inter alia: Postcards from the coast…

Well, here I am back safe, and mostly sound from my family trip to Oregon.  This certainly isn’t a travel blog, but every time I travel, it seems relevant (and usually comical) to reflect on the experience.   This was a trip that I was unexpectedly ambivalent about taking.   Usually, I’m counting down the days until these family reunion trips…for the most part, I like my extended family – they are smart, articulate and undeniably quirky (seems to be a genetic marker…)  The lead up to this trip was different somehow…mitigating factors maybe.  Had I not already been committed, I might have simply bowed out and stayed home, but that wouldn’t have made me happy either, so I’m glad I swallowed my misgivings and got on board.

There were a whole lot of firsts on this trip.  While the rest of my family has gathered in the Pacific Northwest previously, I was in Greece on excavation that year and could not attend, so this was my first time visiting that landscape – it did not disappoint.  One thing that did disappoint was that ShowBiz Son wouldn’t be sharing the experience.  For the first time since he’s been on the planet, he did not attend due to prior commitments (which fell through only after we had already booked and he had firmly decided that he was no way going…upside?  Petsitter.)  It’s too bad really – he would love coastal Oregon since the weather, cool and misty, is his favorite forecast.

Mini Me was also a first time air traveler on this trip – we’ve road-tripped them all in the past decade since she arrived on the scene.  (and even before…she was a “stowaway” for the July 2005 assemblage in Dodgeville, WI)


Apart from a death grip on my hand during takeoff and exasperation that her Kindle was not compatible with the plane’s inflight streaming service, she did great.  (Her airport wandering is another story!)  Truthfully, my mother constantly tapping me from the other side for help with her crossword was far worse…can’t you see I am watching THOR woman!?   Speaking of my mother, this trip also marked the first time that I have recently traveled by air with my approaching elderly parents.  My mom and dad are veteran travelers, but since my mother had both hips replaced five years ago, they have traveled exclusively on the ground…and for good reason.

While she is mostly ambulatory, my mom can’t walk long distances quickly, or without tremendous pain.  It didn’t seem like a major obstacle – I’ve seen wheelchairs and motorized carts buzzing around American airports for decades, but I got my first personal taste of how shockingly able-ist air travel is this trip.  Theoretically, there are accommodations made for passengers needing wheelchair conveyance…and from the check-in counter, we found this to be mostly true.  The airline personnel called for a wheelchair and it arrived within ten or so minutes to pick her up.  We all lined up to follow behind to find that we would get also get the fast track through the TSA Security check…no need to drag out the liquids, etc.  The story was a bit different upon arrival at our destination though.

As it turns out, we didn’t do enough research or apparently ask the right question of the original desk agent in Chicago.  What we were supposed to have done was to arrange this all in advance by calling a airline reservation agent – fair enough.  Our bad.  However, once he learned that we hadn’t done this, given that she needed a chair to get to the gate, and she would certainly need one back from the gate at her destination, would it have killed the guy in Chicago to 1. Call ahead to his colleagues in Portland to arrange this or 2. tell us that we should do it while we waited for our plane?  Evidently the thought did not occur…and so we had significant clusterduckage on our return flight as well.

It certainly didn’t occur to me while I was wrangling my parents and my daughter through security and then several gate changes (weather, weather, weather) and then through the food court, considering that no one had eaten since breakfast and there would be no food service on the flight.  As the recently designated trip coordinator,  two things occurred to me here as well,

  1.  my mother and daughter need to be fed a regular intervals to ensure optimal behavior
    1. a.  I’m going to need to carry snacks!
  2. I may need to start pinning a note on my dad’s shirt…”If found please call 555-555-5555″

Don’t get me wrong – I adore my parents.  They have been a never ending source of love and support for me.  I simply had not recognize that they have definitely slowed down a few steps and we need to leave room for that in the future.  On the plus side, the experience has made me aware of some of the challenges I might face next year as I plan to take an alumni group on a tour of Greece…lead time, lead time, lead time.

After a couple of customary room sharing hiccups and a hearty brunch where my mom kvetched about the prices and my dad eulogized the mustard, we got on the road in the late morning to head to the coast.  Did I mention that I was also the designated driver for the trip?  Indeed.  That was great fun trying to find the hotel the night before.  The narrated navigation wasn’t working on my phone and Oregon has a hands free cell phone law.  Handing it to my mother to read the turn by turn directions was futile as well..”It turned off…how do I turn it back on?!”  *face palm*   Once we purchased a paper map (and a bottle of ibuprofen for me) my mother was an excellent navigator from the back seat…if only she was a less aggressive back seat driver!  The drive was fine until we worked our way into the curvy, sun dappled road over the mountains to the coast.  It was like a scene from a National Lampoon film…MiniMe was getting green from the curves, Grandma needed a restroom, and Obscura needed an espresso because the sunlight through the trees was putting me to sleep at the wheel.  Only Grandpa was stoic – he saves it up.  After a visit to the filthiest McDonald’s in the lower 48 states (they were also out of soft serve which sent my mother back to her seat grumbling like a toddler)  we were on the road again…yours truly considerably revived from sipping on iced coffee  (Say what you will about McDonalds…and this one left a lot to be desired…but they always have a bathroom and some kind of caffeinated beverage on hand.).  

