You don’t often have to opportunity to witness history in the making. But it really was a privilege, an honour and a delight to witness our friend Una being installed as Judge of the Superior Court of Alaska. at the Boney Memorial Courthouse, Anchorage.
This was such a positive event compared with what was happening on the other side of the country. Brett Kavanaugh has been appointed to the US Supreme Court. But several women have accused him of sexual assault. Will he take the seat? Probably. The pictures from Washington DC show old, white males, even if they believe the accusations, just not caring. It’s too horrible to contemplate. So I’m going to stick to events in Anchorage.
I don’t pretend to understand the details and niceties of the Alaskan judicial system but it was wonderful to hear five other judges, from various courts, speak about Una in such glowing terms. We’re really proud of her achievements. The Installation, sometimes referred to as Intubation, Inauguration, Ordination, depending on who can’t quite recall the correct terminology, was a very positive event.
Una becomes the first brown woman, or ‘woman of colour’, appointed to this position. Four out of the five other justices were women. We felt bad for the token white male. No, we didn’t: he was just as pleased to be there as the rest of us.
The award for the best personal address of the day goes to Geeta, Una’s sister. She was very funny and I just hope someone recorded this talk: a little bit of self-deprecation but a beautifully told story of a close, supportive, if competitive family.
After the formalities concluded, many of us went to the Snow City Café for the Reception, a chance to mingle and meet old freinds and new.
Liesel and I had picked her Mom up from work, leaving Dad at home. At Snow City, we drank wine, toasted Una and generally ligged.
Later in the evening, we repaired to Una and Phil’s house where a box of old photos provided much entertainment.
Una’s been a good friend to Liesel for many years, decades even, and I too am very fond of her. Why?
It’s Wednesday again. The day the cleaners arrive by 7.30am meaning that we have to be up and out of bed. So we went out for breakfast. It was cold that early in the day, brrr, Liesel even suggested I put on a coat and long trousers. Pfft. Later on, the weather lady on TV confirmed that it was indeed the coldest start to a day since mid-May.
We went to see Yoshi, a friend of Wayne’s, for some advice about our trip to Japan. He’s been organising tours for many years and knows the place backwards. He’s also Japanese. While speaking with him in his 12th floor office, we watched a bank of fog roll in over Anchorage and roll away again. We have our train tickets sorted and a tour of Tokyo a couple of days after we arrive.
Later on, we went for a walk with Jyoti down in Kincaid Park. We hiked along a very damp grassy trail, quite hilly in fact, and we ended up overlooking the inlet and Fire Island and some mountains way over there.
We came across an old open-cast car-tyre mine, which is obviously no longer in operation.
The snow-clad mountains look like a postcard. Looking at a map, this is either the Neacola or the Chigmit Mountain Range, but as always, I’m open to correction. Either way, the snow came down much further than that in the Chugach range. So far, but the season is young.
Good Greeff, another unusual sign. And no, on this occasion, there were no high-speed skiers or mountain bikers coming our way.
Nutburgers and chips for supper. I listened to Word of Mouth twice (because I nodded off during the first attempt) and to the Cerys Matthews Blues Programme.
My mission, which I chose to accept, was to sell some items left over from the Garage Sale a few weeks ago. We have old National Geographic magazines, old jigsaw puzzles, a set of German porcelain and some other bits and pieces. I’m not having much luck. Nobody showed any interest on eBay. Facebook Marketplace keeps giving me error messages. And Craig’s List won’t let me upload more than one photo at a time. It really is Mission: Impossible. But I shall persevere and I will make some progress before the end of the movie.
On the way to see her financial advisor this afternoon, Liesel dropped me off elsewhere. I had a fantastic massage: my muscles and bones creaked and groaned as she used thumbs, elbows, knees and feet to gain maximum pressure and leverage. She must have thought my fingers and toes were telescopic, the way she pulled at them, clicking each knuckle in turn. And she really messed up my hair with the head massage. But it was great, I think I feel better for it, much less tight and coiled up.
