Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lost Road

“The Road not Traveled”

Kay climbs tree on way to Mt. Hood.
Grandview, WA -- Last week, Kay and I took a three day drive through the Cascade Mountains in the Northwest. I’m a better person for the trip. Learned so much, I did.
I had no idea that self-service gas stations are outlawed in Oregon. Did you know that? I  pulled into a gas station in The Dalles, a town situated on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. I had to look up the pronunciation of Dalles, so people wouldn’t slap me. Some people are very persnickety about hometown pronunciations. The Dalles is pronounced "The Dallywhoppers." I mean "Galls"...  with a "D".
So, I'm getting gasoline in The Dalles. I unscrew the gas cap when I spot a guy in an yellow vest approach. Caught him in my peripheral. I’ve got great peripheral. I then made the mistake of moving my credit card toward the card slot. The yellow-vested assistant then interrupted me with a “Can I help you?”  I explained that I was merely trying to fill up. He then smiled and said, “Oregon.”
Oddly enough, I knew what he meant. I handed him my card and he did the rest. Washed my front and back windshields, but graciously didn’t check my oil. I don’t open my hood, and expect others to do the same.
Gasoline is steep out here. At $2.73 a gallon it cost $41 to fill up. I don’t know how much you’re supposed to tip a gas attendant on a $41 purchase with a window cleaning. He seemed please to get the $3. Back in the day, I never tipped the guy who put gas in my car. But then I never got more than $2 worth.
Another thing we discovered during our mountain trip is that the drive to Mt Hood in Oregon is lovely as can be. Forests of blue spruce and Douglas fir cover most of the region. During much of the drive up, you completely lose sight of Mt Hood. You see tall walls of trees above you and a deep gorge that drops dramatically close to your car.
Before planning our drive, we consulted a beautifully printed pamphlet that contained a well drawn map of a route around the mountain. The map showed that we were to take Hwy 35 to the town of Zigzag. Appropriate name, “Zigzag.” It was there that we were to find a paved road called “18”. It wasn’t designated as a highway, just “a paved road.”
We couldn’t find 18, and let me tell you, we looked. Our GPS hadn’t even heard of it. We asked a couple of people in the town, and they never heard number 18 ever being designated as a road. By staying on Hwy 35 we would end up in Portland, a great town that would lead us in a direction away from Mt Hood.
Eventually, I pulled into a restaurant, bar and casino. They had a special on spaghetti. The picture looked good. Being on the cusp of dusk, I told Kay to wait in the car while I went in to find out who moved 18. I decided to do the asking immediately after Kay told me she didn't want to get out of the car.
The interior of the bar, casino, restaurant was dark. A couple of guys were at the bar nursing their beer. An elderly couple was at one of the tables sopping up the rest of their spaghetti sauce. In a small area in the far corner, two guys were playing the slots.
The waitress, just as pleasant as could be, walked up to me and asked how she could help. I asked her about the road called “18.” She said she had never heard of it. She turned to the bartender who shook his head and shrugged.
Then an old man playing the slots yelled. “Highway 18? No such thing!” I had a firm grip on the map that showed there was such a thing, so I walked over to the gentleman and showed him the map showing the clear passage marked “18.”
The man shoved the map aside and told me to follow him out back. That’s when I really wished Kay had agreed to go in alone. We stopped on some wooden steps where the old man told me that the road on the map was called Lolo Pass, not 18. He had hauled logs out of Lolo Pass. He told me that the road was paved partway up and partway down, but in-between was a single lane gravel road that was a rough, dangerous drive.
I said, “So you don’t recommend I take it?” – He said, “I didn’t say that. What I’m saying is, I wouldn’t consider driving it this late of the evening without a six pack and some weed.” I told him how much I appreciated his candor, and that he probably saved lives with his advice. I also told him that I hoped he won big at the slots. He said that he had no anticipation of such an occurrence.
Kay and I backtracked down Hwy 35 to The Gals. I mean, The Dalles. Day One of the mountain drive turned out to be pleasantly memorable. The drive to Mt. St Helens, less pleasant but more memorable. Unfortunately, not enough space to tell of the adventure.  Another time, maybe. Right now, I must compose a letter to the outfit that published the map titled “Columbia River Gorge to Mt. Hood.” 
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Goat escape

“The Goat Escape”
Her name is Mama, and she hates me.
GRANDVIEW, WA -- The goats got out again. The consensus on the farm seems to be that I’m at fault. Reason being, the goats like to distance themselves from me. I apparently emit some bad goat juju.

