Sunday, April 18, 2010

On the Road Again

In the past few weeks I've traversed about half the length of the country, mostly by plane.  These trips weren't exactly vacations--the time wasn't very restful, per se--but they were certainly pleasurable.

The first was a brief trip to St. Louis by way of Iowa.  I went with friends and fellow alumni to cheer on the UNI Panthers in our first Sweet Sixteen basketball game.  Highlights of the trip, other than the game (even though we lost) included riding public transportation and seeing the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and it's magnificent mosaics.

My trip to Washington state was less spontaneous than the previous excursion the week prior; it had been planned months ago to visit sister Sarah, who's been in the Seattle area for a little more than a year teaching environmental education at different camps.  Currently, she is working at the Archdiocese of Seattle's Camp Hamilton and living at Camp Don Bosco and was able to take Easter week off to play hostess.

Easter Monday morning I flew into Sea-Tac International Airport's Terminal B, which boasts two Starbucks.  In Washington, you can spit in any direction and hit a coffee shop.  We spent the afternoon wandering around downtown Seattle, a city much hillier than I expected, which included a visit to Pike Place Market and happy hour (my first since Lent) at an inexpensive place serving good local beer.

Tuesday we took in a leisurely hike in Twin Falls State Park, where the reason for Washington's nickname "The Evergreen State" was apparent.  In addition to evergreens and ferns as far as the eye could see, everything was covered with moss.  And I thought Missouri had looked green the week before.  The trail led above the waterfalls to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which dovetailed nicely with December's impromptu Iowa pilgrimage.

We trekked north to Vancouver on Wednesday, marking my first time outside these United States.  Not far into the car ride, Sarah remembered that her driver's side window would roll down but not up again, which caused a bit of a hassle at the border.  I was slightly afraid that our last name could cause us some undue grief too, but we were fine, possibly because I'd shaved off my terrorist-beard a few weeks earlier.  Vancouver was nice, even though I tend to find most downtown big cities to be alike.  It rained for the third day in a row, and I, having forgotten to pack a raincoat for my trip to the Pacific Northwest, was forced to stroll the streets using my sister's fuchsia umbrella.  But don't worry; that didn't prevent some guy from trying to sell me pot in a city park.

I drove back through Canada and most of the way through Washington until we got off the interstate to find a place for late dinner.  We were in the left lane going through Arlington's business district when Sarah said, "Don't hit that"; "that" being an unnecessary curb separating the median's left-hand turning lane from the rest of traffic.  Unfortunately, I did hit it and blew the tire.  So we returned to Carnation via back roads on the spare.

The next morning, before leaving for Vancouver, WA, and dinner with family following Sarah's work-related presentation to parents whose kids would be attending Camp Hamilton, we stopped to get the tire fixed.  Afterward, the mechanic asked if there was a special trick to rolling up the driver's side window.

Dinner at historic Fort Vancouver's Grant House with cousins Robbie and Daniel was great fun.  We'd already planned on staying the night and going west to the Oregon coast on Friday morning, so Daniel suggested we'd like to see the Grotto of Our Sorrowful Mother before leaving Portland.  The grotto contains a life-size replica of Michelangelo's Pieta set into a 100-foot rock cliff and is a serene little place in an otherwise bustling city.

We reached Seaside, OR, after an hour-and-a-half drive and headed north on the 101 to Astoria, where we stopped at Fort Clatsop, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.  Then across the highway in Fort Stevens State Park, I caught my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.

The public beach there is quite popular, thanks in part to the rusted remains of the Peter Iredale, a steel shipping vessel that ran ashore in 1906.  The beach was also littered with sand dollars and driftwood, and the soothing rhythm of the incoming tide was something like a gentle heartbeat.

We packed a lot into my six day "vacation" but there were still things that there wasn't time for. We didn't go whale-watching or canoeing; we didn't visit Uncle Doc and Aunt Ruth, stop at Seattle's Pioneer Square or see a lighthouse.  So this calls for another visit.