HELP – we are in the wilderness – no phone service and limited internet. The Izaak Walton Inn is an old railroad depot with trains running by at all hours. Also, no TV in our room and a double bed, firsts for me in decades. It’s not a cool as I thought here in the mountains either, so a marginal air conditioning system made for a sticky, restless night. We even had to make a special request for a hair dryer. This morning was the first time I’ve ever run in Montana, day #4,230 of “The Streak,” after 3.1 miles at altitude. Sadly, I couldn’t even pick-up a radio signal. All in all, It was rustic lodging at almost the same price as our 1,000 sq. ft. luxury suite the night before.
The last few times I’ve been in the state was for skiing. That was over 25-years ago, so internet service and cellular phones were not a factor. I flew into Bozeman and took a shuttle to Big Sky Resort. With this in mind, yesterday was my first time behind the wheel on Montana roads. We came in from Spokane, with an Idaho Cracker Barrel stop along the winding way. The route was hilly and green, with numerous lakes and streams. We next hit a flat stretch of wheat fields before the anticipated Glacier pine forests. The temperature was still a surprising 89 degrees when we arrived in early evening.
Dinner on the hotel patio was pricey for frozen trout, but we did get to taste huckleberry cobbler before heading back to Unit #1 that opened with an old-fashioned key on a plastic fob. It reminded me of a Holiday Inn back in the 1960s – long before electronic locks and key cards. We’re off to drive the Going to the Sun road and hopefully find a better hotel tonight near Whitefish. We’ll be ready for a good night’s rest and some modern conveniences.
Welcome to Spokane, Washington, home of the 1974 World’s Fair and where Father’s Day was established in 1910 at the local YMCA. We’re in a beautiful, spacious suite at the Historic Davenport Hotel, a reward for my loyalty to Marriott Rewards. It was a curvy yet boring three-hour drive from Walla Walla. There was nothing but golden brown wheat fields to see with only a patch or two of green along the way. It was by far the most bland scenery I’ve ever witnessed, with only a hand full of cars and a few cows to break up the monotony.
Once we got within 30-miles of Spokane, a forest of cedar trees led us into the big city. We’re 18-miles from Idaho and 92-miles south of the Canadian border. The “Lilac City,” settled by the Spokane tribe, meaning “Children of the Sun.” Near our hotel are two impressive historic theaters, The Fox and The Bing Crosby, formerly The Clemmer, built after the great fire of 1889. Between May and October of 1925, Bing was a regular performer. He went to school here at Gonzaga University, and claimed it as his home town. His family’s house now serves as a museum, including his Oscar as Father Chuck O’Malley in the 1944 movie Going My Way.
It’s expected to reach 100 degrees today as we head towards Glacier National Park. It was already seventy-five when I hit the streets this morning for day #4229 of the running streak. I’m glad to have spent a few minutes afterwards to learn a little more about the area. I was wrong thinking it was the state capital – forgive me Olympia. There was a time when I knew them all cold, but my memory continues to deteriorate. It was frustrating to listen to the oldies station on my 3.1 mile route, knowing all the songs but not remembering the artists. Next stop after Spokane: Glacier National Park.
Last night’s meal at the Walla Walla Steakhouse ended on the perfect note. We enjoyed our favorite dessert – Bananas Foster. It’s an after dinner tradition that we started over 20-years ago at Brennan’s in New Orleans where the dish originated. It’s prepared table-side, but during the last three months of isolation there’s been no table service at all. Most of our out-of-home dining has been to-go, so Bananas Foster was a long awaited treat.
Our last bites of Banana Foster were at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa on New Year’s Eve. Little did we know at that time how much things would change in the world. In fact, we were a group of six last night that by social distancing laws had to be divided into two tables. The same was true with all our tasting sessions. It was odd having to rotate our seats so we could have an all-inclusive conversation. We have been planning this Walla-Walla get together for over two years now and finally made it despite the challenges.
My wife and I have a full day of Walla Walla tastings today before we head to Spokane. It’s our third day of the drive that will ultimately take us to Glacier National Park. This morning I ran past the sun and eight planets of our solar system on a path laid out in perspective to their actual distances apart. It was a little more than a mile from the sun to Neptune, just beyond Uranus (not mine, ha!). When I was in school, we were taught there were nine planets including Pluto – but that has changed, along with the number of people that can legally sit at a table. It was a good way to run-off some of the calories from the Bananas Foster.
“Woke Up In Walla-Walla” should be a country song. I’m in a country music mood after choosing a local radio station for my run this morning – HANK-FM. The only problem is trying to find something that rhymes with Walla – maybe “can hear the vineyards calla?” We spent yesterday afternoon at Foundry Vineyards with a six-round tasting. We also brought in food from Andrea’s Kitchen, a misplaced award-winning New York City chef’s gas station restaurant. I had a Cuban sandwich and my wife enjoyed Carolina pulled pork with a delicious corn salad. It was a unique way to end the day.
It’s a beautiful drive into Walla-Walla, along the Columbia River Gorge. However, the winding highway is not necessarily a carefree jaunt. I found myself with both hands firmly on the wheel and reluctant to enjoy the views. The plush green forests turned into brown rocks as we approached the Washington state border, so a very stark contrast in beauty. I was glad to finally get on some flat, straight roads banked by corn and sweet onion fields.
We walked the downtown streets before an early bedtime. It was a much more relaxing atmosphere than downtown Portland. There was little traffic noise or dog duties to keep me awake. I needed to get my rest for three separate tastings today and a big dinner at the Walla-Walla Steakhouse. Also, restrooms were few and far between, especially considering that most restaurants are open only for drive-thru. I had to get creative in one situation and paid $10 for the key in another case.
We’re staying two nights at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel. On our last visit we explored some of the history of the hotel and surrounding community (See Post #951). As I read these comments, it reminded me of the town motto, “a place so nice they had to name it twice.” We’ll get another taste of the countryside this afternoon, returning to two of the wineries we visited before, but this time with friends and no dogs. In two days, we’ll head to Spokane and stay at another historic property, The Davenport. In the meantime, Walla-Walla Calla.
We’re finally on the GO after weeks of respecting stay-at-home measures. We’ll cover four states over a 10-day span traveling from Oregon into Montana. The bulk of the time will be spent in Glacier National Park, utilizing our lifetime Senior unlimited pass. I can remember video shot by my mom many years ago showing off the beauty of the area. My trips to Montana have solely been in and out of Big Sky for skiing. Also as a child, my dad drove me over the state line from Yellowstone Park so I could add another state to our family adventure. I can remember seeing “purple mountains majesty” as professed in America The Beautiful.
The temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees while we’re gone. With this in mind, I expect things will heat up with the local protests. It will be good to be miles away from the storm, with conditions a bit cooler and more mellow. I’ll enjoy the fact that there’s no plane to catch or hectic schedule to maintain. We’ll hop from winery to winery and restaurant to restaurant along the way. The scenery along the way should also be inviting while we’re gratefully On The Go.
We leave first thing this morning, giving me little time to work on this particular post. First stop will be in Walla-Walla, Washington at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, recreating portions of our visit from last summer. We’ll then spend a night at the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane before the last leg to Glacier and The Izaak Walton and Cedar Creek lodges. Unfortunately, the virus will keep us out of Canada and our plans to stay at the Prince of Wales, but we’ll still have lots to see. We’re looking forward to these next 10 days in the wild, as opposed to being stuck in a downtown Portland apartment. Get Ready. Get Set. Go!
It’s finally here – Opening Day. I last wrote about it (See Post #1306) almost three months ago, wondering if it would ever happen? There was originally talks of an Arizona bubble where all the teams would stay and play in one place. Instead, the stadiums are open to the players but not the public. I watched a few of the Summer Camp games these past few weeks in empty venues, just glad to have something live on TV. There’s no “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the only option is to tune in. I may resort back to childhood and listen on the radio. With a few sound effects, it will seem no different than 1955.
The defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals will play the Yankees tonight on the east coast, while the Dodgers meet the Giants in the west. That’s pretty good social distancing. Tomorrow the Cubs start their 60-game journey against the Brewers at empty Wrigley Field. With half a season, every game is worth twice as much! I got in the spirit earlier this week with a trip to my baseball card guy’s house. A couple of items were added to my Sherm Lollar collection, speaking of 1955 baseball. Plus, some catching equipment from that era. Above all, it was good to talk with another avid baseball fan – it’s great to see anyone – period – in these troubled times.
I’ll soon be living next to a Spring Training venue in Florida, as I think back to the cancellation of the March games in Phoenix. I did get a credit for my tickets to those games. I also received autographed cards from Topps for Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Luis Robert (White Sox) after being shorted on my Opening Day lineup purchase. All in all, it was a rough start to the season, but all is now right. We’ll finally hear the words “Play Ball,” following a four month delay in the action. It’s the first season to ever start in July. I’ll tune in for the first pitch. Hooray – it’s Opening Day!
Another call from a friend this morning, wondering if I’m all right here in Portland, or getting ready to get out and protest. It’s embarrassing when your city is in the national spotlight for the wrong reasons. “Get off my lawn,” is the initial reaction, as I shake my cane in anger. Everybody go home – protesters and federal troops. Who will make the first move?
I’ve become Grandpa Grumps, making political statements that I never thought would come out of my mouth. I reference back to the Boston Tea Party. In that case, demonstrators disguised themselves as Native Americans to destroy an entire shipment of tea. We apparently have criminals bent on destruction disguised as peaceful protesters here in Portland. How do you tell them apart, especially when they are wearing masks? You can’t – and neither can law enforcement. It’s the recipe for disaster.
I thought we were all “in this together,” staying home to fight a virus. Instead, were organizing in mass to spread it. The only winner is the bug. I thought that protesting was an old-fashioned attention-getter. There are so many other outlets these days to spread the word. I recognize the need for positive change in this world. From this old man’s perspective, another protest in Portland is not the answer. We protest anything and everything here and the effectiveness has been lost for some time. Or, am I just being Grandpa Grumps?
I’m limited on time this morning, with a trip to the dentist. It was just another item on my calendar that got delayed four months because of the Coronavirus. Too bad it wasn’t totally cancelled like most of our activities. No Bali. No Canada. No Egypt. Just the dentist! So much time has passed since I made this appointment that I can’t even remember what they’re doing to my teeth in the three-hour time frame. I’ll soon find out.
The countdown to Florida living continues. Only 8 months of preparation ahead, starting with a cross-country drive in about 30 days. Meetings with the builders and bankers will start the process. In the meantime, there will be design decisions, conference calls, moving arrangements to make, and lots of driving to do. I’ll have my son take pictures on a regular basis so we can monitor construction. This is the first and last home we will ever build. It will be an exciting process, especially when there’s little else to look forward to these days of isolation.
I missed my self-imposed daily deadline yesterday on getting this blog posted. Between the dentist, two visits to friends’ homes, and codes to break in my latest Hunt A Killer mystery game, the day got away from me. My wife and I did sit down and watch episode five of Perry Mason on HBO and another hour of Titanic: Blood and Steel on Amazon Prime. Without much to write about, these posts accurately reflect my sense of boredom.
I continue to marvel at Portland’s persistence to protest. I keep hearing from friends concerned about our safety here. The city is getting a lot of bad publicity nationally, when there’s little going on in our downtown neighborhood. However, it was eye-opening to drive downtown yesterday and see firsthand the destruction to businesses, buildings, parks, and statues. It’s a war-zone, while every protester continues to insist that their intentions are peaceful. There’s something wrong with this picture. “Moms” in yellow shirts were out two nights ago to fight federal intervention. Apparently, it was “Dad’s” turn to get out last night. These groups should be acting like responsible parents. There has to be a better way. The bigger the mobs, the more likely violence will break out, as it eventually did later last night.
Crowds are dangerous – they look threatening, even in colorful t-shirts with positive messages. Unfortunately, not-so-mindful intruders also have access to yellow. You’re forcing law enforcement to make snap decisions that do none of us any good. Stay home like the rest of us if you love America, and find another outlet for your anger. It’s nothing but a party in the streets – and you know it. Protesters, especially in masks, are nothing but a health and safety risk to our future. I promise to stay home myself today and meet my writing deadline.
Now that the morning run is behind me, I can begin to look forward to the upcoming week. Today, it’s some live TV baseball between the White Sox and Cubs. Tomorrow, I have a baseball card meeting, once I get out of the dentist’s office. The fourth box of the Hunt A Killer mystery also arrives this week. Friday, the adventure to Montana begins. I’m not sure if I’ve ever run in “Big Sky Country” since skiing has always been the primary reason for going there. This time it will be some hiking in Glacier National Park. It will be the 40th state my wife and I together have visited, and my 26th state for a run. I have only 2 states left to visit on my lifetime bucket list – Alaska and Maine.
Friday’s trip east will cover about 800 miles round-trip with overnight stops in Walla-Walla and Spokane. Four nights will be spent in and around the park. Our schnauzer Tally is staying with my wife’s daughter and her doggy buddy Falco. They get together quite frequently. I will get out of my dog outing responsibilities for a full week. We’re meeting friends for two days of wine tasting in Walla-Walla on the way to Glacier. While in the area, we have joint reservations at seven different vineyards and three restaurants.
My car will get a good work-out. It has just over 135,000 miles on it. If it survives this journey, we’ll take it down the Oregon Coast into San Francisco. It’s one of our few travel options following the cancellation of our Egypt excursion. My wife’s car is being prepped for it’s cross-country venture to Florida in late August. This includes some extensive body and strut work. Once we get it to the Sunshine State, it will patiently wait in my son’s garage until our permanent move next March. At that point, we’ll pack my car for the same long drive in conjunction with the moving truck. So much to look forward to this year!
I’ll pack both my running shoes and hiking boots for this Glacial journey through nature, not necessarily my favorite thing. At least, I should be well pickled by the time we get to Mother Nature’s door. Many of our planned activities have been disrupted by the Coronavirus. Also, traffic is reportedly a problem with travel limited to primarily US locations this summer. National Parks are now a preferred family destination by car. The Going-to-the-Sun Road has recently been choked with congestion and the boat trips have been cancelled, so our entertainment options may be limited. We’ll make the best of it, as we look forward to simply getting out of the neighborhood.
I had to launder some more money this morning. After vowing to only pick up silver coins on the streets, I found two this morning – a dime and a nickel. I scrubbed them and my hands thoroughly when I got home from the daily run. It’s still a good sign to spot a penny on the ground but no longer worth bending over. I considered the coins I found this morning to be a silver lining, after a couple of days of tough self-doubt along with some air conditioning problems.
First of all, I was wary about getting no feedback on my recent attempt at a novel. I did get some edits back from the publishing company that really didn’t mean much. However, I had given a copy to my two closest friends here in Portland to read and it had been over a week since I heard from either of them. It’s a tough responsibility to read someone else’s work, let alone provide criticism. I appreciated their willingness and as it turned out, perseverance. The story of a serial killer that I wrote was shocking even to me, but personally entertaining to write. Too many times in the tedious process, I found myself embarrassed with the despicable, foul nature of the character that I created. Where did this come from? I wasn’t sure if I really wanted anyone else to read it, so I was somewhat prepared for some bad reviews.
They ambushed me at lunch yesterday. I guess I expected them to say that they hadn’t had time to read it or were just reluctant to give me the bad news. No. They thoroughly read, took notes, and provided very constructive feedback. It was hard to digest, along with my lunch, and I brooded about it the rest of the day in conjunction with our air conditioning woes. I was, of course, hoping that they loved it, but even I didn’t love it. The decision is now up to me – scrap it entirely and start on something else or try to salvage what I have. There were several issues with continuity and character development. They felt it didn’t have much drama or a likable character. Despite all the problems, they made the effort to wade through my work. They were two good friends!
This morning I’m a little less sensitive about my “ugly baby,” and ready to take the next step. My friends and I have always joked about “finding the rainbow,” especially with my pessimistic attitude. Today, I see the silver lining in their comments and will try to put a new outfit on the baby to make it less ugly. It will be good to get back into the writing process with a new direction. I’m going to start by adding a couple chapters about specific characters and eliminating what they implied was irrelevant fluff. Maybe I’ll re-title it “The Rainbow Killer” with minimal gore, less offensive language, and a kinder, gentler, murderer. At the very least, I need to make it readable. So, “A Silver Lining Take Two” on A+ Killer is in now officially the works, with a little help from my friends.