Friday, August 10, 2007

Day 1: mysterious native american parcels, anteeek overload and pterodactyls

I is back! All your good wishes carried through; we had a FANTASTIC TIME!

After carefully reviewing our plans it was decided that, instead of taking our new Victory on vacation, we would take the whip: a white Buick Park Avenue. Four doors, air, cruise, tunes, power everTHANG. This was to be a research mission as much as a getaway, and we needed to be prepared for unusual eventualities; which entails packing a lot of extra shit, like shoes and a map. (Next year we'll have the Victory in fighting trim. All we'll need are one saddlebag each, a t-pack and a credit card. Travelling light is an art.)

Our first stop, dictated by my bladder, was the Smoky Point wayside...the very same site of the mass geriatric potty misadventures I've written about before. Fortunately we arrived before the first of the Canadian casino charters and so the floor was dry, the seats were clean, and there were no alarming motorboat noises. Excellent!

When I came back to the whip the Biker was holding a round blue box. "It was on the ground in the middle of the parking lot," he explained. We looked inside and saw loops of woven cedar fibers. We placed it in the trunk, planning to put a notice in the local free paper.*

The weather was overcast and chilly as we climbed through the Western Cascades, through Monroe, where the Big House is, through small roadside towns with names like Gold Bar and and Sultan and Skykomish , where many of the former inmates now live. We've explored these towns in past years, and everything that was antique, historic or charming about them is slowly being lost to Section 8 housing, blackberries and meth-lab fires. Still, the major part of the passing scenery is spectacular. The forests and farms are lush and it's a beautiful ride.

We crossed Stevens Pass and ran full into summer as soon as we passed the ski lodge. I'm always surprised every year at how abruptly the countryside changes...up from valleys overgrown in logged-over maple and pine toward massive Doug firs broken by lightning, through false azalea and silky oatgrass to the final bare alpine summits. This time of the year they're black and bare with a few dirty patches of old snow on the very top... and then all of it gives way in the space of three steep downward miles to tan-barked Ponderosa pines and ryegrass and rusty-black basalt, dry dry heat and blue sky.

And unfortunate Bavarian-themed candy stores.

Even though I'm a little ashamed to admit it, we always stop 'n' shop in Leavenworth, 'A Little Bit of Bavaria in the Pacific Northwest'.
I really don't need to describe the tourist district, do I.
Suffice it to say that we hit town around noon, just in time for the daily 'Music in the Park' programme, featuring a man in lederhosen who played the accordion.
And yodelled.


Thank God, as soon as you hit the city limits sign you enter the real Eastern Washington. The highway follows the river, and the valley floor is covered with orchards and gardens. The hills above this are tan velvet, perfect and soft from a distance. The arroyos which run down their sides are green and filled with clematis and sumac.

Peshastin is home to bizarre sandstone formations, Cappadocian-looking peaks that start up out of the hills suddenly and make a rather extraterrestrial backdrop to the tidy little downtown. This is a hardworking place...everyone is busy in the fruit warehouses or out in the orchards, and even the retirees are out bustling around making strange yard art and picking up trash off the roadside.

The town of Dryden is right next door. This place was pleasant enough that even the first tourists decided to linger, leaving Clovis points the size of the palm of your hand all along the riverfront. Both of these small towns are really nice places. People smile, dogs wag, and the little riverfront parks are pleasant and shady.

Cashmere parallels the river on the opposite side of the highway. Basically it's one meandering Main street, a long stretch of businesses in carefully preserved false-fronted brick buildings, and two residential streets. These run through the most adorable, neat-as-a-pin bungalow neighborhood you've ever seen, just spilling over with flowers and huge shady trees. It is also home to the largest indoor antique market we've ever been in. That's saying something. We maxed out and had to go visit a smaller one; there is actually such a thing as antique overload.

Monitor has a special place in my heart for two reasons: one, is the most gorgeous river-rock bungalow in the state of Washington, and two is the single-lane wooden bridge towards the outskirts of town, built over a wide irrigation channel. The goddamn thing is so ancient and so rattletrap that as you pass over it, even on a motorcycle, the decking flexes and creaks and you can see the spike heads jump up from the planking ahead of you.

Right as you summit the hill leading down into the town of Wenatchee you come upon the motel we've been staying in for years. All it lacks is a boomerang sign out front advertising 'COLOR TV!' ...otherwise it's pure 50's; neon-blue pool, cinderblock construction, flat angled roof, 'Magic Fingers' massage beds and all that jazz. The view from the rooms is an orchard and a horse paddock. The overweight friendly manager has an overweight friendly cat. Rockin!

We unpacked, got situated, then flew downtown and hit the streets ambling. We'd come 183 miles to amble. We were poised. We were ready. Our fu was unbeatable.

Old downtown Wenatchee has some prime ambling. Window shopping, cafe' sniffing, looking at the buildings and reading the old painted advertising, spotting architectural details, musing over oddball street sculpture, alley whomping and people watching. It's just a different world there. Half German, half Mexican, part NA and part Asian, small town and friendly, but scary hardcore after the sun goes down.

Just as evening fell we were crossing a street when we heard a loud, prolonged scream echoing off the buildings.

As far as I could figure, someone was smacking a pterodactyl with a bat.

All this ambling took energy and we soon needed Mexican food. We took our sweet time cruising up and down town, brains tuned to simpatico Mexican food wavelengths. I was beckoned by a little corner place called 'Taco Loco'. The biker was lured by 'Mi Abuelo'. We finally settled on Mi Abuelo. (I think he felt apprehensive about the whole 'Crazy Taco' concept.)
It was grubby.**That was expected.
The food was utterly, utterly fantastic. Fanfuckingtastic, even.
The service was awesome.
We were happy.

