1st July Evening
Our flight to Portland was only about 20 minutes late in the end, and was a joy, as it was only a short hop, so the plane didn’t rise about 12,000 feet. Rog was a bit concerned when he noticed that it was a small prop plane, but I assured him it would be pressurised. He had an agonising flight on our trip to the Grand Canyon in a 14 seater plane, and I think he was worried he might face the same ear pain, but he was fine.
Even though it was only a 54 minute flight, we were given beer and nibbles while we watched the scenery through the window. Mental note on a Bombadier Q400, don’t sit in Row 9, you will have the flicker from the propeller as it takes off, and that is all you will see during the flight. As the flight was barely half full, we moved up a couple of rows, and saw several mountains, I think the crew referred to them as Mount Reindeer, Mount Adamson, Mount St Helens (with its top blown off) and then as we came in to land, Mount Hood in all its glory.
A smooth landing, off to the baggage carousel (Rog is convinced the cheaper the flight, the further they will make you walk!) and our bags were there before we were. We went to investigate a trolley, but at $5 US we thought that was a bit rich, so managed without.
Bags collected, we looked round for Katie, but no sign of her, which is hardly surprising given the number of baggage claim carousels there are! A helpful man at the desk rang her number for me, as my phone battery was nearly gone, and within a couple of minutes we spotted someone waving a large sign coming towards us. We waved back energetically, and enthusiastic hugs were exchanged. The staff at the desk kindly took a photo of the three of us with the famous sign. Katie kept saying she couldn’t believe we were here, well now there is photographic proof!
Our luggage all went into the boot of her car with ease, and we set off into the wooded area of North Portland, up to our beautiful Bed and Breakfast, to a warm welcome by Margie. We were left to unpack and unwind.
We awoke to the sound of birds singing and the trees rustling outside. Down to breakfast, beautifully set out in the dining room. As Brits were were expected to have tea, but Margy was happy to produce coffee, then she came out with what was effectively the most enormous Yorkshire pudding I have ever seen, about 11 inches wide, to be eaten with lemon juice and sugar. We managed about half of it! There was also a glass each layered with fruit, yoghurt, fresh raspberries and crunchy granola, and large glasses of orange juice.
We were just finishing when Katie arrived with a large box! Rog grabbed the camera, and I opened, it pulled out the ancient Bible, and Katie showed me the inscription at the front, and then the pages where the family history was written, between the Old and New Testatments. It was in remarkably good condition, the first few pages were mottled, but it was holdind together well.
It was just such as special moment, there were the names of our two grandfathers, brothers from the same Great Grandparents. There was also the name of my father, and Katie’s mother.
We both felt a bit weepy, I think me for seeing the Bible and the names for the first time, and Katie seeing the connection come to life. All sorts of family stories emerged, and it was much later than intended when we set off.
The Bible was safely stored in our room, and off we went to explore the Portland surroundings.
First stop was Multnomah Falls, the second tallest all year round falls in America. Katie parked the car and we walked under the motoway, past the creek with children playing in the water, and got our first sight of the falls. Water cascaded in a narrow stream over the rocks from a cliff so high that it took several photos just to get it all in. The weather was very warm, but with a pleasant breeze. It was a magical spot, we went inside to look at the museum about the falls, and the local plant and animal life. There were some very pretty aftificial orchids, we hoped to find perhaps one growing outside, but actually didn’t see one on this trip.
Katie suggested we walk up to the bridge across the cascade so she could take a photo of us, so we set off up the steep wooded path, admiring the ferns and trees as we went. From the bridge we could take better photos, as well as turn round so Katie could spot us, and waved frantically so she could see us.
Back down to car park level, and into the restaurant. It was a cool relief from the heat, and we were shown to a table in the middle, menus produced, and iced water instantly on the table.
I went for the smoked salmon platter with apple and huckleberry chutney, cheese, orange slices, grapes, apple, and bread rolls. It was supposed to be a starter, but I could not have eaten it all for a main course. The salmon alone was a thick slice about one inch thick and six inches long, none of your thinly sliced sheets we get in the UK.
Rog had a smoked salmon salad, Katie had a spinach and shitake salad, they both finished theirs I am ashamed to say!
Then came one of those silly moments. I decided to nip to the loo before we set off, came out, and could not see Rog and Katie anywhere, so assumed they must have gone back to the car. I wandered up and down in the heat, searching the parking lot (see, I am getting some of the lingo!) in the heat, but could not see any car that looked like Katie’s. After about 10 minutes of this I thought I had better go back to the museum entrance and wait for them to find me. They did, having been waiting for me there all the time, and when we did walk back to the car, I had forgotten we had walked under the motorway first. We made a mental note to agree where we would need up next time!
