Exploring the Pacific Northwest & learning to travel solo (again)

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Hello once again dear readers.

So I actually did it, I actually left Sausalito.  Exactly one week ago tonight.  I have to admit I felt a bit dizzy and short of breathe when I pulled out.  A mile down the road I allowed myself one tear and then dried it off.  I made the drive up to Ashland for the second time, but it wasn’t quite the same this time.  Still, I adore Ashland!  I challenge you to find a lovelier city.  And I’m not just saying that because it has TWO bead stores. 🙂  I went out for a few drinks that night before I  called it a night and was engaged in a conversation with a local guy.  We were talking about how great Oregon is. And specifically Ashland.  After more than an hour of talking I just had to ask, because of what I had heard, ‘What do you do for work here?’  His response was classic…’Oh we don’t talk about work/jobs here’. ROFL! I’d heard the job market was bad there, even if the quality of life was really good.

After putzing around a little too much the next morning (and of course paying another visit to the Bead Store) I finally made my way up to Portland via the Oregon coastline.  I’ve heard how stunning the Oregon coast is and it’s definitely true.  Steep cliffs and crashing drops with giant rocks in the sea.  It reminded me a lot of Ireland.  And onto Portland.  Oh yeah, I’d been trying to make it up to Portland for quite a while.  And because I putzed so much I got there right at evening rush hour!  I was actually a bit surprised that a city that is known for it’s environmental progressiveness would have such a horrible rush hour…and such inconvenient interchanges, and roads and layout!  Or maybe it’s just me but I found it to be a complete clusterf&*k getting into.  I also hadn’t done enough research about where to stay.  I mean there was camping, but it wasn’t convenient.  So I had to resort to something I haven’t done in forever!!!  Stay in a hostel.  And not just a hostel but a dorm room. UGH!  It’s true what they say, you get to a certain point in life where a little extra is worth having your own space.  However I am no longer in that position and I do still like to scrimp on accommodation.  So I sucked it up and payed the $30.  The hostel, I discovered, has won an award from the city for the most creative water solution.  They have a rain collection bin on the roof that collects all that fantastic Portland rain water and they use it to flush the toilets.  I have to admit it is clever since they get so much rain, even if it does have a lingering odor in the bowl.  Still, great idea.

One of the funny/interesting things about this trip has been seeing things and going to towns that I’ve been hearing about for years…and finally seeing them first-hand.  Portland is one such place and unfortunately it did not exceed, but rather feel short of my expectations.  I will preface this by saying that I didn’t have a buddy to show me around or lend a couch and that I do believe it’s the kind of town you need to get to know in order to fully appreciate.  That being said, Portland and I did not hit it off the way I had thought.  12 years ago I had actually considered moving there because I had heard it was the only other city in the states besides New York where you could live without a car.  I’d also heard it was very progressive, hippy friendly and had a good quality of life.  Hmmm….well the reason you don’t need a car is because there is a bicycle mafia over-taking the city.  OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  I myself am an avid bike rider and think it is a great way to get around.  However all this “Share the Road” shit is just that!  There is no sharing of the road when the bikes are completely in the car lane and not allowing traffic to pass them!  Hippy friendly?  More like hipster.  I lost count of all the “posers” I encountered.  Quality of life?  Portland is quickly becoming the Meth capitol of the states and has more titty bars per capita than any other city.  Oh calm down!  I’m not hating on Portland, I’m just saying it seems to have a bit of an identity crisis.  I did go out for a drink with a mutual friend who was in town and kept picking up on that weird vibe I just couldn’t place.

The next day I was walking around downtown enjoying the fabulous August sunshine, trying to redeem my image of Portland when I got a text from my friend Andrew.  I originally met Andrew last year when I was in Iceland.  We were both at the Blue Lagoon wading thru soothing hot water when I overheard him talking to another group about the Gili Islands….a TINY island chain way out Indonesia.  That was the start of our extensive conversation about world travel, which lasted a good few hours all the way to the airport. He was returning to Seattle after 2 years of being away traveling, and I knew exactly how he felt.  We exchanged information and stayed in touch.  He ended up moving out to the DC area and I got to visit him at the beginning of my trip.  But he told me if I ever made it to Seattle to hit him up and he would set me up with some peeps.  Which is exactly what he did.  ‘Quick and call my friend Christy. She’s gonna take you out tonight’.  Sweet!  So I got in touch with her and ditched Portland.  Maybe another time…

