Summer in the City

The "Portlandia" statue was one of many wonders Moxie & I encountered on our reconnaissance mission to Portland today. She (the statue) is the second-largest copper repoussé (that's "hammered copper," roughly) statue in the country (number one being Lady Liberty).

We spent only a couple of hours in the "City of Roses," but my, oh my, we were impressed. It's a real, live city, complete with excellent retail, restaurants, and more ground than we could hope to cover in a day. But it has a funky vibe, embracing vegetarians, dogs, Goodwill shoppers (there's a second-hand store just blocks from Nordstrom), and even geeks (the largest independent bookstore in the world resides here).

As usual, Moxie made lots of friends on this sojourn, starting with a male malamute right out of the car. Moxie just loves cities. She walked the whole thing with the low-crouching, ears-back, tail wagging saunter she does when she's really happy. People ooh-d and aah-d at her appropriately, and this very small human even made acquaintance. (Note that's not a muzzle on her nose; it's a halti, a leash-training device.)

There's a poem by Ronald Talney on a plaque that accompanies "Portlandia:"
She kneels down
and from the quietness
of copper
reaches out.
We take that stillness
into ourselves
and somewhere
deep in the earth
our breath
becomes her city.
If she could speak
this is what
she would say:
Follow that breath.
Home is the journey we make.
This is how the world
knows where we are.

I've never much understood poetry, but I certainly won't forget where Portland is. Moxie and I plan to return.


Another Shining Sea

If you haven't drowned in the mid-Atlantic, you might be aware that the Northwest has experienced a record-setting heatwave in the last few days. Moxie & I were roasting in Kelso's near-triple-digit temps yesterday. She couldn't stop panting and I stopped working for fear my computer, which had become hot to the touch, was going to melt! Fed up around four, we took off for the coast.

It was downright chilly in Long Beach, our closest coastal town at only about an hour and a half away. A roadside digital display registered only 60 Fahrenheit degrees! We bee-lined for the beach on arrival and had a great walk there. Moxie ran around exuberantly, carrying empty crab shells and dried seaweed as she went.

The heat had been appetite-stifling back in Kelso, but in Long Beach I was suddenly starving. Driving the town's main drag, there were lots of restaurants to choose from. (Long Beach looks like it draws lots of beach vacationers, perhaps later in the summer.) "Surfer Sands" looked just right, but I pulled in just as the gentleman running the place was, literally, walking out the door. He insisted it would be no trouble to make me a sandwich before leaving, and I'm so glad he did! The "Goofy Foot" (provolone cheese, cream cheese, raisins, cashews, pineapple, onion, apple, & mixed greens on French bread) really hit the spot.

It seems worth noting that Moxie has now frolicked in more of this country's seas than I had until recently. She's splashed in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and Great Lakes Erie, Michigan, and Huron.


The Other Washington

We've landed in Kelso, Washington, where some generous friends have offered up their home for the summer in exchange for some light house-sitting. The plan is to use Kelso as a launch pad for exploring the Pacific Northwest: Seattle, Portland, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, the coast, the rain forest in Olympic National Park... There's much to see!

So far, we've determined that things are bigger in this Washington. The ferns, the trees, the mountains, the slugs (that's my lip balm in the picture for scale) -- they're all supersized compared to those back East, giving an air of majesty to this part of the world. (Okay, maybe the slugs aren't so majestic!)


Back to Boise

We opted to visit Boise for a day before the last leg of this trip to Washington. The drive from Shelby was long but lovely. Here are a few highlights from our travels on Friday:

purported claim to fame of Cut Bank, MT: "coldest spot in the USA"
population of Clayton, ID: 26
population of Stanley, ID: 100
pieces of gum chewed to quell queasiness on winding highways: 3
turkeys flushed out by Moxie: 2
cheapest gas price: $2.83
hours in the car: 13

Today we travel through Oregon to Kelso, Washington.


Changes in Latitude

One of my favorite things about traveling with Moxie is the natural sleep cycle we fall into, often dozing off not long after dark and awakening with the sun. I couldn't figure out why the two were seeming so close together lately... then I realized we're at 48 degrees north latitude and the summer solstice is nearly upon us! Sure enough, my sources indicate that Shelby, Montana, experienced more than 17 hours of daylight yesterday. That explains it!


The Hi-Line

That's what they call this northern region of Montana. Craving a break from the bugs and noticing an absence of tiny tents on the map, I opted for a motel tonight. It's nice to relax without the constant threat of having my blood sucked.

I really like what I've seen of Montana. It's green and rolling with huge sky, true to its fame. I had trouble finding places to hike with Moxie, though, so she's restless tonight. We stopped several times at parks to play with her ball, then took a walk through town upon arrival in Shelby, a classic Western town known for once having hosted a pro-boxing-match-turned-comedy-of-errors. But there's nothing like a good hike to tire a puppy out. It looks like this frustration will continue tomorrow... Glacier National Park prohibits dogs on ALL of its trails! I can't very well drive by without stopping, but I also can't see leaving Moxie in the car while I go play.

Miss Center of the Universe

[Thursday evening]
Moxie loves being the center of attention, so imagine her delight at being at the geographical center of North America. We thought the monument worthy of a photo op in Rugby, North Dakota.

Somewhere in this state today, we crossed into the West. The sky got big, the landscape got hilly, and I got out my Stetson. Tonight we rest at Lewis & Clark State Park. It’s a dozen or so miles out of Williston, but there’s no other town closer.


