Neil Peart

AndyO Blog

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The ultimate fireworks

We drove back from Bend, Oregon, on July 4 after 8:00 p.m. The reason for this was Drew; we figured if he slept, it would be worth it to drive through the night. And drive through the night we did.

We left the last function of the reunion at 8:30, but then Cameron lost his Game Boy. So I went in and looked all over my uncle's house, only to find the Game Boy back in the car. Cameron was happy. And all was good.

Next, we stopped at McDonald's for dinner. Brenda changed Drew in the restroom, while Cam and I ordered the food. It's strange, we've all grown to expect fast food restaurants to be open on holidays, but McDonald's was the only one in Redmond, OR.

Then we started the long drive back to Seattle along 97, across desolate plains painted pink by a breathtaking sunset. As it got darker, fireworks started to explode in the sky. We drove through towns with names like Erskine, Moro, and Thornberry. The kids had fallen asleep long ago, and Brenda was struggling to stay awake.

In Biggs Junction, we used the restroom at a "Super McDonalds" (which means it was a convenience store and a McDonalds) and I bought wiper fluid and glass cleaner. Driving through that desert landscape at night had splattered my windshield with a coating of bugs, and I spent 10 minutes wiping off the glass.

As I was working on the windshield, I talked to a family whose car got a flat only 50 miles from home. They had a 1-year-old baby with them. They said he was sleeping until right before the tire went flat. I always think it's amazing how parents from all different backgrounds will start talking the way we did; it's something I call the "Parent Club." Only another parent truly understands why you're driving home in the middle of the night--on a holiday no less.

After we said our goodbyes and wished the family luck, we drove across the Columbia River on 97 on our way to Goldendale. This is when I noticed the massive thunderhead in the distance, glowing white and orange with internal lightning strikes every few minutes. As we continued to drive, we seemed to get closer to those clouds, and the interval of lightning flashes increased to every 10 seconds. I'd never seen anything like it. I wanted to wake up Brenda, but she was fast asleep.

When we finally drove through Yakima at well past midnight, the thunderhead now in my rearview mirror, the locals were out in droves shooting off some of the biggest fireworks displays I've ever seen. I thought that that the folks in Yakima must be the most patriotic souls in the U.S. to be shooting off fireworks after midnight!

At one point we drove past the tragic result of too many fireworks on any Fourth of July -- a huge fire. Firetrucks were racing by us from every angle, and when I pulled over (as you're supposed to) Brenda woke up. Fortunately, the kids didn't wake up.

We pulled into Seattle around 3:00 a.m., the car driving on fumes. While I carefully cleaned my windshield in Biggs, I didn't fill up the tank -- and when I filled up the car the next day, we only had 1/2 gallon left.
posted by AndyO @ 7:59 PM   3 comments links to this post

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mt. Bachelor turns dangerous

Today we drove up to Mt. Bachelor, one of the premier skiing destinations in the Pacific Northwest. The family reunion crowd ate lunch together in the cafeteria in the main lodge and outside. It was 85 degrees F. My taco salad was just OK.

Brenda and Cam bought tickets to take the chairlift up to the top of Bachelor, which is around 9,000 feet. I stayed behind with Drew--although I wouldn't have gone anyway (I'm not a fan of chairlifts). After an hour, the rest of the family left, and Drew and I hung out by ourselves, waiting for Brenda and Cam to return. We finally went outside to enjoy the mountain air.

Then it started raining. I pictured Brenda and Cam, sitting on the chairlift trying to stay dry.

And then it started hailing; the hail was a little smaller than a pea. Now I was starting to worry. Thunder shook the mountain. Drew and I talked with a few people who were also taking shelter from the rain, including two women who had just biked to the lodge from Bend.

We watched the procession of people coming off the chairlift, but still no Brenda or Cameron. When we finally spotted them, they were both wearing bright yellow North Face jackets. They were soaked. Brenda showed me her legs that glowed with hundreds of bright red welts.

