Day Two: A Man Without a Plan

…and one very understanding wife.

When we left on this adventure, I honestly had nothing concretely planned, aside from hoping to hit as many state and national parks as possible and to dig up a lot of quirky places of interest. Last night, before bed, I decided that we would head to one of those national parks today – Crater Lake, to be specific.

Then, I woke up this morning with a hankering to see the Pacific Ocean again before we say goodbye to it for the next couple of months. Even with that impetuous decision made, I didn’t have a precise route. I am finding that I like to roadtrip the same way I write. I like to surprise myself.

We took one nostalgic lap around Dayton before we left, hoping to find the house I lived in during the late sixties. Not surprisingly, we were not successful. We drove south to the legendary Walla Walla, Washington. At least, it is legendary if you watched the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, as I think they mentioned it almost as often as Whatsamatta U.

We drove through downtown Walla Walla and noticed that the tallest building downtown was the Marcus Whitman Hotel, which put me in mind of the famous Whitman Massacre. If you’re not familiar with this sad piece of history, here is the Reader’s Digest Condensed version:

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were among the first white settlers to come to the region, years before the Oregon Trail was conceived of. The Whitmans came to bring Christianity to the Cayuse Indians. The Whitmans and the Cayuse lived together in sometimes uneasy peace for more than a decade, but as more white settlers came, they brought diseases that wiped out a large percentage of the Cayuse tribe. The Cayuse began to believe that the Whitmans were not trying to help them, but were instead poisoning them. On August 29th, 1847, the Cayuse attacked the settlement, which had become increasingly important to the westward movement. Both Marcus and Narcissa, along with eleven other settlers, were killed.

We spent several hours today, walking around the Whitman Memorial and found it fascinating and incredibly moving. The history of the place, the ability to see the outlines of exactly where the buildings were, the gravestones, all had an impact on us. Dawn and I talked a lot about how this massacre, like so many culture clashes, could have been avoided with more understanding or better communication. It just so happens that the area where the settlement was is absolutely lovely. Here’s a shot we took from the hill where the memorial is, looking down on the settlement:

IMG_0245The water to the left is where the millpond was. That flat area with the trees growing is where the settlement once stood.

Speaking of the millpond, that’s where our only animal spotting of the day happened. There were what appeared to be dozens of turtles living in it and I caught a couple of them sunning themselves.

IMG_0235We had a nice picnic in a shaded area outside the information office, then went west on the Lewis and Clark Highway. For the rest of the day, we followed the mighty Columbia River.

IMG_0251We zigged and zagged back and forth over the river, which forms the border between Washington and Oregon. I will just say this. If you ever get a chance to drive the Lewis and Clark Highway, and you’ve got time to stop and smell the roses, do it.

Our second stop of the day, and the reason I am posting this so late, is because we happened upon the Maryhill Museum. Let me set the stage. You are driving along this ribbon of highway, skirting one of the most powerful rivers in the world. You are in the middle of nowhere. If it’s not the end of the earth, you can almost certainly see it from there. And then, off to your left, you see this:

IMG_0270That is the Maryhill Museum, once intended to be the mansion of Samuel Hill, who hoped to establish a utopia on this spot. As usual, the whole utopia thing didn’t work out, but ultimately Mr. Hill was persuaded to turn the empty mansion into a museum. I won’t go into great detail here (might have to wait for the book for that) but Mr. Hill was a fascinating and visionary man, who just happened to build a fine museum on the banks of the Columbia river.

There’s a lot to get excited about in the museum, but I was particularly interested in the Rodin sculptures, specifically a small mockup by Rodin himself of one of my favorite statues:

IMG_0269It’s called Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone, and is part of Rodin’s masterwork, The Gates of Hell. By the way, have you ever wondered why Hell is so interesting, and the subject of so many great works of art? I suppose there’s a lot about heaven too, but mankind seems to be interested in the lower place more than anything.

From Maryhill, we made a direct dash for the coast, arriving in Tillamook about 9:00 PM. That means tomorrow is reserved for a wonderful, relaxing drive down Highway 101 looking at the Pacific.

Before I go, I have to add one more personal picture.

0000The kid on the left is me, your faithful correspondent, aged eight. The kid with the goofy grin is my nephew Tommy, who I attempted to bring back to life in my most recent book,Ā The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver.Ā That beautiful little girl in the middle is my niece, Lori Michelle. Lori passed away quite unexpectedly today, and my heart is heavy with the loss of her. Just a reminder you’ve heard a million times – please tell the people you love that you love them when you leave. You never, ever know when it might be the last time you get the chance.

21 comments

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your niece. I’m holding you and her family in my prayers. Continued safe journey to you and Dawn.

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  2. What an amazing day and such a sad one too. I am holding space for you and your family tonight. Peace to you and a good journey tomorrow.

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  3. Although your question was obviously a rhetorical one, I can’t resist answering why people seem to be more interested in Hell than Heaven. I don’t know about other religions but Catholicism ingraines a sense of guilt (the reason why I don’t practise), so most people find it inevitable that they would not prove worthy of going to heaven after they die. And logically it’s better to be prepared for what you might encounter after the big leap…

    Thank you for sharing your family photo and your sorrow with us. May she rest in peace, and may your fond memories of her and the happy moments spent together lull the grief, and soon her name will only bring a fond smile.

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    • So sorry about your niece. The picture shared certainly shows a clip of a wonderful relationship with this family. I read your blog every morning, better than the morning paper!

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  4. Love reading about your adventures. First thing I do in the morning. Sounds like you and Dawn are having an interesting and exciting trip so far.

    So sorry for the loss of your niece. Prayers for the family.

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  5. Sorry to hear about your niece, such a sweet picture of the three of you. I am so enjoying your blog. I read it out loud to Ray who is very interested in your adventure. We’ve talked about doing something like this. I’ve seen a lot of our country but he hasn’t. He is a history buff and would be amazed at what is in our own back yard. Enjoy today.

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  6. My thoughts are with you concerning the loss of your niece. My sincere sympathies.

    I have only been to Maryhill once (on a school field trip in the dark recesses of time), but I remember enjoying it tremendously. It’s a little hidden jewel.

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  7. Almost as soon as I posted my guess for the number of miles you’d be driving I realized I’d guessed too low because you were going to take more side trips than I’d figured for. Now you’re backtracking so I’ll be off by even more. Today’s trip along the Columbia, especially that part on the Washington side, is about as beautiful as a drive gets. Have I mentioned how jealous I am of this trip? šŸ™‚

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  8. So sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers.
    I am already looking forward to reading more blogs. We will be leaving Texas in a couple of weeks, driving to Crater Lake and then up the Oregon coast. Seeing it first through your eyes will make it more fun!

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  9. May your heart find peace in the fond memories of your niece.
    The Columbia River gorge is spectacularly gorgeous! We have the privilege of driving it a couple times a year on our way to family in Spokane. But it sound like you missed Astoria and Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark ended their explorations on the Columbia. We lived in Astoria for 2 years when we were first married and my husband was in the Coast Guard there. The town has gone through a lovely rebirth recently, highlighted in Sunset Magazine, and th Maritime Museum is fabulous. Maybe you’ll see that part of OR on another leg of your adventures. Safe travels to you and Dawn, Shawn.

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  10. Sorry for your loss, Shawn, maybe this trip will help with the healing process.
    I find myself googling/wikipeding the sites you are going to.
    So you are giving us a history lesson everyday.
    Stay safe.

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