Everything I Learned on the Washington Road Trip

Editor’s Note: This was mostly written back in August 2021, and I just didn’t publish it then. My bad. I filled in two lines, and now it’s done, and I’m gonna pretend it was done a year ago. So there.

This is not actually everything. And some of these things I already knew.

Ben and I spent nine days together in May driving up to Washington and doing stuff. Then he flew home, and I eventually drove back.</logistics> We stopped a few places along the way, had some laughs, made lifelong friends with hobos, etc. I dunno. Do I really want to write this as a “lessons I learned?” blog post? Sure. Sure I do.

Corgi + Road Trip = Fur Everywhere

I knew this one beforehand, but I’d never had a car with a black interior before this, and I’d never had a boyfriend wearing a black shirt sitting in the passenger seat while holding the corgi for several hours at a go before this. Anyway:

Took some time to get the dog hair thatch out of the floor mats once I got home. Haven’t seen Ben wear this shirt since the trip, so I’m assuming the worst.

May Is Still Too Early for Mountain Hikes

Planning out the route, I thought it’d be fun to cap off the first day of travel (from Ogden to Pendleton) by hitting a quick day-hike in the Blue Mountains. I identified the Hoffer Lakes Trail as one that people seemed to like and that was dog-friendly. Got off the freeway in North Powder, then started heading toward the hills. About halfway up the mountain, we were still climbing hard, and it became increasingly clear that, uh, there was still way too much snow for us to conduct any actual hike.

Oh well. We ended up just parking at the ski resort (honestly, they had enough snow, they coulda still been open if they’d wanted to be), getting out of the car, looking at snow, giving Aela an opportunity to conduct some business, and yeah. May is too early to try to hike to Hoffer Lakes.

When the Bartender Says She Doesn’t Know How to Make Mixed Drinks, Believe Her

She might have even qualified it as “fancy mixed drinks”, but still. Ben and I met up with our buddy Kevin in Pendleton, Ore., who took us to his usual watering hole. When the bartender/server came to get our drink order, Kevin ordered something on rocks I think, Ben went for an imperial stout (probably — I don’t actually remember), and then I ordered an old fashioned, at which point she informed me that she would make it if I insisted, but that she (and their bar in general) don’t really know how to do (fancy?) mixed drinks.

I tended bar as a 100%-sober BYU student. Most of what I made was, I’m sure, awful, in part due to Utah liquor laws and in part due to me being a bartender who had never drank alcohol in his life. That said, I never once got negative feedback about an old fashioned I’d made. It is the simplest mixed drink you can make that isn’t just x on the rocks.

  • Two squirts of simple syrup.
  • Four dashes of bitters.
  • Jigger (2 oz.) of bourbon.

And you’re mostly just tasting the bourbon anyway. It’d be easier to mess up a Jack and Coke. I don’t know. It’s the simplest mixed drink on earth, but, well: she was right, that bar does not know how to make mixed drinks. It tasted like saccharined water and had a similar potency.

Anyway. Other drinking-related lesson: aside from the one place in Pendleton, mixed drinks outside of Utah are often much stronger than mixed drinks inside Utah. I had a huckleberry mule in Oregon that just about blinded me.

The Columbia River Gorge Is Pretty Nice

And May is a perfectly valid time to be hiking there. We ended up on a pretty, shady, crowded (it was a Sunday) day hike just on the Washington side of the river that took us up to Falls Creek Falls. Aela was stuck on the leash, there were lots of other dogs also stuck on leashes, it was a worthy hike to a waterfall, and no one got hurt.

Norwegians Don’t Hug

Overheard at an art gallery in Poulsbo.

Gallery Employee 1: My son married a Swedish girl, and now my grandkids come to visit and they want to hug me.

Gallery Employee 2: <grimaces>

Other lesson from Poulsbo: a lot of the galleries are just closed on Mondays. And: if you’re going to go to a restaurant based solely on the fact that it serves lutefisk, you need to order the lutefisk, otherwise you’re better off just going somewhere else. And also: I don’t think there are any good restaurants in Poulsbo? Prove me wrong, I guess, but I’m sure I’ve never been to one. Food there is always only ever just okay.

Backpacking Is Way More Fun Not-Solo

This whole trip was way more fun not-solo.

I detailed the backpacking trip on an earlier post (Hiking in the Rainforest While Complaining About the Weather). But also, this was legitimately the first time I remember going on a backpacking trip, where at no time did I think why am I doing this to myself? It was cold, it was damp, the trail was uphill sometimes, and carrying a backpack is inherently less comfortable than not carrying a backpack. Further, and crucially from the note-to-self perspective, the non-Mountain House freeze-dried meals are just too big for one person. But, yeah, being out there with Ben, there was no moment when I was unhappy to be backpacking.

Washingtonians Like to Express Disdain with Yard Signs

“I Stand with Sheriff Brown” and “Stop the Wild Olympics Land Grab” in particular. Not pictured. I guess the nice thing about yard signs is that tourists get a feel for where the local angst is. It also gives one the opportunity to Google up and learn about Sheriff Brown (I’m probably okay with Sheriff Brown — it’s hard to imagine that Skamania County really needs the same laws and restrictions as Seattle and Tacoma) and Wild Olympics (which seemed like a reasonable approach to maintaining a status quo rather than a sort of job-killing land-grab). Anyway: now I know.

I Guess There Are No Cops in Washington Now?

I don’t have a photo for this — I was driving. Well, except for that part where Ben was driving, but still.

Man, there are some insane drivers in Washington nowadays though. I remember that place seeming like it used to drive in slow-motion, like the “speed limit” was the point at which their cars would spontaneously combust into a shower of sheet metal, rivets, and sparks. Yeah, it’s not like that any more. Impressively, the carpool lane is now used as the fast fast lane. I dunno, man. If this is the alternative, I think that place is better off with the 24/7 traffic jams.

Downtown Seattle Is Really Nice During Pandemics When No One’s There

Well, aside from being unable to get into the aquarium, I guess. And, not that it was empty empty, just that nothing was crowded, didn’t need reservations to get into any restaurant, sidewalks weren’t over-full… I dunno. This seemed like an ideal version of Seattle. Heck, even the hotel was reasonably affordable (if you ignore the $33/night for the dog plus the $30/night for parking, which I suppose I shouldn’t do).

But also: Washington really didn’t seem to want to let go of pandemic panic-mode. It was May and even the smaller places we visited (e.g., Port Angeles) were looking like the outdoor scenes of a post-apocalyptic video game. Oregon had already adopted the “you can go mask-free if you’re vaccinated” policy, so it was a shock to get into Washington and have the world look more locked-down than anywhere in Utah ever was.

But, hey, it was nice getting selfies of the Pike Place Market sign without having to jockey for space.

Engineers Enjoy Engineer Things

It was pretty fun seeing Ben get excited about, for instance, hydroelectric turbines at Snoqualmie Falls and insist that, of all the museums in the area, the Air and Space Museum was the one he was absolutely obliged to visit. I used to see stuff like a giant, rusted cog-looking thing on display in a park with a big plaque explaining the technical specs of the cog and wonder who on earth would ever care enough about cogs to actually read all these technical specs and think they’d come away with a worthwhile experience. Well — now I know. So hooray for turbines!, and here’s a photo from the flight museum I guess:

Anyway. That’s probably enough lessons.