I’ve been pretty much out of pocket here for the last couple of weeks. That’s what happens when you and your wife take your two young daughters on the annual road trip up the West Coast for a week of visiting Grandma, aka Mam Maw. If it were just me, or even up to me, we would have gotten up, blasted out of Oakland at 5 a.m, picked up Interstate 5, and stopped only for gas until we reached my mom’s house, in Tacoma, in time for dinner at 7 p.m.
But, when you have family members along, and especially when you have two little kids locked down in the back seat like they were riding a Saturn V rocket on the way to the Moon, you know multiple stops to eat and use the bathroom are going to be in the works, and cut into your road time. There’s no way you’re going to get to play Road Warrior and floor it for 700-plus miles without pulling off the highway at least a half-dozen times.
So, we broke up the drive into two days, which wasn’t really so bad, and we can all thank the combine forces of the iPad and the Walt Disney Co. for that. Nearly every DVD we buy these days is kid-related and comes from Disney. My wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, makes sure to buy the combo packs that include a Blu-Ray disc, a traditional DVD and most importantly, a digital copy that can be loaded onto an iPad. It’s truly amazing how few brawls Maddo and Little Sis get into on the road when they each can run their apple-juice covered fingers across an iPad screen while watching “The Princess And The Frog” for about the 487th time. I highly recommend any parent who believes they are superior by not allowing their kids to partake with such electronic babysitters to rethink their position and realize that sometimes you do have to compromise for the sake of sanity.
We used some of my wife’s credit card points to cover the Econolodge hotel room in Roseburg, Ore., where we stayed after the first 400-odd miles. Getting the room [ostensibly for free] was a Good Thing. Sadly, the hotel’s A/C was all “A” and no “C” and blew nothing but lukewarm air that didn’t rise above my knees on what also turned out to be the hottest night of the year. Two not-quite queen-size beds were our sleeping options. My wife and I know what the score is when it comes to our daughters; if we tried to put both girls in the same bed, one of them would have definitely ended up on the floor before sunrise. I planned to take Maddo with me, and my wife would take Little Sis.
Before turning in, we had to get something to eat. Dinner was at Loggers Gourmet Pizza, a highly recommended pizza and beer joint, that judging by number of taps on the wall and customers who came in to refill their “growler” jugs, was more beer than pizza. Not that I had a problem with that. The Garlic Spotted Owl pizza was very good, but even I was more taken by the seven-beer sampler flight [Buy six and the seventh one is free. Especially with an Imperial India Pale Ale called Hopasaurus Rex on tap, Who could pass that up?].
The number of customers who came in after us to refill their “growler” beer jugs far surpassed those who were ordering pizza, so I assumed a hot time in the hot town was in line for many Roseburgers that night.
Back at the hotel, the pool provided some relief for a while from the no-“C” A/C blower in our room. However, before jumping in, we had to make a pit stop at the local K-Mart for some swim trunks.
K-Mart gets short shrift these days, what with Wal-Mart home to most of the examples of why I say the human race has had its chance [and if you don’t believe me, please visit the People Of Wal-Mart site for Exhibits A to Infinity of why this may be true] and Target appealing to a slightly higher level of bargain shopper. But K-Mart still exists in places like Roseburg, which is all the better as there is no sales tax in Oregon and the trunks were also on sale. With my $5.99 K-Mart swimming trunks on, we played around in the pool for a while and I tried to decide which of my daughters might be the next Missy Franklin and worth investing swimming lessons in.
Soon it was time for bed. At least it was for my wife and I. We were exhausted. All the girls wanted to do was watch “The Princess And The Frog,” again, on the iPads. I found the Seattle Mariners game against the Chicago Cubs on TV, watched about 5 minutes of it, and then promptly began giving myself a whiplash as I fell asleep and woke up repeatedly for about 20 minutes until my wife finally took the remote and turned the TV off.
That was actually about the only restful sleep I got all night. Maddo has inherited many characteristics of me, but one big one she got from my wife is her sleeping style. Like my wife, the kid starts out normally enough on her side. But sometime during the night all hell breaks lose and she manages to take up the entire bed, regardless of its size, with arms and legs stretched out all over the place and looking like a crime scene. Once I woke up with Maddo’s head pointing down at the bed’s lower left corner where her feet should have been. Later, I awoke to find Maddo’s head jammed directly into the middle of my back, and the rest of her sticking straight out across the mattress so we formed a perfect “T” shape, only with me about to go off the edge and onto the floor. Maddo was also snoring like an 82-year-old emphysema patient.
I think I gave up around 4 a.m., put on some Swedish cop drama on the iPad and brewed up the obligatory hotel room pot of coffee that is barely bigger than two standard sized cups. The “Continental” breakfast couldn’t come fast enough, or be “Continental” enough either, if your continent happens to be Econolodge Land. Regardless, we ate, loaded up and hit the road again.
The rest of the drive was pretty standard fare. We stopped once for some of Oregon’s famous full-service gas…No self-service and no sales tax make for two of Oregon’s oddities, not that I’m complaining. More oddities, or odd ones, were on display as we made a stop in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon and all the hippies, weirdos and other non-bathers that come with every major city’s college district.
We weren’t stopping to see the assorted freaks, but we nearly did step over them to get into the famous Voodoo Doughnuts shop downtown. Bacon on a maple bar? I’ll even claim to like a Grateful Dead song if that treat is the result. Voodoo Doughnuts claims “Good Things Come In Little Pink Boxes,” but there was nothing little about the box we needed for the dozen delights we took with us.
One more major stop was in line and that was at the Rex Hill winery and vineyard in Tigard, Ore. I make it a habit of acknowledging/visiting/taking pictures of anything that has the name REX in it, so after about 100 or so miles, we hung a left and drove out to the winery. We occasionally find Rex Hill in the Bay Area, but nothing beats going to the source. Especially at about $35 a bottle. My wife stunned me after we did our $10 tasting flight when she ordered up seven bottles of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and others. Seriously, we don’t have a drinking problem. A drinking hobby, definitely.
Loaded up with donuts and hooch, we made the final push toward my mom’s in Tacoma. After crossing the Columbia River and into Washington, we stopped off one last time for my second-favorite beverage, coffee, and one of the approximately 700,000 drive-thru espresso stands that are everywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Almost equal in number to those in-and-out caffeine shops were all the fireworks stands that appeared just before and after every exit along I-5 in the Evergreen State. It was all I could do to pull off the road and pick up enough Black Cats to successfully arm the rebels in Syria.
Eventually, 5 p.m. came, and with that we rolled into my mom’s place. Her dog nearly knocked us all to the ground when we went inside and the girls immediately went to work destroying Mam Maw’s living room. Within an hour, Little Sis alone had gotten into some wasp spray, a hammer, an old-school walking stick that, if swung properly, could knock down a mule, and charged straight at my mom’s fan. Luckily, all Maddo wanted to do was watch more of “The Princess And The Frog” on the iPad.
I, however, needed a beer. And a week of awesome India Pale Ales soon began…