Monday, September 12, 2011

Drivecation 0-11: Day 13 - Home again

Our last day was a blur of excitement.  We stayed one night in San Fran at an extended stay hotel.  The room was nice enough and we had an early breakfast with Josh.  The cracks began to show as our culinary gorge-fest was winding down.  Who serves a crepe filled with strawberry and pineapple?  It didn't work.  It doesn't work.  Don't do it again.  I stuck the entire plate on a stake and lit it on fire as a warning to future diners.

But we were there for the company.  It was really nice to visit with Josh again, and hopefully we can make another trip so we can spend more time.  After we left, I was sucked by a violent wind into the Halloween shop, which was next door.  We got a lot of good ideas for this year (Invitations will go out soon!).

We left for the Disney Family Museum, which is operated by the Disney Family, and the exhibit is of the entire life of Walt, the man.  From his early childhood all the way through his death.  There are two or three huge rooms before you even get to the creation of Oswald.  It's one of the coolest museums I have been to.  All the information was presented in such unique and interesting ways, and as technology progressed throughout the century, so did the technology with how they presented the information.  From simple audio broadcasts to eventually touch screen, and other interactive technology.  I don't know how little kids would like this, but pre-teens on up would enjoy it.  It was like walking through a biography special.  Highly recommended.

Time for lunch!  Our final recommendation from the couple we met in Eureka: Sushi Ran in Sausilito.  It was a very nice restaurant located around a bunch of other nice shops near the water.  The menu was pretty traditional, but he combined--I hesitate to "ordinary," but I already used the word "traditional," and the quality of the fish was anything but "ordinary," seriously some of the best sushi I have ever had!--ordinary ingredients in new and fun ways.  There was eel, with cucumber and tamago, which is the sweet egg (think scrambled egg omlette in a rectangle shape), so you have this warm delicious eel and rice and seaweed, and then a crunchy cucumber and suddenly the sweet egg, which works so well, since eel sauce is itself sweet--I believe it's made with sugar and soy.  It was really yummy.  Then we had a creamy scallop roll, which was made with scallops and crack.  We debated if we should order a palette of those.  Sooo good.

And the tea!  It was nice to go to a Japanese restaurant that actually has a modest assortment of tea.  Nothing crazy, but there were a couple of different herbal infusions, as well as green, white, and black flavors to choose from.  I'm so sick of the cheap-ass brown-rice green tea being the only option in LA.  Can't you at least offer some cheap-ass jasmine tea?  We all know you can buy that shit cheap.  Why the hold-out?

We had never been to Sausilito before and it was nice, except for all the cyclists we ran over.  God, the screaming!  So annoying.

By this time, it was getting late, and it was going to be tight if we were going to make it to Cupertino to buy some Apple merch.  You seriously think we're going to pass up that opportunity?  Why do you think we came this way?  We made it there just before closing, praise Jesus.  But last minute shopping cram wasn't over, because there are Outlets in Gilroy.  No, no, my friends, not just garlic, but also savings opportunities, and lord knows we didn't spend enough money on crap already.

By this point, like my writing aptitude in this essay, I was done.  Put me in the teleport machine and get me home.  Unfortunately that teleport machine was going to take five hours, and one of us would have to operate it continuously.  By this point, there was no way we were going to make it before midnight.  Work tomorrow was going to suck.  For our official final meal of our vacation, it was a double-double at In N Out.  It was delicious.

The trip back was uneventful.  We listened to an audio book for a while, and when Gregory was starting to get a little sleepy, I took over driving and we talked the rest of the drive home.  We arrived home around 1AM, and dropped all of our bags in the front room, to the combined delight and terror of the cats (aah! who are these people?, and yay! a jungle gym!).  We collapsed, ready to let the post vacation sugar plums, dance in our heads.  Portland was nice.  I'm intrigued enough to visit again in a serious way--not just a casual date, but a date-date.  There are many things still to do, most notably the seven-million-picture flip-book that needs photoshopped.  We look forward to seeing our friends again, too, of course.  But I have a feeling the next time we visit, we're going to fly.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Drivecation 0-11: Day 12: Unexpected Detour