Afterwards, I walked home as it was warm, the sky was blue, the wind had died down and it was a thoroughly pleasant jaunt.
I was thinking how clean the roads are here compared with England. There are $1000 fines for littering, and sections of the highway are taken care of by different groups or organisations.
Today, though, I began to notice things that were out of place.
But never mind the rubbish, the views are still fantastic.
Apart from the views, though, walking around this part of Anchorage is not as interesting as, say, walking around Chessington. There, I can make it up as I go along and I can make sudden changes to the planned route, left, right, right, left, etc. Here in Anchorage, though, the roads are long and straight and I can’t deviate or decide to take a shortcut and take a long detour. There is one route from A to B and that’s it.
A cyclist stop to warn me that there was a female moose further down the road, and that she was a bit grumpy, so this cyclist and her children were going to cross the road. She set off, her daughter set off, but her son stayed put. His chain had fallen off so I did my good turn for the day and put it back onto the derailleur. I can report that Alaskan grass is just as good as English grass at wiping bicycle chain oil off my hands.
I was hoping, of course, to see some wildlife: moose, bear, wolf, yeti, wolverine, polar bear, sasquatch, orca, beaver, otter, marmot, marmite, eskimo, something big and interesting, but again, I was disapppointed. I did see and nearly trip over this alien though:
After supper, Liesel and I went for another quick walk, this time to Kincaid Park. Liesel is still suffereing some discomfort, sadly. Having a rest day or two helps a bit but walking any distance seems to bring back the pain to some extent. The Sun was low in the sky and really lit up this tree, you could almost warm your hands on it.
All the runners that passed us waved hello, such a friendly, young and fit bunch of people.
In May 1980, Sarah and I were enjoying the World Snooker Championship Final on TV. Suddenly, the game was interrupted by a urgent news report.
A group of six armed men had stormed the Iranian Embassy in London a few days earlier. During this very exciting snooker match, the SAS stormed the Embassy in a bid to end the seige and liberate the hostages. All very exciting, yes, but we wanted our snooker back.
There were only three TV channels in the UK at the time and all of them were showing live pictures from the Iranian Embassy.
I think hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people must have complained to the BBC because fairly soon, we returned to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield to watch the rest of the match. Canadian Cliff Thorburn beat Alex Higgins, becoming the first ever non-British World Snooker Champion.
All this came back to mind this morning when Klaus became very animated when his favourite TV show was interrupted by a long breaking news item. Bill Cosby has been found guilty of drugging and sexually attacking a woman, and will serve between three and ten years in jail.
Can’t we have ‘The Price is Right’ back, begged Klaus. To be fair, the report did go on a bit too long, and really, it’s not that big a news story. Certainly when compared with the storming of an embassy.
The big question now of course is, why were we in the same room while that show was on TV? Well, breakfast. The other question is, will Bill Cosby follow in OJ Simpson’s footsteps and write a book called “I didn’t drug and rape that woman but if I wanted to, this is how I would have gone about it”?
Sunday morning, Leslie and Liesel went to the shops. I declined the invitation to join them: instead, I caught up with emails and other administrative tasks. They brought me back some Japanese noodles for lunch, in an attempt to expand my Japanese palate.
We went for a quick walk in the afternoon before being joined for dinner by Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon. Enchiladas, since you ask. And yes, plenty of leftovers.
Next day, Liesel went to the dentist very early. We then drove to Girdwood, just to see the colours of the trees changing. First stop was Kaladi Brothers for coffee. There are a couple of pictures on display here that we’d like to buy. The one I like is, of course, the more expensive. The one Liesel prefers will match our new curtains better!
The views were really gorgeous, especially when the Sun was out. We stopped for an early lunch at The Bake Shop in Girdwood but decided it was too misty and murky to take the lift up the mountain on this occasion, but I hope we do so before we leave Alaska.