"What happened?" I asked, thinking they might have been attacked by bees.

"They're from the hail."

She went on to tell me that marble sized hail came down on them during their chairlift ride from the summit to the midpoint. She had left her bare legs exposed so she could protect Cameron. It had turned into a very frightening moment for both of them. For some reason, all I could think of was the book "Into Thin Air," and how the sudden change in weather on Mt. Everest ultimately killed 8 climbers and guides.

"The Ranger told us this storm developed without warning, right on top of the mountain," Brenda said. Now that Brenda was out of danger, she was shaky and a little nauseas. We went back into the lodge to get some hot chocolate.


For dinner that night, we all met at a pub not too far from our resort. Brenda and I ended up chasing Drew around, as he just wasn't content to sit in a high chair or to get passed around to different family members. My cousin George helped keep Cameron happy. Cameron was happy to have a "big friend."

When it was my turn to watch Drew, I decided to walk around the empty part of the parking lot. Drew has discovered that he can run, but he's still not very good at it. He ended up falling flat on his face. He skinned his forehead and his nose. I guess it could have been worse.
posted by AndyO @ 11:08 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Olson Family Reunion begins

Bend, OR - Seventh Mountain Resort

Today was our day to drive to Bend, OR, to go to the Olson Family Reunion. This would be our third and final destination on this trip. I decided to pack the car while wearing my swimming suit. I wanted to be able to jump in the pool as soon as I was done, because I knew how hot I'd be. It was definitely a good plan, but the pool was more like a bath than I wanted it to be (thanks to my dad's amazing solar-powered heating system).

Cameron had some neighbor boys of my parents over swimming, so I helped them turn the pool into a "wave machine." After I showed them how to do a proper cannonball, I got dressed, we got in the car, and drove from the Tri-Cities to Bend, Oregon. This should be a 4-hour drive, but it ended up taking us over 6 hours. Drew screamed for about 2 hours, slept for 2 hours, and was grumpy the rest of the time.

Once we drove through Biggs, Oregon, the scenery changed from the Columbia River Gorge to rolling fields of wheat. Every 20 to 40 miles we'd pass through another small town where I'd see one church, one store, one hospital, etc. After living in a big city for so long, I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a town like that. I'm not saying it's better or worse, just different.

Later, after hours of crying by Drew, despite my efforts to hand him Goldfish Crackers and matchbox cars (both of which he threw at me), we drove through Madras, Oregon. I noticed one of the signs at the local burger place had the message, "Our thoughts are with the Tucker family." And then another sign: "Our prayers are with the hero Tucker and his family." Then, "Our American Hero: Pfc. Tucker." Almost every sign had a message for the Tucker family.

It dawned on me that Pfc. Tucker was one of the two 101st Airborne soldiers who were abducted and executed in Iraq. I found out later that 3,500 people attended the funeral, including the Governor of Oregon. It's one thing to see the images on TV from Iraq, but quite another to see the effect of this loss on a small town. This was someone's son, who only a year ago was working here. The pathos becomes very real.


We finally arrived in Bend, OR, at my uncle's house for the five-day family reunion. We usually have these reunions every two years, and this is the fifth one. The last was at my parents' house in the Tri-Cities, which was also when my sister got married.

After I ate a Bratwurst and talked to my cousins, I headed off to the bathroom for a short visit. After flushing, the water started to rise up higher and higher. The panic hit me when I saw that there was no plunger available!

I ran out to the garage, back into the bathroom, and started plunging. And of course this plunging didn't work right away. I had to laugh at the embarrassment of it all. No one wants to walk into a bathroom as a guest and then have to ask for a plunger (even though I didn't have to ask). My cousin Matt walked toward the bathroom when I was done, and I warned him about the toilet. He wasn't concerned, which is probably the right attitude to have.
posted by AndyO @ 1:00 PM   2 comments links to this post