Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day Two

June 27, 2012
We awoke to rain, loaded up the rig, and headed towards the northern Washington Cascades. I had already mapped out our route, picking up the highway around 20 miles north of Grand Coulee.  We stopped just up the road to have one last look at the grand site and then off we went.  We stopped at a wayside for Chief Joseph and wondered just how far the chief had walked as we had been to his grave in Wallowa a few years back.
As we drove down the road, we noticed metal sculptures in spots.  One was of what looked like indian women planting.  Judy asked me to turn around when she spied one and we found what looked like a sasquatch that was created on a rock over looking the road.  She took a picture of it for Jayden.
As we approached the cascades, it was evident of their grandeur even with the heavy haze around us.  We could see large grand mountains peaking out at us through the fog and clouds.  As we rose higher and higher, we begin to drive amongst glacier like chunks of snow.  The pass twisted up a mountain side and we stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the road and the many waterfalls along the way.
We dropped down into a valley and drove through a place called Winthrop that reminded us of Sisters. It was jammed with tourists just as Sisters is in the summer months.  I noticed a model T looking car parked along one of the streets and after leaving the town began seeing many more.  We noticed that all of them were European with the steering wheels on the right side of the car.
We began to drive through the Northern Cascades National Park which, like the previous pass, was shrouded but beautiful.  We stopped at a canyon bridge where the water rushed below a open metal bridge that you could see down through.  Judy walked over the bridge taking pictures while I drove to the other side and the car park there.  I parked next to one of the old cars and figured on talking to it's occupant but Judy yelled and waved me over to where she was at.  "Don't bother talking to him", she said, "He is a grump".  She had tried talking to him and it was evident that he did not want to talk with anyone.  He was sitting idle in his car, off from all of the rest, facing straight forward with his arms crossed.
I walked over to the bathroom and asked one of them of their event.  They are all European cars and come from all over the country.  Every year, they meet and take a drive together.  One of them was a beautiful Pierce Arrow.  He was having problems starting his car.  I heard him yell out, "Hey Pete, do you know anything about air starters?".  Pete's reply was "Well, I know if they don't work, you can always push.".  I headed that direction but before I could get to them to help, I heard the familiar grasp of tires on the road and the sound of the engine that reminded me of the Model A's.  "Hooray!", they all yelled as they began to move out.  Grump started his car and followed them out of the parking lot.
We then dropped down into yet another valley and began to look for a place to have some lunch.  I joked that we could always look for a Safeway.  We stopped at what looked to be a locals spot and walked into a little restaurant ran by what looked like a mother daughter team.  There was a local sitting at one of the tables engaged in conversation with both of them.  It reminded us of some of our customers who come in to eat and talk.  We ordered a sub sandwich to split and the lady asked us if we wanted it cut into fourths.  We said no but realized why after we had taken off.  The sandwich was so huge that a fourth would have sufficed.  I ate about two thirds of my half and then gave up.
As I drove down the road, my phone rang.  Upon answering the lady's voice said, "Hey, come on over and have some fresh lobster.".  "I can't", I returned, not knowing who I was talking to, "I am kind of out of town".  "Where?", she asked.  "Seattle", I returned.  "Is this Pete?", she asked.  "No, this is Lyle".  It was Bob Shotwell's wife, Carol and it was her birthday.  She was inviting a friend over to help them eat the crab that Bob had bought her.  After I hung up, Judy said, "Darn it, I love lobster".
The road took us through lush forest and rolling hills seemingly changing from mile to mile as we drew closer towards the coast.  We crossed over I-5 and were heading into Antecordes where we were hoping to catch a whale excursion the next day. We drove into the town and then decided since we were so early, we would drive down the islands a bit.  We drove to what is called Deception Pass.  It is where a large bridge span was placed between the islands allowing traffic to drive onto Whitby Island.
We stopped and walked across the huge structure and took a few pictures of the beauty around it.  The day was clear and warm allowing beautiful views of the bays surrounding. Walking on the bridge so high up was a bit on the freaky side but was fun.  Their was not allot of room to pass by others and the cars seemed to run inches from you.
