We stopped and took a ton of lovely pictures at the ski resort Lookout Pass. That was especially awesome because my dad, Jen, and I randomly stopped there the summer before last as a part of our surprise trip to Alaska. It was beautiful the first time, but it was also really awesome to go back and see the mountains all covered in snow and the happy skiers. Then we enjoyed the views while driving through Idaho and Washington, and on into Oregon. We got to Tigger's place around 9 pm Portland time, and sat around chatting on his back porch and looking at his pool for a few hours before heading to sleep.
The next day, Tigger, his son Kiamana, Karina and I went out, in an attempt to have breakfast at a trendy hipster breakfast joint that Tigger knew of, but the wait was an hour an a half. As we were walking back to our cars and starting to discuss a new plan, we stumbled on a weird cool food court thing that was made up of permanent structure foodtruck like things. Apparently, they are all over Portland. We had some yummy food and felt like we were having a much more authentic Portland-Hipster experience. After that we grabbed coffee and headed to E.E.'s place to see his family, complete with the tiny and cute and wonderful new baby, A. We stayed for a few hours and they were kind enough to let me do a few tiny things so that I could feel helpful, and we held the baby and fell in love with her completely and right away.
Later that night we met up with another Minnesotan turned Oregonian for a drink at a local brewpub and then hung out on Tigger's back porch for another few hours. The ability to sit on an outdoor porch for several hours in a row in early January never lost its charm. Then, we went for a long late night stroll around Bridgetown, which was completely charming.
The next day, Sunday the 5th, we headed over for more family time. K ran a short errand or two, and we got some good, solid, quiet baby-bonding time in. E.E. has been having some serious and seriously unpleasant back problems, and that baby is tiny and wonderful and new, and I love them all so much, I found it incredibly hard to leave. We said goodbye and I got a few darkly lit but wonderful family shots of them, and we took off. We headed to Vancouver, Washington, and to my first ever pot-shop. I didn't purchase any legal weed, but I did find it awesome and the perfect tourist thing.
Then, it was off to Powell's Books and I accidentally left my heart there. We took a picture in front of Dad's section, I limited myself to only one book from the most amazing women's studies section I have ever seen, including at the library of the community college that I went to, and eventually we pried ourselves away and back to Tigger's. We spent some time with him before saying goodbye and goodnight.
We took off at about 4 am on Monday the 6th. We headed down the I-5 for a few hours, and then we cut across a scenic forest highway over to 101-S, the coastal highway. The moment we saw the ocean, we basically drove directly to it, parked, ripped off our shoes and socks, and ran in.The water was too cold to have your feet in for long, but perfect for just the occasional wave over the toes. We spent most of an hour just enjoying the beauty and the sun and the views, and taking silly pictures, and congratulating ourselves on our recent completely excellent life-choices.
We got back on the 101 for another few hours of completely beautiful forest/ocean driving. We got to the outskirts of the Redwood National Forest about noon and lost GPS signal for a short while. This provided us with amusement, as Karina had been given a taser by her father, for protection from creeps and bears or something. So we joked earlier in the trip about the absurdity of trying to subdue an angry bear with a taser, and she admitted that she kind of wanted to see a bear on the trip. To be fair, she had just read my father's hilarious and true story from our trip to Alaska (which you can find here http://dreamcafe.com/2013/07/27/so-a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-alaska/ ) so I think she was a little jealous and wanting for a bear story of our very own. After a short GPS-less period, my phone started to reroute us, and ended up taking us up a super steep hill (on a street that had a sign posted saying No Through Traffic or Route or something) and as I was approaching the top of the hill I spotted something on the right side on the hilltop. Right on the paved road there appeared to be a brown bear. I exclaimed, "It's a bear!" (or maybe an Oh my god first.) Karina, and the travel companion that we had kidnapped from Portland for the next leg of our adventure, immediately laughed. They had laughed because they had looked to the left side of the hilltop and seen two women, a small adorable child, and an extremely large, but, admittedly un-bear looking dog. Then, milliseconds later, they looked to the right of the street, just as I got a better look and dryly noted, "It's a dog," and they started laughing much more exuberantly. But, they totally weren't laughing at me for my mistake! They were laughing because they had just gotten a look at this dog for the first time. You see, this dog was big. I mean really big. Anyone who lives in South Minneapolis may have come across these two gigantic white dogs that a local women has. They are so big that, even in the winter, they drool so much and so constantly that a disgusting rope of drool constantly lives on both sides of their jowls. This dog was bigger then those are. It made the large dog walking with the thee humans look positively precious And this dog was decidedly more bear-like. Not just the way it looked, either. The way it walked was totally bearesque. They will totally back me up on that. And, you know, I had bear on the brain.
