Thursday, August 27, 2009

Word to the Wise

Don't invite guest bloggers!

My dear blogger and I have been traveling together for ten years. One wonderful summer we were in Maine in July and were in Vancouver in August. We have kind of learned to accommodate each other’s different traveling styles over the years but every once in a while those characteristics that are so charming when everything magically falls into place can be like a burr under the saddle when they don’t.

Ed is a dreamer, big picture, “fly by the seat of his pants” sort of guy when traveling. His idea of being prepared is an extra can of chew and a case of bottled water. He loves to drive wherever the road takes him always eager to see what is beyond the next bend. Like a little kid he delights in a small town museum or a local diner or a breathtaking view that is the perfect photographic subject. I must admit that some of my most special memories came from his fly by the seat of his pants style of traveling.

Like most women, I tend to lean toward being the planner, map reader, calculator of when and where we will land and what- will- be- waiting- for- us- when- we- arrive kind of traveler. Along the way, armed with my maps and AAA travel guides, I navigate for my dear blogger and we usually experience great adventures with great food and accommodations awaiting us at the end of the day. We have a deal, Ed is in charge of food and gas (is this a Freudian slip or what?) and I am in charge of lodging.

However, at least once on every vacation, we end up with a crummy meal and a night in a Super 8 or Motel 6 or, God forbid, an EconoLodge. It has become a joke between us that when we fly by the seat of my dear blogger’s pants the end result can be less than spectacular. Today was one of those days.

It began innocently enough. We left our lovely Hampton Inn Jacuzzi Suite after a warm and wonderful breakfast (did I mention that we dined at a fabulous Japanese steak house within walking distance last night) and headed northeast to the North Cascade National Park. Along the way we followed the Skagit River with its tributaries, ebbs and flows always within site. The river was fast but not high and we stopped several times to catch great photos of the sheer rock walls reflecting off the shallow crystal clear river. Amazing!

Lavender farms, organic fruit farms and art galleries sporadically appeared and, knowing that we would return by this same route out of the park, we made plans to stop at several of these roadside wonders on the way back. The park proved to be spectacular from a distance but unless one planned to drive 45 miles across its northern border and exit a good 4 hour drive back toward Mount Ranier, our next destination, it was best to make a short visit to the park and retrace our route back.

After a couple of hours in the region immediately adjacent to the visitors center including taking in a good, but not great, video introduction to the park (Compared to Olympic NP which had a fantastic award-winning film that left us speechless after watching 20 minutes of the most incredible videography imaginable), we began our return journey.

I was thinking romantic cabin and a river rafting adventure and we were within sight of the organic blueberry farm with its fresh organic homemade ice cream (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and blackberry) when we regained cell service….not good. The message light lit up and Ed’s phone contained a message from Jason our house-sitter and dog-sitter to Sable.

Jason was beside himself that Sable had spied a cat coming out of one of the grain bins and took chase. I was expecting to hear the worst, that she had gone into the road and been hit, but it was slightly less awful to learn that in the chase she had stepped on a board with a nail sticking up and punctured her paw. It was serious enough to require the vet to put her under and stitch her up. For the next two hours we crawled south along I-5 in the Seattle traffic waiting to hear that she was back home and doing okay.

You might wonder, “What about the lovely Skagit River Valley and the cabin and a slow river rafting adventure amid the blueberries and art galleries?” Well, my dear blogger had different ideas of how to spend our afternoon. All of today’s crystal clear sunny 75 degree afternoon was spent in pursuit of a trip to Mount Ranier. When we weren’t stuck in traffic on I-5 we were talking with an OnStar “Advisor” trying to find a route and lodging.

About three, hungry and frustrated, we stopped at what looked to be a great Mexican restaurant called Puerto Vallarta. Let’s say it was not one of my shining culinary choices. The best part of that experience was that it was there that we got word that Sable and Jason were back home safely and we could put that worry to rest.

Back on the road after a quick visit to an optometrist to get our glasses adjusted (that was positive….they were really, really nice), we started toward that massive but elusive peak Mount Ranier…we could see it but getting there was another story.

Anyway, speaking of rest, we still had not found lodging and we were now over an hour from Tacoma, the last place that the AAA book showed good facilities. Hunger and frustration was replaced by tired and frustrated as our OnStar “Advisor” attempted to ease my dear blogger’s conscience over not listening to the planner, organizer member of our HyMark team of adventurers when she wanted to find a cabin and float down the river earlier in the day. Flying by the seat of our pants had ended in an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere.

So tonight we find ourselves in that “it-happens-once-every-vacation” hotel that we will inevitably laugh about later when we recount the highlights of this once in a lifetime trip. It ain’t fancy and it ain’t a Hilton but it is clean and it is the only place within miles. I am certain it will take at least two Tylenol PM’s to get me to fall asleep in this place but tomorrow is a new day. And, lulling me to sleep is that knowledge that tomorrow night we are staying at the Hilton in downtown Seattle with a view of the harbor right near the Space Needle. With the sights and sounds of this fabulous port city right outside our lobby door I am sure we will forget today’s fiasco food choice and our hellacious hotel.

You dear husbands surely must recognize yourselves in this tale. You guys will basically sleep anywhere but will only eat at the meat, potatoes and pie places. We ladies are very particular about our lodgings but we love the lure of Thai, Indian, and French cuisine. Surely you guys recognize that quest for the mountain that beckons; the blinders you guys put on when you are hell-bent on getting to some destination; and the “it’s only one night” attitude you assume when you discover that there isn’t a decent hotel within miles. There is something to be said about the grit and determination you guys have to avoid using those maps and planning tools at all costs. In the words of the last dry-humored OnStar Advisor who tried to help us today, “As part of my job, Mr. Winkle, I pray every night for husbands.”

Did I mention that right outside the door of the hellacious hotel is the most spectacular view of Mount Ranier. Tomorrow is a new day with a new adventure waiting. I sure love my dear blogger for all he does to bring new adventures to my life every day.



  1. Too bad you didn't meet my wife on your visit. Once she bought a 1964 Aloha trailer at a garage sale, and I bought a 1971 Chevy 4wd from an old farmer. We took them 6000 miles. Visited all the relatives, her old family farm in Minn, the Studebaker museum, did it all with a 3-year old. She might have just turned 4. Did this in the fall after silage. We had a good plan. I kept the rattletrap outfit on the road and she read the maps.
    She probably has some good stories she could share with you. They say God takes care of the innocent and the stupid and I'm not sure what category we fell into...
    Note: This was not 1971 it was 2003 or 4 or something like that.

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