Oregon Trail

Location: Oregon, United States

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Week 7

Wow, week 7. Tempus fugit.

Week of May 15th. Paul leaves for Orlando Tuesday and leaves me with the kids. He does not get back until Saturday night. He has been so busy with work that this is not a huge adjustment for me. This is not a dis, it is just a fact. The only thing I hate about him being out of town is that I know he gets to eat great food every day and I am flat out jealous. I eat leftovers and whatever food the kids will complain least about, which isn't much. I decide this rots and get some decent Chinese food for myself one day and frozen dinners for the kids. They think they've died and gone to heaven. I think if I were dead, I would be rolling over in my grave. How can these really be my kids? Their favorite meal is Swanson's frozen chicken. Maybe they are aliens.

Thomas has a fever and a head cold and does not go to school on Monday or Tuesday. He is bummed because he is missing out. The other two boys develop sympathy pains and wish they were sick so they could stay home. I'm still not feeling 100% every day either, but tough it out to provide an excellent example. They have conferences on Thursday and Friday so it is a short week anyway.

They are doing well in school. The conferences are student led, so they show me all their work themselves. I have to answer a bunch of questions on a worksheet for Stephen's class and get some wrong because I didn't understand the instructions. This is humbling but good, because I can use it later as a teachable moment. Thomas has some great poetry and has test scores that are off the charts. In the back of my mind, I wonder if this is all Thomas' brain, or if the schools are just worse here. I don't even want to think about it.

William's advisor doesn't know who I am or why I am there. He asks which student is mine and I say, "William." He says, "What's the last name?" and I say, "Radke." "Oh! Will is your kid!" I forgot he is going by Will at school. The advisor didn't have a file for him, so that is why he was confused about who I was. Great guy, though, and really working and talking with "Will" to help make these last few weeks good ones.

We decide to celebrate the good reviews by going to see the movie "Over the Hedge". Well done and entertaining. Favorite character: Hammie. Favorite line: "But I like the cookie." Favorite part: Hammie on caffeine.

I have found a dog park nearby and I bring Sundae there 2 - 3 times a week. I have a complete conversation with a couple other dog owners - the first human contact outside of a store. Well, okay, I've met most of the neighbors, too, but those haven't been conversations really - more like introductions.

I did meet another neighbor this week and I'm looking forward to getting to know her. She and her husband live kitty-corner in back of us. They are in their 70's and he uses a cart - I think he may have M.S. from the way he moves around when he's not using the cart. She is very active and they have gardens EVERYWHERE in their yard. I'm a good 30 years younger than they are and I'm tired just looking at all the work they have to do. When I went over to meet them, she took me around and showed me all her gardens and gave me a couple of calla lilies to bring home. Then she came and looked at what I was up to. She was all excited to have a neighbor she could talk to, she said, and she has enjoyed watching our boys run around in the greenspace.

Which is weird. The kids really do run around in the greenspace in back of our house. They never did that before. Is it that our living space is on ground level so they see it and want to go out there? Is it that it is so big and inviting that it draws them out? Is it the fresh air? (We swear we can smell the ocean some days.) The temperature? Whatever it is, it is good and I am really thankful for the time they spend outdoors. We even ate most of our dinners outside this week. Beautiful weather, no bugs. Oh yeah, and the dining room table inside was piled up with papers.

I get a call from my folks and my mother's doctor said it is okay for her to come out whenever she is ready. (I may have forgotten to mention that she had gotten sick the day I left. They don't know what it is, but something to do with her lungs again. She's been on heavy duty anti-biotics and is showing improvement.) So they plan to leave next Tuesday and arrive by Thursday. It will be good to have them here, show them around, and get their opinion and help on some of my projects. Yea!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Random Stuff

Here are some random thoughts that don't fit on a particular day:

Weird stuff: On sunny days, I wear a hoodie in the morning, shorts by afternoon, and a hoodie again by after supper. Layering is a good thing. On cloudy days, I am cold all day no matter what.

There is wine for sale in the grocery store next to the bread and at Target.

