Washington State & Oregon – 2003

Having spent a fortune last year on our USA & BC trip, our elder daughter’s marriage in September, the Tanami Track road trip very shortly after, birthdays in the family, followed by Christmas and more family birthdays, we started a strict diet of bread and spit to save up for a special trip to Washington State to help our friend, Angel, celebrate her 50th birthday in October of this year. This plan was hatched during one of our R & R sessions down by the Tambo River in the Gippsland Lakes region when the fish weren’t biting…

With all the boring details taken care of by my very capable MOTH (Man Of The House), all I had to do was shop for gifts for our friends in WA (that naturally called for several trips to Victoria Market in the city), decide what clothes to take with us and which digital camera I would buy this time. As our departure date drew near, our excitement mounted to fever pitch. We headed off to the airport bright and early on Oct 9th to board the United Airlines flight to SeaTac via Sydney and Los Angeles. “Unfortunately”, the aeroplane did not break down this time so we missed out on the compensational stay at a posh hotel in Sydney. To ensure that we would be able to consume the in-flight meals, my MOTH had specified “No Pork” on our meals request form. Bad move! We ended up with either fish or vegetarian meals – lentil curry being my least favourite. The best part of ordering special meals was the fact that we got served first. Next time, we will try asking for Kosher meals instead!

We arrived in LAX and went through Customs and Immigration there – the queue was so long that we could have gone for a ten-course Chinese banquet, polished off a bottle of cognac AND enjoyed a karaoke session, come back and not lose our place in it! Unfortunately, all I had to amuse myself to kill time, was to watch my MOTH – if he was just a tad twitchy before we saw the long queue, he could easily have been mistaken for an epileptic when he saw how bad it was! He kept glancing at his watch at least a hundred times a minute, sooo worried that we would miss our connecting flight to Seattle. I think he was starting to hallucinate too, as he kept commenting on all the fornicating people around us… All’s well that ends well – as soon as we were cleared through Customs and Immigration, we “hoofed” it to the domestic terminal and caught our flight with seconds to spare. As in previous US domestic flights we had taken, there was no in-flight entertainment or meal service of any description apart from a wee cup of beverage to wet our whistle. Just as well it was a lovely clear day – we saw spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, etc., but I could have saved myself all that focusing and clicking as the photos that I took through the wee window of the aeroplane were lost when the batteries in my bino-digicam “died” on me. 

As soon as we emerged at the arrival hall at SeaTac, we saw GOB – (Good Ol’ Bob), Angel’s hubby, with a big ol’ smile on on his dial. Hugs, kisses and handshakes later, we grabbed our luggage and headed for Eatonville. Waiting excitedly for us were Angel and her mum (my MOTH and I call her, “Mum Doris”). What a welcome we got – even the resident doe and her fawns seemed happy to see us again.  After warm greetings and hugs were exchanged, we brought our luggage inside, jumped into the “truck” and went shopping – no, not at Walmart, just at the grocery store. You couldn ‘t half tell that Halloween would be upon us soon – everywhere we looked we saw pumpkins – I have never seen so many different varieties of pumpkins until this trip! It’s a pity that we don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia in such a big way as they do here. Our jaws were aching by the time we went to bed that night from all the yakkity-yak we did, as opposed to RSI of the fingers when we chat in IMs practically every day of the week.

Plans had been made for Angel’s immediate family and my MOTH and I to travel to Cannon Beach in Oregon for the weekend of mid-October to celebrate her special birthday. Of course food and drinks were at the top of our “to do” list to prepare for this exciting trip. We spent a couple of days having cook-up sessions – lashings and lashings of my special fried rice and sweet and sour chicken. [Sweet and sour prawns (shrimps) would have been my preference but it was ANGEL’s birthday after all, not mine.] As always, I believe in preparing for the worst and obviously Angel shares the same view, so just in case we got stranded at Cannon Beach and all the stores there run out of food, we would be able to save the whole town from starvation! With that in mind, we bought packet upon packet of beef hot-dogs, bags and bags of chips, bread rolls, salads galore and just about every slab of Bud Lites from stores within a 10 mile radius.  But first, I decided to do a bit of pampering for the birthday girl – I gave her a hair-cut  and a manicure the day before we left for Cannon Beach.

On a glorious sunny morning of Friday, Oct 17th,  after a slight delay waiting for Angel’s brother and his family to arrive, we set off in two “trucks” — with piss.. er.. pit-stops at Toutle River Safety Rest Area where there was free tea, coffee and biscuits (cookies) and yes, toilets! After using the amenities there and a good stretch of the old legs, we continued on towards the border at Longview and crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. From there it was a scenic mountainside drive west on Highway 30 following the river before a gradual descent into Astoria, then south on Highway 101 to the coastal town of Cannon Beach. It was good to see that there was a big supermarket there and many, many restaurants too, just in case we run out of food!!!

