10 Things I Love About You

I woke up Sunday morning and asked Tara, “Hey, wanna move to South Dakota this week?”

Fortunately, she was down.

So: here we are. Moving week. Four more days! It still feels surreal, even though Tara’s last day at work was Friday and mine is Wednesday. This is the final push! She’ll be busy packing and cleaning this week while I somehow try to keep my focus on work. I expect only limited amounts of success there. Sorry, boss. There’s a great adventure awaiting us and I don’t know how I’ll be able to not think about it. But I’ll try.

We pick up the U-Haul on Wednesday after work. Thursday we’ll load it, and Friday we hit the road. It’ll probably be around noon. BTW, Sydney is back to her normal self (whew!) so we’ll have a cat to entertain for 1,250 miles. But after last week’s scare, that’s a good problem to have.

I will, of course, blog from the road. I want to chronicle every moment of this move. It’s not often you do something like this in your life; I’ve often wished the internet existed in 1994 when I left California for the PNW. It would be fun to read about that journey now and look back on everything I was feeling. Memories can be fickle.


We took a whirlwind trip to Tacoma Friday night/Saturday for one last visit with Tara’s family before we move. She and her mom wanted to get matching tattoos, so while they were getting inked up my friend/coworker Candace, a Tacoma native who happened to be in town, showed me around her old stomping grounds. The attraction I wanted to see most was Stadium High School, which famously served as the backdrop for Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, and Larisa Oleynik’s high school characters in the 1999 comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s a great movie, one of my favorites, and both the school and its setting on Point Ruston in the southern Puget Sound are gorgeous. I have no idea how the students there focus on schoolwork.

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My high schools looked nothing like this.

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You’re just too good to be true/can’t take my eyes off of you…

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We got home late Saturday night after visiting with Tracy, David, Anne, and Anthony. Sunday was a full day; we drove down to the Columbia River and walked to Shanahan’s for brunch. Detoured through the farmer’s market on the way back, then drove to IKEA, where we bought a couple of bookshelves to hold our burgeoning record collection. It might seem silly to buy furniture right before a big move, but the closest IKEA will be six hours away in Denver, so it made sense to purchase them now. Did a little packing when we got home, then headed to my parents’ house for a Father’s Day Hawaiian dinner with my folks, aunt and uncle, cousin, and Audrey. On the way over we saw ominous looking clouds the color of granite piling up to the east, and even though the forecast called for sunshine, a line of thunderstorms rolled through and for two hours we were treated to lightning, thunder, heavy downpours, and gusty winds. It was quite the storm. This type of weather is pretty rare in the PNW, but served as a great primer for the crazy Great Plains storms we are sure to encounter on a regular basis.

With approximately 100 hours to go before we drive away, I wanted to play off the theme of this post a little and look at a few positives. Yes, I am super excited for our move, and looking forward to a brand new life in the Midwest. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate many things about this remarkable area I have been fortunate to call home for so many years. So without further ado, here are 10 Things I Love About You, PNW.

