Anchors Aweigh

All good things come to an end. I will miss my all but daily trips to Kaladi Brothers Coffee shops. I don’t think I’ve visited all possible branches, but I’ve been to quite a few!

On the way back home on Sunday afternoon, I noticed how bald the trees are now. They were green when we arrived, yellow for a while and now devoid of all foliage.

Naked trees

Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon joined us for dinner one more time. It reinforced how hard it will be to move on.

That, plus we’d chatted with Martha and William on Whatsapp (and Jenny and Liam to a lesser extent) earlier; and on this day, William’s 11th month birthday, the slippery slope to homesickness beckoned for the first time, really.

Lovely William

On our last full day in Alaska, we started packing. We’re still tryig to travel light but somehow our bags are now heavier than they used to be! I have a couple of new shirts, but I did throw away a holey, bloody pair of socks (blood from small stone burrowing into my heel).

Liesel had her final appointment with the physiotherapist who showed me the spot on Liesel’s back where I can poke and prod in an effort to ease her discomfort. (By spot, I mean the location an inch to the right of Liesel’s sacral shelf, not an actual spot, although there is a nearby freckle to help guide me.)

We visited Amy and her folks Wayne and Cathy one last time. This was another emotional parting.

After another spell of packing (here’s a tip: refolding items and rotating them doesn’t reduce their weight), we went to see the boys one last time. Amongst other things, we grown-ups discussed whether the boys should be allowed to watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I don’t know, all I could remember was the song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. We also mentioned the the larger-than-life character Mr Creosote who came to grief in The Meaning of Life. Could such a person really exist?

Again, saying goodbye was hard but they, and Anchorage, will still be there, and we hope they visit us in England one day (hint, hint).

Jodi, Gideon, Aaron, Asa
Klaus and Leslie

In the evening, we joined Una, Phil and Kiran at Seoul Casa. As the name implies (does it?) this is a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant. The kimchi-rito was a very fat burrito with cabbage and tofu and very nice but again, too much for this Englsih stomach.

Seoul Casa

Another sad but fond farewell. We’re going to miss the people and places of Anchorage but, let’s be positive, we are continuing our adventure for several more months and that can only be a good thing.

We rose at sparrowfart Tuesday morning for our early flight to Seattle. I finished my packing just in time before Klaus and Leslie drove us to the airport. The final emotional goodbye but we soon forgot about that when we entered the airport.

We used a machine to check in. It knew about Liesel but not about me. So we had to go to a desk and get help. There, we were told how busy it was, the security queue was miles long and we only had ten minutes! Holy moly. Because we’d checked in at different desks, we were seated ten rows apart. I was randomly given TSA Pre-check status so I went striaght to the front of the security queue while ordinary people such as Liesel waited and waited and waited.

We made the flight ok, and we were both in the middle seat of our respective rows. The other day, we found out that airline etiquette says that if you’re in the middle seat, you have the right to use both armrests. But guess who I was sitting next to? That’s right: Mr Creosote. There was no way I could pull down the armrest between me and him!

We appreciated the entertainment provided by the Alaskan Air crew. The girl at the gate sang for us and the chief steward on the plane was very funny too, with her commentary, especially telling people to wait for the ‘ding’ before being allowed to stand up when the plane finished taxiing.

I read for the duration of the flight

We were a little late arriveing at Seattle and our next flight is delayed even further.

We checked in for our next flight on the only airline that I know of named after a John Wayne film: Hainan. There was a problem with my passport (I think) but I don’t know what it was, or why it took so long to check me in. Confusion between UK, EU and GBR? We don’t know whether our veggie meals are still on the system, so we’ve acquired some snacks, just in case.

We had a nice lunch at Floret, a vegetarian restaurant in the A Gates area. Don’t be put off by the fact that it looks like a wine bar. I had shepherds pie made with lentils, very nice, but not as nice as Jyoti’s dahl, of course.

So here we are, sleepless in Seattle waiting to board our flight to… wait for it… Beijing…

Scandal

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!

I would have gone for a dip… but…. shark??
Mountain mist

It’s halfway through September so I suspect this little front garden cemetary has nothing to do with Hallowe’en:

Spooky

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.)

Seaside Coffee House, a fun place

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.

Happy eagle, sad fish

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.

Liesel and Jyoti with a sea stack
The Oregon coast is wonderful: trees right up to the 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.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge
Astoria Column
Detail from Astoria Column
A windy selfie

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.

Lake Tahoe

We drove over a really long bridge into Washington state: another fantastic feat of engineering.

Astoria-Megler Bridge – the longest continuous truss bridge in north America

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.

Rock me gently, rock me slowly
Breast-feeders in here

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.

Florence

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.

A quick walk in the woods

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.

Dragonfly (good) (background rubbish)

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:

Upstairs to the Tardis?

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.

Countless cyclists
Eagles

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:

Reality TV –> Apprentice –> President Trump

Liesel dropped me off to buy some apples and I walked the last mile back to Jyoti’s

Jewel Lake

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.

The Drive to Portland

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.

Most of Washington state looks like this, apparently

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!

Nuclear explosion or 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.

One of many Meccano bridges

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.

Tennant Lake

Pat, Liesel and I went for a walk to Tennant Lake. There’s a nice boardwalk there, so it shouldn’t be too muddy, we thought.

