Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everybody go, Boo!

Trick or treat, Ashland, Oregon. You can don your scariest get-ups, but you don't spook us. Your people are just too mellow, too good-natured, too organically fortified to be threatening. I shouldn't be surprised at the great effort you go to; you are a town well practiced in theatre.

What a treat to parade downtown with your babies in bumblebee costumes, your dogs in tutus. Okay, maybe a few paraders were a little scary, but cuteness ruled the day.

Allison had a buddy to trick-or-treat with. We met up with Rich and Eleanor Luhr and their daughter, Emma, who is Allison's age. Rich publishes Airstream Life and travels the U.S. in their Airstream Safari. We all hit it off right away having the Airstream experience in common--as well as the road-schooled daughter thing. It was just good fortune that we happened to be in southern Oregon at the same time. We may buddy-up and travel the road together for awhile. That would certainly please Allison who's thrilled to have made a new friend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back in Oregon

The only reason we went to Klamath Falls was to visit one of Robert's cousins. He has only two, the other two are dead and he never knew them. This one he only met once in his early childhood. We visited only a short while. The cousin and his wife and daughter publish a real estate magazine and were busy putting it together at the deadline. They dropped everything to entertain us, taking us to a nice dinner. I'm glad for Robert that they were such lovely people. I have many cousins, all pretty terrific; I think he felt he needed to produce something equal from his side!

Since we were so close to Crater Lake, we decided to go for a day trip. Lucky for us the weather was warm and clear. We got a good look and then headed to Medford. We spent the day today strolling through Ashland which was a nice surprise. The town is in such a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains. The autumn leaves are at their peak making the town look like some quaint picture postcard. We ate at Grilla Bites, an organic cafe and then walked to Lithia Park, a stunning woodland park that follows Ashland Creek. I could move to Ashland for that park alone.

We needed to find Allison a Halloween costume. I'd about given up after yesterday's unsuccessful run through Wal-Mart and Target. But now I found myself in the most opportune place for costumes: Ashland, the city of the Shakespeare Festival that runs from February through October. There is a wealth of used costumes for sale and we found them at the Gypsy Rose costume shop on Main Street. I was able to put something together for Allison in less than 15 minutes. She will be a girl pirate just in time for the Ashland Halloween Parade tomorrow. Everyone we met insisted we must come. I imagine it will be a real treat in a town like this.

We keep lingering in Oregon. We really like it. Not only is is lush and beautiful, it has such an interesting history. I am fascinated with the stories of the pioneers who made the dangerous trek to the Pacific northwest in the mid-1800's. The book I bought in Mt. Shasta City made good reading material on the road. I've read parts of it aloud to my captive family who also find it interesting. The book, Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schissel, offers a good picture into the westward migration. Those people went through hardships we can never imagine today. It is one of the greatest stories ever told, I believe. While we are here I'd like to visit several museums and interpretive centers that feature the Oregon Trail history. But first, Trick-or-Treat!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gathering Water

Here's video of people gathering water from the Sacramento River headwaters in Mt. Shasta City park.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mt. Shasta

It's from the locals that you get your best information about a place. Even the briefest conversations always lead to some interesting tidbit of guidance or advice. We would have never known about the headwaters of the Sacramento River in the city park, or the existence of cobra lilies in the meadows near Gumboot Lake if not for the coincidence of chance meetings with people here.

The transient who loitered outside the book store every day gave us the scoop about the headwaters. There is no sign or advertisement or scrap of information in the visitor literature about it, yet this surprising articulate man was adamant we not leave town before seeing it. Ice cold water flows from an underground spring through a lava tube and out into the city park. People go there to collect drinking water.

So we went. We had no idea where in the park this attraction might be. When we found it we were surprised at the humble nature of a tiny pool of water with no marker. I was expecting a huge river, but the water streamed from small hole in a rock outcropping, and not all that forcefully. It was more of a peaceful pool that spilled into a creek. People, one-by-one, kept driving up the the spring unloading their water jugs and gingerly stepping on the stones to the source of the water. Everyone we spoke to agreed that the water was the cleanest, best-tasting water in the world. One couple had come down from Ashland, Oregon to fill their jugs. Many people believe the water has healing properties. Now, I understood why the check-out clerk at Ray's grocery looked so puzzled when, empty jugs in hand, I asked her where the bottled water machine was. She said, "You're not from around here, right?"

