Gorgeous


Monday morning, on vacation. Third full day of the family roadtrip, north.
Summer with the Cohn family is typically a tangle of week-long day camps for the kids, swimming lessons and the like, rounded out by two or so weeks up at the grandparents’ place in Incline Village with Devon, while I do the bachelor nerd work thing. But D’s been yearning for a family road, the old fashioned kind, where you pile everyone in the back of the family sedan and drive out somewhere for a week or so – kids fighting, dog barking, parents arguing over directions – in search of obscure national parks along an overheated, traffic-clogged road.
Okay, maybe something a little more idealized than the kids/dog/parents etc. thing. Still it was an idealized yearning, so we left a week or so of uncharted space smack dab in the middle of July to see what, if anything, we could come up with.
Bit by bit it morphed into a hop north to Oregon in the family plane. We’ve got family in Ashland and Eugene, even-better-than-family in Portland, and friends upriver on the Columbia Gorge we’d met back in Costa Rica. John and Ronda had said “come on up any time!”; they’ve got two kids who share the temprament of ours, and live minutes from windsurfing, sailing, whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, and pretty much anything else you can imagine doing out of doors.

The family’s gotten a lot better at travel. Eugene is three hours north of Palo Alto as the family plane flies. Andy read, Jeremy watched Star Trek on my laptop, and D and I managed a surprising amount of quality time up front as we toodled north. Red Bluff, Shasta, the Siskyous – it’s funny how well I feel I know this route now.
Plonked into Eugene, grabbed the rental car and drove over to see the cousins. Old memories of grad school seeped back in as we neavigated – hey, isn’t that where we used to get coffee? Didn’t there used to to be an Albertsons right around the corner? Eventually, we found ourselves detouring to track down D’s old house. Yup, there it was, overgrown as ever.
Anyhow. Visit with Chris and Ellie was nice, but it was late, and we were all cranky, so we called it a night.

Next morning was a calculated blast from the past: Saturday Market. D and I loved going to Saturday Market (at least we *remembered* loving Saturday Market, which, for the purposes of a narrative, is the same thing). Somewhere between a farmers market and street fair, with fresh produce, artisans, street performers, and food booths. Tie-dyed, long-haired and all-hanging-out in the way Eugene is and has been ever since it got its shirt sleeve caught on the sixties and never left.
We’d been telling the kids about Saturday Market for the past couple of days – trying to hype it up without actually hyping it up. You know how you do that, right? We needn’t have worried. It was great, it was groovy. It was just as we’d remembered it. Even down to Ritta, still selling Ritta’s Burritos, and Frog – still pulling his cart full of home-made joke books for sale, fifteen years later.

After a tasty lunch on the lawn, we piled back into the rental car, drove out to the airport, and re-piled ourselves into the plane. Jem’s been spending a lot of time on the flight sim lately (mostly crashing Spitfires into Messerschmitts), and was eager for a chance at the front seat.
I got us up off the ground, leveled us at altitude and gave him a heading toward Hood River. He couldn’t (quite) see over the dash, so mostly flew course and altitude off the gauges (do I get to cound this as simulated instrument time for him?). Did a remarkable job, but kept announcing every five minutes that we were (still!) “Approaching Mount Hood!”.
Intersected the Columbia west of the gorge, then flew east over the water to the bucolic town town of Hood River, where we plunked down, tied up, and picked up our equally bucolic rental car, and mad our way to John and Ronda’s.
They live on the north – Washington – side of the river, on a small vineyard in a gorgeous, gorgeous (did I mention gorgeous?) house they designed and built themselves. Looks out over the Columbia below and the shimmering glaciers of Mount Hood to the south.

At the moment, D and I are sitting on a couch in the guest house over the “barn”, which is primarily used as a wedding site – tucked into the hillside, splaying out in a broad green lawn framing the river and mountain. We took the kids rafting down the White Salmon River yesterday with Ronda and Callie (the elder of the two kids). Five stars and two thumbs up – best rafting experience I’ve had anywhere, by the way. Go with the folks at http://www.zooraft.com, and ask for Ben as your guide. On top of being a fine whitewater guide, he’s great with kids, and knows stories about every rock, cave, bird and fish in the river.

Plan today, if our kids ever wake up, is to drive south a bit for a hike to Tamanawas Falls. Word is that you can walk in *under* the falls and set up picnic there. Temps are supposed to reach 95 today, so that’s sounding appealing. More later…

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