We now set off again and stopped at Katie’s favourite ice cream stop. It was very popular, so we queued up for out 6″ tall mounds of ice cream perched on top of a very small cone. Obviously it was a futile race against time to try and eat it before it melted and ran all over hands and clothes. The shop had proved paper cola cups to try and help keep under control, and in the end I dropped mine in and ate the ice cream as it rose over the top of it. However it defeated me in the end, and it had to go in the rubbish/traxh bag Katie had thoughtfully provided.
From there we made our way towards Mount Hood, the views becoming better and better, cameras every busy. Katie had wondered if there would still be snow from the 7000 ft down to the Timberline Lodge Hotel, but it was now clear, unlike when she was here five weeks ago.
The building itself was very old by American standards, the Wiki entry says “Built in the late 1930s, the National Historic Landmark sits at an elevation of 5,960 feet (1,817 m), within the Mount Hood National Forest and is accessible through the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. It is a popular tourist attraction, drawing more than a million visitors annually. It is noted in film for serving as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.
The inside was circular with very thick circular wooden beams, thick stone walls and large fireplaces. It would be a very cosy place to return to after a full day’s ski-ing, this being a ski resort all the year round. The slopes up to the very summit had clumps of a very pretty blue wild flower, a member of the lupin family. It added to the attraction, edging the rock faces rising to the snow slopes.
We found a lovely spot to have tea, and had large refreshing glass cups brought out to us, though poor Katie has to use her own tea bags as they didn’t have any plain black tea (mental note, better have some in for when she comes to the UK, which she is now very keen to do!)
She has had an incredible life, working at the White House as well as the American Embassy in London. Indeed she actually planned the flights for Air Force 2, paying for the aviation fuel at $100,000 a flight!.
We continued to exchange family news chatting over tea, and after more photo shots (I asked what the mountain behind Mount Adams was, and Katie said it was Mount Washington, there, nailed it at last!) we set off back for the B and B.
My laptop and tablet were pressed into action, and we were able to show her some family members, who had obviously aged considerably since she saw them in London in the 60s/70s. We could also show her photos of children and grandchildren (well it’s what proud granparents do, isn’t it?!)
Katie then left us to pack (because we have to move close to the airport for an early flight on 4th) This special time is flying by so fast, Katie says she doesn’t think she will be able to let us go!
(I can’t upload any more photos, the connection is too slow, apologies!)
Breakfast today was a fresh fruit salad and a slice of smoked salmon with a corn cake and creamed spinach. We were also offered brown toast, which was exceptionally good. By the time we had finished and gone upstairs to finish packing, Katie had arrived. I had noticed the night before that my large case had a huge crack down one side, and a smaller one on the opposite side. We hadn’t noticed this at the airport, in the excitement of meeting Katie. Margy,, the B and B owner, had kindly found me some duct tape, so now we would really look like seasoned travellers with a battered and patched case. I cannot imagine what they had done to it, these cases were supposed to support and elephant standing on them!
We had to pack up and move out today because of an early flight to New Orleans the next day. Ben had very kindly used some of his Hilton points to reserve a room for us at the Hilton Garden at the airport for the night before the flight.
We loaded everything into the huge boot of her car and set off to meet Ben, Heather, Elijah (7) and Joseph (5) Katie has been living with them, and acting as a third granny in a way, whilst she gets settled in Portland. We received a warm welcome, our luggage was put safely in the hall, and then the whole group set off in two cars to the Max – Portland’s version of the underground, except it is overground apart from a few tunnels through mountains.
The boys knew they were on a trip out, but not where they were going, and the Max was something they very rarely travelled on, so when they realised where they were headed, wild excitement set in. There was a bit of concern over tickets and whether we would miss the planned train, but it didn’t matter, there was another one along shortly. Excitement continued to mount, and I was worried that Joseph might bounce himself off the edge of the platform! Katie had already got our tickets, all day passes such as we had found in Vancouver.
We got off after a few stops, and crossed the road to board another one downtown. Poor Katie couldn’t find one of the tickets, I know so well (as so does Rog!) how difficult it can be to find something that has slid to the bottom of a large handbag. The third ticket was nowhere to be found, but Katie did have a spare one. We seemed to be in an old warehouse district, and soon found ourselves queuing for lunch in a restaurant attached to one of the many breweries in Portland, one of the things it is famous for. Everyone, including those living there, refers to it as ‘Bohemian’ and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but people seemed to dress and act like in any other city. Certainly the famous doughnut (donut) shop was painted in vivid colours.
