Actually we just flew to Portland to see why everyone always says it’s so cool. The truth is we barely covered so much as a few miles of city streets– where all we saw were a bunch of overly hip dressed coffee drinkers and meth addicts. Still, I’m calling it a trek because we each brought only one carry on bag.
After we got there, and realized it wasn’t cool so much as dirty, Dan and I apologized to our children for dragging them to the other side of the country for no reason at all and promised that we’d check out of the Ace Hotel as soon as possible, and try to get a room with beds that weren’t on the floor.
Much to everyone’s dismay, the next hotel “a newly renovated waterfront property” was under construction, so that was sort of a noisy experience, but, by that point our kids were too annoyed to leave the room.
Dan really wanted to ride the trolley so I agreed to go with him, even though I couldn’t help picturing the folks that would be riding along with us. Turns out we met a really nice guy who introduced us to his friend, who was sitting right next to him.
“Show them your work,” the first guy said to his friend. So the friend took out his portfolio of all sorts of art work that looked like they should be tattoos.
“You’re very talented,” I said.
“Oh he’s a great artist alright,” the friend said. “And can you believe I met him in jail?”
“No kidding,” I said.
“I didn’t kill anyone. That’s not why I was there,” the first guy said.
“Phew,” I said.
“I just beat up my ex-wife’s boyfriend.”
“You can go to jail for that?” I asked.
“This is our stop,” Dan said, waving goodbye to our two new friends.
We got off and walked around for a while until we were forced to admit there was no reason to pretend to be interested in anything. We went back to the room, watched a bad movie, apologized again and went to bed.
The next morning I was fortunate enough to be told about VooDoo Doughnuts. Dan and Kim and I were so excited to have a truly Porlandlike experience, we almost surprised Jesse with the bucket o’ doughnuts, but Kim reminded me that we had to walk back and that a bucket o’ doughnuts, although intriguing at first sight, might be sort of wasteful. It was a good thing too, because I’d apparently ordered vegan doughnuts by accident.
After the rotten donuts, we found our way to a beautiful rose garden just outside the city where two men were making out and at which point Kim admitted that she hated all flowers. We then drove to the Columbia River Gorge and saw an amazing waterfall and suddenly it seemed as though we’d made it through the rough part of the trek and we were headed for a truly incredible adventure.
As soon as we got to Pike’s Market in Seattle the next day, where Kim had to hold her nose the entire time because she hates the smell of fish, and what could only be described as the horrific “Experience Music Project,” where there was a picture of an old guitar and a Jimmy Hendrix movie, the Space Needle thing and the science fiction museum, which actually had a toy in its original box as part of the exhibit, we realized that it wasn’t just a bad trip, we were torturing our children by boring them to death.
The kids asked us if they could go back to the room and we assured them that that would be fine and to please help themselves to everything in the mini bar. Determined to have a good time, Dan and I took a kayak over to Tom Hanks’ houseboat (the one from “Sleepless in Seattle”) and tried to get excited about the fact that we were in water. That would have been fun except I wouldn’t let Dan paddle because I was up front and every time he moved, I thought we were about to tip over. Later that night when I told him my arms were sore, he explained to me that the boat had a rudder, which, unbeknownst to me, he was able to control, and that although I thought I was steering the boat the whole time, I wasn’t actually doing anything except splashing him.
The reason we went to Seattle (and I’m not making excuses here, I’m simply explaining why) was to take the ferry to the San Juan Islands, which are amazing, except our hotel was about 45 minutes from the ferry once we got there. You should see the pictures I took of Jesse on that van ride. He was so bored he was actually playing with his eyelids. I know that sounds like a bad game but he’s the kind of kid who can do a lot of different things with his lids.
When we got to the hotel (so disappointing I wanted to buy it and renovate it, just so I wouldn’t have to remember it the way it was) we had to take another van to our room, which was way way, way up the mountain.I was curious as to how we were going to ever get down, seeing as how we took the ferry without our car, but whatever. By then our children were not only no longer speaking to us, they’d arranged flights home for themselves on Kim’s BlackBerry. Fortunately, the whale watching off of Orcas Island the next day was truly exciting. Afterwards, Dan and I went out and got them s’mores and brought them up to our rooms, which overlooked the water, confident that the viewing of several whale fins had made them huge fans of ours and that the trip had turned out to be a success after all!
