Pacific Coast Part 1

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Washington & Oregon Map

Bellingham, WA
Tacoma, WA
Castle Rock (Mt. St. Helens), WA
Portland, OR
Newport, OR


Hotel Bellwether
Silver Cloud Inn
Mt. St. Helens Motel
Marriott Residence Inn-Riverplace
Elizabeth Street Inn


Up Pacific Coast Part 1 Pacific Coast Part 2


Pacific Coast Road Trip - Part 1 Itinerary (Click date to jump to that day in the blog)

Sunday, April 17 - Bellingham, WA

Monday, April 18 - Bellingham, WA

Tuesday, April 19 - Tacoma, WA

Wednesday, April 20 - Tacoma, WA

Thursday, April 21 - Castle Rock, WA - Mt. Rainier

Friday, April 22 - Castle Rock, WA - Mt. St. Helens

Saturday, April 23 - Portland, OR

Sunday, April 24 - Portland, OR

Monday, April 25 - Portland, OR

Tuesday, April 26 - Newport, OR

Wednesday, April 27 - Newport, OR

Thursday, April 28 - Newport, OR

Friday, April 29 - Newport, OR

Saturday, April 30 - Newport, OR

Sunday, April 17 - Bellingham, WA - Hotel Bellwether

The Pacific Northwest scarcely gets more peaceful than unspoiled Bellingham, a bustling city nestled on the Bellingham Bay. Nature abounds in all directions surrounding this coastal paradise. The waters of the Pacific offer opportunities for whale watching, cruising to Friday Harbor or visiting the Canadian city of Victoria. To the east, Mt. Baker beckons skiers and snowboarders to its slopes. The city itself is alive with vibrant theater, historical museums, gourmet restaurants and fine arts.

Hotel Bellwether is Western Washington's premier, intimate, upscale waterfront-destination hotel providing exceptional accommodations, attentive service, and personalized amenities that pamper the leisure traveler, support the business traveler, and facilitate great meetings and outstanding events. 
Nestled in the quaint cove of Bellingham Bay in Bellingham, Washington, this full-service luxurious waterfront hotel offers the subtle charms of an elegant European inn along with all the contemporary comforts today's guests require. The Hotel Bellwether is a 65-room oasis that links the mountains to the sea.

We were dropped off exactly as scheduled at noon at the Bellingham, WA airport right outside the rental car area.  They were expecting us, so checking in took almost no time at all.  We were given a Toyota RAV4, which is what we had reserved.  Unfortunately, this time we didn't get a fully loaded luxury version, but a stripped-down basic model.  We'll survive.

You'll remember our GPS, Trish, from our Yellowstone Road Trip.  She directed us to the nearby Bellis Fair Mall, with a stop at Walgreens to stock up on a few supplies.  Our stop at the mall was to go to Sears to buy tire chains we have no intention of actually using.  They are required to enter Mt. Rainier National Park and various other places on our route.  We have to have them in the car even though they may not required at the time we arrive.  We were sure to ask if they can be returned to another Sears store if we don't use them.

Less than ten minutes away is our destination for today, the Hotel Bellwether.  The hotel overlooks an attractive marina with several brand new restaurants and shops adjacent to it.  Most of the shops are empty or out of business, but it was a good effort.  The location doesn't seem to warrant such a big development, so it is no surprise that the shops didn't survive for long. 

We arrived around 1:00pm, much earlier than the 4:00pm check-in time.  We were promised a call when our room is ready.  Do you think that actually happened?  Nope.  Why do hotels keep offering to do that if they aren't going to follow through?  Very odd.

We were given a coupon for 10% off lunch in the hotel's restaurant, so that's where we headed.  Although there were only two tables occupied, it took ten minutes before someone came to seat us.  While the service wasn't polished, it was very friendly.  Our lunches were very good and the desserts our server recommended were fantastic.  We were amused when the dessert menu referred to today's selections as "House-Made Delicatessens".  We assume they meant to say "Delicacies."  For an upscale hotel, the prices are reasonable, too.

It was 3:00pm by the time we finished eating, but our room still wasn't ready.  They again promised to call us, which, you guessed it, never happened.  We went out to wander around the marina and take a few pictures.  There isn't much to do in the immediate vicinity except eat, so we just walked the marina to a small, nearly empty shopping area.  Dave was standing in front of a window waiting for Bill when the woman inside called out, "We're open, come on in!"  It was the Marine Life Center.

We'd classify this as a roadside attraction if it was actually on a highway.  It was a small single room with a large tide pool tank in the center, a small touch tank about the size of a card table, and a couple of aquariums.  However, the attendant was intent on telling us about the marine life and she was actually interesting and informative.  She tried to get Bill to touch a sea slug, but he passed.  The place does have some charm and it is free, so you can't ask for much.  We did leave a donation though.  We have no clue how anyone finds this place unless they just happened onto it like we did.

Back at the hotel at 4:00pm, our room was finally ready, so we picked up keys and went to move our car to the gated hotel parking area under the hotel.  After wrestling with our bags and "stuff" we need to rearrange, we went off to buy something for dinner later (Subway.) The key to our in-room mini-bar refrigerator still didn't work after two key exchanges, so we'll kiss that off (Note: It was never fixed).

Our room is a huge junior suite with a step down living room and fireplace.  The view overlooks the marina.  There is a jetted tub in the bathroom.  The hotel looks old on the inside and new out, so we're not sure if it is a clever remodel or recently built to look old world.  The furnishings are "European" and not our taste, but it is a nice place and the people at the front desk are very pleasant.  For $189 AAA rate, this is really a bargain.

We needed to catch up on "The Amazing Race" we missed last Sunday, so we managed to do that online, then watch the current show immediately afterwards.  That was our goal for today, other than getting here, so we're done for the day.  The weather here is nice and we hope it continues so we can get out and see some sites tomorrow.  Our lunch waitress made some suggestions for alternate things to do in case it is raining tomorrow, so our bases are covered.

Monday, April 18 - Bellingham, WA - Hotel Bellwether

It is rainy and cold today, but we're holding out some hope that it will clear up by the time we want to hit the road.

We made it to the hotel's restaurant in time for breakfast.  It isn't included in the room rate, but it is reasonably priced for a hotel.  There is a small buffet for $9.95, or cooked-to-order from the menu.  We ordered from the menu:  French Bread French Toast and a Custom Frittata, plus a side of scrambled eggs.  Bacon came with the French Toast.  The French Toast looked more interesting that it turned out to be, but it was a huge portion and was a good attempt at making something different.  Two very thick diagonally sliced pieces of French bread were sliced part way though and stuffed with a cinnamon-cream cheese mixture.  The cream cheese part was overkill and we wouldn't order it again, but it was good enough.  They sure must grow eggs big around here because the side of two eggs filled a salad plate and was 3" high completely covered with least six slices.  The Frittata had spinach, cheese and bacon in it (you can have pretty much any filling you want) and filled an entire dinner plate.  Point is, we didn't leave hungry.

The waitress was the same one from yesterday afternoon and she seemed happy to see us again.  She is very nice, but the service in the restaurant is extremely slow.  This seems to be an issue with the kitchen, not the servers.  Everything, supposedly, is made to order so this is probably the reason for the delay.  Luckily the food is good enough to wait for.

Back at the room we tried in vain to solve the uploading problem with our hosting service.  They have acknowledged the problem isn't that we are doing something wrong, but we're still waiting for a solution.  We didn't want to sit around all day, so we hit the road at 11:30am.

Today's plan is to drive to the end of the Mt. Baker Scenic Byway, about 60 miles one way, stopping whenever we see something interesting.  The weather cleared up by the time we started driving, so it is still cool, but only partly cloudy most of the day.

The scenic road starts almost straight up the street from the hotel, so finding it couldn't be any easier unless they did away with all the one-way streets in town.  The city of Bellingham itself is full of cute old Victorians and bungalows, most of which are well kept.

Once the drive left the city limits, the scenery was mostly small farms, vineyards and other rural activities complete with charming ramshackle barns and such.  Our first stop was at Nooksack Falls a short distance up the mountain.  There was a dusting of snow at this level (only about 800 feet).

The forest service road down a canyon to the falls was so potholed we had to follow the tracks in the snow to avoid them.  The falls themselves used to be part of a hydroelectric project that was abandoned many years ago.  There is a bridge over the top of the falls and some remnants of the diversion canal for the electric generating can still be seen just above it.  There are signs all over the place warning of the possibility of falling to one's death quite easily.  They have an informational sign listing everyone who has fallen over the edge and the year it happened.

There is a short trail to a view of the falls that is undeveloped to say the least.  We had to climb/slide down some muddy roots and rocks to get there.  There is a chain link fence at the very edge to prevent people from falling into the canyon, but one could very easily get around this if they are stupid enough.  The falls are pretty in a moss and fern lined canyon.  This isn't anyplace you'd knock anyone over to get to, but it makes for an easy day out in the country.  All of the trees in the area and along the road are draped with a thick covering of bright green moss and ferns also.

From the falls we continued on the Scenic Byway up to the end at the Heather Meadows ski area.  The slopes aren't open today, but there certainly is enough snow!  The elevation is only 3,000 feet at the top, but the snow along the road is piled up at least twenty feet deep.  At the edge that was plowed, there are sparking icicles hanging the entire length of the roadway.  It snowed off and on as we drove to the top, but it wasn't a problem at all and the road was clear.  We encountered maybe four other cars, if that, during the entire trip up the mountain.

At the very top there is a one-way loop road that passes the chair lift and a totally snowed in lodge/restaurant that apparently was open under all the snow.  The only part of the lodge showing was the peak of the roof and a door at the base of the thirty foot deep snow bank.

Once we reached the top, we started back the way we came, returning to the hotel at around 3:30pm.  We could have driven through town or whatever, but you know us by now, we did nothing of the sort.  A few hours of driving around is plenty and there aren't any must-sees here anyway.  It is a pleasant small city and the views of the bay are attractive, so it would make a nice place to just relax if you are so inclined.  Oh yeah, and you could ski during the season if you insist on being sporty.

Nothing exciting happened between our return to the hotel and going next door for dinner, unless you consider re-packing exciting.  There is a new-ish restaurant next door to the hotel called Anthony's Hearthfire Grill, so we decided to give it a shot.  It is a huge place with a panoramic view of the harbor and the sunset.  It was very busy, but we didn't have to wait for a table.  Every table in the place has a view because of the tiered seating arrangement.  The decor is modern without being over the top.

This is a steakhouse primarily, with seafood as an additional specialty.  We both had a steak/seafood combination, one with garlic shrimp and the other topped with crab.  The steaks were fantastic, the shrimp just average.  A corn/crab chowder to start was boring, but the "Seasonal Salad" was very good.  Both desserts, Apple Bread Pudding and Cherry Chocolate Chip ice cream were very good, as well.  With two drinks the bill came to around $92 before tip, which isn't too high for a special occasion restaurant, but we wouldn't rush back here particularly.  Our server was friendly and efficient.

After dinner we went back to the room and turned on the fireplace.  Dave continues to try to solve the problem with our uploading.  The hosting service people are very responsive trying to fix it, but so far they haven't been able to pinpoint the issue.  At first they thought someone was trying to hack our site, but that wasn't the case.  The first guy who was working on it said he's "baffled".  Oh goodie, that's just what we want to hear especially since we've discovered our index page has vanished.  Why does this ALWAYS happen when we are in the middle of a trip???  At least the techs aren't in India and they do respond quickly.

Tuesday, April 19 - Tacoma, WA - Boeing Factory - Silver Cloud Inn

Sitting at the foot of Mount Rainier, from whose former name the city takes its name, Tacoma is the perfect base point for exploring Mount Rainier National Park and the spectacular landscape surrounding. The Rocky Mountain surrounds make a great playground for skiers, hikers and outdoor adventurers, while the city itself provides ample entertainment for those in search of museums, arts and culture. Take a romantic stroll across the 500 foot glass footbridge leading to the iconic Museum of Glass.

Located on the waterfront in Tacoma's Old Town Community, the Silver Cloud Inn is Tacoma's only waterfront hotel. Located just two miles from the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass, all the guestrooms have waterfront views and include complimentary high-speed wired and wireless Internet access, microwaves, and refrigerators. A complimentary Silver Cloud Breakfast is provided in addition to our fitness and business centers.

We were up early for breakfast again and hoping to get on the road by 11:00 am for our 1:00 pm tour appointment at the Boeing factory.  Today's weather is cool and partly cloudy.  It poured rain a couple of times during breakfast, but it wasn't a problem after that.  It only rained once for a brief period later in the day.

Breakfast in the hotel's restaurant was again good, but it took forever for the food to come out.  Seems that too many people ordered Eggs Benedict at the same time.  We had the same server again and she was very apologetic.  Eventually she took our beverages off the tab, which was nice of her.  The food was satisfactory, nothing special, but the portion was huge.  This bill only came to $17 not including tip.