At the Deschuttes Brewery we were given an electronic pager to let us know when our table was ready, as the place was packed out. You could see the huge vats of the brewery next door, and they too did a ‘tasting flight’ . We had seats by the window, and the boys were exceedingly patient, given that it was past 1.00 pm and they were hungry. At long last one of them gave a shriek, the square pager was frantically emitting red lights on every side!
We were shown to a table in the middle of the restaurant, and menus produced. While we were waiting, Elijah and I played the boxes game on the children’s menu (dots they call it in the US, and then he challenged me to tick tack toe. My memory failed me, but of course this was noughts and crosses! The food at last arrived. The boys had some sort of burger and fries, that would probably have defeated me, but they tucked in with gusto. I had a spinach and quinoa salad, Rog has some sort of flatbread that looked like a mini pizza. Conversation flowed and we compared notes with Ben and Heather, sport came into it, including the women’s football world cup. We had been knocked out but USA were in the final against Japan. Ben and Heather had been to the UK, and had visited London, but wanted somewhere quieter, so went to Cromer in Norfolk – well yes, that would do it!
After lunch and photos, we split up, Katie taking us to Powells, Oregon’s most famous bookstore, at least four floors of every kind of subject. The top floor had a rare books section, very old books possibly as old as the Bible we had safely stowed in the Lee’s house. At a minimum of $100, we could not afford to give the Bible a companion for the trip!
We then made our way to the waterfront, to meet the others, where Elijah and Joseph were playing in the water spouts coming out of the pavement. At least Joseph was having a whale of a time, Elijah took longer to join in, but he got there in the end, and both boys were soaked by the time we left.
We set off back to the Max stop, the heat of the sun, which was really strong now, drying out clothes as we went. We arrived back at Ben and Heather’s, where they set to creating an extremely green concoction in their new MAgimix, including some kale. All power to the boys who tried it, but admitted they weren’t keen, and even Ben was looking round for something to sweeten it with. Katie, Rog and I had wisely stuck to a cup of tea!
The Lee family then set off to watch a Junior League baseball match. Katie offered the use of her laptop to print off our boarding passes, and eventually switching between portrait and landscape, and single and duplex printing, we got them done, and the baggage tags. We couldn’t understand how a flimsy bit of paper could possibly act as a luggage label, then found out the airport supplied transparent plastic holders to put them in.
It seemed sensible for us to grab a bite to eat at the Airport, so Katie drove us there and we checked into the hotel, left the luggage, and then set off for the departure lounge, where they was a restaurant. After the steak experience at the Rundlestone, we were keen to get rid of that as a memory, so ordered a rib eye steak and salad, one to be shared between the 3 of us, turned out to be perfect portions and very tasty!
A text popped in from daughter in law assuring me that Suay, our lonesome Siamese was okay, and she was too. That’s really good news!
We then had room for puds, Katie decided to risk her gluten sensitivity and have a chocolate fondant, Rog opted for the strawberry and rhubarb cobbler (no surprise considering he adores rhubarb!) and I had a Kilner jar of biscuit crumbs, lemon curd and Swiss meringue. It was only a one pint jar, but you can imagine we were all pretty full after that!
Conversation over the meal generally put the world to rights, we were bemoaning the fact the UK population is one of the most watched in the world, with all the CCTV cameras, and the UK Government’s desire to grab hold of the confidential medical records of all its citizens, not just for research, but for passing on to the police, social services, and no doubt selling to insurance companies if they can get away with it. They have failed to implement the opt out promised by the health secretary, and the Primary Health Care Specialist Group, (I am immediate past chair) has been battling with many others to ensure this right is retained and the technology put in place before any data is extracted.
On the other side of the ‘pond’, Katie was really concerned about the racial inequalities that are still so prevalent. The US male is brought up to believe that his main focus in life is to preserve the ‘purity’ (ie to prevent the rape by a black man) of their womenfolk. They have cupboards stacked with guns to ensure they can do this. In the over the top politically correct UK, this seems unbelievable, but apparently this really is taught to them from the earliest age. I guess we will see even more of this down South.
Conversation continued over the many conventional and alternative ways of treating illnesses, and the need not to discount anything. We then realised it was half past ten, and we had to be up at 5.45 am!
We said a fond goodbye to Katie, with promises to keep in touch and meet up when she comes to the UK. There was the usual struggling to weigh the luggage and keep it below the limit, before we collapsed into bed, sleeping fitfully and waking before the alarm, the way you always do before an early flight.
