Last week four friends and I went on an expedition to the Maryhill Winery in Goldendale, Washington. The trip takes about two hours, and Fran, who was driving, had printed out directions from their site. The five of us jammed into her little Toyota, with me in the navigator’s seat and Donna and Susan in the back, Monika perched in the middle.
Half a block later I discovered I’d left my sunscreen behind, which was a deal breaker for me on this gloriously sunny Portland day. While I ran back to get it, Fran, who is one of the most generous people I know, took the opportunity to call a 92-year old friend and ask if she’d like to join us, too. Luckily she wasn’t able to go because, as we all asked Fran, where would we put her? Her little Corolla already resembled a clown car, and although I had offered to switch seats and let long-legged Susan sit in the front, everyone assured me I was fine where I was. Innocent that I am, even I should have smelled a rat at that point.
We set off through local streets to the highway north, across the river and into Washington State. Soon we exited onto Route 14 East, which runs alongside the majestic Columbia Gorge. Rather than attempt to describe its beauty, I’ll include a link to Oregonscenics that will have you drooling, as you pack your suitcases and make your reservations. Only 10 or 15 minutes out of the city, and you’re in Forest Primeval, seeing what the explorers Lewis and Clark must have seen and marveled at two centuries ago.
For sightseeing purposes, we were a bit far from the Gorge, but that mattered less and less to me as the minutes went by and Fran’s Grand Prix personality emerged. If the sign said 35 MPH as we approached the curve, we were going 45 MPH. I tried joking which is my first response to most unsettling situations. After that, in my mind it all blends into a mixture of pleas, threats, prayers, nervous giggles, shrill-voiced exclamations and futile attempts to apply the brakes from the passenger side, where I clutched the “grab bar” above my head. I braced myself against the dashboard and the threat of imminent collision. No wonder my “friends” were happy to have me in the front seat, no doubt to take the worst of the impact should “Sterling Mess” accomplish her apparent kamikaze mission. Now I understood the unrelenting hilarity that had been emanating from the back seat as we drove along. Adrenaline junkies, all of them! I may never be the same. The spookiest part of it all is that Fran seemed not to notice my hunched posture and nervous babble, or the smell of fear emanating from my side of the car.
Finally we came to more or less level ground and the road straightened out a bit. We passed through the small town of Stevenson, leaving about 60 miles to go. Shortly thereafter our car, and our plans, were brought to a halt by a man in a hard hat, waving an orange flag. The State of Washington was using part of their stimulus funds to do some much-needed rock management. Police cars were blocking the road ahead. We would have to turn back, unless we wanted to park and wait two hours in the heat before proceeding.
We decided to return to Stevenson, where we had a delicious late lunch at the Big River Grill, followed by ice cream cones for Monika and me from Granny’s Gedunk Ice Cream Parlor next door. We piled back in the car, with me in the back this time, headed a short distance down the road and made the turn for the beautiful Skamania Lodge. We had come for wine and wine we would have!
We went inside, and then walked straight through to the back terrace. It overlooked a green lawn that sloped down toward the Gorge, before giving way to forest. We noticed as we were seated and gave our drink orders, that there was a demonstration going on nearby. A man and a woman, a couple I’d guess from their banter, had brought three falcons and an owl, and we got to see them fly. The handlers shared some fascinating details about their beautiful birds and mentioned that each time they fly, there’s always the possibility they won’t come back. These birds actually have jobs. They are raised and trained to frighten away other birds from airports, office buildings and hotels. It was just our good luck getting to see the “air show”. It added a lovely and unexpected touch to our day.
On the way back, we crossed from Washington back into Oregon on the Bridge of the Gods, which cost us a buck, but it was so worth it! I ended up in the front seat again, but the highway on this side is much wider and straighter, and the speed limits are higher. I prefer the Oregon side of the Gorge, because you’re closer to the water, and the views have to be seen to be believed. We passed right by Multnomah Falls, the second tallest waterfall in the United States and a sight that always brings a lump to my throat. We saw an eagle perched on its nest, and all day long we breathed in that wonderful clean, fresh air. We laughed ourselves silly, we saw beauty everywhere we looked, we ate, we drank and we laughed some more. Although we never made it to Maryhill Winery, it was a happy day with good friends that I will not soon forget. And as Scarlett O’Hara was fond of saying, “Tomorrow is another day.”
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- Maryhill: One of Washington State’s Destination Wineries (winepeeps.com)
- Five people I’d like to share a bottle with (anotherwineblog.com)