Is there anything more awkward than standing in line for an airplane bathroom?

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Mornin’ all!

I’m back!

And by “back,” I mean actually back, not just in the “I haven’t posted in awhile” sense. I went away for a week. Like, from my house.

“You traveled??”

Yes. Yes I did. I packed up the herd and we went a’wanderin’. The only one guarding the House of Bethie was the kitty. You totally could have robbed me blind and had your pick of my sweet hoard.

Missed your chance, suckah.

“But…but…I didn’t think Bethies traveled?!”

Usually we don’t. I am a happy moss collector under normal circumstances. In fact, I am generally utterly terrified of going anywhere different. But if you recall, the last time we chatted I told you that real life happened. There was a place we HAD to be, and as it turns out, the only way to get somewhere different is to travel. Go figure.

So where did I go?

Oregon!

…which is pronounced “Or-eh-gun” NOT “Or-eh-gone”. I feel the need to point that out because, as I learned by traveling, people who travel anywhere are automatically promoted to experts on the visited location. I know I’m new to this “getting out and seeing the world” thing, but I do have excellent powers of observation. A keen scientific mind. I took some notes while I was airborne.

…no, seriously. I did. How could I possibly remember everything to share with you if I didn’t? Like “Daniel Woodfart.” That was the name called over the airport announcement system for all to hear. Do you even know how hard it is to keep four boys from cracking up when the attendant calls for “Daniel Woodfart?” I had to keep notes. I did it for you, folks.

Anyway, judging by my fellow travelers/test subjects, if I’ve ever been anywhere, people NEED to know. They need to know it more than they need their next breath of air. Their lives will suffer if I don’t tell them every minutiae of my entire travel history. Passenger after passenger was observed boring the person next to them stiff with the long past itineraries of their previous escapades.

I also must correct people when they say the name of a place improperly (hence the above pre-correction), pretend to understand the culture on a deeper level than anyone else who has also been there (this one got tricky for the hipster asswad who kept kicking my seat when it turned out his seat mate was a retiring pilot who had literally been everywhere), and make a point of saying I *could* have flown first class if I didn’t want the “real” travel experience.

Gawd that guy was a douche.

Douche or not, these seem to be the rules for a traveler since other passengers followed these same guidelines. I suppose I’m honor-bound to comply. I’ll do my best.

So I went to Oregon. I’ve personally never been west before. When we were kids, we did a couple trips south. I spent a fun and memorable week in Florida when I was ten, and as a teen took a trip to Virginia. I highly recommend Virginia.

*Travel note: Pronounced “Vir-gin-ya”.

When I was eighteen, I worked at the Olympics in Atlanta for scholarship money.

*Travel note: Pronounced “no parents in a strange city filled with chaos and mayhem”.

I’ve been around New England. We grew some tiny states out here. You can’t live in New England and NOT go to a different state once in awhile. If you get in a car and drive for more than a couple hours, you’ve crossed state lines. I’ve accidentally ended up in Vermont or Massachusetts more times than I can count.

All that travel was when I was younger, though. As an adult, I think the furthest I’ve wandered is Connecticut.

*Travel note: Pronounced “Cuh-net-ih-cut”. I don’t know that that extra C is doing in there.

Want another confession? This is the very first time in my life that I’ve flown.

“What?”

Yep. First time.

“But…that doesn’t…how can…you’re thirty-…”

YES I KNOW. I’m thirty-blah-blah and I’d never been on an airplane before. In fact, I had never actually even been to an airport. Not once. Ever.

Look folks, when I say I am not a traveler, I really, really mean it. I went around when I was a kid, but *I* didn’t really…you know? I was a kid. I was packed into the van with the fam and taken places. I had fun at those places, sure. They are good memories for the most part and I am glad we had those vacations.

But the older I got, the more fear developed. I had kids. I had nightmares about every possible bad scenario that could happen to those kids. I’ve had cars break down on the side of the road with a gaggle of crying babies in the back seat, so I knew how awful that was in a car right down the road from my house…imagine how bad it would be in a car, train, plane, or boat far away from home! Hell, some of it HAS to do with the hoarding, right?

Bah. You didn’t come here to be my therapist today. Whatever the reasons behind the tangled web of neuroses, the result is that I am a thirty-*cough*-*cough* year old who just flew for the very first time.

Four times, actually. We went from Hartford, CT, to Atlanta, GA, then on to Portland, OR. On the way back, we stopped in the hole that is Minneapolis, then caught one more plane to Hartford. Four planes. Four take-offs, which were not so great. Four landings, 75% of which were fun, IMO. Four planes, 3,500 miles.