I can't fill my own tank up with gas. It is against the law, primarily because it was seen as discriminatory against low income people to be subjected to hazardous fumes while filling their own tanks while the middle and upper income people could choose to pay extra to have their gas pumped by someone else. But if I want my windshields clean, I have to get out of the car and do it myself while the tank fills up. Hmm.

There are no screens on half my windows here. I decide to make them myself to save money. I follow the directions exactly and have a beautiful screen but I cannot get the flippin' thing in the flippin' window without a paper thin crowbar. Next time, I make it smaller than the instructions say and I still can't get it in the window. I take it apart and cut it down two or three more times and it finally goes in. I decide I don't need any more screens for a few days.

The fan in the master bathroom sounds like a wood chipper and it has about a 400 watt lightbulb in the middle of it. To top it off, it is on the same switch as the regular, plain old light above the sink so if you need any light at all you get the fan and 400 watt bulb as well. Yah, dat's da ticket. Yust what ya need, dere. This is definitely on my list of things to fix.

The majority of the house is painted and carpeted in neutral taupe colors. The family room downstairs is celadon and the kitchen has white cabinets with taupe tile counters and light lemon yellow walls. Lemon yellow? With taupe? This is also something that will go. I also realize that all their colors are on the cool side of the spectrum, while most of my belongings are warm. Maybe because I'm from Minnesota. I will live with it - it is not too weird and it is a lot of painting, so I've decided I love it.

Bark dust. This is like wood chips, only ground to a finer pulp. Maybe they really do use the bathroom fan to chip wood. It is everywhere. Everywhere in my yard, everywhere in the neighborhood, everywhere in the city and everywhere in the house. The dog is a bark dust magnet and she has a special quality of de-polarizing as soon as she enters the house, leaving the dust on the carpet wherever she goes. If you walk on it barefoot, you get 100 tiny splinters per step. Same thing for gardening with bare hands. I found this out the hard way.

Week 6

May 8th.

There is an Association meeting tonight and I want to go and check it out. Paul is still recovering, but rallies enough so I can make it. It is BORING, and I don't plan to go again unless I have an item of business to bring up. The board members sit around a large table and discuss whatever is on the agenda and make decisions according to official meeting rules while three of us sit and watch. But it is good to meet the people making the decisions so I will know who I am talking to if I have any questions.

Friday, I get to go on a field trip with Thomas' class to the formal Chinese Garden and the Japanese-American museum in downtown Portland. He won't let me sit on the bus with him, so I sit by myself all the way there. I am assigned a group of four kids to keep track of, which I think sounds manageable. On the way there, I notice that one of the girls in the class is yelling, "There's one! There's one! That makes four!" and I realize she is counting homeless people like they are freaks of nature. This really sticks in my craw but I remain silent, thinking it will pass. It doesn't. There are homeless people everywhere and we see several more as we walk to lunch from the Chinese Garden. The girls point and giggle and screech and a boy in my group tries to take a video of one with his camera. The man he is trying to film starts to follow us, talking loudly and unintelligibly, and the kids and the other mothers in the group start to panic and rush forward. I am appalled at their behavior - how would you feel if you were being filmed like you are a freak? This time I do say something. I tell the kid to put the camera away and treat the people like they are human. I tell another mother that I used to work with homeless people and they are just normal people up against a hard time. I tell a group of girls the same thing. The girls actually listen and ask questions, which I found encouraging. I want to get into the classrooms and advocate on behalf of homeless people.

Besides this, the field trip is great. The Chinese Gardens are beautiful, and I want to turn my courtyard into one. We have a guide and learn a lot that I would not have picked up on had I gone there alone. The garden is only 6 years old and took a year to build. Wow. It looks ancient. The Japanese-American museum is somber and informative, covering the time from when the first Japanese immigrants came to the area, through the internment following Pearl Harbor and to the present. We are guided by a gentleman who was sent to a camp with his family at the age of 11. They were there for four years. His brothers, on the other hand, were sent to fight in the war. So, he wonders aloud, were we spies or patriots?

