Archive for August, 2011

Gentlemen, Pick Your Cereal!

One of the Offermann/Reeves favorite vacation rituals is to go on a carb and sugar binge upon the occasion of our first trip to the grocery store in a new town. On this inaugural shopping expedition, we each get to choose our own “special” cereal. This was the case a few days ago, when the family found itself standing in front of a huge American wall o’cereal in Sandpoint, ID.

The amazing variety of choices not usually open to the Zs completely paralyzed them. They totally panicked.

Zoe and Zelda couldn’t decide whether or not to try something new and risk hating it, or to go with something they had eaten before and enjoyed. In the end, they chose to strike out in a bold, new direction, which I admired. Zoe got Captain Crunch, and Zelda, the Cookie Crisp.

The results? Disastrous.

Zelda found the artificial cookie flavor of her choice to be awful and Zoe hated the way the Captain Crunch made her milk taste. (By the way, I can attest that Captain Crunch still chews up the roof of your mouth the same way it did when you were a kid!) They quickly abandoned their selections and were soon begging for some of our Corn Pops and Honey Smacks!

Mmm Hmmm, who knows how to pick some cereal?

A Magical Moment at the Train Station!

I’ve been meaning to post about this for awhile!

A few months ago, I was puttering around the house and glanced out the window to find a ton of people milling about near the train tracks, where they intersect with NW 9th Ave to the north of Union Station. Let me assure you, this is not a normal occurrence. There is absolutely zero reason for Portlanders, some with cameras, to be besprinkled between and betwixt the tracks. (Generally, the only crowds we get are when the Portland Police park next door at the mounted police training facility to get suited up in riot gear for protests. There was not a law enforcement officer to be found in this group though. I checked.)

Intrigued, I decided to observe this group milling around for a bit, but nothing was happening, so I continued on with my day…irritated that I couldn’t figure out why everyone was chilling at a nondescript intersection. As I was mentally setting aside their puzzling behavior, my puttering was interrupted again, this time, by a vibrating exhalation that reverberated through our place, shaking everything.

I ran for my camera while my brain was piecing together that a steam engine must be parked at Union Station. Sprinting for the balcony, I could hear it lumbering by, and I managed to catch the shot below of a lovely Art Deco steam engine starting its journey to a train show in Tacoma.

According to Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, this beauty is called the Southern Pacific #4449

Built in 1941 as a 4-8-4 GS-4 locomotive, she is 110′ long, 10′ wide and 16′ tall. With locomotive and tender weighing 433 tons and a boiler pressure of 300 psi, her eight 80″ diameter drivers and unique firebox truck booster can apply 5,500 horsepower to the rails and exceed 100 mph. The only remaining operable “streamlined” steam locomotive of the Art Deco era, this grand Lady of the High Iron pulled Southern Pacific “Daylight” coaches from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the scenic Coast Route and then on to Portland until 1955.

Retired to Oaks Park in 1958 for display only, many thought 4449 would never run again. In 1974 she was completely restored specifically to pull the 1976 Bicentennial Freedom Train throughout the United States to the delight of over 30 million people. SP 4449 has also operated numerous excursions since. She is arguably one of the most beautiful locomotives ever built and kept that way by the all-volunteer Friends of SP 4449.

The juxtaposition of highrise condos with a steam train was captivating for us all who watched her get underway. (Click on photo to the right to enlarge.)

Unbeknownst to me at the time all of this was happening, Tom was stopped by the train as he was walking home on NW 9th Ave with Zelda. He too could not deduce why people were loitering, nor imagine upon what they could be waiting. Lucky Tom and Zelda were both right there as this piece of machinery demonstrated its ability to achieve some serious pressure in its boiler…the noise and heat was quite visceral for them.

Thanks babe for snapping the great close up shot of all that water vapor using your phone (pictured top left)!

