Friday, August 31, 2007
The first family is of the type that would give Dan Quayle the howling fantods. "Keep Portland weird", goes a popular slogan, and no neighbourhoods succeed as well as some of the older working-class areas. Our August rental was in the middle of North Portland, a ghost world where it seems one in four people drives perfectly preserved 1960s antique cars, where perfectly preserved 1950s gas stations turn out pizza if they are not pumping gas and where the streets are named after Eastern places -- Atlantic, Philadephia, Portsmouth, New York, not out of pretentiousness but like a parallel dimension...It feels like parts of...old Baltimore or something. The house is a one-story ranch dwelling, really much like a triple-wide that has sprouted roots, becoming a house, while sending forth a light-filled tower in the form of a studio with a balcony, but otherwise dark, cluttered, messy, filled with artwork, all of them tasteful as individual pieces. The matriarch is a 5'4", wise-cracking, chain-smoking, transplanted New Yorker with a BA in English lit and MA in adult education and runs a silk art business. She's Jewish and proud: she has the Gefilte fish bumper sticker. For her, Shabat is a beautiful woman and it is the duty of the man, come Friday night, to serve, and lest you think this is metaphorical, she adds, whether the actual act is performed through a hole in a sheet or not (she is a nonobservant Jew in some things but has Orthodox roots and is OK with them). Above all, though -- above her clear feminism and defiance of conventions -- Judaism is about family, more than ethnicity or doctrine. So six years ago, at 46, and divorced (she admits to to being "a terrible wife" who "emasculated her husband at every turn ) she decides she still wants a kid -- an infant. Though underemployed and with some strikes against her (probably she means financial), a sliding scale and a lucky draw of case manager let an open adoption go through. Mo -- 5'9" birth mother and 6'1" father, both fair and Nordic professionals -- will certainly have some questions as she gets older, but she is lucky, if appearances are correct. She is a physical, hands-on, patient mother. The house is warm and food gets on the table, even though the running of the household sometimes seems to hang by a thread. The line between family and community is blurred or non-existent.
The other home we know is also as full of focus on the family and love as the first yet here nothing is desultory. There is an aspiration toward dust and clutter-free living, not only because some of the residents have severe pet allergies, though four kids (all of them natural) make it all but impossible. Calendars and schedules decorate the refrigerators, not just aphorisms about how to live and treat others as in the first household. The Estonian wife grew up in a superenergetic family that runs a summer camp on their farm in Estonia. Before my wife became her deskmate at school, i.e. when she was not yet school age, this family was going on extreme trailless hiking trips in Russia's Far East that make my Olympic traverse look like kids stuff. Her American husband, meanwhile is Portland to the core, affable. He was left fatherless at an early age and seems like a self-starter. Despite the fact that they are each strong personalities, there is a streak of patriarchalism. It is clear that he, though from an Arab line that is Orthodox Christian and moved to the Caribbean, retains some of the aspects of his forebears and that he calls many of the shots. Though to be honest, who knows if it is really that. Perhaps the wife has simply decided to be diplomatic and not oppose him on any of the little things, in the interests of smooth runnings, as they say in the West Indies. And thus maybe it isn't sinister Church sanctioned submissiveness or stereotypical Arab male dominance, which are of course just tempting and facile explanations. What must be said that there is none of the day to day strife that can sap so much of my and my wife's energy. There is also no babysitter (we had hoped to use him or her occasionally), ostensibly because the kids are so hyper, three Ramona Quimbys (and now a baby) that no one wants to take on. But that can't be true. They aren't that bad. This family just does things together. Like the first household, they are barely scraping by on paper. And they rarely go out to eat. But resourceful and organized home economics make it possible to have a pretty comfortable life. The food budget is only 250 bucks a month for six different sized mouths. And there are tons of extended family members who provide support, fruit, daycare... Naturally he works a lot, outside the house. He has no degree but compensates with great social skills and personal charm. He is a middle manager for Costco (which explains the food budget) and also helps clients with Macintosh issues. The house itself? A suburban two-story with vinyl and PVC everything. Like the ranch dwelling in North Portalnd, also a cut above the other houses in the neighborhood in some respects.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Nice decor, informal setting. Kid-friendly.
Sopapailla the good old deep fried hollow bread. Three of them, served with squeeze bottle of honey and similar in taste to churros. These were not handmade; they were as regular-shaped as dinner rolls. Tasty, but I remember Gosh Feel (elephant's ear pastry) at an Afghan place and sopapaillas at Mexican restaurants that were more effective.