We arrived at the Surfsand Resort, checked into our respective beachside units and… fed our faces. Not content with just admiring the view from our balcony, we decided to arm ourselves with our cameras and go for an up close and personal look at the majestic Haystack Rock, a large basalt monolith just a few hundred steps away along the beach. Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is the breeding home of four species of sea birds: Tufted Puffins, Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, and Western Gulls. The gulls nest up high on the rock using exposed nests. The puffins nest in burrows high on the north and northwest sides of the rock. The guillemots nest down quite low in cracks and crevasses. The cormorants stick their nests to small ledges medium high on the south side. [Isn’t the Internet marvellous???]  Also, there are many fascinating tide-pools teeming with marine life at the Rock, but unfortunately, we were unable to see them for ourselves as they are only accessible at dead low tides. 

Now if your idea of fun included walking into a sandstorm to take photos of rocks, we had a blast! Man, the wind was so powerful it almost blew me into the ocean! Just as well I wasn’t wearing a hair piece or dentures!  Conversation, of course, was out of the question as I couldn’t even hear myself think! We took numerous photos of Haystack Rock and the Needles and then it was just a matter of turning around in the direction of our resort and let the strong sandstorm blow us back to it… Of course this “battle” made us hungry, very hungry, so we fed our faces all over again. We then chilled out on our balconies and sipped our respective favourite beverages while feeding the numerous gulls as we waited for a spectacular sunset that the area is famous for. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be, as it clouded over a bit too soon that evening. Bummer!

Accommodation at the resort was all booked out as there was a dog show on the same weekend that we were there. Now why would I mention a dog show? I hear you ask. Well, our “neighbours” in the unit next door happened to be the owners of a couple of show dogs, who were so very anti-smoking (the “neighbours”, not the dogs..). There we were, the 3 pariahs, (Angel, GOB and myself) smoking on our balcony… (I might add that the strong sea breezes were blowing our cigarette smoke as soon it left our mouths and away from the snooty neighbours’ balcony, anyway!) The next thing we knew, the phone rang – there had been a complaint about our smoking and could we please refrain from smoking on the balcony! We obliged and from then on, went downstairs to enjoy our occasional cigarettes but not before making a counter-complaint about their barking dogs!!! They then had to spend the rest of their stay keeping their dogs from barking on the balcony, which meant that instead of second hand cigarette smoke, they got stuck in their unit smelling dog farts! Hah!!! Two can play this game…

We spent the best part of the next morning feeding the seagulls (used up four loaves of bread, we did) and if we had stayed any longer, I’m pretty sure the gulls would have laid eggs for us! At first, only a couple of them swooped on our extended hands to “snatch” our bread offerings but within a few caws and squawks, whole flocks of various species appeared out of the sky! They must have excellent communicating abilities or very keen eyesight.

By the time our supply of bread ran out, it was almost lunch-time and it was then decided that clam chowder from Moe’s was a definite must for us all. After driving all over the place, we finally located Moe’s but much to our disappointment, my MOTH and I were left drooling – we had to miss out on this treat because Moe’s clam chowder contained pork! GOB bought a huge tub of it anyway and we headed back to our resort unit. Sweet Angel couldn’t bear to see the steady trail of dribble from our mouths, so she secretly let her fingers do the walking until she found a local restaurant which served “porkless” clam chowder. She then disappeared and re-appeared a short time later with a big old grin on her face and a huge tub of clam chowder for us! What an angel… 

Shortly after lunch, Angel’s friends , Vickie and her family (from Salem), arrived at the resort to join in the birthday celebration. As it was way too windy to walk all the way up the beach and check out Ecola State Park to get a good view of Seal Rock, we went shopping instead. Not serious shopping, more of a sticky-beaking session, actually. I mean, the kites for sale were beautiful and all, but not exactly what I would want to take back to Australia as souvenirs. They were way too large and besides, to be fair, I would have to buy five of them (for all our grandkids). We then drove around for a spot of sight-seeing  but headed back to our units before our thirst got the better of us. Fully aware that this would be our last chance at capturing photos of a seemingly ellusive sunset, my MOTH and I had our cameras on the ready and were on full alert – like a pair of paparazzi awaiting the arrival of Michael Jackson to hopefully capture snapshots of him without his surgical mask!  Not that anyone in their right mind would ever compare Michael’s face to a sunset!

