Greetings from Houston, the Big Strip Mall. Or, more precisely from a pond-side deck at our little AirBnB in the suburb Pearland. The contrast from the rainy (flood-threatening) Pacific Northwest to sunny coastal Texas is distinct and welcome.
Perhaps Idaho doesn’t spring immediately to mind as a summer vacation destination. But I had been getting a touch of cabin fever, I’d heard good things about Coeur d’alene, and it is only about a six hour drive from home. So I packed up, got MBW and the HA in the car, and we headed northeast for a mini-vacation.
MBW is on a business trip to Monterrey. Monterrey is a vast, sprawling metropolis in Northeastern Mexico. It’s grown even larger since my last visit, not long ago. MBW brought me along with her to entertain the HA. The Airbnb we rented boasts an impressive view (when smog and clouds allow), a gym, cafeteria, and — most importantly — a swimming pool. The HA and I have spent numerous hours in the pool and we’re only at the halfway mark of the trip. I expect many more.
I did not make any New Year’s resolutions. I’m rather content, in general, with life. I always strive to improve, of course, for myself and for MBW and the HA. But I don’t plan to drop ten pounds or start exercising. I already maintain a healthy weight and workout regularly. I don’t intend to quit smoking; I never started. I’ve got a steady job and roof over my head. There is always room to grow, to do more, to increase in prosperity. I’ll continue striving. But I don’t feel the need to make any concrete resolutions.
I do, however, have plans for the year.
I suppose most of us have lists. Or, if not lists, the occasional thought that “I really ought to [insert specific] sometime.” For me it is the latter. I don’t actually make lists, bucket or otherwise. But one thing that has cropped up in my mind every once in awhile over the last few decades is that I should visit Crater Lake. After all, I’ve lived almost my entire life in the Pacific Northwest. What excuse do I have?
This weekend I finally scratched that itch. I drove My Beautiful Wife and the Heir Apparent (I kind of like that, I might stick with the “Heir Apparent”) from Portland to Roseburg on Saturday. We enjoyed a terrific little brewpub for beer (I was partial to both the Imperial IPA and a seasonal IPA with an excellent balance) and pizza (wood-fired brick oven pizza with a nice char, the Meat Lovers actually had a layer of salami below the cheese.) Backside Brewing was almost worth the drive by itself.
Today we drove to Crater Lake. First we made a pit stop at Diamond Lake, braving a velcro-like maelstrom of flies at the lakeshore. Then, on to Crater Lake. Joining, apparently, half of California. But no whining. The trip was worth every mile, every delay. (The effrontery of other people, actually wanting to visit a popular attraction the same day I do. Don’t they know who I am?)
We made it back to Roseburg in time to drive another five miles down I-5 to visit a drive-through wildlife safari. That was surprisingly enjoyable. Lions and tigers and bears. You know the rest. The Heir Apparent ate it up. She’s taken with bears. (“Osos” is one of her most frequently used bits of Spanish vocabulary.)
Much time in the car (hit 100,000 miles on the odometer at the Crater Lake Park entry.) Looking at about three more hours for the drive home tomorrow. That’s fine. I’m tossing word salads in my head. How much of that work will ever end up on paper remains to be seen. But it is never time ill-spent.
Something you learn when traveling with an infant is that on any given day of the trip you can plan one thing. One event, one sight-seeing excursion, one (relatively) leisurely restaurant meal. The rest of the day is governed by the baby’s sleeping schedule. Decent accommodations are vital. A pool helps. A television with access to children’s programming doesn’t hurt. A well-stocked refrigerator goes a long way towards easing the times spent in guest housing.
So many thanks to a generous friend for putting up with me, my beautiful wife Isa, and my rambunctious and rambling ten-month old daughter V.V.
And thanks to the greater Phoenix area for providing a thing-a-day for us to do during our mini-vacation.
I am typing this web log post with my right hand while cradling a sleeping baby in the crook of my left arm. One of the products of five years of marriage.
That’s right. Five years.
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.