We awoke just as the sun began to illuminate our motel room in Longview, WA. I had forgotten to pull the shades the night before, so the first rays of dawn awakened Parker, and once he begins to stir, it’s game on. I handed him the remote and hoped he would find something appropriate to watch, but he couldn’t figure out how to turn the TV on. I unwrapped the pillow from my head and helped him find the local PBS station. It was too late—I was wide awake.
We packed our belongings and surveyed the complimentary breakfast—egg pucks, undercooked breakfast sausage and four varieties of Post cereals. It wasn’t great, but it did the job and allowed us to get on our way without a second stop for breakfast. We headed to the local Safeway to pack our cooler with hot dogs, Gatorade and eggs and then we pulled into the liquor store to replenish Dad’s supply of scotch, which had been dangerously depleted the day before. They weren’t quite open yet, and as we burned down the clock, Samantha announced that she had left Bunny and Doggy (her lifelong stuffed animal companions) on the bed at the motel. For those of you who either don’t have kids, or don’t have kids who have best friends of the fabric and stuffing nature, let me assure you that this is tantamount to leaving your wounded army buddy in a foxhole as it’s being overrun. No way, no how. Not happening.
Bunny and Doggy have been with us now for ten years, across multiple continents. Their passports, if they had needed them, would be in extra pages by now. They are part of the family, and the prospect of losing them now, in this backwater suburb of Portland, Oregon was almost unthinkable. I confess I had winced in the opening moments of Man vs Machine IV when I saw Samantha carrying them proudly to the car because I didn’t want the associated responsibility, but they had been with us on every trip thus far. I reluctantly decided that one more trip wouldn’t hurt.
I dropped the shifter to reverse, and sped back to the hotel, screeching to a halt in the porte cochère opposite the office. We asked for the key back and I sent Samantha back to the room like a commando. She ducked in while I reconnoitered in the lobby, keeping one eye on Parker and the other on the open door. It was taking too long… Just as I was about to go in, she emerged, ashen and shaking. The beds had been stripped and Bunny and Doggy were nowhere to be seen. We spread out down the hallways looking for a maid, and when I found one and explained the escalating situation, she took one look at Samantha and led us straight to the laundry room. It was a rare glimpse into the seedy underbelly of the hospitality industry, with industrial washing machines churning away and heaping piles of laundry waiting to be processed. Staring into one of the giant machines churing away in soapy circles, Samantha began to cry. The maid earnestly insisted that she hadn’t seen them and that if we left our names and numbers she would do whatever it took to return them to us if they were found. As Samantha sobbed, we returned to the car to have one last-ditch look through the luggage. As we dismantled the trunk, possessions strewn about the entrance to the hotel, at last we found them at the bottom of a bag of clothes. They weren’t in the foxhole; they made it onto the chopper. We threw everything into the trunk and Samantha clambered into the back of the car, clutching Bunny and Doggy close to her chest. We fired up, circled the parking lot in a sweeping arc and slowly lifted off. Cue Barber's Adagio for Strings.
After the rescue mission, we turned north to visit Mt. Saint Helens, about 50 miles northeast. If you haven’t been there, I recommend it. There are multiple visitor centers on the way up the mountain and each one is a moving tribute to the terror that ensued in the wake of the eruption in May 1980. Most moving was a video clip of Dave Crockett, a reporter for KOMO television in Portland who was trapped under the falling debris moments after the eruption. It’s one of the most unbelievable pieces of footage I may have ever seen. I won't spoil it, check it out on the video link below.
After St. Helens, we headed back south, over the Columbia, and east to Mount Hood. I had reserved a spot at Camp Creek, just a few miles from the base of the mountain. I didn’t have great expectations for this particular spot but when we pulled in, everything changed. It was built as a work camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and nearly every site had a hand built stone chimney nestled under old growth pines, covered in moss. We spent the evening playing in the river a few feet from our tent and roasting hot dogs and s’mores. It was everything the camping is supposed to be. Beautiful, epic and so, so hard to leave.