Culture vulture

The Culture Vulture Summer Vacation started out with a simple-enough objective and itinerary: The lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and self would drive to Seattle, see the sights and perhaps visit a few relatives, then proceed to camp our way back down the Washington, Oregon and California coasts to Eureka, where we’d enjoy a night or two at our honeymoon motel before driving Highway 299 to Redding and thence back to Chico.

As the poet Robert Burns wrote in his garbled Scottish patois, “The best-laid schemes of mice and men gan aft agley.” What he meant to say, before he lost his grip on the English language in the final three-word phrase, is that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray, leading to all sorts of unexpected and not necessarily pleasant consequences.

The first day of our journey went smooth as silk, straight up Interstate 5 to Roseburg, Ore., where we spent a pleasant night watching cable TV in a bargain motel not far from the highway. Before arriving there we stopped off in Medford for a very pleasant dinner at Fred Marken’s northernmost extension of the Grilla Bites restaurant chain. Grilla Bites is worth seeking out.

Anyway, the following day found us in Portland, Ore., following our borrowed GPS system through the labyrinthine streets to that mecca of bibliophiles, Powell’s Book Store, where we spent a few hours getting absorbed in the stacks, self coming away with a few vintage Doc Savage novels: the ultimate in 1930s pulp fiction superheroes, challenged only by Maxwell Grant’s tales of The Shadow.

Visiting Seattle was a total washout. We hadn’t anticipated Fleet Week with its attendant hordes and inflated lodging prices. After being stuck in tourist-traffic hell for several hours in the Pikes Market area, we fled south to SeaTac Airport, where we spent a night in an overpriced motel before heading to the coast, where at last it began to feel like a genuine vacation.

We dined on fresh-grilled salmon at a roadside salmon festival in tiny Cannon Beach, then drove to Beverly Beach State Camp in Oregon, where we spent the afternoon walking the beach before cooking a lovely camp cuisine meal of sautéed broccoli and chicken with rice and then staring into the campfire for a few hours before bed.

The following day was more beautiful miles of coast with plenty of stops for beach walks accompanied by a growing sense of unease in the Culture Vulture digestive tract that led to an unanticipated motel stopover during which my system divested itself of every molecule of its contents in a dramatic and best-left-undescribed manner. And then felt fine again for the drive to Eureka where we settled into the no-frills but comfy Lamplighter Inn and set about exploring the area.

The most pleasant surprise of the Eureka visit was running into our co[s]mic pals Aaron Standish and Liz Merry (see photo) at the Wedding Rock at Patrick’s Point, where we spent an hour or so watching gray whales cavort in the high-tide waters. One big gray kept breaching, blowing and flipping his massive flukes directly in front of us (and just out of sight of a whale-watching boat) in a display that far outshone any previous encounter we’ve had with whales in their natural state, and which brought to mind another section of Burns’ oft-quoted poem, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough":

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion, Has broken nature’s social union, An’ justifies that ill opinion, Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth-born companion, An’ fellow-mortal!Our best meal by far was at the fantastic Sea Grill in Eureka. Paula is the world’s greatest waitress.