Monday, July 28, 2014

Maiden Voyage

A first for me! I traveled alone to visit family and see some places that I've wanted to see for a long time.  I've never done a solo road trip, and never imagined that I would or even could.  This was my maiden voyage at age 60.  Here are some statistics for the mathematically curious.  And other information, perhaps needless, but fun.

Days away: 5.  from July 19th to the 23rd

Nights away: 4.  For the first two nights, I was hosted by in-laws Todd and Jill in Eugene, Oregon after a 275 mile drive.  I slept on an air bed in their upstairs home theater.  The air bed was a little worn out, so I lounged in one of the cushy theater chairs and pretended that I was flying first class to Italy.  For the second night, Todd and Jill kindly bought a new airbed and I slept well (for me).  The next two nights I slept in hotels, something I've never done alone.  139 miles from Eugene, in The Dalles, Oregon I stayed in a  new hotel, The Fairfield Inn and Suites.  It was clean, comfortable, and the king mattress may never have been slept on until I came along.  I may have been first to use the shower too,  as I washed off the dewiness from walking around Multnomah Falls and Eugene's humidity.  It was a pleasant evening in that room, with a chilled bottle of Maryhill Gewürztraminer from a shop in Hood River, and half of a leftover elk burger from Eugene.  In Yakima, I stayed in the Oxford Suites, which is just yards away from the Yakima River. It was comfortable and safe, although (minor quibble) the wifi didn't work consistently. There was another first that day.  In the late afternoon, I sat on the patio near the murmuring Yakima River, watched the swooping swallows, and sipped a free glass of chardonnay.  I've never had wine by myself, outside of home. The server remembered me from a previous stay, which was a plus.  Another plus: I didn't feel strange being the lone female diner.  That had been a concern for me.

Miles driven: 769.1 I didn't drive anywhere on Sunday, so that means I drove 192.3 miles on average per day.  Right?

Average miles per gallon of gas: 34.5

Gallons used: 22.3.  Thank you fourth grade math class and Kathryn Smith!

Approximate cost of gas: $88.00, if I round to $4.00 per gallon.

Columbia River Crossings: 2.  My first crossing as a driver was on July 19th.  The I-205 bridge  was an undramatic span, my favorite kind of bridge.  So ho-hum was it, that I didn't know that the Columbia was rolling on beneath me until I was halfway across.  It was an exciting moment, when I realized that I was in Oregon, birthplace of my father.  The other crossing was east of The Dalles, over the Sam Hill bridge, on my way to Maryhill, Washington.

Marquam Bridge, Portland
Willamette River Crossings:  at least 3 and probably more on I-5 in North Willamette Valley.  Twice in Eugene, I walked across on the River Trail and on July 21,  I drove across on the Marquam Bridge in Portland.  That was by mistake.  I missed the exit to Oregon City, via I-205. Jill had warned me and I thought I was set for 205.  Oh so wrong! I blame it on Apple Maps for the iPhone.  To my horror, I found myself on a soaringly scary bridge that carries I-5 northbound on the uppermost deck, after a tilting, curly approach. The stuff of nightmares!  It was a white knuckles on the wheel and a hammering heart ordeal.  I felt an irrational urge to just stop, but the rational part of my brain said, "Keep going!  Eyes straight ahead!"    I thought of my Dad saying, "Didn't I teach you to drive?  No daughter of mine is a chicken.  Calm down, this is actually kind of fun."  Well, no Dad, it wasn't.  And you hated Portland and its bridges, remember? After the Accord hit the ground (safely) and I merged on to I-84 eastbound, I relaxed, knowing that I survived the most frightening bridge I've ever driven.  It was scarier than the above photo shows.  Happily, in just a few minutes, Portland and the Marquam were in the rear-view mirror and ahead of me lay the Columbia River Gorge.  It didn't kill me, and it made me a better (and still alive) driver.   A little shot of Vitamin Confidence, you might say. With the beauty that I was entering, I quickly put it behind me.

Columbia River Gorge
Counties: 16.  Southbound, counties that I traversed in Washington were King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Cowlitz, and Clark.  Coming back up from Oregon,  I drove through Klickitat, Yakima, and Kittitas.  Oregon counties were: Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Linn, Lane, Hood River, and Wasco.  County of note:  Linn County in Oregon is the self proclaimed Rye Grass Seed Capital of the World.

Parallel of Note: 1.  The 45th Parallel.  It was a happy and revelatory moment to spot the green sign telling me that I had just crossed the 45th parallel, and was halfway between the North Pole and the Equator.  I had a brief mental celebration, while on cruise control.  "Hooray!" said my brain to itself, "Next stop, Brazil!"