We drove onto Whitby Island and ran across a restaurant called "Frank's Place". The restaurant must be owned by a Marine named Frank and proudly announced that Spam was served there.  It had closed on Sunday afternoon and I looked through the windows at the decor inside.  There was one section for cups for the guys just like we have in our back room at Jake's.  I wished that I could have been there when it was open so I could drop in with my Band of Brothers gear on.
We continued on down to a small town known as the town where sea captains lived and then turned back north towards Antecordes to find lodging for the night.
As we drove on the main drag of the town, I noticed a Whale watching store so we stopped to inquire.  The lady was very friendly and told us that the tour that day was very successful and was just coming in to dock so we could drive down and look at the boat and decide if we wanted to take her out the next day.  "We are not even half full for tomorrow so there is no rush", she said.  We asked of lodging and she gave us two places that gave discount and sold discount tickets to their tour the next day if we wished.
We drove to the pier and watched the happy people as they disembarked from the boat.  We loved the look and size of the boat and decided right then and there that was what we were going out in.
We drove to the first lodging but it was on the main road so we drove down to the second.  We were pleased to find a beautiful setting that was overlooking where the ferrys come and go to the outer San Juan Islands.  The setting looked so peaceful and the rate was so reasonable that we snatched up a room and asked the lady to book us on the boat the next day.  "You will love it!, she said, "Bring your own food.  Just place it on the table where you want to sit and then go outside and enjoy."
She gave us some ideas for supper and we decided to split a pizza.  I got in the car to go get it and as I drove out of the parking lot, my phone rang.  Judy was calling from the office who told her to just let them deliver to us.  I thought that pretty good so I returned to the room, looked up their number and ordered a medium size combo pizza letting them know that I had the card that they left giving us a 20% discount.  "That will be $22.95", he said. I looked at Judy with shock and mouthed "$22!".  She said "No way". I reminded them that it was just a medium pizza and asked if the 20% had been worked into the price.  "Yes sir", he said, "But you have tax and delivery charge added to it".  "Please cancel my order.", I returned.  "Ok", he said and hung up.
We looked over the remaining menus that were there and I decided to drive back into town and get some take out from a small diner called the Rock Fish. I quipped that I could always go to Safeway.  There was a concert going on next door to the Rock Fish and it was quite busy. I could not find a parking spot and ended up parking in a spot a block or so away that was a tow away zone for another place.  I figured to get in, make the order, and then wait at the car so it would not get towed.  Two people were waiting to get into the busy diner.  I stood next to the small greeters stand.   "We will be right with you" came from a variety of the busy workers so I felt that it would not be too long. The greeter came over and grabbed the two others calling them by name but did not bother to say anything to me and did not return.  I caught the eye of the bartender who said, "We will be right with you".  I know busy and they were fairly brisk.  I waited for a few minutes and then began to worry about the car.  I slowly walked towards the door hoping that someone would see and come over and come over but no one came.  I lingered at the door for a second, gave up, and left with no one noticing.  I logged it in my head.....a learning experience from the other side.
Not knowing what to do or where to go, I turned into Safeway.   It had to be different than the one the day before.  I stood at the counter of the deli and waited as the lady there was helping out another employee.  She needed to bring over a supervisor to ok the transaction.  Afterwards, she just turned and headed back to her counter leaving me standing and waiting.  My shoulders dropped and I turned to go see what I might find up one of the isles. "May I help you", she said as she noticed me beginning to leave. I ordered up a Panini for myself and noticed some lobster shushi that I hoped Judy would like remembering the phone conversation from earlier.   I watched her as she made my sandwich and took note that she was wearing the same type of glove under her plastic glove as the guys from the day before. I was going to ask her if that was some sort of Safeway policy but took note that she was not very friendly or talkative so I just let it go. I watched her place my sandwich in the oven and toast it.  Now, that is not a Panini....a Panini is pressed or flattened.  But, I was hungry so I took my toasted ham and cheese sandwich and was grateful.  I said thank you and she just turned and walked away.