After driving back to Anchorage, Liesel visited the physio again while I listened to a lovely hour of radio. On BBC 6 Music, Tom Robinson interviewing Eddi Reader and playing many of her songs. Catch it while you can!
After stopping at Carrs, a supermarket, Liesel drove home while I walked the three miles or so. It was windy but warm and very pleasant. And very colourful. The snow on the distant mountains is called ‘termination dust’, as it’s an indication of the end of Summer.
After the medics, a couple of days of pure fun. No more dentists, no more doctors, at least for the time being. Then the following dialogue:
Liesel: My tooth just fell out.
Mick: Oh no, not again.
Liesel: Out of my purse.
Yes, Liesel was hoping the tooth fairy would visit her purse and leave a bright shiny sixpence for the piece of tooth that fell out of her actual mouth a week ago.
Liesel got up first, as usual, and I stayed in bed with Cerys. Her music show on BBC 6 Music is probably my favourite and I’ve been missing it for a few months.
Later, Liesel and I were meeting up with Amrit for lunch. We arranged to meet at Pad Thai, which was closed last time due to refurbishment. And, guess what? It was temporarily closed today as well, due to a gas leak. We’ll have one more attempt before accepting that the cosmic forces just don’t want the three of us to eat at Pad Thai.
Instead, we went for an Indian buffet and that was very enjoyable.
We walked to the Performing Arts Center to buy tickets for an Anchorage Symphony concert in a couple of weeks time.
When we were in Italy two years with Jyoti, Suvan and Gita, we visited a lot of museums and galleries, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Uffizi, all the usual visitor attractions. We greatly admired the artwork of course but at the risk of being struck by a thunderbolt, we did get a bit fed up with all the Madonna and Child paintings. The Pokémon GO of the time.
So imagine our surprise when we visited Kaladi Brothers Coffee Downtown branch
to be greeted by a Madonna and Child. A Leonardo original. Well, maybe not.
Liesel: We’re going to join Monica for a stake-out.
Mick: Oh, whereabouts?
So, yes, Sullivan’s Steakhouse was where we met Monica for a lovely glass of Glenlivet, so smooth on the tongue. And another reminder that we need our hearing tested!
We’d offered to take Asa out for a meal, but it was quite hard tracking him down.
By mistake, we went into an ice hockey venue, which was pretty cold, surprisingly. But even more surprising was the size of the pucks they were playing with: almost as big as car tyres.
And as a mathematician, I was intrigued by the local addresses being shown in binary notation:
Eventually, we found Asa in a different sports centre.
La Cabana was where we ended up after two first choice restaurants had long waits, over half an hour. We had a good time and lots of good food. Too much food, really, for this English person with an English-sized stomach.
car alarm(noun) (1) Device installed in a vehicle designed to wake up everyone in the neighbourhood, in the middle of the night, apart from the owner of the vehicle. (2) Arguably the worst invention ever.
This is how the day began for us. The sound even drowned out the torrential rain that had tried to keep us awake all night.
We walked around to Jyoti’s house for breakfast where I again managed to eat too much.
We both remarked on how lovely the Autumn season is on this equinoctial weekend. It was a little bit cooler today and the headwind was a bit annoying. But the trees are very pretty.
But Winter draws on too. The first snow has fallen on top of the mountains way over there in the distance. As time goes on, the snow will appear lower and lower down the mountains until it threatens to leave Anchorage knee-deep in snow and ice. One weather app briefly forecast snow for Monday but thankfully, that’s changed, and the person responsible has been severely punished.
We walked home again and a couple of cars pulled up beside us. We were warned that there was a bull moose close to the path, just round the corner. Well, again, I was torn between wanting to see the moose and wanting to stay safe. We crossed the road, but we never did see the bull: it had probably just crossed the road and gone straight into the woods.
We drove to see Amy and her family for a chat and to taste test Kathy’s peach cobbler. I had to have two slices just to make sure it was OK. It was delicious! I’d met Kathy and Wayne, Amy’s parents, just once, probably over ten years ago. Amy’s sister Kara came by too.
