On the road again

So we’re on our way to Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday, which means we have to:

Drive through 80 miles of scrubland

Venture all too near the Bad Broccoli Paper Mill

Hack through the underbrush with worn machetes

Use the force to convince otherwise insistent State Troopers that no, they do not want to give us a ticket

Venture dangerously over the dotted middle line to pass slow moving trucks carrying evil potato missiles that threaten to launch themselves at our windshield, which hurtling around the curving Interstate 84 as we drive parallel to the Columbia River

Okay, only some of those things happened. But those potatoes looked menacing. They were from Oregon, so they had something to prove to the potatoes from Idaho. It’s a potato thing, you wouldn’t understand.

The drive was beautiful, with intermittent cirrus clouds drawn wispily across the sky. About an hour west-southwest of Walla Walla we first spotted Mt. Hood, all white-cloaked and almost invisible in the haze. In 38 years on planet Earth, I have never seen anything that tall that still had it’s feet on the ground. The Columbia glimmered back at us, sometimes higher than the road we were on, sometimes choppy with waves pushed by a strong wind, sometimes calm, almost looking like polished metal. I had wondered if the scrub brush and tumbleweeds would slowly give way to what I thought the Pacific Northwest more typically looked like, but I was sorely mistaken. It was like spring in upstate New York — blink and winter’s gone, replaced by tulips and greening lawns. It was just like that — we were in the desert, and in the space on 10 miles, it seemed, we were surrounded by tall conifers and nearly-bare trees, the fading colors of their leaves scattered on the ground like a carpet.

We drove past a few dams, a waterfall that didn’t send its stream all the way down, as if it was too tired to do so, and made our way into Portland, which after spending only a few hours there, seemed like a mix of Seattle style and Baltimore pacing, with several upscale areas to set it apart as its own space. 

Powell’s City Block of Books was pretty amazing: fewer books on five floors than one would think were actually there, but very well organized, unlike the stacks at the Strand in NYC. I am still getting used to the nonverbal nature of Northwesterners. If they’re in your way, do not say, “excuse me.” Lighting oneself on fire would probably be preferable to them. No, you should just stand there, breathing lightly, so as not to take any air they had expected would fill their own lungs. They will move when they see fit. To their credit, most of them give way after 10 second or so. What, are you in a hurry? Tsk tsk, must be from the East Coast.

Susanne went wild in the store, in her calm and intellectual way, of course. Many books piled into the cart, almost as if by magic. Most of them were for school use, but we did walk out with a cookbook on making meals from one’s local farmer’s market (it follows the seasons in a way that seems helpful), the new book by Toni Morrison, and a true crime tome from Ann Rule (I’m kind of addicted to the things).

We stopped next at the highly recommended Burgerville, and I hadn’t realized it was a local fast food chain. It seemed styled in the 1980s, yet was attempting to be retro to the 1950s, so it was kind of a plastic-y, neonized atmosphere, but with a glowing jukebox pumping out Oh Donna. Strange. The burgers were good for fast food, certainly beating out the Ice Burg in W2, but still not quite as good as the bison burger in town. The black forest milkshake however, well that was rather like heaven in a 12 ounce disposable cup. If heaven ever deigned to occur in such a circumstance.

We are now camped out near the airport so we can get on our very early flight tomorrow morning. Because remember, leaving Walla Walla is like walking to England with 20 pound weights strapped to your ankles. There’s a whole lot of ocean in the middle. We will leave at 7 tomorrow morning and touch down in Michigan at 4 in the afternoon, having practically seen no daylight. But there’s a turkey at the end of our tunnel.

Have a great holiday, everyone.

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