Charred hanger steak with mushroom ceviche - Tiia-Triin was tempted by the word ceviche -- memories of Mazatlan, where just before leaving, we bought the seafood cocktail from a street vendor. Immaculately hygienic, fresh, delicious.) Encanto's starter is a standout. Steak was certainly black. Seemed to be rubbed rather than marinated. Mushroom salad was tinged with tropical tasting fruit juice, something like guava, couldn't quite place.
Chicken enchilada (kids menu) - Great chicken -- full, country flavor. Just like south of the border. With masa tortilla and what tasted like a Tillamook cheese.
Carne adovada - my wife's selection. The pork was lean, tender, with the familiar stringy BBQ pulled pork texture. Red New Mexico chile sauce was very serviceable.
Online reviews have put down the house rice and beans. Yes, they were mild, but far from flavorless. There was a mild aniseed-epazote thing going on here that is very welcome. It's supposed to be this way, as I remember from New Mexico.
Chile relleno -- in places like these, this is almost never the Tex Mex type -- deep fried and stuffed with cheese. The one in question came with black beans and rice and was topped with chevre. Sitting on the patio at 9 pm, with most of the dish's components dark (poblano, black beans) very dark, I couldn't tell what was what or even how many peppers there were. I was left with one stem at the end so I assume there was one.
Chaotic presentation but delicious -- and a generous amount of food.
Summer squash on the side was tender but butaney -- flame must have gone out. Oops. Still, a tasty dish.
Beer selection -- I like it. Small but quirky -- three or four standards (like Negra Modelo), then a Polish porter, Black Boss.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Tomatoes are finally here. The rivers are full of fish. And the plums on the tree in the backyard -- hundreds, maybe thousands of pounds -- are ripe. Neighbours have been asking us if they can pick the plums. It could probably feed North Portland.
We don't have the outfit to turn the harvest into jam, and with the days fall-like, sundrying is currently out of the question.
So during our day in the Gorge this Monday -- TTT shopped at Columbia Gorge Outlets and Morgan and I lolled on the river banks -- I bought the following at various places:
5-gallon carboy with airlock
one 5-pound steelhead, finned and gutted
The chemicals and substances cost next to nothing. The glass carboy (17 dollars) and the steelhead (15 dollars) were the two biggest single investments. The steelhead was salted, buttered and lemoned, stuffed with thyme, and placed in a "sleeping bag" made of aluminum foil. It just fit diagonally on the grill. It will feed the plum pitters and wringers/stompers.
I was a little skeptical about buying sulfites. The plums we have are covered with a white dust, which, there being no gravel roads around, I imagine is natural plant bits and yeasts. Do I really want to kill the natural yeast and add dry yeast from a package, even though the package has French words on it and a picture of grapes?
But most of the sulfites dissipate, the guy at the shop in Hood River said, and it provides control over the process.
What I don't have is corn sugar (allegedly "smoother"). Maybe Ill add honey to the raw cane sugar I am using. I should probably get tartaric acid for acidity. But we'll see what happens. Ill be satisfied if it is drinkable, even if it is a bit funky.
Actually, it should be ready for consumption only next spring. Hmm. How to get it back to Virginia?
Tonight the work begins.
I should note that I'm not a gourmet. I am hopeless when it comes to wine tasting.
In my defence, my conceit is that I am a simple man. A Basque shepherd. Give me, in my hut, a hunk of sheeps milk cheese and and an earthenware crock of something to wash it down -- could be spring water, but if not, let it be wine. Something functional and natural.
I once attended a wine-tasting party in Charlottesville, and I took the safe route of writing silly descriptions -- like nasty with a hint of bling-bling. (That was one penned by a friend.) But there were people there who identified wines with scientific accuracy (and whose blurbs were even better). Though some may have chuckled at my descriptions, I was humbled.
Despite all my education in finer things, to me, there are still only two kinds of wine, both red: good wine and bad wine.
The good wine is all one of a kind to me. Perhaps you know that copywritring formula -- complex and fruity, with undertones of ____ and ____ and a ____ finish -- where the first two blanks are names of fruit such as cherry or black currant, and the last one is often something unexpected, perhaps something that most people dont eat, though Jean-Baptiste Grenouille might try to distill, like lampblack or copper.
Its not like I have no appreciation for how a wine or any fine fermented food can indeed suggest ingredients out of left field -- I do halfway, sideways, apprehend the wine ideal. I would never, anymore, drink a sweetened wine from Moldova. I shy away from gallon jugs of California surplus wine. I know what a good pinot tastes like -- sex on the tongue and all that. But iits not like I would be able to insert the right names of the fruits in the correct slots. Its just, well, wine.