The Best $144 Dollars I Ever Spent

You can tell we haven’t road tripped in awhile due to our wildly naive plan to depart for an Idaho lakeside vacation at 6:00 am on a Monday morning. (Don’t laugh!) Google Maps estimated the drive would take us about 7 1/2 hours, without stops. We figured, with a few breaks, we would take maybe 9 hours. Images of a scenic and relaxed drive with two rested adult drivers ready to take the helm at a moment’s notice danced in our heads. (As if the words “rested” and “6:00 am” have ever belonged in the same sentence for Tom and I.)

Unfortunately, life had other plans. The week before our getaway, Zoe had soccer practice every day, a whole slew of work meetings came up at the last minute filling the calendar I had oh so carefully cleared, an eleventh hour trip to California for work sprang up, and Zoe had a soccer tournament where her team made a run to the finals, coming in second. Of course, we had to attend the barbecue afterward.

All of this to say, we didn’t even return home, much less begin packing/planning for our 6:00 am Monday start, until mid afternoon the day before.

Believing all was not lost, we marshalled our family resources and became whirling dervishes of activity to get organized for our extended absence.

Did it help? No.

By 2:30 am Monday, less than four short hours from when we were supposed to be departing, Tom and I were pooped and nowhere near ready to go. So, we did what any smart American who has lived as an Argentine expat would do — we radically postponed our departure date.

Not surprisingly, instead of leaving at o’dark thirty, we ended up rolling out of the building in the mid afternoon Monday. “Okay,” we told ourselves, “this isn’t so bad…8 hours late, plus or minus.” [Insert shrug]

The good news about the first leg of our journey is that we made it to Gresham in record time! The bad news is that we stopped there, only thirty minutes to the east of Portland! This unscheduled break was prompted by the Z’s car DVD player giving up the ghost. One screen just stopped working. Kaput. And no, it wasn’t the cables.

What are bad parents to do without video screens on a long drive with kids who have not absorbed the notion that children should be seen and not heard and who love to vocalize every little personal discomfort as if the rest of us really want to know?

Stop at Target in Gresham and buy another car DVD player! (I know, horrible, right?)

Of course, it took us forever to select, purchase, assemble, and connect it all so it was functioning. But eventually, we got the job done. (By “we” I mean Tom — I took the kids car snack shopping while he played with the electronics.) The blessed silence on the road that resulted from this lengthy, unscheduled stop induced Tom to say, “That is the best $144.00 I have ever spent.”

“Amen to that,” I replied. A subtle giving and taking of a parental high five ensued.

The rest of our trip was equally ridiculously slow for various reasons related to food, gas, bathrooms, an auxiliary jack for music, etc. All in all, it took us about 9 hours to drive from Portland to Spokane, WA, still 2 hours short of our destination. It’s an embarrassment really, for someone who grew up in a hard core, drive ’til you drop, West Coast family.

But the trip was relaxed, the big orange moon that rose over the horizon as we neared Spokane was breathtaking, and the scenery was beautiful (all of these pictures were taken with my phone as Tom was guiding our car through the Columbia River Gorge).

And yes, we made the Zs turn off their movie and actually interact and look around from time to time. Eventually though, they would start bickering and/or complaining, prompting us to direct them back to their movie for a little crack hit of screen time.

Do you think they were doing it on purpose?

More Bridges of Multnomah County

Prior to our carless period, seven years of living in Portland had netted me exactly one trip across the Willamette River on foot. (During Tom’s marathon training, he made many crossings, so his record is much more solid than mine!)

Now, as a rule, if I have a work meeting anywhere in-city, I try to walk or bike to it, which has had the happy side effect of requiring many, many pedestrian crossings of the Willamette, the river that bisects Portland. And every single time I step foot on one of our bridges, my mood soars…it’s so movie montage cliche! Regardless, I find it spectacular in all weather — the driving rain, howling winds, dense dense fog, and gorgeous gorgeous sunshine. These little cross water forays provide a sort of relaxed fulfillment that surprises me each and every time I undertake one.

I think the Steel is my favorite because the pedestrian walkway is so low to the river.