This morning we retaliated like Twisted Sister when we awoke to more gray skies, white foggy blur, and cold, wet weather.  We're not gonna take it...anymooore!  We ate our hotel's complimentary full breakfast, which included the following: B&G, a pancake machine, scrambled eggs, potatoes, cereals, some pitiful pastries, bananas that looked half beat to death, a variety of juices, milk and coffee.  It's part of your complete hospital breakfast.  We selected some of the least offensive items, and picked at them until we realized, "who are we kidding?"  We threw that shit away and left.  A for effort, but we had new plans for the day and were excited to get going:

Our ultimate destination for today was San Francisco, and since our dinner plans with Joshy changed to breakfast plans tomorrow, we had the rest of today to adventure. We decided to leave the miserable coast, who just didn't get the memo that it's summer, and headed inland toward the Napa Valley and wine country, USA.  Sorry coast, it's not me, it's you.  You need to work on your issues, and I'm going to go get blasted.

We were sad to discover the road from Fort Braggamemnon to the Napa Valley was another windy road, but this time, I can use the adjective treacherous.  The speed limits on many of these roads was 55, which was very generous and possibly daring, as if the highway department were given the job of population control.  There were some seriously dangerous blind turns and descending S curves where if you made a turn just a little too wide while another car was coming the other way--or as we encountered many times, a giant truck with highway-fixin' gear--blammo.

We managed to make it to the northern part of the wine country without dying or vomiting.  We would have to be content with living healthy lives.  Ugh.

So one of the things which most excited me about the wine country, aside from EVERYTHING!, was there was one particular winery whose wine I had at a tasting at Palermo back in January or so.  The winery was one of the oldest and the only made one thing: Petite Syrah, and this is the most amazing wine I have ever had.  It just stood head and shoulders above all the other wines we tasted and I was excited to travel to the winery and see it for myself.  A little research showed they only do tastings by appointment, and it was pretty expensive.  I was apprehensive to spend $45 per person to taste the wine, especially since Gregory isn't very interested in it--though I felt he would like this.  And it was our anniversary... he talked me into it, saying, "Let's just do it.  Who cares?"

We tried the 2006 and the 2007 and the even let us try a barrel sample of something they call the Sweet Petite, which is a port-like wine that was just fabulous and interesting and plain delicious.  We also joined their wine club and bought a few 375's.

After that, we stopped at a lunch place that had over 600 Yelp reviews and still had 4 1/2 stars.  Amazing!  And it was!  The key lime pie was something special there.  Our food was really good, but that pie was spectacular.  Our waitress was really nice.  I wanted to take her home, but apparently kidnapping is frowned upon.  Besides I really couldn't think of what I would need a waitress for.  I decided to let her stay and she seemed very grateful to be let out of the trunk.

We decided to cruise quickly into the city of Napa and then over to it's rival Sonoma.  The war between them must have waned, because it appeared they had stopped firing canons at each other.  That must be what happens when the wineries close at 5:30.  We frantically searched for the slutty wineries that stayed open later and we found a black-laced Nicholson Ranch that wooed us in with some pinots, but sealed deal with their merlot, a surprising move I didn't expect to like.  We also bought a clock from them.  Because.

After that we headed in to San Fran over the Golden Gate as the fog was rolling in.  Oh great.  More fog. Well at least here, you can expect shitty weather year round.  We had scoped our our restaurant of choice, with the help of the lovely couple a few nights prior, and parked.  Gregory had the idea to swing on over to the Disney store for some merch, and insisted it's not that far.  Oh, sure only a couple of miles in the freezing cold wind.  And to make matters worse, we elected to head down Market street, the urine-soaked homeless crazy magnet.  And they were out in full force.

We made it to the Disney store and I ducked out to make a quick loop through the Macy's clearance racks--meh, it was a very quick loop, and we reconvened.  I have decided that I hate San Francisco, or at least I was all set to, when, as Gregory and I met up on the street, some trumpet player was belting out some jazz somewhere up the street and it echoed off the buildings and sounded so haunting and so "city."  We set out for our anniversary dinner at the gourmet restaurant recommendation: Absinthe.

