Better And Better

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Climate vacation

I was caught at a weak moment.

My wife and I had been talking about where we were going to go for our vacation. Somehow we had managed to get the same 10 day period off in July. We had talked about how we didn't have much money. We had talked about maybe taking the kids up to the foothills-called-mountains up in northeastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

I got distracted from finishing this conversation, when I was returned to it abruptly whilst in an attic.

Attics in Texas are not very fun places to be, in the mid-summer. In this one, I had just finished blowing insulation into it, and was cutting a hole for a gable vent. Because I was doing this in the morning, the temperature outside was still just under 100 degrees. The temperature inside the attic was a little hotter.

*Ring* [I scrabble to get my cell phone out of my pocket.]
"Hello?" [Sound muffled by my air filter.]
"Matt? Is that you?"
"Yes."
"It doesn't sound like you."
"It's me." [Getting a little annoyed, and trying not to fall through the ceiling from the joists that I can't see, buried under blown-in insulation. Finally, pulling up the filter and taking a gasp of dusty, insulation-enriched air.] "Now, can you hear me?"
"Yes. Better. So I've been thinking about where we're going for our vacation."
"Do we have to do this now? I'm in..."
"Yes. Now. Our elder child's in band camp that week, and our younger child can stay with your mother, and..."
"What?"
"I want to drop the hammer on tickets for you and me to Seattle."
"What's the price?" She told me.
"What about a car?" She quoted me a price for a rental with unlimited mileage.
"What's the weather doing up there?"
"Highs in the 60's. Unseasonably low temperatures."
"Do it."
___________

A week later, we were both moist in the face from our dash to the gate. (The remote lot that we had first gone to turned out to be full.) It wasn't dawn, yet, it was 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Today was going to be warm.

We finally landed in SEATAC airport at about 3:00PM their time. It was 64 degrees. I checked back home, where it was 5:00PM: 105. More than 40 Celsius. I felt no regrets for coming.

After getting our car and assuring the lady at the desk that we did NOT need the spacious luxury vehicle or the satellite radio, or the GPS, or the upgrade in insurance (good lord, the upgrades would have been double the price of the car rental), we headed south. I was a bit tired, so we stopped in Tacoma for a cuppa coffee.

Friends, they drink gooood coffee, up there. And the barristas know the name of the guy who roasted their bean. And the latte art is amazing. My wife laughed at herself for getting her mocha iced, out of habit. No need. It was cool out.

In Portland, we stayed at a friend's house. She was actually not there, but had left a key. She also had left a tiger trap. It seems that she'd been looking at replacing the wooden (!) grate over the updraft floor vent. I walked to the window to look at the view, and fell through, with my legs dangling into the basement. A small and ultimately unnecessary patch of skin the size of Montana was removed from the love handle covering the crest of the right ilium. As I flailed, I managed to chicken-wing my right elbow into a ceramic pot (RIP) and its brass stand (RIP). I like to think that they slowed my descent, ultimately caught at the right armpit and left leg.

Ever had the floor just fail to be where it should have been? You feel rather shocked and unable to explain yourself as you stop your descent. In this case, the crashing sound of me going through the sheet metal below the vent (removing about a yard of unnecessary skin on my right shin) made me terrified that I had oafishly broken the 1920's vintage Gibson banjo hanging on the wall about one foot from where I had fallen. I notified my friend (en route to a music festival), and she responded, "Holy crap! You're there for five minutes, and you're already breaking stuff!" I informed her with a sniff that, in my defense, I had actually been there for eight minutes.

Ibuprofen cures many ills, friends.

We continued south to Eugene, Oregon, and stayed with dear friends of my family, and ate like kings. Blake characteristically was cooking for his neighbor's wedding, which my wife and I were invited to. It was held outdoors. The groom wore walking shorts, and the bride wore a sun dress. The music was performed by a band of kazoos. As a man who's played a little kazoo in his time, I sat in with the band. The vows were moving. House finches played in the hemlock. We ate Texas barbecue. It was a great wedding, and I had only met the bride and groom 2 hours before the wedding. May they always be happy.

