24 August 2014

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 1 - Air to Oregon

With a 5am wake-up at home and a 7:20am departure from AZO (Kalamazoo MI airport code), I was grumpy (worse than my usual mood at this time of day) and a little excited. I have not flown airline standby for about 5 years, so it felt a little unsettling. And I was by myself this time. As it was more of a girl trip, Mike decided to pass.

Upon check-in the agent said, "It does not look good for non-revving. There was heavy flooding in DTW (Detroit) and things are really messed up. The flight is oversold and we are asking for volunteers to take a later flight." I replied, "It never hurts to try!" As it turned out a group of three had volunteered, there was only one seat left and they did not want to split up. So I got on after all. Good karma and yahoo! It was a quick 1'35" flight to MSP (Minneapolis MN).

I had a 1'15" wait there, so I leisurely walked the super long corridors to the next gate. On my way I browsed the shops including a cool bookstore. I bought some bottled water to take on the flight. The brand advertised it as being NYC tap water. NYC claims to have the best water in the world and now they are bottling it for the rest of the country. It was good.

It looked quite crowded at the gate. Groan! I hoped my chances were good. Seeing my name "KIL/D" appear on the "cleared for seat" display almost made me jump for joy. It is not often things go as you plan in the airline retiree travel biz.

I had a middle seat but no probs. I was on my way to PDX. When I got to my row I found it was in "comfort" economy, near the aircraft door and with more leg room than some seats further back. Bonus! A sweet little couple actually had the window and aisle, but moved together and offered me the aisle. Can it get any better?

Once I hit PDX (Portland OR), I made my way down to baggage service to claim my bag. Riding down the escalator I spotted my Auntie Joan waiting for me at the bottom. That was a fun surprise, as we had planned to meet curbside once I called her that I was ready. Big smiles and hugs all around.

"Auntie" (I have to laugh) is only four years older than me, so we are more buddies than aunt and niece. A visit to see her and to meet some cousins on that side of the family were the impetus of my whole trip. My dear Uncle Kit passed away over a year ago. I needed a little closure as this was still a very sad thing for me. I thought talking over "stuff" in person with Joan was the best way to find some peace that he was gone.

How the Auntie came about was actually when I started calling Kit, Uncle Kit. At first it was kind of a joke as we are so close in age and he really did not like it. He agonized and discouraged me from calling him that, but after a while he started loving it and then it seemed natural for me to call Joan, Auntie Joan. None of my other Aunts are Auntie, but it fits Joan.

The drive from PDX to Salem OR, where Joan lives, was 49 miles and about an hour drive. Traffic was heavy most of the way. Part of the drive was along the Willamette (kind of like "lam"inate flooring, accent on the second syllable) River near downtown Portland.

Along the way I saw the Rose Garden Stadium (now the Moda Center) where the Portland Trail Blazers play basketball). We passed the Portland Harbor with lots of sailboats and cruisers anchored dockside. There were some cool old bridges crossing the river from the highway side to the downtown side.

There was an iconic neon "Portland Oregon-Old Town" sign with a white reindeer leaping across the top. Later I learned the sign, originally manufactured in 1941, read "White Stag-Sportswear" advertising an apparel company. The sign has a long history of changes, disputes and ownership. In 2010 the City of Portland took over its management and changed to the current verbiage. Joan said during the winter holidays, they give it a red Rudolph nose. I wish I'd had my camera in hand (it was in the trunk), but you can see it and read about its interesting history at: Portland OR white stag sign

Joan's new apartment is decorated much the same as Kit and Joan's home had been in Yuma AZ when Mike and I visited in 2012. Kit had enjoyed tumbling raw agates and other rocks and stones into shiny red and multi colored "jewels." There were also halved geode "eggs" with their ringed crystal centers. There was a wonderful collection of western Indian art and lots of framed family photos.

I renewed my friendship with her cat, Sammy, a sweet brownish tabby with white socks, nose and chin. He came right up to me when I walked in the door which surprised Joan. She said he had never done that before and usually hid under the bed when a visitor arrived. He had a plethora of toys including a stuffed rat, cardboard scratcher, multi-level cat tree, and his favorite tissue paper. Joan says he loves to roll in it, scratch it and toss it around. The attraction must be the noise it makes when it moves.

Joan had bottles of red (a Lazy Bones Winery cab franc) and chilled white Sav Blanc (which I never got to) for me to sip on as I settled myself after the non-rev experience. I sipped and we caught up with the family chit-chat. Next a little shopping excursion.

I needed a lined pad for my blog notes, so we stopped at the drugstore. Then she showed me a fabulous grocery store called Roth's. We bought some antipasti items for the next night's meal and a wild porcini mushroom infused salt. I usually buy this at Williams-Sonoma, but it was less than half their price. Hope it tastes as good.

From there we proceeded to dinner. On the way we saw what looked like a huge puff of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Joan said that it was actually smoke from the latest forest fire. There had been so many this year. Sad...

I had been hankering for a good Mexican meal, so she took me to the La Hacienda Real. It was decorated in Mexican "to the hilt" and the food was splendido. I stuffed myself like a wittle piggy wiggy with guacamole, veggie burrito, black beans and Spanish rice. All was umm-umm good.

By the time we got back to Joan's, we reminisced a bit longer, I drank another glass of wine (good sleeping potion), and I collapsed into bed. It was only 8:30pm Oregon time, but in Michigan it was 11:30pm. I'd had a long day. It was sweet dreams that night.

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