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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We Forgot The Puppets

Managed to get out of town for a couple of days over the long weekend - a bit of a head-clearing was in order after the rather tumultuous series of emotional rollercoastering of the past several weeks, and so I packed up the bus, and elected to head to the east side of the mountains for a bit of a respite.

Unfortunately, the bus seems to have sprung a considerable oil-leak (this after having taken it in for a significant amount of "routine maintenance" just a few weeks prior), and I ended up replenishing about 3 quarts of oil on the round-trip. That's roughly one quart for every 100 miles driven; not normal usage, even for a VW engine.

Still, the trip itself was pretty pleasant, except for the occasional clouds of burning oil whenever I stopped. I left town mid-day on Saturday and drove up to Snoqualmie Pass, where I stopped for a brief cool-down, then coasted down the back side to Ellensburg.

Hadn't been in town for probably 10 years, but things haven't changed all that much, except that there's been a lot of new construction on campus, including a humongous new Student Union Building that was just completed a couple of years ago.

I'm generally not big on nostalgia, but it was nice to wander around for a bit to check out a few locations where I spent a good part of my college days: the black box theatre, built during my sophmore & junior years has been renamed in honor of an ex-professor, and a couple of the dorm buildings I lived in briefly appear to be still standing, although I was rather saddened to notice that a huge willow tree that had stood in the middle of one of the lawns had apparently either died or been cut down some time ago.

Spent the evening camped out at a little site along the Yakima river just south of town that I still managed to find after not having been there for about a quarter century. Set up right along the bank of the river with a gorgeous view of the canyon wall on the other side. Made for a very pleasant evening, although the incessant rain late that night made sleeping next to impossible.

Still, I managed to get a few hours rest, and woke up around 8:00, broke camp, and headed east toward the Columbia, and from there it was about a 30 minute drive further up to where The Gorge concert site is located. I was planning to meet up with some friends who had come in the day before, as our good friends in "Awesome" were scheduled to open the mainstage at noon. Unfortunately, cell phone service dropped out just before I reached the site. However, in one of those rare moments of perfect synchronicity, my friends were just stepping off the shuttle bus from their campsite as I pulled into the parking lot right next to them, so we managed to meet-up right off the bat.

The weather was still a bit inclement by the time we got inside the sprawling venue site, but not bad enough to pull out either the polar fleece or the gortex (although both certainly came in handy after the sun went down), and we easily sidled up to the front of the stage for the set, which seemed to go over quite well with the still smallish crowd of early arrivers. After that, I pretty much spent the rest of the day wandering around the site, checking out some of the bands I hadn't heard of, but mostly hanging at our "basecamp" on the granite terraces above the main stage area, where a rather sizeable representation of Seattle theatre folk came-and-went throughout the course of the day. Although I can't say I was a big fan of much of the music on display, it was still a gorgeous setting (as can barely be made out in the photo below), particularly late in the afternoon, and it was fun to hang out with colleagues and friends in a completely different social context.

The mainstage show ran very late (The Cure, not a band which which have more than a passing familiarity), and I actually ended up taking a brief "nap" in the middle of their nearly three-hour set, finally calling it quits about half-way through their rather lengthy secone encore. I trekked back up to the bus, and drove a few miles down the road to Frenchman Coulee, another idyllic camping spot I hadn't visited in over 20 years, whereupon I pretty much immediately passed out from exhaustion at about 1:30 a.m.

Woke up to my alarm around 8:00 a.m. with the sun already streaming in through the curtains (yes, my bus has curtains). As you can see from the link, Frenchman is a pretty spectacular coulee formed during the end of the last Ice Age, when the massive Missoula flood flowed across what is today Eastern Washington and into the Columbia River basin. The massive basalt columns on the southern ridge have become a popular climbing spot since I was last here, but the campsite was rather sparsely staked out when I rolled out about 9:00 a.m., after a brief hike to get the kinks worked out of my legs in preparation for the drive home.

The return was rather uneventful, and, aside from a brief stop back in E-burg to gas up and check fluid levels, I drove back without stopping, mentally counting each drip from the oil pan along the way. Fortunately, the climb up to Snoqualmie Pass is much more gradual on the westbound approach, and by the time I got home about 1:30 p.m. I'd only lost about a half quart. Not good, but I'd stocked up with extra oil on Saturday, so aside from the leakage itself, the trip went pretty smoothly.

Got everything unpacked and tidied up, took a well-deserved shower to wash off the two-day old sunscreen and the trail dust, threw a load of laundry in, then proceeded to pass out for about two hours; if I hadn't set the alarm, I probably would have slept through a good portion of the evening, but alas, I had meetings to attend, so was up and about for the latter part of the day.

I did take a few photos, but unfortunately, both my camera and cell phone ran out of juice Sunday afternoon, so you'll just have to rely on some of the "stock shots" to give you an idea of the scenery.

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Posted byCOMTE on 11:15 AM

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