Friday, April 2, 2021

Pandemic Escape Trip

 After a year of staying close to home and seeing only a few friends, we were climbing the walls and ready to roll. So, after our second shots, we planned a looping drive that took us from the Oregon Coast to the Grand Coulee Dam and from rain and wind, to snow and fog, and to bright sunlight.


Almost every trip that finds us heading to the coast includes riding the ferry across the Columbia at Westport, Oregon. 









It’s a 10-minute ride on a ferry that holds about 15 cars. It ends up in Cathlamet, Washington, where, in the interest of stimulating the economy, we chowed down at Patty Cakes CafĂ©. (Salmon Panini highly recommended).


Then it was on to Dismal Nitch.

 Since it plays a small but crucial role in Mike's new book Angus McHaggis and the Bashful Sasquatch, he insisted on stopping there.

Lewis and Clark were pinned down there for five days, waiting out wind and high waves and dodging stones brought down by torrential rains. Was it a stroke of irony that the visitors’ center was closed and we couldn’t get to the actual nitch? We pondered that in our room overlooking the Astoria Bridge.


 Heavy rain abated overnight, but showers continued, the temperature hovered in the high 40s and the wind picked up. Depoe Bay was packed with spring breakers in shorts and sandals. We strolled past them in our layers and waterproof jackets, eyeing the breaking waves and rising swells.

 Were we relieved to find our whale-watching excursion was cancelled? We’ll let you decide.
 Later, on the beach at Newport, we discovered a “gift” from the waves, a huge orange fishing net float. 


Mike also discovered some world-class crab cakes and potato salad. If you find yourself in Newport, treat yourself to a meal at Georgies.


 In the morning, it was on to Bend. The storm that cancelled our boat trip had dropped snow in the mountains, but the sky was clear and the road was mostly plowed and slick in only a few spots. There were great views of the mountains including the Sisters and the peak below. Little did we know this was a training run for a later drive through another pass.

Three Finger Jack











The next day we headed for Baker City through the John Day Fossil Beds. Unless you prefer the canyons formed by tall buildings, this is fascinating terrain with rock formations in a range of colors that vary in intensity depending on the light.

 At Baker City we visited the city’s impressive historical museum and then headed for the Snake River through amazing canyons. Unfortunately, snow squalls blew in and, after a review of the meaning of mortality, we turned back and checked in at the Geiser Grand Hotel.

It’s a regular destination for ghost hunters and stories abound, but we didn’t see a single wisp or shimmer, and we didn’t hear things go bump in the night. Although the chandelier above Carolyn's bed swayed, We're pretty sure that was due to air from a nearby heat vent. But, maybe not.















If you’ve never been to Baker City, consider putting it on your bucket list. Where else can you find statues of baboons on roofs, an alligator crawling down a wall, ostriches and camels and a sculpture inspired by salt licks?











An inch of snow lay on the ground, but we told ourselves the storm would blow through and headed for Joseph and views of the Wallowa Mountains. The view mostly was obscured by snow and by the time we reached Joseph it was piling up, laying four inches on statues along the main street.





Again, we turned back, making a quick stop at a delightful small library in Wallowa. We were overjoyed to be allowed in and to be able to touch books not delivered curbside in a paper bag.

 At Elgin, we decided to go for 204 to Weston and then on to Walla Walla. After about 15 miles we encountered snow but this time we forged on—partly because turning back would have added many miles to our trip, but mostly because looming snow banks hemmed us in and narrowed the road so that turning would require several moves and put us at risk of being slammed by traffic coming the other way. Near the top of the pass, fog closed in and visibility dropped so much that it was difficult to see more than 50 feet ahead. 

It was nerve wracking, but you know we made it because Carolyn is writing this. Mike's note here. Carolyn has forever earned her title of "W.P. D. I. C." 




For the uninitiated that's "Winter Pilot Directly In Charge."



If you love wine, Walla Walla is a good place to stay. If you’re not a wine lover, it’s still a fine small city and many of the shops and restaurants were open for business in some form.Plus there were some interesting sculptures. You can try to figure this one out. We couldn't.

Thriving was not a word we'd use to describe many of the small towns we passed through on our way to Dry Falls and Grand Coulee Dam. We saw clear evidence of the wreckage left by closures and economic hardship—businesses closed not just for the season but forever, and a general air of weariness, frustration, and futility. Few cafes were open and many restrooms were locked. When we reached the dam and found the visitors’ center shut down, the joy of road-tripping faded in a serious way. But still, the dam was something Mike vowed to see in his lifetime and he got his wish. He claims he could hear Woodie Guthrie singing This Land is Your Land as he peered out at the immense structure.

We headed for Wenatchee and, by accident because we don’t possess a GPS and were without a map, settled in a hotel with a great view of the river. And we reached the point where, even though there were miles to go and a few things we wanted to see, the trip was over.



 Well, nearly over. Because there were still the rolling hills around Goldendale to see—hills where wind turbines stalked the crests, spinning with the steady current of air coming down the Columbia Gorge. 




And there was still Stonehenge to admire.


Okay, it’s only a replica, but the setting at the edge of the drop to the Columbia is stunning. The shadows cast by a sun a week past the equinox were stark, and those shadows indicated it was time to be home again.



Monday, September 28, 2020

Screw the "Good Old Days."


Michael Nettleton



I saw a Facebook post today that made me wonder.

