Wanderlust In Our Blood

I want to start off by saying that I love the Pacific Northwest. This should be obvious to anybody who has ever read my blog. It’s been my home for almost 23 years now, and I always figured I’d spend the rest of my life here. I probably will.

But maybe I won’t.

When I short-sold my townhouse in 2014, our plan was to spend two years in an apartment and then buy a house. It’s been over three years now and we’re still here, not really any closer to our goal. Part of the reason is, we are waiting for Audrey to graduate from high school. She’s got a year to go, and after that, we figured we’d buy a place in Stevenson. But S-town (not that S-town, podcast fans) is small, and there aren’t a lot of houses for sale. We’ve been paying close attention to the real estate market. And by “we” I mean Tara, but it’s all semantics.

Tara’s got a Zillow addiction, and is constantly sending me listings. Because it’s slim pickings in Stevenson, she’s been focusing on Vancouver, where we live now. That would be okay if we could find the perfect place. And last Thursday, we thought we had. Until we crunched the numbers. Every week, it seems, prices are creeping up. We are in danger of being priced out of the market, especially if we can’t realistically buy anything until next summer.

So, in a moment of inspiration on Friday, I turned the tables on Tara and sent her a Zillow listing. The house was a gorgeous three-bedroom, two-bath split level ranch, 1680 square feet, with a covered deck and spacious backyard. And at only $189K, it was a steal.

It also happens to be located in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

I guess I was sort of half-kidding when I sent her the listing, but: not really. I have long had a fondness for Rapid City. After all, I lived there for three years in the mid-80s. Three formative high school years, I might add. And when I visited again six years ago this month during my solo road trip, I was so enamored  that I switched up my itinerary and stayed an extra day. In looking back through those old posts, I stumbled upon these eye-opening passages.

I was quite surprised to find a little slice of Portland in Rapid City: quaint coffee shops, a used bookstore, and this cool alleyway I stumbled upon that was decorated all over with graffiti and murals. I strolled through there, taking plenty of pics. Love it! I am enraptured by this place all over again, and want to enjoy every last drop of it while I can.

This is definitely a land of fierce extremes, and it can be very punishing if you aren’t prepared for it. But the magnificent beauty and abundance of natural attractions makes it worthwhile. I’ve often wondered if I could ever picture myself living in Rapid City again, and the verdict is in: yes, I could. I wouldn’t rule it out if the circumstances were exactly right.

There are definite pros and cons to living there. The weather can be punishing (though it’s also right up my alley) and the Pacific Ocean is a lot farther than a mere 100 minutes away. And Rapid City isn’t exactly a destination for most touring musicians. But houses comparable to what we’re looking at here are at least $100K less. The Black Hills offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. The population – 72K – is close to ideal (big enough for the essentials, small enough that gridlock is not a problem). There’s a surprisingly robust local food scene. And Denver is a mere 5 hours and 56 minutes away by car, so we could see a lot more Broncos games.

Downtown Rapid City from Skyline Drive.

As for work…I can do my job from anywhere. All I need is a laptop and an internet connection. I have no idea if my company would even entertain that option, but we’ve been hiring a slew of remote employees lately, so you never know. I feel like it’s at least a possibility.

Surprisingly, Tara was more receptive to the idea than I’d expected. We both just want the best life we can live, and if that means pulling up roots and starting fresh somewhere else, we’re open to the idea. It helps that we both moved around a lot growing up. Wanderlust is in our blood, I suppose.

When I left the Bay Area for Portland in 1994, those were the most exciting days of my life. Everything was new, and the sense of discovery was like a drug. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to experience that all over again, this time with Tara by my side.

I’m not saying this is going to happen. It still seems like a pretty farfetched idea. But we are now planning a long weekend so Tara can see the place (she’s never been) and we can get a feel for the neighborhoods and downtown. Rapid City is an 18-hour drive from here, which isn’t too bad. We’re tentatively looking at early October – specifically, Columbus Day weekend. The weather that time of year should be perfect (though, this being South Dakota, there’s always the possibility of a little snow).

Gotta do what you gotta do, yo.