We had a 9PM reservation and were there exactly on time.  Steak tare-tare was on the menu and was irresistible and delicious.  Gregory ordered the Hawaiian Opah (Sun Fish) with Blue Prawns.  I had the Lamb Shoulder Confit, and a wine that was a Cab-Merlot-Syrah mix (like a transformer).  Everything was delicious, amazingly delicious.  The Opah was flavorful and unlike anything I had in recent memory.  The lamb was so delicate you didn't even need a knife.  For dessert, I ordered the Manjari Chocolate Mousse, which featured raspberries and a rooibos tea sauce.  Gregory had buttermilk Panna Cotta with a basil meringue, and a layer of strawberry and some crunchy shit.  Oh my god.  It was BEWILDERINGLY amazing.  I just wanted to cry it was so delicious.  The flavors were flying!  The sensations of a delicious meal just enveloped our entire being.  It was a wonderful end to our vacation and a beautiful anniversary dinner.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Drivecation 0-11: Day 11

Our vacation goes up to 11!  Today was a challenging day to find a breakfast place, being the holiday.  We ended up driving through Eureka, which is a town roughly the size of Elko, but severely lacking in any kind of cultural center.  Elko has a pretty cohesive rustic charm, and this just seemed all over the place, a freshly restored and painted building done up in a turn-of-the-century style and on the next block, an abandoned, rusted out killin' shack.

Yelp led us to a bagel place, but they didn't publish their hours, and turned out to be closed.  It was just as well, because just down the street was a nice little breakfast place called Old Towne Coffee and Chocolates.  I ordered a plain bagel with fresh blackberry jam, and Gregory ordered a lox and cream cheese bagel.  The bagels were light and easy to chew: everything we like in a bagel.  They had a Mexican mocha, which was basically Abuelita with a shot of espresso (if you haven't had Abuelita, it's a yummy chocolatey drink now available in your local grocery store.  Ask for it by name!).  Gregory ordered a Chai and was faced with the option of sweet or spicy.  He went for spicy, which surprised me, and when it came, surprised us both, really.  Boy was it ever.  Cardamom up your nose!  It was also hot like a cup of lava, and remained so for quite some time.  I'm surprised it didn't melt the cup.  It took about four hours before we could start to sip it, but it was possibly the best Chai I have had.

We decided to continue our drive south, which took us away from the coast and slightly inland, and hopped off of Highway 101, and took the Avenue of the Giants, which was basically a smaller windier road through lush Redwoods.  These were slightly different from the day before, in that the temperature was much higher--in the 70's!--and the forest floor was less lush.  It was more dirt and less overgrown, the occasional fern and clover, and also more varied tree types.  But the Redwoods were no less impressive.

We hiked on several trails and took a ton more pictures, and just spent time looking and enjoying the wilderness.

We continued down the Avenue, which eventually ended and rejoined Highway 101, which took us over the mountains and back to the coast.  Call this road what you will, "that goddam road," "the mangler," "the vomitorium."  This is the windiest highway in the universe.  Lombard Street has nothing on this.  You can't get going fast enough down Lombard to even make you queasy.  I didn't really get car sick, but felt a little uncomfortable and I was driving.  Gregory felt a little uneasy, but I think that it was mostly due to my driving, since he made me pull over so he could drive--well, coupled with the cartoon-like sheer cliff, fall-to-your-death-if-you-drive-off-the-shoulder, didn't help either.

We finally made it to the California coast and headed for our next destination: the town of Fort Bragg, a speed bump in the highway on your way to San Francisco, which, the only speed bumps I can think of are roadkill.  So, yes, a dead-animal of a town along the northern California coast: welcome to Fort Bragg.  I'm kidding.  Let's go with wounded animal.  Yes, a badger-with-a-mangled-rear-leg of a town: Fort Bragg!  You're welcome!

Speaking of meat, for dinner, Gregory ordered a bacon-wrapped filet mignon rare, and I a porterhouse medium rare, with brandy-cream sauce, garlic mash, and veggies.  The veggies aren't anything to write home about (are they ever?), which I find so strange.  The last couple of experiences with the steamed or grilled veggies have been so whatevery, clearly they are some afterthought, or obligatory thing that has to appear on the plate due to some regulation.  You can't think of anything better to do with carrots or squash?

Did I mention our waiter was Tom Selleck?  He didn't have an alligator to wrestle, but that's probably because it was 55 degrees outside.  What is up with this crazy weather?  Is it always this foggy and miserable on the NoCal coast?  In August?  It feels like LA winter, including the cold bite in the sea air.

