Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Road Trip (part 1)

So, Eric had to head down to Portland, Oregon, on Saturday the 29th for the Jeopardy tryouts. The tryout time was late enough that he didn't have to get down the night before, like last time. So, after some consultation, I decided to go with him, and we'd take my "new" car, Cody the Cavalier, and see how it handled a long trip.

On Thursday, I read about Sweet Tomatoes Creamy Tomato Soup on Mark Evanier's blog, and checked the map. The nearest location of that restaurant is in Vancouver Washington. But wait... on Saturday, Eric and I would be very near there. I told Eric to read Mark Evanier's blog and see if he thought what I thought. He did, and we planned a detour on the way home. Lunch at Sweet Tomatoes in Vancouver!

Eric's tryout was 11:30am, and it usually takes about 3 hours to get to Portland (even with my driving) from the Seattle area. We decided to leave by 7am, giving us time if there was an accident or other problem. As we watched the snow fall on Friday afternoon, we decided that we would leave the next morning as soon as both of us were ready. Eric printed out maps and directions, and we put everything we might need in the car the night before.

At 5am Saturday morning, my phone alarm woke me with the Jeopardy theme song, which amused Eric. I posted my links for the day, then whipped up a batch of oatmeal for the two of us. We got out the door shortly before 6am, and hit the road with me driving the first leg.

Roads were wet, but clear. Light traffic for the morning, and nothing unusual until we got near the Toutle River rest stop. There was lots of snow on the ground around that area, and the rest stop itself was still under a blanket of snow although the lot was clear. I drove from that rest stop to Portland, while Eric snoozed. Because he was asleep, he missed the heavy snow we drove through. None of it was sticking to the roads, but the visibility was bad enough that I slowed down to well below the speed limit (which is a tad unusual for me). It was only raining in Portland itself, so that wasn't stressful.

We found a parking garage at 10th and Yamhill, then walked over to the hotel where the tryouts were to be held. It was 9am. With two hours to kill, we decided to walk to Powell's.

I'd been to Powells once before, and everything about the experience had been bad. I decided that I was going to completely forget that previous visit and pretend this was my first time going there.

As Powells is widely considered the best bookstore around, I've heard that some people "test" the store when they visit by looking for specific books they don't expect to see in bookstores. I came up with my own tests. One: I would look for an Aquaman collection. With a couple of trades, the Archive, and the Showcase volumes, I figured this would be easy. Two: I would look for Queen Ann In Oz, hubby-Eric's book. Although some stores carried it, I wasn't really expecting to find it there. Three: Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald. This one is a no-brainer... a local author whose 100 birthday was just a few days ago? I expected a display of her books.

It didn't take us long to get to the store, once we figured out what direction to go. It was only a half-mile or so from the parking garage. Once inside (and out of the rain) we wandered aimlessly for awhile. It's a BIG store. Easy to get lost in. We found the Children's section relatively quickly and got separated when I spotted some old adventure-type books and started down the aisle forgetting for a moment that I was married and hanging with my hubby. Eventually I tracked him down again (or he tracked me down, I'm not sure), and he showed me their Oz section. Sure enough, Queen Ann In Oz was there! I suggested we tell someone that Eric is the author so he can sign it, but he refused. Eric noted that they had lots of the Books of Wonder Oz books.

Next we hunted down the graphic novel section. I found Manga scattered all over, including one island in the Award Winning Children's books section that had all of the English Hikaru No Go so far on it. Eventually we found the graphic novels in the coffee shop. Have I mentioned that I hate the smell of coffee? The section itself was tiny and I nearly gave up hope of finding any Aquaman when I spotted the Archive sitting on top of a stack of others, mis-shelved and looking forlorn. Despite finding Aquaman, I was NOT impressed with their graphic novel selection. The Manga selection just outside the coffee shop was bigger and better lit (and didn't stink).

So the last book to look for was Nancy and Plum. We wandered a LOT (and yes, it was fun) and didn't find it. Eric hunted through the sports section for books on the Olympics and found less than a shelf of them. Eventually, I found a computer and typed in "Betty MacDonald". The only book they listed was The Egg and I. Huh. That was odd. Maybe they misspelled her name in the catalog. I typed in "Nancy and Plum" and got no hits. Hrm. I went back to searching for her name, and found out where her books were located. The local interest section. Ok, we trekked over there and... the only book by her available was The Egg and I.

And so I left the store slightly disappointed. It is a very impressive book store, but it wasn't nearly as robust as people have claimed. I'm being slightly snarky here, by the way. I really did enjoy the visit.

We walked back to the parking garage in the continuing rain, and I decided to nap in the car for a bit while Eric went to his tryout. I also had a book to read. And so I napped and read in the car. At one point, I heard this incredibly loud "KERRRSCRUMP!" which repeated every few seconds. It got louder and louder and I realized that something was coming up the ramps of the garage making the sound. It finally passed my car, and I saw that it was a car with one of those plastic carriers on the top that was just too tall for the garage. Every time it passed under a supporting beam, it scraped against it, making that noise. The driver didn't seem concerned. Another driver had her music so loud that it echoed in the garage... even though she had all her windows rolled up. I was very relieved when she shut off her car.

Ok, I'll break off there... you'll have to read the rest of the tale tomorrow...