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Sunday, June 3, 2012


My Memorial Day trip to Illinois was cancelled before it was booked.  We, well that is I, had planned to fly into Chicago on Friday night, and make the long awaited drive into Wisconsin on Saturday, leaving the rest of the weekend to take in the coastline of Indiana and Michigan. However, the price of the tickets were extortionate, and the trip was postponed.  It was when we saw the riots throughout the city that we realised it was obviously not meant to be.

The disappointment was soon to be turned to delight, as an alternative plan was put into place.  We were going to fly into Portland, Oregon, on Friday night, and drive up to Seattle on Saturday.  I would claim another two States.  We were also about three hours away from Lynda, one of my oldest besties.  Would we be able to schedule another reunion?

Lynda and I messaged each other during the week, and agreed to meet half way, in Salem, and Lynda booked a table at a Winery.  Our journey began Friday evening, after work.  The queue's at the airport were virtually non-existent, and we walked straight through to the gate.  The flight was operated by a company other than one with which we have priority, and whilst my five foot two frame fits snugly into most seats, my husband's tres post six foot skeletal does not.  Having never had any interest, nor experience as a contortionist, being stuck with his knees under his chin for two hours, was not conducive to wind down and relaxing.  Our seats for the second leg of the flight, from Phoenix, were not together, and Dana hobbled to the desk to ask if this could be rectified.  Apparently the ground staff had been calling us, and the soothing words, 'are you able and willing to perform the duties, should the need arise, if you are seated in an exit row', were responded to with a grateful, 'certainly!' by Dana, with a more honest, 'theoretically' from myself.  I did ponder whether the ability to actually perform the task would in anyway be impaired if one was having a panic attack, due to the fact that the emergency exit actually had to be opened, and then, although you are still physically willing, and able, you are not actually, mentally, capable.  However, the mention of this may have jeopardised our extra leg room, and it was suggested I select the elective mutism button on my personal remote control! 
Arriving in Portland at 1.20am, was as scheduled, after an uneventful, and fortunately sleep induced, flight.  However, Oregon is two hours behind (most of) Texas, and as the representative from the hire car firm was not at the desk, as promised, I started to feel a little cranky.  All was not as bad as it seemed, as I spotted a sign that led to the shuttle bus, and as I strode out of the small office, Dana, ever the gentleman, told another frustrated customer that the transport was, indeed, waiting to take us to our car.  Much obliged, she walked with us to the end of the row, where a very chirpy driver attempted to make conversation.  Feeling rather bad that we were all exhausted, and we were all two hours ahead in our body clock, we attempted to respond, albeit slurred.  As we approached the car center, the young lady whom we had hurried on to the bus, said that this was not the company with whom she had booked her car.  Our ever chirpy driver told her it was not a problem.  Her relief was short lived, when he said he would just take her back to the airport where she could try and find a representative to drive her, to goodness knows where!  Unfortunately, my apologies and gestures of sorrow, were not as demonstrative as were intended, and an, 'ahhh' was all that passed through my lips.

Our hotel name ended in the word, 'Suites'.  It is always a fifty-fifty chance when I see the word, 'Suites'.  Sometimes they are excellent.  Other times a sleeping bag in the car would be better.  The woman behind the desk appeared to be lonely, and bored.  I have never known it take so long, especially at 2am, to check into one room for three nights.  'Park anywhere', and 'all entrances are open', apparently took a lot of explaining.  However, we did park and found our way to a very nice, clean room.  After emptying one pack of wipes, and a quick shower, I fell into bed and drifted off to sleep.
Being woken up by an alarm is not my favourite past time, especially when we have no particular time schedule, but Dana was anxious not to miss out on the buffet breakfast that was offered.  In my experience, again, the free 'hot' breakfast that is usually offered consists of a pack of waffles, a loaf of bread, and a toaster.  Once again, I was surprised.  Not quite a full English, but very sumptuous none the less, we feasted on eggs and potatoes, with fruit, yoghurt and, of course, toast.  The coffee was fresh, and there was a choice of juice.  I felt as if I truly were on holiday.  Having refuelled, we left the hotel, and drove on our way to Seattle.  Crossing the bridge outside the hotel took us from Oregon into Washington in no time, or it would have, if the draw bridge had not been lifted.  My return to the room to try and find a spare battery for my camera, which was actually tucked under something in my handbag (if you saw the size of my handbag, you would think this were impossible, as it is tiny) had caused us to be held up for twenty minutes, while a small vessel, with an over sized mast, sailed through.  Not to be deterred, we continued, in high spirits. 