Passes passed: 2.  I cruised over Satus Pass, elevation 3,107 feet on Tuesday, July 22nd, not even knowing that I was on a pass.  After I saw the summit sign, I figured out why there were trees in this relatively dry part of the state. Unwittingly, I was gaining altitude and dropping temperature. Sadly, some hillsides and canyons were charred from last year's Mile Marker 28 wildfire or maybe the Monastery Complex fire of 2011. If you look at the previous link, you can see some of the nuns who run the the nearby bakery.  Their monastery is the fire's namesake and they worked and prayed hard to help put it out. On Wednesday,  the last leg of my trip, I drove over Snoqualmie Pass in a windy rain storm.  Elevation is 3,022 feet.  Hard to believe that Satus Pass is actually higher. (Safety note: I did not take the picture below left.  Or right.)

Snoqualmie Pass in better weather

Snoqualmie looked like this on July 23. 

Ridges crossed: 3. Via I-82, Manastash Ridge, elevation 2672 feet, South Umtanum Ridge,  2265 feet, and North Umtanum Ridge, 2315 feet.  It was a gusty, two firm hands on the wheel drive.  Angry, slate green clouds spilled over bleak hills to the north, like poison into a bowl. Some road crests were like the sharp edge of an infinity pool.  Was I going to zoom off into the sky when I made the top of the hill?  The emerald Kittitas Valley was a welcome sight as I flew down the last descent. Next time I'll take the scenic route.  Compare these two photos.  Which would you choose?

I-82, on the way to Ellensburg
Next time: Yakima River Canyon via highway 821

Multnomah Falls
Waterfalls visited: 1
Multnomah Falls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge.  Packed with crowds of smartphone camera snappers. Maybe I'll return in September when the kids are back in school. And I won't be back in school, because I'm retired!  Just had to throw that in,  to remind myself. Next time I'll take the more scenic route to see other falls. That will give me an eye level view of what Lewis and Clark saw.

View from Sweet Cheeks

Wineries visited: 4.  During my stay in Eugene, I visited three nearby wineries southwest of the city, and later, one in Washington.  First, my hosts took me to Chateau Lorane. A longish, winding gravel road led to the tasting room and patio embraced by evergreens.  The patio overlooked a lake surrounded by tall trees.  We didn't sample any wines, but admired the cool green view.  Next we visited nearby King Estate Winery.  There was a gloriously orderly pattern of emerald vines marching over the hills, an Italian looking castle-like winery on top of the hill, and a panoramic view of the lush Lorane Valley with eagles soaring above. Last we drove to Sweet Cheeks Winery near tiny unincorporated Crow.  It is a more laid back place with yummy wines and yet another gorgeous view.  The patio was a perfect spot for cheese, crackers, conversation, and a bottle of the winery's Pinot Noir Fusion. The last winery I visited was in Washington State: Maryhill, above the Columbia River, complete with amphitheater, huge tasting room, and bocce courts.

Maryhill winery with Mt. Hood to the west
Lake Louise at Chateau Lorane
King Estate 

Wines purchased: 3.  King Estate Pinot Noir,  Sweet Cheeks Pinot Noir Fusion, and Maryhill Reserve Zinfandel.  All sitting on my "save" wine rack.

Stonehenges visited: 1. On Tuesday, I drove 24.4 miles from the Dalles to the Stonehenge in Maryhill, not far from the museum and winery.  It perches in solitude on a windy hill, with a view of the Columbia far below.  It's not big, which surprised me because it's a full sized replica. Stonehenge holds such a powerful place in the collective imagination, so shouldn't it be bigger?  If I see the original someday, will that disappoint me with its relative smallness? It was so quiet there, despite the wind, that I could hear the conversation of the two other visitors.  From them I learned that there is a Cornhenge in Ohio.  It pays to eavesdrop.

Druids at Maryhill Stonehenge: 0.  New career for me?  Resident Druid priestess of Maryhill.

Drove my car to Stonehenge!

Inside Maryhill Stonehenge

Entrance to Maryhill Museum

North side of Maryhill Museum, hilltop wind farm on the hill
Rodin's Eve

Museums visited: 1.  I was one of the first visitors on Tuesday at Maryhill Museum of Art.  The woman at the reception desk thought she knew me (no). I saw works by Rodin, Native American art including beautiful baskets, and Queen Marie of Romania's furniture. I doubt that anybody ever sat comfortably in those chairs.  The magnificence of Queen Elizabeth's crown jewels will never be challenged by Queen Marie's coronation crown. The striking silence of the the outdoor terrace was the best part of the visit.  I sat alone, listening and watching two little critters (maybe marmots) chirp and scamper over a boulder on the grassy yellow slope below. So quiet was it that I could hear workers snipping grape vines far below and the swishing of water against a boat's bow down in the Columbia.

