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We’re Going to Florida

Photo Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tom Farrar (Edited with Picnik)

On June 1st, I applied for the #NASATweetup with for #STS135. It was a long shot. I’m not the only space geek in the world jonesin’ for a spot next to the big countdown clock to see the final space shuttle launch with my own eyes. 5,500 applied. June 10th came around. Rejection. I didn’t lose hope. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of NASA groupies out there who were in my boat. We wanted another option. I got wind of the #EndlessBBQ and #SVPTweetup. Hope was not loss. I wanted to go. Even if I wasn’t a part of the official tweetup, there were still options.

I needed a travel buddy. I turned to this guy… His name is Mike… He’s kind of cool… I asked him if he wanted to go to a bbq. He said yes. I asked him if he wanted to go to Florida for the final shuttle launch. He said yes. Then we made a blog. This is what happens when two nerds get together. He does the code, I do the content. It’s a beautiful thing. We’ve got our plane tickets and we’re now finalizing our housing situation.

We have a travel blog specifically for this adventure. Please add it to your RSS reader or however you keep up with your morning readings. We’ll be posting space shuttle and travel related information. It’s hosted on Tumblr, but comments are available. I don’t know what else to say, except that… I’m stoked. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and after years of making up excuses, I’m finally doing it.

Cross your fingers that they don’t scrap the launch.

Journey to the Center of the Universe

Apparently when you drive 80 miles outside of Spokane, you arrive at the center of the universe. In some cultures, they call that Wallace, Idaho. It may be the coolest town on I-90 between Coeur d’Alene and Missoula. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is. It’s home to the Oasis Bordello Museum (a former brothel), the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum and most recently, the Wallace Brewing Company. That was my first stop. I was drawn to the word, “brewery”, like a Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is to a tree. Ten minutes later, I walked out with contact information and a list of their brewskis, but that’s another story for another time.

The real purpose to my trip to Wallace was to learn the ways of the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Department through a handy-dandy little thing called a ride-along. I was told Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be the busiest days for their deputies. It felt like the cold open to a thrilling cop drama. The first five minutes of the ride-along with Sgt. Derek Dofelmire were spent cruising’ down I-90 at approximately 110 mph, lights flaring all the way to Kellogg. We were en route to what was a suspected burglary. We arrived at the scene with other deputies to learn that the suspect lived with his family and was only “breaking in” to obtain his backpack. Days earlier the man was part of a domestic abuse case. He showed off his wounds to deputies (above). His girlfriend allegedly attacked him. After all the hype, there nothing to see here.

Minutes later, a deputy pulled over a speeding vehicle outside Pinehurst on I-90. The driver had an arrest warrant for parole violation in the state of New Mexico. The deputy called for backup before approaching the driver again. We met up with other responding deputies at the scene. The male was already taken into custody prior to our arrival. It would be taken care of by other responding deputies. Finding this individual can be thanked to a grant provided by the Idaho Transportation Department to enforce highway safety and patrol for aggressive driving.

“We have deputies who specifically patrol for aggressive driving equaling to 110 hours,” said Dofelmire. The grant is designed to award the department with $20 per hour dedicated to patrols up to $2,200. That $2,200 goes to specific equipment like new radars for their vehicles. These grants are a way to improve their forces even with recent budget cuts that have cut their employee base in half.

Read More…

“I’ve Been Blogging Like a Dog”

Dear Nicole, welcome to your second week at KXLY-TV. You’ve been tasked to bring readership to 17 different community blogs that focus on the major communities of our broadcast reach in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Can you do it?


When you put it that way it sounds like mission impossible, but this is right up my alley and I believe the Inland Northwest is ready to learn more about their community and participate with the conversations of their neighbors. I’ve got a lot of, “What do you do there?” I respond with, “I’m a web producer.” Which is just the job description official title. Here’s the statement I’ve gotten really good at telling people:

“KXLY is launching a set of 17 different community blogs that focus on each major community in our broadcast reach. Imagine a neighborhood newspaper online and updated daily. That’s what I’m doing.”

