Wednesday, July 02, 2008

And So Our Journey Ends

Leaving Dana's felt a little like closing up the summer house; we were reluctant (especially about the secret garden) but also ready to get back to regular life. I think that's the sign of a perfect vacation...rested enough to welcome the return of routine. Or at least one's own bed.

But we weren't quite saying goodbye to California yet. Anthony had urged us to have breakfast at a particular cafe in Berkeley, which was more or less on our way out of Dodge. Right. 'Cept for that pesky "all exits lead to Oakland" thing. Once again, we cruised confidently through the impressive Alameda portal (a structure which neither Hat nor I ever managed to actually photograph) and immediately got all kerfuffled by the lack of signage. Oh, that mocking thing; Alameda portal my arse. More like a portal to another dimension. This time, however, I at least knew exactly how to get out of Oakland and back to Alameda. I promptly pulled into a gas station to ask for directions.

It went down like this. The guy behind the counter didn't know how to get to Berkeley but a regular customer did. "Oh, sure," he said. His cell phone rang. "Hold on just a second," he said to me. At which point this angel by the name of Chandra chimed in, "I make that run all the time. Here's what you do..." I asked a few clarifying questions, which at least made it clear to her that I was ever so familiar with the portal to another realm and then she looked at me with compassion. "Tell you what. I have a quick delivery to make across the street. Wait here for me and I'll lead you out to the freeway. I'm going to Berkeley anyway".

Blessings on her and all her house! I jubilantly announced to the girls that we would, in fact, find our way to Berkeley before the end of the year and then Chandra swooped by to lead us to the promised land. Which was just as simple as it could possibly be, provided you understood that by taking a right at the sign for San Jose and then another way too quick and virtually unmarked right onto the freeway that you'd end up heading north. (Idiot CA DOT).

Our angel led us out to the first (and I think only sign) that indicated Berkeley lay ahead and then she waved a slender arm out her truck window and pulled off at the next exit. She wasn't going to Berkeley. She was just being the nicest possible person on the planet ever. (Next time you need a new car, go to Toyota of Alameda. Seriously).

Berkeley was not without its own unique driving challenges: one way streets, myriad 15 minute parking spaces and a particularly charming driver who decided to take his free left on a red light while I was turning on a green. He missed hitting me by mere inches but it's always nice to know the adrenal glands are working.

Au Coquelet was everything Anthony promised it would be.Breakfast was abundant, cheap and delicious. After breakfast we poked around some (mostly Tibetan) shops and scored some very fun jewelry. The Hat bought a hat. I regaled The Child with tales of the student left in the 60s. She was more interested in acquiring mementos for the Mead St. Gang. So be it.

Berkeley was the last major attraction planned for the trip. By now we were all about El Norte. We gained the freeway, then lost it, due to a detour toward LA which was supposedly a reroute past road work but wasn't. Big lying DOT. After that, my one and only mission was to get the hell onto I-5 and not leave it again until we'd put several hundred miles under our wheels. Which we mostly did. Traffic was light (this is the closest thing to "California traffic" that we ever got:

(Granted, we were in Northern California and not LA but still).
The other motorists were courteous (Oregonians, take a lesson, please) and soon we were all about the rhythm of the drive, the shuffle of the iPod and the beauty of the scenery. We did stop from time to time to rest in cool shade

and photograph blue jays.
This is for JP. I don't remember now if it is California or Oregon. No matter:
Early in the evening we were back in Oregon, at Aunt Sharon's. We went out for superb Thai food and then The Child and I relaxed in the hot tub and while the warm water worked out my driving kinks, we looked at the stars and talked about God. It was a glorious night.

The next morning dawned fair and lovely, then was shattered by the call from The Spouse announcing his sister's death. Auntie and I were glad we were together in that moment. It was all very shocking and surreal, and even though there was not a blessed thing I could do about it, the situation gave a little more urgency to the last leg of the trip. I couldn't do anything about anything but I wanted to be with The Spouse.

Oregon drivers are horrible, bullying sorts and I don't like them. This behavior is also completely at odds with their otherwise very friendly nature and the fact that they want to fill your gas tank for you. (No self-serve in Oregon; The Child just adored it. "They even wash your windows for you, Mom!") I drove as fast as it was possible to go, aided when necessary by some Springsteen, which always makes me drive at least 80.
We stopped in Salem for a lovely lunch and a little more shopping (The Child has decided to collect a stuffed something from every state in the union and she found an Oregon beaver. Huzzah. I also resisted the urge to get a "Could you be anymore up my ass?" bumper sticker, since I only feel that way in Oregon and we were, after all, leaving).

