Road diary: June 30-July 13, 2012

    Saturday, June 30
Leave Oakland around 11 AM.
Sign at skeet range north of Winters advertises "hunting and sporting clays" to shoot at. What's the difference? Can you eat the ones you kill? J suggests catch-and-release.
Sticker on pickup near Willows: "Elkaholic".
Reach Corning ~2 PM, stop at Olive Pit for lunch. Into Mt. Shasta about 4:30.
Occult and spiritual influences still prevail here, though no Lemurian-sightings. Lengthy bumpersticker advises "We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness".
Dinner at Mike & Tony's, good hearty old-style Italian place. Gnocchi, pizza, beer.

    Sunday, July 1
Leave Mt. Shasta around 9:30; at 10, run into wall of mist at Oregon border, probably due to elevation gain at Siskiyou Summit.
Descend into sun and Ashland ~10:30. Coffee & pastry at Greenleaf on Ashland Creek; lithia-water public fountains in town square have been improved (they no longer store up pressure and squirt you in the face, used to be test of new vs. experienced tourists).
Air cleaned by recent rain, smells good.
Leave Ashland 11:45, drive N though town of Central Point. Center of what? (Looked this up when back home; town was a crossroads of N-S and E-W trails.)
At 1 PM, reach old (1883) Wolf Creek Inn for lunch; attractive 2-story wooden hotel on Applegate Trail. Also a popular getaway 1920-1950 among Hollywood types for fishing and trysts. We will be staying overnight there on return trip.
Into Eugene on last day of Olympic tryouts; decide not to participate. See young woman skateboarding down hill with infant in arms, both wearing U. of O. T-shirts.

    Monday, July 2
Olympic tryouts over. See several disappointed athletes and their parents at breakfast.
Leave Eugene ~10 AM. Comfort Suites in SE part of town (3060 E 25th Ave) in a quiet wooded district, new, easy drive to downtown. Can walk to Denny's for dinner if so minded.
Navigate around Portland traffic via I-205; marginally better. Into Washington state.
Pass Gospodin's Monument Park at WA mile 63 on I-5; weird exotic sculpture, or something.
Leave freeway at Littlerock S of Olympia to view Mima Mounds Natural Area. _So_ good to get off tense high-speed I-5 onto country road past small towns.
MM Prairie does not disappoint; mystery mounds (cause unknown) 4-8 feet high, 8-30 wide stretch away for miles, hundreds of them, many covered with blooming wildflowers: campanula, ox-eye daisy, woolly sunflower, purple owl clover, etc.
Then back to freeway - feh - and into Olympia to Percival Landing and the Phoenix Inn, our fave.
Unpack, walk along waterfront and through farmer's market, make dinner reservations at Anthony's Homeport, another fave (Salmon! Halibut! Strawberry shortcake!)
Waddle back to motel, retire early.

    Tuesday, July 3
Go out for early-morning walk. Rained overnight, now clear and cold. Olympia has transformed old wharf area into a public waterfront park: shoreline paths, fountains, sculpture, playgrounds, public docks, picnic tables, observation tower, the works. Good example of urban renewal.
Poster in music store advertises "Dulcimer week in the Wallowas".
Sign in another store: "Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue".
Leave Olympia 10:30; pass Exit 142 for "Enchanted Parkway".
License on red sports car: GON2FAR.
A lot outside Everett sells "Trucks and stuff".
Stop at Mt. Vernon, photograph current and 1885 courthouses; eat at Lunchbox Cafe, a hole in the wall with scores of metal lunchboxes hanging from ceiling and resting on shelves. Owner says there was only one when she bought the place, and she meant to add a few more, but the thing just sort of grew...
Follow Skagit Valley byway to Anacortes and the Majestic Inn, a historic hotel much renovated and modernized; has a cupola with commanding view of area.
Our room has an iPod dock and player; life is good.
After settling in, we drive to NE and NW corners of Fidalgo Island for more views; brisk wind picking up.
Back to warm car, bundle up at hotel and have dinner at Rockfish Grill & Anacortes Brewery; about 30 ales on tap, most made next door.

    Wednesday, July 4
Have coffee in room; fresh-ground in presspot, mmm.
Then drive down to Deception Pass for photos, and on to county-seat village of Coupeville. (Three courthouses! 1855, 1864, and 1949, all standing.) Walk through town, a very pleasant small community. Drive to Ebey's Landing homestead, now a historic site with old cabin and blockhouse (against Indian sieges) amid fertile prairie.
Back to hotel for late lunch at Rockfish Grill. Walk around town, past a raised-bed garden on an asphalt lot; walls of beds are bundles of newspapers. Aha! Is parking lot of local newspaper. Pass Mary Ann's breakfast cafe with sign "Member of National Waffle Association".