I arrived back at the room and sat out on our patio overlooking a grass field below us and the ferry termnal in the distance.  We ate our supper in the peaceful setting while watching a mom play soccer with her two small children on the grass.  The giggles of the youth just added to the peaceful setting.
A long day.....a long drive.....and I ate my unpressed but toasted ham and cheese and was grateful.  We drifted off to sleep with the sound of the announcing of the 11 o'clock ferry.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A whale of a one

June 26, 2012
Last year, I told Judy that I would take her up to the San Juan Islands this year so that she could see the Orca whales.  It is something that she has wanted to do for quite some time.  My problem was that I was not sure if I would be able to do it.  I have eluded to the fact that I have PTSD in the past.  I know it roots but do not want to go there but just admitting it is hard enough.  It rears it ugly head usually when I am away from home giving me sometimes extreme anxiety along with a overwhelming need to get back to my safe place (I guess).
Our last adventure away did not work out so well, so this one looming in my future began to eat at me in the past weeks.  I recall back when I did not understand my problem that the weeks just before our vacations were hard and I would usually end up at the doctors sometime during that time.  I kind of thought of myself as a freak of sorts because of it.....knowing my problem does help me now, however.
Many times, I looked online at what were considered the best whale watching tours but I would get nervous thinking of having to go out to one of the islands to catch the tour and then what would happen if I got there and was not able to go out on the boat.....we would lose out on the cost and Judy would have her dreams ripped away right in front of her.
So, I changed my plans just a bit.  I knew that our best chance of getting on a boat at the last minute would be on a weekday so I chose a Monday at the end of June.  We would leave for this adventure on a Saturday thus giving us a couple of days on the road that might help me get acclimated to the change.  I felt that if we drove straight there it might be harder and then if I could not make it, then at least we had the drive and time away for her.
Weather seemed to be another possible problem as rain seemed to be in the forecast for the days that were chosen.  It was hard to change those dates as we need to be in town at certain days of the month (especially days that include payroll preparation) so it was decided that we would just take off on the Saturday and decide where we would go along the way.   That alone seemed to lessen the anxiety knowing that we could always just come home at any time.
The first day, we awoke and casually prepared for just a day drive....but with a bit more luggage than normal.  We grabbed breakfast and headed north.  I had been looking online and the center of Washington seemed to be a good place.  I was drawn to the Grand Coulee dam area for some reason.  I guess I figured that from there we could either go west to the whales or east towards the Baker City area or even Idaho.....all of which kept us within a days drive of home if needed.
We stopped in Biggs Junction for gas and a meal.  Judy went in and grabbed a sandwich and we were off.  We crossed the bridge and were talking away as we ate when I suddenly realized something.  We were still right on the Columbia.  The road should have taken us up the hill and north but we were still skirting the river.  A Hwy 14 sign soon showed me that we had turned wrong somewhere.  Shortly up the road, there was a turn north towards a town called Prosser.
I turned on the road and into a small diner to get directions.  I walked into the deserted diner to find all three of it's workers just sitting at the tables engrossed in conversation.  I stood at the door looking at them wondering if this might be the reason that they had no business.  The cook and dishwasher were arguing on some topic so I said hello to the waitress who was just sitting and listening.  She looked up and asked me if she could help  She seemed to know that I was not there for the food.  I asked her if Prosser was a good place to get back on the freeway towards Yakima and she said, "Yes, just go over the hill and you will see the freeway.".  I thanked her and left (noticing that the other two didn't even seem to realize that I had been there.  I wondered just how long the little diner would last or if any of it's occupants were owners.
Sure enough, over the next hill we found the freeway and stopped at the rest stop there to decide our next move.  We took the route towards Yakima and north and decided that we would make the decision of going towards Seattle or on my original route towards Coulee when we got there.  As the fork in our road approached, the signs were clear.....Seattle or way or the other.  My tires were turned towards Seattle but at the last second something inside said, "Go your planned route" and I quickly turned east.  Judy said later that the move surprised her a bit.