We made most excellent time. Until we hit Portland. Why all those people weren't on their famed light rail line is beyond me. It took about 30 minutes to actually cross the bridge into Washington. But we figured that, barring any other hold ups (except the inevitable boondoggle that always seems to happen south of Tacoma for no reason whatsoever), we should make it home in time to get Hat to the airport to catch her shuttle home. She had a flexible ticket. If she missed the 7pm bus she could get the 9pm one but I was bound and determined to get her to SeaTac by 7 so she too could have a pleasant evening in her own home.

There was one other absolutely nonsensical tie up and I marvelled at the fact that we had driven through 3 states, one famed for it's traffic, and the only problems we had with tie-ups were when we were this close to home. But you know what both Oregon and Washington have that California doesn't? Really excellent road signs.

Pedal to the metal, I screamed into SeaTac about 10 minutes before Hat's shuttle was to leave. I felt really excellent about that. She is a most wonderful Hat and she had been such a help on the trip. It felt like giving her a little gift to know that she wouldn't be trudging into her flat late at night after a stupid 2 hour wait at the airport doing nothing.

Minutes later The Child and I were back home. The Spouse was there, with his brother, and the evening was more about somber realities than my little road trip. Which was appropriate. But let me tell you something; I came home ever so relaxed and full of goodwill and joy because of all the fine times, good food and dear people. And I was thankful that at least my excellent mood made me well suited to be a helpmate for my family in their hour of need. Or something. Yeah, it was a crappy end to a blissful time, but that's life, isn't it? You get your good and you get your bad. Somehow, as my friend ChouChou likes to say, it's all good.

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Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Ba Ha Ha Ha (Note no W)

Welcome home!!!


Now tell the sun to go away for a little while and let it rain some?

Oh well, at least there aren't fires on this side.

Condolences to "The Spouse" and a reminder that at least the relationship with his sister was of the dear kind. Too many sibling relationships aren't.

(Such as mine!)



July 02, 2008 2:18 PM  
Blogger sageweb opined...

Well thank-you for such a lovely recap of the trip. Sorry about the spouse losing his sister, that had to be tough.

I hope you girls hit the road next year...I wont miss it.

July 02, 2008 3:19 PM  
Blogger danny/ink2metal opined...

chou chou is wise: it is all good.

anyway, lorraine, you really are a wonderful reteller of stories and a wonderful person in general. the spouse and the child are lucky.

July 02, 2008 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Ba Ha Ha Ha (Note no W)

Oh, and by the way. I thought the length, timing and atmosphere(?) was really good. Not too long, or short and still with occaisional comic relief as well as enviro/politico commentary.



July 02, 2008 5:26 PM  
Blogger Sling opined...

..I was gonna say what anonymous said.
Plus!..You do good work kid. :)
The best times are had when you are open to new places and people and things.

July 02, 2008 7:30 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Anonyba, you gotta stop putting this pressure on me! I'm not in charge of the weather!

You're welcome, Sage, and thank you. And one of our tag lines all week was "See you next year". Although you'd better damn well call if you come up to see family this year. Just sayin'.

She's the wisest, Danny. And thank you for the kind words. We sure had a great time with all y'all.

Again, Anonyba, thanks. (And that thunder storm we just had was NOT my doing).

Oh, Sling, I love it when you call me "kid".

July 02, 2008 7:42 PM  
Blogger Miss Healthypants opined...

I think it's HILARIOUS that someone took a picture of your spedometer! :)

Hey, did you know that--at least on my screen--the last paragraph or so of this is in much smaller print than the rest of it?

Not that I minded--I just had to squint to read the lovely end to this wonderfully entertaining travel log.

July 02, 2008 7:44 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Fixed it, MHP. Thanks for the heads up. I wouldn't want people to squint at whole passages when I only intended them to squint at one word.

July 02, 2008 8:08 PM  
Blogger Dana opined...

What a lovely tale...Tell it again! Tell it again!

July 03, 2008 4:44 AM  
Blogger LostInCO opined...

It's the end, already??? :(
We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more.

July 03, 2008 7:43 AM  
Blogger Mom opined...

Thanks for letting me tag along on your lovely vacation.

July 03, 2008 8:15 AM  
Blogger Buck opined...

I still think the bangs rock. I love every photo of them.

More, please. . .

July 03, 2008 9:03 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

No, Dana, I'm glad you enjoyed it but now it's time to go to night-night (tucks her in and gives her a little kiss on the forehead)

Lost, that was a very clever and appropriate use of one of my favorite songs and now I wish I had another story to tell!

You're welcome, Mom. You can ride shotgun anytime.

July 03, 2008 9:06 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

I'm glad you like 'em, Buck. It was one of my better hair decisions to be sure.

July 03, 2008 10:50 AM  

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