If I’m going to do something for the first time, I’m not going to half-ass it.

My man is from Oregon. His family lives there, and that was the “real life” that happened. We went out there to spend the week with them, and to show the kiddies where Pops grew up. They know all about me. Hell, I am currently sitting less than 1 mile from both houses I grew up in. Half a mile that way is the first, half a mile the other way is the second. The kids had the same elementary school teachers I had and use the same family doctor. My brood knows everything about my life. All they had before were stories from Dad with no real frame of reference.

They weren’t the only ones that really dug seeing the land that produced my man. I had a great time seeing the people and places that formed my beloved weirdo.

Oregon is very different from New Hampshire. From the northeast in general, actually. We flew into Portland, but we actually stayed in a smaller city about an hour and a half away in the Willamette Valley. It’s a sheltered region nestled between mountain ranges and is fairly temperate. Usually they don’t get much in the way of winter weather, so already it’s got a leg up on NH. We left our house here on departure day and it was 14 degrees. When we landed in Portland, it was 68. 68!!!

The very first thing I noticed was the green. Green everywhere. I hadn’t seen green in months, only dirty white piles of never-ending snow. But as soon as we cleared the cloud cover to land, I was surrounded by greenery. *sniff* It was beautiful.

They’ve got moss on trees out there. Now hang on. I know we’ve got some moss on some trees out here, too. But when I say they’ve got “moss on trees”, I mean MOSS on EVERY tree. All over, wrapped around like Nature’s sweater. Here…take a look.

Oregon a027blog

See? And not just one kind of moss. There are wrapping mosses, and hanging mosses, and clinging mosses, and fluffy dangly mosses… It was some straight up Jurassic Park shit. I think I may have gotten more photos of mossy trees than of anything else.

“Hippie.”

Yep. Then there are the mountains. Look, out here, we love us our Presidential section of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is one of the most photographed, visited, and hiked mountains IN THE WORLD. We are very proud of these rocks that jut so high in our sky.

It kills me to admit, but…damn. The mountains on the west coast make our range look like hills.

*ducks rotten tomatoes from angry Hampsters*

Sorry but it’s true! I can’t help it. It’s simple geology. Theirs are bigger, they just are. Hey, ours are far older. That’s something.

We went to the coast. We took a day trip so the kiddies could see the Pacific. I would have imagined that an ocean is an ocean, and I was expecting it to be the same. Nope! It was utterly different, from the type of coast line to the sand. It even smelled different.

We went on the only “normal” kind of Oregon spring day. It was overcast and often drizzly, and I thought it was fantastic.

Oregon a079blog

See? I couldn’t have gotten that if it was all sunshine and unicorns. Powerful, loud, blustery. That’s how I’ll always think of the Pacific now.

On the way there, we took a winding logging road that was one of my man’s favorites to drive when he lived out there.

Hang on. This needs mentioning: The settled areas out there are weird. When you’re in a town or city, you’re REALLY in it. The population density makes it feel like the city you’re in is far bigger. We were in a place with a population of around 40,000, yet it felt far more congested than Boston. It’s tightly packed in neat rows with 4 lane one-way streets and constant traffic.

However, if you venture a couple miles off the main corridor, you’re thick in either farm land or logging hills.

This:

Oregon a102blog

…was literally less than two minutes away from 4 lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic. “Where in the hell did the city go?” you’ll ask yourself when you bang a left instead of a right.

Anyway, we took a logging road to the coast. Ever been on a logging road? I thought we had twisty, winding roads here. Nope. It was a series of switchbacks and I swear a couple loop-dee-loops through impossibly tall, moss-covered pine trees. If I hadn’t been so terrified, I would have gotten pics. As it was, I think I left a couple fingernails embedded in the “oh-shit handle” of the mini-van we were using.

Once we were out of the terror, the road got a little better as it followed a river. And by “a little better,” I mean that there was mountain on only one side. On the other, there was a sheer drop off to a raging river. Did I mention that there were no guardrails?

Oregon. What the hell do you have against guardrails?

We also saw “ELK” signs. They said simply “ELK.” Having never seen an ELK, I decided I was going to. My guy said, “Don’t get your hopes up. I’ve only ever seen a handful of them, and I lived here for decades.” He did not realize that I was determined.

Behold:

Oregon a021blog

It was a large herd, but by the time we could find a place to turn around, many had loped off. Or scampered. Or frolicked. Scurried? I’m not really sure what ELK do.

Still, it counts. My guy couldn’t believe it. I tried the same trick with whales at the coast, but had no luck. I think the water makes whales less immune to my wildlife summoning powers. Salt interference or something.