What we didn’t anticipate was that the boardwalk would be closed because it’s now hunting season.

Duck hunts

But not to be deterred, we had a nice walk anyway, just not as far.

Gooses telling us to go away

We climbed the tower from where we had a good view of the water-lily covered lake.

Look-out tower
Looking out from the look-out tower

The Fragrance Garden was very pleasant. Lots of aromatic plants and some suitable for handling, a great place for visually impaired people to enjoy plantlife.

Variegated leaf, not changing for Autumn

My favourite tree is of course the sequoia, as it contains all five vowels. And I’m pleased to report they had one here!

Sequoia
Sequoia

We walked back to where we’d parked the car, and saw the river. What’s it called? The Nooksack. I won’t repeat what I thought Pat said. There were more gardens to see too, lots of vegetables and fruit as well as colourful flowers.

Pat and her new fella
Mick and Liesel in the dahlias

We stopped at Woods for a coffee (hooray!) before going back home.

The Sun was still out, and my legs were itchy for more exercise, so, in the afternoon, I went for a walk with Penny. We covered over three miles, or 21 dog miles since her legs are much shorter than mine.

Penny

We could hear thunder rumbling from the dark clouds over the mountains in the east, but Penny wasn’t bothered, she just kept on pulling slightly at the lead, always wanting to go just a little faster than me. Until, that is, she got tired as we were reaching home.

Some of us non-canines went to OnRice for a Thai meal in the evening. And what a result that was! While Liesel and I were passing time waiting to meet up with Holly, Felix and Malin, I finally took some photos of a dragonfly! Yes, really! Sadly, not outside, in its natural habitat. Instead, it was caught in the window of an arty shop and there was so much clutter, you couldn’t get to the window to help the poor thing escape. Clutter? I mean valuable works of art, of course.

My dragonfly
How much is that dragonfly in the window?

The menu at OnRice provded some humour too. But my ‘medium’ spicy pad thai could have been a little spicier.

OnRice menu

PS we have started a list of places that we need to return to and spend more time in. Vancouver. Even Stanley Park has much more to offer than we saw in one day. Everyone says we should visit Victoria, BC too. And Tennant Lake of course, we’ll come back when it’s not the hunting season. It’s named after David Tennant, who played the tenth Doctor in the long-running TV series Doctor Who. Either that or John Tennant, an early settler in the area.

Ferndale and Bellingham

It was a dark and stormy night.

The first thing you learn at a writing class is never to start a story with that particular cliché. The second thing you’re told is to write what you know. Well, I know, it really was dark as we drove north on the I-5 from Seattle and the rain became harder and heavier as we drove on. The windscreen wipers could barely keep up.

I say ‘we’, but it was Liesel driving a strange rental car in a strange place in these horrible conditions. The GPS in the car was fairly intuitive but its first instruction always seems to be ‘drive to the highlighted route’. Well, if we knew how to get there, we wouldn’t need a GPS, would we?

We wanted to stop for something to eat but every time I tracked down a nearby branch of Panera Bread, we’d already passed it. So, 5 Guys it was. Nothing special, but we hadn’t eaten since the surprisingly decent snack on the flight.

We finally got phone reception as we passed through Everett. I’m on T-Mobile, even though when I’d tried to connect to this provider earlier, they’d blown a raspberry.

We arrived at Ferndale to be greeted by our old friend Holly, her Mom Pat, and her four children Felix, Kira, Jaxon and Malin.

Holly
Kira

The sleeping arrangements were fun but complicated. When the music stopped, Malin moved to join Holly, Pat moved to Malin’s bed in the room with Kira and so Liesel and I ended up in Pat’s room. What a big house. I was worried I’d get lost on one of my nighttime walks.

The following day, we explored Bellingham, especially the Farmers’ Market where some edible purchases were made.

Very colourful Farmers Market

Pat showed us round the city, showing us some of her old haunts.

A mural in Bellingham
Pat’s old house is behind the bushes, somewhere
Another mural

Later on in the day, Holly and I went for a walk around the local neighbourhood in Ferndale, seeing the school where she works and a rainbow.

Electric pylon free with every rainbow

On the way back, we walked across a field where Penny chased a couple of bunnies. The bear poop by the gate to their back garden had cherry stones in it. Yes, there’s a bear round here too.

Back at their house, Kira proudly showed us the house she’d made from 1,050 Lego bricks! She gave Liesel and me an ice pop each, which was unexpected and delightful!

On Sunday, we went to Fairhaven. I enjoyed a walk along the boardwalk to Boulevard Park and beyond. Liesel, Holly and Pat stayed in town to do some window shopping.

Yet another mural, this time in Fairhaven
Pat, Holly and Liesel

On the wander back to meet them, I supported the local coffee shop, Woods Coffee. Of course.

Old industry
Fairhaven railroad and sea
The boardwalk
Well-marked boundaries with a story

And apologies to the happy couple couple whose wedding I may have photobombed as I reached the end of the boardwalk!

Taking shelter from the drizzle

Back in town, we had a late lunch at Colophon Café.

In the evening, Kira proudly showed me her collection of coral and told me all about how it had broken off in the strong sea currents.

The house is full of animals too: four cats, Penny the dog and two guinea pigs.. Liesel decided she wants a guinea pig, mainly because we can speak their language, something between a chirp and a whistle. And yes, they are cute!