The ketchup was good

McDonald's: 2.  One in Centralia, WA because as a 60 year old woman, I had to stop.  The other was for a gourmet cheeseburger and fries meal in Goldendale because that's what was there.  Nothing like lunch on a plastic tray covered with paper! After that it was 68.8 miles to Yakima.  Later I learned that Goldendale has an observatory that might be worth a visit sometime.  I'll pack a lunch.

Gypsy Wife quilt designed by Jen Kingwell
Quilt Shops: 2.5.   The .5, Quilters' Junction was at least a mile off the freeway, in Centralia, WA.  It was in a shabby strip mall that showed signs of an unrecovered economy.  And it was out of business!   Next up was Piece by Piece Fabrics in Eugene. Happily, it was open, full of gorgeous modern fabrics, display quilts, and a very helpful owner. There was a display quilt, Gypsy Wife, that I'd like to make. Last,  I stopped at  Every Thread Counts, or ETC in Hood River, Oregon. The owner was friendly,  and recommended a lunch spot overlooking the parasailers on the Columbia.  At Three Rivers Grill I was the lone single diner on the crowded deck.  Take a look at their "virtual tour" for an excellent look at lovely Hood River. Lunch was the spiciest thing on my trip: blacked steelhead (nicely rare) on cesar salad.  It was a warm afternoon, and a cold glass of something Oregon white would have been good.

Pastry! God will provide
Bakeries: 2.  St. John's Bakery and Espresso is just off of highway 97 about 12 miles north of Goldendale, WA.  It is part of the St. John the Forerunner Monastery. The nuns who work there were clad in full Greek Orthodox habits: Black from head to toe with a red cross on the brow of their headgear. They sell coffee, pastry, preserves, and religious items. Isn't pastry a religious item? I left with cookies and Greek tomato sauce.  My final stop before the last 82 miles to home was mandatory:  Cle Elum Bakery for a dozen Torchetti.

No, anything but Domino's!

Confused Pizza Guys: 1.  On Tuesday evening, a knock on my Yakima hotel room door startled me.  Through the peephole, I saw a middle aged, bearded man.   Carefully, I cracked open the door as far as the security latch allowed.  "Pizza?",  he asked. If it had been black olive and salami, and not Domino's I might have said, "Why, yes!  Charge it to the room next door."

Elk Burgers: 1.  On Sunday in Eugene, after the wineries, Todd, Jill, and I sat outside on the Northbank restaurant's patio and had dinner along the Willamette.  I went out on an adventurous and tasty limb and ordered an elk burger.  It was delicious, with the sweetest tomato I've had this summer. I ate the second half the next night in the Dalles with chilled Gewürztraminer in an elegant plastic cup.  Like me, it seemed to travel well.

Los Hernandez
Tamales Purchased: 4 packages of frozen pork, chicken, and asparagus tastiness, plus super hot salsa from Los Hernandez in Union Gap.  No salsa for me!  Nor any of the blistering mustard or Philipino Phil's Nuclear Meltdown chipotle sauce from nearby Fruit City.

Yellow Church Cafe
Close Calls: 1.  And it wasn't even in my car.  After lunch, I stepped out of the Yellow Church Cafe in  Ellensburg into windy and threatening weather.  Thunderstorms were in the forecast.  As I often do, I was gawking around.  There was an interesting tree to check out as well as the potentially stormy sky.  Being a klutz, I missed the step and nearly fell flat on my face.  Luckily I didn't break an ankle or smash my teeth. Even better, there were no witnesses.  Could enjoying grilled cheese and bacon on great bread in a former German Lutheran church have kept me in one piece?  Or maybe it was the Koulourakia with coffee that I had with coffee 36 miles ago in Yakima.  Don't doubt the power of those nuns at St John's Bakery in Goldendale!

Times I felt unsafe: 0.  There were some scary moments on the road: Portland's Marquam Bridge, rain storm on Snoqualmie Pass, and driving on a narrow, steep, and two lane road that curled from the Columbia up to Maryhill.  They were not really unsafe but my irrational apprehension made it seem unsafe.  Staying alone, eating alone, and sightseeing alone, even at sparse Stonehenge did not make me feel unsafe.  The ability to stay connected via smartphone, laptop, and Wifi probably made that sense of security possible.  Things might have been different 40 years ago. But we live in modern times, so, I'm sticking with zero!  Or maybe I'm just oblivious.

Ghosts in my car: 0.  Memories yes, but no ghosts.

Crying Episodes: 1.  Just in case anybody is counting the tracks of my tears, I will own up to one brief moment of leakage.  When the grandeur of the Gorge unfolded around me, I was overwhelmed by two things.  The stunning beauty and regret that Mark and I never experienced it together.  I'm not sure which was the more powerful emotion.  But there is no safe crying for road trip drivers, so it passed quickly.

Happiness: 99% of my trip.  Let's just show and tell it this way.  Where shall I go next? 

1 comment:

  1. A lovely travelogue, and I have made a mental note of another Stonehenge (maybe one day...)