- Where We Started: Portland, Ore.
- Where We Ended: Garden City, Idaho
- Miles Driven: 483 (14,038 total).
- New States: Washington, Idaho.
- States So Far: 22 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
After encountering some trip turbulence on Saturday, the FHMA team awoke Sunday in Portland eager to get back on track. Joan was refreshed and feeling better. I was finally over the blog disaster of Saturday, and once again tolerable to be around. Fred and Hank had not woken us up for a 3:00am pee, and seemed less ornery. The weather was gorgeous. And ahead of us was the wonderful Columbia River Gorge, one of the unexpected surprises of our 2003 trip. Luckily, this time, things played out as planned. That is, until the end of the day, when we encountered a hapless young man who nearly frustrated Joan to the point of murder.
We started our tour of the 80-mile gorge on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, on the Historic Columbia River Highway. About 10 miles east of Troutdale, we picked up our first view of the gorge at the Portland Woman's Forum State Scenic Park. Yes, quite a mouthful, I know.
The Columbia River Gorge, as seen from the Portland Woman's Forum State Scenic Park. Note the small Vista House in the upper right; some of the other photos in this post were taken from there. (Photo by Jim)
A few miles further down the road, we stopped at the Vista House at Crown Point State Park, which provides some wonderful views into the gorge.
Continuing down the Historic Columbia River Highway, we soon encountered Bridal Veil State Scenic Viewpoint, and decided to take the dogs on the half-mile hike down to the falls in order to get them some much-needed exercise and wear them out. Instead, they wore us out, pulling us all the way, probably because they've been cooped up the past few days.
The reason we didn't use any photos of Bridal Veil Falls is that, after leaving there, we encountered the gem of the falls that line the Oregon side of the gorge: Multnomah Falls. Multnomah has two falls: the upper, at 542 feet, and the lower, at 69 feet. A pedestrian bridge runs between these falls, providing amazing photo opportunities.
Just before crossing into Washington for the rest of the scenic drive, we made an unscheduled stop at Bonneville Dam. Designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1987, you can drive right up the dam and locks -- after a brief security stop.
As we tried to depart Bonneville, we were forced to wait for a swing bridge to open and close so that a barge could pass through safely. It was interesting to watch a swing bridge in action, but the resulting 20-minute delay became part of an unpleasant theme that was taking shape: We were getting way behind schedule. I originally predicted that we'd start the four-hour drive to Boise at about 4pm. But we'd made more stops along the gorge than expected, and my impulse visit to Bonneville had cost us an hour because of the bridge delay. So, now, it was already 5pm and we still had stuff to see. But, once freed, I insisted we continue on, and we then crossed the gorgeous Bridge of the Gods and hopped on Washington 14, which features stunning scenery as you roll along the bluffs alongside the gorge.
The Columbia River Gorge is also known for active water sports scene, and being this was a Sunday afternoon, the masses were out.
At about 6pm, we finally reached our final destination of the day: the Stonehenge War Memorial in Goldendale, Wash. Why, you ask, is there a Stonehenge replica in Washington state? Well, it was apparently built by a pacifist Quaker in 1912, who was under the mistaken impression the original Stonehenge had been a site for human sacrifice, so he built the replica so that people would remember that "humanity is still being sacrificed to the God of war." Sometimes, great things come from accidents: penicillin, X-rays, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, to name a few. I would not argue this makes the list, but we remembered from the 2003 trip that the view of the gorge from the memorial is stunning, so we decided to stop anyway. That was our first mistake.
About 90 seconds after we arrived at the Stonehenge memorial, Joan said to me, "I think that guy over there locked his keys in his car." She had deduced this when she saw him trying to open his car door lock with a penknife. Since only MacGyver can actually make that work, he clearly wasn't getting anywhere. I then uttered the words I'll regret for some time: "Let me go see if I can help him." So I wandered over, and sure enough, the kid -- he looked like he was between 20 and 25, which makes him a kid to us -- had locked his keys in the car. He had been at a graduation in Portland, and was headed home to Yakima, Wash., about 70 miles away, when he decided to make his fateful stop at Stonehenge. He seemed to have no idea how to handle his situation, so I pulled a wire hanger out of our big suitcase in the trunk, fashioned it into a hook and told him I'd have him back in his car in no time. But, alas, it's been a long time since I'd done the wire hanger trick, and his Kia had the kind of door locks that make it nearly impossible to pop open with a hanger. But I'm competitive, to a fault. So I kept trying to accomplish what was increasingly looking impossible. Other than pulling on his door in order to allow me to snake the hanger in -- which I kept telling him I didn't need him to do -- the kid wasn't doing anything. Mostly, he was watching me attempt this hanger maneuver as if I was spitting splitting an atom. Joan, always at the ready, took some photos of this scene.