I’m making sure content is maintained and created every single day. I’m writing content for Moses Lake and Grant County to the Silver Valley (Wallace and Kellogg, Idaho). We’re still in our “soft launch” of the project. Before we officially present to the world what we’ve been up to, we’re working out the kinks and defining our writing style. Here’s a sample of what I’ve put together so far:

Sandpoint/Bonner County:

Cocolalla Creek Water Levels Rise

Upcoming Sand Creek Cleanup

24 Hours of Schweitzer

Moses Lake/Grant County:

Online Deadline for Moses Lake Marathon Approaching

West Spokane:

John A. Finch Arboretum to Receive New Trees

Spokane Valley:

Job Opening: Spokane Valley City Council Position 5

Liberty Lake:

Missing Cat Found After Nine Years

Colville/Stevens County:

Special Turkey Hunting Season for Youth

Pullman/Moscow:

A Look at Moscow’s Past Renaissance Fair Designs

Silver Valley:

Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum Opens For the Season

I have a lot of goals as we progress through this. I’ve made contact with any many community organizations in each community. Everyone has been of great help and I hope to build a lasting relationship with each community. My list of community contacts is building and every where I go there’s inspiration for a story.

Already in these two weeks, I’ve had a snowmobile tour of Silver Mountain and gone on a ride along with Washington Fish & Wildlife through North Spokane County. I’ve traveled all across North Idaho from Sandpoint to Wallace. I’ve gone as far south as Lewiston and Clarkston and tried to drive over every single bridge there. Coming up, I’ve planned ride alongs with the Shoshone County Sheriff Department and City of Coeur d’Alene in hopes to learn more about these communities that I don’t see every day. Tomorrow I get to see Rusty the Cat go through the first grooming he’s had in who knows how long. Expect before and after photos.

I’ll need your help as I progress. Story ideas are always welcome. I’m open to anything, especially anything that lets me practice my blog’s title, “World Famous Adventurer.” If you’re interested in blogging for your community, let me know! Point me in the right direction. I have a KXLY email that you can contact me at. Check it out, yo! nicoleh@kxly.com

My Secret to Adventures

People ask me all the time, “How did you get to take photos there?” I think about it for a moment. I didn’t hop a fence, though I won’t deny that I’ve done that before. I didn’t have to outrun a train. I didn’t disguise myself as a journalist. I just asked! One afternoon, I called up the delightful Anne from Public Relations at Providence-Sacred Heart Medical Center and told her that I was in need of a downtown view of Spokane and I had a theory the helicopter pad would be a prime location for that shot. My first thought was Cliff Park, but everyone goes to Cliff Park. The closest and tallest building to downtown was the hospital. After that it would be St. John’s Cathedral, but that’s another trip for another time.

I drove down the South Hill Monday afternoon and noticed the sun in the Southern position from downtown and the clouds swooping just right in this nice curved motion. Like a wave. I was getting a little excited over this.

I checked into the hospital and snaked my way to the Public Relation’s office to where I met with Anne. We strolled to the main elevators and waited for the security man. We didn’t know what a hospital security man would look like. Suddenly a rather legit gentleman broadly walked our way. In the whole crowd of people, he knew we were the ones he was to meet wtih.His named turned out to be Chuck. I’ve never met a Chuck I didn’t like. He was quiet, reserved and dutiful. What a swell guy. He escorted us up the patient elevator. During busy moments, the hospital will staff the patient elevator with its own attendant. That way the nurses and doctors can transport the patient as quickly as possible from floor to floor without fumbling with buttons.

The 9th floor led us to the roof. It was somewhat cluttered and not what I expected as the entryway to the helicopter pad, but I didn’t dwell on that for long when I looked outside and over the edge saw the city. To think, last week I was concerned about weather. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

The wind blew and I snapped away while Chuck the Security Man guarded the door like a stone golem. I exhausted every angle of Spokane and after my hair had blown every which way, I felt it was time to retire to the confines of hospital. I think we all felt like world-famous adventurers that afternoon going somewhere beyond the reach of the general public. Interestingly enough, just as I was about to post this, somebody on Facebook asked, “So how did you get up there?” Well, Phil… I asked. You don’t need to be a ninja and sneak into buildings to get photographs. I’ve learned that operations such as this, love to be flourished with attention. From media spots to small word of mouth mentions. You’re doing each other a service by cooperating together. Sometimes by asking and showing genuine interest, you’ll receive more than you’d ever expect.

The Man Trip

October 16th opened the flood gates for hunters statewide to adventure out into the wilderness to have their luck at ducks, geese, deer and elk. It’s not an annual tradition, but every few years my dad would join the herd of hunters to the most remote areas of Washington State and this year was one of those years and I got to join him. Mission? White-tail Deer.

