In which we’ve left Seattle

Well this is it – we’ve finally left Seattle.

I’ve written many draft posts about my feelings in anticipation of today and as of yet, have trashed them all. Mourning change does not stop the inertia that is pushing us towards Minnesota. Mourning can also cloud too many things: both new opportunities and a deep gratefulness for something so special to mourn. Goodbye Seattle friends, for now. Thank you for so many sweet memories and for loving us so well.

Our last stop was by our neighborhood Dick’s on our way to I-5. One, because they are delicious and so quintessentially Seattle. Two, because there is nothing like having a cheeseburger for breakfast to cheer you up.

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We meandered south down the interstate all morning and into late afternoon, stopping just for gas. Our goal over the next week is to see eight National Parks, eight states in eight days.

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First stop: Crescent City, CA (so just go ahead and knock three states off that list – I like to get ahead early).

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507 miles – a good first day.

On our way, our little family experienced an important milestone:

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I have driven this Jeep from North Carolina to Quebec to Florida and back again, between New Jersey and Pennsylvania and countless trips between school and Tennessee. She has made a true cross country road trip and survived two back to back trips to Burning Man. I have driven this Jeep since high school and she is one of the few things that I've had since before I met Jeff.

I have driven this Jeep from North Carolina to Quebec to Florida and back again, between New Jersey and Pennsylvania and countless trips between school and Tennessee. She has made a true cross country road trip and survived two back to back trips to Burning Man. I have driven this Jeep since high school and she is one of the few things that I’ve had since before I met Jeff.

It’s easy driving on an Interstate, so we made good time through southern Washington, Portland, the Willamette Valley and down into southern Oregon:

We crossed into California around 6:30pm.

We crossed into California around 6:30pm.

First glimpse of redwood trees

First glimpse of redwood trees

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After our cheeseburger breakfast neither of us felt like lunch, but hunger returned around supper, just in time to settle into our hotel. After feasting on Mexican at Perlita’s, a strange sound pierced our sunset walk back to the hotel. It sounds like a cross between a whale dying and a angry sigh. I walked to the park next to the ocean to check it out (and because I wanted to see the Pacific again) and discovered that it was the foghorn at the lighthouse blasting it’s warning to incoming ships. We’ve found a white noise app to help us sleep.

Crescent City, CA bay

Moonrise over Crescent City, CA bay

Noisy lighthouses should be seen and not heard.

Noisy lighthouses should be seen and not heard.

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Morning update: Read last night that Crescent City is the tsunami capital of the United States and learned from experience that it’s populace must be crazy from listening to that damn foghorn all. the. time. Time to get out of here! On to Lassen.

In which we Burned the Man (again)

Wow – how long has it been since I’ve updated this thing? Between hunting for jobs, finishing up the last remaining residency requirements, conference season and successfully defending my thesis (yay!), I’ve been a bit busy. Here’s the beginning of an attempt to catch up!

Jeff and I were so fortunate to go to Burning Man again in 2014. I’m not sure what 2015 hold for us, so our plans to return to Black Rock City may have to take a small hiatus, but we’ll see. Our camp, Camp No Plan, named for the fact that we were taking only one virgin with us and none of us had adequate time or resources to plan something elaborate, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better companions. It was an amazing time, as I suspect it always is.

Our car - as clean as we'll be for the next week at some rest stop in Oregon

Our car – as clean as we’ll be for the next week at some rest stop in Oregon

To begin with – the drive down from Washington, through remote parts of Oregon and across the tip of Northern California into the Nevada desert is absolutely breathtaking. Jeff, Anna, Alyssa our virgin, and I left out Saturday mid-morning with the trailer and made it all the way to Klamath Falls, OR the first day.

We had spectacular views of Mount Hood outside Portland

We had spectacular views of Mount Hood outside Portland

We drove down through Bend in what I can only describe as desolate volcano country. It's eerily empty and beautiful.

We drove down through Bend in what I can only describe as desolate volcano country. It’s eerily empty and beautiful.

After a night in Klammath and the annual trip to the Fred Meyer to stock up on last minute supplies, we decided to try to a night approach to the line. That meant leaving Klammath in late afternoon so we hit the line entering Gerlach just perfectly at sunset. Our dear Jeep is running strong, but no one wants to sit in a hot, dusty line in the blazing heat without any air conditioning. This also mean we had fantastic “golden hour” shots of some of my favorite landscapes along the way:

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This is what the drive looks like from the backseat from Anna’s camera

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Always good to take a look back and make sure the trailer is still attached..

We hit the line around sunset and made it almost to the gate at around midnight. It ended up that we were three cars behind the gate when the fireworks began to celebrate the official opening of the event – so close! After we made it through, we found some of our friends camped in a great spot (9 o’clock and E) who offered us space. We had to decide at that point if we were going to set up camp in the dark or go out exploring – exploring won the day.