I turned around shortly after the bear-dog indecent and my GPS got its act together not long after that. We arrived at our destination, the Gold Bluffs Beach Campsite in the Redwood Forest, around 1 pm on the 6th. We staked our claim to the best campsite on the grounds, and went to deal with paying and registering for the night. The adorable forest ranger gave us directions to the nearest store, and we went and picked up supplies. We got back, set up our tent, and headed to the ocean, about 100 yards from our site. (And from there we headed to Wisconsin, but that's another story, for a more appropriate venue.)
We watched the sunset on the Pacific ocean and looked at the beautiful forest and stared at the stars (when we weren't asking the moon not to shine so bright.) We stayed up late, laughing and talking and mostly just having an unbelievably good time. It was on this night that we were able to finally lock down a definitive bear theory; There is a bear. It's an actual bear. It's not hypothetical or anything. It's real. It's just not here. But it could be here. But if it was here, it would probably be OK. Like, the bear probably wouldn't eat us.
The next morning I woke up super grumpy pants and miserable. I really hate camping, and it was actually a little colder than I like it, even though festies have been sleeping in tents at much colder temps for a long time. But even when I was a festie that wasn't me. Maybe three or four times in all the years I did the Run did I actually sleep in the campground on the later weekends. I hate camping, even wimpy car-camping (as our companion referred to it.)
We planned to take off that day, see a bit of norther Cali, and then head East to see Denver. We packed up all of our stuff, cleaned up the site, and then walked down to say goodbye to the ocean. The two of them were pretty bummed, as I had just announced in a giant flaming ball of Angry Morning Toni that we would be taking off, and the night before we had been entertaining the idea of staying an extra day. So, we just sat quietly on the ocean, mostly not talking, for a few hours all told.
Eventually, I could tell just how much Karina was heartbroken to leave, so we started talking about what adjustments we could make that would make my tenting experience more tolerable. We devised strategies for keeping the dew issue in check, a much more sound blanket plan, and told our third to join us in the tent for extra warmth. The final preparation to be made was to buy a megaton of firewood, in order to have far more than the amount we found in the bear box of our campsite that we naively thought would be sufficient the night before. I drove to the ranger station to buy the firewood, bought two bundles, went and filled the paperwork and paid the fee for another night, and headed back to the campsite. I was then told that two bundles was what our third judged to be about the same amount as we had the night before, so I went right back for more. The ranger was sold out from my last visit so I waited while she hopped in her truck and drove to get some more from a nearby shed, and then I bought two more. (Which, I'm just saying, made our total about 6 times what we had the night before.)
We set our tent back up, but not the bedding, as keeping them in the dry car was a part of our anti-dew strategy. We spent a much more quiet and low-key evening enjoying the fire, and the ocean. It was cloudier, so the view of the stars was much better, and we talked and made dinner and made smores and ended up getting tired and going to sleep by 11. It was warmer, but still camping.
The morning of the 8th, we woke up, packed up for the second and final time, and headed out. We stopped at a Shasta-Trinity National Park scenic area on the river, took some more fun pictures, and enjoyed the non-frozen water for the last time.
We drove south to Redding, California where we dropped our third off at the Greyhound/Amtrack station, and continued on our journey. At that point, it was late on the 8th, and Karina had to work on the 11th, and we would have made it to our next planned stop of Denver, with drive time, in the middle of the night. We decided we couldn't afford the time or the money to get a hotel room somewhere along the way to make the timing right, so we decided to skip Colorado entirely and take another route.
