I’m writing this post while kicking back in a vintage travel trailer on the Washington coast. It’s the same trailer Tara and I booked in 2014, when we came out to Long Beach on my birthday weekend for the Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival. Deja vu, ’cause we are here again for the same festival on the same weekend. This is also the place I holed up back in 2016 to kick off NaNoWriMo. What can I say? We love the Sou’wester! And the crab fest, apparently. I’ve been coming here, on and off, for the past 20 years – five or six times total – so this is one of those bittersweet occasions because it’s our last hurrah. We haven’t even hit the fest yet, and we’re already having a blast!
My birthday began on a less than auspicious note with the following text from my mom.
Ha! I know she didn’t mean that. Tara and I (and about 50 other people on social media) got a good laugh over it.
I took the day off (Friday) and headed out to the Columbia Gorge for what has become a tradition – a birthday hike. I’d always wanted to check out Dog Mountain, one of the most popular hikes on the Washington side of the river; it’s known for brilliant wildflower displays in spring. I’m sure they were awesome, but there wasn’t much of a view because of the low clouds that obscured the peak.
Let’s talk about that wind, though. Above the tree line, there was a steady wind blowing at what I estimated to be 60-70 mph. No exaggeration. It was so strong it literally knocked me off my feet at one point. Between the dense cloud cover, hurricane-force winds, and bitter cold, it wasn’t a particularly rewarding hike. I definitely consider it the toughest one I’ve ever done, thanks to a 2800′ elevation gain over eight grueling roundtrip miles. Two days later, my knees and quads are still aching. But at least I proved to myself that, despite being another year older, I can still complete a difficult-rated hike. I doubt I would do this one again, though. Good thing we’re moving – there aren’t any Black Hills hikes nearly so steep!
Saturday we set out for Long Beach, making the trip via Highway 4 on the Washington side of the river. We’d never gone that way before, but I’m glad we decided to try a new route – it was quite scenic. We made a stop in Gray’s River to check out the last covered bridge in Washington state, and decided to check out a cute little Irish pub in town for a cocktail and a bite to eat. Looks nice from the outside, right?
Little did we know of the dark secrets contained within its walls. Turned out to be one of the most bizarre experiences of our lives, from the overly earnest proprietors who slid a handwritten, food-splattered list of specials under our noses to the cornflakes on Tara’s cheeseburger. Most disturbing of all, though? The extensive display of Nazi memorabilia scattered throughout the bar.
You know that movie The Hills Have Eyes? Let’s just say we felt fortunate to walk out of that place alive.
We checked into the Sou’wester around 4:00 and, once we got settled in, headed across the street to Rod’s Lamplighter, another dive bar (this one free of any Third Reich associations, thankfully). We killed a good four hours there drinking, playing pool, and filling up the jukebox with good music. Tara looked at me askance when the Bee Gees and ABBA started playing, but by then it was late in the evening and I was beyond caring. Came back to our trailer, heated up some pizza from the night before, and watched Sixteen Candles while rain began falling on the roof. It was pretty much perfect! A little too perfect perhaps, because I basically passed out.
Time to get ready for the Crab Fest!
Countdown: 54 Days