The next day, my bride and I went with friends to the Oregon Country Fair. This is not like a little local county fair, like I had grown up with. It's a gathering of hippies. Honestly, it's fun to step into their world, and see what they'd like to believe the world can be like. It was very clean. People were very friendly. They wore amazing costumes, or nearly nothing at all. (A cache sexe was required.) The food was good, the music was good, and the art was good. The weed was smoked only in designated places. No alcohol was served. Great coffee was. I met a friend from my youth (my best friend's little brother), just strolling around the 40,000 people, 1900 miles from home.

We came back to my friend's house tired and happy, and my friend Shannon brought out some GREAT local wines. (May I suggest the 2007 Gold Note Zinfandel?) We ate locally-caught grilled fish of four varieties. I had never eaten grilled sturgeon, and was surprised that it was every bit as good as the grilled tuna steak. Who knew? The salmon and the haddock were both good, too. My friend Shannon and her parents fought over who got to host us that night. That's a mighty hospitable position to be in, friends.

We went back north, ate pie and drank more great coffee with tiger-trap owner Meredith, and had her give us a tour of downtown. We went to the local Chinatown, and then couldn't resist an hour in Powell's. Don't know Powell's Bookstore? That's a shame. It's several stories on a city block, of what a used bookstore should be.

We continued on to Olympia, Washington, to visit my friend Billie Jean at her new house. It was cool and wet, and after an incredible dinner prepared by her boyfriend, I borrowed a jacket (forgot to pack one) to go for a walk with the dog with them. Olympia is a lot like Austin used to be-- small, friendly, easy to get around, and still the state capital. Austin, alas, is now overgrown and is hard to negotiate.

The next day, we visited my wife's neice in the oddly-named Sedro-Woolley, and held her new baby. Then we continued north to Canada.

The crossing was easy, as I had no weapons other than a Spyderco that John Shirley gave me for Christmas. We exchanged some money, and were shocked to realize that the U.S. dollar is now worth $0.95 Canadian. All my life, our dollar has been worth a fair bit more than the Canadian dollar. Now? Theirs buys more. Sad times, friends.

We stayed in Vancouver, and found it to be an interesting city. The Asian population there seems to make up half the city, and our hotel was in the Asian district. We had some congee soup. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. Probably my last bowl.

We took the ferry to Vancouver Island to Swartz Bay.

These things are huge. Large trucks on deck level with the water. Passenger cars above that deck. Passengers in the decks above. The three lowest surface decks load at the same time. 30 miles for $15 isn't bad for passengers ($2 for your bike), though $60 seems pricey for a car. We left our car and cruised at 21 knots to Swartz Bay, and took a cab to Butchart Gardens. I can't do justice in explaining this place. It's a theme park for gardens. Each garden is like a ride. They do things there with flowers and color that I've never seen before. Good lord, it's lovely, and worth the trip. People come from all over the world to see these gardens, with good reason.

Well, for example, check out this view as you come through a tunnel in the trees to the Sunken Garden, a former limestone quarry that the owner's wife had started fixing up after it played out back in 1907:



It got better. My little Sony CyberShot literally could not process the depth and pop of the reds of some of the flowers, as witnessed by this washed out pic:

I cannot describe the fragrance. Intoxicating.



We bussed to Victoria, and found it to be a very pedestrian and bike friendly city. We stayed outside of downtown, and just walked in the next morning. We went to an organic bakery and coffeeshop and ate and drank things the likes of which I'd never had before. I demanded to speak to the baker, to thank her. The night before, we giggled when we saw the weather forecast, where they literally apologized for the cold weather, but reminded us that it could be worse: we could be in Texas, where it was 41 degrees (C) or hotter. I'm not kidding.

We bussed back to Swartz Bay and took a bigger ferry back, through the San Juan Islands, in what is now called the Strait of Juan de Fuca, lately called "The Salish Sea."

This trip is worth it for the sights to be seen on it, in its own right. Though it was chilly (64 degrees, humid, and with at least a 22 knot wind) out on the observation deck, it was worth stepping out to see the sights there.

Wear a sweater or a windbreaker.

