Highlights

Been on a road trip. Three cities (and three hotels), five nights, six days. So, if I wasn’t online much, you now know why. I’m not one to advertise that we’re not in our house. I’d rather not highlight it as a target for thieves. They’re already quite bold and opportunistic without me providing some useful intel about us not being home.

We went north. Seattle. Nine hour drive. But we decided to break it up into two days. Something about sitting in a car for a long time, ya know? Doesn’t get along with my wife’s RA. So the first leg took us to Lake Oswego outside Portland, OR. There we checked into a Holiday Inn Express and had dinner with friends at their house.

Holiday Inn Express wasn’t a highlight. Apparently built for tall people. Very tall. Like, I’m but five eight. Had to reach to my crown’s top to use the coffee maker. Likewise, the bathroom sink was higher than my waist. My wife, several inches shorter, struggled to lean forward over this tall counter to use the sink or see herself in the mirror to apply cosmetics. Lighting in the room wasn’t great, either. Nice big mirror (a ‘skinny’ one, if you know what I mean). No light at it meant you’re looking at yourself in near darkness. Not useful. Bed was okay. Wife complained that her pillow wasn’t sufficiently hard. Had to fold it over otherwise her head just sank. That was just a night. No biggie.

Dinner with friends was a highlight. We were visiting them in their latest home. Lovely location and yard. Nice home, some dated features but they’re adept at updating things. The woman of the house provided us with grilled asparagus, rice with mushrooms, and baked salmon. All delicious. They served excellent red wines as well. Conversation was scintillating as we played catch up.

Onward, north to Seattle. Mostly easy drive. Tacoma was a slow-moving parking lot. Stop and go often. No explanation of why. Traffic information signs were there but either unused or gave us useful tips like, “Motorcyclists, ride smart to stay alive.” Helpful when you’re stopped in traffic, wondering why. Nothing on the information radio station, either. All this tech, right?

We navigated the craziness of downtown Seattle (not much different from Portland, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Frankfurt, London, Washington, D.C., SF, etc, to me, although saner than Rome and Seoul) to the Inn at the Market by the Pike Place Market. Everyone said that is the place to stay. It was okay. Good location for visiting the market but no advantage otherwise. Comfortable room, yes. Good bed. Hard pillows. Wonderful lighting and mirrors, although no skinny mirrors. Water pressure was okay but several minutes were needed for hot water. My wife said she didn’t get a good hot bath the entire time. I had good hot showers, though, thank you.

Highlights including seeing my sister-in-law for the first time in three years. Well, since her mother died. She’s doing well. I met her and my wife at the same time, and have known them since I was fifteen. Went to high school together. Before losing her mother, she lost her husband to brain cancer after a four-year fight. They had many terrific years together. I thought her deserving of that, as he was hubby number three. Number three was the charm. Besides those issues, she’s coping with a son suffering PTSD from his tours in Afghanistan. And she runs her own business. We toasted a success as she finally — after eleven years of struggle — was granted her patent.

She introduced us to her new boyfriend, an intelligent and engaging person. We had a good time with the two. Eating had something to do with that. First night was a terrific Indian restaurant, Kastoori Grill, across from the hotel. Night number two found us at Cutter’s Crabhouse. We didn’t have reservations but my sister-in-law talked them into seating us. The woman doesn’t give up. The next night, we were at Zigzags for a late meal. Meantime, breakfast on day two was at Bacco Cafe, which I found fresh and delicious. (My wife was less enamored of her fare.) Lunch for day three found us at Kell’s Irish Restaurant and Bar. Day number four, we ate terrific grilled croissant sandwiches for breakfast, picked up at Sisters in the Post Alley.

First day and second morning had us browsing through the Pike Place Market. The second day also had us cruising the bay via a Salish Seas tour. An abbreviated history of Seattle and some notables were presented, along with a glossy overview of architectural highlights.

Trip highlights to the trip poured in on day three. We walked down Alaska Way to the sculpture garden. Then up the hill to the Space Needle. We caught a break and were able to buy tickets to use in the next fifteen minutes. Boom, up we went to the rotating clear floor. Pretty cool. Fantastic views of Everett Bay, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympia Mountains.

Next, though, was the Chihuly Garden and Glass. Focused on Dale Chihuly’s work with glass, the presentations stunned and awed. These were gorgeous creations.

For the evening, we were hunting for a night tour. Didn’t come up with that, but we did end up on the Seattle Tall Ship, Bay Lady, for a sunset tour. I’d never been on a sailboat before. This was a schooner. From raising the sails to listening to the various commands until finally heeling through the sound’s deep water to the passing water’s reassuring whisper, this was a relaxing experience. I strongly recommend a cruise with them, if you have the chance.

Saturday found us heading south again. Crawling through Tacoma. Stop. Start. Pausing to eat at my wife’s favorite eatery, Panera Bread, in Longview, WA. Then on down to Eugene for an overnight stop and shopping. This hotel was a regular for us. We’ve stayed at several places in Eugene but the La Quinta gives us the most satisfaction. Located midway between the downtown area and Coburg Road, easy access to either is available. Besides the location, the rooms are large and comfortable. Hard pillows, you know? Good lighting and mirrors. Fantastic hot water and water pressure, needed to rinse off the travel grime. On to home, and our waiting cats, on Sunday.

Of course there were good beers all along. Also good people, friendly and helpful. Was worrisome traveling with the pandemic as a backdrop. We frequently wore masks but when you’re eating, what are you to do, right? We were all vaccinated but discussed whether it would have been better to stay home. None of us are exhibiting symptoms but COVID-19 strikes quickly and silently.

I can rationalize it as a break we needed. Many will understand and agree. Others will fault us for falling for the pandemic and vaccine information, which they view as a scam. Another subset will see us as privileged, which I don’t deny. Still another group will probably condemn us for being complacent.

I don’t have an answer to any of that. We went; we took precautions. We sought a balance. Hopefully, we didn’t contribute to another spike.

Fingers crossed.

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