After hassling over the website problem to no avail, we gave up and left the hotel at 11:00 am.  We would choose this hotel if we ever end up here again.  The staff is very pleasant, going out of their way to be nice.  There are some quirky things about the hotel and amenities that could be improved, but it isn't a big deal and just part of staying at a non-chain hotel.  The beds were extremely comfortable, especially after the rock-hard Symphony mattresses.

The drive to the Boeing Factory Tour and Future of Flight Museum took about an hour and fifteen minutes, all on the interstate.  It poured rain briefly, but it didn't affect anything.  We arrived about 45 minutes before our tour time, so we wandered around in the shops and just killed time.  There were only six people waiting for the tour when they started admitting people to the theater where the tour starts.  We have no idea where all the people came from, but the full-size bus they use to take tourists around was full.

There was a tour escort from Crystal Symphony wandering around in the museum when we arrived, but we didn't run into anyone else on the tour or afterward.  The ship is in Seattle today.

After a brief film about the history of flight, etc., we boarded a bus for the enormous assembly building.  Boeing builds all of its jumbo aircraft here, 747, 777, and the new 787.  The building is big enough to fit all of Disneyland inside including the Matterhorn, and still have twelve acres left over for covered parking.

We were let off the bus at an entrance to a tunnel that runs the width of the building.  We only had to walk half of the distance to a huge elevator, but at the pace the guide walked it was fairly strenuous.  They had a guy in an electric cart haul around people who couldn't walk well.  Everyone piled into the freight elevator for a ride to the fourth floor viewing level.

First we overlooked the assembly area for 747's, then the 777.  The view is amazing over the enormous jets in various stages of assembly.  After hearing about how the assembly line works and other information, we went back down and out through the tunnel to the waiting bus. 

The next stop was at the far end of the building, through another tunnel to another elevator.  This time the platform overlooked the assembly line for the brand new 787.  The skin is made of a composite (plastic) that looks like 1/2" thick Formica.  They did all sorts of stress tests on it using the machine they have used on all models before.  The plastic wings and such are so strong that they had to stop the tests before it broke the machine.

Returning to the bus, we were driven past the enormous painting buildings, planes awaiting engines, and others waiting for air trials.  As we returned to the museum building, the guide told us, "Whenever you fly, tell your travel agent if it isn't Boeing, I'm not going!"  The tour portion of our visit took about 90 minutes.  It costs $15.50 per person, including tax, and is well worth the money.

There is a large display area included with the tour (you may also buy admission for that without the tour.)  They have a tail fin from a 747, displays of old aircraft parts, the skin on the first jet for Pan Am, an old cockpit you may sit in, full sized engines, etc.  There is also a flight simulator ride for an additional $8.00.  We passed on that after seeing it operate!

We stopped at the cafe for a pick-me-up beverage, then bought a small souvenir and started to wander out to the car.  It was around 3:45 pm when we hit the road to Tacoma, about an hour south.

Trish screwed up and had us exit the freeway too far north of our destination, but she did get us there eventually.  Maybe she knew we needed to buy gas, so she sent us through the suburbs to make it easy?  We arrived at the Silver Cloud Inn after driving under the Bridge of Glass (which we will visit tomorrow).  The hotel is located on a pier jutting out into the bay, so the location is very nice.

While this hotel isn't quite as upscale as the one we just left, the room is a very nice suite configuration with refrigerator, microwave, and an electric fireplace in the sitting room.  There is a 42" LCD TV in both rooms, free wi-fi, free breakfast, free laundry room, etc.  The room rate for our waterfront view suite here is $208 AAA rate.

The woman at check-in offered us a map of the area with restaurants marked on it.  There are several just a short distance down the waterfront she said we could "probably" walk to, but we opted to drive.  That was a bit of a mistake because it was rush hour and the road fronting the hotel was packed.  We really could have walked there quicker, but whatever, too late now.

There are several restaurants in a strip along the water.  We chose RAM, a sports themed place that also delivers room service to the hotel.  The parking lot was full, but we were seated immediately.  It was very noisy and chaotic by design.  Our server was nice.  We both ordered entrees which were the best meals we have had so far.  We also had "Loaded Waffle Fries" to share before the meal which were gross, but delicious.  The portions were so huge even we couldn't finish all of it.  All this food and two drinks for $42.00 including tip.  We would definitely return to this place and probably will tomorrow.

Back at the room, Dave discovered that our uploading ability has been restored!  Woo hoo.  We have absolutely no clue why it is suddenly working and neither does tech support, but we'll take it!  It was at the point where they were starting to blame us for doing something wrong (which we do know was not the case.)  Oh well, sometimes we just don't need to know why it works as long as it does work.

Our room is very comfortable with a nice big sofa and a couple of other chairs.  The electric fireplace is a nice touch, but not something we'd pay extra for.  We do like having the huge TV and the internet connection is very speedy. 

We are considering the possibility of asking for a different rental car.  We can feel every small bump in the road and the seats are uncomfortable.  The size is OK, but we're not happy with the ride.  Maybe we'll get used to it. 

Wednesday, April 20 - Tacoma, WA - Silver Cloud Inn

Up at the crack of dawn to hit the free breakfast this morning.  The "crack" to us is 8:00 am, by the way.  The breakfast here is what you would expect for free:  Scrambled eggs, sausage, make your own waffles, and some breads/pastries.  Everything was good, no complaints.  The lobby area where the tables are is pleasant and bright with views of the waterfront.  Overall, while not luxurious, this hotel has everything you'd need in a good location just two miles from downtown.  It is in the center between the two destinations we have planned for today, the Museum of Glass and Point Defiance Park.

Today's weather is overcast and cool, but it doesn't look like it will rain much, if at all, today.

Our hotel is only a couple of miles from the Museum of Glass, our first stop for today's outing.  A Bridge of Glass connects the museum across some busy railroad tracks to Union Station which has been repurposed for modern use.  There are Chihuly glass sculptures in the large windows of the station.

The Bridge of Glass has a huge wall of glass sculptures on display, two enormous towers of blue glass chunks, and a tunnel with a glass ceiling filled with myriad of pieces of Chihuly glass.  Access to the bridge is open to the public and easily visible from the roadway below.  After parking in the garage below the museum ($2.50 per hour), we walked across the bridge then back again toward the museum.  There is a large metal cone at one end of the museum that houses the glassblowing theater part of the museum.

Behind the museum buildings, along the waterfront, are several water features including glass in the design.  A large reflecting pool has clear glass random shapes of glass that appear to float on the water.  There is also a fountain of glass and steel cylinders that was not operating today.

We paid our admission to the museum ($12.00 per person) and headed to the Hot Shop theater.  The woman at the ticket counter said that there is a visiting Italian artist working there all day today.  She was indeed there, but she wasn't actually doing anything, just watching the resident glassblowers making one of her pieces.  She has designed an exhibition for the museum and they are making all of the pieces for it on site.

The theater is well designed with stadium seating facing the work area and a catwalk that goes all the way around it.  There is a narrator on the floor taking questions and providing a live dialog about what is being done.  He was fantastic and added a lot to the "show".  People could ask questions and he readily knew the answers.  He was very helpful with his explanation of what was being done.  The piece being made was an elongated cone with various colors of glass in it.  We watched for about 30 minutes before heading off to look through the galleries.

The regular gallery was interesting with a wide variety of different techniques on display.  A travelling exhibition depicting an icy forest was spectacular.  It filled an entire room and consisted of clear fused glass panels that hung from wires to create a 3D effect.

Another gallery held small sculptures created by the resident glassblowers from children's drawings.  This kind of thing may not be to everyone's taste, but we thought this part of the museum was very interesting.  The original drawings were side by side with the end result. It was amazing how well the glassblowers interpreted the crude drawings. 

After checking out all of the glass on display, we strolled through the museum shop and bought a few small pieces to bring home.  We resisted the urge to buy any of the large pieces sporting prices of $5,000 and up.

We wandered back out to the plaza and found our way back to the parking garage.  Driving back in the direction of the hotel, we passed several new condominium developments, one of which was empty and had auction notices in the windows.  They have done a good job of resurrecting the old waterfront by removing or sealing the pollutants from years of lumber mills the area was built on.  Most are either gone completely or are just preserved ruins.

Passing our hotel, we continued along the same road to the peninsula called Point Defiance.  The entire point is a park with a variety of attractions, gardens, view points, and a scenic five mile drive through the forest.  We stopped to explore Fort Nisqually that was moved to this spot after it fell into disrepair at its original location.

We didn't expect much from the fort, but it turned out to be more interesting than we anticipated.  There are two original buildings, one is a residence for the boss and the other is a granary.  The other buildings are reconstructions based on original paintings, but they fit in nicely.  The $6.00 admission was reasonable for what we got.  We were directed to the residence because there was a docent there who unlocks the house and gives information about it. 

The docent was very friendly and had interesting information to share about the house and its original residents.  There is another building housing a recreation of the general store in the fort.  She took us there next (with just two other people) and explained how they sold everything anyone could need.  The store is stocked based on original inventory lists they found for this building in a private collection.  We spent about an hour at the fort exploring the various buildings and displays.  There was a blacksmith working in one of the buildings, but he was a bit creepy, so we snuck out while he was talking to other guests.

We continued on the five mile loop road and ended up at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.  It was 2:15 pm at this point and the place closes at 4:00 pm, but we know ourselves well enough to know that is plenty of time for us to see an entire attraction.  The ticket seller warned us about the closing time, but we bought admission anyway ($14.00 per person).

Inside the gates, which are on the uppermost level of the park, is a large plaza with a cafe on one side and a gift shop on the other.  Down a lot of steps or a long ramp, are the various animal exhibits and an aquarium building.  The park is relatively compact, but it is pleasant to wander around and the animals were easily visible for the most part.  Some of them looked about as bored as it is possible to look, but others (monkeys of some sort) were obviously posing for the cameras.  A little girl said, "I think he is posing for the paparazzi."

We did indeed have no problem finishing up the entire park by closing time, although we did see all of the exhibits.  Being the off season means that the two live animal shows finished earlier in the day and the camel rides weren't offered.  There were several exhibits that were closed for cleaning/repairs also, but that didn't affect us at all.  We stopped off at the gift shop for a couple of tacky trinkets, then drove back to the hotel.

After resting for an hour or so, we walked to the Ram Restaurant where we had the fabulous meal yesterday.  The walk is about half a mile, not the two miles the desk clerk told us.  There are always lots of people walking and jogging along the waterfront pathway.  We think maybe the clerk meant that the entire promenade is two miles.

Again, the restaurant was nearly full, but we were seated immediately.  We had perhaps the best waitress we have ever had anywhere.  She was busy with a lot of tables, but sincerely cheerful and friendly.  Plus, none of her guests ever waited for anything for long and she checked back often to be sure everything was OK.  She could not possibly have been any better.

We both had different sandwiches for our meal, plus a cup of the cheese soup.  The soup was amazing!  Both sandwiches, one chicken and the other beef, were incredible.  Both of them had many different ingredients with the end result being some very complex flavor combinations that melded together perfectly.  Honestly, they were unbelievably tasty and interesting without trying too hard to be different.  For dessert we shared a trio of different "cupcakes" made of ice cream.  This was amazing, also.  All this food and two enormous drinks for just $44.00 before tip.  We wish this chain had locations near us!

After a brisk walk back to the hotel, we declared ourselves finished for the day at 7:30 pm.

We're not sure we will be able to get to Mt. Rainier tomorrow because the weather has been fairly harsh recently.  We'll give it a shot and see how far we get.  At the very least the drive will be scenic even if we don't get to the mountain itself.

Thursday, April 21 - Castle Rock, WA - Mt. Rainier - Mt. St. Helens Motel

Meadows of wildflowers, scenic trails, geological wonders and an immense tower of a volcano make Mount Rainier National Park one of the most spectacular destinations in the Pacific Northwest. From the area of the mountain known as Paradise, thousands of adventurous climbers set off each year in hopes of reaching the icy summit, only about half of whom will succeed. The park's trails loop through inland temperate rainforest, across suspension bridges and into the clouds themselves.

Each morning at the Mount St. Helens Motel, wake up to freshly brewed coffee and a wide selection of pastries offered in the reception area or visit one of the nearby restaurants for a hearty breakfast. Afterwards, take a drive up to one of the several visitor centers or perhaps go fishing in the Cowlitz or Toutle rivers. Located just off the I-5, we have 32 smoke-free rooms available with Queen-size beds, air conditioning, phones, free wireless internet, and 32" flat-screen LCD TV's. There are also laundry facilities available for your convenience.

