ups and downs in the pacific northwest, part 1

now that things have quieted down a bit (namely the roto rooter van and a handful of city employees making a racket outside of my office window), i have a few moments to recall the more unanticipated events while todd and i were in washington.

first, and most importantly, the driving. todd drove the entire time we were up there because he has insurance coverage already, plus everyone can attest that my driving skills, when in unknown surroundings, are negligible at best. if you ever need to travel with me for work, you may be safer hitchhiking. just saying. because i can't take photos like this and drive at the same time.

we spent the first two days traversing mount rainier national park. even with the rain and lack of vegetarian options, we were having a great time: muddy jeans, hot tubs, and deer breakfasting just steps away from our cabin.

at the end of day 2, we were driving back from sunrise, the highest point you can reach in the park by car. here's a view of the mountain from sunrise at about 5PM.

as we're driving along the main park road, we saw a park ranger driving toward us. being the happy, we're-enjoying-nature type of folks, we waved at him as we passed. things are looking good, right? but no. he stops his car, turns on his lights and siren, makes a three-point turn, and comes after us. we immediately pull to a stop, and can't figure out why we're being pulled over. oh, sh!t, i'm thinking. what's wrong? is our rental car on a stolen vehicle list? did we not have our lights on? first, the officer asked us if we knew what the speed limit was in the area. duh, 35 MPH. now, i'm confused. i always freak out when todd speeds, and b/c of this, i have a really bad habit of freaking out pretty much anytime i'm in the car with him, so i'm confident that we weren't speeding, or at least not that much to cause the ranger to stop us on an empty road. in fact, i had looked at the spedometer just before we saw him and it read 38 MPH. but no. mr. ranger insists that he clocked us at 58 MPH. being the logical guy that he is, todd suggested that maybe the radar gun was faulty, but mr. ranger took his license, insurance card, and registration and went back to his SUV. we sat in the car for about eight minutes, which is a really long time when all you have to look at are a ton of trees. we had no radio reception, and the most we could hope for to de-stress us was an elk sighting (the best we got was a crow).

the ranger walked deliberately back to the car and told us he was going to be generous (yey! no ticket!!!) by knocking our speed down to 45 MPH (boooo!). but we had to pay $91 or appear in Tacoma court in 3 weeks. we played the good driver/good passenger role of yes sir, we're sure we weren't speeding, sir, etc., etc., etc., but still, we drove away with a bright pink ticket and a shadow looming over our heads.

not 20 minutes later, around 6PM, we're slowly (think 25 MPH) driving back toward ashford, with very limited visibility due to the fog, when the whole car (toyota corolla) goes "BOOM!" and then a "putter putter vrmmmmmmmrughah." yes, we blew out a tire. todd changed it, and i tried my darnedest to get some semblance of cell phone reception, only to find out that we needed to drive the car all the way back toward seattle, at a speed limit of less than 50 MPH, and exchange it.

the next morning, we drove back to avis, where the 18-year-old rental manager didn't give us any hassle at all about the flat tire or the exchange. i think he was still hung over from the night before. but interesting factoid: we have yet to be charged a fee for the tire or wheel. yippee! with all that under our belt, we then faced a three+ hour drive east for our one night in yakima wine country.

but could everything really go as planned? naw. while touring some wineries, all of which were subpar to sonoma and napa, we almost ran over a turtle trying to cross the rode. we drove back and helped the little guy make it to safety, which in this case was a massive corn field.

our wine country destination for the evening: a small bed & breakfast along the river in everyone's favorite tiny-ass town, prosser. but lo and behold, the b&b's proprietoress forgot we were coming, leading to a very awkward exchange where she insisted i had called awhile back to cancel and that i never really had a reservation anyway. at this point, i was mentally preparing myself to camp out in the vineyards next door, but i whipped out my confirmation email, and by the time we took a little drive and came back, she had magically remembered that we had in fact confirmed the reservation a month ago. thankfully, the overnight turned out ok, and we picked concord grapes just outside the b&b, which were ripe with flavor (and seeds).

all of this hubbub made this voicemail, received somewhere between our car rental return and the b&b fiasco, ever so much more appreciated (it's soft, so you may need to turn up the volume).

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