By George, we turned north and headed towards the Grand Coulee dam.  I really hoped that it was as grand as the name stated.  I also began to worry that it would be too far off of the path for a qualified decision on where to go.
As we headed north, we drove by lakes that almost seemed deserted.  One called Soap lake looked pretty but all of the businesses there seemed closed and boarded up.  I only saw one fisherman on it's banks.  The terrain was interesting, however and we spied caves in the rock formations along the road with people exploring them.  We then came upon a place called Dry falls.  It was an interesting canyon that according to the sign at one time was the largest waterfall in the world.  You could see where once upon a time, given enough water flow there was a place where it probably poured over into the canyon below and we wondered how beautiful that might have looked.  Now, it was just pools in the bottom of the canyon.
As we approached Coulee, it did not look so grand and I began to wonder if I had made the right decision or not.  But as we rounded the dam and pulled into the overlook, all my fears were allayed as the vision in front of us was breathtaking.  "Now this is what this drive was all about!", I explained.  We took a few shots and then looked towards the town below.  I spied a small motel with rooms all pointed towards the dam that had it's water pouring out from across it.  The view from those rooms would be stunning.  I drove right past a small motel to the left closer to the dam because it looked as if trees blocked it's view.
As we drove into the parking lot of the desired motel, I began to wonder if we were making the right decision.  The lot was full of bikes and cars and music was blaring from somewhere in the lot as it seemed to be one big party.  We walked into the lobby and got in line to enquire of a room.  I asked for one with a view and the stressed man said "We only have one left....the view is not great.  You can see the dam from a corner of the deck but mainly just parking lot.  The price is $169....your call.".  Taking into effect our surroundings and the party in the parking lot, I made my decision quickly and we headed back to the first motel.
As we pulled into the lot of this much quieter motel, the sign clearly read "No Vacancy" but I went inside anyway hoping for a cancelation or something.  A man was filling out paperwork so that looked promising.  As he finished up, she looked over and me and said, "We have no rooms if that is why you are here.  This man got the last one.".  Seeing my disappointment, the man said, "Sorry guy".  I asked if there were any other places to stay and they both told me of a couple on the back side of the dam.
We drove back to the main part of town and found a small motel that sat up on the hill.  At least it seemed to have a view of the town.  The manager reminded me of an ex employee of the old truck stop.  His toothless grin enhanced his rambling on as if he was on something.  His conversation seemed to jet from side to side and his attention span was almost non existent.  He told us that the TV was out all over town.  It seemed that a large storm had come in just before us and took out the local cable company.  "Do you have internet?", I asked.  "That's gone too", he said as he began to ramble about since he could not watch TV, he was going to get on the internet but could not do that either.  "Now, I have nothing to do", he complained.  I looked at quite a few jobs that could be accomplished around his place but kept my mouth shut and thanked him for the room.
We settled in and decided to get some food.  A small restaurant down the hill was jammed packed so we drove over to the Safeway for a quick deli sandwich.  We stepped up to the counter and while Judy decided what she wanted, I ordered a standard sandwich from the placard above.  The young man at the counter seemed confused as he studdied his instructions in front of him to make the order.  On his left hand was a dirty glove that looked like one used for stocking supplies.  He slipped a plastic glove on his right hand (using the dirty glove) and then one over the top of the dirty glove.  I was shocked.  I watched him struggle as he finished off making the first part of my sandwich and placed it in the oven.
Judy then ordered her sandwich up and he grabbed her bread and threw it on the cutting board that had just previously had a box laying on it.  His partner came up next to him and whispered something in his ear that seemed to be instructions of sorts.  I noticed this other man having the same glove issues and wondered if that was really there policy or not.  Judy's order really seemed to confuse our man and he kept asking the other for advice.  The other guy was busy making stock sandwiches and I heard him say, "Dude, just look at your instructions", as he pushed Judy's bread over with the side of the weigh machine that he was moving.
