I saw enough of Portland, Ore., to know that I would like to go back one day. Arriving in the glow of early evening, all the buildings sparkled like gold and the bridges stretched and arched their backs gracefully out across the yawning gap of water that nearly surrounds the city like a moat. “Hello, beautiful,” I murmured but there was no time to stop and take it all in properly; I had to find lodging for the night.
I was in town to see a friend who I did not know too well but she was excited to meet up at some point, although she said she was going to be spending much of her weekend at a music festival outside town. I was welcome to join her out there on the farm but it was a little bit pricey, so I declined, opting to meet somewhere more central instead. I figured I would find a spot to camp on the outskirts of town and that either that night or the next morning we would meet up. Little did I know what I had coming.
Three hours of driving around later, I discovered that all the campsites were either full or closed, and that the latter had no self-registration stations as some campsites do, and that worse yet, even the Walmart did not allow overnight parking in their lot, which was going to be my back-up plan. It was after nine o’ clock by this time, so I finally starting calling dog-friendly hotels, splurging in the end on a room at the La Quinta Inn by the airport. I had to lie about Rennie’s breed to get him past the front desk, as insurance does not allow pit bulls or rottweilers to stay there, and at a little after 10pm, we settled into our digs for the night.
The next morning, after taking full advantage of the hot breakfast, gym equipment and excellent water pressure, I found out that my Portland friend was not going to be able to meet up after all, because she had stayed out late and got up late and was off to the festival again. Understandable. I’m the one who let this part of the trip sneak up on me, without planning it too well, and so I set off at about noon with high hopes that things would work out in Seattle, where I had more friends, one of whom was already planning to host me. But I was earlier than I had said I would be and I could not reach her on the phone, and so I pulled over, got out my road atlas and studied the lay of the land. North of where I was at that moment and east of Seattle, I spotted some green coastal areas, where I figured Rennie and I could spend a peaceful night and I pointed Marco that way.
We ended up in the Ocean Shores area, driving up Hwy 109 for about 20 miles to find a quiet spot near Copalis Beach. Turns out we missed the action by 24 hours; the previous night, my neighbors told me, they had tossed and turned till dawn, trying but failing to drown out the pounding music from an all-night party on the beach. Two dozen bands had come out to play and many of the ravers were staying at the campsite, so they were constantly driving back and forth between the highway and the driveway, their tires crunching on gravel for eight long hours. By the time we arrived on Saturday, the tent had been moved about a mile up the beach and the only thing to be heard was the crashing of waves just over the dunes behind the office.
The next day, I broke camp early, deciding to complete the loop that Hwy 101 made up and over Olympic National Park, with the idea that I could see some pretty wilderness and also allow Seattle to get in touch, so that I would still have time to cut across the sound and make it to the city by dinnertime. I never did stop to see any of the rain forest, though, because for about 40 miles, I kept passing bright yellow signs warning of an escapee from the state correction center. Don’t pick up hitchhikers, the signs said, but I didn’t even want to stop to pee.
At 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, I was pointed south again and having to decide whether to stay on 101 and see some more nature or cut east to put myself closer to Seattle. At the advice of a gas station attendant in Port Angeles, I decided to continue on 101 and find a campsite somewhere north of Shelton. Surely the next day I would have heard from Seattle and could then get downtown via the ferry at the end of highway 3 in Bremerton. But the next morning, after camping just outside Hoodsport, I still had not heard from Seattle. I set off anyhow, figuring the day was still young.
By the time we pulled up to the ferry dock in Bremerton, though, it was nearly 1 o’ clock in the afternoon and I still had not heard from anyone. A few hours before, I had also sent out a message to friends somewhere in the vicinity of Vancouver and had not heard anything from them, either, and so I started to panic. I had wanted to save my Vancouver visit with friends Aman & Stephanie for as late as possible, because if I timed it right, I would also get to see my friend, Steve, on a visit from Mexico, but I decided I had to forgo that plan and just before the dock crew waved the lines of cars aboard the giant water craft, I sent out a message to Aman & Stephanie asking what they were doing that night and would it be terrible if I crashed into town?
By the time we had pulled out of the bay and I was on the top deck, taking in the view, I had messages back from both of them. Of course I could come see them; it would be great and we would go to a restaurant where Stephanie had a Groupon that needed using and oh yeah, here was their address with directions.
All weekend I had been rattling around like an empty can in the back of a pickup truck and finally, someone had picked me up.