Wayne and Kathy gave us lots of useful tips for our trip to Japan, and we talked about our overall travel plans.
A couple of days of mainly medical matters, not very interesting really. So here’s a picture of some daisies, Liesel’s favourite flowers.
Liesel went to the dentist as one of her teeth broke a couple of days ago. She also arranged to collect a new batch of her prescription drugs. The pharmacy was inside Walmart so while waiting, I wandered over to the firearms department. The handguns are cheaper than mobile phones. I couldn’t decide which one to go for, but like 99% of the population in USA, I don’t really need one anyway. On a day in which there were three, yes, three mass shootings in USA, I’m glad I decided to save my money.
We tidied up Jyoti’s house a bit, we were moving back to Klaus and Leslie’s today. Later on I walked home from Jyoti’s house and I can confirm that Autumn is here. The colours are changing.
In the evening, Klaus watched Blue Bloods on TV. We all did. Too much TV recently. On the other hand, I did listen to some familiar radio programmes so I don’t feel too badly sullied.
It was my turn to visit a doctor today to get a prescription for my meds. Lots of form-filling for such a formality. A man came up to us in the car park. I thought we were being reprimanded for parking in the wrong place. But no. He was interested in buying Klaus’s sports car, the one Liesel and I were using. I was open to offers but it’s not really for sale at this time.
I really should stop taking pictures inside lavatories, but this little graffiti made me laugh:
We went to the airport to pick Jyoti up: she’d spent a few ore days with Gita and Josh in Portland. While waiting close by the Alaska Aviation Museum, I went to take some photos and Liesel warned me that I was about to walk over a working runway. I looked both ways and saw no planes coming before running across!
We took Jyoti home and we had time for a quick walk before Liesel’s next physio appointment. More dry needling in the bum, with extra long needles today, woohoo! While she was being poked, and indeed having her back massaged as well, I walked to the post office to send off some items. Lots of form-filling for such a simple task.
Liesel and I met for a coffee before picking up my meds from Target.
Meanwhile, today, Klaus had a haircut and a pedicure. I too need a haircut, so so I keep being told. But I am not seeking treatment for my bashed-up nose.
The good news is that we’ve experienced the warmest September in Anchorage, ever! Maybe paying for temporary gym membership was worth it: we’d rather have the good weather than have to go to the gym because it’s horrible outside.
Liesel’s birthday was celebrated in style. Her Mom made her famous pull-aparts for breakfast! No birthday cake, though. One highlight was a video from lovely Martha wishing her Oma a happy birthday.
Gita took us to see Josh, who was working today in the nearby Nehalem Bay State Park, with plenty of food for his very late breakfast. His commute between here and Portland is quite a long one, so he sometimes kips in the car near the park. Staying in a house with us all for a few days was luxury.
I walked back to our accommodation, not sure whether I should be talking loudly to myself or singing: I didn’t think to ask if there were bears in the area.
But there are elks. I didn’t see one, but I did see the warning sign on our drive to Seaside later in the day.
Gita drove us: it rained a lot on the way. The main attraction for the ladies was the outlets. I didn’t need to see any shopping centres, I’ve seen the mall, as they say.
So after agreeing to meet up with them two hours later, I went for a walk. I was on the search for coffee. What a disaster that was. Number 1 didn’t look very nice. Number 2 looked interesting from a distance but was closed due to refurbishment. Number 3, despite calling itself a café, only sold wine and beer. And Number 4 was a drive-through coffee shop and I would have felt totally stupid queueing behind a huge 4×4. So, no coffee for me, at that time.
But I did enjoy the walk to the actual beach, infinitely more enjoyable than walking round shops when you know you shouldn’t be buying stuff!
It’s halfway through September so I suspect this little front garden cemetary has nothing to do with Hallowe’en:
On my return to the shops, I met Liesel, Gita and Jyoti. Liesel had bought me a couple of shirts (hooray!) and some other bits and pieces for the little people we know back home.
