PNW Part II

The first installment of my PNW travel blog left us off in Olympia, ready to head southward towards California, where we were to meet up with Win, my son (and Maggie’s big brother), and his girlfriend, Heather. We road-tripped down Rt. 5 making several stops along the way. And no, not all of them were for espresso drinks.

  • Key gustatory stops included:
    • Fabulous and unexpected Mexican lunch in Eugene, OR. Mama Mayra has 5 stars on Yelp, all of them deserved. Definition of hole-in-the-wall, suffused with fragrant cooking aromas, smiling diners chowing down at worn linoleum tables.

      Lunch in Eugene.

    • More coffee. (So not all our stops were for coffee but, I mean, we made stops for coffee.)
    • Bricktowne Brewing Co. in Medford, OR. Don’t hold the “e” at the end of “Bricktowne” against them. The beer was good, and Maggie loved their dry pear cider.
        

      Maggie’s list of high points (cough) would include: “it’s legal!”

    • The best breakfast place ever in the history of history— Morning Glory Café in Ashland, OR. This place had a menu so delicious and creative, a décor so campy and cozy, servers so sassy and efficient, that we are seriously considering a move to Ashland for the duration of life.

      The glories of Morning Glory cafe.

We arrived in Placerville, CA by evening of our second day of driving, after stopping for groceries. Our arrival, and the much-anticipated bear hugs from the bear-of-a-son (I was prepared for his bear-like-appearance), took place in 109° heat.

But the heat was incidental. What mattered was the warmth of being with both my children at the same time for a whole week. Slipping back into the on-site mother-groove and letting the flow of talk and laughter fill me up. The Maggie and Win show is always fun to tune into….

I felt blessed to be able to see through a small window into the life shared by my son and the woman he loves (beautiful, vibrant Heather). For three of the days I was able to stay with them and see firsthand the easy, intimate rhythm of two people who love and support each other. The fact that one of them is my grown child made it especially meaningful for me.

  • Here are some of the superfun things we did together:
    • Visit Lake Tahoe. I’ve been collecting possible words that I can use to convey the impact of Tahoe on my brain/psyche/soul. I came up with this one: WOW. The three of us (Heather was working) had a little picnic, took a short hike around (part of) the lake’s perimeter in the 100° heat (with lots of looking-at-the-view stops), then went somewhere to drink a cold beer.
       

      This was the “cold beer” part of the day.

    • Wine tasting. Heather was not having a good day that day. It got notably better when we started puttering around to a few nearby wineries and tasting their honorable wares. Turns out that Napa is not the only county in CA with a zillion superb wineries. Within 5 miles of where we were staying there were 20+ we could visit. We checked out about 5. Our favorite was Jodar. Of all that we visited, the people were the most real, the wine the most delicious, and the atmosphere the most jovial. Plus, geeks that we are, we learned the most and liked that. Side note: as Heather, Maggie, and I sipped wines and nibbled cheese, Win hung out either outside or in a nearby arm chair, depending on where we were, reading fly fishing articles on his phone.
    • The Haircut. When we first arrived in CA, we saw firsthand what no scissor and no razor looks like on my son for 7 months. Remember Jeremiah Johnson? Or maybe Forrest Gump on his cross-country trek? Like that. And in temps pushing 110°. Win: “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to get a cut.” ENTER MOTHER (wearing imaginary cape, hovering five inches off the ground with hands on hips): “To the rescue!” So, the day we visited Nevada City, CA, we stopped off at a barber shop on the outskirts of town. When the four of us (all rather tall humans) poured into the little shop (we left the dog outside), the barber was unfazed. She proceeded to cut an elegant swath through my son’s hair collection, moving it from his head and face to the floor at her feet.

      Pre-cut, in car with the gang of us including Stella the bestest dog ever.

      Mid-cut with the unflappable barber.