We filled a plastic gallon container we had with us and took a few swigs. We all agreed it was great-tasting water, but Robert being less impressed said it just tasted like melted ice. I think I was mostly impressed with the idea of drinking straight from a stream. If I lived here I would probably come here regularly for water. Of course, if I lived here I'd have to become more hippy-like and shed my conservative dress for hemp and hand-knitted apparel and become a vegan to fit in.

Overall, I find the area around Mt. Shasta to be full of interesting surprises, mostly all related to nature. It is such beautiful country and Mt. Shasta is majestic in a special way. It stands so tall and imposing and every sunset throws a dramatic cast on its snowy face to make it even more mesmerizing. I can see how people become convinced it is magical. I can understand how the myths and spiritual movements get started. I, too, would probably find myself drawn into the mysticism if I lived here. Maybe I'd undergo a complete spiritual transformation. I'll never know, because we've got our water jugs filled and are heading to Klamath Falls.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

House of Soul Confusion

Today, Allison and I returned to Mt. Shasta City to look for a birthday gift for Robert. We found ourselves in a store named, "Soul Connections," lured in by the geodes and polished stones in the window. However, the store specialized in new-age and metaphysical items and we were mesmerized by the amount of stuff you can buy to aid your soul-searching. I learned some interesting things about this area from the many books it featured. Apparently, many people believe Mt. Shasta is one of seven sacred mountains on earth and an ancient colony of people called, Lemurians, live deep in its core. They moved there 12,000 years ago to escape the sinking of their continent, Mu, on the Pacific. They live in the secret city called, Telos, that is filled with treasure. The reason we never see them is that they can make themselves invisible at will. People who have seen them say they are very tall (almost 7 feet) with slender necks and long, flowing hair. They speak Lemurian, but are also fluent in English (but with a British accent.)

I almost bought a book on the subject, but standing there surrounded by Buddha and Hindu and Chinese and goddess statuettes, crystals and wands, and Tibetan ritual bowls and bells, I felt the eye of the Jesus of Baptist Sunday School upon me. Now, I'm not sure what's the occult and what's simply a culturally diverse religious item, but helping fund the cult of Lumeria seemed not the thing to do. Instead, I let Allison buy little matching ceramic Foo Dogs. They were pink and blue and reminded her of the lions outside her favorite restaurant back home, the China Buffet. She read the little placard beneath them explaining their significance and mythic powers of protection. It stated that placing them at the foot of a child's bed will ward off bad dreams. How could I refuse with the shadow of Bigfoot still in her little head? I was becoming too confused and morally fuzzy-headed. What harm is a little foo dog if it comes with a mother's warning: Now, you understand that Chinese foo dogs really can't stop bad dreams, but it's nice that they want to, right?

Then, I was struck with the image of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, and I felt a headache coming on.

Just your local folk

After our hike up McCloud River we dropped into Mt. Shasta to stroll around. Mt. Shasta is a sweet little city next door to Weed. The book store on the main drag looked appealing so we stepped in, ordered some coffee and a hot chocolate for Allison, and looked through some books. I love bookstores so much, it hurts. I get a certain anxiety from a room filled with new books and magazines. Instead of relaxing with a book, sipping my latte, making polite conversation, I get overexcited about the choices. So much to read, so little days left in my life. And I can't stay focused. Every section beckons to me. Do I want to know about logging history or the ecology atop old-growth redwoods? And, God, how distracting are those Log and Timber dream home magazines. I finally settled on a book of first-hand accounts of the women who traveled west on the Oregon trail, probably a real downer, but surely good perspective for a woman traveling in the luxury of a new aluminum, fully appointed, Airstream trailer.

