Archives: Travel

Off the Grid


A weekend away every now and then is refreshing. Sometimes the family will drive up toward Mt. Hood, spend a couple of days with some friends in a cabin on the Salmon River. No television, no internet. Just games and conversation.

This weekend provided a variation on that theme and the family stayed home. A friend of a friend owns a cabin and property fronting a lake about midway along the Oregon Coast. My friend wanted to scout the property, check out the signs of deer activity, look for likely spots for hunting. Given the proximity of the lake, I thought there might be a chance to take a potshot or two at ducks, so I agreed to go along. A third friend joined us.

Vacation Halftime Report: Loreto, Mexico


I want to share a few thoughts on Loreto, Mexico, but first a public service announcement: Traveling with an infant severely modifies the vacation dynamic.

More on that later.

The transition from Portland rain to Baja sun proved disconcerting for the bambina. (See, more on that already.) What can you expect from someone born in Portland in late November? This kind of heat is an entirely new and unpleasant experience for her.

I, on the other hand, am enjoying this brief excursion to a sunnier clime.


imageI returned yesterday from three days in Tucson. My lovely and talented wife attended a conference held at a resort just outside the city limits, the resort an oasis of swimming pools, golf courses, and room service. I went along to tend my lovely and talented newborn daughter, with the optimistic plan of completing a second draft of a novel while sitting in the sun. Turns out the former obligation curtailed the completion of the latter. I jotted notes and made corrections on less than half the manuscript.

But the sun was nice after months of Portland winter.


It is possible to pack in a lot of fun over a weekend, especially when you cut out early on Friday.  (It’s OK, I requested the time off officially.)  It’s important to break routine, to get away from our usual haunts and activities.  If not, we stagnate, even if our usual haunts and activities are pretty damn keen to begin with.

The Oregon coast, for those of you not familiar with it, does not provide that So-Cal bikini and surfer dude vibe.  Yes there are surfers out catching waves but they are few – and wearing wetsuits.  The August beach goers along the Oregon coast are tossing tennis balls to romping dogs, flying kites, carving three-wheel tracks in the sand on rented tricycles, setting out a picnic, piling up wood for evening bonfires.  And toting a sweater, just in case.

Now it wasn’t all vacation.  I did get some writing done in the hotel.  And I spent some time searching for sasquatch, though I never did catch a glimpse.

But I was primarily interested in recreation, recharging my batteries.  I got in nine-holes of golf, tossed the frisbee on the beach, and sampled some beer.  I chanced upon a copy of M.A.R. Baker’s “Flamesong” for three dollars at a used book store.  And I was able to hear your favorite band play in a small venue.  There is a certain increased immediacy to the music when the musicians perform in a small pub without a stage or any sort of barrier between them and the audience.

So with the batteries recharged, bring on the work week.  I’m ready.

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria, British Columbia

I drove off the ferry in Victoria and was struck by the odd feeling that I’d driven all this way only to find that Portland had been scooped up and relocated here on Vancouver Island.  I suppose a certain similarity of look and vibe should not be a surprise.  Cities of the Northwest region of North America are bound to possess certain qualities in common.  Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, all rose at roughly the same time.  All are port cities with resource extraction based economies.  The architecture, demographics, even the cuisine inevitably developed along similar lines.

Reading the preceding sentence it appears I’m grousing about it.  I’m not.  Yes, on the one hand travel can be about experiencing the alien, the unfamiliar.  And I enjoy that.  But travel can also be celebration of variations on a theme.  Sure, the high-ceiling, exposed brick brewpub here in Victoria could just as easily be in any other Northwest craft brewing center.  But it is here, and the flavors I sample from the tasting tray provide subtly different takes on the same beer styles I’ve tried elsewhere throughout the West.  It is OK if travel is occasionally familiar and comforting.

And of course no two places are identical.  From the balcony of my hotel room I can see the British Columbia parliament building.  I can nearly spit into the harbor from here.  The buildings downtown, though of familiar style, are still aesthetically pleasing and new to me.

We’re about to take a drive outside the city and I’m looking forward to seeing what the island countryside has to offer.  I hope your weekend was equally full of possibility.



I visited Tara on a quiet March morning. I spotted a shepherd across the fence in an adjoining pasture. I met a local woman walking her dogs. But as near as I could tell I was the only visitor on the hill. I had the mounds mostly to myself. The expanse of damp, spongy turf with a generous leavening of sheep droppings was devoid of tourists – well, of other tourists. It is easier to trigger the imagination in solitude. I could step freely through time, at least the sort of fictional time envisioned by those of us who read fantasy as voraciously as history. Over here I could see Cuchulainn, salmon leaping over the halls that now rose to top the mounds. Over there, stepping through centuries in only a few strides, I saw Saint Patrick giving a snake what for. It is my imagination: there is no shame in my picturing him with a pint of Guinness in one hand. I watched the crowning of Brian Boru. And then I moseyed back down the hill to my rental car, trying to retain the sense of temporal displacement I’d imposed upon myself.

I find travel especially rewarding when I can achieve those fleeting moments of vivid imagination. It can be difficult in crowds, trying to see the Roman Forum bustling with Senators and lectors when it is in fact bustling with two thousand tourists gabbling twenty different languages. But just a glimpse – an overlay comprised of all the ephemera accumulated in the memory: movie images, old encyclopedia illustrations, book cover paintings, the pictures conjured up from reading evocative passages – factual or fictional – can make the whole trip worthwhile. Consider the rest of the trip lagniappe.