    Thursday, July 5
Breakfast at Mary Ann's; food better, service faster, prices lower than hotel.
Drive to Sharpe Park on SW side of island, hike to sea bluff. Then to center, hike up to Sugarloaf summit; view panorama of island in Puget Sound, take many pix. Geographic fact: Naked Man Valley is four miles from Big Beaver Pond.
Return to Anacortes, stock up on provisions at general store (well, the Rite Aid), walk back to hotel via shoreline trail. See Mt. Pilchuck - I think - also old sternwheeler, now a museum, and old RR station now an art center. Almost buy tchotchkes at ship chandler, restrain self just in time. Pass Anacortes Brewery, almost buy a coozie, but no; growler coozie completely impractical and have several can coozies. Maybe a baseball cap...
Dinner at Rockfish Grill again; have salmon and 'waffle fries' (imagine tater tots run over by tractor). Buy baseball cap.

    Friday, July 6
Breakfast at Mary Ann's. Pack and head for Bellingham; leave busy Highway 20 as soon as possible, just past the unfortunately named Swinomish Tribe Casino, toward Chuckanut Scenic Byway via farm road (a byway to the byway). Bellingham is a modern combination of 3 towns merged into one city officially but with separate characters. Fairhaven where we are staying is a hip college town with a village green; B'ham a business/industry/banking center.
Check into Fairhaven Village Inn on the green; sign in room forbids smoking, candles, and incense.
Have lunch at the Colophon Cafe-Bookstore, then drive north to Bellingham city center for the courthouses. A contrast to Fairhaven: town center is somewhat decayed as business moved out to suburban malls, has a kind of innocent seediness. Tattoo parlors, comic-book stores, rescue mission next to Fine Jewelry store.
Photograph current 1950 Whatcom County courthouse; also ornate 1892 City Hall (has a courtroom), and in dicey part of town the original 1858 courthouse made from bricks carried around Cape Horn as ballast.
Back to Fairhaven. Dinner at Skylark Cafe. Walk around town on bike trail past a group practicing Elizabethan madrigals (not on bicycles).

    Saturday, July 7 - the great Mt. Baker expedition
Leave Fairhaven around 9, find start of Mt. Baker Highway in town.
Farm sign offers 'Free horse manure'. A nursery sign: 'Register to win $500 worth of nutrients'. Wonder if two are same thing.
Pass 'North Fork Wedding Chapel and Brewery'.
Pass sign for 'Last gas station to end of road'; later, 'Last cocktail lounge'. Head up into wilderness.
Profusion of flowers beside road: white and purple foxgloves, wild columbine, cow-parsnip, red elderberry.
Road climbs and twists along north slope of mountain. Is closed at Heather Meadows, but plowed a ways further. Hike up to idled snowplows and end of bare road; walls of snow 30 feet high line the highway in places. We are above the tree line here.
Return to car after a couple hours of hiking. Unable to view Mt Baker since road blocked below ridge this side of summit, but many striking views of nearby Mt. Shuksan, Table Mountain, and northern Cascades. Take stupefying number of photos; probably exceed Daguerre's lifetime output in single day.
Decide want steak for dinner after hours of tromping around; enough of fish. _Big_ steak.
Is outdoor-movie night on Fairhaven green, preceded by live entertainment since sundown is so late here now. Watch clown wrestle folding chair and lose.

    Sunday, July 8
Get tipoff from hotel clerk for view of Mt. Baker from the sunlit south; involves 30-mile (each way) detour down country lane, but we have short drive ahead of us, so we give it a try. She is right.
Return to freeway via town of Concrete, named for cement plant.
Into Everett, home to a lovely 1911 Mission-style courthouse almost obscured by enormous new addition. Find old stairway to original building and photograph it.
Proceed to Seattle, find our hotel near Pike Place Market. Dinner with friends from Well; afterwards, watch sun set over the Olympic Mountains.

    Monday, July 9
A foggy morning in Seattle.
Walk to 1916 King County courthouse, an attractive but much neglected building. Main entrance alcove is filled with dumpsters and fronts on a homeless encampment.
Pass Gerard Schwarz Place next to symphony hall. Also many many Starbucks cafes; wonder how many there are in Seattle; hundreds?
Also pass 1920 Smith Tower; was tallest building in city when we lived here in the sixties, is now dwarfed. It had open-cage elevators with human operators.
Making allowances for normal big-city stress and tension, Seattle seems a remarkably mellow place. It's still a big city unlike Anacortes or Bellingham, but quite different from New York or San Francisco. Even the panhandlers and motorists seem to be less aggressive. The closest analogy I can think of is Santa Cruz.
The town looks prosperous; hardly any vacant storefronts, and the Pike Place Market is thronged even on a Monday morning.
Buy an embroidered PP Market patch at a stall; see it was made in China.
Lunch at Etta's, just north of market; have famous Penn Cove mussels. Deservedly famous, with delicate sweetness. The TV above the bar at Etta's is broadcasting a cooking program, first time I've seen that.
After lunch (having gone north & south to the courthouse), we head east up Pine Street to 8th Avenue and back. Catch a skyscraper reflecting the mottled sky; photograph it while dodging traffic.
Rest up in room a few minutes, and stash away J's Nordstrom purchases; then walk north to outdoor Olympic Sculpture Garden on hill above shoreline, an urban gem. Sit on lawn in shade of a Calder stabile on park chairs and watch the ships come and go. Then down to Alaskan Way and back to hotel. Put feet up.
Dinner at Cutter's Crabhouse: Penn Cove oysters and steelhead with polenta and garlic scapes (the pre-flowering leafless stems, with no garlicky aftertaste).