Saturday, I go to an inter-faith forum on homelessness in the Hillsboro community. After my experience on the field trip, this is totally refreshing. The people organizing the forum are not just do-gooders. They have done their homework, have coordinated with the agencies serving homeless in the area, and have a workable plan. I meet a woman that works for a community service agency and get her number so I can find a way to plug in. I am ecstatic! There will be work for me to do here, whether it is paid or volunteer for a time, and there are others out there that care about homeless people.

Sunday is Mother's Day and I am forced to stay in bed while the kids make me breakfast. I tell Thomas how to make my latte and he does a good job. William makes 'snails' and Stephen makes everything perfect. They give me their gifts, hug on me a lot, and try their hardest to obey the first time. Stephen wants the entire day to be PERFECT and nearly smothers me with love. I work in the garden and find that the ground is seriously full of clay and roots. I can't plant things where I planned to because there are too many roots in the way, and I have to chisel out a hole for some of the larger items. Maybe I won't plant so many bushes after all. This is exhausting! I talk to my mom and she hasn't gotten my card and she is utterly pitiful as my dad is out of town and my sister is having her own mother's day events. She does her best to sound fine, but I can hear it. I wish I could have her over for some chocolate or something, but it is a four hour plane ride at best. This is the first time the distance has really bothered me. I can't do a thing about it.

Week 5

Monday, May 1st

Susie goes home today and we are both weepy. We never said goodbye in Minnesota and now we have to face it. She may come out again in June to take surfing lessons with us (!), but we'll see.

Now that she's gone, I have to face my piles and boxes again. This is actually a good thing, as I am still anxious to move forward on unpacking so that I can move forward with life in general.

I also found a doctor and made an appointment for the kids to be seen by her. I really like her but I realize I've made a mistake. Her office is in Beaverton, the next community over. I had thought this would not be a big deal - like driving to Edina from Eden Prairie - but I am wrong. It takes a good 20 to 25 minutes to get to her office, she is only in this office one day a week, and the hospital she does rounds at is in Portland proper. I will have to keep looking for someone closer to our house.

Also, I get bids on knocking out a wall in the kitchen, putting in more cabinets in the kitchen and repairing the deck off the master bedroom (the previous owners had run out of time to fix this). I am surprised when the people coming in to give me bids say they will get back to me in a week or so. What is that? Don't you want the job? But that's the way it is out here. People don't call you right back, they wait a few days and then call. I feel like I'm from New York City or something - the waiting makes me crazy and I am powerless to do anything about it. Aaargh!

Paul wants to go see Mt. St. Helen's this weekend because there was an article about it in the paper recently. Evidently, there is a fin-shaped piece of rock jutting out of the cone that grows about four feet a day. Cool! But the kids are NOT in the mood. They are feeling completely run ragged and they just want to hang out and chill for once. They advocate effectively for themselves and we decide to wait.

Saturday night at about 3 a.m., I wake up sick to my stomach. Yech. By about 1 in the afternoon on Sunday, Paul has it too. The kids are amazing troopers while we lay around. They even offer to go the store on their bikes (crossing T.V. Highway) and buy themselves dinner. I am fortunately able to rally by then and take them in the car. I would have to be on my death bed before I will let them cross that highway without me. Good thing we decided not to go to Mt. St. Helen's.

Week 4

Monday, April 24th

I realize with a start over the weekend that we have all our belongings in the house and no way to know if it is all okay while we are at our temporary housing. This eats at me. We pray about it, and I get even more motivated to make the place livable.

I am beginning to get bored already, even though there is a mountain of things to do. I feel like my world has shrunk to the size of the house, the movers and store clerks and that is it. The neighborhood we live in is very white, while the schools the kids go to are 40% Latino. Where do they live? I suspect the majority must live outside of our development, which has an Association and fees and so on. I wish for more variety in the neighborhood and begin to think of ways to stir things up. I am curious about this Association. How nit-picky are they? What have we gotten ourselves into? What about the piles of junk outside of nearly everyone's home? Seriously, it's as if no one ever heard of renting a dumpster for their construction debris.