Im excited, though -- roses are a different story. I feel I could write copy for different aromas -- and it wouldnt be bullshit, either.
We visited the International Rose Test Garden in Portland yesterday. I didnt see anyone else sticking their noses deeply into the blossoms. Maybe this is not something that is done, just like double-dipping with the same toothpick at the Farmers Market. When you visit the official Rose Garden site, the emphasis is on the visual aspect. But my up-close approach was revelatory.
When it comes to roses, I can report to you with 100% confidence that there seem to be four basic elemental scents (in the case of the half of the strains that have a scent) -- 1) apple (kind of a tart greenish smell), 2) cinnamon (a deep spiciness familiar from Indian rose-scented incense), 3) lily of the valley (an early spring floral scent) and 4) classic rose (the kind you smell in rosewater).
As for the out-of-left-field ingredient, there was one variety called Sceptered Isle that smelled distinctly like gouache -- finger paints. What a proud moment for me to be able to pinpoint that! Another one smelled like Play-Doh!
TTT was even successful at guessing names of cultivars. She stuck her nose into a lei-like sea and pronounced the aroma hippie-dippy-like. The name? Love and Peace.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Hayden Pass, one of the higher divides in the Olympics. I crossed from the northern Elwha watershed to the eastern Dosewallips watershed on day 3.
This is the Enchanted Valley chalet, on the homestretch of the trip. It's a spooky area with hanging "glaciers" over a barrens-like floodplain. It is clear that it has been inhabited and there are dometicated raspberries in places, not just thimbleberries, but it is 13 miles from the nearest road. "We thought we would lose it last year," said the ranger, when water in the Quinault River carved a new channel that came within 20 feet of the other side of the building. Since it is technically a wilderness area, it will not be rebuilt.
The Park Service appears to be in court a lot -- it wants to do things like airlift prefab shelters and latrines into the wilderness while environmentalists oppose such actions. I actually don't side with the environmentalists in many cases. In a roadless area this big, with most visitors hiking only the first ten miles of the Quinault's East Fork, I would support the Swedish Lappland model -- a few shelters and maybe one friendly lodge for hikers to stop in at (with maybe propane helicoptered in but little else).
Right now there is no good cheer here. The right side of the structure is unused while the rangers use the left side as their station (visitors are not welcome to enter), tend their stove, and do who knows what. As in so many other things, I don't quite understand the Park Service's mission. These rangers seemed of outsiders, and had very little of anything useful or informative to say about the nature or climate.
What should definitely not be done, of course, is build any more roads. The Dosewallips Road on the other side of the park is still washed out and frankly, I enjoyed the solitude on that part of the trip.
Pyrites Creek camp, also in the Quinault valley. Even in drizzle, much of the ground under the forest canopy remains dry. The moss soaks it all up. Hiking in drizzle is actually wonderful -- you strip down to near nothing, it's not as if you encounter anyone anyway. But rain for six days is pushing it.
This was a typical view. At 95+ miles over 6 days, the Olympic double traverse was one of those old-school character-building types of backpacking trips that do not provide so much fun or exhilaration but rather a sense of pride at maintaining a basic level of comfort at the end of each day, at having averted disaster -- I managed not to lose my footing at fords, there was no giardia on day 6.
At 3:30 am on the first night, something very large did pounce on the ground just outside the tent. Nothing to indicate bear. Mountain lion -- doesn't seem likely.
Well-seasoned feet held up well but blisters -- the raw, oozing kind -- on insteps and metatarsals were inevitable and infection was a real possibility.
Discovery of the trip --Thermarest pads make good moleskin. Accomplishment of the trip: Successfully starting a fire in saturated conditions and drying shoes and a change of socks.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
So there we were. We had been holed up in our cozy NoPo hideaway for six days. The neighbourhood was quiet. The cats (probably an appurtenance in proper lease language, since we have no responsibilities to them aside from keeping them from becoming totally feral) had showed a disturbing tendency to assert their territorial rights, and had been exiled from the bedroom. We had a great collection of books, and an account set up at the local video store (though no Internet). So what do we do?
Our trip starts with a straight-shot drive to the point on the Oregon coast closest to Portland -- Tillamook. Whatever the marine equivalent of breadbasket is, it's Tillamook.