Festooned with an American flag it read: “I’m not a Republican or Democrat, I’m an American. And I want my country back.”

 Alrighty, then. Hard to dispute with both parties busy throwing hand grenades at one another. But, wait. Which America did you want back?

 Was it the America of the 50’s, when racial segregation was widespread and accepted as a way of life? Where you could be clubbed to death for standing up for your rights and your killer would walk free? Where women were expected to include the word “little” in front of their description, stand three feet back of their husbands and nod lovingly at every pearl of wisdom that dribbled from his mouth? And accept the fact you’d be paid half of what a man made for doing exactly the same work? And know you’d never have a voice in the decisions made in Washington D.C.? An America where you could lose your job and your livelihood based on an anonymous accusation that you were a communist. Is this the America you miss?

 Or how about those fun loving 60’s? When we were killing tens of thousands of our young people (but not the sons and daughters of the wealthy) in a war that military experts knew couldn’t be won. A war that primarily enriched the obscenely rich owners of munition companies and other defense-related corporate welfare recipients? A decade where beating up queers was considered great sport and protestors were gunned down on college campuses for expressing their opinions? Are you a fan of political assassinations? We had gosh a plenty of those in the sixties. Do you long to return to those times?

 Or jump ahead to the “greed is good” 80’s, (We’ll skip the 70’s. Disco music. ‘Nuff said.) Reaganomics, where the average American working stiff was fed the lie of “trickle-down economics” not realizing he was the one being trickled down upon by the obscenely wealthy people standing over the economic urinal. Oh, those were the days, alright. When girls were girls and men were men. Oh we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again! (God, I long for the Great Depression. When America was truly great.)

 Here’s my point. Every period of American history was flawed in some way. That’s why the statement “I want my country back” is really delusional thinking. What I want. What I really, really want, is my country forward.

(They don’t call me “Pudgy Spice” for nothing.)

I want a country where laws and customs treat all people equally. Where you don’t have to worry about being pulled over for “driving while being black” if you’re a person of color.

 I want a country where people are valued and respected regardless of their sexuality, religion (or lack thereof), language, skin color or place of origin. And where they don’t have to fear job or social discrimination because of any of those things.

 I want my country to move forward and elect and appoint public officials based on their qualifications, not how large a donation they made to a candidate or how many millions they can afford to spend on fear-mongering campaign advertising. For example, we should have a Secretary of Education who has worked as a teacher and/or administrator in the public schools. And, oh yes, we should base national medical policy on science not politics and magical thinking.

 I want an America where peaceful protest of all kinds is not misrepresented as being “disrespectful” or “un-American.” This country began as a protest. We should respect and value that principle. Looters and people, who damage property or harm others of course, should be arrested, prosecuted and serve jail time.

 And, I want an America, going forward that acknowledges the contribution that immigrants and refugees have made to the texture of our nation, and encourages those displaced from their places of origin to feel welcomed here. Does that mean open borders? No. But it also doesn’t mean an expensive and ineffective wall that is strictly the product of political posturing and fear-mongering about a non-existent invasion by “them.”

 My forward-looking wish list for America could go on for a lot longer. But, suffice it to say, I don’t long for “the good old days.” Instead, I hope we can come together and create “the good old days” for future generations.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Getting Past Pandemic Fears

Carolyn J. Rose




Fear can cause us to fight. But fear can also cause us to freeze. And early reports about the pandemic did that to me. Even with a mask and gloves and a pop-up dispenser of wipes, I was afraid to leave the house. Paralyzed with fear, I brooded about all the activities I was missing out on, took my temperature several times a day, and read every scrap of information that appeared in the paper or on the internet.

And then, because so many reports conflicted with others, I got a grip and forced myself to get past the fear. Quarantine days can seem to be all the same. To counter that, I made a plan and designed a structure for each day. My goal was to begin with anticipation and direction, and end with a sense of accomplishment.

The first step was to eat right and exercise to stay as healthy as possible. The pool and gym were closed, but I got out into the yard and out on the streets for a long walk every day. I raked and weeded and pruned. When it got warmer, I painted and planted. I tried new recipes and ordered meals I’d never tried from local restaurants to do my bit to help them stay afloat.

The second step was to create ways to generate positive feelings and feel I was making progress instead of marking time. I made a list of chores I’ve been meaning to get around to for years and, one by one, I got around to them. I cleaned and sorted and reorganized, I enjoyed the tasks because, with nowhere else to go and not much else to do, I was able to take my time.

The third step was to network close to home. While I was walking and weeding, I waved at and then talked to neighbors whose names I didn’t know. I learned their names quickly and now we have social-distancing get-togethers where we bring our own drinks and food and chat for an hour or two. We help each other by shopping and running errands, lending books, recommending movies and TV shows, and passing along advice and recipes.

The fourth step was to reach out. As I culled and reorganized, I sent photos and knickknacks and books to friends I hadn’t seen for years. They responded. I wrote back. Now, I begin each day by emailing about 40 people who live all across the country, in Mexico, and in Scotland. I send short essays about the hummingbirds at my feeder, stealthy ways to give away zucchini under cover of darkness, worst and best teachers, memories of life in the 1950s, etc. When people respond and react, I often share their comments. We have a sense of community.

The final step was to make a list of what’s really important to me now and another of what will be important when the pandemic passes. As it turns out, the same things are on both lists—health, friendship, and a sense of purpose.