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Excerpts of Washington Travel Diary
State 14 - WASHINGTON 21 SEP 98 - 25 SEP 98


Peerless pears . . .

Wish I could enjoy fruit like Ken does. He eats it cuz he likes it. I eat it cuz I have to. Government tells me to eat 5 servings of fruit and veggies a day, so I do. Can't argue with scientific tests, so I obey the authorities. But today something wonderful happens that eases the burden of my RDA requirements. A bus to the Farmer's Market in Olympia, deposits me at a bayside outdoor market filled with fresh produce, flowers, baked goods and snack bars -- and all their accompanying aromas. Buy some lavender for my soul and fruit for my health. Pick up a new fruit (to me, anyway) called "Asian Pear," which looks like a yellow apple, but perfectly round. Bring some home and Ken takes a bite. "This is the weirdest fruit I ever ate," he proclaims. "Really weird." He stares at the fruit quizzically. (Must be awful I think to myself as I study the odd look on his face.) "It's a little like watermelon," he continues. Takes another bite, "and a little like grapes, only it tastes like pear liquor." Intrigued, I take a bite. Wow. Finally a fruit I can enjoy. It doesn't require clenching your teeth and tearing off a bite like an apple does. No. Just a little crunch and the chunk leaps into your mouth squirting all the while as you chew. Light as cotton candy and effervescent like champagne.Tasty.Tingly. Finally a fruit for junk food lovers.

The bus driver . . .

On the bus to the Farmer's Market I am touched by the politeness of Olympian people. I sit behind my AAA tourbook watching the locals embarking and disembarking from the bus. Teenagers and other "carless" people sit slumped in their seats, heads down, faces glum. But when they disembark from the bus, every one of them cheerfully thanks the bus driver on the way out. Every one. In all the public transportation vehicles I've been in, in all the world . . . in China, Russia, Europe and the ever-so-polite Cambridge, Massachusetts, I have never seen this. Never seen anyone thank the bus driver. Another thing Olympian people do is obey pedestrian signs. I'm in a part of town populated with green- and purple-haired kids in tattered clothes and faces studded with silver jewelry. Anti-establishment perhaps, yet, they all wait patiently for the "Walk" sign before crossing the street. Even when there is no traffic. This amazes me. I want to live here.

In good company . . .

Today we go to Seattle to see the town and meet an old college friend of Ken's, the last college friend of his friends I've yet to meet. I believe a person's selection of friends reveals a lot about the person (guilt by association, I guess). Fortunately, ALL of Ken's friends are wonderful. Mel, the most recent, completes Ken's album of friends to perfection. How is it possible that every friend of his is smart, talented, funny, kind, successful and interesting? All good conversationalists, too. How is that so? Shouldn't the odds dictate at least one be a jerk? But not one. I like them all. Great company.

Chilly mornings. . .

Cold every morning. Very difficult to get out of a warm bed and into the frigid RV air that has the metallic chill of a cooler, like those old Coca-Cola coolers that used to be in small neighborhood stores. That wet, damp chill that only a metal box can sustain. But I tear myself away from the warmth of the blankets and run for my thick terry cloth robe and a kettle of hot tea. Warmed by tea, I pull up the bedroom shade to get enough light to make the bed. I see them again.There they are just outside the window. Every morning I draw the shade and every morning I am surprised to see them again. I wince and shudder. Poor, pitiful things. They must be freezing. Four days now, two women in their mid-forties have been living in a small tent across from us at this campsite. Living out of a tent, with all their belongings packed in their cars until they can find an apartment. Their search is impeded by the two enormous, howling dogs they own. Last night the rain beat continuously on our tin roof. What did these two women do with their measly canvas roof? What kind of night did they have? How do they prepare their three meals each day in this cold, wet weather? I see them now in their thin robes at the picnic table, drinking coffee, huddled over their steaming cups, their bare ankles peeking out from their robes, exposed to the chilly air of the Pacific Northwest. I grimace. What a weakling I am that a bit of chill in the RV makes me whine. These poor women! How do they shake that chill that creeps in during the night and lingers in the surrounding pines all day long?

Moss is Boss . . .