The final leg of journey offered some truly spectacular natural vistas…the coast here abuts almost right up to the mountains so there are incredible views…

Sheer rock faces on one side of the road


and the Pacific coast on the other


Gorgeous.  The view from the hotel didn’t disappoint either.  My mom had said that for budget’s sake, she hadn’t reserved a “seaside” suite.


The view from the balcony disagreed…turns out this is a “seaview” suite as a apposed to a “seaside” suite which is only a few steps down to the actual beach.  Not a problem from where I was standing.  I could hear the surf, and we had an excellent view of Haystack Rock in the distance.  Cannon Beach is a really beautiful place, and the Pacific is just massive.  I’ve been to the Pacific Coast in Southern California, but here it just seemed so much…I don’t know…More.


From the misty expansiveness of the beach even at high tide,


to the burst of color in the lush hydrangea bushes that were lovingly tended all over the property.  It was a fantastic setting…I have to tip my hat to my cousin…she picked a great location!

The reunion itself progressed pretty much as they all do…smiling greetings as people trickled in (we arrived a day early, so we were the unofficial welcome wagon)  far too much food…(I think my west coast cousins may not need to buy groceries for awhile thanks to the leftovers) lots of laughter and only a few tears.


I inadvertently contributed to laughter, and tears from laughter when during a beach side bonfire,  I stood up, promptly tripped over the very same log I’d been sitting on and face planted into the soft sand.  I would like to assure you that alcohol was not involved…I have a certain gift for magnificent falls.  This little ding was the repercussion…that and the fact that this tumble reminded my cousin of the infamous Swing Strip of 1982 and the Otter Slide of 1984…timeless tales of Obscura taking spectacular spills.  I told you it was a gift!

Happy Sunday ArmitageWorld!!

19 comments on “inter alia: Postcards from the coast…

  1. sparkhouse1 says:

    I spent from grade two to ten on the west coast (Vancouver) which is very much like your pictures….so beautiful, thanks!

  2. I’ve been to Cannon Beach! I thought it was just breathtaking. Glad you had your reunion in such a beautiful locale.

  3. Servetus says:

    I’m glad you had a good time when I know you were kind of dreading it. I know what you mean about parents slowing down — my brother said to me, when he saw the pix of when dad was here in January, you gotta slow down with him, he’s not so fast anymore.

    • obscura says:

      My mom has been pokey forever, but it was kind of jarring to *not* have to trot to keep up with my dad in the airport.

      It started out dicey…got soaked through in a biblical downpour at the Milwaukee train station and had to strip to the skin to change before boarding the shuttle…they could really stand to dial back on the AC in that place!

      • Servetus says:

        That’s a huge problem here, too (caught in a downburst and catch a chill). I swear people get more summer colds here than anywhere I’ve ever lived.

  4. Hariclea says:

    sounds exhausting but fun once you got there 🙂 scenery is amazing!
    Glad you made it back ok although that does look like quite the boo-boo, hope it doesn’t sting too badly 🙂
    MiniMe must have been totally amazed by the whole trip with the flights and all 🙂
    Europe by the way not different on the assisted travel front, i’ve done it a few times with a friend and it requires a lot of advance calling and booking things and then a lot of extra time at airport for waiting as some stuff you can’t book in advance, frustrating! But it’s nice then not to have to cue and most staff are really nice, just not the booking systems and such.

    • obscura says:

      It was fun…and although the extra time on the road rather than fly to/from Chicago from the local airport (like the rest of my local family did) turned out to be a good choice not only to save some $, but also logistically….they all got diverted due to weather, had to land, three hours stuck on the plane on the tarmac to refuel, got to Chicago just in time to miss their connection and ended up renting a van one-way and driving the four hours to arrive home shortly after three am…their time saving flight cost them about eight hours and $500 for the “convenience”

      Nature of the beast with air travel, but my sister has some seriously bad air travel mojo (I don’t fly with her anymore…)

  5. linnetmoss says:

    Yes, I have often wondered how people with mobility and other issues manage to negotiate airports. Especially in making tight connections… it sounds nerve-racking!
    LOL about McDonald’s. I will go there, but only for the two essentials you mention 🙂

    • obscura says:

      There’s always a certain amount of “hurry up and wait” in air travel, but this was off the hook…I told my mother that she should really get the adult version of an umbrella stroller…if I can wheel a 5 year old down the jetway, I can wheel a 75 year old 🙂

      One can usually count on McD’s to have reasonably clean restrooms…I am not stickler, but this place was not on par…and management abounded behind the counter!

  6. jholland says:

    ROFL at “my dad eulogized the mustard”! Sounds like it was quite the adventure. Beautiful photos. Glad the trip was worth your while. We were further south around Florence for our honeymoon, but the scenery in your pics looks similar to that on our honeymoon and gave me a pang. Need to get back there and soon!

  7. katie70 says:

    Sounds like you had fun even with all the mishaps. I don’t think travel is without some. Mr. 70’s reunion was good. Ours was that Mr. 70 booked two nights at the hotel (we pre payed) when we got the CC bill it only had one night, tried to get one more night but could not, so stayed at his uncles house the second night. It also happened to be real hot in Chicago and this summer we have been cool so the 90’s was hot ( but just as hot at home) it also rained the night at his aunts and at the park the next day. There will be something to remember about this reunion. The other thing was now that I 90/94/39 has a speed limit of 70, on the way down no one seemed to be going even 65 and the traffic was heavy.

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