Today's weather is about the same as yesterday, partly cloudy and cool (high 40's).  The TV newscast predicts some rain for later today and for the below normal temperatures to continue all week.  We don't mind the temperature, but if it rains/snows we may have to alter our route or cut out Mt. Rainier today.  We're still up in the air about whether to take the detour inland to the mountain or skip it and go directly to the motel near Mt. St. Helens.  You'll find out what we did later.

After another nice free breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and took to the road again at around 10:45am.

Our drive today is the longest so far, over four hours, but we have a couple of stops planned.  Just about an hour off I-5 we saw a sign pointing to a "Pioneer Farm - Over 100 Activities Available", so we swerved off to check it out.  We promised road side attractions, we'll give you road side attractions! 

We're not sure what the 100 activities are, but there were four million school children confined in a corral running about like crazy people.  Oh yeah, they were screaming, but that goes without saying doesn't it?  Basically this place is a recreation of a pioneer farm from the 1800's (or something like that, we really weren't paying attention.)  There was a school house, a general store and some other buildings beyond a gate that said, "No entry beyond this point without a guide."   We wandered into the store and the "pioneer" woman behind the counter launched into her complaints about this being a long day with all the kids there (it was noon at this point).  Another woman, the kids' escort probably, was whining about the bus driver disappearing so they couldn't get the heck out of there.  They had an outhouse (really, the sign on the door said "To reduce the stink, close the seat and open the door") so that's all we cared about by the time we left.  We didn't pay an admission fee for what we saw, but there is probably a charge for the guide.  Let's hope it is minimal because we wouldn't pay more than maybe $5.00 for this place.

The drive to the park is scenic in a run down farm sort of way.  There are a few scenic vistas of lakes, dams and such, but nothing breathtaking.  It rained a few times, but not enough to hinder us at all.

Back on the Mountain Highway, we decided to see what we could see in spite of the rain at Mt. Rainier National Park.  The ranger at the gate asked if we had a 4-wheel drive (we do) and then warned us we could go no farther than Paradise and we would have to come back the same way.  We already knew that, so no problem.  No mention was made about the tire chain requirements, but there were signs up the mountain saying they are required unless you have 4-wheel drive.  We used our Annual Pass for the last time before it expires at the end of this month, so we didn't pay an entrance fee. It is usually $15.00 per carload.

As we drove along the winding mountain road up toward Paradise, the snow started falling lightly, then heavily, then blizzard.  We made it to the village where there are a bunch of museums and the original gas station conveniently located near the restrooms.  It was really snowing at this point, but we kept going anyway.

The road kept climbing and the snow kept falling.  It looked like a dreamy Christmas card most of the time.  We encountered only a couple of other cars going up or down.  Some cars were pulled over at the chains-required turnout, but nobody stopped us and we had no traction problem.  We did manage to spot a small waterfall in a turnout next to the road, but that's about it other than snowy vistas.

Climbing the mountain, we finally reached Paradise, but the Visitor Center was buried under 50' of snow, so all we did was turn around in a wide part of the road.  The snow was really coming down at this point, so we didn't want to linger lest we be forced to install our chains.  We had no problems getting back down to the village where we stopped briefly for a pit stop and a snack.  Not even a glimpse of Mt. Rainier was to be seen today.

The rest of the drive, another two hours, was uneventful except for a couple of downpours.  The areas we drove through looked rather depressed with many abandoned farms and houses along the way.  The tiny towns we passed through had only a gas station and maybe a small grocery store left in business with everything else boarded up.

Our route was a loop off of I-5, so the return put us back on the freeway south of where we left it earlier.  It was only twenty minutes down the freeway to our stop for tonight, the Mt. St. Helens Motel.

This motel is about as basic as it gets, but the proprietor was extremely pleasant and for $79 per night you can't expect too much.  The motel looks like it has been refurbished recently.  In fact, the outside looks brand new.  The only thing that gives away its age is the mishmash of door knobs and doors (with real keys) lining the creepy hallways.  The room, while basic, is spotless and has all new furniture, carpet and paint.  There is even a large LCD TV, a refrigerator and microwave oven.  No hairdryer or fancy bathroom amenities though, just a bar of soap and a tiny bottle of shampoo.  Actually it is nicer than we expected for the price and it does have air conditioning that works.

We had to return to the office to ask for the password for the free internet service and get change for the laundry room at the same time.  They still had donuts and coffee set out, probably left over from breakfast.

We wanted to finish up everything that required us to be properly dressed, so we went across the parking lot to a "family" restaurant for dinner at around 5:30pm.  The food was fine for the kind of place this is, which is a throw back to the 1950's.  The meatloaf was good and the steak with fried shrimp was enormous.  Both entrees came with soup or salad and a choice of potatoes.  Everything was edible and filling, but nothing to write home about.  We had pie for dessert, which was store bought and not all that great, but served the purpose.  The bill came to $42.00, about what we paid in Tacoma for a fantastic meal.  The service was friendly, so we'll probably go there for breakfast tomorrow if the free donuts don't fill us up.

Back at the hotel, Bill went to use the laundry room down the hall.  It is nice that they have three of each machine, so it won't take as long as it would have at the previous hotel (they had only one washer and dryer, but it was free.)  The owner said, "Go ahead and help yourself to the detergent."

The only complaint we have about this place is that it smells very musty and/or like pee, we're not sure which.  It is strange because it looks spotlessly clean.  When we came back from dinner it smelled more like citrus cleaning products, so maybe that is what it is.  No matter, it won't kill us and it is the nicest motel in the immediate vicinity.  Plus, you can't beat $79 per night!

Friday, April 22 - Castle Rock, WA - Mt. St. helens - Mt. St. Helens Motel

At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted.

Shaken by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, the north face of this tall symmetrical mountain collapsed in a massive rock debris avalanche. Nearly 230 square miles of forest was blown down or buried beneath volcanic deposits. At the same time a mushroom-shaped column of ash rose thousands of feet skyward and drifted downwind, turning day into night as dark, gray ash fell over eastern Washington and beyond. The eruption lasted 9 hours, but Mount St. Helens and the surrounding landscape were dramatically changed within moments.

In 1982, the President and Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument for research, recreation, and education. Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance.

Wow, what a change in weather we have in store for today!  It is sunny and crisp outside, perfect for our drive to Mt. St. Helens. 

We went to the Rose Tree Restaurant for breakfast at 10:00am, just across the parking lot.  We were the only patrons there most of the time, but a couple of regulars showed up eventually.  Breakfast is served until 4:00pm, so this is our kind of place!  The food was served in enormous portions and all of it was very good.  The server was friendly, as was the one last night.  This place is a bit overpriced for what it is, but the food is good, so we'd go back there again.  Our bill for breakfast was $28.00 before tip, but Bill ordered two different meals (Belgian waffle and an omelet), so it isn't too expensive.

Our room was cleaned while we were at breakfast.  Although this place smells funny, it is immaculately clean.  We're still not sure if the smell is actually mildew or if it is the cleaning product they use.  Whatever, it is very noticeable.

We hit the road to Mt. St. Helens at around 10:45am.  The Spirit Lake Memorial Highway starts literally right outside the driveway of the motel, so the location couldn't be better for our purposes.

The first stop was at the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center, just about five miles up the road.  This center is operated by the State of Washington and it was, to say the least, a bore.  We didn't pay the $5.00 per person admission because the displays we could see didn't interest us.  All we did was check out the distant view of Mt. St. Helens and kept driving.

The next stop would have been the Sediment Dam Viewpoint.  We stopped here on the way back, but for the sake of continuity we'll mention it now.  There is an abandoned gift shop/snack trailer complex at the parking area for the viewpoint.  We couldn't tell if it was permanently out of business or just closed for the season, but it seems like a stretch to think they could do much business here.  There is a short trail through the forest to see a view of the enormous Sediment Dam that had to be built after the eruption.  It was necessary because so much ash washes downstream constantly that it is a danger to the communities along the river below.  There is a mile long trail to visit the dam itself, but we skipped that part.

Back on the road, our next stop was at the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.  We're not sure who runs this center, but it looks like a commercial enterprise.  In other words, it is quite nice with a restaurant and gift shop, plus a view of the mountain and the sediment filled valley below.  They also have really nice restrooms, always a plus.  When Dave was a kid, his mother would always exclaim during road trips that he must have a goal to anoint every restroom in the country because he wanted to stop so often.  Let's just say he hasn't changed much since then.  Bill is quite the opposite.  He is practicing to be a camel.

Anyway, we continued up the road, stopped at an overlook for a long bridge that was built as part of the highway after the eruption.  We forget what the point is, so all we can say is that it is a steel and concrete bridge...yawn.  We didn't stop at the next building, the Forest Learning Center, because only the restrooms and gift shop are open, the sign said, "Exhibits Closed".  What's the point then?  Oh yeah, the restrooms, but even Dave didn't need to "rest" just ten minutes after the previous stop.

We reached the 3,000 foot level where there was about a foot of snow still on the ground.  The road was completely dry, but the plows hadn't reached any of the viewpoint parking lots yet, although the gates were open.

We stopped at the Castle Lake Viewpoint and had to park on the highway, then trudge through the snow to see the views.  From here one can see the river valley that was completely filled with mud and ash flows.  The river has already eroded a deep channel in the soft sediment, hence the reason for the catchment dam downriver.  At the lower right flank of Mt. St. Helens is Castle Lake.  It formed after mudflows blocked a creek (Castle Creek, silly).  Soon after, the government came in and added a channel to prevent the dam from breaking and flooding towns below.  Now it is a lake teaming with life just 30-some years after it was formed.

Eventually there was a turn that lead down to a lower elevation toward the Johnston Ridge Observatory, that doesn't open until May, and Coldwater Lake.  This lake was also formed when mudflows blocked the river.  The government added a drainage tunnel to prevent flooding later, similar to what was done at Castle Creek Lake except via a tunnel.  If you weren't aware of what happened here you'd never know this lake hadn't always been here.  There is a 1/4 mile paved interpretive trail and a boardwalk along the water.  The walkway is flanked by tall mounds of ash that were deposited in the floods.  Foliage and wildlife came back much faster than was expected and, in fact, some species are doing better now than they were before the blast.  We saw a fox (or maybe coyote) standing near the parking lot.  The fauna has also rebounded.  The mossy rocks are particularly beautiful. 

There is a boat dock and launch ramp for the lake here, also.  It only took five years for natural bacteria and such to clear the water and clean the lake of pollutants.  Fish were stocked after the water cleared up.  It is amazing how quickly nature can fix itself after such a cataclysmic event.

We continued on toward the end of the route at the Johnston Observatory.  We knew in advance that the building would be closed, but we found that the road was gated and closed as well.  This viewpoint provides a view directly into the crater and of what remains of Spirit Lake.  Unfortunately there is no way to reach this point when the gates are closed.  The road is free of snow, so they could have at least opened the gates to allow access to the view.

Nearby is the permanently closed, multi-million dollar Coldwater Visitor Center.  It isn't mentioned on signs or any current literature, but it is a state of the art facility (and the newest in the monument) that is closed due to budget cuts.  What is amusing is that a sign at the unmarked gate claims this is an "Economic Recovery Project."  Yeah right, it was completed years ago.

With all the sights seen that we can get to today, we turned around and headed back down the mountain.  We stopped at the aforementioned Sediment Dam and then a roadside attraction with a giant Bigfoot statue and the "Buried A-Frame".  The entire attraction is for sale, so you can have your chance at running a kitschy tourist trap if you so desire.  We have no idea what the point of the Bigfoot thing is, but the A-Frame is a remnant of the mudflow that followed the eruption by eight hours.  The house was just a few days from completion when the mud buried it.  A row of houses across the highway was completely washed away (the people had enough warning to leave ahead of time.)

Another roadside "attraction" is a place famous for homemade cobbler that sports a huge wooden bear holding a lunch box.  There is also a crushed logging truck on the lawn with a tree growing out of it.  It must not be too famous because it was closed.

Wasn't that exciting?  It did take us most of the day to cover the 55 miles and back.  We didn't get back to the vicinity of the motel until 4:00pm.  We decided to cross the freeway and see if there is anything we're missing in the town of Castle Rock.  We're not, trust us.  Even Trish couldn't figure out how to get us the heck out of there.  It caused her to have a bit of a stroke, but she recovered and we made it back to the motel eventually.  A plus to this little detour was that the gasoline on that side of the freeway was $3.95.  Every other gas station we passed it was over $4.00 (although in the morning it was $3.98).

We went to the diner next door again for dinner.  Everyone in there yesterday was ordering the "Country Fried Steak", so Dave was brave and ordered it.  It was SO GROSS, but oh so good!  A fried chicken steak and mashed potatoes drowned in gravy.  Oh yeah, there were some green beans with it.  Bill ordered pork chops that were 1 lb. of meat, which was delicious, a baked potato and the same beans.  The total bill tonight was only $32.00 for a huge amount of food.