You Can Ring My Bell

We had the longest, most hilarious debate at work on Friday. It all started when I walked with Sarah to the post office. There was one of those bells on the counter that said “ring for service,” and nobody up front, so I did as instructed and rang it for service. This caused Sarah to freak out. When the postal employee came up front to help, she started apologizing profusely for my behavior, even making excuses for me (“Sorry about that…he likes to ring bells”) that, quite frankly, made it sound like I am not all “there” in the head.

First off, I don’t “like to ring bells.” What I like to do is follow instructions, and when there is a bell on the counter with a sign saying to ring it, I’m going to ring it! So there was no need to beg for my forgiveness. What was I supposed to do, stand around waiting for the postal employee to wander up front whenever it was convenient for him? He was hard at work sorting mail in the back and probably appreciated hearing the bell. Even if he did not appreciate it, too bad – it was sitting there begging to be rung. Literally. He can be mad at his boss for putting it there, but he’d better not be upset with me.

So I got back to the office and was relaying this story to my team. Not A Palindrome said, “I will sit in a waiting room ’til I die before I ring a bell.” This naturally led to a bigger conversation about bells – specifically, doorbells. I wanted to know if she and Deb were knockers or ringers. And for the next 45 minutes, we engaged in a spirited debate over the issue.

Not A Palindrome’s issue with bells stems from the fact that she doesn’t like to make a lot of noise. I countered by saying a loud knock is more disturbing than a ringing bell, but she explained that she knocks softly. When I asked what happens if they don’t hear her, she said she’ll knock again and again, progressively louder, until they finally do hear her – a process that takes three times on average by her estimation. I told her that she’d only have to ring the doorbell once to get the person’s attention, which meant knocking was an inefficient method, but she said she never claimed it was efficient, it’s just what she does.

Deb is a ringer like me, but makes some concessions for knocking (e.g., she’ll knock if there is a baby in the house, or it’s early in the morning). My question is, what constitutes “early”? I’m up by 7:00 on weekends, so you can ring my bell all you want on a Saturday morning and I’m perfectly okay with that. But maybe the other person is a night owl who likes to sleep in late; they might consider 10:00 early. So I’m wondering, what is the cutoff? Are we drawing demarcation lines in the sand at a certain time of day to separate knocking from ringing? And how on earth do we come to an agreement? Hell, if you work the graveyard shift, 3 p.m. might be early while 2 a.m. is lunchtime. It’s madness.

Complicating matters further, Deb said it also depends on whether the person knows you are dropping by. If they’re expecting her, she’ll knock. If not, she’ll ring the bell.

Why does this matter?!?!

 

In any case, I found the whole thing very eye-opening, and I’m curious: are you a knocker or a ringer?


Tara and I had quite the urban adventure Saturday. We took the light rail train into Portland (just a week after the fatal MAX double stabbing that made national news…ugh) and walked to the PSU farmer’s market. Our long, wet winter and spring have delayed the hotly-anticipated arrival of fresh berries, but finally – finally! – strawberries were available. That alone made the trip worthwhile.

After grabbing a bite to eat, Tara turned to me and asked, “How adventurous are you feeling today?” I was in the mood to step outside of my comfort zone, so we hopped onto the Portland Street Car – a new experience for us both – and randomly explored some parts of the city we’d never seen. We alternated between street cars and MAX trains and shuttle buses and eventually found ourselves at the International Rose Test Garden. Talk about taking advantage of mass transit! Planet Earth owes us big time for yesterday. At least the weather was perfect for urban exploration – overcast and in the mid 60s. We got home around 5:30 and enjoyed a low-key evening with a simple dinner, BLTs and corn on the cob, and a Netflix movie (“Black Mass” with an unrecognizable Johnny Depp playing notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger).

Nobody knocked on our door or rang the bell all evening, I’m happy to report.

Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good

For the past month, I’ve been binge-watching a little show called “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (though my definition of “binge-watching” probably differs from yours; it’s more like a handful of episodes a week instead of multiple episodes per day. More of a Binge Lite, if you will.) Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It stars Larry David, the creator of “Seinfeld;” he plays a man named Larry David, the creator of “Seinfeld.” How very meta.

People (my brother, my coworker) have been urging me to watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for years. Their refrain was always the same.

