Columbia River, Mt Ranier, San Juan Islands
aka "The Hole in my Head" trip

Road Scholar 16179

Updated Saturday, August 24, 4PM CDT.

Day 1, Sunday, Aug 11 Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!
I have to catch an early StuporShuttle - scheduled for 6:30AM but not there until after 7 (as often the case with the StuporShuttle). Other direct flights don't arrive in time. It's only a 4 ˝ hour flight - not bad. Both flights are "Economy Plus" seating.

United UA 1175Houston - Portland9:04 A - 11:14 A4:10

The luggage handlers at the airport must have been out having a siests - it took over 30 minutes to get my luggage, and even then it was one of the first ones out on the belt. The hotel provides a free shuttle, and there was only a short wait for it. Noon arrival in Portland - and surprise - my room is ready. Some of us went across to a nearby café for lunch (fair). Program registration is from 4 to 5. Our Group Leaders are Linda Wanless and Adele Grover. Our driver is Steve - very friendly and interactive. We have 38 head of cattle on the tour (more than I expected). There is a so-so dinner at the hotel. After dinner we cover the trip schedule - which looks like a very nice trip. Hotel: Clarion Hotel- Portland International Airport (D)

Note: only the Portland and Seattle hotels list internet access in their description so en-route updates may be very limited.

Day 2, Monday, Aug 12 Explore the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls. Ride a Sternwheeler on the Columbia
We have a buffet breakfast - they lied - just a Continental one- at 6 at the hotel. Luggage to the bus at 8:15, leave Portland at 8 (we were there but the bus was late) and travel up the very foggy Columbia River Gorge. Get a dim bird's eye view of the spectacular area from the historic Vista House and then take a short walk to the base of Oregon's highest waterfall, the amazing Multnomah Falls. I've been there in 2005. Lots of river fog this morning and thick haze this afternoon; Seeing poor, pix virtually imposible.

Visit a salmon hatchery to learn how the Northwest's iconic fish runs are supplemented where we have our very nice picnic lunch at the Hatachery on the banks of the mighty Columbia River. Travel on to the Cascade Locks and embark on a river cruise aboard a sternwheeler boat on the Columbia River with boat Captain who tells us about some of the sights along the river.

At 4, board our bus and head for Hood River. Share dinner (6PM) (but the selection is very limited and not the least appealing so I skip it) at our hotel on the banks of the Columbia River in lovely Hood River, Oregon. Relax and perhaps take a stroll along the river to enjoy a quiet evening in the gorge.

Later, since I've been having major balance problems during the day, I ask Linda and Steve about the possibility of having them drop me off at the airport in Seattle on Wednesday evening, and I'll go home early. About an hour later, after thinking about it some more, I go ahead and cancel my Sunday return flight and replace it with a Wednesday night flight.Hotel: Best Western Hood River Inn (BLD)

Day 3, Tuesday, Aug 13 Climb from the Columbia to the flank of Mt. Rainier. Visit the Yakama Nation's Cultural Heritage Center

What I missed: After a buffet breakfast at the hotel we have to have our bags to the bus by 7:45 and leave at 8. As the evergreen forests of the Columbia River Gorge give way to arid lands in the rainshadow of the Cascades, we travel by coach to the Yakima Valley and visit the museum of the Yakama Nation in Toppenish. The Museum opened in 1980 and is one of the oldest Native American Museums in the United States. The 12,0000 square foot exhibition hall is the result of years of hope, thought, and effort on the part of the Yakama people.

Enjoy a lunch at the iconic Winter Lodge at the Yakama Nation's Cultural Heritage Center. Ride along as the motor coach climbs the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Learn how the changes in altitude affect the climate as we travel to Paradise Inn at the timberline of Mt. Rainier, the highest mountain in the Northwest.

Dinner is in the grand hall of the newly-restored historic Paradise Inn. Later learn about Mt. Rainier National Park, Paradise Inn, and the Cascades during a walk and lecture led by a local expert, Jim Ross. This may not be available on all dates. Hotel: Paradise Inn (BLD)

INSTEAD: About 3:30 this (Tuesday) morning, while visiting the bathroom, I feel very weak, grab for a towel rack to hold me up, but that doesn't work and the towel rack and I hit the floor. If you remember the Life Alert tv commercial with the line: "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up," that's what it was like (almost terrifying). After taking about 30 minutes to drag myself across the bathroom and bedroom to my cell phone, I called 911 for help. The 911 operator stayed on the line with me during the wait. They were there in about 10-12 minutes (hours?) and loaded me into a late model Ox-cart for the ride to the local (Hood River) Emergency room.