Anwyay, Gregory's steak arrived not only rare, but European-rare.  Mine was American medium-rare, and the leap was surprising.  It was yummy, though.  Seared and even a little cold on the inside.  So tender and delicious... Tom brought us Creme Brûlée for dessert, since it was the only thing they made there (the other options were food-service items, and we wanted some home-cookin'), and this was the thickest brûléed creme I have ever had: it was thick like cheesecake or spread.  The sugar layer on the top wasn't thick enough for my personal liking, but overall it tasted good, and it was in front of us so, like dogs, we ate it.  We bade Tom farewell, and returned to our room at a Holiday Inn Express.  I don't know if all the HIE's have the same soap, but ours smells like gingerbread, and it is all I can do to keep from absently gnawing on my arm, as I type this.

Tomorrow we need to get an early start to make sure we maintain our schedule.  One of our objectives is to meet up with Joshy and he has limited time between his jobs tomorrow to meet, so that means an early dinner, which also means an early everything else if we want to cram in as much in as possible before our arrival in San Mateo no later than 4PM.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 10 - From Crescent City to Eureka

Today was a nice and gentle driving day.  We didn't have far to go, and there were several fun detours.  We started off by finding a nice breakfast place to get an omelette and coffee.  Gregory had the Monte Cristo.  I knew the restaurant was going to be good just by the nature of our waitress.  She had the know-how and charm that you expect in a small town establishment and I was ready to profess my love when she returned with my bacon-avacado-cheese omelette (which had been topped off with a little sour cream) along with my buttered toast and side of heart medication.  Since I was already married, she was just going to have to settle for my thanks, and five bucks.

We drove through the booming metropolis that is Crescent City, past the happenin' empty park and a bustling row of empty buildings, over near the coast where some large rocks and a lighthouse were enveloped in heavy fog.  Being late morning, the sun was up, making the surroundings really into a blur, which made me wonder why so many people had gathered at the coast.  It was cold, by the way, like 55 fahrenheit degrees--that's the high.  I had pants a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, and a hoodie on.  I pondered taking some dirty clothes and creating a make-shift parka around me.  It was cold and wet and a lot of people were gathered to look at "the blur."  I can't imagine that as a draw, but given the exciting pitch of what we had seen of the town, I can't think of anything better to do.

"Come on, everyone, we're going to go down and look at the blur!"

After three minutes of photographing rocks, water, and white, we decided we just couldn't art up the photo essay of our trip any more and left for literally greener pastures.

The next stop was a bit north.  We allowed ourselves to back-track slightly to visit the Jedidiah Smith State Park, which was a Redwood Forest and a 90-spot camp ground.  The river was incredibly wide and the water was the cleanest and clearest I had ever seen in a body of water such as that.  It was pretty shallow, but as clear as glass (that was wavy and perhaps made of water).

We hiked the 1.5 miles, but it felt more like 2.5 due to the twists and turns.  I wore the Go-Pro camera on my head with a headband and a lot of people asked me if I worked for Google.  I replied to each and every one with a pie in the face.  Unfortunately Gregory was stuck having to haul a refrigerator of pies with us through the wilderness.  One thing that has been entertaining about the GoPro on this trip, either on one of us, or on the car, 99% of the time, if there is a guy and a girl, the guy will look with interest, the girl won't even notice.  The one exception was a car full of girls who waved and were all excited to see it.  We decided those girls whoever they were, rocked.

The campgrounds were really neat, though too crowded for me, but as a kid, I would have LOVED it.  Tons of trails and other kids to play with, and the place was pretty good sized, but not so big that you would get lost.  Plenty to do to fill the day, and night.  Seeing these big families assembled, and the smell of campfires took me back to when I went camping with my family in places similar to this.  It also made me want s'mores.

The trees were amazing.  It looked like Endor, and being in California, there is a good chance it probably WAS Endor.  The ferns and ground cover were bright green against the dark ruddy brown of the immense trees.  The other thing I found so amazing was not only the size of the trees, but how dense they were, that the soil had enough nutrients to power so many gigantic trees in such a small space.  I know my description isn't going to do this justice.  I took enough pictures to completely re-create the forest (but don't worry, I'll post them online, so they won't have to chop down the forest to cover having them printed).