I got to hold this 30 seconds after our group making that decision:

A giant ballon string filled with tiny LED lights. Photo by David Hays from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dav1d/4979419103/

A giant ballon string filled with tiny LED lights. Photo by David Hays from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dav1d/4979419103/

Slightly terrifying – it’s all your childhood nightmares of letting go of a balloon multiplied by 1000 – but it’s tethered to a harness, so the chances of that happening are slim.

The other half of our group had planned to come the following day, so we went in search of some of our other friends but couldn’t find their camp. We have a tradition of meeting at the far side of the Temple at sunrise in the mornings as as the sky began to lighten we gave up our search and headed there. The playa was unusually quiet, but we chalked that up to it being still early on the first day. Unknown to us the gate had been closed because of rain which turned the gigantic prehistoric lake bed into an oozing sticky clay. We hardly saw anyone as we approached the Temple, but as we rounded to the other side we saw a small group of people standing under a “Finish Line” art piece/sign. Our friends! Some of whom we hadn’t seen since last year!

Finish Line art installation at sunrise

Finish Line art installation at sunrise. Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Our friends! Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Our friends! I’m in the leopard coat and neon green backpack. 
Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Catching up with old friends and drinking champagne - just like how all mornings should start.

Catching up with old friends and drinking champagne – just like how all mornings should start.

We all went to Robot Heart afterwards and got to dance to the smallest gathering there all week - it was great! Like having the best party place all to yourself. I also got to drink bloody marys with the owner which was awesome.

We all went to Robot Heart afterwards and got to dance to the smallest gathering there all week – it was great! Like having the best party place all to yourself. I also got to drink bloody marys with the owner which was awesome.

For comparison, this is what Robot Heart normally looks like at sunrise:

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Crowded, fun, chaos with great beats

After being up for 36 hours Jeff and I somehow managed to make it back across the playa in a rain storm, put up our yurt and crawl inside to sleep. Typical Burning Man. The other half of our camp managed to get in early Tuesday morning after being hampered by closed gates and rain.

Random pictures of excursions into the playa:

Biking down the 9 o'clock street

Biking down the 9 o’clock street

Climbing brightly lit plexiglass sculptures.

Climbing brightly lit plexiglass sculptures.

Watching the sunrise in front of a laser-cut wooden gorgeous Temple

Watching the sunrise in front of a laser-cut wooden gorgeous Temple

Hanging out with friends in a huge net-hammock seat.

Hanging out with friends in a huge net-hammock seat.

Comparing beard lengths

Comparing beard lengths

Dressing as Jeff with a beard - he was only slightly amused. I didn't keep it on for long because it was too hot!

Dressing as Jeff with a beard – he was only slightly amused. I didn’t keep it on for long because it was too hot!

Beard reprisal.

Beard reprisal.

Beard buddies

Beard buddies

Night adventures

Night adventures

Giant crocodile art installation

Giant crocodile art installation

Biking down a path towards the temple

Biking down a path towards the temple

Open playa

The Man - the tallest one they've ever built

The Man – the tallest one they’ve ever built

It was hard to get him into my lens

It was hard to get him into my lens

Surrounded by souks in the spirit of the Caravansary theme.

Surrounded by souks in the spirit of the Caravansary theme.

The Canadians filled their souk with useful items for rent.

The Canadians filled their souk with useful items for rent.

Meeting in front of the temple to drink champagne and watch the sunrise

Meeting in front of the temple to drink champagne and watch the sunrise

The Embrace sculpture you could go up into!

The Embrace sculpture you could go up into!

Looking through paper books in the library

Looking through paper books in the library

Getting ready to go out - camp style

Getting ready to go out – camp style

Because Burning Man is the only place a bear hat, hot pink tutu, geometric tights, moccasin boots and a leopard fur coat don't look out of place together.

Because Burning Man is the only place a bear hat, hot pink tutu, geometric tights, moccasin boots and a leopard fur coat don’t look out of place together.

My camera broke early on, so most of these pictures are stolen from Anna, Mary, Hannah and Alex. I was sad at the time, but it allowed me to truly live in the moment of being there. All too soon the week came to the final close and it was time to burn the Man:

Burn night

Burn night

Dusty burn night

Dusty burn night

Goodbye Man!

Goodbye Man!

Dusty friends

Dusty friends

We took one last shot of the best No Plan Camp ever…

Ben, Amy, Yoni, Alyssa,

Ben, Amy, Yoni, Alyssa, Anna, Mary, Jeff and I

…and headed home:

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Writing this post now so many months removed and just trying to spill all the pictures into place I’m remiss on too many things from that time to put on here. Burning Man stretches you to all the limits you knew you had and exposes you to new ones – I always come back in a weird state of refreshment and exhaustion and with a renewed hope in humanity.