When I got to the ER, they decided that my 72-year-old plumbing infrastructure in my otherwise empty head and failed and sprung a leak. The next step was to load me into another ox-cart for a multi-bounce 1 ˝ hour ride only a bit better than the highways in Kenya (GGG) to a major horse-pital in Portland (actually the excellent Providence).

The doctors there decided that it might be possible to save me so chopped a hole in my head with a fire-axe to drain all the mess out, including any brains that I had left. Having done that, they installed a sewer (gp-drain) line and nailed my head back together. So instead of the Paradise Inn, I'm confined to not-so-vile durance for the next few days.

Day 4, Wednesday, Aug 14 Mount Rainier to the sprawling Puget Sound cityscape
What I missed: Breakfast is at the Paradise Inn. We leave at 9 and descend through Mount Rainier NP to the mountain town of Elbe. Then on to Tacoma on Puget Sound; Washington's inland sea.

We have a boxed lunch (skip) is in Tacoma at the Museum of Glass. Take a guided walk to the Chihuly Bridge of Glass to see his amazing glass sculptures. When Chihuly worked with an architect to build the bridge, he wanted to create a gateway to Tacoma that would be for the people. It is a 500-foot-long pedestrian bridge linking downtown Tacoma, Washington, to the city's waterfront. It is an amazing display of color and form. Following our walk, spend some time watching live glassmaking in the Hot Shop at the museum.

Prior to dinner there is be time for an optional excursion led by our group leader to head to the Pike Place Market which is a few blocks from the hotel - where it is suggested that Tonight dinner is on our own. It has been operating in Seattle since 1907 and is internationally recognized as America's premier farmers' market and is home to nearly 200 year-round commercial businesses; 190 craftspeople and 120 farmers who rent table space by the day; 240 street performers and musicians; and 300 apartment units, mostly for low-income elderly people. Hotel: Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue (BL)

INSTEAD: Having survived the remainder of yesterday and last night, eventually they decide that it's safe to drag me up 8 floors to a somewhat less-dark dungeon. Note: the nursing staff here was really great. I even get to order whatever I want (from a menu) for dinner - decent to good. I also get a visit from a physical therapist who tells me about one of the best souvenirs I've brought back from a recent trip: a "Sock Aide" to solve the problem I have in my legs of very limited flexability. Obviously "I missed my plane" for the re-scheduled flight home from here in Seattle, and was too much "out of it" to call far enough ahead of time to cancel my reservation for a refund.

Day 5, Thursday, Aug 15 The wonders of Puget Sound and the serenity of island life
What I missed: We have to get up very early and have our bags on the bus by 6:15AM. Breakfast will be later aboard the Clipper ferry. Hop aboard the Clipper for a fast ferry ride to the San Juan Islands. Watch for marine life as we cruise the waters of Puget Sound. Shuttles take us to the hotel. When we arrive at Friday Harbor, we head off almost immediately for a "whale watch" cruise during which we have our lunch (skip). A brief presentation on "Intro to Salish Sea," an orientation to these unique coastal waters within the tapestry of islands, is after lunch when we get back to Friday Harbor.

Following the presentation, the group divides into two small groups for walking field trips. Each group visits both the San Juan Island Historical Museum, and the world famous Whale Museum, the first museum in the country dedicated to the interpretation on whales living in the wild.

Dinner is in the Conference Dining Room followed by a presentation: "Friday Harbor Port on the Inland Sea" is a rousing lecture on regional exploration and island history by a National Park Historian. Hotel: Best Western Friday Harbor Suites, our only 2 nights stay. (BLD)

INSTEAD: The physical therapists get me up and walking (limited) with a walker and things are looking up - a couple of the doctors even mention the possibility of my going home Saturday - turns out to be totally false but there seems to be a major communication gap between the hospital staff and the insurance company.

Day 6, Friday, Aug 16 Local artist demo, Visit San Juan Island National Historic Park, Roche Harbor
What I missed: Breakfast is in the Conference Dining Room. Our morning Presentation: "Creative Spirit of the San Juan Islands" sheds light on to what lures artists to this unique community. Then enjoy a special demonstration from an Island artist. Take a field trip to San Juan Island National Historic Park - American Camp - with historical, cultural and scenic interest. Then visit Lime Kiln Lighthouse, one of the best places in the world to view whales from land and home to an Orca research outpost and lighthouse.