And what else gets my eye is the local character of the townsfolk who gather here. There are odd people everywhere, but there is a particular oddness to the California/Oregon "hippy" folk. I think it's their gentleness. I snapped a photo of this gentleman outside the bookstore puffing on his hand-rolled cigarette. Not weed, but something else, though I'm not sure it was tobacco either. I liked the care he gave to twisting his hair into a pretty knot on top.

Mother McCloud Doesn't Live Here Anymore

We picked a great day to visit the McCloud area. The day was sunny and bright with no wind. Our first stop was the old company town (1897) of the McCloud River Lumber Company. This was a town totally built to sustain the lumber company, dubbed, Mother McCloud, for the forced dependency of the employees on the company. It prospered for many years until advances in the lumber industry outpaced it. Newer tools and equipment and better practices of timber cutting led to the decline of the industry in McCloud. It would be a ghost town if not for the sheer tenacity of folks who continued to pursue logging. A much smaller company operated until 2002. Now there is talk of the industry of bottled water. McCloud is also positioning itself as a vacation town, a tourist destination.

We really enjoyed our walk along the McCloud River Trail. We began in the lower falls and followed along the river to the upper. The middle falls is the biggest. The upper is small but falls from a greater height. Though some of the trail follows the water's edge, most of it is along a high ridge. It is a moderate hike that took about an hour each way.

Allison and I located two letterboxes hidden in the park. At the end of the trail we picnicked in the shade and the roar of the waterfall. Robert fell asleep in the pine needles. I watched the chipmunks scurry around him and thought how much he looked like a sleeping Gulliver. Allison busied herself building a chipmunk town with broken twigs and pine cones and I thought she looked like a kid should look: at one with nature.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

4% of Magnificent

4%. This figure I keep repeating when I think about the old growth forests. There is only 4% left of the magnificent old redwoods, cedars, sitkas, and other evergreens. It's like the story of the buffalo: you think there's plenty to spare, but everything is expendable.

Here's some footage from our walk through the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith State Park on the northern California coast:

Happy in Weed

From Jedediah Smith State Park we took Highway 199 northeast. Our plan was to get to Weed, California. No particular reason except that it was our wedding anniversary and we had to spend it somewhere--why not in Weed? Actually, my travel plan includes Mt. Shasta and Redding and from there back to the coast for more redwood exploration.

The trip covered something like 130 miles, but took 4.5 hours over mountains and a quick side sweep into Oregon. Once we descended into Happy Camp, California, we were following the Klamath River. It reminded us of the Salmon River in Idaho a bit the way the road runs alongside the river. Happy Camp sure sounded appealing, until we discovered it was synonymous with Bigfoot. It is the home to many Bigfoot sightings. There were murals and signs and statues of Bigfoot all along the road through the tiny town. All this Bigfoot imagery spooked Allison who had her dose of Bigfoot stories from her father while we camped in the Oregon backwoods. As we were taking a quick rest stop along the river, I spotted a deer across the bank. I blurted, "Look, Allison, a...." And I turned to say, "deer," but she had already dashed to the inside of the Airstream. Poor child.

But on to Weed. You can only imagine the ribbing Weed gets: How many motorists pull off the road to pose, thumbs up, under it's signs. How many stupid stoner inferences. Weed Street, Weed Museum, City of Weed. How'd you like to be a graduate of Weed High? If you can get past the giggling stoner humor you'd learn that Weed is named for the founder of the lumber mill, Abner Weed. It is an historic lumber town and the mill is at the end of its main street.

Weed sits under the shadow of Mt. Shasta which makes for a dramatic backdrop. Tonight, the moon rose over the pinkish cast on the summit left by the sunset. It was beautiful. There is a lot to see nearby. We visited the fish hatchery (the oldest west of the Mississippi) and the Sisson Museum which was a homey little repository for the artifacts of the county's founding period. I particularly liked the homages to the early settlers who tackled climbing Mt Shasta back in the late 1800's. The first woman to do so was named, Harriet Eddy.