I get an email from work on Tuesday and this makes me REALLY homesick so I cry off and on all day. I knew this would happen eventually, but why does this email make me sad? I think it's because of what I wrote above: the world feels small, I feel insignificant and I want to be working again, but there is no way until the house is in order and I've found suitable childcare for the summer months.

The good news is, Susie Jedlicka is coming on Wednesday. This will break up the monotony and allow me to have an actual conversation. Cool. Also, I've gotten the house into enough order that we feel like we can stay there. This will cut down on driving time, and highway frustration. (The other day, someone randomly stopped in the middle of T.V. Highway. The guy in front of me nearly slammed into him and I barely stopped as well. I almost went around him, then I realized that the person had stopped for a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk. There was no way to know that there was anyone in the crosswalk until I actually saw him get to the median. It is the law that you must stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, even on this "highway". Crimony! That was scary.)

Susie gets here and we have a great time. She comes with me to Target, the grocery store, Lowes, walks the kids to school with me, helps me pack up the rest of the stuff at the apartment, swims with the kids there while I work - everything. We also did fun stuff like walk at the Arboretum (clear day - we could see three mountains!) and ate Filipino food (Authentic! Tripe, fish paste, the works!). We also went to Multnomah Falls on Sunday and hiked to the top of the falls with the family. This was really cool, except once we got to the top, we could hardly see the falls any more because we were right over the drop-off. In my infinite wisdom, I would have designed it differently. :) Stephen got scared about 1/3 of the way up and we almost had to bring him back down but he bucked up and took the hike one hairpin turn at a time and made it! On the way back down, he was so proud of himself and encouraged everyone else on their way up, "You're almost there! You're doing great!"

Also this week, Thomas won the spelling bee at his school and got to compete at the district level. He was so proud of himself and excited for the competition. He kept saying, "I will be competing against 7th and 8th graders, which will be hard. But that's okay, I like a challenge!" He placed 5th out of about 25 kids.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Week 3

We are beginning to fall into a routine now, so the entries should be shorter. This means EVERYTHING is not new and different every day. Just a few things.

Tuesday, April 18th William goes to school. He says he hates it, but doesn't act out at home. This is a good sign that things are not really so bad.

On the way to pick up the kids from school in the afternoon, I nearly wreck the car because there is a HUGE, snow covered mountain in my rearview mirror! It is Mt. Hood. The sun has come out for the first time since we got here and we can see for miles! I stare at the mountain every moment I can safely do so. Suddenly, the highway is not such a bad drive after all.

This week is spent shopping for appliances, signing paperwork, etc. We get possession of the house on Wednesday and I have my first chance to go through it since December. It is basically what I remember, although it had gotten bigger in my mind's eye. Palatial, in fact. I am happy it is back down to a managable size but I wonder where I will put everything, especially in the kitchen and laundry room. Eek. The kids get to see the inside of the house for the first time ever and each of them chooses a room (after some negotiations). We have the carpets cleaned because they smell like wet dog. Phew!

Thursday, the movers come and unload everything. They are amazed at how many boxes went in our previous laundry room. This makes me even more paranoid about where I will put things. I discover that there is no garage door opener - only a wire leading to where there ought to be one. Hmm.

Friday, two movers come again and unpack the majority of the boxes while I run around trying to put everything away. We set up a large table in the kitchen and this helps. I put the china and the silver in the upstairs hall closet because there is nowhere else. I am glad we have temporary housing to go back to at the end of the day because it is utter chaos.

Saturday after the appliances arrive, we blow off working on the house and go to see the mountain up close. This is both frustrating and wonderful to me at the same time. I am dying to make order out of chaos, but I know it isn't going anywhere. So we go and drive nearly to the top, stopping at a historic ski lodge built during Roosevelt's time to look at the mountain up close and buy a parking pass. Then we drive down the other side and stop at a random trail so the dog can have a good run as well. The snow is so deep we can hardly believe it, but it is packed enough for us to go down the trail a bit. I could do this every day. We stop and eat along the Columbia River on the way home and walk some more by a dock. It is crisp and sunny as we drive through the Gorge again. Beautiful.

