It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for one’s peace of mind.
A change of routine, even for a day.
It really proves the old adage about getting away from it all.
The Silver Fox asked me if I wanted to join him for a day at the Fox family beach house a few weeks back. Just down and back in a day. The house actually belongs to his former wife and current traveling companion, Sallory, but he still gets visitation rights when it’s not rented out.
Or to punch out a honey-do list, as was the case here. The house has just had its kitchen expanded and a yurt added to increase its capacity. As if the view alone wasn’t enough of a selling point for potential renters.
But why limit the view to eight tightly-packed-in eyes? Plus, the one bedroom beach house was perfectly fine when it was just mom, dad and two young sons. Now that they’ve added a daughter-in-law and grand-toddler to the mix, I’m sure the yurt will make the beach house much more Fox family friendly.
Of course, I declined the invite.
He had planned his trip for a Wednesday. My typical days off are Thursday and Friday, so the timing was a non-starter for me. He suggested I just take the day off and I humored him with an “ok” and a chuckle; I think we both knew I wasn’t going to pursue that option.
I’ve never wanted to do drag. I half-heartedly dressed up once for Halloween back in the 90s and got compared to a True Lies-era Jamie Lee Curtis, but past that, costumes were never my particular brand of escape.
I have a semi-roster of potential drag names in mind. I mention this because in this instance my drag name would be Sarah Dippity.
Yes, in a rather serendipitous turn of events, my boss reminded me of a vendor sponsored golf tournament taking place soon and suggested that I take the Wednesday in question off in exchange for “working” through 18 holes on what would normally be my Friday off. Now, a) I thought the thing had already come and gone without any follow-up and was fine with that; and, b) the tournament would involve my peer manager who has provided me with enough reason to afford him the absolute minimum amount of attention from my favorite person. You could say that this golf outing exceeded that bare minimum threshold. You could also say after his out of control demonstration of hostility toward me in early June – and subsequent absence of apology or even hint of remorse – that I was in no way considering getting within a golf club’s length of him.
One of the primary reasons I needed a mental health day, right there.
So, I told my boss that I would take Wednesday off and then (hu)man the shop while he and my festering wang of a peer went off and played golf.
I probably worded that a little differently, irl.
I excitedly agreed to the day trip with The Fox. Well, excitedly with conditions: I got to drive. I don’t drive myself and I’m a terrible passenger. There’s a winning combination. Why The Fox is my friend is sometimes so not obvious…but luckily for me, he is and off we went.
The first leg of the trip was Portland to Monmouth. The first stop was at his youngest son’s house and then we moved on to Sallory’s home, which is located on a picturesque hilltop parcel of land.
It’s a literal idyll, as was much of the drive between his son’s house and this majestic, old family home. We took these back roads around fields, along the river, over small hills, through fields. So serene, calm and beautiful!
Of course, I was manic. The excitement of driving once again, being out of my routine, with my best friend and out of the city kinda overwhelmed me. It was euphoric for me.
We had stopped at Costco for gas. “Because it’s the cheapest price!” – a common consideration in fuel purchasing with The Silver Fox.
I did my best not to do the Rain Man math on what the savings on that cheapest price equates to in real money. Last time I’d done that – a total of $2.30, if you’re of a curious mind – I think I’d been kind of a buzz kill. I mention this because I think the restraint I showed in not announcing the savings our pit stop at the Costco had generated along with the ebullience I was feeling just being out on this day trip left me defenseless against my own personality when I looked down at the dash after a few miles and side roads, only to realize that an idiot light had been engaged.
“Oh, god! What’s that?!?” Strangely not the last time I’d blurt that out on this road trip. I sure hope I remember to tell you about the spider!
Jolted away from his true best friend – er…I mean, his phone – The Fox looks up and does that crazy head thing that people do immediately after hearing the words, “Don’t look now, but…”
“What’s the small car over the big car with the squiggly lines between them mean?”