Unfortunately, we weren’t well-rewarded for our patience but I did manage to get an unusual shot of the evening sky. [Click on photo on the right of this paragraph for a larger image.] After sunset, everyone sat down to a hearty meal of – yes, fried rice and sweet and sour chicken! Of course not having my wok with me presented a bit of a dilemma as we had to re-heat the food in small batches in the microwave oven in our unit. By about the sixth batch, I was multi-tasking – able to carry on a coherent conversation in English while dishing out the food without spilling it all over the place AND keep an eye on the microwave! Afterwards, we gas-bagged well into the night, mostly about food…(what else?) in between ducking downstairs for a cigarette or two. We finally called it a night and drifted into slumber to the soothing sound of ocean waves. Woke up the Sunday morning with the sad realization that our weekend at Cannon Beach was almost over… After breakfast of a coffee, a few puffs of a cigarette, a cough, a spit, a fart and a look around, we began the task of packing up our overnight bags, various unimbibed beverages and the unconsumed food (plenty of “leftovers” – enough to feed an army of starving warriors, in fact!). A few more clicks of our cameras and we were ready to hit the road. I would love to return to Cannon Beach someday when the weather is perfect, the tides dead low and the sunsets glorious…

Back in Washington again, we spent the next few days shopping, eating, fishing (caught some very nice bass), more eating, more shopping and so on. The most memorable takeway meal on this trip was Papa Murphy’s pizza – we made our selection of toppings, they custom made, individually wrapped and packed the pizzas up for us to bake at home at our leisure. Absolutely yummy!!! Oh yes, we also went to the Country Buffet Restaurant in Puyallup one night where we ate so much food that we had to roll out the door a couple of hours later. So much for watching my blood pressure and cholesterol. I’ll start dieting when I get home. Yep, that’ll work! 

No trip to Washington State would be complete without a trip to the renowned Mt Rainier National Park. Mt Rainier is an active stratovolcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice. With an elevation of 14,411ft (4392 metres), it is the highest mountain in the state. One of the monarchs of the Cascade Range, it was originally known as Tahoma. It is mostly covered by glaciers but heat from the volcano keeps areas of the crater rim ice free. Mt. Rainier is famous for its dense forests, dazzling wildflower meadows, tremendous snow fields and rugged glaciers. After reading so much about this famous volcanic mountain and not visiting it the last time we were in Washington, we were determined not to miss doing so this time.

On the Friday before we were due to head for home, we set off… What a fabulous day from start to finish – a great sunny daywith light winds, awesome sights and our very own tour guide – we couldn’t possibly ask for more. We saw deer idly grazing by the roadside and further on, a couple of unusual driftwood works of art on the dry bed of Lake Alder captured our attention. Whoever created these artistic masterpieces must be be a rather bored but talented person. We drove up to Paradise Visitor Center to marvel at the spectacular views of the surrounding ranges, stopping here and there to check out Nerada Falls, Longmire Museum and various points of interest. Our luck continued thoughout the day, as not long after our return from Mt Rainier, Mum Doris called out for us to bring our cameras as there was a magnificent view begging to be captured from her front porch – a view of Mt Rainier with a strange cloud “hat”. The proper name for this cloud formation is Orographic Cloud which can be produced as the winds flow against and over the mountain. [Click on the main photo at the top of this page for a larger image.] What a way to ‘christen’ my brand new camera! 

The very next day, we made another road-trip, this time to Portland, Oregon, spending the day there while Mum Doris was at a church convention. We had a ball… SHOPPING!!!!! So much shopping was done that we had to buy a suitcase to put all the goodies in. Having shopped till we dropped, we then paid a visit to Vickie to sup on super delicious fried smoked salmon her mum had prepared for us. Not wanting to keep Mum Doris waiting at the convention venue, we raced off only to find that we had to cool our heels for about “three cigarettes” as the convention had gone way over schedule. It was almost midnight by the time we got back to Eatonville.

As our holiday was drawing to a close and we would not be there to join in the Halloween fun, Jackie invited us to dinner at her place on our last night and insisted that we have a go at pumpkin carving. I was unsure of which knife to use from the available selection in Jackie’s kitchen drawer and was quietly muttering to myself about their blunt condition when she re-appeared, brandishing a pumpkin carving kit! Well, after that, there was no stopping us — my MOTH did the initial part, cutting off the top with the precision of a brain surgeon, Jackie and her toddler son, Conor, removed the seeds and I put the finishing touch by carving a face on it. After cleaning up the mess made on her dining table, we spent at least half an hour trying to stop Conor from blowing out the candle before any photos could be taken! What a fun night that was… until it was time to say our goodbyes to Jackie – we must have hugged one another at least a million times. 

Then it was back to Angel’s to finish our packing. Woke up the next morning, said, “See ya later” to Mum Doris, ate some Krispy Kreme Donuts for brunch and all too soon, it was time for us to say farewell to Angel. Again, many tears were shed….    before GOB drove us to the airport. We had a pleasant and uneventful flight back — Seattle – San Francisco – Sydney – Melbourne, arriving home on November 1st with a few days to spare to organize a 7th birthday celebration for our grandson. Another fabulous holiday we will long remember…