Our next stop was at the TREES OF MYSTERY a few miles south.  This was also a Redwood forest, but it felt much more ancient.  The early Indians thought of this place as sacred and walking around, you can see why.  There is just an aura about it that speaks from such an old place in history.  It's awe-inspiring, and tough to describe.  Gregory had been here as a child and remembered parts of it, but since then they added a gondola ride to the summit, which supposedly had a nice view.  Those are things that we like, so we gave them our money and ascended to the top.  Ordinarily they offer a view to the ocean, but since the weather at the beach was "blur," we had a view of the trees fading to white, and then some blue stuff above that.  I think they call that the sky.  Ugh!  See what Crescent City can do to you?  Get out now, while you still can!

There were some incredible trees and the things I liked the most were the full sized trees growing out of other trees.  I'm not talking about branches.  These were more than branches.  These were trees grown on branches.  It was an amazing sight to behold.

We stopped along the highway a couple of times to take pictures.  One of the things we happened upon was a herd of 20 or so elk--big elk--just hanging out by the beach.  A lot of people stopped to take pictures.  I put on my eatin' dress.  They looked so tasty, just hanging out by the thick salty sea air.  It was as if they were brining up!

We checked in at our hotel, luxuriating in our extremely non-smoking room, and figured out where to go to dinner.  Our good friends at Yelp suggested Brick & Fire, a little bistro somewhere in town (I would have said "near downtown," or at "such and such neighborhood" but I know nothing about Eureka).  Chèvre stuffed figs wrapped in prociutto and a seafood stuffed calamari filet got us off on the right foot.  I sipped a pinot grigio in anticipation of our mushroom pasta, which was light and beautiful with a variety of wild mushrooms.  For dessert we had Amaretto drizzled peaches over Spanish bread.  It was quite yummy!

The funnest part about dinner is we met a couple from the San Francisco area and they gave us a number of restaurant suggestions between here and there, and also in the city.  They were really nice and also on an anniversary trip, and we had a good time chatting with them about Portland and San Diego, and various other topics.  We talked about inviting them over for a game of Hungry-Hungry Hippos, but it was getting late, and I still needed to flush the sand out of my Slenderalls.  More adventures tomorrow!

Day 9 - Portland to Crescent City

Today was our catch-up day.  We needed to get to our hotel in Crescent City which was a seven-hour drive, and there were two ways to go:  the way we would have gone on the highways to the 101 (different from the LA 101) and down the coast, or more of a straight shot along the freeway.

We decided to see as much as we could so we elected the back-highways.  We left our lovely hotel room at the Modera, and said farewell to Portland, whose undeniable charm has us intrigued enough to return soon--aside from the bonus of having friends there (Meagan and Jim, we miss you already!).  Today was all about driving, driving, driving.  As a result, there were many lovely looking places that we passed, cute towns with shops and junk, vista points, and other various places.  We wanted to stop, but we were pressed for time, so when we did, our stops were short, the shutters flew, and we hopped in the car to continue to the trip.

The first city where our hotel was to be was Newport.  We stopped here for lunch.  It looked like a beautiful little town, but we sadly never left the highway.

Our next town was Gold Coast.  I don't think we even stopped here… I don't even remember it.

The light began to fade, and as we neared the California / Oregon border the foggy marine layer moved in, and the atmosphere became mysterious.  The drive became a challenge and fog lights came in handy.  I'm sure Gregory was white-knuckled as we sped through the foggy darkness.

We came to Crescent City and were disappointed that our room was a smoking room.  They were completely booked up, as were all the other hotels in the area, being a holiday weekend.  We apparently forgot to check "non" when we made the reservation.  It wasn't horrible.  I had smelled worse.  It only smelled a little like freshly smoked cat pee and vomit (why people smoke cigarettes is still beyond me).

It was 9PM by now and we needed to find a small-town restaurant that was still open.  The best recommendation was the restaurant attached to the Best Western down the street: the Northwoods (the real recommended place was already closed, so this the concierge's second choice).  Overall it was good.  Gregory had sturgeon and I had scallops and steak, which also came with veggies and a side of garlic fettucini, plus a trip to the soup and salad bar, because I needed to eat a giant mountain of food at 9:30 at night.  We opted for a slice of blackberry pie for dessert as it was actually made there.  It had an almost bready crust, not a flaky pastry pie crust.  It was fine, like having pie from someone whom this is their first attempt at making pie.  Like, "isn't this adorable," and "ooh yummy!"