On the way back to the room we stopped in the lobby to ask the owner what time check-out is tomorrow.  She said it is at 11:00 am, but if we need more time just let her know.  We're pretty sure there are only two or three rooms occupied tonight, so she's probably not expecting a rush.  We ended up staying and talking to her for over an hour about local subjects, the eruption, local politics, etc.  She has lived in the area all her life and built the motel in the 1980's. 

We asked if there was a lot of tourism or is it mostly local business.  Most tourists come in the hunting season and there are a lot of engineers and scientists who come to study the aftermath of the eruption.  There must be enough business or she wouldn't be running this place for thirty years.  And, she's still pleasant and willing to talk to strangers!  She had a lot of interesting, sometimes very funny, stories to tell.  Sometimes all you have to do is ask and you'll get hours of free entertainment.

Saturday, April 23 - Portland, OR - Marriott Residence Inn-RiverPlace

Portland is a laid-back and friendly city in the Pacific Northwest with a reputation for great scenery, a good standard of living and fine micro-breweries. The city is bike and pedestrian-friendly, and visitors won't want to miss the famous Japanese Garden, one of the largest and most beautiful displays of its kind outside of Japan. Gardening enthusiasts will also want to see the International Rose Test Garden and Washington Park, while other attractions include a wealth of museums and of course, the great outdoors.

At our Portland RiverPlace Residence Inn hotel, we've perfected the extended-stay experience by combining the comforts of home with a passion for making guests feel welcome. Our all-suite Portland, OR hotel is near the shopping and entertainment district in downtown Portland, as well as the Oregon Convention Center. We're close to Vestas, adidas, Sulzer Pumps, Daimler Trucks North America, and Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU). Attractions like the Rose Garden Arena, Keller Auditorium, and OMSI are nearby, too. We offer complimentary shuttle service within a 5-mile radius of our hotel; the nearby Portland Aerial Tram and Portland Streetcar lines can take you just about anywhere else. Few hotels can beat our free wireless high-speed Internet access and fully equipped kitchens. Start your day with a complimentary hot breakfast. Bring your pet - we're pet-friendly. Planning an event? Let us know - we offer six versatile spaces.

According to the local newscast, this is the first day it will be sunny and 70 degrees so far this year.  They are right, too, it is a beautiful day.

After another hearty breakfast at the neighboring restaurant, we checked out at 10:45am and started south toward Portland.  There was no traffic at all, so we arrived in just 45 minutes, way too early to try to check into the hotel.  We could have tried, but we didn't want a repeat of "Check in time is 4:00pm, we'll call you."  So, we stuck with our early-arrival alternate plan of going to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

There are signs in the city directing traffic to OMSI, but Trish was having none of it.  She had another stroke over the marked route, so we had to shut her off and hope for the best.  We eventually arrived at the parking lot.  Being a Saturday, there are probably more people here than a weekday, or perhaps not since there won't be busloads of school children on field trips.

We bought an admission package that includes a Planetarium show for $14.00 pp.  The lines for the Omnimax movie were very long and weren't of much interest to us anyway.  The Planetarium show that meets our schedule starts at 1:30pm.  We arrived at noon and figured that would give us time to see the exhibits at a leisurely pace.

We needn't have worried about having enough time to see everything.  No exaggeration, we had seen everything by 12:45pm and it only took that long because we purposely walked very slowly.  The museum was busy, but not ridiculously so, and it was possible to play with the exhibits if one was so inclined.  However, why anyone over the age of twelve would be interested in anything on display is a mystery.  We both remember going to similar facilities in Los Angeles and they always provided a day-long experience even for adults.  This place is totally geared toward children and should be re-titled a "Discovery" museum. 

OK, so maybe they call it what they do because part of it is a repurposed electrical generating plant.  The exhibits are all on moveable carts that are arranged in no particular order.  Off the sides of the exhibit halls are "labs" where kids can interact with paleontologists, etc., and those were fine for the younger set.  The big draw, supposedly, is an exhibit about Egypt.  This was actually the biggest yawn of all.  Most of what was on display was fake and it was arranged in such a way that it didn't tell a cohesive story.  OK, done with that, now what?

Let's kill some time and buy some $3.00 bottles of juice and sit outside for a while.  Oh yeah, there is a submarine in the river that can be toured with a guide, but the example doorway we'd have to squeeze through wasn't appealing to us at this point.  We sat outside out of earshot of the cacophony going on inside and waited for our scheduled planetarium show.

Our tickets said to arrive at the lineup ten minutes early.  No need for that since there were only two other people there, a mother and her son.  Eventually, the total audience rose to a whopping twelve and that included two museum employees.

The show, entitled "Ice Worlds", was a totally computer generated tour of various frozen moons in our solar system, plus the usual diatribe about how humans are destroying the planet with our greenhouse gasses.  Can you say, BOOOORRRRRIIINNNGGGGG?  That's thirty minutes of our life we'll never get back.  We'd have preferred an actual planetarium show in a PLANETARIUM, but those days are probably over.  The show before the one we saw was one of those 1980's hallucinogenic laser extravaganzas, but the audience exiting the theater was similarly sparse.  Maybe it is time to give up on planetariums and stick to Omnimax.

We couldn't get out of there fast enough, we can assure you.  We were longing to get to our hotel, located directly across the river from the museum.  We could almost feel it calling to us.

Of course, every road on the way there is being torn up, so again Trish had a conniption fit trying to find the place and we had to wing it for a while.  But, we could see the hotel, so getting there was just a matter of trial and error.  Once we found it, we couldn't find the entrance to the parking garage and we had to go all the way around again.  The street out front is one-way due to construction.  There is a trolley stop right out front, which is convenient.  There is a free area where no fare is charged that includes most of downtown and the route to the stadium across the river.

Yes, we did eventually find our way to the hotel at around 2:00pm and were checked in with no problem at all.  However, take Dave's advice from working at a hotel front desk, don't let the manager check you in.  The desk clerks know the drill and they will usually tell you everything you need to know, especially at a big chain.  Manager, "OK, here you go," handing Dave the key card.  Um, how does the parking work?  "Put this card on the dashboard, your room key will open the gate."  OK, when is breakfast?  "It starts at 7:00am.  Enjoy your stay."  End of interaction.  Um, when does breakfast end and where is the elevator???  Luckily Dave overheard the desk clerks giving other arrivals all of the information, so it wasn't a total loss.  The manager was nice, so we'll give him that much.

Anyway, we did manage to park the car in the hotel's attached garage and find the elevator, so we're not totally inept.  We were given a room on the top floor (9th) as our Marriott profile requests and there were extra pillows waiting.  So far, so good.  Our living room backs to the elevator shaft, but we can't hear that over the traffic outside and the party in the hallway inside.  Luckily the bedroom is in a separate room with a door.  Even with double-double paned windows, the traffic noise is noticeable.  That's probably because on the 9th floor the freeway overpass is above our eye level.  Oh well, we have a river view!  Oh yeah, and this entire three-day stay is on reward points (regular weekend rate is $109, so quite a deal anyway).  Parking is $24.00 a day.  Being a Marriott Residence Inn, we also have a full kitchen, which is nice "just in case."

Boy, that museum sure took it out of us.  We're exhausted.  An immediate crash occurred when we sat down.  Maybe we'll get the strength to go out to dinner, or maybe not.  There's always free microwave popcorn.

OK, OK, we'll go out.  Geez, you don't have to yell.  The Riverwalk area where the hotel is located is an ultra modern development of high rise condominiums with shops on the first floor.  Why do cities keep trying this concept?  90% of the shops and all but one of the restaurants are out of business already.  There were a lot of families out walking when we left for the nearby restaurants (McCormick & Schmicks and Newport Seafood Grill), so we figured it is OK to walk around here even if it is under the freeway.  We tried to drive over initially, but there is only street parking or garages, so after realizing it is only a couple of blocks to walk, we took the car back to the hotel and walked.

We ended up at the Newport Seafood Grill because there were people dressed in coats and ties at the other option.  Let's just say we wouldn't fit in with that tonight.  The Grill is on a floating barge in the river and it is decidedly not dressy.  We only had to wait a minute or two until we were seated by a window overlooking a marina.

Click to view the Menu.  Aren't you excited that we have a menu for you even without a stewardess to bring it to us?  Bill ordered the Prawn Linguini and Dave had the Grilled Halibut, both of which were outstanding.  If we had to quibble, the fish was a tad overcooked, but it had a nice flavor.  The vegetables, sautéed zucchini and peppers, were amazing and Dave usually throws zucchini on the floor he hates it so much.  The waiter talked us into the Chocolate Cake and a Strawberry-topped Cheesecake for dessert.  Both were very good, but the cheesecake was the closest we've had to the to-die-for Disneyland version we used to steal, er, uh, serve back in the day.  Yum.

Our server was pleasant, but overall this isn't a place where the service is king.  On top of that it was extremely noisy, so you won't want to go there for a romantic rendezvous.  We'd go back again, but only after trying other options first.  The total bill was $62.00 before tip, so not bad for what it is.

We took a slightly different route back to the hotel that had better lighting than the pathway along the river.  It was probably safe either way, but we don't like to push our luck. 

We checked out the breakfast area off the lobby, which is enormous.  If they fill up all of the counter space with food in the morning it will be an amazing array for a complimentary breakfast.  The menu says the featured entree for tomorrow is biscuits and gravy (plus the usual things one would expect.)

There sure are a lot of families staying here this weekend.  The place is overrun with kids.  It isn't a problem unless you are trying to get in the elevator with them, so it isn't a big deal to us.  The noise from the hallway had already died down by the time we returned.

Back in the room at 9:30pm, we basically crashed for the night.  The clouds are already starting to roll in for the 70% chance of rain tomorrow, so there's no telling which of our planned sights to see will make the cut.

Sunday, April 24 - Portland, OR - Marriott Residence Inn-RiverPlace

The weather is back to normal, raining and cold.  We didn't get out of bed in time for the free breakfast, so we downed some candy bars and set out for today's planned outing.  Neither of us slept much last night, but we have no explanation for it.  There is traffic noise, but it wasn't disturbing at all.

Being Easter, we scheduled a light day figuring we should avoid tourist attractions and stick to out of the way places.  So, the goal for today was a 45 minute drive to Multnomah Falls and Cascade Locks.  What we didn't realize is that the falls area is part of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area and the Lewis and Clark Trail, so our day's activities kept growing as we went.

Trish guided us to the historic scenic falls area with no problems except she had us exit the freeway earlier than the main falls we intended to see.  That turned out to be a good thing because the scenic byway road, off the freeway, is lined on one side by towering cliffs and on the other by the Columbia River.

We came upon the first falls, Wahkeena, parked the car, took a look and continued to Multnomah Falls just 1/2 mile up the road.  These falls are the major draw in the area and they have both a regular parking area and an exit all their own from the freeway.  Both lots were almost full, but the crowds weren't bad.  It was raining heavily at this point, but not one person had an umbrella and only a small minority had appropriate clothing.  We fell into the latter group since we are usually prepared for anything.

There is a historic lodge/restaurant at the base of the falls.  We don't know why it is historic other than it is old and was located along the original road.  We did go in and buy our usual Christmas ornament for the collection, and we briefly considered buying some food.  We really hate to waste time eating unless we are desperate and at this point we aren't.

The falls have an easy to walk paved access path to the base of the falls for a view, then there is a winding path up the hill to an old bridge where the lower falls start.  We walked up, passing striking views of the falls, to the larger bridge viewpoint.  From here one may view the awesome power of the falling water from the top as well as looking down the gorge to the lower viewing area.

Satisfied that we had seen it all, we continued along the scenic road, stopping at Oneonta Gorge Tunnel and Horsetail Falls.  The tunnel was originally for the highway, but dangerous rock falls ultimately caused it to be sealed.  The road now bypasses it and the tunnel has been restored for walkers.  The actual gorge wasn't anything to write home about, but it was a pretty setting of mossy rocks and trees (pretty much like everything else in this neck of the woods.)

We followed Trish's directions toward Cascade Locks until we were distracted by a sign pointing to the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center.  We couldn't resist, so in spite of Trish's insistence that we make a U-turn on "Dam Road!! Dam Road!!  Make a U-turn now on DAM ROAD!", we went to the dam anyway.  She was still screaming at us when we were stopped by a guard so she could look in the back of our car for guns.  This guard was amusing, but the one manning the station when we left looked like he'd prefer to kill you than admit you to the dam.

Our arrival could not have been timed better.  A ranger had just left the Visitor Center with a group headed to the dam's powerhouse (no admittance except on a tour.)  The woman in the Visitor Center told us to hurry and catch him, which we did.  The first stop was at the fish ladder.  Someone sits in a room with a window looking into the water all day counting each fish that goes by.  This has something to do with the fishing season and how many fish each person is allowed to catch this year (or something like that, but you get the gist.)

