Sauvie Island beaches
Thursday, July 12 2012
location: BB King Room, Edgefield McMenamins, Troutdale, Oregon
We were slow to leave our room this morning. McMenamins cultivates a Sunday-morning vibe in the mornings, distributing the local newspaper to every room and offering coffee. While in Bend, they actually bring the coffee to your door, at Edgefield one has to go and get it from the main office. But that's not too much of an slog and it gives one the opportunity to take in and appreciate the bustle of humanity.
Once we'd checked out and dropped our stuff off in our car, we decided to wander around the grounds to see the things we'd missed last evening. There were flower gardens and vegetable gardens large and small in addition to the vinyards and even a glass-blowing studio. But we spent the most time at the distillery trying various quarter shots ($2 each) of McMenanims' own spirits. Our bartender was a very nice youngish man with a sensible number of tattoos and an agreeable disposition. He seemed to effortly transition between pouring and explaining quarter shots and setting people up for golf on the nearby green. Most of those people needed two clubs, a handful of balls, and a "Ruby Hammerhead" (a blend of two of McMenanmins' most popular beers). It was still morning, but out on the golf course it's always five o'clock. At some point Gretchen asked for a grapefruit juice and our bartender made it right then and there from actual grapefruits using a manual juicer.
After wandering through a large garden and marveling at the bounty, we finally got in our car and started driving back to Portland. We'd left our bathroom back at Gilly and Allen's place, so we'd be picking up Gilly at her workplace again and having lunch at the Red and Black Café.
But there was some sort of fuck up on I-5 and we got stuck in traffic. Using the navigation app on Gretchen's Droid, I noticed that the regions of bad traffic had been color coded. Not only that, they seemed to be very accurate. When we left the worst "red" zones and entered the yellow, traffic speeds suddenly picked up. And when we entered "green" zones, it was clear sailing. I'd known about Google traffic, but I hadn't expected it to be so useful. Had we been using it from the start, we would have avoided I-5 entirely. After awhile, though, Gretchen got sick of all the updates I was giving about what traffic was or wasn't about to do.
This time for lunch I had just a sandwich and a beer, though before I could do that I had to find a place to piss. Evidently someone had taken over the Red and Black's bathroom as a personal safe zone, so I had to walk down to the vegan mini-mall and piss in the bathroom at the Sweet Pea Bakery.
Offering itself to the community as safe zone, the Red and Black Café attracts an unusual number of weirdos even by Portland standards. As we ate, we noticed a gaunt-looking gentleman seated at a table outside flipping through a local publication containing color mug shots of everyone who had recently been arrested in the city. And then there was the woman who had wrapped straps around her neck with clips going down to her pleated black skirt so as to hold its front hem up at the level of her chest, exposing her not-especially-sexy black underpants. I don't know that this look would be sexy on any woman, but it definitely wasn't working any special magic for her. Indeed, it made her look like she had some sort of physical deformity.
After lunch, we said our goodbyes to Gilly and headed off for next destination: Sauvie Island at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia, which Gretchen had learned about the day before yesterday from her hair care specialist.
Sauvie Island is a large island and there is only one bridge to it, near its southmost tip. We took that bridge and drove across it, marveling at the stunning views of both Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, both sometimes visible simultaneously across perfectly flat wheat fields.
We stopped at a wildlife refuge at the south end of Sturgeon Lake and walked to its shore, where something had recently killed a number of garter snakes and picked what little meat could be found off their skeletons. Possible candidates for garter snake murderers included a number of Great Blue Herons and Giant Egrets, both of which we could see against a glorious backdrop of Mt. St. Helens.
We continued across the island to its northeast shore, the Columbia River itself. We soon found a beach where it was common for offleash dogs to play and fishermen to plant large fishing poles in the sand and wait passively for some sort of fish to come along. Unlike every other beach I can think of, this one had trees growing very near the shoreline and much of the sand was actually shaded. And unlike ocean beaches in the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia here was warm enough to swim in (but not by much; it still contained a lot of meltwater from the Cascades).
