Sunday, August 2, 2015

Off to Oregon

My dad did his basic training for WW2 at Camp Pendelton, Oregon and always talked about how beautiful it was. My mom had been interested in seeing this part of the country for a long while so we decided to take a cruise up the Columbia and Snake Rivers on a paddlewheel boat. 

We left Columbus on Friday, July 31.  We flew to Detroit, Seattle then Portland. Our flights were easy with short connections.  Luckily my Mom let me set up wheel chairs for getting from gate to gate.  We had to change concourses in Detroit and Seattle, we never would have found our way or made it on time if she had walked.  All the people were very nice and she has learned to tip them.  The guy in Detroit did a Donald Duck voice as we went along and was amusing, altho for some reason he felt he needed to tell me that there are lots of Muslims in Detroit.  I got Mom to the gate in Detroit and sent her along to board.  I got carry out sandwiches from Longhorn Steakhouse for us to eat.  They were pretty good.  I managed to suck down a glass of wine while I waited for the sammies and dozed a while after we ate.  They guy next to me was headed to Alaska to backpack in Denali and fish for Halibut with some buddies.  It was their 3rd year in Alaska. In Seattle we had time to grab iced coffee on our way and it tasted good.  When we got to Portland we called the Red Lion and they sent a van to pick us up.  The driver was real nice, helped with the bags and we also had a nice young woman ride with us.  She had just graduated from some college in Minnesota that's affiliated with the Guthrie Theater.  She got a job on board the ship, her plan is to earn some money, then go to Calif and try to get a job with Pixar.  She'd had 4 days training in Connecticut learning to  clean cabins and serve food, just as cute and bubbly as she can be. All the staff is very pleasant, young and energetic.  From the Portland airport we crossed a bridge into Washington, followed the river a while then crossed back into Oregon.  The hotel is big, built to look like a lodge with a big set of steps going up to the front door.  There was no one to help with the bags and the van driver had to go right back to the airport for another pick up.  She did run in and bring a luggage cart down a ramp and helped me get the bags on.  I had to push the cart and help Mom up a pretty steep ramp.  When we got in to the desk, they checked us in but nobody offered to help with the bags.  They sent us to a room way down a hall into an annex and around the corner and down another hall.  If I'd been thinking I would have asked for something closer to the desk and restaurant.

Anyhow, we changed our shoes and trekked back to the restaurant.  We were about 3 steps from the host stand when some yahoo swooped around us and got into this whole thing about a party of 16 with no reservation and had an argument when they couldn't provide one big table.  He finally settled for 2 tables of 8 next to each other but I was fuming at how rude he had been.  Mon couldn't hear what was going on, was tired and crabby and kept asking what the problem was.  We got seated eventually by a window with a view of our boat, had a glass of wine and a decent dinner.  I had roasted corn risotto. We got back to the room and Mom wanted to take a shower but there was no grab bar so she decided just to wash up instead.  She conked out pretty quickly.  I took a shower but couldn't get my brain to quiet down.  I was mad about the room, the guy in the restaurant and on top of that kept replaying the conversation I'd had with Jay before I left.  I finally went to sleep. 

Because of the time change, Mom was up earlier than usual.  I got up and made some coffee, then relaxed while she rearranged stuff the way she likes to do.  We went down to breakfast, bought some postcards, then went back up to kill some time till we could go to the boat.  We had a nice balcony with a view of the river and a big pine tree to keep the sun out of our eyes.  I went out to blog and Mom came in and out, she was antsy.  There was a sort of bluejay looking bird that kept landing in the tree, picking some kind of little bug out of the bark and flying off.  We were right over the parking lot between the hotel and the condos next door and it was a constant parade of dog walkers. The hotel sent somebody to transfer our bags to the boat and finally we went on board.  We had to wait a while in the lounge for our room to be ready but once it was, our bags were there.  The room is small but functional and close to the elevator/stair well .

