Monday, July 27, 2009

Week 4 A Dash to Portland July 24th

So last weeks adventure was about getting back in touch at least partially with my more mainstream side. This weeks however is much more me, both the situation and activities made for a great day! If there is anything better than a gallivant across a state, it is the same but with the strict deadline of a flight at the end.

So here is the situation. Eliza and I disembark from our week-long cruise at 8:30 am. Our flight does not depart till 10pm, but faced with the option of dragging all our luggage around as we see more of Seattle we decide to taxi down to SeaTac and see if we can catch a couple seats on stand-by and get home early.

Of course there are none, and now we are faced with 13 hours in the airport. Sounds even worse than hauling our luggage around. But we have any idea. 10 minutes later we have checked our luggage and minus 60 bucks are now sitting in a luxurious Hyundai Accent that we can call our own for the next 13 hours.

Eliza and our getaway car

It is amazing the sense of freedom a car gives you. Our world went from the size of the airport one minute, and suddenly we could span several states or even countries if we wanted to. There is something so powerful about the American vehicle system. Now I am just as much of an environmental hippie as the next guy, and truly believe our system is way out of wack and something drastic must be done to correct it. Addressing this situation is something I hope to spend some time working on in the future. However something we as American nailed is that when you step in a car and 1000 of miles of relatively inexpensive interstate lay before you its hard not to feel the freedom, the sense of space we have.

Now in an event many months prior, akin to Joseph Smith happening upon his Golden Tablets, a document arrived at our household and Eliza found it gleaming in all its glory on the front porch. This document may have been masquerading as a mere NY Times travel section but No! here indeed lay the road to the promised land and Eliza's eyes had never seen anything so beautiful. It read... " and the path to enlightenment and eternal happiness lies west, way west in a humble city called... Portland"

And so we found ourselves months later. With ample transportation. With 13 hours to kill. And even in adjacent states! The time had come for a pilgrimage.

220 miles later and quite peckish we grab a coffee then pull into Bunk sandwich shop in the brooklyn-esque neighborhood (think other side of the river and small shops). Billed as the "tastiest breakfast sandwich ever" we had high hopes and were not disappointed. We met the owner who after introducing us to his sandwich artiste Javier described the naming of the joint to be after a character from the distinctly Baltimore show The Wire. Sated and happy we aimlessly drive around town, noting the cleanliness of the city.

Now one thing must be said. Eliza is pretty darn convinced that this is the promised land. Not that I am unconvinced, just that havent been fully convinced yet. But certainly the people are nice. The city is the right size. The location while not perfect, is pretty darn close to many of the things i love to do. Lets just say im open to the argument.

One last drive through the alphabet district, which is like a bigger Hampden, and I convince Eliza that I need to get out and see the countryside a bit. The pacific NW is known for its volcanoes and we at random pick one (Mt St. Helens) and start driving. Its now about 3:00 pm and as Eliza sits contentedly in the passenger seat I try and cover up the clock.

We drive through Cougar, which is alas seriously devoid of cougars; feline and sumptuous varieties alike, and head up to Windy Ridge. Among the funny things you learn about someone when you live and vacation together are their habits in a car. I drive slow on highways and fast on twisty roads in the mountains, which in turn puts Eliza to sleep (carcolepsy) and makes her nauseous respectively. The road to the Windy Ridge lookout 16 miles is by no means tame, and as I race up the hill I contemplate the alternate paths which lie ahead. Eliza sick in the car, us missing our plane home, both occurring simultaneously... I slow down a bit.

The happy couple

When told that area around Mt St Helens looked like a moonscape. President Carter responded that "the moon looks more like a golf course compared to what's up there." Even now nearly 30 years later destruction abounds and the desolate landscape shows what nearly 1 billion cubic meters of mountain can do to a landscape. Seeing this and haven driven around Yellowstone which could do something of the same but 1 million times as bad gives me the chills.

Note that from this view looking SW you can see the North side of the mountain is completely blown away. Oh yeah and it used to be 1300 feet taller

Obligatory hdr pano on at Windy Ridge.

We snap some shots, and get back in the car to head back down. It is 6:30. Flight leaves in 3 and half hours, we are 160 miles away 4000 feet up and a long long way from a fast road. I had spied a shortcut road on the map and found it on the way down. Eliza points out the no cars sign, and the 4WD only sign, which I promptly ignore. Pretty quickly i come to the realization that in every adventure where you have pushed things to the limit, and while the limit is what you came out here to find, bursting through that bubble and going over the edge is not where you want to find yourself. Whether its a whirlwind tour of Oregon and Washington, or a 2000 foot rock climb, ending up on the wrong side of your abilities to deal with the situation gets you in trouble... and fast.

I turn around, knowing that in fact that that moment was what I was looking for all day. The 500 miles of driving, stopping 15 minutes here 30 minutes there was so I could reach that point on that road.

3 hours later we waltz through security and find our seats on our plane with at least 4 minutes to spare.

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