We decided to skip to the next item on the itinerary, which was the Black Hills, and drove directly east, through Reno, which was really cool to drive through at night, but we didn't even particularly want to visit, even though it was one of the few places where the time of night wouldn't have slowed us down much.
I was a little surprised at how beautiful Northern Nevada and Utah were to drive through. We drove right past The Great Salt Lake, but even though it was early afternoon, there was way to much fog to see it at all. The same was true for Salt Lake City. I was completely shocked at how breathtaking Wyoming was. That was where we hit our highest elevation, which was somewhere in the 7600-7800 feet range.
We drove straight through, with the exceptions of stopping twice, once while each of us was driving and the other still sleeping, because we were too tired. That was cheap, and saved us time, but it sort of screwed us out of any of our South Dakota plans. It was pitch black when we hit the Black Hills, and it still would be, by the time we would hit Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, or Wounded Knee. We talked about it, and decided that we were tired, and though we would have loved to see those things (my first time seeing any of them) we really wanted to be home, and if we didn't have to stop to wait for sunrise we probably would be able to make it home without stopping again.
We made it home about 9 am on the 10th. My dog still remembered that he likes me the best, and I believe that Karina's cat, Cleo has forgiven her by now.
We fell in love with Portland, hard. And not just the climate. The city was just cool and Powell's book's was amazing. We talked about moving there. What it would be like, how much it would cost, when/if/how we could do it. We were halfway there. But it was going to take a long time to make it happen. And we both have people here that are important parts of our life-strategies. I, for example, have no interest whatsoever in living away from Martin or Aliera or Amanda. That's not finding the things in life that are wonderful and embracing them. It's not that at all. So, we ultimately decided that it just probably wasn't in the cards, and if so, it would only be for a year or so, and even then it would take us most of a year to be able to make it happen.
I was talking to Amanda about it on Sunday evening, and various aspects of what I do and do not like about the idea of moving. Afterwards, I was completely talked out of it.
A few days earlier I had messaged E.E.'s mom, (she is wonderful and important to me as a person in her own right (obviously) but in this context her being his mother is germane and not pigeon-holing) to unload some of my negative feelings about leaving them when things were so up in the air and filled with extra challenges. I also told her that I was in a unique position of being both one of the few friends close enough with him (he is my big brother and best bud) for everyone to be comfortable with me being around doing things to help out, but also with nothing in my life stopping me from being able to do so for an extended period of time. I just finished school, I'm not working yet, the only real commitment I have right at this moment is my dog. I could totally go there and help while things get sorted out and back to a new normal. (These were texts so this was what I was trying to communicate. Whatever)
She told me that they had some more family visits planned, (she herself was still there, and had been long before my visit, but was planning on heading home for the hurry up and wait period, soon) and with things still so unpredictable that probably what would be most helpful at the this point would be to call every few days to check in on them and try to boost morale. I agreed that this was a genius plan and decided to implement it.
The first call was the Monday after my talk with Amanda. He sounded better than when I visited, but still an unhappy camper. (Does that count as callback? And/or did that count as a pun? Comedy is confusing.) He told me about the baby getting big and being even more amazing, he talked about how wonderful K has been, and general gushing. We talked a little about the rest of my trip, and I mentioned to him what I had to his mom, that I could totally drop everything and be there. He sort of shrugged me off but said he would talk to K about it and get the lay of the land. I figured as much. He is one of my best buds and he is a generous and helpful person, but he is totally not the ask for, or even the accept help if he can avoid it kind of person. At least, not with me. So, yeah. Not going to be dropping everything and going to Portland for a while.
On Wednesday, I called him again. We talked, and he gave me an update on things and stuff and people and whatnot. Then he told me that he had talked with K and that the last of the planned visitors were going to be leaving at the end of January and that if I really wanted to be around to lend a hand, that I would probably be able to be of at least some use in February. I was all, "I'll see you then, bro." And then, you know, we said other things and I told him we'd talk again real soon.
So, then I started to try and figure out how to get there and other logistics. Then Amanda came over again, and this time, Karina was home. See, they have met, and they totally liked each other, but there was never a small enough group for the instantly deep and meaningful friendship that I knew was incoming, to happen. It totally happened. And, as always, our timing was pretty great, actually.