I repeated myself. Enunciating very clearly and speaking slowly as if it were the words themselves that he hadn’t understood. I knew he was capable of deciphering my gibberish, but I hadn’t provided him sufficient context to really give an answer.
“Google it, quick! Before we lose cell service.” I commanded, because: country back roads.
A few moments later, he waved something in front of my side-eye and giggled “George” at me. My first thought was, stop showing me pictures of the damn dog and look up this light!” In my mind, we were clearly in a crisis situation…not just impending doom but also me breaking his car. Upon turning to face him, I realized he was showing me the Owner’s Manual for the car, complete with bite marks where his pooch had gotten hold of it.
Ok, maybe I’m his best human friend, third overall. The top two spots are a toss up. Hehe.
“It’s a traction control system of some sort”, he mumbled.
I was doing 60-65 on the back roads of Monmouth – which is saying something, since most of the non-back roads we traveled usually came with a brief history of the major thoroughfare that road used to be.
“Well, it seems to be kind of an anti-rollover system”, still distracted.
I semi-slammed on the brakes upon hearing that as we were moments away from a 60 degree turn and still pushing 60 MPH. I’d prefer to have all anti-rollover assistance functioning properly under those conditions.
Thus began my erratic litany of pointing out each occurrence of potential disaster – I guess “occurrence” and “potential” don’t really go well together, alas – the possibly malfunctioning anti-rollover system would be helpful in avoiding. You wouldn’t really think I’d have a lot of opportunities to exploit that system failure, but did you know that River Road used to be – I know I’ll get this wrong – the old hwy 99?
Plus, it just follows the river, so it’s super curvy.
Plus, plus, it’s right on the river, so it’s sunk and warped over the many decades and was super bumpy.
I had many chances to amuse myself before we finally arrived at Sallory’s.
The old family home is beautiful in and of itself, but add in the decades of family history and it becomes so much more than a nice house with a breathtaking view. Recently, The Fox mentioned the three generations of Sallory’s paternal ancestors’ portraits lining the stairwell walls and I couldn’t recall ever noticing them…I definitely needed to make a point of checking out this additional rich layer of family history this trip.
That moment in the stairwell turned patriarchal hall of fame paired nicely as a bookend to the momento of the more recent family that I encountered as I wandered the grounds. I’d taken a moment to chase a loose chicken – being away from the city was clearly having a positive effect on my state of mind – I chased the chicken stiff-armed like a child, enjoying the mild alarm the chicken displayed as she ran just fast enough to stay ahead of my shuffle.
Her alarm suggested she knew a chicken choker when she saw one.
Ok, I couldn’t help that entendres…I threw it in strictly for Diezel’s prurient reading pleasure. Plus, I’m not really one to abuse animals. Living with Myrtle is the only defense I need there.
When I stopped, I found myself on an abandoned basketball court. Touched only by time for the last decade or so.
A testament to the kids who had grown up here in this place with parents who cherish them.
We were just stopping long enough to pick up some items needed to re-stock the kitchen at the beach house and were surprised to find some homemade jam left out for us to take home as a thank you. Freezer jam is my absolute favorite, so I was touched by the unexpected gesture.
Sallory had recently confessed to me that The Fox had pretty much converted her to iced coffee drinks over hot, specifically cold brew, and understood that I had turned him on to it. She then went on to tell me about this great cold brew she’d found at one of her local stores and how she’d convinced the other local store to carry it also. It’s called Stok, and she loved it. I told her I’d have to keep an eye out for it, since I trust her taste.
Funny, when I said that, I hadn’t thought that we would find a stash of six bottles in her garage fridge. Maybe The Fox had, he used to live here, after all.
You know what goes great with freezer jam?
I’ll gotten gains, that’s what.
The car is loaded up. The grounds are surveyed and revered. It’s time to point the car toward hwy 20 and get going.
The Fox asks if I need to use the bathroom before we leave, that’s a negatory.
“You sure, it’s about 90 minutes away”, he persists. I’m oddly conflicted in my consistent negative response after the Monster I had before we left and the cold brew I had on the way down.