On the drive from Portland to Tacoma I took a little detour…up to Mt. St. Helens.  Honestly I never really thought I would get to see it in person.  I vaguely remember when it happened and when I was at the Visitor Center I overheard the information lady and a guy talking about it.  “Yeah I remember when that happened” he said. “I was 7”.  I really should’ve kept my mouth shut, but he was just so….well…old looking!  No, I didn’t say that I just said ‘Wow, yeah I remember that too. I was 8’.  Yeah I really should’ve kept my mouth shut on that one.  Driving up to the top to see it was really cool though.  She is incredibly beautiful! But as you get to the top there are still (31 years later) remnants of that day back in ’80 when she blew her top.  I’d like to think that she was unhappy about the Reagan era beginning 🙂

Back on the road I went to head to Tacoma to meet up with Christy.  We decided to meet up at a coffee shop in downtown Tacoma.  Here’s the really funny part!  Andrew had called her up that morning saying that “his friend from Iceland was coming to town and needed a place to stay.”  So she’s totally expecting this intriguing Icelandic woman to meet her….and it’s just me!  haha, this was the running joke of the week; that Icelandic women look and sound just like ‘us’. hahaha! After that we then headed over to the bay where she told me she had a friend with a boat that we could go out on for sunset.  It sounded like a great way to spend the evening.  So we parked at a little restaurant there in the harbor to have a drink or 2 before we met up with him.  That’s when we started getting to know each other better and she told me that the friend was actually a guy she had recently started dating and she wasn’t really sure where it was going or if he was her type.  But that’s really all.  She was curious on my reading of him and them together.  An hour or so later we finally met up with him and headed over to his boat.  At first all I could think was that he was wearing way too much cologne and had a bit of a Jersey Shore look going.  Strange for the west coast but what ev.  His boat was really cool, and luckily enclosed cos it was getting pretty cold.  The sunset was amazing!  We went around the Gig Harbor area taking it all in.  I will say that she and he definitely had very different communicating styles and I didn’t think it was so necessary for him to constantly try making out with her right in front of me.  Cue insecurity perhaps.  So we headed over to The Tides, which is a local favorite restaurant.  Almost from the start there were problems.  They couldn’t decide on what to eat.  He wanted to order shots that she didn’t want.  Then she was calling her best friend Pat to come over and meet up with us and he was talking over her conversation on the phone.  She had already warned me that there were jealousy issues from the guy about her friendship with Pat and I could definitely see that he was controlling.  So they continued to fight and then she said they should take it outside because it was very uncomfortable sitting right there with it.  When they went outside to “discuss” things further the waiter came over to talk to me about what was going on and we both decided to laugh it off.  Not long later Pat and his friend  Chris arrived, excited to meet the “Icelandic Girl”.  While we were chatting and getting to know each other Christy and the guy were continuing to fight and then I heard her say “I can’t take this anymore!” and stormed off to the bathroom.  Pat and I noticed this and then sort of talked about it.   The guy walked off, but what we didn’t know was that he was trying to get into the ladies restroom where Christy was.  After 2 times I think, the waiter reprimanded him about it.  Christy calls Pat, who is sitting next to me, telling him this and that she has asked him repeatedly to leave and he won’t.  When Christy is on the phone with Pat, the guy is totally hovering over him, with his chest all puffed up like a peacock…which was really bizarre but unfortunately I have seen this behavior before too many times.  When Pat gets off the phone, the guy had walked over to the bar to talk to the waiter, Pat turns to his friend Chris and says ‘We need to take care of this’.  I remain at the table and watch the 2 of them walk over to where the guy is.  Chris was sort of standing in front of the bathroom and Pat is at the end of the bar and says to the guy “Dude she doesn’t want you here”.  The guy turns like he’s going to leave and then just lunges right at Pat and goes nuts!  I couldn’t believe it.  It happened so fast and cudos to the waiter that he went right after the guy and took him down to the ground.  But the guy continued to fight him and 2 other patrons jumped in to help.  I mean, this is a restaurant!  Not some sleezy bar where fights happen regularly.  It was very fast, but very rough.  I sent Christy a text telling her there was a fight outside and when it seemed safe I went in to check on her.  When we came out of the bathroom poor Pat’s face was covered in blood!!  In fact there was so much blood that I checked his mouth to make sure all his teeth were still there.  Somehow in that 30 sec brawl the guy managed to completely split poor Pat’s lip.  The restaurant called the cops who soon came.  Taking pictures, taking statements, etc etc…  The guy had taken off on his boat so the Harbor patrol went after him and within an hour I was asked to go outside and identify him.  Seriously?!?!  How do I get involved in these situations?!  Several of us had to write down witness accounts.  The FD paramedics came and everyone told Pat he needed stitches.  I felt his pain when he explained he didn’t have insurance, but in this case he could totally sue and after 2 hours when his lip started to swell and separate I told him he was way too young to have a screwed up lip for the rest of his life.  The restaurant was very helpful and we finally headed off to the ER.  Yay I just love going to ER’s in the middle of the night.  At least this time it wasn’t me!  But if I ever were going to go to an ER at 2am, the one in Gig Harbor is where I’d want to be.  An hour and a half later we walked out, with Pat having 8 stitches put in his lip.  For sure we spent the rest of the night hashing it out.  Luckily the next morning we checked online to see that he was still in jail, cos all of us had worried about that.  And I started to wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into!