If you love “Seinfeld,” you’ll love “Curb Your Enthusiasm!”

Well, I do love “Seinfeld.” The name of my very first blog was Yadda Yadda, and I practically had every episode memorized. Its catchphrases permeated my consciousness and slipped into real life. I was the master of my domain who couldn’t spare a square, especially to low talkers and close talkers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). “Seinfeld” remains one of my favorite all-time sitcoms.

Sure enough, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is the closest thing to “Seinfeld” I’ve ever seen. I’d always resisted watching, mostly due to logistics. I do not get HBO and the show isn’t available on Netflix. But last year I signed up for Amazon Prime, and one of the benefits is free streaming video. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is one of the available shows, so I finally took the plunge…and can’t believe it took me so long. I love it – Larry David’s sarcasm and awkward/biting humor is right up my alley. And now I find myself adopting some of that show’s catchphrases. I don’t have time for the stop-and-chat because that’s a jet stream of bullshit. And so it goes. I’m midway through Season 4 now, so I’ve got four more to go – and then there are new episodes coming out this fall. Looks like I “discovered” this show just in time!

What’s better than Larry David? MORE Larry David.

The scary thing is, I find myself acting more and more like Larry David these days. Tara jokes that I’m “turning into a curmudgeon,” to which I reply, I merely like what I like and don’t want to deal with a lot of crap. I just think I share a similar skewed view of life and am not afraid to voice my opinions sometimes. For instance, a coworker was talking about attending a wedding, and I launched into this long rant about how the ceremony is only fun for the two people exchanging vows. The rest of us are dressed uncomfortably and probably can’t see or hear anything going on because there’s a tall guy blocking our view or a baby crying. It’s all so predictable anyway: a long-winded speech about the sanctity of marriage, followed by a couple of promises that are destined to be broken 50 percent of the time. An invariably awkward kiss, a cheesy piano riff, and that’s it. Nobody throws rice anymore – have you noticed? They say it’s “dangerous to birds” but I don’t think we are giving our fine-feathered friends enough credit. They’re no more likely to eat hard rice kernels than pebbles, right? And if they do, well, that’s their own stupid fault. Survival of the fittest and all that.

I say skip the wedding and show up to the reception instead. It’s not like the newlyweds are even going to notice you’re missing during the ceremony, and if they say anything, you can easily fake it (“That was nice what the priest/rabbi/officiant said about love” is a generic enough statement that will get you off the hook 99 percent of the time. You can also get away with mentioning the lack of rice too, most likely, because everybody’s so concerned about those damn birds). The reception is where all the fun is, anyway. Not to mention the food and booze, which is the saving grace of all weddings. The only “I do” that I care about is answering the bartender’s question (“Why yes, I do believe I’ll have another cocktail!”). I was saying all this out loud and just thought, man, I’m having a Larry David moment.

But I will never pee sitting down, so.


Had a pretty decent long weekend. Saturday we went for a hike to Siouxon Creek, which is way off the beaten path. It’s about a 90-minute drive across a rugged mostly one-lane road littered with potholes, culverts, and occasional small rockslides. Not for the faint of heart (or 2WD vehicles). But it’s a nice trail, mostly shaded and level, that runs parallel to a creek. We ended up doing about six miles, and it was nice but just a little too hot for a hike – anything over 80 is uncomfortable. I did take my shoes off at one point and waded into the creek, but that lasted all of two minutes because the water was brutally cold. Oh, and then Tara and I actually drank straight from the creek, which sounds like a totally reckless (and, admit it: sort of badass) thing to do, but we were actually trying out her new LifeStraw. The water was cold and delicious, and we did not (yet, at least) end up with cryptosporidium, so yay us.

We stopped and picked up MOD Pizza on the way home. First time I’d been there, and it’s a great concept: think Subway-meets-a-pizza-parlor. Or Chipotle, if you’re so inclined. You start with a basic 11″ individually-sized artisan pizza crust and add as many toppings as you’d like, at no extra charge, to completely customize your order. They’re the perfect size, too. Call me Team MOD now.