She'd migrated to Sisson with her brother after losing her husband and infant daughter to tuberculosis. I imagine she felt she had nothing else to lose. She never married again, but cared for her brother and other lumber workers. There was no sugar, but she baked pies anyway and sold them for a little cash. And when she climbed Mt. Shasta, custom dictated that she wear a dress. This little fact gives me pause: What little and incongruous steps society made towards female independence. There is a story there and I want to know more about this woman and her world.

Tomorrow--a walk along the McCloud River and a visit to the lumber mill.

The Magnificents

Apparently our drive through the southern Oregon Coast was during a major rain/wind storm. We hunkered down in Fort Orford thinking we'd visit Brookings the next morning, but by then we were ready for sunnier, drier conditions. We ended up in Jedediah Smith State Park near Crescent City, California, not much drier, but certainly beautiful. We parked in a beautiful spot along the Smith River. It had risen over 10 feet and the camp host warned us to keep an eye on it. It did rain a little through the night, but the river actually had begun to recede. The next two days we spent hiking through the giant redwood forests. The old trees (redwood, sitka spruce, fir) in Stout Grove were amazing, many over 300 feet tall. Our hike down Damnation Trail in the Del Norte Redwoods was a physical challenge for all of us. We were so proud of Allison for keeping up.

The 4.5 mile round-trip trail takes you on a 1000 foot descent to the ocean. But you can't actually get to the beach unless you crawl down a rock outcropping, so we just rested on the bluff eating our packed lunch. The hike took maybe 2.5 hours and all the way back we kept repeating, "What in the damnation!!!" Now we knew. That was the hardest trail we've taken, but so worth the effort.

I was without any internet access for three days. There are no Sprint towers in the area and Jedediah Park is too remote, so I had to just go rustic. We played games at night in Abby under the light from the lantern. It was a nice break.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tales from the Oregon Coast

Our stay in Portland was the longest on the trip--six days parked outside Sarah and Stuart's house. The Airstream acted as an apartment and we became neighbors that came to dinner every night. We broke our Ben Franklin policy regarding length of stay, but everyone seemed comfortable, especially Allison, who had her good buddy, Carly, to play with.

Yesterday we headed west, back to the Oregon coast. We took Highway 6 to Tillamook where we made a quick run through the Tillamook Cheese Factory (mildly interesting) and then began driving the coastline. We made a quick stop at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, a nice little gem of an attraction. There is a large exhibit devoted to crustaceans (huge lobsters and crabs) that were distractingly arousing to my appetite. I'm sure I'm not the first to wish for a bib and some drawn butter. My favorite section was this acrylic tunnel under a enormous aquarium. I took this shot of Allie on the runway as the overhead lighting warped the arch.

We found a nice spot for the night, the Carl Washburne State Park in Florence. Robert started a campfire, but the wood was too wet and no one wanted to sit with him while the wind whipped smoke into our eyes. Actually, Allison wouldn't come out of the trailer at all. Robert had spent the last three hours telling her Bigfoot stories. Don't you know Bigfoot creatures live in the remote forests of Oregon, probably in the very spot we were staying. We woke up with her in our bed, a habit we thought we'd recently broken.

The Oregon coast is rugged and in this October weather, very foggy. The wind was whipping up the sea and gusting across Highway 101 this morning. The Sea Lion Caves were temporarily closed due to the weather so we drove on. Robert had hoped to play golf at Bandon Dunes, but he's not eager to spend $250 to play in rain and wind. We stopped there to check the place out and I accidentally left my purse in the restaurant. We had to drive from Port Orford back to get it which put us in the middle of the rainy onslaught. We are now back in Port Orford buttoned-down for a stormy night. A fierce front has hit the southern Oregon coast prompting wind advisories and dumping hard rain. When we pulled into the RV park we didn't bother to unhook or set up the stabilizers. We'll just ride out the elements battering us from the outside. It feels like we're riding in a private train car with all the rocking. And now Robert is hollering for me to bring a pan to the bedroom. We've sprung a small leak. More updates later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Clariol #177: Shade of old motor oil

If I had to describe the inhabitants of Portland, Oregon in one word it would be: peaceable. People here seem so gentle and soft-spoken. What little I know of Oregon is that it is liberal and environmentally conscious. I think every home has twelve recycling bins and at least one War is not the Answer sign in the yard. (Okay, I exaggerate a little, but so does Stephen Colbert.) I tried helping Sarah in her kitchen but was too befuddled by how to sort the trash that I gave up. I'm not saying that Sarah and Stuart are liberal, or even gentle and soft-spoken, no, they might be the exceptions. But then, Sarah is really a displaced Texan and I like Texans.

