Thursday, March 05, 2009

Down In The Valley

I have a little road trip report for you this evening. Ked and I drove from Portland to the Yakima Valley in central Washington today, so we can watch our nephew Jake play in the Washington State 1A Boys Basketball Tournament. Much of the family is here to cheer our boy on (if you can call a 6'9", 240 lb. rock of a human specimen a boy), and we're all getting a kick out of having someone we love to root for in what would be a fun event even if we didn't have a horse in the race. The whole tournament atmosphere is exciting, and it's always a pleasure to see athletes who have worked their way to the top of their divisions go at it, knowing that this is the moment they have been working towards all year. We all love basketball anyway, and it's even more enjoyable when family and hometown both get a bit of an ego-stroking. Jake plays for the same Winlock Cardinals that Ked and his brother played for 25 years ago. They got to see their nephew help lead that school to its first ever district championship last week, and now we get to see them give it their all at State.

We didn't get to be here for the first couple days of the tourney, so we missed the Cards first two games--one a loss, and the other a victory. The loss means they won't be playing for the State title, but the victory means they're still in it for fifth, so we're happy to still have the chance to watch 'em play and hope to cheer them on to more Winlock wins over the next two days. Ked's caught the fever something fierce, and the only prescription (besides more cowbell) is more basketball!! He's talking about coming back next year, when Jake's off playing college ball, just so he can revel in the joy of high-level high school hoops. We'll see what happens then, but being the sports fan that I am, I won't be the one to discourage him...

This is a basketball flashback for Ked, but it's a bit of a trip down memory lane for me too. When I was in fourth and fifth grade I lived in the Yakima Valley, in a little town called Granger (also represented in this year's tournament). My Mom bought a farm that she had lived on years before, but kept the house in Portland, where my step-dad continued to live, since his job was based in town. We made that four hour drive more times than I can count, and it is always nostalgic for me now, on those few occasions when I travel the same path as an adult. If we take the I-84 route, past The Dalles on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, we pass many a childhood memory. There's Spooky's, the pizza parlor where we always begged Mom to stop if we had time, and were annoyingly persistent about it even if we didn't--still open 35 years later. There's Biggs Junction, the tiny little hamlet that we always called "Dinty's Town" because so many businesses were named after someone with that moniker. I didn't learn its official name until many years into adulthood. In my heart, I still like Dinty's Town better. There is also the climb up towards Goldendale, on the Washington side, stark and bare, and oddly beautiful, although I never appreciated it properly as a child impatient to be home.

Now, of course, there have been some changes, new things built, and old things fallen down along that old familiar path. It's nice to pass that way again, just to glimpse the passage of time in the imagery of the landscape. I have just a few pictures to share with you from the journey. I didn't plan on taking them, but the scenes called out to me. So, here they are... (Click to enlarge.)

This is the Washington side of the Columbia River, after the crossing at Biggs Junction, right before Highway 97 turns north off the road that leads to the Maryhill Museum. I loved the way the shadows from the clouds danced across the windy hills, and the river played in the sunlight that insisted that winter not be gloomy. A little farther down the road the clouds got thicker, and even offered us a little snow to make the drive interesting, but here it was all shining clouds, dancing shadows and the beautiful ribbon of bright blue river.

Those windy hills are taking on a new purpose, as windmills have begun to dot the landscape throughout the region. We thought that seeing these windmills-in-the-making was pretty cool. I couldn't believe the size of those blades that are laying at the base of the tower in the center of the photo. If you take a look at the crane on the left, you can get a sense of how big it is. That crane was tall, and the blades looked awfully large behind it as we drove by. (Definitely click on this one.)

Well, the windmills are new, but here is something definitely old. The field has been plowed, but, unless they are awfully hardy souls, I don't think it was by residents of this house. Needs a bit of repair work, wouldn't you say?

I couldn't resist taking a closer look--with my camera at least. The place just looks so desolate, that for some reason it made me think of the Great Depression, and the Oklahoma Dust-bowl. Hmm, that's not really the place I want my mind going these days. Moving on...

Here's another of the local relics. We called this one The Skeleton Barn. Looks very wild west to me.

Once we got to Yakima we sought out a little color and life. We met Ked's folks at El Mirador for some terrific Mexican food. I know this shot of Ked is a little grainy, but I thought it was such a nice picture of him that I'm willing to put up with the flaws in photography.

Here are Mom and Pop, cheerful after a fine meal, and the recent Winlock victory, ready to head back to the Sun Dome for the last game of the evening. Ked and I were not so ambitious. We headed back to our hotel to check our email, download pictures and get some rest. Ked is snoozing even as I type, and I'll be joining him soon. We've got basketball to watch in the morning. Winlock plays at 11! Go Cards!!