The sign to 'Mount St Helens', was not far along the road. Although we were not too far into our three hour journey to the birthplace of Starbucks, it was too good an opportunity to miss seeing this famous volcano.  Listening to the story of how the geologists, 'got it wrong', in 1980, was absolutely fascinating. The fact that they had evacuated a five mile radius, only to find out that it was not nearly a wide enough area, made it fairly obvious as to why the 'visitors center' was at least a forty minute drive from the actual mountain.  We did make the drive part of the way, where a panoramic view was promised, and seen.  With my fears and phobias, to be within viewing distance of this massive monster was good enough, and the wow factor was definitely gained. 
I took over at the wheel for the rest of the drive, as the previous late night, and early morning, had hit Dana like a sledge hammer.  I argued with the radio, and counted down the miles to the big city, craving a banos break, but not having the time to stop.  Dana awoke just in time to see the skyline.  My husband has a very high IQ, and is adept with almost every type of computer, motor vehicle, electrical appliance, yet the workings of the digital camera, e.g. 'press the large button on the top', seems to elude him. I have several pictures of 'nearly', and much more of 'missed it'.  I am not saying that the phrase, 'a bad workman blames his tools', was based on his inability to take pictures', but he is definitely Nikon challenged!  After finally clicking a reasonable likeness, we drove into the center of town, through the crowded market, where it appears pedestrians have right of way, and parked the car.  Refusing to use a credit card, we went through our wallet, pockets, purse and handbag, to dig out enough quarters to feed the very greedy ticket machine, so that we could go and have a late lunch.  We had decided against booking a table in the Space Needle, as the last time we had eaten at the top of a tower, the food was inedible, and when we brought this to the attention of the waiter, he looked at us, as if we had just said something personal against his mother!  Leaving a plate full of fat, and no tip, resulted in insults being thrown in our general direction, letting us know that he was not, himself, the chef, and he had done everything he possibly could to ensure our visit was enjoyable.  This would not have been so bad, if he had not been the one who was responsible for bringing the elevator up to the restaurant level, for us to descend. Eating at a bay front restaurant, on ground level, was very satisfactory.  We did walk to the needle, but did not go to the observation deck, as I had seen Mount St. Helen's, and all else would pale into insignificance.  Seattle and the surrounding area is, indeed, beautiful, but from that height, for me, I am very much afraid, one view is much the same as another.  After the initial shock of rising that high, everything tends to get a bit foggy!  We chose to walk back to Pike's market, and strolled the aisles until we reached our next destination; Starbucks!  I am not a great fan of their coffee, but the tourist within screamed, and we bought a couple of mugs for Samantha, and a cold beverage.  Having had a rather large lunch, and reckoning on a three hour ride home, I chose a skinny frappuccino.  Unfortunately, the girl behind the counter assumed this was for 'weight' reasons, and made my whole order, 'sugar free'.  I was left with a tasteless 'icy', in a plastic cup.  Fortunately, Dana asked the assistant, 'what is your favourite', and he poured some of his double espresso, heavy on the mocha and caramel, into my thin substance, and it did the trick! 
I was sorry to leave Seattle, as I would have liked to have wandered around a little bit more, but the late night and early-ish morning were now beginning to take their toll, and I, too, was ready to return to Oregon.  Between the two of us, we had managed to stay awake in Seattle.  The scenery was spectacular, and although we saw many storms around, we only had a smattering of rain.  We turned on the local radio, just in time to hear that the bridge on the
I-5 into Portland, would be closed between 8 and 9pm, for repairs.  We were going to be there around 8.30pn.  What perfect timing.  Dana, ever prepared, had his 'vacation book' at the ready.  Leaving nothing to chance, Dana prepares a little booklet, with our preferred itinerary, back up plan, maps and other 'items of interest'.  I am afraid to say I normally chortle slightly when we exit the plane and 'the book' is brought out, ready to ask the car hire person, 'where on the map.....', but I was laughing on the other side of my face, as he found an alternative route, which got us back just as quick.  Well done Dana!  In fact, we were in time for the 'guests' complimentary beverage and appetisers', in the bar.  An iced tea, and a bowl of salad was perfect!
The next morning, after breakfast, I completed the task that hinders my brain from functioning until finished. I had to check in online, and completed the task in record time. I chose not to take advantage of the complimentary upgrade, as I chose to travel next to Dana.  Seats procured, we headed out to Salem to meet Lynda and Mike.  We arrived at the winery, and explored, before claiming our table.  Lynda was running a little late, and I am sure she was just as apprehensive.  Would 'the guys' click?  As our last meeting was two years ago, and twenty five before that, this reunion was very exciting. Our anxiety was short lived.  Two Americans, each married to an English girl, have a lot in common.  They started with the language barrier, and continued from there.  We moved from the warehouse restaurant, to the patio, and continued to chat and laugh, and reminisce.  After five hours, we reluctantly said 'au revoir', promising not to leave it so long 'until we meet again'.  It was a fabulous day, good food, and amazing company.  If this was the only outing for the weekend, it would have been enough! 

We drove back to the hotel and enjoyed a light repast of soup and salad.  My preferred beverage was a glass of wine, into which I poured cranberry juice, and sat back, and enjoyed, before packing ready for our morning departure. 
Once again, we had a very scrumptious breakfast and headed out towards the airport, leaving Oregon, entering Washington, then back into Oregon.  We had anticipated a long queue at the security gate, but we were only second in line.  Our flight was delayed due to fog in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I didn't panic.  Eventually, we boarded for the two hour flight, and then took our seats for the flight back to Austin.  We flew down the bay, and across the desert, and were able to look down through clear skies, and finally landed in Austin.  Samantha and Edward met us at the gate and we headed to Texas Land and Cattle for a relaxing dinner, before going home to unpack. 
I am not sure when, and if, my trip to Wisconsin will take place, but this trip was every bit as special.  This weekend has been a special weekend too, as I write this watching the highlights of Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  Although I love my adoptive home, I am still tremendously proud to be English.  However, life goes on and it's business as usual tomorrow, and I shall be on the look out for....another story.

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