Sunday we went into Portland for brunch and a movie at McMenamin’s Kennedy School (we saw “Going In Style” and enjoyed that), followed by a stop at Music Millennium for record shopping. Came away with some good finds, too. Tara made fish tacos for dinner and we watched some TV (including, of course, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

We were supposed to go to my parents’ house for dinner this evening but they are both sick, so we’re going to do some baked chicken and corn on the cob instead. And wine. ‘Cause that’s how we roll. Otherwise it’s going to be a super low-key day.

Shout out to all who served, my dad included.

Funbelievable

It’s been a pretty decent weekend. Friday evening we finally got to sit out on the deck, where we played cards, drank stuff with booze in it, and listened to records. These are our go-to Friday nights, though they usually happen indoors around the dining room table because it’s rare that the weather is just right. So we were thankful for “just right” this time.

“Just right” is going to morph into 90+ degrees tomorrow, so no deck time for us on Monday.

Friday on my lunch hour I took a walk through the woods and came armed with my Nikon in order to take photos of the Camas lilies, which a week earlier had been abundant. I’d taken a few photos with my phone, but they didn’t turn out great, so this time I was prepared. Unfortunately, there were significantly fewer lilies in bloom this time around, and those that I did see were getting past their prime. When it comes to wildflowers, you need to act quickly. Still, I managed a few decent shots, like this one.

Camas lilies.

It’s National Wildflower Week, btw, so get out there and enjoy.

Saturday we were finally able to plant in our community garden plot. This is the second year we’ve done it, and we are a solid month behind where we were in 2016 thanks to a long, cool, wet spring. Partly because of this, and partly because there’s only so much you can do with an endless bounty of zucchini, we scaled back this year. Last time Tara showed up with elaborately-diagrammed charts and maps detailing where each and every tomato plant would go; this year we have half as many plants and we basically winged it. (Wung it sounds right, but alas, there is no such word.) We’ve got a small assortment of tomato and pepper plants, some tomatillos, lemon cucumbers, and one zucchini. We’re hoping to find some radishes at the farmer’s market, but other than that, I think we’re good. This will be the last year we rent a community garden plot as we will be gearing up (hopefully) to buy a house next summer. Once we have a yard we’ll be able to plant shit galore right out back. I can’t wait for that.

Later we drove into Portland to find a salsa we fell in love with at the Portland Night Market last weekend. Our local New Seasons doesn’t carry it but the Concordia one did, so we zipped over there, found what we were looking for plus some other things we weren’t specifically seeking out but decided we had to have. Like small-batch apricot tonic and a burnt caramel sea salt chocolate bar and one vanilla bean pod and Moon Cheese. In other words, the essentials. Then it was on to the mall, because my wardrobe of flannel shirts was in need of expansion (“summer’s lease hath all too short a date” as The Bard infamously said, impending 90-degree weather aside) and J.C. Penney had a rack of Arizona brand flannel marked down ridiculously low. They were like $6.91 apiece, or 80% off, so I stocked up. Flannel tends to be my outfit du jour eight months out of the year. After the mall we grabbed Chinese food, came home, and watched “Patriot’s Day.” It was surprisingly tense and well-acted. I wasn’t sure how they were going to make an entire movie about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but they pulled it off well. Followed by a couple episodes of “The Amazing Race,” which I’ve gotten back into after a long hiatus. SPOILER ALERT! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE LATEST EPISODE. My question is this: how am I possibly going to live without my weekly dose of Team Fun? Pretty Funbelievable that they are gone now. Brooke and Scott will probably win the whole thing – just watch.

Today we are planning to hit the farmer’s market in the morning, then I’m going to give the Mazda a little TLC since we’ve got a stretch of nice weather coming up.

Hope your week’s a groovy one.

A Francisco Clause

The Tape Face show on Friday night turned out to be lots of fun. Well, fun in retrospect, because throughout the performance I was paranoid I was going to be yanked onstage and humiliated, like the poor fella who had to face off with the comedian in a light saber duel involving a limp tape measure and loads of sexual innuendo, or the dude who had to wear a toilet seat around his neck, or the trio forced to learn an impromptu disco dance. Every time T.F. leapt from the stage and raced down the aisles I scrunched down into my seat, making myself as small as possible, and patently avoided eye contact. Meanwhile, people were waving their arms all around me, gesticulating wildly to get his attention, practically shouting Pick me! Pick me! while I was trying to blend chameleon-like into my surroundings. What a bunch of weirdos.