I'm gentle myself, but I was tested today by an event that upset my mental equilibrium. I let somebody ruin my hair. I let them because I was desperate for any warm body with a beauty school certificate to fix me. I needed a touch-up to my dark roots and ever-graying hairline. I said, "Make my hair the color of my daughter's." A couple of weeks in the northwest and I was feeling the pull to go natural. Somehow I ended up with hair the color of used motor oil.

I thought I was handling the situation coolly, letting the hairdresser re-work his chemistry adding more goop to my hair. Two or three more trips to the rinse bowl and I began to comprehend the reality that this problem was not fixable. Hair is not like the photos that you tinker with in Photoshop. You can't just try on sepia or desaturated color and then say, "Nah, liked the original better." There's no double-click back to original. I began to question him and make other expressions of displeasure, at first mildly. He warned me to be positive so he could do a better job. As if my attitude could alter his competence. I tried being as zen as possible, telling myself it's only hair, I'm bigger than my hair. And other things like: Maybe a change will do me good. Maybe dull and plain is a good look for me.

Maybe you should let him pull a few lighter streaks through it, another hairdresser suggested. Her customer listened in and another until everyone was focused on me to see what commotion I would make and I was in a role I hate: the center of attention. The pressure in me found a crack, just a little crack, and I could feel I was about to blow. This is my hair, after all, any woman would sympathize. But I turned the situation into ridiculous comedy when I blurted: "NO! After this scene we've made he surely hates me and I won't have him do another thing to me!" "He doesn't hate you," the other hairdresser exclaimed, but her face showed a certain amusement and I knew it was time to just go away.

So, yeah, my hair is a problem, but I'll get over it. It's just hair, nothing to go to war over.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Pumpkin Patch

Our day at the pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island, near Portland.



Saturday, October 13, 2007

God Bless the Little Brother

This may be the best campsite so far: on the street in front of Sarah and Stuart Allen's house in Portland. Hanging out together here is just a continuation of our days together in Loreto. No formalities, just pure familial comfort. Robert and I adhere to the wise saying that fresh fish and company both stink after three days, but with the Allen's we feel inclined to overstay our welcome. We are having too much fun.

Yesterday, Sarah and I took a handful of kids (hers, mine, and others) to the Portland Zoo then for an ice cream run downtown. Today while the men were in Eugene for the Ducks game, we had a belated birthday party for Allison. It was Carly's idea to have a spa party. The girls set up stations throughout the house for different "treatments" It was a hoot to watch them pamper each other and more so to watch little brother, Clayton, do his part to help out. His job was to rub hands and feet which he did with such a focused effort towards proficiency. I wanted my turn with him. He's still too young to be disgusted with all things girly. What a good sport. I look at him and imagine Robert at his age, another little brother thrown into the world of sisters and their friends. Robert had sisters only--three that were older.

It took him a few years to comprehend the significance of gender difference before taking his place among the brotherhood of boys and begin scorning girls in earnest. Until that time however, he attended ballet class with his sisters--a fact they like to remind him of.

I believe this early immersion into the female domain did him much good. He genuinely likes being in the company of women. He has a healthy respect and understanding of women, much to my benefit. He is tender, and that is a really wonderful trait. But equally, he developed a strong sense of masculinity; this certainly due to any early overcompensation towards proving manhood (I've been known to call him a Neanderthal on frustrated occasions.) Overall, he's a well balanced guy, thanks, I believe, to his sisters.

