Day Tripping

We make do when it comes to vacations, considering that we have a pretty tenuous relationship with the concept. I suspect we’re not alone, either, although self-employed people are different animals when it comes to all sorts of things, and not just health insurance.

So we like to have pretend vacations, when we get away from home for a short time and try to make it feel exotic. Given John, we’ve never felt all that comfortable being far away, although in the past few years this has lessened and we’ll take off to Texas together occasionally, and he’s fine. Times change, but often these little breaks are taken close to home.

A few years ago, we spent a couple of days in Portland, exploring the city by transit, walking all over the place, a great time. We thought about doing that again, since Portland (three hours by car) is a quick trip but far enough to feel different. We considered heading north. We thought about lots of things, or at least I did, and we were in danger of punting the summer away.

Julie had jury duty last week, ruling that out, but she was dismissed on Tuesday after two days of sitting around, and I began to look. Julie remembered that a choral workshop she’d attended a couple of times was being held this past weekend in Portland, and that was that. I booked us a room for Sunday night, a surprisingly good deal for a pretty swanky place, and we drove south after church on Sunday (since we were already 30 miles closer to Oregon than from our house), grabbing lunch first and leisurely drifting down I-5, some persistent clouds clearing as we neared the state line.

It was an excellent hotel. It was the Crowne Plaza in Tigard, very close to the workshop, just a chain spot but a pretty new one. The room was spacious, the bed was a magnet for tired people, the shower was great. You know the coffee packets in hotel rooms? Damn fine coffee. Seriously.

I was registered for the workshop, because hey, we’re a couple. We were an ad hoc choir of about 40 people, and I sat in the bass section next to a few older fellas who really knew how to sight sing, so I mostly just enjoyed the experience, followed their lead, and actually learned a couple of things about breathing. And the director leading us was a Kevin Kline clone, I swear, which was kind of fun.

During a break, one of the attendees walked over to me, slinking in a corner as usual, and made small talk. I mentioned that I was sort of auditing the workshop, given my lack of skills. “I’m a problem child,” I said. “I don’t sing well with others.”

Nothing. Just a weak smile. And that was a legitimate quip, just popped out. Sheesh. This was a tough room.

I want to find something universal in our adventure, and it’s there, but it’s hard to avoid specifics. If you’ve been together for 35 years. If most of that time has been parenting a disabled child, now adult. If you rarely get time off, and when you have it, it mostly involves lack of funds for a big honking trip (e.g., summer is a frugal season for us). Lots of detail here. I dunno.

Um. The bed was pretty seductive from the start.

Um. The bed was pretty seductive from the start.

It was a pretty perfect little fake vacation, though. We lingered at the hotel until nearly noon, sleeping late, having a casual breakfast, cleaning up and catching up on the news of the day while loitering in our room.

Since the day looked to be on the warm side, and our air conditioning is still puny, limping along (they wanted $700 to fix and we’re not putting more money into this car, not for an uncomfortable few hours every year), we decided to skip downtown and head for the Washington side of the Columbia, where we’ve never spent any time.

The Columbia is a spectacular river, which I’ve sat and observed many, many times, but it’s a different creature northeast of Portland. We wandered around a wildlife preserve (no signs of wildlife), then drove and explored, stopping when necessary.

After finally heading north toward home in the afternoon, we decided to check out a building we’d spotted on the Kalama River (southern Washington). It looked new from the highway, and it was, opening in April, a McMenamins (a Northwest company that opens hotels/restaurants, often by repurposing old structures; there’s an elementary school in Portland that’s a lot of fun to visit, where the hotel rooms are the old classrooms, etc.). We had a light dinner in the bar, looking out at the river, and then walked around the beach for a while until getting back on the road.

The bar on the Kalama.

The bar on the Kalama.


All of this meant that we hit Tacoma shortly after 6pm, and were home before 7:30, hitting no traffic. At all. This does not happen up here, but it happened. We coasted home, and while it’s not going to go in our pantheon of trips, I may reconsider that eventually. Hard to beat perfect, even when your best lines go unappreciated and your a/c isn’t having it, either. Perfect works.

Chuck SigarsComment