I described my lack-of-coffee experience so Jyoti used her nose and her phone to Google local coffee shops and found one a few blocks away. We drove there and had a great coffee. The barista was very cheerful, happy and smiley, jolly and full of fun and laughter, with red hair and tattoos. I asked for a latte with whatever drugs she was on. (No, of course I didn’t, but I thought about it.)
We’ve noticed that as well as playing Beatles and other British music, many coffee shops support local artists by displaying their works. Most of it is fantastic, some (to me) is nothing special but every now and then, we see a picture that we’d really like to own.
The weather had changed for the better, so on the drive back to Manzanita, we were able to see things. beautiful things, the sea, stacks, so we stopped at a few of the viewpoints and wandered down to a beach.
We didn’t see elk or any other wildlife larger than a seagull and a squirrel. The most unusual creature was a hairy, yellow caterpillar just over an inch long.
It was too cloudy that night to try for more photos of the stars. And the next day, we had to leave this little paradise and return to Anchorage.
Liesel drove along The Pacific Highway, 101, most of the way back to Seattle International Airport.
The music played by my phone was different today. We heard songs from people we hadn’t heard before on this trip. Tom Hingley, Terra Naomi, Bic Runga, Tom Robinson, Pink Floyd, Björk all made a welcome appearance or two. Mary Hopkin’s new recording of Those Were the Days is stunning.
We stopped to have a look at and climb up Astoria Column for a terrific view all round.
I counted 164 steps up the spiral staircase only to find that at the top, every one of those steps was numbered and sponsored by an individual.
We’re planning our 2044 holiday already. We want to be here for the opening of this time capsule:
One surprise was when I looked down at the GPS display and it told us we were at Lake Tahoe. I thought we were driving north to Seattle, not south to California and Nevada. How do you explain this? No prizes, just for fun.
We drove over a really long bridge into Washington state: another fantastic feat of engineering.
Autumn really is coming on, here, the leaves are turning yellow and are just waiting to be blown off the trees.
Our GPS had a couple of hiccups. After we joined the I-5, it tried to take us off on and drive an extra loop before rejoining the highway. Not once, but twice. And as we drove through the Lewis-McChord military base. the GPS displayed no features other than the road itself. Everything else was greyed out.
We dropped the car off, and entered the airport. Good news: the rocking chairs were good fun. Bad news: we sat to eat at a table that was located right by the toilets.
It was nice to see facilities provided for breast-feeding mothers. Or: it was very disappointing to see that breast-feeding mothers are supposed to hide in a cupboard in case somebody takes offence at the sight of a baby with a boob. The hard plastic seat inside didn’t look very comfortable, either.
Well, the flight was OK, I played a couple of games, thrashed the aeroplane at backgammon, I listened to the new album by Florence + the Machine, the one that Felix had played for us the other day. And I read a lot.
Liesel’s long time friend Amy was kind enough to come out at nearly midnight to pick us up from Anchorage airport. Liesel and I are spending a couple of nights at Jyoti’s house as our room at Liesel’s parents is currently occupied by two young German visitors.
I incurred the first serious injury of the trip when the car boot door tried to break my nose. Fortunately, my glasses were not affected.
We’ve had a couple of relatively quiet days based at Jyoti’s. Reading, listening to radio programmes, binge-watching old series of Scandal. I walked up to the bluff for the scenic view, and into the woods a bit.
I would have gone further but I kept hearing animal noises. Scary.
We set out to walk back to the folks’ house, a couple of miles away, but Klaus drove by on his way back from the supermarket and gave us a lift home. On the path, though, I did manage to get a couple of photos of dragonflies. Not the pretty blue ones we’d seen close to water. And not on a nice, green, leafy background either. But it was good to see that they can sit down and have a little rest for me.
