Monday, October 1, 2007

9/23 - 10/1/07 Catching up with my Family – in the Pacific Northwest

It was a hard first month. I worked pretty much 6 ½ days a week….and missed the family terribly. Talking on the phone just doesn’t quite do it. Next time I go to them, I will probably bring along the video cameras for our computers, so we can chat and see each other using Skype software. That should help, I hope.

We met up in Tualatin, just south of Portland, OR. My friends Charlie and Naomi, who also live in an RV there, picked me up and we headed to their place. Some hours later, Mary Ann Dave, Sarah and Mayim pulled in… I parked the coach (several times – see Mary Ann’s comments on that).

We hung out in the area for two wonderful dinners, a trip to my all-time favorite bookstore, Powell’s, and then embarked on the route that Sarah planned for us. Even though the first stop was not far east of Portland, it was world’s away from the hustle of community. The local diner was campy, as was the ‘cute’ little grocery store in the town of Cascade Locks. We shopped for snacks, and played Sequence at night.

The following day, we had this wonderful, slow-paced drive through the countryside – found a dragon lurking within the deep forest – and escaped to the Vista House (overlook above the Columbia Gorge). A very cool building, with great views, neat old glass in the windows – leaded – and photographs that went back to the 1800’s. The coffee was hot, and cheap! And yes, we all snacked on candy as we continued to go from one waterfall to another – there are almost two dozen reachable in the Gorge.

The fish hatchery was OK, but the late afternoon arrival meant that we did not get to see them letting in fish (they had closed the barn doors to the “native” streams being sought so fervently by the Coho); milking them, and preparing and fertilizing new eggs. There was an informative movie, and you have to marvel that these are freshwater salmon at birth, migrate 125 miles to the sea, where they spend 4-5 years in saltwater, ranging all the way into the Gulf of Alaska, and then, one day, return from the ocean to this freshwater stream. They are driven by the urge to reproduce and perpetuate the species. It is quite a sight, though hard if you only think about this as the end of their lives. Rather, it is a process that has long occurred in natural streams and, more recently, in hatcheries. Every major dam further up the Columbia has a fish ladder – quite a sight to see when the salmon are running.

The last full day in Cascade was spent on the water. The 3+ hour paddleboat ride was on a windless, glassy water morning. The wind did not fill in until about the last 30 minutes of the ride, and even then, was quite warm.

The drive to Pendleton that afternoon was startling in the abrupt transition from the forested hills and lands of the Columbia Gorge to the bone-dry grasslands and rolling hills of interior Oregon. Vistas widened, and you could see for many miles. River valleys cut across the broad plain, and some of the “rolling hills” in the distance would turn out (a few days later) to be a 4000-foot high mountain ridge we climbed through on our way to Boise.

Pendleton itself is built in a river valley, so we actually didn’t see the town when we drove just past it to the Umatilla Indian Reservation (and Casino) and their RV park. The park was nice, and the spaces, Amen, again were pull-thru’s – what a treat. I know, it sounds silly, but after a long day’s drive, it is little stuff like that – and clear satellite access to the southern sky, that makes us all happy… oh yes, and Wi-Fi, and hot showers, and Jacuzzis… you get the idea.

The next day’s trip to the Pendleton factory was pretty cool, though all of us had itchy eyes when we left this house of wool! We got to see the entire process from wool being stretched and wound into threads on these huge drums, and then blended to make all of the various Pendleton colors. Next, the colored drums are putting on huge looms, and the blankets and other items are woven in continuous lengths… a pile of blankets might be 100 blankets long. These are then inspected, cut, and shipped out. While the wool is too itchy for most of us, it was neat to see the process from beginning to end. And, no, we didn’t buy a single “Pendleton” there.

The drive to Meridian, just west of Boise, was scenic, crossing mountain ranges and following a series of river valleys. We crossed, and re-crossed the Snake River, and made it to Meridian/Boise before supper. My last few days in the coach were spent being beaten regularly at Sequence by Sarah, and doing Mr. Fix-it jobs around the coach. I had gotten to feel [almost] guilty in Pendleton when the rain started and Dave did not notice – you see, he usually plays his game cube or play station on the outside TV… only it began to rain and we weren’t yet set up for him to play indoors… I know, cruel parents! So in Meridian, I cured that as well. Now he can play indoors or out – though he seems to much prefer the joy of being outside, playing, and taking in the environs.

It wasn’t quite as hard to leave the gang at the airport, but then, hmmm, I called from San Francisco, my change-of-plane stop, and then called from John Wayne airport (at home), and then, hmmm, called again that evening from my borrowed bedroom through the kindness of Al, in Villa Park. But hey, it wasn’t realllllly “as hard” to leave.

Of course, I am sitting here, in my office on October 21st, writing this entry and trying to figure out when, and where(!), I will meet up with the family next…. Stay tuned.

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