The ranger led the group to the powerhouse where there are exhibits about the building of the dam and its subsequent refurbishment.  It is a very impressive structure made even more interesting with the Depression era embellishments to the tile floors and walls.

After the powerhouse we were free to return to the Visitor Center on our own or wander the grounds.  There is an impressive view of the dam that diverts the water to the powerhouse on the other side of the road, plus the rest of the extensive fish ladder system.  Back at the Visitor Center we entered on the lower level where the fish ladder underwater viewing windows are located.  The water is a murky green, so we saw nothing other than bubbles.  The person in the cubicle officially counting the fish looked bored out of her mind.

Up the elevator to the Visitor Center displays where we found, uh, mostly nothing except a gift shop.  There was a ranger talk starting about the history of the dam, but since we can read display boards by ourselves we didn't stay for that.  This stop, completely unexpected, was the highlight of the day and it was 100% free of charge.

We continued driving to the end of our sightseeing goal at Cascade Locks.  Various signs pointed to a museum, info center, and other things we never found.  Other fools were following us trying to find the same things.  Eventually we stopped at a closed Sternwheeler building (opens next week) and got out of the car to see the "locks".

OK, so maybe at some point in time there were locks here, but now all that is left is a stone lined bypass in the river with some rusted hinges on the side.  There are no signs explaining anything, so that's all we have to say about this stop.  Well, there is something else.  In an adjacent park there is a bronze statue of Sacajawea and her dog.  Two young women had their Labrador puppy out for a walk.  One of them told us that they brought the dog here specifically because they thought it would be amusing to see his reaction to the fake dog.  He did a hilarious double-take at the giant Sacajawea, then went right over to sniff the giant bronze dog's butt.  Satisfied it isn't a real dog, he trotted off.  Too cute.

It was around 3:30pm at this point, maybe later, and it had started pouring rain.  So, back in the car we started back towards Portland.  Midway there, we veered off the freeway to a Lewis and Clark park that had an interpretive sign, restrooms and picnic benches.  Oh boy.

On the way here earlier, we passed Sheri's Restaurant that looked like it had taken over a defunct chain coffee shop.  Sometimes these local places are better than the original, so we wanted to give it a shot.  Trish didn't like it, but we prevailed and eventually got there.  Boy, were we right about local eateries!  This place has a menu an inch thick with everything you can possibly imagine, plus four billion types of homemade pies.  Click for a partial Menu.  We both ordered huge meals, plus slices of pie, and the bill was only $24.00.  That's less than we have paid for breakfast in other places.  The service was by very homey older waitresses and the elderly hostess couldn't have been any more motherly.

Stuffed to the gills, we drove across the street to an Outlet Mall where there is a Subway shop.  We picked up some sandwiches for dinner later, not wanting to find a place to eat out on Easter Sunday.  That done, Trish took us back to the hotel...sort of.  We had to drive around for twenty minutes trying to figure out what she meant by "Slight right" when there were four slight rights in a row. 

We opened the door to our room only to discover that housekeeping skipped us today...grrrrr.   A schedule on the fridge says there is daily housekeeping even on holidays, so there is no excuse.  Pushing the "Housekeeping" button on the phone resulted in, "This extension is no longer valid."  A call to the Front Desk did get us some clean towels.  We're not averse to using towels again, but if we don't know we have to, they go on the floor to be replaced.  Ewwww.  We ended up with enough towels to have a family move in with us, so all is good. 

The wireless internet at this hotel is so slow we thought we might be back on the Symphony.  Luckily, their wired service is faster and we brought along our portable wireless router, so we're all set.  We're shocked it actually works properly because it was so cheap ($24) and small (about the size of a deck of cards, but half as thick). 

All we have on the agenda for tonight is watching "The Amazing Race", then we're done.

Monday, April 25 - Portland, OR - Marriott Residence Inn-RiverPlace

We woke up early enough to partake in the free breakfast this morning.  There is a very large serving area, but overall what is on offer is what one would expect for a freebie.  The special item today is Eggs Florentine, which we skipped.  Other hot items included scrambled eggs, red skin potato wedges and Canadian bacon.  There was some cantaloupe cut up for the fresh fruit, four kinds of juice from a machine (it was fine), make-your-own waffles, some sort of layered granola/fruit/yogurt in a cup, one kind of pastry (chocolate chocolate chip muffins), four kinds of cereal, hot oatmeal, bagels and bread, and a huge variety of beverages.  Oh, and steamed rice.  In other words, something for everyone.  There is a huge seating area that is part of the lobby, so even though this is a large hotel there are probably always enough clean tables for everyone.

Today's weather is the worst yet.  Pitch black skies, rain and very cold...low 40's.  What luck, everything planned for today is outside!  No matter, we won't melt.

If our trip planning software is correct (which it usually is), seeing everything on our list for today should take until 5:00 pm.  Fat chance for that, but that is what it says.  The first thing we tried to find is the Classical Chinese Garden on the opposite end of downtown from our hotel.  It took all of five minutes to get there.  But, we never found it even after driving around all of the blocks in Chinatown (such as it is).  We only found an ornate Chinese gate.

OK, that took two minutes, now what?  Next stop on the list is Pittock Mansion in the forested hills behind the city.  Trish almost had another stroke, but she gathered her senses and we found it within ten minutes.  We didn't know how early we got started today until we arrived and the gift shop was still closed.  We were one of the first groups inside, so it was a pleasant experience.

The Pittock Mansion was purchased by the city after it fell into disrepair in the 1950's when the family moved out.  It was about to be bought by developers and torn down.  Why do people do that?  Sorry, we digress...anyway, the mansion is a reasonable size and has been restored to its original finishes.  Visitors wander around on their own or you may engage the friendly guide who is available in the foyer.  The admission is $8.00 per person and well worth it in our opinion.

Three floors are open for visitors.  The main floor has a parlor, music room, dining room, kitchen and food storage facilities that include a refrigerated room.  There are elaborate intercom panels in each room, plus a call button for the servants should their services be required. 

Up the marble stairway are the master bedroom and several elaborate bathrooms.  The showers are fitted with more pipes than you can imagine, including at floor level so one may test the temperature of the water with one's toe before getting wet.  Overall, most anyone could move right in and live in this house quite comfortably today.  Unlike most restored mansions of this ilk, this one doesn't have that dingy, dark feeling.  There are beautiful views from every window and lots of natural light.

On the lower level is a laundry room, another large entertainment room, and the servants' entrance.  In the large central room they have displays of ornate beaded and metal purses of the day.

The third floor is the servants' quarters and is not open to the public for "safety reasons" except on occasional behind the scenes tours.

After exploring inside, we wandered around back and followed the original driveway approach slightly downhill.  There is a gate house at the street level with mossy stone steps leading back up to the servants' entrance and the parking lot.  Although the gift shop was open at this point, we decided we didn't need any reproduction beaded purses and headed back to the car.

Trish next directed us to the Portland Japanese Garden just a few minutes away in Washington Park.  This garden does in fact exist and even has its own well-marked parking lot.  There was a free shuttle tram waiting to take visitors up to the garden's entrance, so we timed our arrival perfectly once again.

Admission to the garden is $9.50 per person, a tad steep, but not outrageous.  The garden is arranged on a mossy hillside with pretty much every Japanese style represented.  There is a large wooden building inside the entrance overlooking a sand garden that houses a display of Japanese art.  Wandering around you'll find a pond setting, moss gardens, a tea house, streams, and a stone garden.  One of the largest ponds is drained for maintenance, but the moss-covered hillside behind it is still beautiful.  Overall, this garden is nicer than some we saw in Japan, so we highly recommend a visit.

The Portland Rose Test Garden is adjacent to the Japanese Garden, but Trish was having none of that.  She made us drive through the park on a one-way road so we couldn't misbehave even if we wanted to.  Yes, we found it.  No, we didn't get out of the car.  Well, Dave got out and found nothing but naked plants, so there was no point in looking at it any more thoroughly than a glance.

We had an arboretum on the plan, but we skipped it and went back downtown to look at the Portlandia Building and its giant bronze statue.  Yes, it is ugly.  We knew that before driving by.  Another landmark ticked off.

We've decided that for road trips we don't like big cites.  For some reason, for us, road trips mean small towns and rural roads, not one-way, traffic-clogged streets where we have to constantly avoid running down bike riders and homeless people.  For a city, Portland is very nice and has lots of pretty parks and scenic areas to wander.  But, it isn't what we are into on this trip and especially in the rain.

Back at the hotel by 1:30 pm, we picked up some bottles of juice from The Marketplace by the front desk and went back to the room.  Want to guess whether it had been cleaned?  Nope, even though the maid saw us leave earlier.  Oh well, we aren't slobs and we got enough towels last night that we are OK for another night.  Maybe she'll show up later.  Want to bet?

Hell froze over briefly and a housekeeper showed up at 4:15 pm.  We were tired of waiting and Dave said, "I'll turn off the computer and try to rest.  That will make her come."  Literally two minutes after doing just that, there was a knock at the door.  Works every time!

Nothing much occurred for the rest of the day.  It was pouring rain most of the time and we quickly lost interest in going out to dinner.  We briefly considered getting Spaghetti-O's from the shop downstairs, but decided to call a restaurant delivery service instead.  So, we had food delivered from Claim Jumper.  Click for the Menu.  We ordered the meatloaf and the hickory chicken meals.  Both were excellent and huge portions, as expected from Claim Jumper.  We were so full we didn't touch the carrot cake for dessert.  We'll save that for tomorrow.  Who knows, we might miss breakfast again. 

Tuesday, April 26 - Newport, OR - Elizabeth Street Inn

With its ideal location on the magnificently rugged Oregon Coast, the entire city of Newport is a natural observatory that offers a number of fun and educational activities for the whole family. Spend the morning exploring tide pools, combing the beach for fossils and spotting marine life in their natural habitats. Then head over to the Oregon Coast Aquarium where you can pet an octopus and walk through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks. Newport is also home to two lighthouses, one of which is the tallest on the Oregon Coast. Historic Nye Beach, with its colorful cottages and laid-back atmosphere, is the perfect spot for a picnic and a quick rest from all the sightseeing.

Let your imagination go and fulfill your fantasies at the Elizabeth Street Inn in Newport, Oregon. Located high on a bluff overlooking miles of the Oregon coast's pristine beaches and the vast Pacific Ocean, you can escape the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life and truly find yourself again. Build sand castles on the beach. Stay in bed until noon. Cozy up by the fireplace with a good book and a nice glass of wine.  All our guest rooms are oceanfront with a private balcony and exceptional ocean views. When it's time to venture out and explore the local area, you'll find plenty to fuel your imagination. The Elizabeth is within walking distance of distinctive dining, galleries and shopping of historic Nye Beach; the Newport Performing Arts Center, an historic lighthouse and, of course, miles of beautiful beach and interesting tide pools. The Oregon Coast Aquarium, golf, fishing, whale watching, Newport's Bayfront and many other attractions are close by as well.

The rain continues, pouring, sprinkling, misting, over and over.  All day and all night.  Just when you think it is over, here it comes again.  Temperatures are in the mid 40's today.

We woke up in time for the free breakfast again, which was good and filling.  There is no rush to get out of the hotel because of the noon check-out time and we're not on a schedule for a lot of stops today.  We lolled around until around 10:45 am then hit the road toward the coast.  We'll stay on the coast now until we are into California.

Trish couldn't get us out of Portland, so we just headed in the direction we thought we needed to go and she eventually picked up on it.  At first we drove on a freeway going west though open farmlands. Then we veered off onto a two-lane highway toward Tillamook.  We stopped at a couple of semi-scenic viewpoints of a river, plus a historic farm that looked more like a picnic area than anything else.  It had a restroom, so it must be important.

The weather wasn't cooperating today at all, but it didn't affect us much.  It poured a couple of times, which is a drag, but mostly it was sprinkles.  It was cold all day.

This highway climbed (to 1000') through mossy rainforest until it suddenly dumped us in Tillamook, our only scheduled stop for today.  It took about 90 minutes to get to this point.

We arrived at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, a very popular tourist attraction in the area.  Admission is free, but there are plenty of ways to spend money.  They have a gift shop, another gift shop, an ice cream counter, and a large fast food cafe.  The main point of this place is the self-guided factory tour.

The tour consists of watching the factory floor through large windows above the action.  The people on the line looked about as bored as it is possible to look, but who wouldn't.  It was worth the stop to see it, but we wouldn't make a special trip to Oregon for it.  It was better than expected for free, that's for sure.