This year I felt like I knew what I was doing (to the best you ever can); was integral to our (no) plan camp in ways I could’ve have been last year; and immersed myself in the community more (one morning I was one-handed biking through a dust storm, eating an Uncrustable sandwich on three hours of sleep to get to a volunteer shift at the airport and kind of felt completely normal about that). I hope life has many more Burns in store for us in the future.

In which we put a bird on it

Jeff and I got away to Portland this weekend to explore Seattle’s sister city to our south. It’s only a three hour drive (or a little under depending on who’s driving), so it’s a perfect weekend trip. Most of what we knew about Portland comes from watching IFC’s Portlandia, a show with sketches about hipster life (and life in the Northwest in general), so we were excited to see it first hand. If you’ve never seen Portlandia I can recommend some clips here, here and here (the one with the bags pretty much describes the shame I feel during trips to the grocery store).

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We stayed in a hotel that had been converted from an old elementary school, the Kennedy School, that among other things hosts several bars (Detention and Honors, depending on how you’re feeling), two restaurants, a soaking pool, and a brewery (located in the old girls’ lavatory).

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The hotel rooms are old converted classrooms, complete with chalkboards:

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The school was shutdown in the 1970’s due to decreasing enrollment and was scheduled for demolition but the McMenamin family bought it and converted it. They own a bunch of breweries and historic hotels (repurposed from old theaters, poor farms, etc) throughout Oregon and Washington and we’d heard good things about them.

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We spent most of the next day exploring around and were rewarded with cloudless skies. It’s a smaller city than Seattle, but it packs a lot of character and culture. Our first stop was the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park. They’re one of the best examples of Japanese horticulture in North America and the entire place was beautiful sculpted. It was a little cold but we were rewarded with spectacular views of Mt. Hood.

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After walking around in the cold we went downtown to warm up at Powell’s, a huge independent bookstore that was as large as a city block.

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Somehow we managed to only come out with one book a piece and Jeff found me the only kids’ dental book they had to add to my collection! We took advantage of the mid-day sunshine and walked around the nearby Pearl District. It was nice, and a little hip for my tastes, but nothing spectacular like you couldn’t find in any other city or outdoor mall.

All that pursuing and walking around worked up an appetite and Portland is famous for their love of food trucks so we found a gathering (or “pod” as they like to say here) of them a few blocks away. There were a ton lined up on one block and I had trouble deciding which one to order from, but it ended up (as it so often does) that I couldn’t say no to some grilled cheese from The Grilled Cheese Grill.

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While we were waiting on our gooey goodness I realized that it wasn’t just that one block of trucks.. it was several blocks of them. Probably 30-40 food trucks all lined up! They weren’t kidding about this city loving them!

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By this point we’d walked around a bunch so we decided to drive through some recommended neighborhoods (Portland is divided for the most part in quadrants and we wanted to see a little of each). Hawthorne in the Southeast was cute and more of what I expected of Portland’s reputation than the Pearl District. We also ended up in the NW 21st and 23rd Avenue corridor  near Nob Hill that had some great shopping. Jeff discovered several great finds at Threads Count, a men’s consignment shop that will soon expand to Seattle. Needless to say he immediately signed up to become a registered customer.

Shopping in NW Portland

Shopping in NW Portland

We ended our day at Grain & Gristle back near our hotel in the Northeast section and I took a long dip in the soaking pool (think outdoor hot tub the size of a pool).

To sum up if you need to see Portland in a day:

  1. Washington Park for the zoo and rose garden (it is the City of Roses after all) and the Japanese Garden if you’re so inclined. The Park is free, but the zoo and Japanese Garden charge a fee. 
  2. Powell’s – the exit fee will depend on if your self control
  3. Food trucks! Food trucks! Food trucks! Click here for a map of where they’re podded (mostly on Alder between 9th and 11th).
  4. The Kennedy School – even if you don’t stay there it’s cool to check out. Dip into the soaking pool for $5 if you’re a non-guest or catch a movie and soak for free if you stay with them.
  5. Shopping in Hawthorne or in the Nob Hill (btw 21st and 23rd Ave) neighborhoods
  6. Eating, just about anywhere! Check out the famous Voodoo doughnuts, we didn’t quite make it there this time, but it’s on our list!

I’d like to thank all my co-ressies for the great suggestions on what to see, eat and do! We’ll have to make another trip back to accomplish everything on the exhaustive lists you gave us 🙂

We headed back this morning and back into some clouds and rain.

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Mt. Hood in the distance over the Columbia River

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Duck boots for the rainy trip

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Thanks for the quick getaway Jeff!