    • A woods-walk on the Deer Creek Tribute Trail near Nevada City. Beautifully maintained by locals and with gorgeous retaining walls, artistically designed, including niches where people have created community altars to nature.

      One of two altars with additions by us.

      Suspension bridge on Deer Creek Tribute Trail.

    • Geeking out about gold rush history. The “kids” and I headed to Coloma, CA, location of Sutter’s Mill, the site of the first gold nugget discovery by James Marshall (1848). The South Fork of the American River flows gloriously by the spot where a saw mill was created. Soon the non-existent town, and the area of CA that was home to around 150,000 Native Americans, was flooded with white men fixated on quick wealth (a tale as old as time), and about 120,000 of the rightful residents were utterly wiped out. The blip in the road that is now a few historic buildings and a little museum was, for about 8 years, a thriving metropolis.

      Highly knowledgeable and skilled blacksmith at Coloma.

      Super cute lunch place in the heart of this “birth of the gold rush” area.

      Surveying the North Fork.

      Recreation of Sutter’s actual mill.

    • Having a beer with a former student of mine at The Club Car in Auburn, CA (forever memorialized for me now). He and his wife are ranchers dedicated to sustainable animal husbandry. We sat at the bar, sipping local beer and talking about ranching, the environment, the school with which we all share a history, Gareth’s kids (small, lively, and brilliant and whom I’ve not met), my kids, who were in 3rd grade and kindergarten when Gareth graduated. It was joyful. An hour and a half passed and we parted with hugs all around.

      Maggie, Me, Gareth, Love.

The best part of any trip can happen between the “things we do.” This mother-daughter trip was across the country but we also logged over 1700 miles getting from Seattle to our meet-up with my son, plus about 2-300 additional miles exploring together once we got there.

The hours in the car included some of the most beautiful views imaginable.

Casual driving view….

Pull-over view American River.

Plus lots of fun scoping out coffee shops on Yelp and going out of our way to hit them. And then we read one and a half books (I read to Maggie while she drove –neither of us ever outgrew read-aloud). When we were tooling around with her brother, and Heather too sometimes—plus don’t forget Stella the dog—it was like a magical car-based opportunity to … well, talk. Then there was the talk-while-walking-around-random-towns, the talk-while-exploring-nature, the talk-while-eating, talk-while-cooking, talk-while-shopping, talk-while-sitting-around-and-forgetting-what-we-were-supposed-to-be-doing, and so forth.

Walk and talk. (This took place later, in Portland, but you get the idea.)

Not at all sure that wasn’t the best part of the whole trip.

But eventually daughter and mother headed back north, with plans to meet up with Win (and maybe Heather) again in Portland just before July 4th and our flight back. The last chapter of my PNW blog will be posted very soon….

 

 

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PNW Part I

Skyline snapped en route from airport.

The pull of the Pacific Northwest grew gradually but inexorably over the years. When my son moved out there six months ago, there no longer existed a single excuse not to just… GO.

Seattle to (almost) Sacramento and back again in 2.5 weeks. Another epic journey undertaken with my 24 year old daughter, Maggie.

In this overview (Part I) — Washington State. If you told me tomorrow that I was moving there, had a job, a place to live, and sorry but it just had to be, I’d kiss you. Seattle stole my heart and the whole state captured my spirit.

High points included….

  • Seeing a dear friend from my school days in NYC and her wife, and getting the quickie overview of Seattle from a wise and pragmatic person who instinctively knew what we’d love.

    The wonderful Anna and Louise.

  • What we saw (and loved):
    • Lake Washington (where my friends Anna and Louise live) and the view of snow-covered Mt. Ranier at one end. For an easterner this hit my eyeballs as “A Mountain” putting Mt. Alander or Brace Mountain of my nearby Taconic range into stark perspective as “mountains”—note my use of capitalization. (Ranier is 14,410 feet high and topped by a glacier. By way of comparison, I learned to ski at Catamount, in the Berkshires, with an elevation of 1000 feet and topped by mostly trees.)