We recharged with some ice cream, then hit the road toward the coast.  It was slow going at first because the road passes through several small towns on the way.  But, we did manage to find a kitschy reading cow in front of a school, so it was worth it.  We also detoured off on a very rutted side road to a beautiful stream and waterfall that rivaled the ones we saw outside Portland.  That road was a killer though!

Our first view of the Pacific Ocean came where Highway 101 turns south.  There are numerous viewpoints along the way with coastal views of the black volcanic rocks and crashing waves.  This part of the coast isn't as scenic as it is farther south and to us it is nothing unusual being from coastal California.  However, it was a pleasant drive, although too long.

We stopped at a hotel/shopping center to use a bathroom and spent some time looking through the art galleries and shops.  They had some nice things, but everything we liked was $5,000 and up, so we passed.  The shopkeepers were very friendly.

More viewpoints than you can shake a stick at line the coast, but as mentioned the views aren't anything we haven't seen a million times before.  We did stop for photos at each one anyway.

We arrived in Newport at around 5:00 pm which is way past our tolerance for driving in one day.  Dave isn't 100% healthy today, so he was particularly happy to arrive at the hotel.  He doesn't have the measles again, so not to worry, at least not yet.

The Elizabeth Street Inn was our second choice, but after seeing it we are so glad we ended up here.  It is located on a bluff directly overlooking a wide windswept beach.  All of the hotels along the same strip look like converted or upgraded motels with outdoor corridors.  This place has indoor hallways and is very tastefully decorated.  Parking is under the hotel, so out of the nasty weather.  Supposedly there is an indoor pool somewhere, but we didn't see it today.

Dave had a coupon he printed from Tripadvisor, so the manager reduced our rate from $140 to $118 per night.  The original price is a bargain, so a discount like that makes this a phenomenal value.  We asked for restaurant recommendations in the "we just want to eat and get it over with" category.  We were sent up the street to the restaurant, Georgie's, at the Hallmark Inn where we were originally booked.

We stopped by the room first to rest and recharge.  Our room is huge with two queen beds, a gas fireplace and LCD TV.  All rooms in the hotel have balconies directly over looking the beach.  Free breakfast is served in a room on our floor (the third), so it is very convenient.  The corridors are quite nicely decorated with beautiful sconces and lovely carpeting.  The room is a bit too "elegant" for us, but it is well done with high quality fabrics and granite counters.  But, what's with hotels putting the bathroom sinks out in the room?  We don't like it, but apparently everyone else does since it is so prevalent.

After a brief rest, Dave returned almost to normal, so we walked about two blocks to the recommended restaurant, Georgie's Grill. Click to view the Menu.  It has a panoramic view of the coast, the service was over the top friendly, and the food was adequate, barely.  The total bill came to $44 including a glass of wine.  We both thought the food seemed a bit pre-fabricated, but our meals were filling and tasted OK.  Certainly nothing gourmet, but good enough.

It rained on the way back to the hotel, so Bill was a bit bedraggled by the time we got back.  Hit knit sweater/shirt could have been worn as a dress after it was dampened.  Dave was prepared in his weatherproof jacket, so he wasn't affected by it. 

The hotel serves hot salmon chowder in the lobby at 5:00 pm and freshly baked cookies at 8:00 pm.  The cookies were baking when we arrived back from dinner and smelled delicious.

It took us a bit of finagling to figure out how to connect to the free internet, but we prevailed and all is well in that department.  Nothing else happened of note after we returned to the room.

Wednesday, April 27 - Newport, OR - Elizabeth Street Inn

Today's weather is the same as yesterday, black clouds coming in from the ocean and chilly temperatures.  None of this makes much difference to us and we prefer cool to hot for walking around.

The beds here are so comfortable that we caught up on sleep, so Dave feels better this morning.  We started off with the free breakfast just down the hall from us.  It wasn't a pleasant experience because the room was jam-packed, it was too hot, and what was offered was very limited.  We found enough to get us started and got out of there as fast as we could.

This stop and the next couple down the coast are very lightly scheduled for sightseeing.  There is a lighthouse here and some tacky tourist attractions (like Ripley's Believe It or Not) in the harbor area.  We'll probably drive by and look at it, but no promises that we'll get out of the car.

If Dave hadn't fallen asleep, fully clothed with his shoes on, we would have been on the road at 9:45 am.  Under the circumstances, we set out at around 11:00 am, our usual departure time.  Didn't we tell you the beds here are comfortable?

Our first stop is just north of town, about five minutes away, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.  There is a $7.00 fee, but the ranger asked if we have a Federal Park Pass, which we do and it is valid for three more days!  Good deal.

The Visitor Center here is very nice with modern displays in very good condition, almost new.  A ranger at the desk got us oriented, so we took a look at the displays.  There are tide pools here also that are famous, but something happened recently and they are now covered with sand.  Too bad because there is an elaborate road and parking area here just for that.

It is possible to walk to the lighthouse from the Visitor Center, if you are insane.  It is extremely windy out on this isolated point and it is freezing today.  So we drove.  The Visitor Center is located in a protective cove of dramatic volcanic rock, but the lighthouse is totally exposed, for obvious reasons.

We wandered out to the lighthouse where a sign said to come in for a tour.  We're not sure if they do this every day because the ranger at the gate told us about it as though it is unusual.  There were about ten people waiting inside listening to a docent talk about the lighthouse.  There are two rooms with representative displays.  When the docent said that the viewing gallery at the top is "packed" with the maximum number of visitors, fifteen, we passed on climbing up the winding stairs.  He only admitted the same number of new visitors as those who exited, so it would have taken a while. 

Outside, where is it VERY WINDY and FREEZING, we walked around looking at the interpretive signs, took a few pictures of the stunning coastal views and jagged volcanic coves, then rushed back to the car.

Next we drove south of town, over an elaborate bridge to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  Our intention was to look at it from the outside and decide if it looked worthy of a visit.  No such luck because they have cleverly hidden the entire building behind thick, and beautiful, landscaping.  So, the only way to check it out is to go inside.

Admission was $14.00 each after a AAA discount of 10% that the cashier pointed out to us.  There was also a sign on the counter about it.  There are indoor and outdoor exhibits.  We were impressed at how well kept the entire facility is.  All of the tanks and displays were sparkling clean as was the entire place.  There are three galleries inside with the usual suspects on display.  Outside there are otters, seals, etc., in elaborate faux rock enclosures.  Behind all of this is a large building containing three walk-through clear tubes with viewing windows in the floor as well. 

This is one of the better aquariums we have been to.  It isn't large, but everything is beautifully displayed and the staff is helpful and nice.  We managed to find some souvenirs in the gift shop, then headed to the nearby Marine Science Center.  This place wasn't our cup of tea, so we passed, sorry.  We have nothing to report about it except all of the roads leading to it are torn up.

On the way back to the bridge over the inlet, we ran across Aquarium Village, a garishly colored collection of kitsch that was a sight to behold.  From the back it is apparent that this is a converted storage facility that they slapped false fronts onto.  Everyone else driving through did the same thing we did, hang out the window and take a photo or two, and keep driving.

We promised we'd at least drive by the "historic waterfront", so that's what we did next.  The roads leading there are torn up also, so we followed the detour signs.  Here we found what we expected, Ripley's Believe It or Not, a wax museum, a lot of clam chowder joints, and some tacky storefronts.  It sort of looks like a tackier version of Monterey's Cannery Row, except there is some actual fishing still being done here.  We stopped for a photo of the harbor, but that's it.

Our hotel is just across Highway 101 from the harbor, so we were back there, totally frozen, in just a few minutes.  OK, now you remember we said the beds are comfortable?  This time, sans shoes, Dave laid down and made the mistake of covering himself with the duvet.  Cut to two hours later and here he is catching up with the diary.  Ordinarily he isn't an easy pushover for comfy beds, but being chilled through and not at 100% capacity anyway, the bed called to him and that was it.

Around 6:00 pm, just as we are trying to decide what to do for dinner, a furious storm blew in that is so intense it blew spray into the room across the covered balcony.  Yes, it is still freezing.  What to do...

We waited for a break in the weather and went out to pick up food from McDonald's.  The manager of the hotel even made fun of us for that.  We had a nice chat with her and complimented her on this lovely hotel.

We're considering staying here for an additional night.  We'll make the decision in the morning.

Thursday, April 28 - Newport, OR - Elizabeth Street Inn

The weather is the same, pouring rain, extremely windy, and very cold.  Thank goodness the breakfast room was empty today, but only Bill made it.  Dave isn't feeling well...drum roll please.  Dave writes this blog, so if it is up to date you can rest assured things are not too off track.

Even though Dave is feeling somewhat better this morning, as in no fever, he decides it is time to go to the Walk-In Clinic at the local hospital.  Not Emergency, which this isn't (or so we think), we're just going to the clinic part.  Now, these places are no fun anyway, but it is our only option to get this over with today, so off we go at 10:00 am. 

It took forever to figure out how to get into the place which is basically a bunch of prefab buildings tacked onto the back of a brick hospital.  Plus it is still pouring rain, so no fun.  Inside, Dave had to fill out four pages of the most incoherent forms he's ever seen, but the receptionist tells him that if he'll come back at 1:00 pm they will see him right away.  He says, "That's fine."  The woman is appalled that he isn't mad, so we're instantly on her good side.  She says, "Just wave at me through the glass if I don't see you."  OK fine, off we go to buy some supplies, then back to the hotel to wait two hours.

Mind you, Dave isn't sick in the sense that he has the measles or anything like that.  Let's just say that he has a golf ball sized infection where the sun don't shine, making it really fun to sit in the car (or anywhere else for that matter), he has an off and on fever, and a couple other weird symptoms you don't need to know about.  At home, he's never sick, so what's the deal with this stuff cropping up every time we leave the house?  Oh, by the way, if you remember the giant hole in his shoulder from before we left, that has now healed just fine and we've moved south with the same thing, only different.  Got that?

We still can't seem to figure out how to get into the clinic parking lot properly.  We had to drive all the way over the bridge, do a U-turn and come back.  And, believe it or not, we're good at following directions.  Trish is useless here.  She can't figure out which way is up let alone get us anywhere, so we're screwed.

The clinic window is sewn shut with the lights off and the blinds drawn, so we sit down to wait at ten 'til 1:00 pm.  A few other people are already there.  A few minutes after one, the place opens and one of the women sitting there is called in.  Everyone who has newly arrived is told it will be a 90 minute wait, at least.  So, the way this works is to arrive when the place opens and come back later with a sort-of appointment.  It is not possible to do any of this over the phone.  One has to show up in person.

In the meantime crotchety old men and a woman are walking out from the eye clinic across the room because they have been waiting over two hours for an actual appointment.  One of the men asks, "Why can't you schedule this better."  Answer, "We're only here two days a month and the doctor likes to stay busy."  Huh?  Man says, "But is it necessary to schedule everyone to arrive at the same time?  Why don't you stagger out the arrivals?"  (Duh)  Answer, "I don't know, that's not my job.  Do you want to reschedule?"  "Hell no, I'll go somewhere else, this is ridiculous."  By the way, these people were already waiting here when we came in this morning and it is three hours later!

Fine, we're called in at around 1:30 pm, not too bad, and Dave is the second person called, as promised.  So far, so good.  Weird system, but overall that wasn't too bad and we're in need of some entertainment today anyway.

The nurse does all the vital signs as you'd expect, but using methods we haven't seen in ten years in our area.  Everything is computerized where we go, so there are no charts and prescriptions go directly to the pharmacy, no paperwork involved.  We just thought every place did it that way by now, but apparently not.  However, everyone is very nice here.  Dave does not have a fever today, by the way, but that changes as fast as the weather around here.

Doctor comes in, very young, recently moved here from San Francisco, and immediately asks if we are partners.  That's a relief, we never know in small towns how we'll be received when we're forced to be honest, so this is already going well.  He asks more questions and is disturbed about the fever along with the giant infection getting bigger by the minute.  So are we, which is why we're here, so no big surprise there.

Cut to the chase...Dave had surgery ON HIS ASS during a ROAD TRIP!!  How very inconvenient this is proving to be.  OK, so a bit of background.  Dave isn't a big baby about pain, he can take it within reason.  He'll pass on anesthesia if whatever is being done doesn't take very long.  The doctor asks if he'd like the painful injection of the numbing solution or not.  OK, that's not too bad since he just had it in the face before we left (no, it wasn't Botox!), so he opts for the injection.  Not bad, good choice.

Next the options are given to just poke at it or really clean it out with all sorts of solutions and scary implements.  Dave says, "Do whatever you think is best, I can't see it."  Bill can, but he's still upright in the chair, so it can't be too gory.  Later he does say that it was disgusting, but apparently it was interesting enough to keep looking at it, like a car wreck.  Dave is glad for this information because he can't see any of this and it is his butt cheek that is being poked at.

