Thursday, September 04, 2014

In the Pacific Northwest

We had a vacation.

It has been a while since we've had a real bona fide vacation. I could go back through the blog here, and find trips and stuff. Doug and I got away in 2013 for a few days, but not really a vacation. Perhaps going to the Outer Banks with Aaron in like 2005 was the last vacation.

We have broken the streak.  This was a vacation.

Our good buddy Aaron was to be wed to the lovely Serena out in Oregon. He asked me to be his "best man" and I said yes without thinking. Without batting an eye. I was honored. It was lovely to be asked. So we had to be there.

Months of planning and saving later, and questioning whether we could afford it or not after me getting sick in January... we committed to it and pulled the trigger. We ended up headed west very early on a very rainy morning.

We flew out to Portland, Oregon on a Wednesday morning, getting there on... Wednesday morning. The clusterfuck of TSA at Logan made for us missing our first flight, but United was gracious and rescheduled us onto the next one an hour later and we still made our connection in Chicago. 

Aaron met us at the airport.

We hadn't seen Aaron in about 8-10 years or something. I honestly have lost track.

Here are Geoff and Aaron on one great summer day back in the MDI shenanigans days, 2003 I think.
I love this photograph.

I love how small Geoff is and his missing teeth. I love how he loved Aaron so much, like the best uncle a kid could have. Nothing but fun.

When he moved away, I think Geoff lost his best outside-the-family role model ever.

He went to the west coast after he and Michelle split up. He had a kid, split up with his daughter's mom, met another girl, got his dream job, and settled into what appears to be a most excellent life. And being asked to be his best man and join his "tribe" as it were was a gift I was happy to receive.

After we were dropped off in our housing for the night Geoff had a big smile on his face and he said "I forgot how funny Aaron is, holy crap that guy is hilarious."

That's the reason we brought Geoff.  Because yeah. Aaron is hysterical. And I didn't want him to miss this.

Geoff is a lot different than he was when he was 6. On this trip he was insular, quiet, distant, except when he was with Aaron. He had the biggest smile on his face when they spent time together. And I am kicking myself for not taking a photo of the two of them together now that Geoff is the same height.

I know Geoff adores him. And while we tortured Geoff by making him spend time with complete strangers, I felt like this picture was happening inside him all the time when the two of them were together and no one else was around.

I wish Geoff connected with other people like this.

Worth every penny to bring him.

Wednesday night we settled into sleep and were wide awake by 6 am. Traveling west is awesome. My 6am west coast brain was firing like 9am east coast brain. Wide awake, happy, awesome, joking. It was great. We ran errands, got stuff done, helped with wedding decorating on Thursday and Friday. We went on a cool trolley ride historic tour of Astoria Oregon with a bunch of the wedding guests. Fun stuff! It was a beautiful night, gorgeous sunset, awesome views. We were semi obsessed with all of the cargo ships that queue up to go up river to Portland or Longview.

After the trolley ride we had dinner at the Rogue Brewery restaurant. The food was kind of sub-par, and after sampling several items off the menu I was under impressed  with their offerings and stuck with the standard Dead Guy brew. That's a good go-to, and the evening overall was lovely.

Getting to know Serena's "girls" was awesome, and spending time with Aaron's aunt Carol who took the train across country with many many misadventures along the way was also great.

 ... we had a great night out.

We took Aaron out for a few drinks after the party split up. Not a bachelor party, just his brother, his future brother in law, another friend, Doug and me. There was a bachelorette party in the other corner and they were kind of out of control. Aaron sat there and laughed and said that he was way too old for that shit. We all agreed.

We called it an early night.

Friday we were up early and decorating the hall. The reception was in an old school gymnasium that was rehabbed beautifully, white walls and a gorgeous hardwood basketball court floor, with a full stage and a balcony. A fantastic space. We set up tables and folded a million paper flowers (not a million but ... you know).

Geoff and Aaron's mom put tiny roses in little cups and filled them with water. I had some quality time with Aaron's dad washing vases so they were clean and crisp and beautiful. It was wonderful to spend time with Marty and Connie.

It was great to see Geoff interacting and helping.

Friday afternoon, Doug and Geoff went sightseeing while the wedding party held rehearsal -- I instantly loved Aaron's pastor. He was a super great guy with a loving demeanor. Really young but not a fake hipster evangelical. Just the nicest guy.  Genuine. Amazing. Refreshing.

Everyone went back to Aaron's for a barbecue and bonfire. About 50 people were fed and had great joy. It was a good time.

Saturday morning, up early, and I had to go to the church for portraits, while Geoff and Doug got to hang around and not get ready as early as me.