Besides fertile estuaries and Pacific pastures, there are a few sandy beaches, especially around Cape Meares. The first one we visit, Oceanside, is a mile of sand ending abruptly in cliffs -- looks like classic Central California. Morgan makes his first acquaintance with salal berries. With its shiny leaves and the appearance of the berries they look inedible in the manner of pokeberries but are actually very subtle tasting, fragrant of calendula and cardamom. Turns out if you squeeze a salal berry from the stem end, you see it burst kaleidoscopically.
Tillamook is home to a cheese factory that is a regional household name and while not organic -- though I think it is phasing out growth hormones -- it has a vague cachet of Jersey-cow wholesomeness. The factory, which is free of charge to visit, has a serious "open-kitchen"policy and is a PR tour de force. It is probably just a small cross-section of the operation, but you can watch three or four varieties of cheese go from block form to retail-ready individual packages. Unlike many other interactive museums that are content just with a touchscreen for supplying information that is actually pretty static, the cheese factory shows, and doesn't just tell everything. Those inclined can press their nose to the glass for hours and figure out themselves who is doing what. With enough time, maybe even office politics and rivalries between the employees in their white toques and robes would start to become apparent.
Apart from the locale and the clean air, Tillamook is reassuring in the sense that it seems that we as humans have many years before machines finally phase us out. A good 20% of the assembly line human resources appear to be spent on correcting mistakes made by the flow belt.
What is not so great about Tillamook is that all the fast-paced correction jobs -- just barely keeping up with the conveyor -- appear to be performed by women. The more arcane and leisurely-paced jobs visible through the glass on the other side of the gallery -- guy enters in technician's coat, washes out hopper or doses the rennet -- are performed exclusively by men.
On Day 2 we realized there is no solitude to be had on the Oregon coast, even on a rainy Tuesday morning -- not in August. I travelled from Los Angeles along the coast to the Oregon border in June 2003 and don't remember any major crowding. My wife ventured that perhaps perceptions have a lot of do with it -- indeed I expected CA to be worse, or maybe I was dazzled by the cliffs and views. In any case, Oregon is softer, more contoured, lower key.
Now Oregon famously declares that 100% of its coast is public access. Apart from impassable headlands, you can walk along all of it from California to Washington. But I don't quite see how it plays out in practice if you are not yet on the beach, or how it is in practice superior to Washington's sections of coast.
We could have probably gotten away with wild beach camping at only one spot in Oregon. It was not posted but looked dicey because of possible tidal exposure. We camped the first night at a county park on the Kilchis River pretty far inland. Probably neat during a salmon run, but pretty plain Jane in August.
We continued north up the coast, visiting a tiny town library at Garibaldi, where the librarian said the rain was unusual for this time of year, no matter what we had been told about wet Oregon.
We called at Cannon Beach with its famous Haystack Rock and its Cape Cod milieu. We donned our new matching Columbia Sportswear waterproof-breathable (though not Gore-Tex) shells (seconds; $25 each) and the rain beaded nicely as it is supposed to.
We skipped Seaside and Astoria, the first because it is gross, the second because it was slightly off route. Cape Disappointment on the Washington side of the Columbia, where Lewis and Clark spent a winter of discontent, was just that, with an overpriced state park campground.
Instead it was on to Long Beach, a family oriented barrier island beach where we made camp on undeveloped drivable strand north of the town...
It rained off and on, sand stuck to everything, but it was great. For me, an Easterner, dunes you can walk on legally are a luxury, to say nothing of barrier islands that are not yet washing away.
The next morning we went to the carny in the centre of Long Beach and Morgan rode the carousel. I thought it had a 19th century feel right down to the Chinese woman in the murky depths of the ticket booth (who probably was named Madam Wu or something), which comment my wife found to be pretentious, seeing as I was not around in the 19th century, but I tried to explain to her how the past had echoes and certainly circi and amusement parks, either abandoned or slightly superannuated, have a certain flavour -- call it American Gothic or Victorian -- something akin to the fortune telling machine in the movie Big on the misty New Jersey coast.
Day 3 - we continued up the coast from Long Beach, which is not just a generic name like Seaside but the longest stretch of beach on the US Pacific Coast. We passed still active oyster towns. Then we went through Aberdeen (which might conjure up images of castles and cattle in Scotland, but which anyone who knows even a little about a certain 1990s grunge band probably associates primarily with recession, angst, idle logging equipment and muddy banks). It didn't redeem itself. The 365-day farmer's market, whose handpainted sign advertised honey and local delicacies, was actually a flea market with a couple summer sausages mouldering in a case. Grunge and goth may have come but not the ecobiscuit movement. Sorry, Aberdeen.