There was another beach further north up the island, and this one featured a telephone pole with a special top part designed to hold an osprey nest (we could even see the baby osprey in there). There was no shade for people stretched out on the sand, but there was an icecream boat that was able to get itself close enough to the shore for children to safely buy icecream. I'd never seen an icecream boat before. Meanwhile, Gretchen was noticing all the plus-sized women happily parading about in two-piece swim suits. They don't call it Portland for nothing.
Before leaving Sauvie, we stopped at an organic berry farm near the bridge to stock up on fresh fruit (and dehydrated peaches) for the rest of our trip.
After leaving the island, we continued northwestward on US 30 all the way to that bridge we'd crossed yesterday when coming east from Astoria. The goal tonight was to stay in Kelso so we'd be pre-positioned for a visit to Mt. St. Helens tomorrow.
Gretchen had done the research and found that the best place to stay in Kelso was the Super 8, which had both a jacuzzi and an indoor pool. From the perspective of the internet, though, it looked like it was booked solid. But when we actually drove there, we had no trouble booking a room.
It was a nice big room with a bathtub, cable teevee, two queen-sized (or at least double) beds, and password-free WiFi. On top of all that, it didn't have any fragrance at all, which didn't just mean it had no funk, it also meant no attempts had been made to conceal an ineradicable fragrance.
While Gretchen watched mindless television for the first time in over a week, I wandered out to the surrounding shopping plaza in hopes of buying some beer. When I went into the Rite Aid, I found not only beer, but also wine and a whole section of hard liquor. Evidently Washington has more liberal liquor laws than I'd thought. They're like California's. I bought a large bottle of some sort of IPA for myself and a bottle of some sort of cheap white wine (I would have bought Reisling, Gretchen's favorite, but they didn't have that). I also needed some cash, which required patronizing an ATM machine at a nearby McDonalds. The transaction fee was $1.75, which was less usurious than I had expected.
Back in the hotel room, Gretchen ordered Chinese food from a menu she'd been given in the lobby. It was for a restaurant called Paragon, and though it had cheeseburgers in addition to standard Chinese dishes, there was no vegetable section and no mention of tofu. (We were in the part of Washington State rich in Nobama stickers, Jesus billboards, and other indications that this was really just Mississippi with snowcapped mountains.) However, when Gretchen called in our order, she found that tofu was indeed an option and it was possible to cobble together something that at least might have been vegan. Amusingly, the woman delivering our food wasn't even Asian. As for the food itself, some of it was a little weird, but for the most part it was pretty good. It definitely met our requirements for the kind of experience we were having.
By this point, we wouldn't shut up about how much we loved the Super 8, comparing it favorably even to McMenamins. Sure, it lacked the art and the funky whimsy, and there was no happy hour. But it was just so easy and comfortable. We didn't have to walk down a hall to get to a bathroom, the internet just worked, and there was even a view of a mountain visible across the parking lot outside our window (it featured a large clear cut containing a single lonely tree).
Gretchen mostly just wanted to watch trashy teevee, but I decided to take advantage of the indoor pool and jacuzzi. We went down there together to check it out, but I stayed and swam a few laps and turned on the jacuzzi to get the jets going. I had the whole place to myself.
Art on the wall in the Edgefield McMenamins. It's a painting of a pipe with a typical McMenamins anthropomorphic fitting reacting to a break in the pipe.
A whimsical door is the entrance to one of Edgefield's gardens.
Gretchen talks to Gilly via Droid at Edgefield. Note the iron planter made from an old tank.
A guy outside the Red and Black Café flips through a publication of color mug shots of Portland arrests.
Sturgeon Lake on Sauvie Island: a Blue Heron and a Great Egret against Mt. St. Helens.
Gretchen on Sauvie Island.
An icecream boat delivers to Sauvie Island sunbathers in the Columbia River.
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