The three-hour drive from Olympia to the Olympic National Park today is interrupted by frequent "photo ops." Repeatedly. It's impossible to pass each overlook without stopping. This narrow road is lined for miles with towering, thin pines, which make the road appear even more narrow. The map tells us the Pacific Ocean is on the left, but the trees block any ocean view. We stop at a picnic area and I jump out into the misty rain to see if the ocean is really there. As I walk past the picnic area I hear waves crashing. I pick up my pace and run to the sound. Around the bend a scene opens up that stops me in my tracks. A tall, thin, elegant Sitka Spruce tree with burls that make it look like look like a pregnant Kate Moss guards the ocean below (See Artifacts for a look at one.) From a cliff in a mist of rain and salty air, I see the Pacific crashing 200 feet below on a solitary fisherman, about waist deep in the waves. A heavily laden, camera-clad Ken follows behind me. This is the first beach. There are six more to see; the last being Ruby Beach. We stop at three of the seven beaches and dally, eating cold leftover pizza for lunch. The beach stopovers make us arrive late at the Hoh Rain Forest, our ultimate destination today. We take the short 3/4 mile "Hall of Mosses Trail" through an incredible rain forest laced in a mesh of gold and green moss on the ground, on the barks of trees and hanging delicately from tree branches. Ken says it's like being in an Enchanted Forest. This fabulous display of Mother Nature makes us and the other tourists around us walk in awed silence. Passersby nod to each other and smile a serene and angelical smile in a rare, hushed unison of spirit that says, "We are part of this exquisite universe, let's not break the spell with spoken words."

Nightfall in the Enchanted Forest . . .

Back at the Visitor's Center, now closed. Ken and I regroup and refresh ourselves with oranges and raisins. It's after 5PM and we are trying to decide whether to do the 1-1/4 mile "Spruce Trail," which promises scenes of wildlife . . .Olympic Elk, maybe. We decide to go for it, even though it will bring us back to the RV well after 10PM. Arm and arm we walk down the gravel trail gazing at the inordinate amount of huge green ferns on the ground and various mosses on tree branches. Another photo op. This one requires a tripod. Sometimes it's aggravating traveling with a photographer who is forever stopping to capture a moment, sometimes waiting long lonely moments for the light to return, thus making a stroll a series of stop-and-go moments rather than a cool stream of consciousness where you can walk briskly, breath deeply, and suck in the beauty of nature. Selfishly. The stop-and-go trek was okay for the Hall of Mosses earlier where I wanted to stop and study the weird flora and fauna. But here, I want to feel the motion. Feel the forest. Feel the breeze. So we decide to separate. Ken can do his photography without worrying about my boredom and I can walk through the forest and pretend I'm Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. No sooner am I out of Ken's sight when . . .huh? . . .what happened to the sun? It is now dark. What happened to the other tourists? None are around. Now it is scary. Now instead of the Enchanted Forest, it feels like the Haunted Forest. Thoughts of signs I read back at the Ranger station, "DO NOT HIKE ALONE" come to mind. A sound in the dark makes me recall the "WARNING: THIS IS A COUGAR AREA" sign I saw earlier. The sign said not to run if you see one. Stop and stare it down. I want to run, now, before I come eyeball to eyeball with a cougar. I'm glad that Ken and I exchanged our views on how we want our funerals, should we die today. Ken told me that if he dies, to make sure I go back on the trail and retrieve his cameras, because he'll have taken "great footage of my last moments." And, "posthumous photos, especially gruesome ones, always fetch good prices."

Geez, how the heck long is this trail anyway!? Sure feels longer than a mile. And where is everyone? How could a full parking lot of tourists suddenly disappear? It's deathly quiet here. Dark. The whispering pines that were lovely when the sun was out, now take on the ominous sound of a heavy breathing predator, stalking his prey (namely, me, a tender human being stuffed with a tangy orange-raisin sauce). Where is that Visitor's Center? How much longer? Maybe I'm off the trail. Why do I do stuff like this? Why didn't I stay with Ken? Wait. I hear voices. Is that? Yes. It's the parking lot beyond the trees there. I'm walking parallel to it. Oops. The trail bends away from it, deeper into the forest again. Well, at least I know I'm close. Pick up the pace.A little faster and a longer stride. Move it sister. Move it. A sign up ahead says "Visitor's Center." Thank God. Now all I have to do is wait in the truck for Ken to come out.

Run to Ruby, sit all alone in the dark parking lot. Everyone is gone except some weird guy at the phone booth.Take off my wet coat and boots and put on warm, dry shoes. Stare through the windshield at the dense forest, waiting, hoping for Ken to emerge safely. Get a hold of yourself. Ken has camped alone on bear-infested mountaintops. If you, the most naive woodsperson on earth can get out alive, he surely can. No movement in the forest. What is taking him so long? Where is he? C'mon Ken, please come out. Please. Ooh is that him at the restroom. Yes, here he comes. Shoulders relax. Breathing comes back. Life is good again.

Watermarks . . .

In the kitchen today I see some spilled water on the countertop that's the image of the 1970s "Smiley" face. Ask Ken if he drew it. No. But he is more impressed. Makes a big deal of it. Goes to get the camera. I scoff, "You can't capture that." He snaps. It works. Here it is. Untouched.

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