After finally getting my car, which was all the way on the other side of the harbor, we headed over to Patty’s house.  Patty is my friend Andrew’s godmother and one of the coolest women I’ve ever met.  Originally from New York she moved out here 40 years ago and built up a really sweet spot right on the water.  We picked berries from her garden and told funny stories.  I absolutely adored her!!

Then I was off to Seattle to meet up with another woman named Susan.  Susan is a good friend of my friend’s Jim & CJ and I had hung out with her one night back in college, 17 years ago!!  They had said if I made it to Seattle I should meet up with her.  And so I did.  It’s so funny to meet someone once, spend a night partying together, and then meet up again nearly 2 decades later on the other side of the country.  But it was totally cool!  Susan has a sweet place in West Seattle with a deck that overlooks the sound and affords fantastic sunset views.  We had a fun night hanging out in Capital Hill (which looks just like San Fran to me).  And for the second time on this trip my hostess said “I think I’ll call in sick tomorrow”.  Yay!!  A play buddy 🙂  I know Seattle is known for it’s dreary rain, but in August it could not have been a more picture perfect day!  We decided to take the bus into the city and explore.  True Pike’s Place Market can be touristy, but I still loved it.  It sort of reminded me of some of the Asian markets I’ve been to, only different.  I had no idea what she was talking about when she said ‘this is where they throw the fish’. But I soon found out.  That is where they throw the fish, and somehow they make fish throwing entertaining.  We ate and grazed our way thru the entire market and when that was done we headed over to Bell Town for happy hour.  Funny, it was also Hemp fest in Seattle and all the cops seemed to be cashing in on that.  I’ve never seen so many cop cars whiz around for no reason.  That being said, I really enjoyed Seattle…far more than I ever would have imagined.  I guess I didn’t expect to find it so, well ‘European’.  And of course all the sunshine didn’t hurt either.  After a full day we headed back because we both had early mornings ahead of us.

Hard to believe, but I agreed to meet up again with Pat and Christy.  I think they were just as surprised as me that I agreed to meet up with them on Saturday in Ellensburg…but the offer was too good to refuse.  A day of river floating down the Yakama River and then a concert that night at The Gorge.  I’ve been hearing for years what a great venue The Gorge is and even though country music is not my thing, I just really felt I had to do this.  So I had to get up really early Sat. morning to make the 2 hour drive to meet  them in time for river floating.  There were probably about 20 of us.  The river was flowing fast and it was damn cold!!  But wow was it fun!  So much better than any of the floating I’ve done on the east coast.  Several hours later we overshot our dismount point and had to hitch back to where the cars were.  We got to the concert about 10 mins too late for that ‘perfect’ sunset moment but I still got the full effect.  It is a gorgeous ampitheatre I have to say.  Toby Keith was the performer and I have to say his ‘patriotism’ goes way over the top and borders on obnoxious ‘nationalism’.  The constant Ford advertisments in the background were beyond obnoxious.  So I just laid back and watched all the beautiful stars and ‘thought’ about things for a while.  I was really glad I came out and gave them a second chance.  They were good kids and I had an amazing time with them.  The next morning it was time to say goodbye and move on.

As lush and beautiful as Western Washington is, Eastern Washington is the exact opposite.  Dry desert grasslands.  There is nothing for the eye to see.  Then you get into Idaho and all of the sudden it starts getting pretty again.  Idaho into Montana, even better…which is where I am writing you from now.   And now I must plan out the final push.  I can’t believe that in 2 weeks I’ll be driving over the George Washington Bridge…:(

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