Friday, October 29, 2010

All the roadrunning


Ben and I are on the road again -- this time a quick jaunt down to Portland to see the Mom Unit. My daughter-in-law, The Miz, is joining us Friay for a little Ladies' Time.

In hindsight, I'm not quite sure why I decided to drive. Perhaps it was a shout-out to the reincarnated long-haul truck driver in me. Or maybe it was allure of 6 hours of relative solitude -- and the fact I could listen to NPR and my own selection of music. (This trip's playlist includes The Chieftains, Buena Vista Social Club, soundtrack from "Big Night," Bette Midler channeling Rosemary Clooney, Andrea Boccelli, Vaughn Williams' "Lark Ascending," and, of course, the Mark (Dire Straits) Knopfler/Emmylou Harris collaboration "All the Road Running'" Hmmmm. Maybe this schizophrenic collection explains why I rarely get to pick the music when I travel with the Wonderfully Patient Spouse and Family.)

I haven't made the Bermtopia-Portland drive in a while. After duly noting some of the more exciting changes along the way -- prison expansion in Connell! BIG new feedlot just north of Pasco! -- I settled in and enjoyed how starkly beautiful the high desert can be this time of year.

The topography is not for everyone. Take it from a transplanted Portland rat who was born and raised believing it's not beautiful unless it's green. Nevertheless, I've come to love the rolling hills of the Palouse in late autumn, golden brown after harvest and dotted with bright yellow and red fall foliage. The heavy pewter-gray skyline, portending rain, magnifies the land's simple beauty.

With all agricultural distractions stripped away, the landscape and its structures, tinted with dreamlike shades of gray and ochre, seem at peace with the winter days to come.

I'm afraid my travel companion, Ben, did not share these musings. He was less than impressed with the pet areas just above Connell and west of Boardman. Ben sniffed around reluctantly, walking stiff-legged and disapprovingly across the grass as though wading through dog poo. (which, come to think of it, we were.)

He finally perked up at the Memaloose rest stop on the Columbia Gorge. We went "off road" from the pet area and walked down a rocky path to a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. Across from us, although the volcanic cliffs of the gorge were rain-slicked and hazy with mist, we could still see fall's abundant scarlet and gold dappling reaching up to the skyline. It was heart-achingly lovely.

I think even Ben was impressed.

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