Sunday we put things away and unpack some more. Life was simple when we only had four place settings in the temporary housing and I wonder why I "need" all this stuff. Then I remember that the only thing the kids were doing in the apartment was watching t.v. Well, they've got plenty to do here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Week 2

Monday, April 10th. Today is Thomas' birthday and he has decided he would like to go to the zoo. The zoo is located in the same park as the Arboretum, a Children's Museum, a World Forestry Center, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, etc. etc. We decide to take the MAX, the local light rail, since it is right outside our door at the temp housing and delivers us right to the zoo.

We buy tickets on the platform and no one ever checks for them. When I rode the MAX in December, no one checked either. Weird. Maybe I'm missing something here, but why do we buy the tickets again?

The zoo is nice. Not as big as the MN Zoo, but cool animals and they seem happy. The polar bears here are MUCH happier than the pitiful, obsessive compulsive one that swims in circles at Como Zoo. There is a whole exibit of very active bats as well - flying around, eating fruit, flipping over to hang from their "hands" to poop. Really. We are fascinated and can't wait to go back and watch them some more. Even the plants are exciting for me as I notice that bamboo and fan-shaped palms are all just growing out of the ground here. Oooh, the possibilities!

Thomas wants to eat at Jack in the Box, a fast food place. Their "mascot" is this guy in a suit with a huge Mr. Bill-looking clay head. Weird again. The dog has been cooped up in the apartment by herself while we were at the zoo, so we drop off Paul and William to deal with her and I take Thomas and Stephen to the restaurant. We stand there like idiots reading the entire menu before we can order. Duh. This is a feeling I will be getting used to. We get our food and it is a hit. Rats. Why couldn't they hate it and beg for a sit-down restaurant with linen table cloths and no mascots?

Tuesday. Paul goes to work today and is surprised to find out that he is the "go-to" person for his team while his boss is out of town. The guy doesn't even know where his desk is for crying out loud. So it was a stressful way to begin, but he made it.

I bring the kids to their respective schools to register them and get a pile of paperwork. Thomas and Stephen will attend the same school and William will go the Middle School. A woman shows us around Thomas and Stephen's school. It is a 70's brick building with an open area in the middle that contains the library and some "offices" (cubicles). The classrooms are all along the outside edges of this open area. There are two classrooms for each grade level. This causes my brain to freeze - I can't imagine that small of a community.

William's school looks like a prison painted off-white. He immediately hates it and I don't blame him. We go inside and are shuffled around to the counselor's room. It has paneling on half the walls, brown linoleum on the floor and light blue paint on the cement walls. It is ugly and William says they need to redecorate. This would normally be funny but I can see he is shutting down so it isn't. There is a yawning gap in the ceiling with piles of cords coming through it. Must be the computer lab above us. At least they have a computer lab (?). I get more paperwork and William is supposed to choose an elective. He is hunched into a ball in the chair and in no mood to talk, so we decide to discuss it at home.

Wednesday. I finish the paperwork and we bring it back to the schools. I already hate the drive from the temporary housing to the schools as it takes about a half an hour one way in stop and go traffic. The drive is on a road they call the Tualatin Valley Highway (Too-Aah-Lah-Tin), or TV Hwy. It is not a highway. There are stop lights every half mile or mile and signage and buildings all along the way that just make it feel chaotic. If you are from Mpls., think of it like Excelsior Blvd. used to be, only 20 miles long. Our "favorite" landmark is Harvey's Boat Works. It is a complex of large, old bright blue buildings that look like they belong on the wharf, with a GIANT statue of a rabbit out front. Get it? Harvey the rabbit? Anyway, we entertain ourselves by thinking of ways to "eliminate" Harvey. Ugh. The good news is, the Middle School wants some time to get their act together for William, so he will have some time to get used to the idea.