    Tuesday, July 10
Somehow manage to stuff all our belongings into suitcases & backpack, and get onto freeway through downtown Seattle.
Reach Tacoma, and by great good luck find on-street parking spot halfway between Pierce County courthouse and the Museum of Glass, our two destinations.
The less said about the 1959 courthouse the better, but city redeemed by Federal courthouse in former Union RR station, a 1911 Beaux Arts marvel.
Love love love the Museum of Glass , across the freeway and railroad tracks via the Bridge of Glass. You can wear a backpack there and take pictures of the art works (I didn't use flash, or need to). There is even a 'family restroom' besides the traditional M & F, with diaper-changing stations.
In museum shop, resist most temptations to buy delicate fragile items to toss in trunk; settle for a glass heart, a banana slug, and a few ladybugs.
Return to car and drive down to Bob's World Famous Java Jive cafe , the entire building shaped like a coffeepot with a spout and handle.
Then south to Castle Rock near Mt. St. Helens. Stay at Blue Heron Inn opposite MSH visitor center; walk the nature trail on old RR bed above restored wetlands with birdcalls and flowering water lilies. Into CR for dinner at a Christian pizza parlor; then tour the town, a small agricultural community.

    Wednesday, July 11
Got up early on foggy morning to shoot water lilies in diffuse light; yesterday's bright sun left too-sharp highlights on blooms.
Was reminded of a cardinal rule of traveling. If you pack an item (say a flashlight) in one location when you leave home, never ever re-pack it in a "better" place or you will forget what that was and spend a half hour looking for it.
Good hearty breakfast with 2 other families; Blue Heron a good place to stay, about 5 miles off the freeway in a totally different and quieter world.
Leave Castle Rock around 11:30, drive through Portland on I-5 for a change, have lunch in Keiser, reach Wolf Creek 4:45.
Motorcycle license: KILRBMW.
Check into Gable/Lombard room at Wolf Creek Inn (formerly tavern). A nice place; not modern (at 129 years) but comfy, clean, would stay here again. Place is just off old Highway 99 and before that the old Applegate trail from the 1840's. Manager is OK but a bit crusty; didn't mention night-entrance door, or A/C in room, or that breakfast is part of room fee. Poster of Second Amendment by his desk discourages unnecessary conversation.
After dinner, drive ~5 miles to ghost town of Golden. Mining burg founded by minister; had two churches and no saloons; this was rare.

    Thursday, July 12
Leave Wolf Creek and drive again to Golden for photo ops in morning light and more leisurely view of place; glad we did.
Down I-5 to Ashland. Stop in town and walk around Lithia Park for change of scene and to stretch legs.
Reach Dunsmuir CA ~1:15; lunch at our favorite place, the Cornerstone bakery/Cafe. Good food, friendly people.
For dessert, J and I share an affogato, my first time. Know of only 2 places that offer it: here, and the SF MOMA.
See heir of the late Dick Simon Trucking Co.; Kelle's Transport Services truckside logo is skunk holding Jolly Roger flag.
Reach Redding ~3:15; check into Sundial Room at Bridgehouse B&B. Temperature outside is 105; glad for A/C. Would have stayed at higher-elevation Mt. Shasta City, but wanted to photograph Sundial Bridge.
Walk about 2 miles in savage heat to bridge; reach it as low sun shines almost horizontal on it, take many pix, return, lie down with A/C on and recover.
Dinner at Clearie's, an old multi-generation Redding standby with heavily padded booths. we both order sweetbreads; very good. So is the beer and we are very thirsty..

    Friday, July 13
Redding is 91 degrees at 7 AM.
Head out around 9; stop for lunch at Winters. But not at Putah Creek Cafe for a change. Wonderful friendly place, love it, but service is glacially slow and we are on the move.
Approach Bay Area in valley heat; see fog over Caldecott Tunnel, which means over our house. Home at 2 PM. Ahh...

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