Three days driving for half the day or more seems to be my personal limit on time I can spend driving and still call it a positive experience. This I now know because we did just that in our little Honda CR-V (that’s Can’t Resist Vehicle for the non-Honda laypeople), going from Detroit to Minneapolis in one day, to Miles City, Montana, the next, and finally to Walla Walla. Except not finally, really, since our end destination was Seattle. But we needed to make a stop at Wallyworld to get some of our things out of storage, put them into a moving van, and haul the detritus, I mean, erm, our belongings, to the city with the Space Needle.
Just as an aside, the Space Needle only looks good from a distance, and especially good as a line drawing, as in the opening credits of Frazier. I suppose it helps that we’ve got Grammer’s singing to distract us from even this abstraction of the building. But up close, it just looks meh, like a toy I played with in 1978 that had a lot of white plastic and faded to some ever-dingy urine-y yellow. Okay, it’s not as bad as that, but it’s not much further up, either. And I am a little incredulous that we still had a World’s Fair in 1964 or whenever this thing was built.
We rolled into Walla Walla on Friday night with the wheat almost as grown as it gets before the farmers chop it down and burn the fields. Everything in town had a bit of a golden hue from the light of the crop, or maybe it was just the lighting from the maximum security prison, I’m not sure which. We had plans to get the moving truck in the morning at 11:30—this was our pick up time. And as friends of mine know, I am fastidiously punctual. So we checked the address to Budget truck rentals online, went to bed, and ventured out in the morning.
This is where we had a quintessential Walla Walla experience. Let me explain. While the Web site gave a street address on East Isaacs Avenue for the truck rental agency, all we found was an empty lot with one rather damaged rental truck—the rear view mirror was broken, and the left side had a long, arching dent. We could see the key drop-off box, so we had some reassurance that this was the right place, but in every other regard we intimated that this was the very most definitely wrong place to do our paperwork. For other than a few McDonald’s wrappers slowly blowing in the desert wind, there was no paper.
I found two phone numbers attached to the drop-off box, so I called the first and waited. Two rings, five, seven, and then I clicked in to some other part of the Budget Rental Universe. Headquarters was less than helpful, only giving me the address to which I’d already wandered. Maybe there was a parallel dimension to the office that I was just missing, or a secret word, or perhaps I needed to pull on my ears or tape up an X on a window. They suggested I try the airport. But it was an offhand gesture, not a solid directive. Small town living at its finest.
With some degree of trepidation—for maybe someone pulls up in a truck the second after we’re gone—we left for the airport, which, because it’s Walla Walla, and as regular readers of this blog know, is only a 5-minute drive away. That’s because everything in Walla Walla is only 5 minutes from any other thing. I hopped on the highway and by 11:37 we were at the counter, a just-beyond-teenager there who knew all about our rental. The kicker: this was in fact where we were supposed to do our paperwork for the truck, but then we had to drive back to where we’d just been to get the actual truck. Fortunately our truck wasn’t the beat-up one in the parking lot. Unfortunately, when we met up with the manager back on East Isaacs, we found our truck had no gas cap. We tried taking the gas cap off the damaged truck, but lo and behold, it was stuck onto the tank. What the hell did those people drive through? I agreed to drive the truck across the street to the auto parts store and voila, the manager presented me with a new cap.
Then it was just the matter of nearly falling over from heat exhaustion as we cleared out what we needed from our storage unit, which in the summer heat, wavered somewhere around 108-112 degrees. It was like slow-cooking our brains, and eventually, we got a little discombobulated, pointing at boxes we wanted but not knowing anymore how to get them from where they sat to where we wanted them—for example, in the truck. I was reminded of Weeble Wobbles, another toy from my youth in the 70s, because we did start teetering around as we carried things, and after an hour or so, we were done. We did what any intelligent person would do at that point; we headed to the Colville Street Patisserie, and if any place could serve as muse, this place does. I don’t know what Tiffany and Dave put in the confections, but it makes my fingers get to typing.
The next morning we got ourselves some mochas and yogurt and headed out in our mini-caravan, over the Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascade Mountains, which is the range responsible for keeping the westernmost third of Washington and Oregon wet and the eastern two-thirds nearly bone dry. I kept the truck at a steady 65, and this was an improvement over the U-Haul I’d rented in 1997, which threatened to come apart at the seams at one tick higher than 52mph. I found some amazing country station on the way to Yakima and bojangled myself all the way to Seattle.
We promised ourselves on Sunday that we’d unpack right away, and as of this post, we’ve mostly held true to that goal. I’ve got one still-sealed Space Bag with my clothes in it, and we have a bathroom shelf to assemble, but otherwise, that’s it. Note to people thinking about buying Space Bags: two of ours opened up spontaneously in the back of the car, which wasn’t good, and when you vacuum seal them up, they become heavier than the particle of matter responsible for the Big Bang. But other than that, they’re great.
Susanne’s younger brother met us at our new place to help us move in, and more to the point, to collect the box of pottery he’d asked us to bring with us from Michigan. Nobody is more cleverly frugal than this fellow. But we made short order of the moving in process, and now I have the next 5.5 months to take in everything Seattle has to give. Already I see that our neighborhood is unusually populated with seafood restaurants, unhelpful to us as a couple since one of us can’t eat fish or seafood of any kind. But it is Seattle, and we can partake of the many, many coffeehouses here. Six are scattered in the streets around us—there’s also a German tavern, three pizza-making establishments, one used book store, and a business to help one improve one’s golf swing.
I’ll get right on that.