Farther up the Olympic peninsula, towns became more perfunctory, not meeting William Least-Heat Moon's criteria of having a water tower and gas station. And the land became more extravagantly lush.
We turned off US 101 at Quinault, a quaint rustic lakeside village that is one of the five or six portals to Olympic National Park, a huge fastness of roadless wilderness that to me is probably the most perfect and satisfying such tract in the US, apart from the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, which has a similar square-with-rounded-corners shape.
By the village is the largest spruce tree in the world -- there are actually a few of these, all of them co-champions. But this one is in good health and 1000 years old...
We went 16 miles down a gravel road to a campground by the Quinault River. I will probably base a hiking trip there later this summer.
Day 4 - We realize that we can only make one or two stops per day. The main limiting factor is that our child has to sleep half of his life, at this stage in his life. We make a stop at the Olympic National Park's stretch of wild Pacific beach and walk two miles down it and back...
Day 4 - We realize that we can only make one or two stops per day. The main limiting factor is that our child has to sleep half of his life, at this stage in his life. We make a stop at the Olympic National Park's stretch of wild Pacific beach and walk two miles down it and back...
We drive up to another of the Park's portals, Sol Duc, a developed hot springs resort where many people start long backpacking trips and Mount Olympus climbs.
Day 5 - We arrive in Port Angeles, where we park for the ferry to Victoria, B.C. and I do the laundry while Tiia-Triin stays with Morgan on the waterfront to look at cars in the lineup. Tiia Triin says P.A. seems not to be so American as other cities, or that maybe it is just the fact that it is a bustling port.
Unfortunately there is no way for us to experience the charms of Victoria or its gardens by day. Crossing the next morning would leave too little time for the rest of the island. We need to be back in Portland on Day 8.
We arrive in Victoria an hour before dark. The nice man at the tourist office in Port Angeles had recommended a campsite at Jordan River and we strike out for it. Our impression of the capital ends up being largely related to drunken driving themes -- we see a very freshly overturned SUV on highway 1 in the centre of the city, and at dusk, we encounter a Counterattack sobriety check near Sooke (where two teens would happen to die the same night).
Apparently the way it works is that the matronly arresting officer in her fifties prescreens drivers by talking about the programme and I assume, should the driver's response indicate that a sobriety check is in order, listing the possible risks to which the Breathalyzer may expose the driver. I chat with her about possible campsites up the road and probably make an ass out of myself (or just sound wackily Biblical or British) by correcting her, a local, and referring to Jordan River as "River Jordan", as it is mislabelled on my map.
There is plenty of room at River Jordan, on a spit of land extending out into the Juan de Fuca Strait. Though I balk at paying anything for camping -- in the great North, dammit! -- it is pretty beautiful. I feel like I have arrived after a long trip. People are playing guitars and somewhere I assume orcas are at play and George Dyson is sitting in his tree observing benevolently...
Vancouver Island is known as a place where civilization has married well with ruggedness -- true in many places in the NW but especially here. I am surprised later to read that there is still unexplored wilderness here and to see pictures of craggy glaciated peaks in the interior.
There is not that much civilization in the southwest. Soon after Sooke, the string of private wooded properties/B&Bs on the coast, which for 40 miles resembles Southern Mendocino County or Big Sur, ends. There is an image in my mind, probably from some children's treasury of stories, of a desert island so far south in the South Pacfic that it is cold there. That is what the treeline on the strand looks like. The rainforest is impressive, a gritty, choked kind of impressive.
Port Renfrew is basically the end of the line for civilization, unless you have a boat, up until a roadhead in Skagway, Alaska. Port Renfrew is mainly populated by inscrutable First Nationals -- they are helpful with directions, but there is an oddness about everything. My purchase of a single scone at the bake sale in the visitor centre, 75 cents is all the money I had, leaves an odd taste. There was no problem with me being perceived as a cheapskate, there's just some kind of disconnect. But I've had the same feeling before, on a reservation in Wyoming.
We take a washboard gravel road 40 miles to Lake Cowichan in the middle of the island (this is actually the official scenic route recommended by the provincial tourist authority). One tyre is down to 18 psi by the time we hit pavement again at Honeymoon Bay.
Destruction Island, a name on tide tables for the area, would be more apt. The day is bleak, the willow scrub is bleak, everything is bleak. We have a fight about campsites and parenting.