They did get the honor of bringing a plum tree to the church, which Aaron and Serena's moms added dirt to from each of their childhood homes. Instead of a unity candle they had a unity tree. Very typically Aaron.

The service was lovely. Much longer than I thought it would be. I felt like I was an awesome best man.  Serena's girls made me a bouquet even though I was with The Guys. So incredibly sweet of them. So I got all the cool guy swag like the Reef sunglasses, and girl gifts too.

Aaron's nephew was the ring bearer, and he was nervous. He asked me to keep my hand on his shoulder the whole time, until it was time for him to go present the rings.  I felt kind of like a creeper standing there with my hand on his shoulder, and would gently lift it away. He'd realize it was gone and turn around and glare at me ... pointing at the shoulder.

The video will be entertaining.

One of the groomsmen was a "Mormon as a kid" as he explained to me the day before the service. He confessed that wasn't sure how he was going to "handle communion," as he put it. He didn't want to receive it, because he wasn't religious in a church way, his words... I told him that he could go up and get a blessing from the pastor or stay in his seat... those usually are the options. I encouraged him to hey, just go up. Get blessed. It can't hurt.

At communion time he went up to receive the blessing.  He came back to the pew with his eyes full of tears and a huge smile on his face.   I wanted to hug him. I have no idea what the pastor said to him, but it must have been ... just right.

It was all very lovely. Everything was just right.

After the wedding -- everyone was instructed to burn some time before the reception at 5:30.

 Doug and Geoff took me up to the Astoria Column.  The view was outstanding.

It was a gorgeous, crystal clear day. Up until that day it had been rather overcast and very "Pacific North West" with fog and low clouds everywhere. On one side of the river it could be sunny, the other side socked in by fog and clouds.

Every day it was a different view. Every day it looked totally different. This day, everything was clear, and hot, and sunny.

The reception was great. A bluegrass band, square (line) dancing. Very hot, very fun.

Serena's sister and I both gave toasts to the couple. Hers went on for quite a while so I knew I had to do things in classic best man style and make it short, sweet and count. I told everyone in the room that being invited to this wedding was a wonderful thing, and that perhaps aside from Aaron's family, I was pretty much the only one who knew Aaron longest. I changed my daughter's diapers on the floor in his office when he was in college, and now she is 22 years old.

So coming out to West Coast Aaron, to this new life, was a little intimidating. It was great getting to know Serena over this week,  but I told them, my toast wasn't just about  the happy couple and wishing them well. It was thankfulness for all the great people my family and I met. Aaron has chosen well. We were his tribe for a long time, and now this... this is his tribe and it is an honor to be in it.

A lot of Serena's family is Norwegian stock, so I raised my glass and said "it doesn't matter the language of your people. Skol, Proust, Cheers, as my people say... Slainte, L'Chaim, Good on ya... whatever you say, raise your glass and toast these fine folk and yourself. Thank you for your hospitality and long may you all run."

People actually clapped and cheered. And I loved the look on Aaron's face. Bending that arm, and seeing all the glasses in the air and the cheers, and everyone toasting... well hell.

Best Best Man Speech Ever. 

We all had a blast. The food was incredible. And we went back to Aaron and Serena's for fireworks on the beach and another great bonfire.

My brother, best friend. Happiness.

Sunday we checked out of our Air Bnb house (which was very nice, even though it had no internet access so I could work a few hours a day).

We spent the day sight seeing around Cape Disappointment and the Lewis & Clark sites like Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens. Again, bright and sunny and beautiful in the afternoon, and a gorgeous place to visit.

Cape Disappointment did not disappoint. That's fun to say.

We had wanted to hit the road and go north that afternoon, but before we left my blood counts for the blood thinner were way out of whack so they wanted me to get my blood tested at a lab or hospital. I had to go in on Monday morning and get tested, so after I did, we hit the road.

Aaron had offered us the use of his truck but we were worried about taking it up the mountains and the price of gas. We opted to rent a car. The local car rental was all sold out but suggested a car dealership the next town over, so we hit them up and rented a Prius V.

Like Cape Disappointment, it did not disappoint either! I was incredibly impressed with the power and the gas mileage. I think we put $50 in gas in it after driving the entire Olympic Peninsula, whereas I think we would have had to put that much in Aaron's truck each of the 3 days were were trekking. Huge shout out of thanks to the fine folk at Lum Toyota. If I lived out there, I'd buy a Prius V from them.

We drove up to Forks, Washington, with a lunch stop in South Bend at a roadside fish & chips joint. The food was great, and the view outstanding.

On the way up to Forks, we pulled over on the side of Rte 101 where there was a sign for "Beach 2" and Doug had read that Beach 2 was a great place to visit.