The Bunnies of Sea Ranch

Our stay in Cannon Beach, Oregon will be memorable for the bunnies that ran free throughout the Sea Ranch Park. Here's the video:

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Oregon Coast in One Day

Last evening we pulled into Sea Ranch Park in Cannon Beach, Oregon. My intention was to get us close to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Clatsop, but I didn't understand where they were and we overshot by many miles. Robert got really cranky with me. He was stressed from the drive from Mt. St. Helens through highway traffic and a night-time arrival in a beach town we knew nothing about. I had to make a vow to be more alert to our camping plans so we aren't always arriving in the dark. Can't say I blame him; he does all the driving. I am supposed to be the navigator and planner. That is stressful in its own way.

I think I did okay with the accommodations in Cannon Beach. The park was fine enough, but what put it over the top with Allison was the bunnies hopping and grazing on the grounds. These were domestic rabbits that had been allowed to live freely in the park. All this morning Allie chased and coaxed them with vegetables from our refrigerator. We could barely pry her away to go site-seeing. When we did, finally, we took a long hike along the Indian Beach trail that meanders through forest and along the high ridge of the coast. The views were remarkable and famous. The old growth groves of pines rivaled the Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island for sheer splendour. From the trail close to the bluffs we could see the ceaselessly photographed, Haystack Rock, as well as Tillamook Lighthouse. Our hike up and back took a couple of hours and involved me carrying Allison piggyback towards the end.

We never made it to the Lewis and Clark sites. We were due into Portland to visit our good friends, Stuart and Sarah, and of course, their kids, including daughter, Carly. Allison is reunited with her friend once again. The joy of the bunny glen is already forgotten.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The view to Mt. St. Helens

I was determined we see Mt. St. Helens even if we didn't see it. We hoped the 50-something-miles uphill to the Johnston Observatory would be worth the effort even if we'd find the volcano shrouded in misty clouds.

If not for the helpful insights of the people who worked in the center, especially, Gerry, a forest service volunteer, our experience wouldn't have been all that interesting. I expected the center to be packed with exhibits and media presentations, but it was, in actuality, pretty sparse. We got more information through our conversations with the rangers and Gerry (pictured left.)

There was a large screen film that dramatized the explosion and its terrible aftermath. At the film's conclusion the screen retracts and curtains behind the screen open to reveal giant windows to Mt. St. Helens. The affect is supposed to be very dramatic, but in our case, the view was of: ta-da! Clouds. That got a chuckle from the audience.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Down the Columbia River Gorge

The drive along the Columbia River is spectacular especially westward from The Dalles. We stopped for one night in a remote campground near Trout Lake. Our campsite backed up to a beautiful meadow. The leaves are turning and the temperatures cooling and everywhere the campgrounds are thinning of people. The only person I encountered at the park was a man hunting mushrooms. I asked him how he identified the poisonous from the edible and though he gave good tips I would never venture to risk it. Next morning I encountered him again, this time he carried a shotgun to his side. "So now you plan to shoot the mushrooms?" No, he was down the road to shoot a grouse we'd both heard clucking in the woods.

To get to Trout Lake you must pass through the towns of Bingen and White Salmon that sit along the Washington bluffs of the Columbia River. This are towns that seem lost in time. I find myself thinking a lot about early settlers, those brave Oregon Trail pioneers. The land along the Columbia Gorge must have looked promising enough for them to drop their bags and call it home, but then, maybe they were just too weary to continue passage down the cascades and the narrow gorge. The climate is wet, the land subject to mudslides, and the winds harsh so maybe that helps explain why the area is so underpopulated today.

We made stops at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center as well as the Bonneville Dam. The salmon were long gone from the fish ladders and there was not a soul in sight except for the government employee that inspected our vehicle at the gate. We felt like the last people on earth in such a strange place. Inside, we could look through the enormous glass wall to the hydro-power generators. The rumble of the turbines vibrating beneath us contrasted eerily to the absolute stillness in the powerhouse.

