Friday, August 11, 2006

The Corner of the Country

Location, location, location. Those are famous words in the world of real estate. They are also famous words in the world of vacation. As I mentioned previously I chose Seattle as our get-away spot for 2006 because it was the farthest we could get from our home without leaving the "lower 48." I was wrong. I realized it on our first evening here. The farthest point from our little cottage on Sanders Street is ... Neah Bay, Washington. I knew immediately that I must go there. I checked I punched it into my gps. I grabbed my bride and we slid into our rented Jeep Liberty and headed west. I navigated the city of Seattle with little diffficulty. "Sophie" the gps queen guided my turns. We boarded the Edmonds/Kingston ferry and crossed Puget Sound. As our wheels found pavement again we began our journey in earnest.

Little did we know.

It is only 167 miles from our hotel in Renton, Washington to the spot know as "Cape Flattery Viewpoint." Back in Illinois that would take about 2.5 hours to traverse. But this is Washington. And that is the Olympic Pennisula. Those are the Olympic Mountains. That, my friend, changes everything. How does 4 hours and 25 minutes sound? Unless ... you have to wait for the ferry. And of course we did. Our little jaunt to the corner of the country yesterday took something over 12 hours. That included a quick lunch in Sequim. The rest was driving. Up, over, around, switching back and crossing over. It was a stunningly beautiful ride that my bottom side will never forget. And when we arrived at Neah Bay on the reservation of the Makah Indian nation we were already intoxicated by the views.

And then came the walk. Nothing major. Only about 3/4 of a mile. Down. Through a rain forest. A wet rain forest. The Mukah's trained some carpenter's and they made some boardwalks over the wettest places. One woman walking behind me slid on a wet and exposed tree root. She laughed and pulled herself up, her husband worrying over her. I made sure to stop and point out all of the slippery spots to her as I passed over them. Debbie and I eventually out ran them and arrived at the very north western tip of our country all alone.

Wow. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean. It looks like the Atlantic only backward. And there are these HUGE rocks jutting up out of the sea. The best I can tell their only job is to stand there and be breath taking. The water roared in from the west. To the northwest you could see the mountains towering on Canada's Vancouver Island. It is August and they are still snow capped. We stood and stared at the view. There is actually this wooden viewing deck but it didn't look like fun because there was about 10 feet of open ground between the deck and the edge of the cliff that was the actual tip of America. So we did what any self respecting American would do. We skipped the deck. I went straight to the edge. Heights have never bothered me. Depth do. When I got to the edge I realized that my cavalier attitude toward heights revealed my terror of depths because straight down about 100 feet below were mammoth waves crashing against the cliff we stood on. You can actually FEEL the cliff shudder occasionally due to the sea caves located below. I retreated a couple of feet. And then I had a craving.

I wanted to take the corner of America home with me. I got down on my knees. I stretched. I reached. I did everything but lay down and finally I wrapped my hand over the edge of America and I grabbed the last stone that hung out over the ocean. It is only about 1/8th of an inch by 1/8th of an inch. But I got it. I got it! And now I own it! And It's coming back to mid-America with me! It will be on display in my office in a couple of weeks. Stop by and see what I risked my life for!

Our return drive was long but satisfying. We got back to the ferry across Puget Sound 55 minutes before it was to leave. Debbie sat in the Jeep while I walked back a few blocks and found an open late night bakery where I purchased 2 cinnamon rolls just before they closed. A fitting end to a magnificant day.

The top left edge of the country. I got it.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Character References...

Ahhhhh. Seattle. Who would have thought it? I assumed it was about scenery. Mountains. Water. And I guess it is. But so far it is mainly about characters. People. Like just today …

He’s a big dude and young. His name is Danny. I thought he just waited tables at XXX Rootbeer Stand. (In the 1970’s the place was one of 79 franchises. It’s the only one left. If it isn’t a gold mine somebody mismanaging it.) Turns out his dad owns it. He looks Hispanic but sounds like a typical north-westerner. He recommended the foot long hot dog over the mega-burger. And he was right. The dog was named the “Dual Exhaust.” They call it that for a reason. He knows everything there is to know about this area. And he has fun sharing his information with you. You go east? You’ll get hot in about one hundred miles. You go west? The coast. Anyplace on the coast is a good place. Danny loves it here. But only if the temperature is between 75 and 82 degrees. Any less and he needs a jacket. Any more and he sweats.