Thursday. I bring Thomas and Stephen for their first day of school. They are excited to start and ready to meet some new friends. I pray that they have a good experience. At the end of their day, I go to pick them up and they are ecstatic! They loved it! Lunch was AWESOME! (They had Italian Ice, which I later found out was "Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum" flavored. Call me a snob, but that is NOT Italian Ice). They had each made two or three friends. On one of my walks with the dog, she gets wrapped around a telephone pole then lunges at a biker who swerves and nearly gets hit by a car. I am appalled, knowing it would have been my fault and thanking God that I got a warning instead of a crisis. I vow to make her heel and obey and get back in the habit of being on the leash again. This is new for her and she hates it, but picks up her manners quickly again. Whew.

Friday. School again for Thomas and Stephen, another good day for them and two more friends apiece. God is good. (Say it with me! "All the time!") William's school calls and they will be ready for him Monday.

Saturday. We go to Cannon Beach! It is cold and rainy (has been all week), but we decide we are "real" Oregonians and go anyway. Note to self, next time bring those water shoes or sandals. We had a blast, the wind nearly took us away, Stephen and Thomas played "chicken" with the waves, the dog thought she had died and gone to heaven - so many smells! So many birds to chase! (I kept her on her leash here as well, although many people had their dogs loose. Not ready to trust her again yet.) The haystack rocks are really amazing and there were great shops to bring family and friends to "next time". We stopped to see the Sitka Spruce on the way home (Largest Spruce in Oregon) and ate at an old Logging place where Lydia had a whole pile of fresh Crab Legs and Paul had steak. It snows as we pass through the Coastal Mountains on the way home, then rains.

Sunday. It is Easter, and we have been invited to Paul's childhood friend Jeff Marti's home for dinner. We pile in the car again and drive north to Olympia. On the way up, we come to a complete stop on the Interstate before we enter the state of Washington. At first, we thought it was an accident, but realize that the bridge crossing over the Columbia is a lift bridge. Who ever heard of such a thing on the Interstate? Later, there is a Nuclear tower thing (think Three Mile Island) in full view of the road, jutting out into another river. Yuck, it just feels creepy. Once we get to Jeff's house, we enjoy good conversation and the sense of belonging with Jeff and his family. We also ate really good food! The dog has a back yard to run loose in, which is great until she discovers a pile of raccoon poo and rolls in it. Crimony. It stinks and now she needs a bath. I hose her down instead and wash my hands every time I touch her. Gross.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Week One

I've decided to create a blog to keep people up to date re: our journey. I've told some people some things, and other people other things and can't keep it all straight. Hopefully, this will provide some continuity for those of you who would appreciate that. We are currently in Week 5 of our Oregon journey, but I will backtrack a bit to bring it all up to date.

So, week 1.

April 3, 2006. Today, the packers came to pack up all of our belongings. This was an incredibly quick process from my point of view, although one of the guys packing was amazed at how much I had stuffed into my kitchen. This was a nice way of saying he was sick and tired of packing it.

I anticipated a call in the morning from one of my clients, as I had agreed to bring him to jail to turn himself in. He did not call, and I began to wonder if he would really do it. Around 1:00, he did call, and we arranged a time and place to meet. We stopped by a McDonald's for his last meal outside, and talked on the way to the jail, and I got a chance to tell him what an honor it had been to work with him and be trusted by him. This was a profound experience for me.

I went straight from the jail to dinner with Paul's Uncle Larry and Aunt Ann. Our other car had already been shipped, so they had to come and pick up the family and bring them to the restaurant. Evidently, their van is customized very nicely, as the kids wondered if we could trade them for the road trip.


Mom came and got the kids today. She and my dad just got back from California yesterday. Unreal. A bit of a quick turnaround.