Making Amends with Mother Nature

[Wednesday evening]
Who can hold a grudge after fresh flowers are offered? Ma Nature wowed me with wildflowers and warmed me with sunshine across Minnesota today. There’s not a lot up this far north in the way of attractions or… people. But the scenery was lovely and the roads fast. I only encountered a half dozen or so ticks, too. Yesterday was like an immersion class in tick tolerance – I’m far calmer around them (and more efficient at destroying them), now.

Moxie’s First Bike Ride
Lake Bronson State Park has such lovely wide, groomed trails that we decided to pull my mountain bike off the car roof and go for a ride. The vet says not to do anything too strenuous for Moxie’s first year, after which point her joints will have firmed up. So we took it easy, varying speed and taking lots of rests. We both look forward to more rides together!



[Tuesday evening]
I have never before wanted so desperately to tear off all of my clothes as I did today. Moxie and I had hiked through a marsh on a trail, then played fetch on a nearby grassy road. Minutes after we got back in the car, I saw a tick crawling up the front of my sweatshirt. I threw the bug out the window. Then I looked down and saw three on my jeans. I pulled off at a gas station and must have pulled a dozen off Moxie in a few short minutes. Then I went into the ladies’ room and found so many more… on my legs, my waist, clinging to the inside of my pant leg, even. Back in the car not five miles later, I peeked down to my previously bugless ankle and saw a lone climber. So I stopped at a carwash and vacuumed the rug, then administered Moxie’s monthly systemic pesticide a day early. All day I continued to find them, mostly on Moxie. All told, I’m sure I handled more than 30 ticks today.

So I’m questioning this whole nature-loving thing. The fashion’s great. But the spidery blood-sucking bugs? Oy vey. Far gone are the Egyptian cotton sheets and Turkish masseuse I encountered when traveling in my old life. Now I sit at a campsite in Wisconsin in a stinky soup of chemical mosquito repellents. I even dabbed a little deet on the insides of Moxie’s reddening ears in an effort to derail the plump biters swarming around them. Am I really up to all this nature?


Fun on the Sunrise Coast

[I wrote this post last night, 6/12, but the internet signal at my campsite was too weak to post. Thank goodness I stumbled across Tyelene's Restaurant and Internet Hotspot this morning!]

Today we shimmied up Michigan's index finger then sailed over the Mackinac bridge to land on the upper peninsula. On the way, we visited several state parks since the pass we purchased at the first one was valid for the day at all of them. And they were many! Dog-friendly state and various other types of parks litter the coastline here.

The east coast of Michigan, dubbed the "sunrise coast," suprised me with its beachy-ness. I'd imagined it more woodsy. But while there's no shortage of trees, it's in many ways similar to the east coast shoreline -- sandy beaches, grassy dunes, beach houses by the dozen, even lighthouses. And all that exists without the ominous shadow of hurricanes! There is a dark threat here for trees, though, in the form of an insect pest. The Department of Agriculture has issued a ban on carrying firewood over the border.

Tomorrow: Wisconsin!


Really Great Lakes

To Moxie, there's nothing like a beach -- buoys to bark at, seagulls to chase, waves to splash in... What more could a puppy want? We enjoyed a stroll along Lake Erie in Ohio's Crane Creek State Park this morning. More specifically, Moxie enjoyed carrying around dead fish over my objections. (What's up with all the dead fish here, anyway? Any relation to the nuclear power plant down the street?)

We drove this morning from greater Cleveland, where we spent a day catching up with family and hiking city parks. Before that, we spent two days in State College, PA, where I grew up, catching up with old friends. And hiking, of course. In "Happy Valley," we visited all my old trail haunts... Indian Steps, Shingletown, Bear Meadows.

Today we arrived in Ann Arbor -- a natural follow-up to State College, both being small towns anchored by Big 10 universities. The weather has been cool and sunny, just right. After a few moments' rest in the hotel, Moxie and I are off to a nearby dog park, then to meet a friend this evening. Tomorrow we'll continue the trek north, then hang a left just shy of Canada.


Draw of the East

Moxie & I spent a month in the greater DC area working out an answer to the question I posed back in Wyoming, "Why would anyone choose to live back East?" Our data set may be incomplete and our methods unverified. But barring personal factors like family and funding, two disparate sources of magic stand out here: the buzz and the forest understory.

The buzz kept me high for the first week I was back. In DC for the annual meeting of a client, I schmoozed like the old pro I am, drinking cocktails on the roof of a posh downtown hotel, trading business cards, talking fast about politics and international strife. Sure, I drink and chat when I'm out West, too, but there's something electric in the air here that I haven't yet observed west of the East Coast.

But Moxie was far more smitten with the magic of the forest understory. When we hiked in Indiana, mayapples and trillium greeted us in their peak glory. In Maryland, the ladies slippers bloomed and Moxie waded through spring fern fronds, her tail like a flag waving above the green sea. The lushness, the endless palette of greens, the cool saturating air -- these are reasons to love the East. (But, I wonder, will we find them this summer in the Pacific Northwest?)

But what I really learned about East vs. West is this: There's no reason to pit them against each other. We humans seem to have an overwhelming desire to categorize things: black or white? Jewish or Muslim? stars upon thars or none? Categorizing makes us feel like we understand. But does it really help? Every place has unique characteristics that don't fit so well into neat boxes. Perhaps we can understand better by focusing on these instead of common denominators.

On that note, today Moxie & I are in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. This small town was founded on a lovely spring (or belle fonte) that then powered iron and lumber works. Today it's charming with Victorian-style houses nestled into the mountains, trains still running through town, and vibrant Spring Creek flowing through. Best of all, old friends M & M live here. We did some hiking yesterday and will do some more of that together today.