4th July. Independence Day!
All yesterday people had been wishing each other a ‘Happy Fourth’, and today this really swung into action. First stop was the Alaska Air baggage desk to complain about my bag. The lady there was extremely helpful, offered me a new bag, a repair, or a refund. The new bag was a bright purple plastic one, and I could not face lugging that around, I could not take up the offer of a repair as we would not be coming back to Portland, so the only option was a refund. She asked me how much I wanted. I had no idea what would be fair to ask, but said as the bag had cost £120, could I have £85? She duly wrote me a bankers draft for that amount, and told me I could get it cashed upstairs or at any bank. And ‘Happy Fourth’, she added. As she had also written $100 on it, I thought I would wait for the more preferential rate in the UK!
We then made our way back to check in the bags. Interestingly we could check them in on the pavement for an extra tip, on inside for free. The Scottish side of me came out, and we headed back inside. The instructions on the boarding passes were to go straight to the gate, so we headed for the security queue. I am not sure why, but we had TSA PRCHK on the top of our tickets, and the security guard said ‘what are you guys doing in the queue, come over here’, and took us straight to a free guard. However when he looked at our boarding passes, the landscape/portrait issue raised its head, and we only had half the bar code. We were regretfully told to go and get them printed again, so back to the main hall, and a kiosk obliged.
The security guard seemed pleased to see us back, and we went through the scanner at top speed. I explained about the Bible, and this was reverentially given a tray of its own, and he assured me he would watch it all the way through. It had sailed ahead of me by the time I had walked through the arch. ‘Happy Fourth’ he said.
We now had plenty of time for Rog to relax a bit, and ordered breakfast at the café. He had a huge bowl of porridge with brown sugar and raisins on the side, only leaving a bit of brown sugar, where has he put it all? I ordered a breakfast scone, but was a bit taken aback. What I thought were raisins in it turned out to be green onions, bacon and grated cheese, and yet it tasted sweet. It was a taste I could not immediately acquire, and I had to leave it, opting for a fruit salad instead, which we shared, plus coffee and orange juice. The lady at the till also wished us ‘Happy Fourth’. I suggested as Brits perhaps we were not the ones celebrating, but she didn’t understand. ‘Happy Fourth’….
The call to go to the gate came, and we approached with two bags each, plus the Bible. The lady on the gate looked dubious, and started talking about only two bags each. I said I was bringing my reading material, and then opened the box to show her the Bible. She stepped back in amazement, and her colleague stopped her queue to have a look too. ‘Bless you Jesus!’ she said. I was waved through with a grin, and a ‘Happy Fourth!’ In the UK I guess I might have risked causing offence by flashing a Bible in a public place, I despair for the secularisation of my Country sometimes.
We were shown to our seats by the propeller again, but just before take-off, the cabin stewardess announced ‘here are spare seats up front if anyone wants them, you have ten seconds!’ We made it on 7!
More views of mountains out of the window, perhaps Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Ranier (pronounced Ran-EER apparently, which is why I thought it was called Mount Reindeer!)
We were given snacks and fruit juice and in less than an hour, we were landing in Seattle. I tried to spot the famous tower, but no luck.
It didn’t feel a rush, getting across to the next boarding gate, and whilst I was wandering round Hudson’s , Rog heard an announcement that the flight was not full, and upgrades were available. He also got an internet connection on his phone, and found out the weather for New Orleans was thunderstorms, looks like our amazing luck with the weather might be coming to an end. I just wanted something to show we had been in Seattle, there wasn’t really anything, but I picked up a tin of mints with the Seattle skyline on the lid.
I went to enquire about the upgrades. There was one first class left, at a cost of $150, and despite the honoured passenger with us, I didn’t think I could treat it that far, (or leave Rog in ‘Steerage’ ) but they did have extra legroom seats for $30, so we treated ourselves, which gave me a comfortable seat to write up the blog.
The Bible passed by without comment this time, (apart from ‘Happy Fourth’ ) and we settled down for the flight to New Orleans.
I could have connected to the internet on this flight and done it online, but at $3.50 for half an hour, using a Word document I can cut and paste from later will have to do.
As we rose above Seattle more moutains came into view. As we were in Washington State, could that be the elusive Mount Washington out of the window?
As we approach New Orleans the clouds roll up, and we are warned that bad weather is ahead, stow everything and prepare…..
Actually the turbulence wasn’t too bad, and it isn’t raining….
Photos will follow, I promise!