June 23, 2016
The trip from John Day to Olympia held its own surprises. At one point we were in a deep canyon and our GPS missed calling a turn. On redirect it sent us down a secondary road for about thirty miles to meet the original route. It took us through small ranches and settlements along a river and through dramatic multi-colored cuts and canyons. There was little traffic, mostly locals headed to church in one small village.
Once we reconnected we rose onto a high plateau for several miles where we had at one point a view of four snow-covered volcanoes brightly lit by the sun; Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, St Helens and what I think was Mount Shasta off in the far distance. I tried to get a picture of them all at once but the panorama made it difficult. This is one barely discernible shot of the northern three.
We eventually dropped down to the wide and imposing Columbia River and followed it west to Portland where we turned north to Olympia and daughter Erin and son-in-law Jeff’s home. It was nice to be out of the hotel loop for a few days. They are both fine hosts and pamper us every day.
Sunday evening we mostly relaxed, talked and did laundry. Monday evening was a big get-together, a belated Fathers Day cookout in the back yard. They, we, have an extended family and friendly neighbors nearby always ready to picnic, especially if there is no rain. It was the same bright, sunny day that has followed us through this sojourn so they all showed up bringing food.
Jeff grilled burgers, teriyaki chicken skewers and corn-on-the-cob.
Tuesday was Toy Day. We piled in their car… nice to have someone else drive… and went to look at fifth wheels, motorhomes and of course motorcycles. They bought a used fifth wheel RV last year and use it often. Now experienced RVers, they see features they’d like in their next one. Erin is also trying to convince us that, if we bought a small RV we could do some trips together. So we looked at several versions of fifth wheels and RVs.
We are going through a similar replacement phase with motorcycles, looking for a bike that will extend Geezer Gal’s riding years. So we stopped to look at some motorcycles. too. (Geezer, by some quirk, has no desire to trade in his bike.) (Boats, RVs, motorcycles, homes, cars… what is there that drives this desire for newer and bigger?)
We had a late lunch at Pacific Island Grill, a small restaurant featuring a Hawaiian themed menu. Made me long for Maui, even though we hadn’t even finished this trip.
That evening we dined on leftovers and turned in early. They both had early shifts Wednesday morning. Erin is a 911 dispatcher and Jeff is a Wildlife Enforcement Officer.
They were gone when we awoke. We packed, locked up and left, finally headed south toward home, the last major leg.
We overnighted in our traditional spot, The Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
This was one of Geezer Gal’s discoveries several years ago. They have a special package: Room, dinner (choose from the menu in their resort restaurant,) a bottle of local wine and breakfast. It used to be $89, it was $109 this time around.
Geezer Gal, of course made new friends with some NFS science guys in the area investigating a maple tree beetle issue killing those trees.(Sounds familiar.)
The next morning we gassed up and drove to Sacramento. It is another of our regular stops, on the north end near I-80. It’s convenient and near a favorite, funky restaurant, The Virgin Sturgeon.
When we are on the road I search out restaurants and diners that might have local flavor in their menu, facility and service. One of the resources I use is YELP. I look for restaurants with wide variations in their reviews. The theory; chain restaurant facilities, staff and products are tightly controlled and regimented. They are usually fair quality places with reliable experiences. Their reviews are usually moderate and bland.
Instead I look for a restaurant where some patrons report wonderful experiences , i.e.; five star, and others at the same place give zero star and post their outrage over food quality, dirty restrooms, slow service, cold food, grumpy wait staff. As long as those zero reviews don’t exceed about one in five, that’s the place we are going!
The Virgin Sturgeon fills the bill perfectly.
It’s an old barge on the Sacramento River that sank once and burned down once but keeps bouncing back. There is nothing chain about it. I can usually count on them for good seafood and local color.
The entry is on the levee about fifty feet above the water, so they use an old American Airlines jetway to get down to the door.
We won this time. A window on the water, a pleasant, quick waitress, correctly baked trout stuffed with crab and my favorite Chardonnay. A fine last dinner of this road trip as we head for home tomorrow.