As you can see from the pictures below, Christine was in town.

I decided at the last minute to whisk her away with the kids to the Oregon coast, specifically the wee town of Netarts, a getaway I had been hearing about for the past couple of years.

We declared it a road trip and took the long way over route 12 between Mount Rainier and Mount St Helens. Christine was seeing mushrooms in every damp shadow, so we found a pullout with a picnic table and trailhead and unloaded the kids, who were by that point bent into semi-permanent car seat positions. We were barely into the trail when another character pulled up in an old red Toyota and got out with a bucket and a dog. A mushroomer. With one arm lost and a mural of tattoos on the other. He did seem to be kind-hearted enough, so I tried to maintain my sense of equilibrium and trust, even as he wandered beside us deeper and deeper in the woods. About the time he followed us on the last major fork, my hackles, as Chris put it, were way up. I had Maya on my shoulders so we could hustle things along, but fortunately, neither of the kids were one whit disturbed, except for the fact that Jordan couldn't believe the Mushroomer wouldn't grow another hand.

It turned out the Mushroomer was following us out of kindness, because we returned to the parking lot (me stifling my relief) he gave us some mushrooms out of his stash. (Not the magic kind...what are you thinking?) Chanterelles.

We made it to Netarts in record time: eight and one-half hours. Longest Most Diverted Trip With Kids Ever--that's the record. We got to our motel after dark, could hear the ocean but not see it, and the path plunged into an inky abyss we were not about to take on before sunrise.

At sunrise we took it on. I mean sunrise, because the kids were not inclined to sleep one second beyond sunrise. So there we were, coffee in hand, navigating the precipitous drop to the beach in our pj's and coats. The kids romped ahead. I lie: Jordan romped ahead. Maya began immediately to earn the nickname Maya Maya Molasses. Or, Maya Maya Meanderer. Not too speedy. But with a cup of coffee each, we didn't care.

That morning we saw crabbers on the beach. The crabs flail and snarl but these intrepid folks just haul them on heavy fishing line, grab them by the back legs and toss them in the bucket. Me, I wouldn't want to get too close to those pinchers. Except when eating them, that is.

Later we beach-hopped all over the Netarts-Three Capes area. See photographic evidence below.

By three o'clock I was exhausted and couldn't wait to go to bed. But I revived when Christine began cooking the most wonderful dinner, despite using the crappiest kitchen ever designed. The burners were crooked, the microwave cord did not reach the outlet, the pans did not have covers, and the knife was so dull she could have stood on the blade--but still, an exquisite dinner. Chanterelles from the Mushroomer, garlic pasta, steamed crab with butter--say it ain't so. Scrumptious.

Then we all went to bed. It is very tiring chasing children all over the Oregon beach for an entire day.

The next day we packed up and began the journey back to Ellensburg. We took 101 for the thrills, and the opportunity to add extra time to an already long trip that included one certain four-year-old shrieking for approximately an hour. (Overstimulated? Or just plain spoiled?) I put my head down and drove to the soothing sounds of I want my Scooby Doo Van! I want my Scooby Doo Vaaaaaaan! I have a headache! Ah, bliss.

We made pretty good time because of that, though. We were due to make the trip in six hours flat until we turned off toward Northwest Trek. This little honey of a tourist trap basically presents the opportunity to spend thirty bucks riding in a bus to see what you can see outside Ellensburg, but hey. We got to see it a whole lot closer. The coolest thing in my book was two sparring elk. And bison. They are bison. I was corrected on the term buffalo by a steely chick who looked like she enjoyed bison more than boobs like myself who might mistake them for buffalo. All this for thirty bucks.

Then we took the back roads home. It was not quick, but we dodged traffic. And there are pockets of Washington that are really damned pretty. New England pretty. Cooling leaves and split-rail fences kind of pretty. It was a nice finale to our long excursion.

It's been a long time since I got to take a road trip. Then again, if I go more than a month without seeing something new, it feels like a long time. This oughta hold me. At least until Thanksgiving.

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