            I guess it stems from a couple of years back when Kay and I first visited the Washington farm. My nephew Curt thought we should try our hands at goat milking. Since that was a place I had never actually put my hands, I reluctantly acquiesced. Agreed is what I did.
            Kay first. That girl was born to milk. She took hold of those two hangy down things, and the old goat just patiently stood there smiling and swaying with the rhythm. (By the way, unlike cows, goats only have a pair of udders. It’s the only sensible thing about them.)
            My turn. I shut my eyes and cautiously felt around on the underside of the goat for something to grab. Having managed to locate the appropriate hold-on parts, I started squeezing one at a time, because two at a time felt weird.
            After a few seconds I couldn’t help notice there were no splattering sounds emanating from the milk bucket. I reluctantly opened my eyes and discovered that I had perfect hearing. Maintaining my hold on the goat’s, uh, things, I glanced forward to see what the holdup was.
I thought cats gave a good stink eye. Cats have nothing on a goat. Everything in her expression said, “If you ever touch me down there again, you’ll be looking for a non-gendered restroom for the rest of your unnatural life.”
Let’s move forward two years. I’m now back on the farm, and have learned that a goat has an exceptionally good memory. Word must have spread, because all four of ‘em looked at me like I was Vlad the Empty Pailer. Those creatures wouldn’t come near me if I was clothed in a clover skirt.  
            So what has all this got to do with the great goat escape? Pretend you asked. I had just finished making a tossed salad and decided to toss the bowl of cuttings over the fence for the goats, because that’s the kind of guy I am. I don’t hold a grudge. I’d walk around the block to avoid an altercation.
               The goats have a multi-acre pasture that’s near our borrowed home. They are rich in edible weeds. They’re only purpose is to give milk. They weren’t raised to be eaten, so they have nothing to fear, and no real responsibility. As goats go, they’re lucky ducks.
So, I stepped outside with my greenery to find that the goats had escaped the confines of their pen. When I approached them, they lit out like I was carrying a bucket of boiling lead. 
               I ran back to the house, stepped inside and yelled to Kay, “The goats are out again!” I didn’t really need to yell, ‘cause she was standing in the kitchen by the door. “What’d you do to ‘em this time?” she said. This time? What’d I ever do to those goats? I felt like that guy in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” who couldn’t persuade people that aliens were turning everyone into pods. – “It’s not me! It’s the goats! They want you to believe it’s my fault they’re behaving badly!”
               Kay said she’d go corral the livestock if I would find out how they made their escape. Kay walked over to where the goats could see her and yelled, “Hey, goats!” Then she turned and walked over to the milking pen and opened the gate. Those stupid goats came off the hill and walked right through the gate. It wasn’t time for a milking, either. They just saw Kay and decided to come home. If I had walked over and yelled, “Hey, goats!” they’d be swimming across the Rio Grande by now.
               I did manage to see where they had breached the barbed wire. A fence post had given way and was laying flat across tumbleweed. I tried to make the post stay upright, but it would not cooperate. After about five minutes, I gave up. I talked to myself all the way back to the house. – “I didn’t sign up for this. I’m just living on the farm while our house is being built. Goats? They can escape every day and night. I don’t give a bucket of boiled eel slime.”
               By the way, Curt got his post-hole digger and reset the post. He’s obviously a bit more responsible than I. Oh, and the goats think he’s swell.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fireworks in Washington

“The Two Washingtons” 
                                                                                                                                                  Last year at about this time, Kay and I were on our way back from a trip to Washington DC. It had been a spur of the moment trip brought about by an invitation from Dardon Ann, my sister-in-law, who asked if we wanted to share her hotel suite while she was attending a convention.
Family fireworks viewers

               Dardon Ann is just weird as she can be. I’m nice as all get out, but no way am I asking any of the in-laws to share a hotel room. I can count on two fingers the number of immediate family members I’d share a room with. 