  1. Beautiful scenery. Between the evergreen trees, snow-capped mountain peaks, and cascading waterfalls, this place is like a little slice of heaven on earth, gorgeous year-round.
  2. The Pacific Ocean. The coast is often my salvation, and I’ve gotten spoiled knowing the ocean is a mere 90 minutes away.
  3. Great food. Between the delicious fresh seafood, the most amazing berries on the planet, and the wide variety of great restaurants – not to mention the food carts – it’s amazing I don’t weigh 400 lbs.
  4. Progressive politics. Yeah, I’m a bleeding heart liberal. Yeah, I know South Dakota is a red state. Somehow we’ll find a compromise, I am sure.
  5. A mild climate. I prefer more dramatic weather and am looking forward to lots of snow and thunderstorms, but there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s rarely too hot or too cold here. Sure, it rains a lot, but it’s usually more of a steady, light mist and northwesterners never let that get in the way of having fun.
  6. An excellent music scene. If you enjoy concerts, you will never run out of options here. No wonder we’ve seen so many shows, ranging from intimate performances in small venues like the Doug Fir Lounge to outdoor shows on grassy amphitheater lawns and national headlining tours in 19,000-seat arenas.
  7. Hiking and camping. We’re big fans of the Great Outdoors, and the sheer number of hiking trails and campgrounds is mind-boggling. Thankfully we are moving to a place where these things are also abundant.
  8. Farmer’s markets. I don’t want to lump this in with “food” because the markets – some of them, like PSU, open year-round – carry so much more than fresh produce. The farm-to-table movement is huge out here, and when that produce is in season, there’s nothing better than filling your bag with fresh fruit and veggies.
  9. Portland. It may have lost its luster over the last few years, but Portland is still a great city with a lot to offer. I will miss so much about PDX: Powell’s Books, Voodoo Doughnut, Music Millennium, the Saturday Market, and the best airport in the U.S.
  10. Seattle. The Emerald City has long been a favorite weekend getaway. Touristy or not, Pike Place Market alone is worth the trip. Let’s not forget Beecher’s Cheese, the Mystery Coke Machine, and the view from Kerry Park.

I didn’t put “family” because they would top the list regardless of where they lived. Places don’t define people; people define places.

Fortunately, because they do live here, we’ll have many visits to look forward to in the future.

Countdown: 4 Days

 

 

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This Looks Familiar

Six years ago, shortly after Tara moved out here, we took a drive and came across a couple who were stuck in the snow. We helped them out of that jam by enlisting the aid of a guy with a pickup truck and a tow hitch who happened to be camping nearby.

In an odd twist of fate, yesterday Tara and I took a drive and came across a couple who were stuck in the snow. We helped them out by enlisting the aid of a guy with a pickup truck and a tow hitch who happened to be camping nearby.

You know, after just having seen the movie The Endless last weekend, I’m hoping I am not stuck in some weird time loop myself.

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And much like that fateful day back in June 2011, we never did make it to our intended destination. But we came up with a solid Plan B and ended up having a blast anyway. How ironic that this funny thing that happened to us shortly after a big move happened to us again shortly before a big move.

The whole day was sort of unexpected, actually. I’d purchased Paul Simon tickets a few months ago, only to have immediate buyer’s remorse. Nothing against ol’ Paul; I like his music just fine. But you know what I like better? Money. Those tickets weren’t cheap, and we are going to need every cent for the move. So I placed an ad on Craigslist and, after a few tentative nibbles, was able to sell them Friday evening. I actually let them go for $20 less than face value, but I can live with that because it means an extra $150 in my pocket. And the truth is, the thought of dealing with a big arena show at the Moda Center and all that entails – parking, light rail, people – began to sound less appealing the closer the day got. Selling them was a relief in more ways than one

With no concert to plan our day around, we improvised and instead of spending a day in Portland, we decided to drive out to Guler Ice Cave and Trout Lake, both in Washington. Unbeknownst to us, there was still quite a bit of snow on the road at that elevation, and it soon became impassable.

Tell that to the couple in the RAV 4 who were hopelessly stuck.

They were nice though, and while we tried to help them dig out, it wasn’t happening. So we backtracked a bit to a couple we’d seen camping a little ways down the road. When we explained what was going on, the guy chuckled and said, “They’re stuck right past that fallen tree, aren’t they?” Turns out he’d already pulled somebody else to safety in that same spot earlier in the day.

Poor guy probably spent half his day towing people out of the snow. I bet he picks a more secluded camping spot next time.

With the ice cave and Trout Lake inaccessible, we simply turned around and followed the road in the opposite direction. I can’t say we were disappointed with that decision.

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We ended up hiking in the Trapper Creek Wilderness and stopped in Stevenson on the way home for dinner. When we got back we watched I, Tonya, which was fantastically good. Truth is stranger than fiction, that’s for sure.

All in all, it was a very good day. Even if there was an air of familiarity about it.

Countdown: 33 Days

Nobody Cares

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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