We arrived back at the Tsawwassen ferry port, and drove back to the U.S. We coordinated on the way, and met up with Gay Cynic, who directed us to a fantastic seafood place (Duke's) where he took us to dinner. He let me buy dessert at a place on Capital Hill that he described as being like "a gay Denny's." We ate very, very well. He then showed us a very nice view of Seattle, where I stretched my camera's capability of taking night shots.

(Okay, okay-- the reason it's tilted is that I sat it on a post to take the timer shot.)

The next morning, as we were leaving the motel in Renton, my wife pointed up at a cellular tower over the motel parking lot. A nesting pair of osprey were flying to and from their giant nest of sticks built atop the tower.


I waited until I got the picture that I wanted:


We boarded our plane back to the heat of Texas very unhappily. We had ended our climate vacation.

We landed back in Texas just before midnight. It was 83 degrees. Back to life. Back to reality.

The next day it was 105 degrees again. That's 40.5, to you Canadians.

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12 Comments:

At Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:15:00 AM, Blogger Peter said...

Glad you had at least some time off from the heat. It's bad enough in TN, where I am now. Having been in your part of the world in high summer, I can only believe that Purgatory (the ecclesiastical variety) would probably be cooler . . .

 
At Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:16:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

I kept waiting and wondering when you'd write something about your vacation. 'Twas worth the wait. Glad y'all had such a good trip.

 
At Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:16:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Great post Matt, glad you and the wife got some down time, and sounds like a great trip :-)

 
At Tuesday, July 19, 2011 8:26:00 AM, Anonymous Shrimp said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip (except for the tiger trap). Glad you made it back safe and sound (again, except for the tiger trap). I like the night shot of Seattle.

 
At Tuesday, July 19, 2011 1:15:00 PM, Blogger MadRocketScientist said...

Glad you enojyed your time in my stomping grounds (I'm in Everett). My wife & I were just up at Butchart about two weeks ago, and I did get some real nice shots with my DSLR (the trip was my birthday present, a day at Butchart with my camera & tripod and a wife who was not allowed to complain that I was taking to long to take a picture, plus tea). If you'd like to see them, let me know & I'll send you a link when I post them.

 
At Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:18:00 PM, Blogger Hunter said...

And to think that you were just a few hours away from Alaska. Same time frame, we were in the mid-fifties, in Ketchikan.
Sounds like it was a great trip.
Hunter
Alaska

 
At Thursday, July 21, 2011 9:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt,
Take the banjo off the wall and keep it in a hardshell case. Heat, cold and humidity will destroy it more surely than your fall.
Glad you had a good vacation.

Richard Johnson

 
At Thursday, July 21, 2011 6:03:00 PM, Blogger rremington said...

Wish I'd known you were coming to Sedro Woolley! I'd have loved to meet up with you folks and had breakfast at Joy's Bakery!

Glad you had a good trip.

Rick

 
At Thursday, July 21, 2011 8:52:00 PM, Blogger J.R.Shirley said...

I spent a good many of my weekends in 2002 and 2003 hanging out in Olympia.

Glad you had such a great time. Except for the tiger (sasquatch- Pacific Northwest, remember?) trap, of course!

 
At Thursday, August 04, 2011 2:57:00 PM, Blogger Clay said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed the Pacific Northwest. I have lived around Oregon and Washington my whole life. I have lived a year here and there in other states. It is hard to beat the NW.

 
At Sunday, September 25, 2011 2:19:00 PM, Blogger Ormond Otvos said...

Yes, twelve years in Port Townsend and Seattle, salmon trolling and fixing wheelchairs. Port Townsend is worth seeing, especially during the Labor Day Wooden Boat Festival, with literally hundreds of wooden boats and associated funk, sea chantey groups, contests, and camera heaven.

Now in the North San Francisco Bay, Richmond, where the weather is just about perfect Mediterranean. We're in a fog-resistant microclimate in West Richmond.

Texas. Why live there when you have a choice? Nice units in our coop are going for less than $35k...

 
At Sunday, September 25, 2011 9:09:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Actually, Texas is pretty damned fine, right now.

 

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