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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