Remember, Dave usually has no problem with pain.  OH MY GOD, this was SO F-ING PAINFUL.  There was actual screaming involved...twice...maybe three times, he might have blacked out.  And this is with the anesthesia.  The doctor says he can only numb the outside unless we're in "real" surgery and since that's not an option we have to take what we can get.

Then he asks if it is OK to irrigate the giant cavity.  Oh, geez, yeah go ahead.  He says it will just be cold.  LIAR, you put salt water in an open wound and tell me it is just cold.  It gets better...he decides that it would be best if this newly-created hole is kept open so it can drain, so he shoves in a HUGE roll of gauze tape.  Like five feet of this stuff.  Then he asks Bill if he would mind pulling a few inches out every now and then!  He says he will, but Dave is having none of that kind of talk.  However, when he asks if it will hurt (now he's being a baby), the doctor holds up two fingers and makes the sign for "a little".  Ugh.

During all of this, the doctor keeps asking the nurse for more gauze.  She gives him a whole box, but that's not enough.  They use up the entire supply in the room, then pack whatever they can find into his crack and say, "Just keep doing what you were doing."  Like what, sitting on a donut pillow or packing gauze in his ass?  And, um, how does one go to the bathroom now?  And get this, the "very gnarly" antibiotics he prescribes can cause diarrhea, so "Drink lots of water."  Boy, that sounds fun on a road trip, doesn't it?  Later on, Bill buys Dave extra underwear "just in case".  Isn't he thoughtful?

So, here we are at 3:00 pm, yes it took that long for all of this stuff.  The best part is that all we had to pay was a $30.00 co-pay!  Wow, that sure is cheap.  The receptionist tells us it is because as a primary care facility they want you to be so happy you'll always come back.  The same almost-free charge applied at our regular doctor for roughly the same treatment.  We won't complain about our high insurance rates anymore.

We drove up the street to Rite-Aid to get the prescriptions filled.  Good insurance again...two prescriptions only cost $15.00.  We also buy huge wads of gauze and panty liners.  Hey, we're not proud.  We read during the previous shoulder leakage that they work great for that purpose, which the doctor confirmed.  At the next-door Safeway, we purchased dinner for later and more "just in case" supplies.  One can never be too prepared!

OK, so what happens now is that we can't leave Newport until Dave is seen again on Saturday in case all that lovely tape has to be replaced.  Or, we can keep going and try to find a new doctor every two days.  No thanks, we're at a comfortable hotel and a great price, so we'll stay.  The kink is that we might have to stay until Monday depending on lab results or whatever and that will be a problem.  Also, every time we show up at this clinic it is as though they've never seen you, so all of the forms have to be filled out again. 

All of our reservations will dissolve in a giant domino effect beyond the current changes.  So, where we stand now is that we are stuck here until Saturday and can't really do anything (plus we saw all the sights before).  We're good at sitting, ordinarily.  We have cut out Bandon, OR as a stop, which is not a big loss since it was just a rest period anyway and we're getting plenty of that with the extra days here.  Crescent City, CA has been reduced to an overnight only.  Please light some candles in the hope that we don't have to stay beyond Saturday night (praying isn't necessary, it isn't that important.)

The receptionist at the current hotel first says that if we stay over on Saturday we will have to change rooms.  Eventually she takes pity on us and says she'll move someone else around and we can stay where we are.  She even makes keys for us that will last long enough in case we have to stay another two days.

Now Bill is having a bad day.  He put a load in the hotel's washer, but then it wouldn't dry in the dryer.  He's not a happy camper.  Where he has gone is anyone's guess.  Dave hopes he comes back eventually because he has the car.

All is right with the world.  He found a Laundromat just up the street and was back in an hour.  Whew, that was close.

Friday, April 29 - Newport, OR - Elizabeth Street Inn

Wow, what a difference a day makes!  The weather has gone from terrible to absolutely beautiful.  The sky is clear, the water is blue, and the temperature is a pleasant 55 degrees.  Not exactly beach weather, for sure, but great for our purposes.

Yes, we did promise to rest today, but it is so nice outside we thought maybe we could cover some of the nearby sights that were scheduled for part of the drive to the now-deleted next stop.  We did sleep in a bit and missed the hotel breakfast, so we ate some of the yogurt we bought to avert problems with Dave's antibiotics and hit the road around noon.

As far as we can judge from the pre-planned itinerary, we expect this sightseeing jaunt to take a couple of hours.  We'll get several stops out of the way to save time on what will now be a longer drive than we'd like when we're released from Newport, hopefully by the doctor tomorrow.  Also, Dave feels much better today in spite of the extra hole in his butt.  It still hurts, but it is manageable and the other hassles associated with it aren't causing any problems.

At noon, off we went south to see what we could see.  Our most distant planned destination is the Sea Lion Caves attraction, which we're assuming is kitsch central, but we really don't have any idea.  Total drive time to get there without stopping is 45 minutes, but, of course, we stopped.  Several times.

We pull into some lovely beach parking lots and walk short distances to beautiful tide pools and rocky coastline vistas.  We crossed a bridge with beautiful towers topped by amber glass pyramids.  Since there is an "Interpretive Center" for this bridge, we stop to find out more about it.  This is the Alsea Bridge spanning Alsea Bay, by the way.  We spoke to the friendly volunteer manning the desk who told us all about how often people break the weird automatic doors.  Then we walked through the exhibits, looked at the information and wandered out back for a view of the lovely bay in person.

Back on the road south it occurs to both of us at the same time that we learned absolutely nothing at that visitor center except not to pull on the door to close it.  Damn, came that close.

Next up is another beautiful coastal view and some lovely tidepools.  This is the beginning of the Scenic Cape Perpetua National Forest (or something like that...whatever it is, is Federal).  The signs in all of the parking lots in the park say there is a $5.00 fee required which is purchased from an honor-system board nearby.  There, a sign says that if you have an Annual Pass, please put it on display and you're good to go.  Hey, another $5.00 saved on the next to the last day it is valid (although, to be honest we would have put it out even if it had expired since nobody was checking.)  We might have actually paid for this pass at this point.

The next stop within the park is at Devil's Churn.  This is a huge chasm that has been eroded into a soft crack in the volcanic shoreline.  The waves continuously pound into the crack working their way up the chasm.  Look at this picture closely.  We think maybe a more appropriate name could be found for it, but you can use your own imagination.  Getting our mind out of the gutter, we move on down the pathway through a lovely forest area to another viewpoint before going back to the car and on to the Visitor Center down the road.

The Visitor Center is a stop on our original plan, but we spent only a few minutes here and used the restrooms.  The ranger is friendly, but other than that it was anything worth stopping for and we wouldn't do it again.

Down the road a bit is another big erosion channel, but this one supposedly has a Spouting Horn.  She wasn't spouting today, so all we get are more beautiful views and another historic bridge.  Don't ask why it is historic.  An old lady wouldn't get out of the way of the sign that has that information.

As you would expect on a road along the rugged Oregon coast, we came upon even more beautiful rocky coast views and pebbled beaches with streams running through them.

We swerve off at a turn off for the Heceta Lighthouse.  We have no clue what this entails except we do know what a lighthouse is.  We're not surprised to find another whitewashed lighthouse set in the most beautiful location of picture postcard perfection.  Apparently, this place is a huge tourist attraction because there is bus parking and a lot of restrooms.  Today though, only the most rustic of the restrooms are open and there are only two cars in the parking lot.  There are tours offered until 3:00 pm, but we arrive too late for that.

What does that mean?  Obviously we are way beyond our expected time to be out today.  We haven't eaten much, so we're already worn out and Dave wasn't exactly peppy to begin with (but honestly, he feels fine for someone who is leaking.  Sorry, TMI.)  We pause to admire the view of the lighthouse, the absolutely gorgeous cove it overlooks, and another elaborate bridge spanning another sparkling stream.  We also snacked on some disgusting cheese/cracker packages we bought at the beginning "just in case", this being a "case".

Semi-revived, Dave announces that if the sea lion thing isn't around the next bend we're giving up.  Damn, it turns out that is exactly where it is, so no turning back now.

The Sea Lion Caves attraction looks like it might be really awful, except that it isn't garish and is very well maintained.  There is bus parking here, too, so we're glad we didn't come in high season.  There is a stunning view from the parking terrace south to where we will be going next, hopefully on Sunday.

Inside the building at highway level is a gift shop, a coffee shop, popcorn, and a counter selling fudge.  Sure, the gift shop is selling souvenirs, but frankly they are the nicest we have seen so far.  We bought a very nice keychain (which you will recall we make into Christmas ornaments) for only 50-cents.

The admission charge is kind of steep at $12.00 per person, but the cashier assures us that the sea lion population in the cave today is "awesome".  She also informs Dave his credit card is declined.  Figures, every time we leave the house this happens.  We'll work it out later and use a different card.

Next, you walk down a couple flights of stairs and end up on a terrace below the entrance building.  There is a large bronze statue here for photo ops where, as usual, some Chinese people ask Dave to take their picture.  We give up waiting to take a picture of the statue alone because as soon as anyone is finished with their photo, they just sit there while their kids climb all over it.  Cute...not.  It isn't crowded today either so we both say we're extremely glad we came on a slow day.  This place would be unbearable on a busy day and we haven't even reached the best part yet.

Past the statue is a sloping pathway that leads to the elevator to the cave.  The elevator opened in 1962 and before that people had to walk down a sort-of enclosed stairway to a side entrance cave.  This is better.  The elevator looks relatively new which under the circumstances (outside facing the ocean) is something remarkable.  We push the call button and wait a few minutes.  A couple gets out, we get in and start to descend. 

The elevator takes visitors down about 200 feet to the cave where a sloped ramp goes down into the darkness toward the viewing area for the sea lions.  Think of the worst possible smell you can conjure up, like raw sewage mixed with rotten fish and you'll be right on track for what this cave smells like.  OK, yes, the cave is awesome, but that water at the bottom with the big brown foam island is SO DISGUSTING.  What sea lions?  Are there sea lions?  Yes, of course, but you have to wrap your mind around the environment first.

The cave alone is awe inspiring.  It is an enormous natural formation with a domed ceiling.  The main opening is toward the sea and there is another long, small cave leading off the the side.  Along the curve of the back wall are terraces and pedestals of volcanic rocks each topped by a single lounging sea lion.  This is viewed from a natural appearing ledge with a wire mesh fence to the ceiling.  The view really is amazing.

There is a long steep stairway leading to another opening that has an amazing view outside.  This used to the the entrance before the elevator was built.  Now it is just a viewing platform...and a place to breathe again.

We have no idea how they could manage this place if a crowd showed up.  Being in that cave with more than there were in it today would be unbearable.  We'd guess there were about twenty people in the cave, but it is obvious the access is set up for way more than that.  Let's just say we are very glad we are here today and not at the height of the season.  By the way, there are times of the year when the seals are gone, the summer is one of those, so maybe it works itself out.

On the way back to the gift shop, we again try to take a picture of the seal statue.  A man is taking a photo of his little girl, who is sitting on the statue.  We wait.  Picture is finished (honest to GOD, why does it take people five minutes to take a picture?  Dave barely stops walking to take the ones you see here.)  The girl wanders off.  The father then steps up ONTO the statue and starts talking on the phone.  Other people are waiting for photos also.  People are so damn dumb.  We get our photo by changing the angle and it takes us about two seconds.  Sigh.

In the gift shop, we found some fairly nice things to buy as souvenirs, then drove directly back to Newport without any stops.  When we got back into town we went to Safeway to buy something to supplement the sandwiches we have leftover from yesterday.  This will be our dinner because Dave can't sit upright in a chair yet, so no restaurant dining for a few days.

We made it back to the hotel after 5:30 pm, so how's that for our short day?  Other than being hungry and very tired, it was fine and much better to cover some tracks to try to keep up with the days we're missing.

Let's move on to the declined credit card. We are always being admonished for using our credits cards to buy things online, but we do it ALL THE TIME, like almost daily.  No exaggeration, we buy everything we need online, including furniture and groceries.  We use different cards for this purpose and have never had a all the years the internet has been available, no kidding.  We never go into a bank and always use the ATM, yes, even for large deposits!  (Gasp) Isn't that brave of us?  Never lost a deposit, never had an error.  So, here we are using a card in person for the first time in years and guess what?  Someone, most likely a waiter because they have the most access to your card info, starts charging up online movies (porn), Netflix subscriptions, stuff from, etc.  Chase Bank catches this, we aren't out a penny, the account is closed and a new card sent.  Voila!  Not a problem.  Yes, we travel with extra cards because this happens almost every time we start using the cards in person.  Who'd have thought?  (We would!)

Another problem to solve tonight.  We changed our previously two-night reservation at a Hampton Inn to one night.  This was a stay on points.  We're charge again for the one night, but the two nights are not returned.  Called Hilton Honors, points are returned.  Figured why not push our luck and ask about something else.