There was a short hike down to the Pacific, and a rugged beach of rocks and driftwood for miles, and us. No one else.  Turns out, this wasn't the Beach 2 that he'd read about (they name everything with numbers, like there is this utter lack of creativity out there in that nothing has a name, everything is just ... numbered... which is weird).

But it was a gorgeous beach that we had to ourselves, with sun trying to burn through the clouds. We could feel it trying to burn off the haze, the warmth, and then the damp and cold Pacific mist would win. A sweet and lovely find for us.

I don't have a lot of pictures of me and Doug. Geoff took this one, and I'm happy for it.

Forks was socked in with clouds when we got there, but we drove down to La Push in search of dinner and the sun was out, the ocean and the sea stacks were gorgeous, and we spent a great deal of time hanging out watching the sunset before eating dinner at the one place in town that was open (or even existed).

For those in the know, Forks and the surrounding area is where they filmed "Twilight"... that there vampire and werewolf and chick movie thing.

Having absolutely no interest in "Twilight Tourism," I did however find it amusing that the town was trying to make an industry out of that fact.

There were at least two out of business shops though focusing on Twilight merchandise. You could go on Twilight Tours, see where Bella did her grocery shopping and stuff like that. We passed on all of it. The area is beautiful, but slightly sad and depressing. Mostly because there isn't a lot of industry aside from lumber (not that there is anything wrong with that) around, and the attempts and drumming up said tourism industry looked like an abject failure.
I think this is Bella's Truck or something. Twilight fans would know.

We slept very well that night. We got, I believe, the last available hotel room in town and were happy for it.

In the morning, we went to Hoh Rainforest, back down the highway to the south a little ways.

We took a long hike, nothing too vertical as my knees hurt like hell lately. We got to wall through the Hall of Mosses, which was cool. It was very hot and very sunny, as we were visiting in the driest time of the year. I'm kind of glad it was hot and dry instead of wet and muddy.

The river running through the area was a gorgeous grey color, filled with wash and silt from the snow and glaciers up above in the Olympics.

Watching people drink the water in their cupped hands made me exceptionally thankful to have BSA training to know not to do that.

After Hoh, we went up to Port Angeles, scored a decent room at a slightly too high price but compared to the place I wanted to stay (with the view) it was a bargain.

We got all checked in and unloaded, and took the drive up to Hurricane Ridge.

What an incredible place.

I was blown away by the ride and the views. This flatlander, this east coast maiden, well... she was enthralled. Just an absolutely beautiful place. At the top of the ridge we took a small hike, enjoyed more views and had a black-tailed deer walk along side of us while she was eating like no big deal. While looking at a glacier and snow and clouds and sun and the ocean and Canada.

In the morning, we got up early to head back down to Lum Toyota to turn our rental in as it had to be back for 4pm, and our flight as scheduled was at 10:45pm.

Aaron and Serena met up with us and rode us to the airport, with dinner at Gustav's beforehand. Nothing like a German restaurant with accordions and lederhosen and singing to send you off from the north west!

As mentioned, we had been gifted some stand-by tickets and I was happy to have them but it was complicated getting out of Portland as opposed to getting out of Boston.

We signed up for the red eye on Wednesday night, ended up not getting on a plane until the following morning around 11am. My son didn't deal well with it, even though we prepared him (I thought) for understanding how flying stand-by works. Doug and I had no problem with it. It was slightly disappointing to get bumped but we were thankful that 3 of us were flying for a little more than what it would have cost for 1 of us to fly so we didn't stress it.

We got to look at the famous PDX Airport Carpeting, a lot.

We spent the night in the airport because we'd thought we'd be able to get a seat on the first flight east but that didn't work out.

He grew increasingly more frustrated and I was incredibly relieved when we finally got our plane to Newark.  As was he.

The night before, a flight from the East Coast had been horribly delayed because of weather so the crew couldn't turn around and get back on the plane and fly for 12 hours. There was no other crew to take the Red Eye back across the country because of that.

And some of my thoughts about culture and experience on this trip will wait for another entry.  I've been working on this one long enough.

Oh, and here is one last picture.

Doug and I clean up nice. 

One last thought though... on our wedding anniversary, Aaron sent me a text wishing us a happy 23rd anniversary, and that he couldn't wait until he celebrated his 23rd. Probably the nicest text ever.


  1. Beautiful pics! I'm so happy you had such a good time. If you love the mountains, you don't have to go all the way to the west coast, just move to western or northern NH. I get drives that beautiful literally all the time!

  2. true. there be mountains to our north... but ... washington mountains were just like woah. woah. seriously woah.