Brief as my stay in Portland was & I checked into the motel after 10pm and checked out before 9am & it was not short enough; I was looking forward to seeing Lane, Melissa, Erica, and Terizekial. The drive up I-5 took less than four hours, but it was boring as hell. After driving up route 101 and other scenic roads, this was almost enough to make me go crazy. The only thing that broke the tedium was Megan.
Until now I have been reluctant to write about Megan because I do not know who might eventually read this. She does not mind, though. (Yes, she consented when I asked her today.)
Despite my plans for solitary reflection this week, Meg has been welcome company since Monday. Somewhere in wine country, I noticed that I had been driving in front of the same charcoal gray Honda Accord for some time. I had my cruise control set at 75, and my "neighbor" had apparently done the same. The Accord neither crept closer nor lagged behind for over an half-hour. As traffic allowed (soon, as it was quite light), I pulled into the right lane and slowed to let it pass. When it did, I noticed Meg for the first time: we glanced at each other and nodded as strangers do on the highway. Falling in line behind her, I reset my cruise control at 75 and continued north. The only other thing of note was her sky blue bumper sticker which read, I thought, "Titans" in white text. This made me think of Denzel Washington. From time to time, Meg and I passed one another in a slow waltz which lasted until we reached Leggett. At the route 1 junction, a sign announces the famous drive-through redwood tree. As I detoured and Meg continued on, I noted her as a barely-interesting footnote for this travelogue.
An hour later I was back on 101 and thinking about lunch. I selected the One-Log House when I saw it in the distance and was floored when I saw a charcoal gray Accord sporting a sky blue bumper sticker with "Tritons" written in white. Entering, Meg was the only diner. She was just finishing her lunch when I asked if she was the same driver I had been dancing with on route 101 all morning. I bought her a cup of coffee to get her to stay and chat through a quick sandwich. We stayed more than an hour.
Having graduated from the University of California at San Diego and working now on an advanced political science degree at the same institution, Meg had just finished her summer research job and was driving to Portland to see her family before returning for her last semester two weeks later. Like me, she took route 101 for the view. The only description of my own sense of humor I have ever considered accurate was "singular," but Meg was cracking my jokes before I even thought of them. The speed of her wit alone was impressive. When we left she pulled a pair of two-way radios from her trunk and gave me one. She and four friends, she explained, take frequent car trips into Mexico with two cars, and these were their way of keeping in contact. I took one unit, and we talked the rest of the way to Crescent City. Fortunately, Meg took route 101 for the same reasons I did, and she liked to stop at as many lookout points.
At Crescent City we stopped for gas, intending to part company. By the end of the fill-up, however, we took off together down route 199 through the Jedediah Smith forest. She would come with me around Crater Lake, then to Portland. She stayed with me that night in Grant's Pass, but do not tell Travelodge: I only paid for one person.
Amazingly, for a Portland native, Meg had never seen Crater Lake. She had only a vague idea of its formation, so I got to play professor for a day. That was hardly the reason we spent so much time there, though & the park offers two or three days' worth of sights in addition to its hiking and camping opportunities. We might have spent a week if we had the time.
The trek north to Portland was uneventful, except for some construction on route 97, where we lost over an hour. When we stopped for dinner in Eugene, I was surprised when Meg uncoyly asked about spending another night with me. Far be it from me to be shy.
The next morning Meg stopped by her house to tell her family she was going farther on, to Seattle to visit a friend. I am not sure what, if anything, she told them about me. Her excuse was technically true, for she did have lunch with a friend from college. Meanwhile, I met Melissa at Cucina Cucina, an Italian joint on the waterfront, one block from Yale Street Landing. The laid-back marina view was a perfect compliment to two days of redwoods, evergreens, and Crater Lake. We had the good fortune to see several hydroplanes take off and land as we caught up on gossip.
Megan and I met again at the Experience Music Project after lunch. The museum, as I suspected, began as a warehouse for Paul Allen's Jimi Hendrix memorabilia and grew into a monstrosity of technology for technology's sake. The exhibits were so top-heavy with IT that they collapsed under its weight. Allen's stated goal was to give each visitor a sense of creating his own music without being able to read notation or spend years working at it. The result was almost as good as PowerPoint's AutoContent Wizard.
With over two hours left before I could meet Lane, Meg and I went to Alki Beach. She had been there some years before and recalled being impressed by the Seattle skyline. The beach was non-touristy and conducive to relaxing in the shade. At 5pm we took our leave, I for Mukilteo and Meg for Portland. We may stay in touch for a while, but doubt anything will come of it. I am unlikely to move to San Diego, and I doubt Meg would ever transplant herself for me. That did not stop her from calling me in her next crisis, though. She got lost somewhere in south Seattle before she reached I-5, and called me because she knew I had a local map for every city I had planned to visit. (The only difference between prudence and dorkiness, she said, is whether one's preparation was actually required at the end of the day.) It took me 45 minutes to find a place to pull over, locate Meg on the map, and guide her back to I-5.
Lane was a good sport when I showed up an hour late. She and Felix seem to have taken to married life well in their first eleven months. I got to talk more with Felix in my first half-hour at their house than ever before. The first time I met him was at their wedding & hardly conducive to an informal chat. It was nice to get to know him a bit today. Maybe next time he will come out to dinner with us.
The visit with Lane's parents was nice, too. Between Antarctican geology, California politics, housebreaking kittens, and trends in communication technology, I our conversation touched on nearly every major branch of human knowledge. If there had been dorks in tweed jackets and bowties, I might have mistaken it for a Master's Tea.