…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:
The 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.
We 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.
We 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:
That 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:
It’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.
The 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, The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver. 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.