Frank came out while we were chatting and I brought up to the group my sudden need to get to Portland and so on, and Frank made a suggestion that required me to immediately call Corwin. It was a bit of a strike out, in terms of getting the answer I wanted to the question I was calling about, but I did get some encouraging pieces of related information. I would be more specific here but I'm dangerously close to territory that I have been warned in writing to never speak of again because of feelings and... well... bears, actually.
Then I called Tigger to ask him about the possibility of more crash space while I'm there. He said he would talk to his housemates, but he also reminded me that he was interested in us moving there and being his new roommates and inquired about that. I told him no, that this was a short term sort of thing, and that moving there was just not a realistic option for us at the moment. He kindly agreed to talk to people as soon as possible and we got off the call.
Then, Amanda started talking about logistics of my trip, because she is just freaking perfect at everything that's important, and that's when she shared her opinion, based on newly discovered information, that a month was just not going to be long enough. She was skeptical that stuff would be resolved to the point that I would feel any better about leaving after a month than I had after two visits. (I will mention that this skepticism about the potential timeline is not universally shared by people familiar with the situation.) Suddenly, she's saying that something like 6 months would really give me for sure more than enough time to see it through, and also allow me to scratch my Portland itch, but still bring me back to my people before I was gone long enough for them to realize they like it better without me. (Ok, I'm paraphrasing. And willfully misinterpreting.)
We were talking about this as a remote and unlikely possibility, but trying to figure out how that might work, and then all of a sudden, she is busting Karina out for looking wicked jealous and sad and betrayed. Like I was about to Netflix-cheat on her with moving to Portland or something. And then she was telling Karina about how, don't be jelly, go with if she wants. And we are all about telling Amanda that she has like this job when we remember that her job has locations in Portland. Then we were talking about how much money it would cost that she doesn't have, but then we accidentally did the math and realized that, theoretically, it was affordable if it was short-term, because not needing to rent a truck and so on. More-so for her than for me, even.
Then, many hours of intense and surreal conversations happened. Another thing about Amanda is that an intense conversation with her does to and for me what a really good Tarot reading purportedly did for my mother, and Amanda herself, actually. It is clarifying. It can feature starling new insights, the dramatic reveal of Room-Elephants, provide emotional cleansing, and unique opportunities for self-reflection. Plus, like, a lot of other really good important stuff and fun. And we suddenly realized that we had all spent the last several hours failing to come up with a reason not to do it.
Anxiety started earlier in the process for Karina than it did for me, I think because I just didn't think it was really going to happen. (During the conversation I had gone so far as to reach out and successfully secure a ride out there for the month I was planning on going for.) We talked it out as much as we could, set a few tasks for inquiry purposes, decided that we would make the decision the next day, and tried to unwind a little. We realized that trying to sleep that night was probably going to be pointless, but eventually Amanda went home (so so late) and a short while after that I went down to my room to fail at sleeping. To my surprise, I totally fell asleep pretty fast. I guess I really just didn't think it was going to happen.
When I woke up yesterday I had a big pit in my stomach. Shortly after that, Karina texted me to tell me she would soon be having a conversation with her boss about the possibility of transferring to a Portland location, the result of which which we had been tentatively thinking of as the major deciding factor. An hour or so after that I messaged her to express some of my anxiety ("AHHHH. This is crazy" or something to that effect for maybe the 6th time that day) and she sent me a message asking if, after convincing her, I was having second thoughts. I responded that no, I wasn't, just that I was finally at the totally freaking nervous stage, but that I was really excited. I then thought to respond to the part of her previous text that said that I had talked her into it. She sent me back, "I guess so. I just put in my notice." And that is the story of how my friend Karina and I both learned, only slightly after the fact, that we had decided to move to Portland together for six months in a few weeks.
We called Tigger and have begun the process of figuring our housing and work and whatnots. But, whoa.
We will have a low-key going away party on the night of January 30th, at Steve O's in Crystal, a small dive bar that Karina's dad owns.
Shortly after that, in early February, we will pack clothes and a few small items into her car, load up my dog and her cat, and go to Oregon for half a year.
That's that super long story. I don't think it's hyperbolic to call this a life-changing vacation.