Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I've never been a big diary-keeper. I know that comes as a surprise to people who are reading this blog. There are many reasons and no reasons at all for why I never kept one - I see now that there are times when I probably should have written some things down if only to protect the innocent and give the guilty a mighty slap upside the head, but I've always been a person who thinks that pure emotion in writing tends to be more histrionic than meaningful unless you're talking about the person doing the writing. Also, I've been a busy individual most of the time; it took being stay-at-home mom with internet access for me to start in on words.

This is just to say that what follows are excerpts from a first-ever journal I wrote in. I knew I wouldn't have any contact with my corner of the interwebs, or even a computer, for many days at a time. That's how my husband plans his trips, and I am a willing, mostly enthusiastic participant because he is a good travel planner, keeping in mind what each of us likes as individuals as well as all together. The first blank book I thought I'd devote to the purpose was co-opted by the little guy, who started to draw pictures of natural disasters in it at the airport in New Orleans when we were waiting for Joe Biden to take off and allow the rest of the flights to leave in his wake. It begins in a notebook I got at Powell's in Portland, after we stayed with my sister-in-law for a few days.


There's nothing like waking up to the uniquely sad, horrifying feeling of your butt in hurt. That's some serious pain, for certain. Nothing says "out of shape" and "overexertion" in concert quite like your tush screaming at you to give walking, and especially sitting, a rest. But that's what I get for indulging my son and tagging after him on a 2-plus mile round trip hike to the top of Multnomah Falls and back. 11 switchbacks up a trail hugging the side of the mountain, with nothing to hold us back from a mighty tumble down into the Columbia River Gorge as we dodged folks going the opposite way on the same slim trail.

I guess I ought to be happy I'm still alive to experience such exquisite gluteal pain, in retrospect. Kinda hard to be grateful for that, though, when it hurts to sit down.

So today we head to Alaska. We've already left Oregon in our couple-hour trek up I-5 to a plane at the Sea-Tac Airport that will take us up there. We've left my sister-in-law, her husband, and my 15-month-old nephew behind after a nearly week-long stay in Portland at their home.

The last time I saw my SIL was at her wedding over two years ago, and now she's a mom in a mostly pristine suburban bungalow of a house. She looks great, but being at home alone most of the time taking care of her child and being hemmed in by his sleeping schedule is wearing on her. If it had been up to her, I know she'd have been traipsing around town with my son and I and taking in some of downtown Portland anew - perhaps she'd have gloried in the Ira Keller Fountain, or she'd have browsed some shelves at Powell's, or she'd have taken public transportation with us to the OHSU's nifty aerial tram that my son loved so much. But, in a way that was all too familiar to me, Amy's husband would be working or out of town, leaving her housebound when my nephew was taking his naps. Why didn't we stay home with her more? Try keeping a seven-year-old quiet in a small house in which the youngest child is so sensitive to sounds that he won't sleep or nap properly even with a white-noise machine or electric fan on in his room. That kind of thing wears on a mother's psyche after a while.

Our busiest day yet came up after we'd gone to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville and tasted some not-very-good wines on the way back. We toured the Bonneville Dam, checked out the varieties of fish swimming their way up the fish ladders, walked through the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, then hit Multnomah Falls on the way back to Portland.

Dan told me once, as a boy at the Falls with his paternal grandparents, he'd actually gone behind the Falls, his grandmother leading the way.
"Grandma, I don't think we're supposed to be here."
"Oh, nonsense, we'll be fine."
Dan is still here...but I don't think there ever was a passage, Park Service-sanctioned or no, behind Multnomah Falls, from what I could discern from the pamphlets in the exhibit at the Lodge or from the literature in the gift shop. There is a Tanner (Wahclella) Falls in the Columbia River Gorge area that had a behind-the-falls passage, but who knows? Considering that, at one point, Multnomah Falls had a bus-sized boulder fall off its rock face in recent years, I don't think any passage behind its waters would be a good idea.

Over breakfast yesterday morn, Dan mused over the traveling adventurousness, or lack of it, in his family tree. There's a certain amount of it in my family tree as well, but I felt that timing, the constraints of work, and financial and family situations play just as much a part in where one goes as well as one's openness to adventure. Plus, there does need to be some planning involved when it comes to a jaunt like the one we're taking. I'm fortunate, in some ways, to be the wife of someone who finds it fun to look all that stuff up, to make all those off-the-beaten-path travel reservations, to pore over the maps and keep an eye out for the bargains, all while keeping in mind the things that my son and I would be interested in along the way. Dan has a real talent for it and a joy in spending time on it. Not everybody does - which is why we hear of more people taking package tours and cruises to faraway places.


Last time I was in the Sea-Tac Airport was 17 years ago, when mechanical problems brought me there at a much later time than I'd anticipated...but I was just in time to get my glassblowing pipes off the same oversized luggage container as what looked like a huge mess of boxes. On closer inspection, the mess turned out to be a set of hastily and badly packed caribou antlers. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.

I also remember there being much more art on display throughout the terminals, but that seems to have changed some. I am instead at a fairly typical gate, sitting before a television set that just informed me that vuvuzelas used to be used to scare off baboons in Africa, but the plastic versions sold for $8 at this year's World Cup. I now know at what price to sell the one my son got off a Mardi Gras float.

The same TV is telling me now that tar balls from the Macondo blowout have reached Galveston's beaches in Texas. Dan tells me that BP is a much better neighbor to the Pacific Northwest and to Alaska...but he got annoyed when a BP-affiliated ARCO station made him pay cash to top off the rental car before its return. Activists from Greenpeace at the New Seasons Market in northeast Portland were trying to work the shoppers for "save the earth from the oil disaster" funds, and a sign on the road to McMinnville outside a cleaners said SPILL? IT'S A GEYSER while marking the days. Aside from that and CNN, the Gulf oil news is out of sight, out of mind here.

Sadly, it will take tar balls on Long Island beaches before we all really change.


Made it in to a rainy Juneau after a stop at single-gated Ketchikan airport. The Where magazine in our hotel room has an article on the Kenai Peninsula that states:
Despite the massive 1989 oil spill of the Exxon Valdez into the waters of Prince William Sound, beaches are pristine. Most of the affected wildlife has made a comeback, and the waters remain still and silver, as they have been since earthquakes and volcanoes finished creating this secret world of tiny islands and glowering mountains.
Purple, nothing-to-see-here prose.

We'll be starting a boat journey from here to Whittier at the end of the Sound tomorrow, so I guess we'll see.

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