You may recall from the Pacific Escape blog that we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton in San Pedro and that we weren't happy with it.  Dave posted a review on Tripadvisor as he does with all of our hotel stays and the General Manager agreed the room wasn't cleaned properly, etc.  His response was very thoughtful.  Then he volunteered to return all of the points we used to pay for the stay.  That is very generous of him (we never asked for anything), but he never followed through.  Bad boy, don't promise us things you don't intend to give us because we will follow up.  The Honors Rewards rep transfers Dave to Guest Services who is appalled by this oversight and contacts the hotel right then.  The hotel has three days to reply, so we'll see what happens.  Not to worry, his promise is posted for public viewing and if we have to we'll inform Guest Services of this fact.

OK, so that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about what goes on during our trips, but it is a slow news day.  We'll pass on our story about what dogs and toddlers have in common tomorrow when we really have nothing to report.

Saturday, April 30 - Newport, OR - Elizabeth Street Inn

Now we have fantastic weather (for Oregon).  It is crystal clear and sunny, still chilly in the low 50's, but otherwise perfectly fine.

We rushed to get to the Walk-in Clinic before 10:00am as instructed to beat the rush, so we skipped breakfast and got moving as soon as we could.  With his new wound requiring much attention in the morning and at night, Dave isn't as efficient as usual in the "get moving" department.

Crossing Hwy 101 to get to the clinic we notice it is lined with flags and there are detour signs all over the place.  Maybe there is a parade or something later?  We'll try to remember to ask someone.

We did indeed arrive at the clinic just as it opened, but there are already a few people filling out paperwork.  We're handed the same papers and get to work.  After handing them back, we're told there are a couple of people before us, so it shouldn't be long.  After one more person comes in, the next arrival is told to come back at 1:00 pm.  So, it appears that they can take less than ten patients before lunch.  Anyway, we only waited about an hour and it wasn't bad.

Dave took one of the painkillers the doctor prescribed in anticipation of more screaming, so he's having trouble remembering how to open the car door and things like that, but he is otherwise visibly normal.  Well, don't walk behind him because he veers to the right.  However, he is coherent enough to pass.

The doctor waves at us through the receptionist's window, so at least he knows who we are.  The nurse also seems happy to see us, although we wouldn't knowing what they have to poke at.  Aren't they good sports?

Eventually, we're called back, and vital signs are taken.  Dave's blood pressure is so perfect he makes the nurse take it again.  He needs to take codeine more often apparently.  His temperature is 98.6F, also perfect.  Hmmm, what's up with that?  It is usually lower, but whatever, he's appearing more normal by the minute which is a minor miracle to anyone who knows him.

We wait in an exam room until "our room" is ready.  This takes only a few minutes and we're transferred to the room with "the equipment".  Sounds ominous, doesn't it?  Last time we used up all of the gauze in this room and this time they can't find anything to probe with and the rubber glove box is empty.  After some rummaging these issues are solved.  We're not complaining, they are extremely nice here, the doctor is very patient and explains everything in great detail if we have a question.

He explains that the lab report so far indicates Dave doesn't have any deadly bacteria.  That's the short version of what he said because we didn't understand anything else he told us about it.  And ultimately who cares?  But, there is something that isn't conclusive yet that might require a change of antibiotics or even adding one.

Here is where he wants to start pulling things that HURT.  We tried it at the hotel because he told us to and we aren't having any more of that, thank you very much.  Dave says, "Anesthetic injection, then pulling."  The doctor nicely insists it won't hurt and he wants to try first (because it is faster, but he doesn't say that.)  OWWWWWW!  He stops, gives it a rest, then tries again.  Dave says this isn't going to happen, think of something else.

The doctor kindly comes up with an alternative that involves filling the wound with a solution of Lidocaine (or something like that, don't quote us).  Thank you, that sounds like a plan, do it.  He and the nurse quickly concoct a way to administer this and it feels so cool and fresh that Dave says, "That was very nice, you can do that anytime you want to."  The doctor and the nurse practically roll on the floor with laughter.  Oh, and Dave told the doctor that the panty liner gives him confidence and make him feel fresh.  This statement prompts the doctor to ask, "Did you run though a flowery meadow in white dress, too?"  We like him.

Next we have a pro and con discussion about putting more of this stringy stuff back in because the hole is still so big.  Dave doesn't like this idea because it might mean having to stay here another two days to get it out again.  The doctor explains that he doesn't have to do it, but it is best because, blah, blah, blah.  Dave finally buys the explanation and allows him to put in some, but not as much.  The fear we have is that we won't be able to get it out ourselves, which is a huge drag until we reach another decent city (in a few days).  Satisfied that we could safely wait three days to take it out, we proceed.  This part isn't painful either, so Dave is a happy camper with an extra hole crammed with string.

The doctor takes the time to tell us we should move up here because it is so "queer friendly", prices are cheap, etc.  He is not gay, but he sure is friendly.  Everyone we have encountered is also.  Maybe we'll consider it when we're too old to go outside, but for right now this isn't quite our style.  This might be close to what living in Hawaii would be like only warmer, which we have considered in the past (and still might), but not right now.

OK, so the end result for this medical episode is that we're good to move on with our plans and we only need to see another doctor if things take a turn for the worse.  We'll find out if we have to change antibiotics next week and we already have a prescription for that.

It is noon when we leave the clinic and we find all access to Hwy 101 blocked off.  We decide to go north a bit and pick up some fast food for lunch and stop at Safeway for something to heat for dinner.   We aren't interested in putting ourselves together yet again to go out, plus the obstacle of Dave not being able to sit up in a chair. 

We get most of the way there and give up following the detour because it just isn't working.  101 is blocked the entire length of the town for the parade.  The carnival rides we saw being set up the other day are part of this celebration also.  We asked several people at the clinic about it and all anyone knows is that it is for "Loyalty Days", but no one knows anything about the point behind it.  A woman in the waiting room described it to her toddler like this, "A bunch of cars, maybe horses and floats go down the road.  Oh yeah, and they throw candy at you."  Her older son blurts out that last year someone was knocked out by the thrown candy, but this sounds a bit farfetched to us.  Sounds fun though, does it not? [Note:  Here is a Link if you want to know what the actual point of Loyalty Days is.]

We easily find a place to park on a side street and wander up to the parade route where the wind is blowing and it is freezing, but otherwise beautiful.  Of course, we didn't bring the camera because we thought we were just going to the doctor.  Bill eventually realized that he can use his cell phone to take pictures, so we'll have a few for you, but don't expect magic.  Neither one of us can see the screen, so you'll have to take what we can get.

There is a coffee place on the corner where we are standing and since we haven't eaten yet, Dave wanders over and buys some muffins.  The clerk is so friendly she's about to explode, but the muffins are tasty and we're good to go for the big event.

The parade is about what one expects in small towns.  The Loyalty Days Queen and her Princesses freezing to death on fancy convertibles, motor cycle groups, every gigantic fire truck in the county blowing very loud sirens and horns (Who is watching for fires?  There are like 20 of them in the parade!)  We have military groups, horses, two high school bands (one of which looks like a bunch of teenagers just wandering down the street in uniforms), giant tractors from the feed supply place, more tractors pulling displays, people handing out anti-war flyers (they were not well received, but everyone was polite to them), and a guy walking by himself yelling, "Hemp Power!".  We're pretty sure he didn't quite know where he was, but he was having a good time.  Oh, and Ronald McDonald riding in a giant red shoe.  Don't ask. 

There was a particular standout though.  A woman riding a 3-wheel bike had a Dachshund in the rear basket flanked by two large hot dog buns stuck to the sides.  The dog was having fun, but the woman was absolutely exuding fun and energy.  She zigzagged across the road yelling, "Do these buns make my bike look fat?"  You had to be there, but she was great.  We saw here later at Safeway and she was still having fun.

We heard someone ask the policeman guarding the intersection how to get to the other side of 101 (where our hotel is, by the way).  Fat chance is pretty much the answer.  He did tell him, but it involves going over the bridge, down the other side, ditching your car and walking the rest of the way.  He tells the man, "Find a restaurant and enjoy the day."  When asked how long the parade will last he says, "Oh, about two hours."  TWO HOURS???  This kind of thing is only mildly entertaining to begin with, so we're not happy to hear that, but we're here, so we stick with it.

It turns out that the candy throwing story the kid told is basically true because the candy "throwers" are throwing it on the ground and skidding it toward the kids.  At first they handed it to them and we thought that seemed reasonable since there are gaps between the groups of people and the crowd is only one layer deep.  In other words, no danger of a riot afterwards.

The people in front of us, because we always stand in the back to avoid actual participation, have a very cute dog.  It is one of those black and while Collie things with one blue eye and one brown eye and he is just oh-so-sweet.  He wants us to pet him, but his owner is standing on his leash (on purpose).  At some point, a participant in the parade stops to take a photo of him with a huge camera.  The dog wants none of this and turns to Dave for solace.   Dave comforts him, dog is very happy, Bill pets him, dog is even happier.  He sits on our feet and gazes adoringly.  The man was only trying to be polite and not let the dog bother us, but once he realizes we want to pet him, all is well with the world.  The owner tells us how obedient the dog is and points at the ground next to him.  Dog immediately runs over and sits down and begins gazing up at him.  Yes, we miss our dogs.  Nice afternoon after all.

During the parade, besides candy, commercial ventures handed out flyers and samples.  We ended up with a coupon for 25-cents off ice cream, a sample bottle of a new Gatorade drink each, and a tiny bouncy ball that looks like a choking hazard for the kids they handed them to.  Maybe people in Oregon don't sue as much as they do in California.

The parade ends with an abrupt change back to 101 traffic, all of which has been backed up north for hours because there is no way around the town.  Everyone runs for their lives before the street sweeper sucks up their children.

Was it fun?  Yeah, it was.  If this was back home, would we leave the house for it, nope.  That's the beauty of a road trip, it makes you do things you'd never do at home.

Back on track with the highway re-opened, we sit in the car people watching to let the traffic clear.  This takes just a few minutes since this isn't L.A. by any means.  We make a stop at Safeway for dinner to reheat tonight (In case you care it is meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and macaroni & cheese.  Yes, we know there aren't any vegetables, so sue us.)  Then we stop at Burger King for some lunch/breakfast.  The place is packed because of the parade and the old lady cashier asks if we are twins.  Dave answers, "I hope not," but she doesn't get it.  This is the first time on the road trip we have been asked this question because gay couples and lesbians abound around here.  We can't go anywhere without seeing like fifty of them.  The place is absolutely crawling with them.  Also, we don't look as alike at the moment anyway...we never did except we're both tall...but especially right now.

We make it back to the hotel at 2:30pm and our room hasn't been cleaned yet.  Of course, the maids arrive shortly after we do and proceed to clean up.  They are young white girls, so we know we aren't in California.  Just stating a fact, not expressing a preference here.  We have to chase after them when the tissue runs out the moment they depart, but that isn't their fault. 

On the way in we stopped briefly to speak to the manager about our credit card in case we gave her the one that is now closed.  No, we're good here.  She inquires nicely about Dave's health and he says something vague about a God-awful nightmare, but we're glad we had to stay here because it is so comfortable.  She is pleased, so are we.

At this point there is codeine-induced napping complete with vivid dreams that do not involve screaming, then blog updates, and here we are at dinnertime.  Wasn't today fun?  Just for fun, here's one of the guys we're missing at home.

Almost forgot we promised you our dog and toddler story.  Here's what we learned while staying here.  Our two dogs have polar opposite personalities.  They are as different as night and day, except they are the same hue.  One is 12 years old, one is two (young one is in the photo above.)  They think it is absolutely the most entertaining thing in the world to stand about a foot apart and bark as loud as they can at one another, frantically run a few feet maybe crashing into one another in the process, and doing the same thing again.  All while barking.  Sometimes they try to get us involved by turning and barking at us, but this is their game.  We let this go on for maybe fifteen minutes, tops, but they would do it for hours.  Now, what do toddlers have in common with all of this?  When they are in hotel rooms above us, which is inevitable apparently, they run across the room and scream.  Run the other way and scream.  Endlessly.  Why does no one stop them after a few minutes of this?  We can stop our dogs.  We're pretty sure that if toddlers could bark instead of scream they'd be doing exactly that because it is louder.  That's what dogs and toddlers have in common.  The End.

While we're eating our microwave dinner and preparing to move on tomorrow, here are a couple of photos of the sunset and coastal view from our balcony.  Not a bad place to be stranded, is it?  By the way, the Safeway meatloaf and mashed potatoes were absolutely delicious, worthy of any restaurant.

This adventure continues with Pacific Coast Road Trip - Part 2.

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