Buuut, tension aside, he really is a clever guy, and his act is very original. He’s got boxes full of props, and can convey about a thousand different emotions purely on his body language and facial expressions. It was a very enjoyable show and I would see him again in a heartbeat. Preferably seated from the balcony, of course.

Saturday we met up with our friend Kara to check out the Portland Night Market. This is a quarterly event that showcases the many unique and diverse businesses that call Portland home, and blends food, culture, music, drinks and retail together for an adventurous evening in the Industrial District.

Those are totally not my words BTW.

We had never been before, and it was a blast. There were more than 175 vendors, food and drinks and crafts and art, housed inside an old warehouse, with an outdoor section that featured food carts. Fortunately, this area was protected by a tent, keeping us dry from the heavy rain (and thunder and lightning!). We browsed and people watched and enjoyed free samples and cocktails and some delicious food – in other words, all my favorite pastimes. We had a great time and will definitely be going again. It’s coming back September 29-30, and we’ll be ready.

Happenin’ scene at the Portland Night Market.
Thankful for the tent.

Audrey got back from Disneyland on Tuesday. She had a great time, and was super excited because Heidi Klum walked right past her. But now she’s talking about moving to California because it doesn’t rain all the freaking time, a new plan that directly contrasts with her desire to live in Seattle when she graduates, where it most certainly does rain all the time. All I can say is, teenagers are fickle creatures. And I would a million times rather live in Seattle than Los freakin’ Angeles, but that’s just me.

Actually, I’ve found I can determine potential places to live based on their names. For instance, I am opposed to any city that starts with either Los or Las. I don’t care much for anything beginning with San, either (though there is a Francisco clause). Pretty handy formula, huh? But things get murkier when it comes to choosing a state. Because I would totally move to South Dakota but have no desire to live in North Dakota, yet I’d pick North Carolina over South Carolina in a heartbeat. So much for rules of thumb.

There are a few other personal preferences I’ve compiled into a handy list:

  • States that end with the letter n are an automatic yes.
  • States that end with the letter i are an automatic no.
  • The higher the ratio of vowels to consonants, the less likely I am to want to live there.
  • No News isn’t good news, as I find those states that begin with New appealing.
  • I don’t think I could live in a state with a panhandle, but if I lived in Idaho, I’d only want to live in the panhandle.
  • Generally speaking, I prefer rectangular-shaped states.
  • The more lakes a state has, the better. The more swamps a state has, the worse.
  • Ocean access is good, as long as the mean water temperature is lower than 68 degrees.

I’m not the only one who spends this much time obsessing over geography, right?!

A Man from Nantucket

Alexa told me it was National Limerick Day this morning. In honor of the occasion, I responded to every work order that came across my desk with a comment written as a limerick. For example:

The bios attached are just fine
The credentials you listed, divine
I have no corrections
To any selections
Feel free to send on to Design

My coworkers think I’m insane, I’m sure. But I was having too much fun with it to care much. And my team was impressed. For some reason, I can bang these out in seconds. I have no idea why – I do not consider myself a poet in any way, shape or form – but I’ve always been a natural when it comes to limericks.

I’ve also been known to rock the haiku.

Unfortunately, National Haiku Day is (was) April 17, so it’ll be a while before I can have fun with work order comments again.


Tonight we are headed to the Aladdin Theater in Portland to see a comedian named Tape Face.

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of the dude. When we were up in Seattle, Tracy gave us the tickets as an early birthday gift. Turns out he was a finalist on America’s Got Talent last summer, and his clips are great. His whole schtick? He wears a strip of duct tape over his mouth throughout his performance, so he never utters a word; it’s all physical stand-up comedy, sort of like a mime. And from what I’ve seen, it’s original – and funny as hell.

But I made the mistake of looking up reviews of his recent shows this morning, just to get an idea of what to expect, and have spent the rest of the day stressing over it. Because in reading up on his act, I learned that it involves audience participation. Lots of it. Which is just the type of thing that strikes fear into my heart. I want to sit there and be entertained, you know? I’d rather not become part of the entertainment!