After a sandwich at home, Liesel drove to the physio again for more dry needling. I walked to a coffee shop and met Liesel at Carrs for more food shopping. I was pleased to see the full and correct name of a popular time traveller:
Today, we went out for a walk with Una at noon along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. We passed many other walkers, runners and cyclists. In fact, at one point there is a display showing how many cyclists have passed by today, this month, last month and the yearly total.
The photo doesn’t show the display correctly, but there were over 700 today and 58,000 this month. Quite impressive.
Una returned to work at the courthouse and Liesel and I went for a brunch / lunch at The Beartooth.
At Kaladi Brothers Coffee over the road, I confirmed why the world is in such a mess, Bexit, Trump, everything. Someone summed it up in one succinct scrawl:
Liesel dropped me off to buy some apples and I walked the last mile back to Jyoti’s
Jewel Lake is a very pretty lake and there were a few people fishing from the jetty. Close to Jewel Lake, we find Emerald Drive, Jade Street and Topaz Avenue. There’s a theme here, I thought. But I was walking along a big spelling mistake: W Dimond Boulevard. Oops, no. It’s named after Anthony Dimond, a local politician from way back.
Oh: Lake Tahoe. No, we weren’t there, obviously. The screen also displays the name of the song being played at the time and Lake Tahoe is by the fabulous Kate Bush.
In preparation for a few days beside the seaside, we went to CostCo to get some food. It was 9am. The shop didn’t open until 10. So much for it being conveniently located so close to our Airbnb!
We passed the time with coffee and bagels. Again, the café was playing Beatles music. Most of them seem to in America, which is OK by me as I have no Beatles music on my phone!
As we drove by the so-called Sniff Dog Hotel, Liesel said, “Isn’t that just a kennel?”
Shopping done, we drove into Portland to meet Jyoti and Gita for a late breakfast. It’s a hilly old city is Portland, when you have to walk that far for what for us was an early lunch.
Cheryl’s was where we ended up after the first place told us there was a 35-minute wait. My tummy grumbled its disapproval, I think everyone’s did, which is why we ended up at Cheryl’s. And the background music was by…? No prizes, just for fun! (The Beatles, of course.)
We walked back up the hill via the biggest bookshop in the world, Powell’s Books, and guess whose book was the first one I noticed, prominently displayed by one of the front doors?
We spent quite a while in this shop, I could’ve bought several books. Instead I just added the titles to my ‘list of books to read one day’: we are travelling light, after all.
The best and funniest toy was this:
We carried on walking and passed he library where we saw this sculpture: Dans La Nuit (Lovers) made by Gaston Lachaise in 1934.
This was a spooky moment because, while in the bookshop just few minutes earlier, I’d misread the title of a JRR Tolkien book as ‘The Two Lovers’.
We left Gita and her Mom at her apartment while we drove out of Portland and towards the Pacific Ocean. The drive was a couple of hours long, through the trees, lots of trees, it was very green. And hilly. And of course, it rained again while we were on the road. But this had its compensations when we stopped to look at the view. Early in the afternoon, the Sun is quite high in the sky, so any rainbow will be low down. Wow, what a beautiful sight.
As we approached Manzanita, not only was the road hilly, hitting altitudes of b etween 1000 and 2000 feet, it became more and more winding. Whoever designed that section of the road must have been drunk! Actually, I suspect the hills determined the route of the road.
We found our Airbnb easily, and as the blurb had siad, it is just a five minute walk to the beach. Klaus and Leslie were already there having spent the previous night just down the road.
We walked down to the baech to watch the Sun set over the ocean but alas and alack, the horizon was shrouded in cloud. It was still a wonderful sight though, the beach was very long and the tide was out and there were very few other people. The only problem was, the grass growing on the dunes is very sharp and pointed.
Jyoti, Gita and Josh arrived later, and, having eaten on the way, we all wandered down to the beach again. The sky was as dark as I’ve ever seen: no light pollution. As our eyes adjusted, we saw hundreds of stars, some recognisable constellations and best of all, the Milky Way arched overhead. We never see it that clearly at home in England, so this really was a treat.