The loaders came today and put everything on the truck. My neighbor Annette came with her Greased Lightining and attacked my kitchen (Thank you! You saved me HOURS!), and my neighbor Elizabeth came and helped as well and brought pumpkin bread warm from the oven. The house was beautiful, clean and empty. The neighbors all wanted to say goodbye to the kids, so we agreed to bring them by after dinner with my folks. When we did, the kids ran through the empty house and shrieked. Then we took pictures and cried and left for the hotel.


We got in the car and started driving. The first three hours were HORRIBLE, with fighting, and griping, and jostling for position. I thought we would all go crazy for sure if this was the way the trip went. But everyone found their place and something to do and staked out their claim, and the rest of the drive was smooth.

We drove through the Badlands, a place our whole family just loves. It was about dinner time, so nice evening light. Too early in the spring for much vegetation, but we saw some antelope and mule deer. We tried to go to Wall Drug but it was CLOSED!!! Who ever heard of such a thing? So we had to eat at a Subway. I had been looking forward to a nice, hot meal. Oh, well. I took the dog for a walk, and we came across a statue of a bison. All the hair went up on her back, and she completely freaked out. What would she have done if it had moved?

Got to the hotel in Rapid City - a NICE Holiday Inn - let the kids swim, and went to bed. The dog hates elevators, and only got in one willingly the first time.


Drove to Bozeman, MT. What a nice town in the mountains! We wanted to stay and ski, but maybe another day... It was rainy and cold and windy for the whole trip up there. We saw the Big Horn Mountains for the first time ever, and got out at the Montana state line to take our picture. It was so windy, it felt like you could walk at a 45 degree angle. I'll see if I can figure out how to post a picture later. It was supposed to have snowed all day in Bozeman, but had turned to rain. Lucky for us, as the driving would have been treacherous.


Made it to Spokane! We planned to stop and take our picture at the Idaho and Washington state lines, but that would have been suicide, as one was on a bridge, and the other was on a mountain pass. Oh, well, nice idea.

We had dinner at the home of my cousin, Steve. It was really nice to connect with him and his family again and feel like we knew someone out this far west. The kids also enjoyed cutting loose with his boys as well.


Drove down to the Washington/Oregon border (ugh - this was a loooonnnggg drive - fields, fields, and more fields). Our plan was to get to the river gorge and drive along the scenic highway on the Washington side, finding a place to eat along the way. Well, we should have eaten at the last point of civilization, because there is NOTHING along the river for a good hour or more. By this time, we had only a few chips in the car, so we doled them out and drank water and the kids empathized with the real Oregon Trail survivors. Pitiful.

We'd like to know why the Washington side is marked as the scenic highway, and the Oregon side isn't. You can see I-84 (the Oregon side) from the little highway we were on in Washington. Oh, well. At the earliest point possible, we crossed a bridge and entered Oregon. Yea! Our new state! We stopped for gas, and as we sat and organized ourselves, a young man came to the window, apologized for taking so long, and asked what we would like. Oh, yeah, you can't pump your own gas here. So he took my card and ran it through for me and pumped my gas. Not sure I'll ever get used to that. Then we ate - Whew!

The drive into Portland along the gorge is AMAZING. Sometimes it looks like the Smokies, sometimes like the Toroko Gorge in Taiwan. We nearly wrecked when we came to Multnomah Falls. Thomas said it best (in a dreamy voice) "Who would have known our new home state would be so beautiful?"

It was still early, so we drove by the new house when we got in to town. There were about 8 people running around working on it, so we felt silly and just did a quick drive-by, but the kids all loved it and got to see the neighborhood. They all reported it felt very homey.

Then we went to our temporary housing and found that they had a t.v. with full cable access in every room! And a pool! We'll never get the kids out of here.


Today is my birthday, and I wanted to go to the Arboretum, so we did. HUGE sequoias and a lovely, winding path. Then we had Thai food for dinner. I ordered Sum Tom, a green papaya salad I learned to love when I worked with Lao. It is really hard to find a good one in Minneapolis. But when I ordered here, the gal asked me if I wanted it Lao style or Thai style! Not only can I find it here, I get choices! It was REALLY good, but so hot I could only take little bites. I'm out of practice.