“Actually, I think I’d like to crack open one of those Stok bottles and have another cold brew”, I say.
“That does sound good! But let’s grab some out of the fridge!” he declares as he emerges from the car with our two empties.
“Are you drinking the melted ice water out of my cup, through my straw?!?”, I demand. The Fox literally stops. Disengages his lips from my straw slowly and sheepishly responds, “Yeah…oops?” as if it’s more question than answer.
“Do you have another straw?” I ask, channeling my best Chandler Bing.
“Fine”, I grumble. “I’ll just turn it around! What gets into you?” I smirk at him as he heads into the garage. I think one of the things I enjoy most about my relationship with The Fox is how my faux exasperation is met so perfectly by his unflappable and amused “who’s going to care in 100 years?” demeanor, which makes him nearly immune to my butt-hurtedness.
We’re driving again.
He’s telling me how they’ve been working on a bypass on hwy 20 that cuts about 15 minutes of old single zig-zaggy lane highway off our trip. The new construction veers off the old highway and then rejoins it on the other side of the hill, taking you over the top of the coast range, through some of the clear cut forest.
I doubt that I’d been on this road within the current century, so every turn was new to me. I could definitely – usually – tell the old highway from the new, still…it was like seeing it all for the first time.
The panorama of the ocean in the distance over the folds of mountain between us and it from the top of the pass. Not to mention the briefest glimpses I got of the view 180 degrees behind me. Well, not for the first time, I resisted slamming on the brakes to get a better look.
Oh! The idiot light stayed off after I restarted the car when we left the Monmouth house. So, one less thing to worry about!
I’m overcome by new natural beauty at each turn in the road. My soul is swelling with new energy. I can feel the peace of mind returning.
We get into town and it’s time to decide, once and for all, the answer to the question that has haunted the second leg of our drive: Oscar’s for a burrito for lunch or Mo’s for some ubiquitous beach food?
I confess that I’m feeling some Mexican food, which The Fox says is fine.
We’re driving up the coast highway.
“Hey! Was that THE Oscar’s we just passed by?!?”
The Fox looks up, “Oh, yeah! I guess we’re going to Mo’s!” and flashes me that sheepish look for not-the-final time on this trip. Decision made.
I’ve moved on from announcing potential rollover situations to declaring “I’ve been there” in a monotone as we pass places where – get this – I’ve been.
Just a simple, “Been there” as we pass by.
For his part, The Fox either ignores me or dismisses me with a “Wow. You’ve gotten around” that lacks a certain curiosity.
I pass the gravel alley known as A Street that the beach house is on and park by Mo’s. It’s lunch time and The Silver Fox treats me to fish tacos…which I have actually never had before. I gobble them up while giving the trio of families traveling together the stink eye. This place, as you can see from the picture, is tiny. There’s four tables on each side of an aisle that allegedly each seat eight people. They are occupying two of them and blocking the bathroom door with their sprawl.
Oh, now I have to pee.
Despite my urethral discomfort, when we leave, I bee line it for the railing overlooking the Devil’s Punchbowl. The Fox bee lines it for the car.
“We’re not going to go look?” I ask dejectedly.
“Nah, I’ve seen it a hundred times” he replies.
I shrug. I kinda have, too, but I still manage to inject my acquiescence with a qualifier, “It’s just been about a decade”, I mumble, getting in the car.
I mention this for no reason.
None at all.
Speaking of mentioning things…the beach house is occupied when we arrive. This fact had been shared with me during the drive.
I mention that fact not because it bothers me…having been an airBnB host for a couple years, stayed in pensiones while traveling abroad and spent a couple of college semesters in dorms…I’ve shared space with strangers. The house guests are a retired married couple. Only the husband is home when we arrive and he is outside washing windows.
On his vacation.
People are funny.
He and The Fox are familiar with one another and chatting away. He’s a bit hard of hearing, I decide, and is yelling in that way people do when they can’t hear themselves that well. He’s explaining that he’s a putterer and when he sees something that needs to get done he just does it.