Downstairs we wandered around opening doors and exploring staircases to discover an underwater fish observatory. There we found a few straggler fish trying to hold steady against the turbulent water of the fish runs. We'd come too late in the season to see the multitudes of salmon and other fish maneuver through the run upstream to spawn.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Some other time, Walla Walla, Washington

We kind of disappeared for a couple of days into the Yakima Valley. We had no strong inclination to visit the region other than to head east away from the rain in Seattle. From a quick search online I decided on the town of Prosser, reportedly in the heart of eastern Washington wine country. I admit I was disappointed as to the charm of this wine region--nothing like Napa/Sonoma, but being near ignorant of wine culture I figured why be judgmental on a thing as trivial as appearances? Still, a strip mall setting does take away some of the allure of the wine tasting experience.

There certainly was plenty of sunshine along with plenty of wineries and tasting rooms. Our first day there Robert and Allison enjoyed lounging in the RV park: Robert caught up on Sunday sports; Allie tackled the playground. Me, I walked the asphalt to the closest batch of tasting rooms. I can't say I fully enjoyed the wine. Vino at noon doesn't sit well with me. But I did enjoy my conversation with the owners of the Thurston Wolfe winery. I caught them behind their building hosing down the patio looking totally unglamorous in yellow Playtex gloves and rubber boots. They'd just finished a crush and were cleaning up. We joked about my look behind the curtain. They weren't hobbyists, but the real deal. Typically, I imagine the life of a wine maker to look like the spread in a luxury lifestyle magazine: a late afternoon sun setting on people gathered around an expensive linen-covered table surrounded with wood chairs pulled from the dining room and a bounty of cheese, artisan breads, and other delectables arrayed in rustic ceramic platters.

I considered leading us into Walla Walla for more wine excursions, but it's not really the best activity for a family so we began heading southwest towards the Columbia River. Now we would refocus on scenic drives and historical sites. We left the arid Yakima Valley for a dip into the forested moist landscape of the Columbia River Gorge. It seems we are continually passing through one diverse climate to another. It may be what sticks in my mind the most: How amazingly diverse the geology and climate of the North American continent. Well, any continent for that matter. It's just that this one is the first I've ever traversed across. And we only have something like 38 more states to visit.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Seattle is Super!

Seattle is behind us; we left this morning and headed west. Chuck and Deandra loaded us up with apple pie filling and best wishes for our continuing journey. I was hoping to stop in Issaquah to watch the Salmon Days festival, but we couldn't find an open RV park and the state parks nearby don't allow camping. Plus, it was raining, and Robert wanted to get to sunshine.

So, I researched online and landed us in Prosser, in the Yakima Valley in the heart of wine country. We are at, "Wine Country RV Park" on Wine Country Road which is a joke because the road is basically the access road off the highway and not as scenic as the name would suggest. However, it is a very nice facility and close to the numerous wineries in the area. We'll spend a day or two here before heading to Mt. St. Helen's and then to Portland, Oregon.

Seattle was a lot of fun. We spent more time visiting with friends and family than actually sight-seeing. On Thursday we met with my cousin, Christy at her home in Laurelhurst. We tracked down her college-age sons at the University of Washington who were kind enough to break away from their activities to see "family." The oldest gave us a quick look-see of the beautiful campus. The younger went for a walk with us through Green Lake Park where we could watch row teams glide through the water. He also escorted Allison to the playground where they romped around. Allison now adores Michael, who reminds her of her brother, Ryan, who also likes acting like a kid. Our geographical distance has kept Christy and I from being close, which is a shame since she is so terrific and has two sons the same ages as mine.

I missed out seeing my other cousin, Joe, who is a longshoreman in Mulkiteo. Next time. And there will be a next time, because Seattle is a place I look forward to returning to.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This is what road-school looks like.

People often ask us about how we school Allison on the road. Truth is, we don't have any formal program. We are too busy seeing places and people to sit down for school lessons. If we were at home she'd be in third grade. She'd be lucky to get a field trip to the Nutcracker at the Lyric in K.C. at Christmas time.