About the landscape, I feel the way I felt after arriving in Rovaniemi, Finland -- nonplussed. The lake is OK-looking, but not that incredible. We drive around the lake, but it is more endless gravel road, with most logging roads gated (they are on strike). The Ministry of Forests campsite is a slum in the woods.
I remember how my dad described a trip around Lake Superior through Nipigon -- by all accounts a scenic drive, certainly marked as such, but always recounted in family history as tedious and eminently Not Worth It. Was there something to Canada that doesn't gibe with us, or am I a cretinized American, or is it just that it is a different country and not home?
Part of the problem is that I have high and unrealistic expectations for Canada, as I view it as the great white hope for the continent, kind of a bastion of unspoiltness, like Michael Moore and his unlocked doors in Bowling for Columbine. As a kid of maybe 11, I saw Niagara on the Lake as a kind of utopian settlement, and would beg to be driven to St. Catharines on the Canadian side of the Niagara to see the well-tended small homes and gardens. No joke. My mother would say, driving past the same middle class homes, that Canada was America's poor relative.
We suspect it is just us and the day. We drive back to paved road, through the string of holiday communities and leave the lake, ending up in Cowichan River Provincial Park. The campground is average, and like other public ones has pages of ludicrous small print of what constitutes a "camping party". Luckily no one cares in practice, and the issue of having a different last name from my wife doesn't come up.
But the Cowichan River and environs are amazing. A deep blue green cut into the basaltic bedrock. In some places you can't see how deep it is, but it is probably at least 15 feet deep and only 20 across...
The current swirls languidly in these places, making it look dangerous, but I'll bet there are underwater caves and shelves that could be explored. Since it flows from the lake, the water is 18 or 19 and I take a dip at more safe-looking swimming hole. It's a great place to wind up Day 6.
Day 7 - Our trip is coming to a close but still we take our time, heading east and north. This is one of the finest days I have spent in the NW.
Duncan -- the City of Totems -- is a gem of a traditional downtown. There are 80 poles in the town, many poised by the walls of buildings or in alleyways rather than being centrepieces in parks. This unusual one is from 1957...
...but most of them seem to have been carved in a spate in the late 1980s, begging the question of what the city was like before that. Do the old totems not survive, or was it a cynical tourist marketing ploy? Were carvers recruited, as artists were all over the world, to produce the murals in the next town, Chemainus?
Then, Chemainus bowls us over with its prettiness, putting even Portland, Ore.'s bounty of roses and berries to shame. We pass up Ladysmith, which is supposedly even prettier. Too much.
At Nanaimo we see a little overdevelopment and a faster pace to life. The ferry lineup extends all the way into residential neighborhoods. It is only 2pm and instead of giving up our afternoon, we opt to go farther north still visit the warm-water beaches of the Strait of Georgia.
Day 8 we rise at 7am and drive. All day. We end up taking the northern Nanaimo to northern Vancouver ferry and once we have disembarked north of the city I realize how little connected Canada and the US can be -- not much thru traffic from Whistler to Seattle, or at least no signs to help out such thru traffic.
The day is truly gorgeous. 9/11 weather I call it, not because of any sinister undertone but because even before the planes crashed, people were remarking on how nice it was.
All down I-5 temperatures are perfect and it seemed that my skin is faintly aglow. After a week of mixed rain and shine with 7000-foot peaks forming a forbidding and shrouded skyline, the twice-as-tall Mount Rainier rises impossibly large behind Seattle, its white dome so far away that it could be a huge full moon.
As with Vancouver, we have no temptation to stop in big city Seattle, either, after so much beach and rainforest time.
Diem mirabilis, indeed - even Seattle traffic cooperates with us. Even though there is a 19-day project that is expected to produce nightmarish conditions in a city that is already second only to LA in gridlock. I wait with bated breath as it gets near 3 pm. Yet nothing happens! It's like a Sunday. NPR reports: "it looks like people have listened to the authorities and taken alternate routes or alternate forms of transportation."
This is one busy corridor, BTW -- there's probably a 60-mile stretch from Everett through Seattle to Tacoma where there would not be a single opening for a pedestrian or stranded motorist to run across the highway.
Things quiet down a little south of Olympia, where you abruptly sense you are in the middle of nowhere -- no mountains, no special wilderness areas or rivers. But a lucky find -- there happens to be a splendid park and lake created by the
We while away two hours. I swim half a mile, trying to stay in the upper 4 inches of water, which are warm. Finally there is no surface layer left near the shore and I get out.
Then it's back to Portland, which is baking at a toasty 85 degrees (29), and the golden aftternoon comes to a close.