sisters, Depoe Bay, Madras, Sisters again and maybe a surprise or two.

One of the best parts about vacations is the planning and anticipation. A vacation bonus is spending time and making memories with family and friends. There is nothing like a vacation road trip to bring out the nutty and bizarre. This has been true whether travelling with family, friends or in the military. Really wacko things happened in the military. And with my family and friends too, come to think of it.

After my bag dragging days in the Army and Air Force, I now specialize in princess travel as I like to call it; full mosey mode with no aircraft to load, tents to pitch or screaming Drill Sergeants.

It’s always good to get away from home and explore the beautiful sights and sounds of my very own state. Even a quick day trip up the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River seems like a long vacation break. It doesn’t take an overnight trip to get that vacation bounce back in your step.

Got rain? Got vacation plans? Where are you going to venture this year?



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Is It Time For A Swim?

by Kimberly A. Cook           (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

It’s been wet and windy here in Oregon and the last thing I’ve thought about is taking a dive in the pool. But the folks at the Oregon Zoo thought yesterday was the perfect time to open the new elephant pool!

And guess who is acting like a little submarine? Baby Lily! With the rest of us human creatures running around getting ready for the holidays and trying to finish our to do lists, Lily shows us what is really important; play time!

The Oregon Zoo’s new pachyderm pool is 12 feet deep and 80 feet wide and the water level can be adjusted to be deep enough for big boy Packy or make it shallow for baby Lily. Amazing stuff.

So while we humans are thinking about gray days and rain, the Portland pachyderms are having a blast on the beach at their new swimming hole. Maybe that’s a good lesson for all of us these days. Take time out to play in the puddles.

Know a good place to swim in December?


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Las Vegas Education?

by Kimberly A. Cook           (Twitter@ WarriorTales)

Still processing all the things I saw in Las Vegas, but I’ve come up with some lessons learned that might be helpful to others.

Did not see any books in Las Vegas on the Strip. Okay, I saw a couple children’s books at the Siegfried and Roy Dolphin and Tiger Sanctuary, but the only other books I saw were in the Elvis exhibit from what he had on his nightstand. Elvis loved to read. Yes!

White tigers and lions are amazing; tiger cubs even cuter! Tigers are bigger than lions. I had no idea. Cubs make the cutest growly noises when they play.


McDonald’s has some killer oatmeal and it’s way cheaper than $7.99 for a bowl of room service oatmeal. McDonald’s is also smoke free, which cannot be said about any other place on the Strip practically, except Denny’s.

I gamble very little, bet a buck and cashed out at $1.11. Don’t drink much and didn’t go to a show. I wasn’t there for a convention, bachelor or bachelorette party. So I am not their target demographic. I’m good with that. Las Vegas hosts 22,000 conventions a year. That is NOT a typo.

The street performers are everywhere. Personally ran into KISS, Chewbacca, Mickey and Minnie, Hello Kitty, Catwoman, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, multiple Minions, the snowman from Frozen, show girls, dominatrixes (how do you make that plural?) some guy in cowboy boots, cape and red, white and blue underwear who must have been freezing and Darth Vader. To name a few. All I did was walk outside.

Took in the night lights bus tour of the casinos and when everyone was taking pictures of The Mirage volcano erupting, I was taking pictures of them and the rest of the Strip. Another rule from photojournalism; when everybody is looking in one direction, look the other way!


Highlights were seeing the dolphins, lions and tigers and learning about the conservation program to save them all. Enjoyed the Elvis exhibit from Graceland very much. Got to see his actual Army uniform too. The end of the exhibit had a 26-minute film of Elvis performing from 1956 to 1973. You can only see it at this exhibit and it is amazing.

One song in particular he sang hit me pretty hard and I wasn’t the only one tearing up. I’ve thought of it many times since returning home.

In these days before Thanksgiving, I am so glad to live in the USA and be grateful for all I have. Because no matter what happens, America was built by dreamers for dreamers. We have to keep dreaming big.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Baby Alpacas, Socks And Pink Bears?

by Kimberly A. Cook                 (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

It seems I’ve developed a serious alpaca addiction. While on our girls road trip a couple of weekends ago we drove by a herd of alpacas we hadn’t seen before and I almost slammed on the brakes. This would have happened if we hadn’t had an appointment with some thundereggs and had traffic up my tailpipe.

How cute is this sleeping baby alpaca in the sun? Cuddles!

How cute is this sleeping baby alpaca in the sun? Cuddles!

I looked the ranch up online and found out they were open seven days a week and had the Alpaca Boutique so there was no stopping us from shopping.

On our way home we took a detour to make sure we had to drive by and stop at the Alpaca Boutique at the Crescent Moon Ranch Alpacas in Terrebonne, Oregon.

The babies close by the shop were enjoying a fabulous sunny Sunday afternoon doing what we all wish, dozing in the sun. Such cuties!

Seems they had around 600 alpacas, then downsized and moved the herd to this location with around 175 or so alpacas.

One of the reasons I had to come visit, besides all the alpacas, was a picture online of the fabulous sock wall. Now, I love my alpaca socks, but I’d never seen so many different alpaca socks in my life.

Alpaca sock wall of my dreams!

Alpaca sock wall of my dreams!

When I noticed the pink ones on their web site, you can bet I bagged two pair at the shop.

Not only were we met by one farm cat who was trying to get into the boutique, but upon entering we were greeted by Cash the wonderdog. Obviously his domain is inside since the cats had to stay outside. Some sort of détente arrangement I guess.

Outside farm cat trying to figure out how to break into the boutique.
Outside farm cat trying to break in.

The boutique has a wide selection of clothing from Peru, alpaca wool and socks plus even fabulous stuffed toys like the baby alpacas and the pink teddy bear. So soft and cuddly.

These little alpacas can fit in your apartment. Really.  No feed required.

These little alpacas can fit in your apartment. Really. No feed required.

There was also alpaca feed, so of course I had to buy some and feed my first alpacas. Soft noses, very polite manners and efficient food hoovering.

Feeding Elite his alpaca snacks. A true import from Peru, he is a major award winner and all around star at the ranch. He has excellent manners and a very soft nose.
Feeding Elite his alpaca snacks. A true import from Peru, he is a major award winner and all around star at the ranch. He has excellent manners and a very soft nose.

If you’re out by Bend, Oregon, don’t hesitate to stop at the Crescent Moon Ranch run by Debbie and Scott Miller.

Part of the Alpaca Boutique at the Crescent Moon Ranch in Terrebonne, Oregon
Part of the Alpaca Boutique at the Crescent Moon Ranch in Terrebonne, Oregon

They also have an online store to shop.

Now all I have to do is convince Gate Girl to get an alpaca to keep me in yarn. Cross your fingers!

Got alpacas?

Seriously, doesn't everyone need a pink alpaca teddy bear?

Seriously, doesn’t everyone need a pink alpaca teddy bear?


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