She loves to read so we keep books handy. I make her keep a journal. We have a goal for her to memorize the multiplication tables before Christmas. And since Robert hates to dig in his pockets for his reading glasses, it is Allison's job to figure out the tab at every restaurant we visit.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

All Shook Up in Seattle

We are not the only ones with friends in Seattle; Allison has her buddy, Liana, in Mercer Island. When I dropped her off to play, the two of them hugged and then ran upstairs so that all I ever saw of Liana was the back of her head. Liana's parents, Don and Jaymi are also homeowners in Loreto Bay. There are quite a few LB homeowners in the Seattle area since Baja California is a popular winter destination for them.

Don had complimentary tickets to the Seattle Museum of Flight which he graciously gifted us with. Today we visited the museum which is similar to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. We got our first glimpse of a Concord (much smaller than I imagined) and a walk-through of an Air Force One jet. Robert and Allie rode inside an aircraft simulator. Here's the movie:

Note to our friends: If we visit, you must make us pie

After disembarking the ferry from Bainbridge Island, we went straight to the home of our friends, Chuck and Deandra (more Loreto Bay homeowners.) They live on a hilly section of Bellevue where the houses lie in terraced rows, each with a panoramic view of Seattle and beyond. Chuck directed Robert to back our Airstream into the drive behind his house. I don't know how he managed since the narrow path was about 1/8 a mile long.

For all their other interests and accomplishments, Chuck and Deandra will always be the "pie people" to me. They produce speciality pie filling for William Sonoma. Even they admit this association has overshadowed their lives. Now all anyone wants to talk about is their William Sonoma connection and the process of producing pie filling--me included. I find the subject fascinating--and tasty. We got to sample their test-batch peach pie filling, and incredibly, were asked our opinion on the balance of the cardamon to lemon flavoring. Yeah, yeah, tastes great to us...can I have another sample, please?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

And the number one reason to live in Bainbridge Island is...

Bainbridge Island is someplace I never thought I'd visit. Until we met our friends, Vicky and Dave, (also Loreto Bay homeowners) I'd never even heard of it. Now I'm marking it on our list of favorite places I'd like to live. This little island directly west of Seattle is just adorable with it's cape cod cottages and cute main street near the ferry landing. Even with the rain and clouds, the island seems cheery. Vicky tells me the schools are in the top ranking for Washington. Horseback riding is popular, so Allison would be thumbs-up about it. And, of course, boating is part of the culture, so Robert would be happy. I liked the overall picture: cafes, shops, adorable houses surrounded in lush vegetation and tall cedars on skinny dead end paths, and the delicious feeling that all this good stuff is practically inaccessible to the rest of the crazy, bustling world. People who live on Bainbridge Island must feel pretty satisfied.

To get to Seattle you must take a ferry. Or if you're Dave, you walk down your private dock and take your own boat. This morning I watched as Dave, suitcase in hand, kissed Vicky goodbye and walked through the back door, and down the long skinny pier to his aluminum-clad Safeboat. He had a plane to catch in Seattle. I went with Vicky to her yoga class while Robert readied us for our departure via the ferry to Seattle. Yesterday, she insisted I tag along with her to aerobic class. I think I declined her invitation four times before giving in. We ended up having a great time together watching each other karate kick across the studio floor. I'd forgotten what silly fun hopping and lifting three pound weights to music can be.

Now that we were fast friends, she guided me through her town, eyeing real estate. Too bad that my favorite pick was a 1906 cottage on the bluff looking toward Seattle for a mere $1.5 million. Really, I think I could be happy living in Vicky's garage apartment overlooking the vegetable garden and the water on Port Madison. I could come to the main house for dinner and a stroll through her wine cellar and then disappear to the guest house till she calls me for aerobics in the morning. Life with Vicky would be so heavenly. Not only is she super smart and interesting, she cans her own preserves and makes pies. And she sculpts in stone. She's a good mom who drives her kids to the bus stop in her bathrobe so they don't have to get wet in the eternal Washington mist. And she doesn't care if you have to step over dirty laundry in the hallway or a pile of shoes in the mudroom to get to the door. And if she added too much salt to the pie dough, oh well--we're just friends, not company.

I may never live in Bainbridge Island, but if I did I'd have a great friend already lined up.