They called us for lunch and as we ate the boat started to move.  It was very interesting, around Portland and Lewiston there are huge facilities to load and off load cargo vessels.  Big grain silos, big dual cranes structures to load and unload the big containers that go on ships, trains and trucks.  Then as we went west it got less industrial and we saw people camping along the shores on both sides of the river, some patches that were uninhabited, then some scattered houses and finally Astoria.  The landscape reminds me a lot of Alaska, big pine trees, rocky coast.  But you can tell how dry everything is.  Lots of brown instead of green.  We noticed rhododendron around the hotel dying from lack of water. 

We docked in Astoria located at the mouth of the Columbia, outside of the Maritime Museum, a modern building with big windows and wood shingle siding.  Sunday morning we went on a bus tour to Fort Clatsop, the place where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806.  They have a replica of the fort with artifacts from that era in it.  The visitors center had lots more to see including a sculpture of Lewis and Clark that included Seaman, their Newfie.  After Fort Clatsop we went to the Astoria Column, some tall structure covered in reliefs that tell some of the history of the area.  Right now the whole thing is covered in scaffolding for repairs and you can't see a thing.  It is on top of a hill so the view from there was nice.  I'm one of the youngest passengers on the ship , I guess I should have expected that.  One or two my my age and a family with some kids but otherwise old rich white people.  Some get around pretty well but trying to get 40 people on and off a bus takes some patience.  And my Mom is one of the slowest.  She insists on carrying as much junk as possible.....hat, sweater, purse and cane.  I try to get her to put the damn cane on the ground to help her balance but she wants to hang on to stuff instead.  She nearly whacked a lady in the head  waving the damn thing around at Fort Clatsop.  Mom spent all this time unpacking and putting stuff in drawers in the room.  Now every time she wants something she has to look in 5 drawers before she finds it.  I'm trying to ignore all the little complaints about the room is too hot or cold, there's no bathmat for the shower, she's not used to a single bed.....but Geez it's not always easy.  She changes shoes all the time, changes purses to go to dinner, moves stuff around in all her different zippered bags.  I got smart this time and am carrying a small purse so she can't  try her usual trick of asking me to carry her stuff.  We have been getting postcards, she's sending some and I've been sending some to her for her contest at Wesley Glen.

They tried to tell us we were going to gain 5 pounds from the food and the super good ice cream.  The food has been terrible, one night we had salmon with a side of cannelloni beans mixed with butternut squash.  Disgusting.  I had to ask for salad with no arugula and have started asking for sorbet or fruit for desert.  Better for me anyhow.  Most of the folks are friendly, people from all over the states and 6 from Australia. Meals are open seating so we've been sitting with and meeting new people every day.  Mom seems to be enjoying herself and I'm trying to relax.  After Fort Clatsop today we rode the old time trolley and went to a place in Astoria for lunch.  The town was founded in 1811 with funds from John Jacob Astor.  It started out as a fish cannery town, then there was logging, now it's tourism and a deal with the cargo ships coming into the ports up river.  The upriver ports have limited space so the ships have to pay large amounts to stay in a port waiting to unload.  The city of Astoria will let them wait just off the coast until it's their turn to go upriver and doesn't charge them for that.  But they do get the revenue from the customs inspections and the use of the pilot boats to guide the big ships into the channels into the mouth of the river.

After lunch I got Mom back to the boat and went out to look around the town.  There was a big Sunday market going on all over.  This is a very cool town.  Lots of old hippies, little shops, bars and restaurants.  I think I could live here easily.  The climate is very temperate too.  I stopped into a Medical Marijuana Dispensary-you didn't think I could just walk past did you?  The people were very cool and explained the business to me.  Right now people have to have a medically certified permit to buy but starting in October they will be able to sell for recreational use.  They are under a lot of scrutiny and had secured doors into the room with the goodies in it.  Interesting to learn about, tho. 

Tomorrow we are off to Kalama , WA for a tour of Mt St Helens


Ft Clatsop

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