      Lake Washington and Mt. Ranier.

    • The troll under the bridge. Yes! A glorious art installation and he even holds a real live VW bug in his trollish grip.
    • Lenin-in-mid-stride. Someone thought it was a great idea to buy an old statue of the leader of the Communist Revolution from the Russians and install it in front of a café. He makes an impression in any city.

      Lenin striding.

    • The Olympic Sculpture Park (part of the Seattle Art Museum). Set on the water, artists like Alexander Calder (in all his majesty), Richard Serra (whose amazing work is at Dia Beacon in my neck of the woods), my old fave, Louise Nevelson, and many more, are on fabulous display. One artist new to me, Jaume Plensa, knocked my eyes out with his monumental Echo….

      Echo

      We walked together in the sun and the breeze, wearing light sweaters in late June. Bliss.

    • Pho.

      The Pho was delicious.

    • The salmon ladders. If you’ve never heard of such a thing, you’re in good company. It was new to me, too. Ladder is a misnomer, really, as the engineering is more about stair-steps that head upstream through gateways, so the salmon can access their spawning grounds despite the existence of a lock system that controls water flow into and out of the giant Lake Washington. There is a viewing spot below ground-level where we could watch the valiant wild salmon swim against the current, find the gateway to the next level, and use their muscular little bodies to push through it. They were beautiful and Maggie and I were thoroughly transfixed for a good hour. And yeah, we took about 9 million photos and at least 8 thousand video clips. We were inspired.

      The salmon in the ladders.

    • The first five or so of a plethora of small coffee spots we stopped at during our trip. My friend, Anna, understood that we needed to see multiple “temples of coffee” as she called them.
    • Amazing Copper River salmon.
  • Visiting friends, Tom and Nina, in Olympia, WA and experiencing their love and wonderful tour-guiding.
  • What we did with them:
    • Walked through part of the Olympic National Park. Since the park is about 1400 square miles, we were on just a microscopic fraction of it, but what we saw filled our eyes and souls with great beauty. A temperate rainforest covers most of the park, and we walked what is called the “staircase” trail, which starts about an hour and a half from Olympia. Majestic cedar trees, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, and hemlocks towered overhead. Sunlight filtered through the canopy, but we were cool and comfortable as we walked. We stopped frequently to inspect a fern, some moss, a section of rapids, or a fallen cedar (one was especially enormous; the root system, lying on its side, towered over us).

      Tom, Nina, and me posing beside the huge fallen cedar.

      One of our hiking companions, Tom, is 81 years old. He impressed all of us! 

      Beautiful couple and a beautiful view.

      Tom and Maggie walk ahead.

      Trees grow on other “nurse” trees.

      The Skokomish River from up hgih.

      The Skokomish River.

      Taking a rest as we walked the Olympic State Park Staircase trail.

    • Toured the Capitol building in Olympia, WA. To be honest, many capitols in this country were constructed with ugly in mind. Or maybe it was just economy. But this building and all the ones around it are modeled on the neoclassical style of the nation’s capitol. The capitol itself was not only quite gorgeous, but contained more marble than I’ve seen in one place outside maybe the Metropolitan Museum. Fun fact: the supreme court of Washington is comprised of five women and four men. Seems about right.

      Washington State Capitol.

      A VW bug would fit in that chandelier.

      WA House.

    • Drank more great coffee.
    • Ate more delectable salmon. Plus some crazy-good chicken Perloo made by Tom, a Florida Cracker born and bred.

Washington State secured itself in me as a destination of my heart. I constantly imagined myself living there and began fantasizing possible move-to-Seattle outcomes for myself. It’s probably a good idea for me to visit in the winter and really experience the daily rain I don’t think I’m going to mind, but won’t really know till I see it firsthand.

Olympia is a port city.

Next installment: heading south through Oregon to meet up with firstborn, Win, in CA.