Josh works as a Park Ranger locally and he said this was the clearest he’d ever seen it too.
Next day after Liesel got up, I played around with the camera on my phone. It was unlikely but I thought, if the sky’s that dark and clear tonight too, I want to try and take some photos. So I worked out th optimum settings and kept my fingers crossed.
After an eggy breakfast thanks to Liesel and her grandma’s old recipe, most of us went for a long, long walk on the beach. My legs enjoyed being scratched by the grass.
There were quite a few other people on the beach today, which we found a bit intrusive. There were signs that bikes had been ridden earlier, and horses too. There was even a big dollop of horse manure.
We saw some seals in the sea, lots of seabirds, the most interesting one being a pelican: it’s mouth can hold more than its belly can.
Plenty of driftwood at the top of the beach, a couple of jellyfish near the highgtide line, some seaweed but most importantly, Sun, sea, sand and, er, blue skies with fabulous fluffy clouds.
When we found the gap in the dunes that would take us back to our home for the weekend, we sat down, lay down, had a kip, soaked up some rays. It was just like being on holiday.
Later in the afternoon, we went to the township itself, Manzanita where there was a Farmers Market for late risers: it didn’t open until 4pm. We looked in all the shops too, on the mian road.
It’s 2018 and so sad that it is still necessary to put this sort of sign up in a window. Surely this should be the default setting by now?
Farmers Market, then: coffee, scones, cookies, apples, free ice cream because it’s the last one of the year, cheese samples, blueberries, all justified because of our incredibly long walk this morning.
On the other hand, Jyoti and I walked back to our luxury beachside accommodation with her (Gita’s) dog Shanti while Liesel and her Mom looked at more shops.
After dark, after everyone had gone to bed, I went out into the dark night with my phone and a book. Yes, nice and drak, but disappointingly, there were clouds obscuring the view. I could see stars but couldn’t make out the Milky Way tonight. Still, I took some photos and while I can’t identify any of the objects in the field of view, it looks like stars! And the background is dark too. So, all my experimenting in bed this morning paid off. Have a look at this photo: this might not work, but try to download it and see if you can view any stars when the picture’s enlarged:
Wednesday was a sad day. We said goodbye to Holly and her family. We hope to see them all again soon, sometime, somewhere and of course they’ll always be welcome to visit us in Manchester when we’re back home!
As soon as Liesel started the car today, the audio system started playing music from my phone. Without asking, the Bluetooth connected and turned on my music-playing app. I’ll never understand this technology. A few days ago, the car and my phone didn’t want to talk to each other at all. Today, they couldn’t wait to rush into each other’s arms.
Also, it started to rain again more or less straightaway. So again, we didn’t see much from the I-5. Cascades? Over there somewhere, through the murk.
Liesel requested shuffle mode on the music, so we had quite a variety. Neil Diamond was the first artiste to give us two tracks while Seth Lakeman was the first to 3 and to 4. Not that I was counting. But the view from the car was disappointing. We’d not seen anything on the drive north the other night because it was dark. Today, it was raining. Raining so hard that Liesel was being hypnotised by the windscreen wipers.
We stopped at the first Panera Bread we found for coffee and a loaf of cheesey bread. The assistant apologised for cutting it thin instead of thick, but we didn’t mind, it wouldn’t last long! Like a good novel, it was unputdownable.
What a strange juxtaposition: Elbow followed by Slim Dusty.
I was quite happy that there were no duplicates played and no MP3 radio programmes being played. At least, not for a very long time. Much later, I had to hastily turn off episode 9 of the latest series of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
I commented on the absense of songs by Björk but of course, Liesel was quite happy about that. She said at one point, pretty soon you’re gonna have to start taking notes! I told her I already was. Liesel rolled her eyes.