Jim does his best to open this clueless kid's car. It's still not clear to me why the kid thought he had to bend the door back for me to get the hanger through. We've blurred his face in order to protect his identity.
In order to distract the kid so that I could get the damn door open and we could start heading to Boise, Joan decided to strike up a conversation with him. It didn't go well.
First, Joan decided it was time to start floating the idea that I might not be able to get the door open, so she asked the kid if we could call anyone for him, since she assumed he'd also locked his cell phone in the car. He hadn't, and produced it. Joan then suggested maybe the police could help, since almost all cops carry the little doohickey that can easily pop a car door lock. His response: "That's a good idea, but I don't think there are any cops here." Joan looked at him incredulously. "I know," she said, "that's why you need to call them." He looked up, blankly. Joan said, "Why don't you call the non-emergency number." He said, "What's the number?" Joan wasn't sure, so she suggested he try dialing 5-1-1. He did, and reported he'd gotten an error message, so he put his phone away. Joan, getting more and more exasperated, then told him he should call 9-1-1 and see what they suggested. He spent the next few minutes on the phone, and when he was off, Joan went over and asked what the police had said. He said, "Oh, those were my parents." Again, he made no effort to call the cops, and stood there blankly.
Finally, he wandered back over to me, and I mumbled, "I'm sorry, this is taking longer than I expected." His response: "Yeah, me too." It was at this point where my desire to get him out of this jam started to wane, since if we hadn't shown up, he'd probably have accidentally cut his wrists with his penknife by now. Nonetheless, I ignored the voice in my head that was telling me to toss him into the gorge and kept plugging away.
Joan moved in again. "You know, if you can live with it, we could break the window." His response, "But my car needs windows." Joan suggested to him that, without the keys, his car was basically a useless one-ton pile of metal, so he might want to consider extreme measures. And, by now, it was clear I was not going to get the keys. Still, he didn't want to break the windows. Joan was now out of ideas about how to help him, and started formulating ideas on how to help us.
It was at this point we noticed a construction company truck had pulled into the Stonehenge lot. There was no one in it, but told the kid that whoever was with that truck might have tools better-suited to help, so she suggested he go find them. He came back soon thereafter and said, "I couldn't find them." Now, this is a small monument, not Yellowstone, so they could not have been hard to find. And they weren't, as Joan immediately found two workmen standing smack in the middle of the monument. By now, Joan had long since stopped caring about getting the kid out, and my hands were killing me from trying to get the lock open. So Joan laid out the kid's plight for the workmen. They didn't have any better tools than we did, but being men, they were up for the challenge. I turned over my completely stripped wire hanger to one of them, who proudly proclaimed, "I'll have you in the car in no time." I informed him that I'd said the same thing about an hour earlier.
I'd love to tell you how this story ended, but the truth is, we have no idea, and by this point, we really didn't care. As soon as the construction guys had taken up the cause, we hopped in the car and sped off like Starsky and Hutch in order to make absolutely sure we didn't get roped back in. As far as we were concerned, we'd done our time, and if he didn't want to help himself, we weren't going to kill ourselves to help him either. We have certainly had our challenges on this trip, but we've never been in a position where we couldn't help ourselves. Even in Death Valley, I was on the phone with AAA when our saviors arrived. Other than the misguided penknife idea, this kid had no clue what to do at any point while we were there. Maybe the landscapers had better luck than we did, but I doubt it. My guess is they eventually told him to call the police, and then left him. Because they weren't getting into the car with anything short of a large rock.
We've been the beneficiary of Good Samaritans on this trip, and both believe strongly that you should always help those in need. But this kid was a lost cause. Joan now says she wishes she'd followed her instincts and called the police herself, which might have gotten us out of there in 10 minutes instead of the 45 it eventually took.
Anyway, this final delay meant we didn't get started to Boise until 7:30pm. Then, we lost an hour when we hit the Mountain Time Zone in eastern Oregon. By the time we got to the hotel, it was 1am local time, by far our latest arrival at any hotel on the trip. But I bet we got into our hotel room before the Yakima Kid got into his car.
- My vow to buy no gas in Oregon because of its silly gas-pumping law worked out -- barely. I filled up in Vancouver, Wash., and while doing so, took extra pride in my deft handling of the pump and clean swipe of the credit card. It got a little hairier late Sunday night, as the car was telling me I would only have about 20 miles of gas left by the time I reached Idaho. A sane man would have just given in. Instead, I did my research, and found there were indeed gas stations in Fruitland, one of the first towns you hit on I-84 in Idaho. So we stopped there, leaving my final tally of gas station stops in Oregon at one. Take that, Oregon.
