Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Where to begin?

Life has not been dull lately. Tom and I took a ten day vacation to Oregon, interrupted by a two-day trip around Washington and a jaunt across the border to Butchard Gardens, on Vancouver Island.

We initially drove up the east side of the Sierra Nevada, mostly for the scenery, but secondarily to visit Schat's Bakkery (I think that's how it's spelled) in Bishop. We had hit most of the little touristy things on the southern end of the 395 on our trip to Death Valley a few weeks ago, so we drove straight through to Bishop, where we spent a stupid amount on bread and pastries. Across the street, a crafts fair was in progress. I could see antler chandeliers from the highway. I've wanted an antler chandelier all my life, so we pulled over to investigate.

The chandeliers came in two varieties: too small, and too expensive. After talking it over with Tom, I selected a bunch of raw antlers, with the intention of making my own chandelier. It won't go with the rocket ship drapes in the living room in Astoria, but I don't care.

We spent the night in Reno, at the Hilton Gardens Inn. It was a lovely hotel, but the best part was the price; Tom had gotten it free on points. The free room didn't come with breakfast, but the pastries from Schat's were a better breakfast than any hotel provides.

On Day Two, we continued north on the 395, then on the (frazzit frazzit-- I don't remember the number) past Lassen to the 89 north. We stopped at the viewpoint, from which you can see both Lassen and Shasta in one field of view. I've been there before; it's breathtaking. This trip, it was breathtaking for a different reason. The results of the firestorm that swept Northern California two summers ago were all too evident. Most of the Hat Creek area had been reduced to cinders. It was a sobering view.

Burney Falls, however, was as beautiful as it ever was. Besides the double cascade over the cliff, there are hundreds of springs on the cliff face itself, where an aquifer drains. No photograph can do it justice.

As we had gotten an early start, we reached Astoria on the second day in time for dinner. Tom indulged me with a trip to Duggar's, a small, locally-owned chain of seafood restaurants. Warning: if you're ever in Oregon, order the small portion. It'll be enough.

Sunday, we went to the Sunday Market. Astoria is rightly proud of its Sunday Market. We bought a remembrance for the friend who looks after our cat, and the best crab cakes I've ever eaten (and I've eaten crab cakes in New Orleans). Sunset Magazine recently did an article in which it postulated that Astoria is a terrific place to eat seafood; it was right. We may have spent the rest of the day vegging. I don't rightly remember.

Monday, we drove down to Cannon Beach. We had already eaten lunch when we smelled Pizza a'Fetta (all spellings approximate) and weren't hungry, so we drove down to Tillamook and came back to Cannon Beach for dinner. Pizza a'Fetta is far and away our favorite pizza joint in the galaxy, and we don't live that far away from Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock.

This is sounding more like a food blog than a knitting blog, isn't it? Can I help it, if the restaurateurs in Oregon know what they're doing?

On Tuesday, we drove north along the Washington coast, in order to be able to say that we've driven every inch of the 101. It was a bit of a disappointment; tree farms line most of the highway, which don't have the charm of real forests. It was suitably beautiful in those spots where the national park sent out feelers to the highway, though. We pulled into a spot labeled only "Big Cedar" to find an stunning sight: a giant forest goddess, with daughter-trees of many different species growing from its roots and branches like children seated on Grandmother's lap.

West of Port Angeles we drove through another beauty spot, Crescent Lake. I'll have to go there sometime when I'm not in a hurry to be somewhere else.

We arrived in Port Angeles in time to catch the last ferry to Victoria, which turned out to be the loveliest city I've ever seen. After dinner (forgettable), we walked through a neighborhood park-- wow.

Wednesday, I woke early and took a walk through the neighborhood near the harbor. The weeping conifers knock me out; nothing like that grows in Los Angeles. The government buildings and hotels, built of stone and styled like palaces, were worth the trip by themselves. There was also a forest of totem poles tucked in a garden behind the provincial museum; I'm going to have to make another trip for that.

Once Tom was up, we went to Butchard Gardens. There are no words for the wonder that is Butchard Gardens. The gardens in Epcot Center, in Orlando, that are made to evoke Butchard in plants that will survive in Florida, don't come within 1% of the reality. We saw visitors from Germany and Japan; if they came only to see that garden, it was worth the trip. The closest I can come to describing it is to say that, if you took the Huntington Gardens from San Marino, and planted them in the Redwoods, you'd be almost halfway there. Most of the plants there wouldn't survive one summer in LA, except the roses, which weren't yet blooming. All these lovely and exotic plants bloomed in luxuriant profusion. Two words for any garden buffs who might chance upon this blog: blue poppies.

Having been told that one hasn't been to Canada if one hasn't eaten Timbits, we stopped at a Tim Horton's on the way back to the ferry. I bought a big box, figuring we could have leftovers. No, once we had tasted them, we were helpless to stop until the box was empty.

After the ferry, we drove all the way back to Astoria, this time around the east edge of the Olympic Peninsula. It was a bit of a strain, getting from Port Angeles in the late afternoon to Astoria by dark, but we had shopping to do in Astoria, and limited time in which to do it.

Thursday, we rented a truck, and drove it to Costco, where we spent a large fraction of our income tax refund on several huge bookcases (almost 4' wide by almost 8' tall). Once we had unloaded those into the garage, we took the truck to a discounter, where we picked up a sofa and a recliner. We were able to handle the recliner by ourselves, and prevailed upon a neighbor to help us bring in the sofa.

Oh-- I failed to note a couple of stellar meals in Astoria. The Wet Dog Cafe has so-so lemonade, but the best French fries I've ever tasted. I usually only eat two or three fries-- as a middle-aged woman, I have trouble digesting fat, and avoid fried foods. After giving Tom half my fries, I greedily devoured the rest, and regretted it for the rest of the day. My sandwich was pretty good, too, but oh, those fries... And, one mustn't forget Drina Daisy. The chef there is Bosnian, and probably the best cook in a town known for good cooking.

We left Astoria early on Friday, in time to miss the hysteria that was the 25th anniversary of The Goonies. We reached Newport noonish, and visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium there; we're members. After a few hours in the aquarium, we got to Port Orford by dark. I'm glad we did, as a nice policeman pulled us over to let us know that we had a headlight out. Since it was still daylight when he pulled us over, there was no ticket involved. He approved our choice of a breakfast restaurant (The Paradise Cafe, which makes the best pancakes the world has ever seen), and pointed us to a respectable motel.

We never would have found this motel (The Castaway, if memory serves) on our own. It was tucked away off the highway, on a bluff overlooking the port itself. While the physical condition of the room was only one notch above dump, the owner practiced a high level of hospitality. While the room was small, and amenities few, there was free wifi, a full selection of cable channels on the TV, books, magazines, and puzzles free for the taking, and a view of the ocean it's rare to find in rooms for twice the price.

Saturday, after breakfast at The Paradise (and their bacon is almost as good as their pancakes) we doubled back to Bandon. We walked around the harbor until it was time for Game Park Safari to open. There, we got to cuddle lion cubs three weeks old, and pet a leopard too old and rambunctious for lap-sitting. We reached the nadir of the trip as we left; an agitated chimpanzee threw poo on Tom. Oh, well, he probably wanted to buy that new t-shirt anyway.

We tried to get to a Honda dealership for a new headlamp, but found out the service department at the one in Eureka is only open on weekdays, so we holed up in Cloverdale before sunset.

Sunday got us home mid-afternoon. Tom was willing to drive, so we could pick up the dogs (our dogsitter lives 80 miles away from us). We switched into his car, since mine isn't street-legal after dark until we get that headlamp replaced. As soon as we got onto the freeway, his display went dark, except for an ENGINE! warning. We turned around, got back into my car, picked the dogs up (they were glad to see us), and prayed that the Highway Patrol wasn't patrolling for burned out headlamps that night.

Poor Tom didn't have a moment to recover from his vacation; the problem with his car turned out to be the battery pack. On a Prius out of warranty, that's as big a deal as they come. While back at work, in a rental car, he shopped around to find another Prius, in stock, equipped the way he wants it. He should be able to pick one up tonight.

So, that's it for our vacation. Yesterday, I tried on the sock I've been working on for the last two weeks, before casting off. Due to the inelasticity of the stitch, it wouldn't go on over my heel. It took an hour to rip out a week's worth of work and get the sock (or what's left of it) remounted on the needles properly. As the yarn crimped and tangled like ramen, it took another four hours to get it rolled back into a ball. This morning, I'm back to knitting on it. I'm glad it's not a gift, and I don't have a deadline for finishing it.


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