               The DC experience gast flabbered me. I mean, it was flabbergasting. (Note to self: Research origin of word “flabbergasting.”) So much to see and do. So many neat people to meet. And a fireworks display that was among the biggest disappointments of my life. In Washington DC, it rained the evening of July 4, 2016. The video of the fireworks shown to TV viewers was of the 2015 fireworks.

Those at the site watched the rockets’ red glare illuminate the inside a thick cloud. Just imagine what the words of our national anthem would be had it rained the morning Francis Scott Key stepped out on the deck of a British ship to see if the flag over Fort McHenry was still there. “O’ say, I can’t see…” 

               Back to the present. Kay and I now find ourselves in another Washington. Grandview, located in beautiful Washington State. Remember? My sister Sue asked us to stay in her home for a few months while our new house near Conroe is being built. (Don’t make me go through that story again.) One week we’re about ready to sign a lease on an apartment in Conroe, the next week we’re loading up for a cross-country move.
Remember, I never asked to go to DC. Our presence was requested. Same with Grandview. Susan just writes “Please come to Washington.” I’ve said it before, but it begs repeating. I’m pretty sure Kay is the real draw here. I’m the person whose name pops up when someone asks, “What’s the downside to all this?”

               But, what’s done is done. It’s not my fault if I mess up things for others. Hey, I didn’t ask to move out here. But, boy, am I glad we did. It’s been a blast.

               On the Fourth, we got to see a real fireworks display that was many times better than what we tried to focus on in DC. We were seated in lawn chairs outside the football stadium of the Prosser High School Mustangs. Prosser is the closest town to Grandview that could afford a fireworks display.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it more than twice, but it gets dark late up here. It has to do with the earth being a sphere and having a smaller circumference the nearer you go to each pole. Then you take the rays of the sun and you, uh… I don’t know. It’s a visual lesson. Just accept it will you? Days are longer, nights shorter during Washington summer compared to Texas summer.

               At Mustang Stadium, fireworks didn’t start rocketing until 10:00. We were there at 8:45. Way too  early for me, but had I suggested a later departure the kids would’ve killed me. Some have yet to warm up to Uncle Mark. If Big Al were here, they’d be jumping in his lap and pulling on his ears. The guy pretends to be a big ogre around kids, and they just love him for it. Just beats all I’ve ever seen.

One second after the first rocket went off all the kids swung into excitement mode. Pointing, laughing, yelling, singing… The kind of excited behavior most sober adults find hard to generate. They were making fun sounds I too seldom get to hear.

               We’re only two weeks into our five month stay, and I’ve already gotten involved with more people doing more fun stuff than is emotionally healthy for me. It’s caused me to miss so many naps. Kay seems to be doing all she can to keep us on the go. She walked in a few minutes ago to inform me about a drive we’re taking tomorrow to Mount Rainier.

               Some friends of our Washington family took a drive to Mount Rainier early last week to camp out, and said that it snowed on ‘em. The draw of camping out on Mount Rainier is every bit as enticing as my desire to camp out in the field next to the goats. The last time I camped out was during the brothers’ hike in the Colorado Rockies several years back. That experience pretty well muted any call of the wild for me.

               Making a one day trip to any site requiring a three hour drive to get to is an undertaking that bumps right up against my threshold of tolerance. And get this, Kay says we can’t stay the night at a hotel, because Curt and Rhonda will be out of town, and she has to water the garden and help with the goat milking. I’ve got no business being here.

               I’ve heard that it’s good to occasionally break out of one’s comfort zone. I last heard it from Dardon Ann. I believe the philosophy originated with Eric the Red. As for Flabbergasting? The word was first introduced in an article found in Britain’s “Annual Register” printed in 1772. The origin is unknown. If I ever run out of things to do, I may make up an origin. I’ll pencil it in for Early October.

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