Friday, September 08, 2006

Interstate Five 

Seattle was overcast, workaday grey.
Sadly, there was no time for any of the things we still wanted to do: visit the underground (for reasons of bad plumbing, in the 1890s the streets around Pioneer Square were rebuilt ten feet higher. The original streets and buildings still exist, and for many years a dingy, subterranean world of brothels and seedy bars co-existed with the new city above); look round the EMP; ride to the top of the Space Needle; check out the university district. They’ll all have to wait until next time.
I took a few panoramic cityscapes - I haven’t read Terminal Sales Blog, but hats off to it’s author for the unabashed self-promotion - then hit the road, pausing only to hire a car first.

We headed east, out of the city on Interstate 90, destination Snoqualmie Falls. If you love Twin Peaks as much as we do then you’ll recognise this view because it features prominently throughout. It’s, like, awesome.

I like the unspoken understanding that exists among holidaymakers when it comes to having your photo taken with your partner/family/friends/team of carers.
You only need to catch somebody’s eye, half wave your camera in their direction, and they understand that you’d like your picture taking, and are always happy to oblige. We’re all in this together; we all understand.
I like to think I became quite adept at this. I lost count of the times I snapped other people for their holiday albums.
It reached the point where I wouldn’t even wait to be asked. I’d see a group shaping up, snatch the camera out of the photographer’s hand, nod to him or her to join the rest of the group, press the shutter, admire my work on the little screen, then return the camera, and all with barely a word spoken.
I wonder if I ever unwittingly forced an asked photographer to have their photo taken with a bunch of complete strangers. Probably.
Here we both are at the bottom of the falls.

We had a late breakfast a few miles down the road at Twede’s Café, North Bend. In Twin Peaks, this is the Double R Diner, so you can guess what we ate.
It’s a really great place - blue vinyl seating, lots of neon - and was bustling with locals, but we weren’t made to feel like the nerdy tourists we patently were.
In spite of having been burned to the ground and rebuilt since the show was made, it still looked thrillingly like it does on the telly.

We found our way to Interstate 5 and drove the 150 miles or so to Portland, Oregon.
It wasn’t much fun. The roads were too congested to be able enjoy the ride, the traffic around Tacoma and Olympia being especially awful. At one point I missed a turn, so we drove for ages looking for a suitable road to pull into and turn around, which only led to other roads which couldn’t be turned in either, so we drove for miles and miles deep into suburbia, where we eventually turned around in somebody’s drive before heading back in search of our junction.
“I think we went left, left, right, left, right, left. So all we have to do now is right, left, right, left, right, right and we’ll be back on course. Easy.”
It’s a similar story if you need to stop for petrol. British motorway service stations never seemed like such a stroke of genius.

It was late afternoon as we approached Mount St. Helens.
Here is a picture from before May 18th 1980, and here is one from afterwards. Fifty seven people lost their lives in “the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States.”
This roll call of geologists - “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” - photographers, people like us just passing through, locals, ham radio enthusiasts - “The camper and car sitting to the south of me is covered. It's gonna get me too” - and so on, makes moving reading.
We were disappointed to find that we’d arrived too late for the visitor centre. It had been somewhere Girlfriend particularly wanted to see. We stood at the viewing point and looked at the mountain some thirty miles away. You’d never guess the devastation that took place.

Our hotel in Portland was the best I’ve ever stayed in. It had once been an elementary school but had lain empty for years, until being rescued and restored to its full glory by McMenamins, a chain that specialises in quirky historic buildings.
The reception desk was staffed by a bunch of real friendly young dudes - they looked like they all played in indie bands when they weren’t running a hotel - and we were put in the Sewing Room.
We grinned the grins of the tired and demented as we took in our surroundings, admiring the cosy bars and movie theatre, the art on the walls, and resisted the urge to run down the corridors for fear of being reprimanded by stern mistressy types with canes. Well, actually…

In the restaurant bar me and Girlfriend had to produce our passports before they would serve us - which in the light of recent events made me immeasurably happy - and we can recommend the dessert.
The place had a terrific Friday night buzz and was clearly a big hit with locals. Radiohead (Kid A period) played on the sound system.
All you can see of this man is his knee.

Breakfast shot, Diane: Cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.

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