Depending on how you look at it, I am either the world’s most extroverted introvert, or the world’s most introverted extrovert. In any case, I hate getting up in front of people. I don’t like being the center of attention…unless I purposely strive to be the center of attention, in which case I love it. It’s all about control. I’m fine with it on my own terms, but leave it up to somebody else and I’d rather stand cowering in the corner or hide under my seat. Hmm…I wonder if the space beneath my seat is large enough to accommodate a grown man? I am not against curling up into the fetal position if need dictates.

Wouldn’t you know it, we have good seats, too. My mother-in-law was generous with her gift, which is a blessing of course, but it would be a bigger blessing if we were going to see Bruce Springsteen. We’ve got orchestra seating, 7th row. Close enough to make eye contact, I’m sure. I’ll have to be very careful not to do that. Our one possible saving grace? Our seats are not front and center, but rather, front and left side. At a slight angle to the stage. And in the middle of the row. I’m hoping this keeps us out of the line of fire. I mean, he’d have to step over and across people to reach us, and that’s neither convenient nor safe. Probably a fire hazard, come to think of it. Best you stick to the aisles, Mr. Face. Or do you prefer Tape?

I’ve probably jinxed the whole thing now just by mentioning it.

Bacheloring it Up

It’s been a pretty full weekend so far. I’m trying to downshift today, but still have some errands to run. Which is fine, because I get antsy just sitting around the apartment anyway.

Tara is in Nevada for a visit with friends and family, so I’ve been “bacheloring it up,” you might say. In my case, this means three things:

  1. Eating all the foods my wife does not like. (It’s a long list, FYI).
  2. Hiking.
  3. Listening to lots of rock ‘n roll.

She swung by my office on her way out of town around 2:00 on Thursday afternoon to say goodbye. It was a super warm and humid day, the likes of which I have never seen here; just stepping outside felt downright tropical. The sun was blazing, and then it started raining, big heavy drops that just sort of sank to the earth beneath their own weight. Thunder rumbled. We kissed, and she was on her way.

I’d bought a ticket to see a local band called Eyelids play at Mississippi Studios, and it’s a good thing I did that in advance, because I’m sure I would have talked myself out of going otherwise. One of my biggest regrets from when I was single was the fact that I never stepped outside of my comfort zone. I never once set foot in a bar or went out to catch a concert by myself, things that I really enjoy doing nowadays, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

So. Damn. Good!

So I did. Thursday after work I drove into Portland and got to Bar Bar (the appropriately-if-unoriginally-named bar adjacent to the club), ordered a burger/fries and a cocktail, and snagged a spot outside on their patio, where I buried myself in a copy of  Portland Mercury while stealthily people-watching. My cocktail hit the spot, and the food was fantastic. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ordered a burger and fries, so it felt like a great splurge. I got another drink before the doors opened at 8:00. The air-conditioning was running full blast and it was cold AF in there, making me glad I’d grabbed that flannel shirt at the last minute even though the idea seemed ridiculous at the time (when it was 82 degrees with 1000% humidity).

The bands were good, really good. All three of them. We’d just seen Jackson Boone five days earlier at the Doug Fir, which was kind of funny. Point Juncture, WA was up next, and they have an interesting dynamic: two women and three guys. The female drummer also traded lead vocals with the male keyboard player, alternating between songs, which always makes for a good, varied sound. The main act, Eyelids, was having a record release show, so they played their new album in full as well as a bunch of their older stuff. These guys are really good; they’re considered a sort-of indie “supergroup” with former members of The Decemberists, Guided By Voices, and the Jicks, and they had great stage presence: lots of witty banter. It’s clear they’re very comfortable playing together. I decided to ditch my cozy seat in the balcony and made my way down to a spot right in front of the stage. Screw sitting, I texted Tara. I mean, normally we do, but occasionally a guy’s gotta get up on his feet and rock out to the music. Which is exactly what I did. The show didn’t end until well past midnight, making me glad I took Friday off. I walked to my car while lightning flashed overhead. It started pouring rain around the time I got home, and the temperature dropped down to the 50s. Just like that, our first heatwave of the year came to an end. 