We have a Picnic lunch on San Juan Island's "West side" weather permitting. After lunch, continue on to San Juan Island National Historic Park - English Camp - to see the other piece of San Juan Island's rich history. End our excursion at Roche Harbor, where we may stroll over to the Roche Harbor Resort and Marina or go on a self-guided exploration of the Westcott Bay Sculpture Park.

Dinner is in the Dining Room. Evening Presentation: "Views from the Islands" offers an insider's look at contemporary island life, issues, and local culture. (BLD)

INSTEAD: Another B&B (boredom and more boredom) day with a couple of visits from the therapists and the doctors. I'm now up and walking with just a cane. They are still talking about me being able to go home tomorrow (FALSE!)

Day 7, Saturday, Aug 17 From the waters of Puget Sound to the crater of Mount St. Helens
What I missed: We have an early breakfast at 6:30 in the dining room. Then take one of Washington State's ferries as we travel from Friday Harbor through the islands to Anacortes. Once in Anacortes, we board our coach for the ride south through Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma.

Lunch is at a brewery (where they will probably try to sell us several bottles of "souvenirs") in Tacoma. From Tacoma we travel to Mount St. Helens (been there in 2005), site of the largest volcanic eruption in recent U.S. history. A local expert joins us as he covers the geology of the mountain and discusses the cataclysmic blast as we look into the still-steaming crater of the volcano and marvel at the barren land that was once home to a towering ancient forest.

We finally arrive back at our original Portland hotel where we have dinner. Hotel: Clarion Hotel- Portland International Airport (BLD)

INSTEAD: "Grumble, Growl and Gritch" I'm NOT going home today, but the doctors are in full agreement that it will be Monday (FALSE).

Day 8, Sunday, Aug 18 Independent Departures - NOT
I WISH: Finally another Buffet breakfast at the hotel, followed by independent departures - easy since the hotel is at the airport and I have a noon flight - which will also give me time to get breakfast. (B)

United UA 1146Portland - Houston12:03P - 6:13P4:09

Hopefully I'll get home by 8PM.

INSTEAD: More B&B, but a couple of good meals. The staff here is great. They start trying to get the caked/clotted blood out of my hair and from around the nails, but almost no success. I'm told that I should visit my Houston doctor on Tuesday to have the nails pulled out, but how is he going to do that if they can't be seen (buried in blood).

Day 9, Monday, Aug 9 More of the same B&B and Confusion
Well, it's Monday, and I'm NOT going home. It seems that my jailers, the insurance high muck-a-mucks think I should stay several more days. G, G, & G. There is a beautiful view of Mount Hood, but my camera is packed away so I miss the chance of a photo. I called my Houston doctor and have an appointment for next Tuesday to have the nails pulled from my head - if they can dig them out of all the dried blood.

Day 10, Tuesday, Aug 10 More of the same B&B and Confusion
More of the same, but there now seems to be a definite decision among the jailers: 10 days after surgery (Friday), I get to go home. I'm now going to be "ignored" by the Therapists (I'm too much recovered for them to waste any more time with) and the doctors are also writing me out of their schedule (but still available in emergencies)

Day 11, Wednesday, Aug 11 Counting the Hours
That's about all that there is to do. Also, having pulled my camera out of my luggage, the mountain has now disappeared into the distant haze.

Day 12, Thursday, Aug 12 Still Imprisoned
Only a few more hours to go. I'm told that I'll have a "babysitter" who will travel with me all the way from here in the hospital to my house. The jailers won't pay for my usual Economy Plus seat on the plane, so I have to try to get an upgrade for myself and the babysitter - at my own expense. It seems to go successfully, but …

Day 13, Friday, Aug 13 Escape
8AM this morning, after cutting the Ankle Bracelet (Horse-pital wrist ID, I broke out of not-so-durance vile, and my in-flight babysitter, Kristin (International Rescue Nurse) commandeered a 300-horse chariot (Lincoln Town Car) for the trip to the airport where we, after a mixed up seat hassle, we finally boarded a Wright-Flyer, model 737, for the shake-bounce-and-roll flight to Houston. After getting another chariot for the next ride, arrived home safely about 7PM.

United UA 1738Portland - Houston11:31A - 5:40P4:09

Note; Kristin works for a company that provides service all around the world escorting ill or injured patients home from various hospitals. She said that she does 2 or 3 of these each month.

As a result of the medical problems, I'm cancelling the Colordo/New Mexico trip (goes to standby) next month (too close to this timewise) and the Costa Rica trip, Oman & Emirates trip, Puerto Rico trip, and later next year, probably the European Charm trip (goes to standby) - too much flying and too much "danger" of problems in some foreign country.