- I also was successful in making it out of Oregon sans speeding ticket. Since I'd gotten one of my two tickets on the 2003 trip -- a measly 77 in a 65 mph zone -- in eastern Oregon, I decided not to tempt fate. So I set the cruise control at about 72 mph for the 341-mile ride on I-84 from The Dalles, Ore., to Boise. I-84 is also one of the darkest, windiest interstates I've ever been on, so this lower speed was not only practical, but smart. But, honestly, I just lucked into the smart part.
- We stopped for dinner at a McDonald's in Pendleton, Ore., and while there, I used the restroom. Under the "Men" sign was another sign. It said "No Exit." I quickly decided this was not a reference to Jean-Paul Sartre's play, so I can only assume the purpose of the sign was to let you know that you could not exit the restaurant via the rest room. To this, I must ask: Has anyone ever gone to a restaurant where you exit via the bathroom? I certainly could have used this on some dates in my life, mind you, but is this sign really necessary?
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Burned," by Neil Young. I love Neil Young, especially his willingness to try new genres (even if some of them -- I'm looking at you, rockabilly -- didn't quite work out). This isn't one of my favorite songs of Young's, but hey, at least it's short. My favorite Neil Young tunes: "When You Dance, You Can Really Love," "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River," "Old Man," "Rockin' in the Free World," "Cortez the Killer," "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere," "Philadelphia," and my all-time favorite of his: "Like a Hurricane."
- Here's our Day 4 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "Anywhere Is," by Enya.
- Last Song of the Day: "Back in Black," by AC/DC.
- Best Songs: "Are We the Waiting," by Green Day; "Are You Experienced?," by Jimi Hendrix; "As the Years Go Passing By," by George Thorogood & The Destroyers; "Atlantic City," by Bruce Springsteen; "Atomic," by Blondie; "Baba O'Riley," by The Who; "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," by Led Zeppelin; "Back in Black," by AC/DC.
- Pleasant Surprises: "Apache," by The Shadows; "Artifact," by DJ Shadow; "As Long As You Love (Scarlet Wings)," by Cindy Bullens; "At Night," by Peter Gabriel; "At the Border, Guy," by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, "B'Boom," by King Crimson.
- Guilty Pleasures: "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," by the 5th Dimension; "Arthur's Theme (The Best You Can Do)," by Christopher Cross; "Baby Hold On," by Eddie Money.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "Army Reserve'," by Pearl Jam; "Baby's on Fire," by Brian Eno.
- Lunch: Stardust Diner, Vancouver, Wash.: We had brunch with Nancy Franzino, a friend of Joan's from junior high and high school. Once I recovered from hearing stories about Joan's supposed dancing talents -- for the record, I don't have mad dancing skillz either, but no one has ever tried to claim I did -- the meal was fun and informative. We also met Nancy's boyfriend and her two kids. Joan went with her personal fave of Eggs Benedict, and using the "it must be noon somewhere" philosophy, I had a cheeseburger and fries. The only ding: Nancy noted a hair in Joan's hash browns. It was unclear whether it was Joan's or the server's, and then even more unclear whether that really mattered. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 stars (out of 5). I don't think I've had a rating over 2 in a week. Time for a weigh in, I'm sad to say. Restaurant Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: McDonald's, Pendleton, Ore.: After taking our leave from the clueless youngster at Stonehenge, what was already going to be a late drive became a REALLY late drive, so I called an audible and declared we needed to have a 70mph dinner, so I got Chicken McNuggets and fries and ate them while driving. Joan had the fish filet. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). I find McDonald's to be mediocre but consistent, with the exception of the fries, which I always like. But this McD's even had lousy fries. The good news: I was too focused on driving to even care much about how the food tasted. It was pure sustenance.
- Doubletree Hotel Boise Riverside, Garden City, Idaho.: We made our first Doubletree appearance on the FHMA tour, and it worked out wonderfully. We like Doubletrees, but a lot of the towns we've stayed in don't have them, plus the rooms are all inside, which makes unpacking the car difficult. But finding hotels that take dogs in Boise was surprisingly difficult. We got in so late that we barely noticed anything besides where the bed was before morning, but once we awoke, we found ourselves in a clean, big, quiet room, so we decided to get a late checkout and relax. Hotel rating: 4 stars (out of 5). There was only one ding, but for us, it's a big one. The Doubletree had no wireless, only a high-speed cable. Because we're both online most of the time that we're in hotels, it's nice to be able to lay in bed and work. I was able to use my wireless card, but Joan was forced to sit at the desk most of the time she was awake. On the upside, te hotel had two washers and two dryers and guest laundry was free. Joan completed SEVEN loads of laundry during our short stay. Even the dog's car blankets got washed.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO