Well here we are in the quaint little village of Portland, Oregon, where we have what are considered to be deluxe accomodations in the 5th Avenue Suites Hotel. As deluxe accomodations go, it's a bit on the mediocre side (adorable Teddy Bear on the bed that you can call your own for only $35 added to your room bill notwithstanding), but downtown hotels seem to get stuck at mediocre until they suddenly shoot up to the "palatial but cost a mint" category, which our budget would not allow.
Speaking of things our budget would not allow, we had dinner at the "casual" (so sayeth the concierge) Portland City Grill, high up on the 30th floor of the U.S. Bank Building, affording us a panoramic view of pretty much the whole city. Dinner was very good (and the dessert was fresh-baked cookies, batches custom done for each table, whooof), but cost more than our usual budget for a whole day. Still, it gave us a chance to get our bearings a bit, comparing actual landmarks to items on our various maps, and as I say the food was very good. So we chalked it up to a vacation splurge and refused to feel guilty about it.
(Walking back to the hotel, we had to cross the street to avoid a drug pusher, le sigh. For all Portland's charm, it is still a city, with the grime that implies.)
But that was the end of our day, rather than the beginning, so let me backtrack a little. The morning began very pleasantly at the Red Lion Inn of Eureka, Laurie and I both having had quite satisfying sleeps. (A nice contrast from the night before!) We then toddled down to the restaurant and had pancakes-a-plenty, garnished with some eggs and a bit of fried ham, and then it was back onto Rt. 101 North, pausing only to be snarked at by the attendant at the "Gas-4-Less" and asked "to help out a military veteran." (I suppose the idea was that on Memorial Day, people would be more inclined to fork over some cash, but by the time I realized he was panhandling at me, I'd already told him I wasn't buying. Honestly, I'm pretty unsympathetic to any would-be beggar who actually has "a pitch" anyhow. If somebody has an emergency and needs cash or a lift somewhere or something, I'm pretty open-handed; if somebody is making a pitch for a charitable institution, again, I try to be generous within my means. But if someone just doesn't have anything better to do than loiter in a gas station parking lot asking for money, my general feeling is that they should find a hobby. If they can't hold a job, well, that's what the charitable institutions I mentioned earlier are for. But I'm digressing like crazy here.)
The ride up 101 is frankly gorgeous, both in the sense of being beautiful, and also in the sense of being full of gorges. You pretty much can't throw a rock without seeing a big honkin' mountain or a breathtaking seascape, and half the time you see both simultaneously. Fortunately, I had enough self-discipline to keep my mind on the road instead of staring at a beautiful view as I drove off the side of a mountain into a lovely emerald green river below. But it was a struggle sometimes!
We made two major stops in Redwoods National Park; the first was the southern park information center, out on the beach at the foot of a mountain, with breathtaking views of offshore rocks and all that kind of good stuff. The second was the Simpson-Reed Grove, basically a wide spot on the road where you could park and walk around trails among the giant redwoods.
I'd heard lots of talk over the years about how impressive the giant redwoods are -- and it's all true. They aren't just huge and incomprehensibly old -- although they are both of those -- but they have an amazing ability to endure. The ones we saw had all been damaged by some kind of brushfire, but had more or less said, "Is that the best you can do?" and kept on growing. There were trunks that had fallen so long ago that other trunks just as huge were growing out of them now ... and there were several trunks that made natural bridges across enormous open spaces, just by virtue of the fact that they were a thousand feet long and five feet thick. I, for one, fully support giant redwood veneration, the same way you should venerate your grandparents, if not more so. These trees were thriving when Columbus was just a gleam in Mama and Papa Columbus' respective eyes. Some of these trees were probably sprouting when William of Normandy decided that the English were getting too uppity and he needed to put his foot down.
Our only other major stops before we arrived in Portland as reported above were a regrettable Burger King lunch in Crescent City (a run-down strip of road populated by mobile homes) and a brief stop in Eugene to raid a Starbucks and put still more gas in the ever-thirsty Escape. Eugene, what we saw of it anyway, looked like a very nice little college town, which earned my approval. More places should be very nice little college towns, if you want my honest opinion. Unfortunately the painful truth about the rest of central Oregon, as far as I can tell, is that it's mind-bogglingly dull. But Laurie and I had each other and P.G. Wodehouse, and that was enough.
(Actually, we eventually finished with the Wodehouse too -- the surprise ending was that Jeeves fixed everything and all was right again. Shocker, eh? So we listened to various stations on the Sirius sattelite radio in the Thirsty Escape. On the whole, I think I prefer XM Radio -- but I digress again.)
Anyway, it's just about bedtime now. Tomorrow we do our major exploration of Portland, including our trip to Powell's. Yay! G'nite 'til then.