That night they told us how much they loved us and would we mind taking them back to Seattle to the airport in the morning. Apparently they’d confirmed their flights while we were out shopping for graham crackers and marshmallows and had even gone so far as to arrange rides for themselves from the airport. That’s when I started crying.
The next day we went back to the airport, dropped off both kids and continued the trip alone. We drove to Vancouver, had dinner at the Sand Bar on the deck overlooking the water and then took the train through the Canadian Rockies to Whistler the next day. Once we got to Whistler Mt. we had to take a cab to our hotel. The cabdriver proceeded to tell us how the housing crisis in America could never happen in Canada and that we deserved it for voting for a bible thumping, illiterate, golf addict. As much as we wanted to tell him that we didn’t actually vote for Bush, we didn’t bother because his next rant was about some Jew that he knew who was also a cab driver, and how Seattle had become overrun with Chinese.
All I could manage to say as we got out of the taxi was, “Well, I guess this is it then, have a nice day!”
Whistler is awesome and they opened up some of the ski trails to the mountain bikers. That was fun to watch and it inspired me to want to go to the top of the mountain and hike around a bit. Dan paid the seventy dollars for us to take the gondola up. I worked up a nice sweat on the walk from the ticket counter to the gondola because I was already feeling the grip around my neck that usually proceeds any sort of experience that involves height. As we waited in line, I watched the cable wires and the creaking gears as though gazing upon a guillotine and realized I had to go to the bathroom.
Once in the gondoIa, I positioned myself on the floor with my hands gripping the seat behind me and up we went. For some reason I thought that if I put all my weight in the middle, I could prevent the cable from snapping. When the doors opened, I practically rolled out and kissed the ground.
“You have to get back in. This part of the mountain is for the bikers,” the guy on the platform said.
“But you don’t understand. I can’t go back in there. I almost died.”
“What’s she talking about?” he asked Dan, as though I was too hysterical to answer questions.
“She’s afraid of heights,” Dan said.
“So technically I only felt like I almost died. Nothing actually happened, but it’s not the sort of thing I can continue to do today,” I jumped in.
“Well you can’t stay here. It’s not safe. There’re no hiking trails here at all.”
“Couldn’t I just hike around anyway for a little while, and go back down?”
“Nope. You’ll get hurt. The trails are strictly for bikers, and besides, there’re a lot of bears.”
“Oh,” I said. “Bears then. Really?”
“Lots of ‘em.”
So Dan and I sat on the platform for about 45 minutes trying to decide if it would be worse to just go back down without having seen anything or to get back on and continue up. We pondered this great question in silence.
Finally I spoke.
“I’m going up.”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh God, now you made me change my mind.”
“I just want you to be sure.”
“How about if we go back down and then we go up?”
“What good will that do?”
“I just want the option of not going back up.”
“You have that option right now.”
“I know, but it feels different.”
“Because we’re half way up already.”
Many more minutes go by.
“I think you need to make a decision, Steph.”
“Damn! You just did it again. I was this close to choosing to go all the way up, but you ruined it again.”
“By pressuring me.”
“Fine. Take all the time you need.”
One minute later.
“I’m going up.”
We get back on the gondola. I get in position, close my eyes, and then I jump off right before the doors close.
The guy on the platform shakes his head and asks, “What happened this time?”
“I was just practicing. I’m going all the way up next time though. I’ve made my decision. Just you wait and see.”
“Okay, but once you get off the gondola at the top, you can’t hike there either. You have to take the chairlift to the hiking area.I told you that before, right?”
So down we went. I closed my eyes the whole way and told myself all sorts of lies about where I was.
“You’re on a train to New Jersey. You’re on an escalator in the mall. You’re on a sled.” And I have to say, it wasn’t that bad. I’m definitely going all the way up next time.
As we pulled up within 200 yards of the gate at Newark Airport, a lightning storm prevented us from disembarking. Both kids were calling our cell phones at the same time. They were worried about us.
“We’ll be home soon,” we told them and then I got this great idea for Christmas vacation.