That evening I took two showers just because I could. I opened the bathroom window to let out the steam. While I was sitting on the side of the tub shaving my legs I heard another strange call echoing in the night:
'eeeeeaaARRRR ha ha ha!'
I looked outside into the darkness. I saw a horse. It saw me.

I worried about that. Pterodactyls probably eat horses.

*when we returned we opened the box and pulled the contents out. It turned out to be a stack of dancers headdresses and a spool of raffia to repair them.

** this seems to be par for the course in downtown Wenatchee...unless the business in question has just been built, everything from the floor up to about five inches high is pretty much black. grocery stores, antique stores, real estate offices, it doesn't matter.


  1. Oh god... the geriatric potty adventures... I'd pushed that to the back of my mind...

    Welcome back, btw.

  2. Welcome back. I now have a strange urge to wear PVC ledehosen and spank myself.

  3. WELCOME BACK......did you miss us ????
    Sounds excellent FN , I am glad you had a good time AND good food.

    Like Tim I had drawn a veil over the Geriatric potty adventures , but ithas all come flooding back in glorious technicolour and dolby stereo.

    I also once saw a man in leiderhosen playing eidleweis on cow bells that he had on a little tray held in front of his fat belly by a sling round the back of his was soooo cool

  4. That sounds better than my holiday. One of my new breasts is bigger than the other and now I'm going to have to sue for a refund.

    Proper Mexican restaurants are extremely rare over here, mores the pity.

    Can you post me an enchilada?

  5. Welcome back!

    and eeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEERAAAAWK!
    The hell? Glad you weren't eaten.

  6. A 'Magic Fingers' massage bed and you shaving your legs.

    Somebody got lucky.

    Hurry to Frobi's. Tomato blight in progress.

  7. Welcome back! Sounds like a good time - I am jealous of the major anitiquing.

    One of our neighbors had cousins who showed up in leiderhosen. The neighborhood kids weren't so understanding of cultural differences.

  8. Another fabulous tour FN. You have an amazing way of translating everyday events into memorable moments. I totally feel like I have been there.

    In order to tie in Mexican food and Flying reptiles I must nerdily offer the following information. As far as I know even the largest flying creature that ever lived, Quetzalcoatlus, probably weighed less than 50 lbs. and would have been unable to carry even a dainty, double-showered, colour TV'd, bed-vibrating, tourista like yourself...but if you or I ever saw one of them up close and personal we would probably yell something like

    Ps I won't tell Al Gore that you had TWO showers.

  9. tim: oh thank you! and now you know which rest stop to avoid on your next visit to rural Washington State. not to imply that you'd use the womens side,
    aaaaaaaand i'll just stop right there before i swallow the whole damn LEG, 'k?

    tick: oh dang! me too! small world, huh?

    beast: THANK YOU! while I was away i DID miss you, until i imagined you in lederhosen.
    whappin cowbells.
    singing the St. Matthews Passion through a mouthfull of brown gravy while sitting on a Magic Fingers bed.
    it helped.

    garfy: see, that dodgy overseas augmentation's a crapshoot. next time listen! *begins search for enchilada-resistant packaging*

    christine: we still have no idea what it was. it genuinely sounded like the sound track from Land of the Lost. imagine that perched on your window ledge or crapping on the statues!

    mj: well hell yes; that's why we always ask for a room waaaaaaay down at the end. we knocked a brick out of the wall with the headboard last year. it's that brisk high desert air! and the pterodactyls.

    g: the whole lederhosen concept plumb eludes me. ditto the alpine hat. its like something Robin Hoods mother made him wear when he was a toddler.

    homoE: a 50 lb. carniverous freaky ass mutated screaming naked bat-bird could probably ruin your whole day just by crapping on your car.

  10. Welcome back!
    Another truly enjoyable read.I definitely WILL have to hop the border next time I get to BC.
    On the geriatric potty machines Down Under are called "the pokies" and a Brisbane bus company does a brisk trade in what they call the "pokie express" which shunts busloads of (mainly) retirees to the Big Casino on the Gold Coast.The tennis club hired one for a Christmas outing.I did not go!

  11. W T F is a 'magic finger' bed.
    It sounds disturbing and strangely arousing .
    Do you lay on it on your back or your front?.
    Would it wreak awfull haemariod havoc , if you sat on it?

  12. I have been watching for you. I love the descriptions of the little towns and recognized each one. Good job. You make me laugh!!!

  13. dinahmow; The slot machine thing is lost on me. every casino we've been in the people all look like zombies and no one smiles. fuuuuuuuun.

    beast: it is a bed that vibrates. you put a quarter into a little device next to the headboard and the whole thing begins to go 'rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr' for a couple of minutes. 'The Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed! Experience Restful Ease and Relaxation! Ask your helpful innkeeper how you can purchase the home version today!' yes, this is real, and that's really what it says on the coin slot. retro, yet creepy.

    gale: thank you! one year we traveled down the back of Idaho which also has lots of cool little towns. what I remember was grass, cicadas, and a tiny little casino in the middle of it all that served champagne, New York steaks and lobster on their breakfast buffet...yum!

  14. My experience of Vegas casinos mirrors your description of unsmiling zombies.

    Yet people were stunned when I came home and said I hadn't gambled.

  15. I love Leavenworth in the winter!!! Ever go to the tree lighting festivals there? So fun. So crowded. Yay for fun boo for crowded.

    Love Wenatchee. I was there during the apple blossom festival one year when it was chock full of bikers. We were camping at Chelan state park and my parents (I was seventeen at the time) would not allow me out of the trailer because these guys were chasing women through the woods.

    Oh yeah, good times. Good times.