Before Seattle, we were able to use the HOV lane. That’s for buses and cars with 2 or more occupants. We found out that HOV just means Heavily Occupied Vehicle. As we passed dozens, scores, hundreds of almost stationary cars in the other lanes, I said “so long, suckers”. Well, karma came up and bit us on the ass: we turned off the road by mistake, towards the Park & Ride car park, and lost a lot of time trying to rejoin the interstate.
Jyoti sent a message to say that she was already in Portland, it was sunny and she was cooking. It was hard to believe the weather would change that much during the next 80-odd miles. All we could see was black clouds and rain.
I wondered why the Highway numbers on the GPS and on road signs had a mushroom cloud as a background image. But on close inspection, I realised it’s a profile of George Washington!
I chuckled at an Ian Dury song that came on: Razzle in my Pocket. I thought I should create a playlist from our music collection consisting of funny songs: that would certainly lift the mood on a long drive like this.
Because I’m a wimp, I’d decided I wouldn’t drive this car on (to me) the wrong side of the road, but I did feel a little bit bad that Liesel was doing all the hard work, especially in such conditions.
Just as I was thinking how well the roads were constructed and how good they were at dealing with all this water falling from the sky, the spray from the other carriageway swept over the central reservation: we had our own little Niagara Falls.
It was a long drive and the music was varied, but even so, we were now hearing several songs from the same artistes and I realised that I should have copied over an even more extensive subset of our music collection. The other problem was, some tracks were a lot quieter than others, and not just because some are downloaded MP3 while others are copied from CDs. Plus, I do miss hearing new (to me) music from time to time such as you’d get from Cerys Matthews on 6 Music.
And as I was thinking that, along came Ruarri Joseph. Yes, we have the CD, but we’re not that familiar with it, yet. Good stuff!
As I was looking out of the right side of the car, Liesel told me Mount St Helens, the volcano, was on the left side. Somewhere. Through the murk! We’ll just add it to our list of places to go back to sometime.
Lo and behold! The Sun came out just as we heard sunshine from the car’s speakers: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing Panini Pua Kea in Hawaiian!
We passed close by Vancouver but this was a different, smaller one, in Washington. In fact, it’s a suburb of Portland, Oregon. One city divided across two states by the Columbia river. When we drove over the bridge, we felt we were nearly there.
At one place, two lines of traffic merge. The lights quickly flip from green to red to green, letting just one car at a time from each lane move forward. That’s strange, but it seems to work and you’re not relying on other drivers being courteous.
The first stop was Beaverton, the location of our Airbnb. It’s just along the road from Nike’s world headquarters and they’ve been in the news recently for using Colin Kaepernick in their adverts.
Tyler met us at the door, showed us round. There is a white noise machine in our room, in case we need help getting to sleep: some noisy neighbours, apparently! What we didn’t realise was that the only noise would come from our hosts, Tyler and David, doing their laundry late at night!
We set off for Gita’s place in the centre of town. Not far away, but really awkward to get to. In the end, Gita and Jyoti came out on to the street to jump about and wave so we could see where we were trying to get to!
In the apartment, Jyoti gave us donuts and a coffee that she’d bought for me earlier.
It was good to meet Gita again after all this time. We’d last seen her in Italy a couple of years ago.
Gita’s partner Josh returned from work: this is the first time Liesel and I had met him although we’d heard a lot about him from Jyoti!
Over the course of the evening, Jyoti’s brother-in-law Eric arrived with his wife Laurie as did some of Gita’s friends from Portland State University. I think there were 13 people in the apartment at one point, plus a dog. Again, Jyoti’s food was the main attraction and brilliant it was too. And so much of it…
Gita’s Uncle Eric was chatting and as he moved back, he stood on the dog’s squeaky toy. This made eveyone laugh, but outside, there was an immediate and very loud clap of thunder. Eric won’t be standing on any squeaky toys for a little while! It rains a lot here, but apparently it’s very rare to have a thunderstorm.
Liesel drove us home and I think we were both asleep very quickly. Liesel was obviously worn out from all the driving but I’d had limited exercise all day and somehow still felt exhausted. Sympathetic fatigue, probably.