Despite the late night, I was up early Friday morning, as usual. I just can’t seem to sleep in anymore these days, especially when it’s bright by 6:00 this time of year. My destination was the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia Gorge. Specifically, I wanted to hike to Tunnel Falls and back. It’s a 12-mile round trip; I had never hiked more than 9 miles before, but was pretty confident in my abilities as I’ve done a lot of hiking the past couple of years and am definitely in shape for it. I got to the trailhead at 10 a.m. and set out, thanking my lucky stars that it was only overcast and misty. Well, those stars turned unlucky, because just a few minutes into my hike it started raining…and continued the whole time. Fortunately I have a rain cover for my camera and backpack, but the jacket I had grabbed to wear was not waterproof, and I got thoroughly soaked, so much that I had to wring out my flannel shirt afterwards. So much for that forecast of “rain ending by noon.”

Beautiful views, even with the clouds and rain.

The hike itself was fantastic, though. The first five miles were fine; the trail runs parallel to Eagle Creek on a high rocky ledge smack dab in the middle of a heavily forested canyon, with abundant waterfalls and tons of pink and yellow wildflowers this time of year. Even with the steady rain, it was breathtaking.

The best hikes come with cables.

And then I hit that last mile…

I’d read trail reports ahead of time and knew the going would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be that rough. There were lots of downed trees that were tricky to navigate, a swollen stream with nothing but a narrow log and slippery rocks to help you  across. In one section, a small landslide had turned the trail into what can only be described as a giant mud pit. It was pretty challenging, and I was half tempted to turn around, but I’d already invested three hours and knew the falls were close by, so I pushed on.

One of the many obstacles in my path.

And I’m glad I did. Tunnel Falls was totally worth the effort. It’s a dramatic waterfall tumbling 175 feet down the side of a basalt cliff. Here’s the description from a hiking website:

As the name implies, your path will pass through a tunnel behind the falls about midway up the span. Consider as you enter the tunnel, that work to build this was done in the 1910s and has been virtually unchanged since! The falls drop from the bluffs above to the creek bed below then downstream into the main Eagle Creek run. The years have carved out a striking amphitheater here. It is a breathtaking area, and easily the climax of your trip.

Tunnel Falls. You literally walk through a tunnel behind the falls.

As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, and because I’m nuts, I didn’t stop there. I took the website’s advice and did this, too:

The stretch just beyond the falls is another very exposed cliff-side pathway etched into the gorge wall. Again, a cable line is there to steady you. But nowhere has the traverse been quite so dizzying! If you still feel like you have some energy, continue less than a half-mile ahead to the two-tiered, 200 foot tall Twister Falls. It is well worth the minimal additional effort if time affords.

It was totally worth the effort. Definitely a very unique waterfall that, sure enough, resembles a twister. I posted a video to Instagram if you follow me there (adios.ghost).

I appreciated the falls as much as I could, but I was drenched and knew I had a long return trip to make, so I did not linger. It took another couple of hours to get back to my car, which I reached at 3:30 just as the freaking sun decided to show its face. Screw you, Mother Nature. By then I was sore all over; every step of those final couple of miles was a struggle. According to my Fitbit, I logged 13.23 miles and over 30,000 steps! Both are new records for me. When I got home I listened to records, drank some well-deserved tequila sodas, and ate the pork and pigeon pea stew that I’d had cooking in the crockpot all day. Tried to watch Braveheart but fell asleep probably a third of the way through. I was exhausted!

Saturday I stayed closer to home. Drove into Portland, walked around East Burnside. Grabbed a Bloody Mary at Eastburn, ramen for lunch at Marukin, and bought a bottle of pear vodka from the Wild Roots tasting room on Distillery Row. My final stop was Music Millennium for some record shopping. Scored a great copy of Wooden Shjips on green vinyl and some other stuff. Came home, listened to all my new purchases plus some old stuff, drank more tequila (it’s what I do, apparently) and made chicken mole. Watched a lame Netflix movie called The Shallows.

Today I have some errands to run – my car is long-overdue for an oil change, and I should probably run it through the carwash since the birds have been treating it like their own personal empty canvas in which to decorate lately. I should probably start editing my book, too. Writing it was the easy part.

Back to work tomorrow, and then Tara will be home late on Tuesday.