Really it was fine.  We were just tired from the trip and were grumpy about the room.  We discovered in the morning, that we have a lovely view from our room, and we can see and hear the ocean.  Our next task is to find a breakfast place with some good coffee.  And then it's on to the Redwoods!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Portland (or rather, Elko) Day 7 and 8

There was much to do in Elko to make the final preparations for Grandpa's service. One thing that was decided prior to my arrival, had to do with the music, which previously consisted of some big band music from the 50's and 60's, but was to be replaced entirely with music which I composed. It was up to me to select the tracks and I had to peruse my catalogue for something emotionally appropriate.  So, no Star Wars parody or werewolf music.

I assembled a list that everyone approved, so I made arrangements to burn a CD at Johnny's house that night.

Around dinner, Kelly, Johnny and I got together to coordinate our thoughts for the service which took place Friday morning.  Being so many years apart we had very different experiences:  Kelly still remembered Grandpa's first wife, Evelyn (who was nicknamed Teddy).  Johnny only slightly remembered her, and I never knew her.

Sometime after Teddy died, Grandpa married a friend whom many of the family knew.  I grew up with Grandpa Doug and Grandma Gen and didn't learn about Teddy until I was old enough to understand the bramble that is our family tree.

While I was growing up Grandpa was retired and he and Gen traveled a lot, and spent the winters near Vegas.  Kelly spent time with Grandpa growing up and even worked for him at his store while Grandpa still owned it, but of the three of us, Johnny spent the most time with Grandpa and Uncle John.  They were into hunting, fishing, and Uncle John and Johnny were into water skiing.  Grandpa owned an auto-parts and sporting goods store called PM Supply, and was a very good, and well-respected, businessman.  A few old timers commented about how that was when business was conducted with a handshake and your word meant something, and that, men like Grandpa built towns because of their business acumen and ethics.  It was a damn stirring tribute.

Grandpa was an early adopter and gadget guy, with things like color TV, a remote control TV, a microwave, and he was also into model airplanes and carpentry (skills he got from his father, who was born in Sweden and trained as a cabinet maker).

One of the cool revelatory things was that because he had invested in properties in the Ruby Marshes and out at Wildhorse, it basically provided a place for the family to gather, and all the guns and boats and other toys and various sporting activities provided a childhood for his kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. It was really neat to think of everything he had accomplished by doing this.

It was nice to reminisce and also to spend time together.  And I was all the happier that it really felt like a celebration of his life.  Grandpa was a very active guy, and only went seriously downhill in the last year or two.  All the hiking he did while hunting all those years earlier.  Cardio seriously pays off.

I have often felt that if you have been to one funeral, you've been to too many, but burying a high-school classmate, or a 40-year old in the prime of his life is a very different thing than burying a 98 year old man.  I know how I feel about death now, and it is different from a lot of other people's view.  I really did my best to put aside my cynicism, and steel myself against any needless emotion.

But despite my best efforts, seeing the cautious touch as his daughter brushed his cheek and smoothed his hair for the last time, effortlessly shattered any defenses I put up.  Don't get me wrong, I kept it together respectably, but on the inside my mascara was running.  Patsy lived with Grandpa for pretty much her entire life, and knowing the closeness of that relationship, how they had cared for each other especially in recent years, and seeing the reality of it sink in was just heartbreaking.  Like when you see an adult vulnerable for the first time.

There were a lot of tearful comments and readings at the service, but it didn't feel sad and regretful.  More like saying, "it was a good cry," but I don't mean that literally, I didn't really cry.

I mean I know it wasn't him, but damn it looked like him and--I don't know if I was the only one--but I kept expecting him to snore.

After the service was over, we convened at John and Phyllis' house for a reception and lunch.  The day was beautiful and cloudless.  There was a light breeze and mixed with the hot sun, it was a perfect "chardonnay and cheese plate" sort-of-day.  Unfortunately I had a three-and-a-half hour drive immediately following the reception back to Salt Lake, so no Chardonnay for me.  I left latish with the idea I wouldn't have to wait as long at the airport, but as Murphy's law was still in effect, my flight was delayed almost three hours.