Like the windows.
Or taking the top of those shrubs over there down a few inches to improve the view, he’s yelling.
Yup. Nothing wrong with that!
I head out back to check out the new yurt. Locked. But I know I’ll get to see it later. I turn to leave and am hit with this.
Whatever they charge for this place, it ain’t enough.
The Fox shows me my job. I’m there to schlep stuff out of the bedroom closet and back into the kitchen. It’s like four shelves of stuff.
Easy, I say.
“Well, there’s stuff in the shed, too!” The Fox says, promising to show me later when he shows me the yurt.
I’m about three shelves complete in the bedroom when the wife returns.
“Oh, I’ve just been out to The Devils Punchbowl for a walk! It was magnificent!” she says.
She’s not un-right.
We’re introduced, and she finishes her story.
“There was a mother whale and her calf playing right off the shore!” she exclaims.
Thats the last time I see that look of his this trip. Hopefully, it’s not my last chance to see a mother whale and her calf in my lifetime…from a safe distance. I just look at The Fox and he looks at me like he’s busted as I think, “Seen that a hundred times?!?” knowing that he probably has and sparing his ears of the actual words. Poor Fox.
“C’mon, I’ll show you the yurt and the shed” he says, changing the subject.
The shed is about four more shelves of kitchen stuff. This is the easiest conscripted labor that I’ve been forced into in, like, ever. I knock that work out in several trips and then finish up the closet. It felt like it took about 20 minutes, and that includes the time I took to screw around taking pictures and staring at the view in – what was surely open mouthed – awe.
But my best friend made it easy on me, telling me to put the stuff on any flat surface I could find and he’d start putting it away.
As I walked in with the last of the kitchen supplies, I announced that I was done, telling The Fox to have fun and that I would be outside if he needed me.
The wife-in-residence chortled, caught off guard by my jovial abdication of assistance. I’d forgotten that we had an audience, and she had a view of a kitchen with stacks and stacks of wares on flat surfaces that were no longer visible.
The Fox was standing in the midst in open-mouthed shock at my announcement. He hadn’t even finished wiping down the insides of the cabinet and drawers.
“A deal is a deal”, I declared, paying him back for the missed whale watching opportunity.
Of course, I helped him unpack and put away.
We were finished by mid-afternoon.
Suddenly, we looked around and there was really nothing to do. I further realized that for the past several minutes, we had just been kibitzing and tweaking things…and I realized that our definitions of finished would take a back seat to Sallory’s final assessment so we could really just be done.
We still took a few minutes to play with the myriad light switches in the kitchen, realizing that there were lights everywhere in this new space with multiple controls…I say “realizing” meaning he’d turn one light off and I’d see a switch across the room that was “on” and turn it off, reactivating a light that he’d already turned off from across the room.
It was like a chase scene montage in a Scooby Doo cartoon.
Back in the car, we admit that whichever route we take home we are going to hit the final and unavoidable obstacle in our drive – I5’s Terwilliger Curves – during the peak of rush hour. The Fox gives it over to the fates of his electronic best friend’s wisdom and tells me we are going home via hwy 18, which will take us north through Lincoln City and the west into Portland.
A route that passes two casinos.
Give me strength.
To distract myself, I resume my monotonous travelogues, keeping The Silver Fox up to speed on places I’ve been.
I even sprinkle in some stories about the context of those visits, once even earning the coveted ✌🏽prize. That’s an award I’d created for The Fox to stop him when he shared a story with me for the second time. I was very excited to have my old brain validated with this momentary trophy.
But I still finished my story.
We had a few hours to kill, after all.
As if a day with your best friend spent in beautiful, scenic locations needed to be better, we arrived back in town for an impromptu wine tasting being held at our neighborhood wine shop.
Of course, we stopped in for a taste.
And then split a bottle.
And ordered some bruschetta from the Italian cafe a couple doors down…which their adorable waiter delivered to our sidewalk table in front of the wine shop.
After which, I went home and slept like a damned baby.