Portlandia

 Bonsai museum in Portland, OR

Bonsai museum in Portland, OR

I offered a suggestion yesterday, bouncing off my thoughts on geography, to my fellow bloggers, still trying to resurrect our mojo. Let's write about a special trip we took, I offered. With someone special.

I was thinking a spouse or similar, although I considered that near-cross-country road trip I took with my daughter in 2009. That never quite lived up to the scenario, and anyway I wrote about it a lot.

Or the car trip I made with my mother in 2016, from Phoenix to Austin, so she could see her great-grandson. It was a very successful trip, and we had a great time, but it was sedate and uneventful.

So I have some decisions to make.

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I can't take you to an exotic place. Unless you have an interesting definition of exotic.

But trips are emotional journeys, too. We're not all exploring and learning, or not all the time.

My wife and I have been self-employed most of our adult lives, and we have a disabled child. Vacation becomes an interesting concept, almost a myth, or an anachronism. We mostly travel separately, for professional or just family reasons, and so a trip with just the two of us feels special from the get-go.

We have fond but really, really faint memories of a trip to Victoria, B.C. for our 10th wedding anniversary in 1993. We offloaded the kids and drove up to Vancouver, taking a ferry across to the island. Victoria itself is an oasis of UK, and it feels foreign and different but in a theme park way, a manufactured way. It's a lovely place, and Vancouver Island itself fascinates me, stretching as it does nearly to Alaska. But I can't remember much, not 25 years later, and in those days I was all about the video. I've got a lot of video from that trip. I have no idea what to do with it.

Here's what I think, then: I think it's possible that our favorite trip together, aside from heading off to wallow in grandparent land, was five years ago, when we took a long weekend and ended up doing a fair share of wallowing with each other.

Yes, I wrote that. You know what I mean.

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 Crossing the Columbia into Washington from Oregon.

Crossing the Columbia into Washington from Oregon.

Portland is three hours south, more or less, about 200 miles. It's a familiar city, where I've spent many, many hours of life, driving through, hanging around, sleeping in. It has its own theme park feel, a smaller Seattle with surprising differences. There are plenty of stereotypes about Portland floating around the country, funny ones. Mostly true, too.

This trip, though, could have been to anywhere. The goal was to get away, to leave our son on his own for a long weekend, something that seemed completely possible (he was 23 at the time) and still a new thing. I don't know what other parents of disabled adult children do. This is what we do, or did. Long weekends, finally, eventually. When we could.

And we were coming up on some eventful times, we knew. I was about to begin filming a movie, a bizarre twist in my unremarkable life that I never saw coming. Our daughter was in her second trimester, our Bixie gestating in Texas. Lots of gestating that year, really.

So we took the weekend when we could, and we went to Portland, finding a nice, nearly luxurious hotel that was close to downtown but not quite there, as I recall. We parked our car and didn't see it again until we were ready to leave.

You know this. The best way to explore most cities doesn't involve automobiles; it can't. It's an entirely different perspective from behind the wheel, and not nearly enough. You have to get at ground level, cover territory with your feet and not wheels. Or not many wheels.

We grabbed our day passes and took advantage of a spectacular transit system, riding on buses and trains from stop to stop, wandering through Powell's Books for what seemed to be hours, lingering over coffee, bouncing from rose garden to rose garden. We found a farmer's market, a street fair, a shoe shop. We were touristy but not typical, with no burning desire to see the waterfront, for example (got a few of our own), or any other Northwest-specific sites (or sights). We just wanted to pretend to be Portlanders for a couple of days. And to remember being a couple.

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I don't have anything exciting to share, really. We just rambled around Portland, ate when we got hungry, slept when we were sleepy. This was the pre-Fitbit era, so God knows how many steps we took, but it was a good kind of tired at the end of the day.

And it lingers. I can think of more exciting adventures on the road, but those trips involve the good and the bad, and I can't work up the energy to either dig into the details or gloss over them.

This was just simple. Not far from home, but far enough not to feel like a staycation. Close enough not to worry about our son. Far enough to be away from calls or minor emergencies that could be taken care of by others. Connected but not, you see. Just about perfect.

That's why it sticks around, and why I brought it up the other day, in fact. I'm thinking we need to do it again. We've been back many times, and spent a day or three in Portland, but never quite like that. Sure, we weren't exploring castles in Spain; I'm aware of what we're missing in our bios. It is what it's always been, a moment-to-moment life with little room for improvisation when it comes to time.

But time is also a journey, and maybe it helps to reestablish that truth in a trivial way. Hop on I-5, roll through serene landscapes in southwestern Washington, farmland and rivers winding their way through hills, cascading down rocks in little geographical cameos, always around the next corner. I know this land well. I should.

Castles await me, maybe. But we'll always have Portland, and lately I've been thinking that was an excellent idea. Worth revisiting. It would be a trip, I think.

Chuck Sigars2 Comments