So I type this from SLC waiting for the plane to arrive to return me to PDX where the vacation can continue.  It turns out the plane was delayed by closer to four hours.  It was coming from Denver and I can only assume it had to make a quick stop in Shanghai.  But now I am back in Portland, and we wrap this part of our trip tomorrow morning, and will drive to our next destination.

In the meantime, Gregory has told me about his two days with Meagan and Beth: the amazing sushi he ate, and the impromptu whirlwind trip to Seattle, and how cool the Space Needle was, and how much fun they had at Pike's Market.  I, in turn, made him jealous with my stories of Chevron trail mix and KFC.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Portland Day 6: From the Columbia River Gorge to Elko

Today was a busy and long day.  Gregory and I found ourselves at a donut shop to have a "famous" apple fritter.  I just had a basic unfrosted cake donut because I hate kittens and everything fun.  The fritter was sadly over cooked and Gregory left in a huff slamming every door twice, just to make sure they understood how unacceptable such a thing can be.

So what is the logical substitute for a bad donut? Pizza, of course!  If at first you don't succeed, have another fattier entree.  We went to a pizza place and got a huge slice and some garlic knots, which was entirely too much food that early in the morning, but we are professionals.  And we had a long day of looking at things planned, so we needed all the strength, carbs and fat we could pile on.

I spent the rest of the year eating pretty healthy, so what's a couple of weeks of indulgence?  Aside from birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Easter, Arbor Day, Presidents Day, the Oscars, the Emmys, the Schmemmys, Fat Tuesday, Independence Day, Halloween, New Years, and the solstices, I keep the lard to a minimum.  My pizza was a feta, kalamata olive, and basil (I'm sure the sodium intake was enough to fell a zebra).  Gregory got pepperoni.  They were big and flat -- NY style, which I like.  One was enough, but it needed to be followed by six garlic knots.  Yes, I said, "needed," I said.

We journeyed into the Columbia River Gorge, stopped at one of the falls and looked through their gift shop of junk.  It was entertaining and I really wanted some of that junk.  I kept trying to find a way to convince myself we needed it for something.  I stared a hole into a set of coffee mugs trying to justify the purchase.  There were even the kind that I hate: the ones that are oversized and really hold three cups of coffee and seven gallons of gas.  I managed to escape with my wallet and my dignity intact.

Our final stop up the gorge (for now) was one of the big dams on the river.  It was an impressively large facility, and we happened into the visitor center just as a tour was getting underway.  Claudia was her name and she not only knew her stuff, but it was evident from her delivery that she really loved her job, she loved talking about the facility and it was really refreshing to see.

She explained the various ways the young salmon are skirted around the dam, and how the fish ladder works for the returning mature salmon, and various ways they try to protect them from the various predators, such as osprey and sea lions.  I was excited to look at the fish ladder and one thing that was kind of cool, is there is actually a counting room, where they count the different species of fish that swim through the ladder.  There is a fairly narrow passage way, so the fish have to pass by and they are easy to see.

We stopped by the impressive 60-foot loch, to catch the end of a boat tour, as they ascended from the lower river.  Our last stop at the dam was the fish hatchery, where I was all jazzed up to see the white sturgeon.  It was like a 10-foot catfish, only cuter in a manatee sort of way.  It moved very slowly and methodically.  Sadly, no sturgeon merch.  You'd think there would be a market for that.  We also saw rainbow trout and leaping salmon.  Unfortunately they weren't leaping onto my plate.  They all looked so yummy swimming around.

It was finally time for us to depart for the airport and Gregory dropped me off.  I flew to Salt Lake, after a slight 30 minute delay, and retrieved my rental car without incident.  I don't know why rental car companies don't just publish the price of the cars.  It's always twice as much as you think it is going to be.

The three and a half hour drive to Elko brought back some memories.  It was just me, some good music, the stars and the highway on a hot summer night.  For dinner I had a bag of trail mix and a protein bar.  The burrito looked like too much work.  Gregory meanwhile was eating fresh crab and tuna with Beth and Meagan.  I finally made it to Elko shortly before midnight and my mom and I discussed the plan for tomorrow as we put together the final details for Friday morning.


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