"Hey, that is my wife's bread", I complained.  The man who had pushed it over just ignored me while our sandwich maker getting even more flustered apologised and said that he would cut more.  I was standing right in front of a sign that read "We make your sandwiches to order in three minutes or they are free!".  It had been quite a few minutes already and he was now just pulling my sandwich out of the oven and trying to figure out what to put on it to finish it off.  I was more angry about their lack of sanitation, tired from my long drive, and frustrated over the motel situation and it all came to a point right then and there.  "Do you see the sign here?" I asked,  "Does that mean that sandwich of mine is now free?  And what of my wives who has now ordered hers and you have not even started?".  "I am sorry", the flustered man said, "It is my first day here".  "And no one has trained you?", I asked.  He just looked at me with a blank look.  "I am not angry at you.", I said, "I am mad at that guy next to you who could be helping you but seems to be ignoring us both.".  "We all have our job descriptions, sir, and the company will not allow us to cross over.  He has to do his work and me mine."  The other man continued to ignore and get in the first guys way.  Judy and I looked at one another with shocked looks.  He had finally finished making my sandwich.  I looked at his dirty glove.....then over to the uncaring other and his equally dirty glove.....and made a snap decision.  "No thank you!", I said, "Keep your sandwich.  We will go somewhere else.".
We drove back past the dam and found another grocery store there with a huge sign on the window that said, "Shop here because we care!".  And off to the side was another sign that read "Deli".  So we walked into the caring store and over to a ramp that took us up to the deli.  No one was there.  All of the cabinets were cleared out.  And all that was left was a small fridge with premade sandwiches that looked days old.  We waited....hoping that someone would arrive but no one came.  I looked back down at the main part of the store.  One of the cashiers looked up at me and then away.  No one was in her register but I felt as if she was thinking, "I wondered why they are up there".  Now this is only 5 or so on a Saturday night.  We purchased some water and string cheese and drove back to the motel.
Judy made us some peanut butter sandwiches and we ate them along with the string cheese while we relaxed on the deck in front of the room.  The room next to us came out and we chatted with them while we watched the sun go down.   They were from the Seattle area and had ridden their bikes over for a weekend getaway.   The grandfather stated, "I don't ride anymore.  But I am the only one in the family with balls.", he quipped as he pointed towards his VW offroad convertable.  Behind it, hanging from the license plate were what he was alluding to......what looked like large scrotum sacks.
I later went down to get some ice.  The manager was drinking beer with a friend outside and I told him my TV just hissed.  "Yea, it is all still down.", he answered.  "Not the internet.", I told him as we had discovered it was up.  "Yee Haw!", he yelled, "We have internet.", and off he bounded inside.
I had heard of the lazer light show on the dam and Judy and I looked it up on the internet.  I tried turning it on but it just flipped and hissed.  The youtube on the light show did not look that great but I decided to check it out anyway and Judy opted to stay home.
I pulled into the packed parking lot just as the show started.  It was quite nice with the lazer lights shining brightly on the falling water.  They even seemed to have a 3d effect at times which was quite stunning.
Then, it hit me....blindsided me.  My knees buckled as the anxiety swept over my body.  I struggled back into my car and left the lot.  I know that I had a few curses thrown my way as my lights shined on them but I needed to get back to my room.
I arrived to find Judy heading to bed.  I said nothing as I did not want to bother her with it.  I took a full pill and crawled into bed, shaking.  With the fan on loud, Judy did not notice and I laid there waiting for the pill to take effect.....wondering if I was going to be able to do this or not.  My mind wanted to just get in the car and drive home but...I knew that was not really possible and I also knew that sooner or later, the pill would take effect.  I imagined myself in one of my favorite places away from home.  I pretended that I was at the beach and I would awake the next morning to the sound of waves.
I awoke sometime in the night to the sound of birds outside our window.  Now relaxed down, I smiled as they reminded me of the birds at the house at home.......and I felt relaxed and safe......and ready for the next day of our adventure.