I drove off to the Umatilla National Forest, two and a half hours south of Spokane. The last 1/2 mile of road was not friendly to my car’s bumper. ( There was much apologizing and caressing during its car wash earlier this afternoon.) The campsite revealed six men, an ingenious “kitchen” set-up, the party tent and the glorious ring of folding chairs around the campfire. From here on out, we will refer to the campsite as the “man camp”.

According to Umatilla Hunter’s Lore, the Barn was the starting point for a strategic loop that was a goldmine for deer. The hunters separate among the hills. One on the bottom toward the ravine, one in the middle to wade through the brush and a third on top of the hill. They march along the ravine pushing the deer out (mostly does) until finally, a buck pops his head out and then the hunt is on.

The terrain in the loop we walked was some of the toughest I’ve ever had to march through. Everything is on a slope, so you constantly have to switch from one side of the ravine to another so you can balance the pain in each ankle from walking at a slant.  It was three miles that felt more like ten. I got stuck in the middle portion of the hill most of the time. I had quite the layer of burrs on my clothing. Dislike. Luckily I didn’t have the weight of a rifle strapped to my back like the other guys. I was shooting with a Canon 40D.

Evening was approaching. I remembered at one point my father saying, “It’s going to be a dark in a hour.” Thirty minutes later we finally met up. The three of us  stood there chatting about what a miserable time we had with no luck. Suddenly, a herd of does popped up. The guns lifted. My dad said, “Spike.” And then a 4pt buck popped up. At this point I didn’t even think about grabbing my camera. I didn’t know how loud guns were so I put my hands over my ears. He aimed. Pop. He missed. Pop. The buck stumbled and flipped down the hill twice in the brush. Dead before he even hit the ground.

We ran up the hill and found him sticking out of the bushes. I knew in the process of deer hunting, field dressing is important and the way you do it determines the quality of the venison. I learned a great deal about anatomy that evening. I had the urge to throw out a Star Wars quote, but I didn’t think it appropriate to say: “And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.” I don’t want to get into the gory details, but I will officially say that this did not phase me. I did get a little squeamish when I had to hold a plastic bag open for the liver and kidney. Emotionally none of this really got to me. It wasn’t until I held the plastic bag and had this strange realization that they were still warm. There was no cinematic breakdown of emotions. Instead I walked almost two miles back to the truck… up hill… at a slant… carrying deer organs and my dad’s rifle that was getting in the way. My father and his buddy strapped a rope around the antlers and themselves and started dragging. That was hard work from the sounds of it. By then it was dark and getting cold. After dragging the deer up a hill probably steeper than S. Monroe from 4th to 7th (and with rocks, soft dirt and brush), we got back to the truck. Victory smells like tauntauns and feels like hell.

Being invited along to the “man trip” was an honor. I felt like I got to know my Dad a little more by this. I wasn’t grossed out by the whole, “Um, there’s a dead deer hanging from a tree outside my tent.” It was when I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of terrible “man gas” emitting from the surrounding tents. OH, THE HORROR! I cried myself back to sleep and woke up to a beautiful morning in Umatilla National Forest.

Crassostrea gigas

For those that have dined with me know that I can be very outgoing with trying new foods. I may protest at first, but I’ll tough it out and maybe… just maybe… I’ll like it. Recent additions to my edible repertoire have been frog legs, goose liver foie gras, tacos de lengua and now Quilcene Oysters.

My visits to the westside always consist of traditional visits to each and every single grocery store known to man. It is a matter of survival. Stocking up on food you simply can not get in Spokane. Central Market located in Mill Creek is one of our MANY destinations, mainly for their crab cakes and asian inspired aisle. When I visited the mecha of goodness, it just so happened to be Oyster Tasting Day! Now that was something I had never had before.

I ran like a little girl over to my father who was busy deciding on what kind of seafood to stock up on.

I squealed like a school girl: “Dad, Dad! They have oyster tasting! I’ve never had one! What should I get?”

We both came over to the booth and it was suggested by some lady that I try a Quilcene Oyster. Mainly known as Crassostrea gigas, the Pacific Oyster. I watched the booth host crack open the oyster. Nervously I squeezed a little lemon and tobasco on the slimy looking organ.

Instead of me telling you about the experience, I’ll let these pictures taken by my father explain the story:

Slimy, greasy and very very very interesting.

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