Time for Bed | Pecos, TX

I had a revelation today: I’m gonna be able to sport climb before I can boulder again. Why will I be able to sport climb? Because it’s lower impact. You don’t have to worry about falling. When you feel yourself start to go you can just tell your belayer to take and then just chill. Whereas with bouldering you have to worry about getting to the lip, not having any strength, and having to bail all the way to your pad. Or missing your pad altogether. I can’t imagine doing any kind of intense bouldering right now. I can’t imagine doing any kind of bouldering at all.

I’m in Pecos, Texas. And my neighbors are loud.

Crossing the border from Mexico into the US today was easy. Almost too easy. There was only one car in front of me. I guess this is something good that comes out of the pandemic, the fact that the border is basically closed and only US citizens can get in. I spent all of yesterday stressing about crossing the border and it turned out to be ridiculously easy. Go to the drive through to cancel your Temporary Import Permit. Get in line for the border. Pay the toll leaving Mexico. Ignore the guy yelling at you to stop who’s actually trying to sell you something. Show your passport to the first set of US customs and border patrol people. Choose a line (the most stressful part). Inevitably choose the wrong line. Get behind someone who’s getting full cavity searched. Finally get to the front. Answer the questions. Drive into Texas.

And then, of course, you’re in Texas, which is a mixed bag. It’s a huge state. I spent all day driving and didn’t even get out of it. I’m closed to the New Mexico border, and thank god. I think I’m gonna wake up tomorrow and go get some matcha in Carlsbad. Then drive through Roswell, and stay tomorrow night in Albuquerque or Santa Fe or a small town outside one of those. And then, what, onto Utah? Onto Arches National Park? Maybe?

This hotel is so nice. They have a gym, which I worked out in (bench and pull-ups), they give you cookies when you check in, and there’s a barbecue place just down the street. I had to get barbecue while in Texas. I got pulled pork with a side of coleslaw and a side of baked beans. And then I walked back to my hotel and watched episodes of Seinfeld. And then I figured out where I might drive tomorrow, where I might stay, etc etc etc etc

Etc.

And now it’s time for bed.

The Grand Road Trip | Leg One: Ballard to Saint Helens, OR

It’s finally happened. I’ve finally started my road trip south. I was supposed to start last week but then I decided to hang around for my doctor’s appointment, where I learned I have a partially torn LCL that will take 2-3 months to heal. So what better way to kill time in the winter waiting for your ligament to heal than by getting in your ’97 Subaru and heading south toward Me-hee-ko?

I’m calling it The Grand Road Trip, semi named after The Grand Forest on Bainbridge Island, a kick-ass name and one of my favorite places to go walking (and apparently a cougar lives there now and is preying on local livestock).

One of the goals for this road trip: To not take interstates. Which in theory is a romantic idea. You see the land! You live among the people! But in practice it meant that leaving Seattle I had to pass through places like Kent and Tukwila and SeaTac and the dreaded Puyallup.

Despite this, from the first moment it was still enchanting, turning onto Airport Way S. down by SoDo stadium. Airport Way S took me past Boeing Field and the King County International Airport (I didn’t even know this existed; Do they have one-way flights to Guam?), and onto Military Road S, and from there through the aforementioned places I wasn’t thrilled about but that were a necessary evil to get out of the greater Seattle area.

Once on 161 south things began to get better. I passed Alder Lake, which for a moment made me feel like I was back in Central Switzerland, fresh off the mountain and looking for a comely lass in the local ski lodge to share a Stein with. This led me to the town of Elbe, which apparently has Germanic influence, as noted by the word “Kirche” written on the local church. Here I stopped in a general store and got a large Earl Grey with “just a little bit of cream” and then sat on a bench outside, eating cheese and crackers and gazing out on the lake. Already I felt good about my decision not to take interstates. It was hard at first, leaving Seattle and seeing I-5 south signs every five minutes and knowing I could just faceplant onto the freeway and be at my destination in almost half the time. But this trip is not about destinations. I have nowhere to get to. I have nothing to do. I just want to see new things and appreciate the place where I am, places like Elbe with their Teutonic places of worship.

The church in Elbe, WA. The pastor is a monolingual German speaker named Hermann, or so I hope.

After Elbe it was onto highway 7 which took me to the lovely town of Morton, known for….a lumber mill, maybe? Morton was one of those towns that was charming in the way your slow-witted nephew might be charming. It’s great to be around him for a little bit, but then when you’re not in his presence anymore you say to your wife, “Jesus, I’m glad our kids didn’t turn out like that.” Or maybe he’s like that cousin you have that lives in Minnesota or Iowa or some god-forsaken place like Missouri, where he lives in a subdivision at the end of a cul-de-sac, and you visit him and he’s so happy, so carefree, and though you’re touched by his happiness you also know he’ll grow up to be a manager at Applebee’s and never leave the country (though he’ll still be happier than you). Anyway, Morton is something like that. The only thing interesting about it was a group of semi-goth highschool kids that got off a schoolbus, and the fact that in Morton you have to decide if you want to take Highway 12 east towards Yakima, or west towards Longview.

I went towards Longview.

I kind of WISH I had gone towards Yakima, but by this point I’d already made my reservation at the hotel where I’m currently typing these very words, the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn in Saint Helens, where the woman at the front desk wasn’t wearing a mask and many of the patrons weren’t wearing masks and she asked me “How is the virus up [in Seattle]?” She also thought it was dumb the pool was closed “‘cuz, you know, chlorine,” to which I didn’t respond. Despite a lack of teeth she was super nice. She gave me corner room far far away from the group that was checking in, whereupon I went on a two mile walk and saw four churches, at least as many fast food restaurants, and a Wal-Mart. Saint Helens has a lot going on. If there were to be another eruption it would be a shame if this place didn’t make it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After Morton and the goth kids and the life or death decision of whether or not to go towards Yakima I worked my way back towards I-5, and then took a two-lane road just west of I-5, where I went to Safeway and got an express special with General Tso’s chicken. My diet so far on this trip has been phenomenal. Energy bars, tea and fake Chinese food. I should probably just get a pack of Skittle’s right now and call it a night.

Tomorrow I’m going to head into Portland to go to Whole Foods and also Powell’s Books. I don’t really want to go there, but it’s one of the best bookstores on the planet, so I have to go. And then after that onward towards Central Oregon, maybe, if I’m lucky (or just keep my foot on the accelerator from time to time), ending up in a town called Burns.

But for now I’m going to enjoy the splendors of the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn in Saint Helens, Oregon. I’m already in another state. And traveling without interstates is awesome! Shame about the pool, though…