And then there was everybody we met in downtown Seattle. Nobody was normal. NO BODY. Maybe we went too late in the day. Not sure. But you could sense a story in every person. And then when you come across the park … the one with the big totem pole … people get really, truly weird. They are scary. And some of them fight. We saw that a couple of times and decided it was a good opportunity to walk the other way. As we did we happened across another guy walking toward us. I think he was big enough to handle himself. He smiled at us and said, “Sounds like they’ve had too much fire-water.” We saw him later across the street from the park. I guess he survived. The girl at the candy store looked like she could not afford her own caramel apples. She suggested a sea food restaurant down past Pike Place and near the crazy park. We glanced at the menu and noticed that the meals started at $45 a plate. We weren’t that hungry. Maybe she makes more selling peppermint sticks than we realize.

Finally there was our waitress at “The Outback” tonight. It took about five minutes to discover that she moved here eleven months ago from Chicago. Lincoln Park to be exact. And she’s trying to have a baby. I mean she and her female “partner” are trying to become parents. They have selected a donor. They purchased four doses of … of … some kind of donation. If you know what I mean. Each dose costs $250. The first one didn’t take. They have three more chances. Did I really need to know all of this? All I wanted was a steak and maybe a baked potato. But she did tell us to stay away from the Totem Pole park after about 3pm. Where was she two hours ago when we needed her? Oh, and she really liked Debbie’s complexion. And she smiled at me and put her hand on my shoulder when she talked about the $250 per dose issue. Yes, I squirmed. She misses Chicago because her daddy is there. I think there is a piece of this story we have not heard.

Hey, maybe we are characters too? Maybe Debbie is a mysteriously well-complexioned exotic woman and she’s hanging out with me, a chili dog lovin, dual exhaustin, fight avoiding, straight, jeep renting kind of guy? It doesn’t make for a very good story. But at least it’s true. And if we pay $250 for something … you darn well better be able to sit on it, watch it, or at least listen to it.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I am sooooo small

I am the very last person in the country to get on a jet in the post 9/11 era. Yesterday I actually got around to going to the airport and boarding a plane. My last flight was on 9/08/2001 and was from Phoenix to St. Louis. Oddly this flight was from St. Louis to Phoenix. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could reverse all that has happened in our world as easily as I retraced my steps? It isn't happening. I have not been avoiding flying. I just haven't had anywhere that I needed to be. Well, no place that required jet engines and altimeter's. And now I am sitting with my bride in the suburbs of Seattle, Wa. I've barely looked out the hotel window. I think it's partly sunny. And it's going to be 72 degrees today. Max. That's why I chose this place. That and because it is the farthest I could get us from our home and remain in the lower 48. I'm not sure why I wanted to remain in the states. I'm just a state-side kind of guy I guess. Anyway ...

Here are some things that I learned or remembered while "slipping the surly bonds of earth" yesterday...

-I am small. Very small. Sometimes I get caught in the trap of believing that all of life, all of the world, revolves around me and my issues. If I am upset then the world must be off kilter. Spinning off its axis. And it is not. Those jet engines just kept gobbling up real estate and the more they gobbled the more there was to gobble. And all of those people down there? Not one of them knew I was up in the sky. I am sure none of them even cared unless I fell on their heads. Which I did not. We are all better off for this. (On the other hand falling out of the sky unexpectedly is probably the only way I will ever get on CNN.)

-Clouds are strikingly beautiful from above. There is little of the flat, gray sameness to them. They bubble and they billow and the go in anyway the please. If clouds looked from below like they look from above they would scare all of us to death. God keeps the best view of the clouds for Himself and for those who fly jets.

-Lightening at night is REALLY cool from above. You cannot describe it. it is just ... raw power.

-Phoenix is hot. Really. I am not kidding.

-Professional glass blowers are fun to talk to. Master professional glass blowers are even more fun. For about thirty minutes. At that point they have nothing new to say and yet they never finish saying it. Put a little liquer in them and they begin to say nothing with gusto.

-Gray haired ladies in their seventies have every right to insist on only reading the King James Version of the bible if they want to. I do not have the heart to argue with them. It brings them a sense of security and peace and that is just fine with me.

-I do not agree with laws legalizing prostitution. But there is one place where, if you are going to legalize it, you might want to start. Nevada. And actually sex for money is legal in much of that state. After spending a great amount of time flying over it yesterday I must say that there is probably nothing else to do down there. I do not think that God is going to "look the other way" but if He ever did that might be where He would do it.

-I am absolutely drawn to bathrooms on airplanes. The ceiling curves severely over your head. One foot above that curve you would be dead. One foot below that curve you can pee in peace. Somehow (though I am not sure how) that seems to be a fitting metaphor for life. I must work on that. I'll get back to you.

That is it for now. I have to go pick-up a rental car so that I can peek into a volcano and look for some whales. No, really. That's what I am going to do. Ok, not in the same place. But that is on the agenda. Along with some extended time in a hot tub.