While out there, we also went to a fish hatchery. I know that sounds weird, but it was fantastic. We love fishing, but stream fish in New Hampshire. That means we catch small trout. Sometimes we go to a reservoir, and get perch and horn pout. But even those are fairly small. My guy grew up catching huge fish, and wanted to show the kids what a “real” trout looked like. I must say, it was very tempting to just dip my hand in and casually take one of the foot and a half long rainbow trouts.

At the fish hatchery, we came across a bizarre sign.

Oregon a014blog

We didn’t see any interpretive frisbee-ers there. I have to imagine that if we had, we would have seen a long-haired, graying hippie in neon shorts with knobby knees doing a sick underhand back twist throw while he pirouetted, ending with a vogue-pose in homage to the forces of the Cosmos.

It would have been special.

Magical.

I don’t think “interpretive” means the same thing here as it does there. I say this not because we don’t have frisbee hippies in New Hampshire. Oh boy, do we. I say this because:

Oregon a025blog

Wha…??

I mean, it’s either a boardwalk, or it isn’t. How can it be “interpretive?” Unless it’s positioned directly near the Ministry of Silly Walks, I just don’t get it.

*Monty Python fist bump*

I know I should have the answers. I mean, I traveled there. I am now an expert. But on this one, I’ve got to admit I’m scratching my head.

Another oddity I cannot explain:

Oregon a097blog

What you are looking at is a train track running right down the center of a residential street. And these aren’t trolleys, or everyday subways. No, these are huge, long, enormous freight trains. They run through the town constantly. At a crossing, there are the bars and signs. Here, in this classic suburban neighborhood? Nope! No signs at all. They just expect you to not shit your pants when you turn a corner and find yourself playing chicken with a mutha-flippin’ lumber train.

Right down the center of the road. *smh* What’s going on, Oregon? You feelin’ okay? I like you. I’m just worried.

And then we came home. We flew Delta. I am going against the stream and highly recommending them. I found them to be friendly and understanding, even when the youngest actually had to use one of the air sickness bags. It was a rough, rough landing in Minnesota. Hell, that whole leg was rough. The plane smelled like exhaust and grandma farts. The lights kept blinking on and off. The pilot decided to try and find every single pocket of turbulence, and there was a woman, a seasoned traveler, who would not shut the hell up. My kid lost it on the landing, but so did other passengers. We were being shaken like a Boggle cube, and I have to admit that it took a lot not to use my air sick bag as well.

At least I had this guy to keep me company:

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Yep, that’s a lady bug. Stayed with me the whole rough ride, too. Bet he was confused as hell when he flew off to tell his buddies about his wild adventure only to end up alone in the strange misery that is Minnesota. We’re not even going to talk about the abomination that is the Minneapolis airport. 75% of the airports we went to were cool. 75% of the planes did not smell like grandma farts and regret. 100% of our luggage arrived at all places with us intact, and every flight attendant was friendly and pleasant. Those are some pretty good stats, I think.

The last flight was mostly in the dark. If you’ve never flown at night, I highly recommend it. We went over some great lakes, and boy, the name does not lie. We saw millions of little lights far below, with vast stretches of snowy fields and icy rivers between. The moon was glinting off the wing of the plane and the stars and planets were brighter and clearer than I’ve ever seen before. It was utterly amazing, and I’m very glad I got the chance to see it.

So that was the trip! Will I take to travel now? Nope.

I had a great time. I loved seeing the family, seeing the sights. Since I’d never done it before, I pretended to be an annoying tourist and made my guy drive me around and pull the car over quickly so I could take random pictures, the whole time saying touristy things like, “We don’t have this back home,” and “Isn’t that quaint?”

You think I’m joking. I am not. It was great fun to embarrass my guy by amusing myself in such a manner. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a fanny pack, but I didn’t think of it until we were already on the way and there was no way in hell he’d find a Walmart for me once we set out.

Next time, I’ll be better prepared.

Look, life happens. Sometimes no matter what your personal hang ups may be, you NEED to be somewhere. That sent us to Oregon, and it will no doubt send us other places in the future. I had to get somewhere. Without question, we needed to go be with our family. And in the future, I will do the same. There was absolutely no thought *not* to go. And while there, I jammed in as much as I could to take full advantage of the situation.

But it didn’t turn me into a rolling stone. I said I’m a moss-gatherer, and I am. Like the trees of Oregon, I like to stay put and let the world gather around me. And you know what? I think that’s okay.

Thus concludes a homecoming Musing for Friday, April 3, 2015. Boy, do I have some laundry to do today. …or tomorrow. Jet lag. JET LAG. Ugh.

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