Day 15- Carson, WA - Amity, OR *Day 16- McMinnville, OR *Day 17- Ridgefield, Wa - Astoria, OR - Seaside, OR
Day 15 presented the first dose of reality that we’ve had so far on our journey. It was a harsh reminder about the state of our country. I’ll get into it shortly.
Waking under a canopy of Douglas Firs was something I never realized I had on my bucket list. The strong, straight, soaring evergreens and their rippled, textured bark seemed to occupy my interest for hours. We had some firewood left over from the previous night, so I started a morning blaze to build up some ember to toast our Franz bagels and cook up a few Nathan’s hot dog’s. It seems like the first day in a while that we weren’t eating burritos for breakfast.
We weren’t in a rush today being that our next stop in Amity was only a couple hours away. We allowed August to get a few extra hours of sleep, not waking him until 10, before which, Maggie and I enjoyed some alone time drinking coffee by the fire. After we ate, we continued to enjoy our surroundings as August played basketball with himself in the road. We eventually cleaned up, packed up, and popped down to continue on.
Now for the reality check. We visited Portland just over a decade ago and loved it. We enjoyed dim sum in Chinatown, the downtown open air market, public transit, and hot dogs at Otto’s. We were excited to pass through and stop for lunch and possibly visit some more since we were staying just south for a few days. Our first stop was to Boa Boa to order dumplings to go which we decided we’d eat picnic style in the park alongside the Willamette River. As we maneuvered through downtown, a very uneasy feeling settled in as we took in the sights of a very large homeless population. Tent cities were set up on street corners and along main thoroughfares, hills lining the highways, and just about anywhere else we turned our heads. The vibe was somber as we walked to the river and found a ledge to sit and eat. Graffiti covered the concrete as evidence of the recent protests demanding you say George Floyd’s name and demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. Tops of buildings lining the horizon across the River were adorned with giant Black Lives Matter murals in block lettering.
We sat to eat, mostly in silence, as we turned introspective. As we finished our last bites, a homeless man walked up to the garbage can near me and picked out a half eaten piece of pepperoni pizza and said hello before visiting the next can down the walk. The homelessness, the protests, the very sunken, depleted energy of this city we once loved are all evidence of our failing systems. Our hearts that were completely full of joy just hours prior are now broken.
We loaded back up in the car and made our way back across the river to visit a few thrift shops for Maggie to pick up a sweater or two before making our way to Amity Vineyards to pop up for the next few days. The ride was quiet as we attempted to process our feelings. I had to get into show mode.
We arrived to the vineyard around 6pm, said hello and quickly caught up with our hosts, winemaker JP Caldcleugh, and his wife, Mandy. JP directed us to the top of a hill overlooking the western slopes of the vineyard and we popped up and readied our home for the next four days.
I made my way back down the hill to set up for the show as a handful of guests arrived, including my cousins, Karin, Shelley, and Stephanie, who all live nearby. Maggie left to head to the airport to pick up my daughter and her boyfriend from the airport. I guess i forgot to mention that they would be joining us for this portion of the trip. Oops.
The show was scheduled to start at 8:15 so that the backdrop of the set would be a spectacular sunset over the vineyard. Playing music for this hungry group of less than 10 was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. Everyone was respectful of space as they sat silently and listened as I poured my heart into my songs. Maggie showed back up with the kids shortly after the set and we shared a few glasses of amazing wine before tucking in for the evening.
The Fourth Of July. I have to say it’s hard to celebrate a country that hasn’t shown respect for the very values for which it was founded upon, but I’m booked to play a party so the show must go on. The thing that did excite me about this day is that the show is being held in the backyard of one of my favorite cousin’s houses. She and her husband, Colin hosted a small gathering where I performed for a few of their closest friends and family members. The show turned out to be magical. After the set, I was coaxed into playing a few more songs that were special to our family. We shared stories between songs and dedicated some to family members who have passed on. We laughed and we cried, and it was exactly what we needed as a family. The one that got me was dedicating John Prine’s “When I Get To Heaven” to our Aunt Arlen and Uncle Russ who were the glue that bound this branch of the family tree together. I choked back tears as I rattled off the spoken word verses proclaiming all the love for family that has passed on.
We made our way back to camp after the long goodbyes, capped off with some more lovely wine, and laid down to recharge for the next day’s adventure.
Wait. I forgot mention the midnight griddle burgers that I fired up at camp for Alexia, Quinn, and myself before laying down. The only reason I digress is because they were delicious angus patties seasoned with Zatarain’s and smothered with Tillamook cheddar and they deserve to live on in this blog.
We woke early to meet with cousin Stephanie and her mom, Karin, to convoy just over the border to Ridgefield, WA for a family brunch with Cousins, Jerry (2 Jerrys), Becky, Vickie, Sandy, Matthew, and Becky’s dad, Jim.
The spread was glorious with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, fruit, and more Tillamook cheddar! We filled our bellies as we caught up and laughed sharing stories of years passed. The most wonderful thing about this side of our family (my mother’s mother’s side) is that even tough 12 years have passed since we’ve seen most of them, we always pick up exactly where we left off. There’s so much love here and it’s palpable.
Cousin Jerry, we’ll call him Jerry 1, gave me a tour of his property and spoke of his purchase of a gourmet nut company- you know, the warm candied nuts you buy in paper cones from sporting events and festivals. Of course we made nut jokes for the entirety of our visit. It turns out that cousin Jerry 2 is quite the guitar player, and we played a handful of songs for the family as Jerry 1 performed a candied nut demonstration. I’ll provide information on how you can get cousin Jerry’s nuts in your mouth in a future Facebook post. Trust me, you want Jerry’s nuts.
We had to end our visit all too soon to fit in a tour of the Oregon Coast with Steph and Karin as our guides. The first stop was Astoria to visit the famed Goonies house where I gifted the family with my own version of the Truffle Shuffle. We passed by the John Jacob Astor school that was made famous in the movie, Kindergarten Cop. We drove through town and made our way to Ship Wreck Beach. August and I had a bet to see who could keep their feet in icy pacific waters the longest. He won. The next stop was Seaside where we decided to have a late lunch/ early dinner on the coast at Mo’s. The fish and chips and clam chowder were on point as we continued to laugh overlooking the ocean.
It was there that we parted ways with our cousins to make our way back to the vineyard. I am currently, you guessed it, drinking some fabulous wines made right here in Amity, and writing this entry while taking in yet another majestic sunset. Now that I’m all caught up, I don’t think I’ll let so many days go by before writing again. I’m enjoying reminiscing on our adventures and sharing with whom ever may be interested in keeping up with our travels.
Until the next one, be good to yourselves and each other.