Part 47: On the Road Again
On Sunday, Feb. 9 the family and I ended the official mourning period, according to our traditional upbringing, with the service for the unveiling of Rosalie’s headstone. During the process I learned something new. The Rabbi told us that Abraham started this tradition when he put up a monument to mark the grave of his beloved Sarah.
Charlize sensed my mood, as always, and — along with my two sons and their families — we survived the day and celebrated Rosalie’s life at her favorite Chinese restaurant. If you are interested let me know and I’ll give you the name of the place. She was, after all, a gourmet cook and foodie with high standards.
Two days later my new vehicle, “Whitey” (I’m finding it harder to be original with vehicle names), was packed and loaded. Charlize and I worked our way through early morning Seattle traffic on our way to Enumclaw. We had never been that way before and I am all about never traveled roads and new experiences. I intended to cross the Cascades via Crystal Pass. My new GPS directed us around a traffic jam on I-5 and before too long we were headed east across the plateau, filled with hobby farms, towards Enumclaw. We passed small acreages with horses and an occasional small herd of cattle. I spotted an obviously old large barn sticking out of the mist, probably part of the original large farm that occupied the location. I presume that original place supported a family prior to being subdivided into plots much too small to serve that function.
The GPS was programmed to take us across the mountains to Yakima. Charlize’s new habit is to keep me awake and focused on my driving by resting her head on my shoulder as I drive. The GPS warned us of traffic difficulties, directed us through Enumclaw but there was no mention of the Pass being either open or closed. There was traffic heading west and I concentrated on the dry pavement now winding and climbing west through a rain forest. Moss climbed tree trunks, engulfed downed logs and grasped at young trees forcing their way toward the light from nurse stumps. We passed a few clear-cut openings as we went up and out of the dense forest into more typical mixes of evergreens and deciduous. We continued to encounter the occasional vehicle coming from the east. We stopped in the Village of Greenwater for coffee but I didn’t think to ask if Crystal Pass was open. Surely the GPS would warn me if it was not and all those vehicles were heading west from someplace.
You guessed correctly. We found snow, then more snow, but Whitey is an all-wheel drive vehicle, no problem, until we arrived at the barricades across the highway and signs informing that the Pass was closed. I suffered minimal frustration since time was not an issue on this trip. So back we drove to Enumclaw, north to I-90 and the now not-so-interesting drive over Snoqualmie Pass. I ate a lunch of Mexican food in Cle Elem and filled the gas tank. The sun was out but lots of snow and slush on the ground.
After Yakima we headed south, finally back to the plan. Now we were seeing new views and vistas of country not previously traveled. The western slope of the Cascades was covered with snow from the most recent storms but the road was clear and dry. When evening caught us, we stopped in Goldendale and found a motel that would allow Charlize to stay in the room with me. Two hundred and fifty dollars tacked to the credit card bill if she made a mess, but my girl would never do such a thing, too much of a lady.
The owner of the motel was an Asian lady and very pleasant. I brought Charlize in with me to show how well behaved she is. I related how Charlize was helping me get through a day at a time as a new widower. The motel owner told me that her husband of 40 years died three years ago, leaving her to operate the place; we were soon friends of shared experience. When I checked in there was one other guest and the next morning there was only myself and two other guests in the place. I hope she gets more business when the weather is not so ugly. The rain all night turned a foot of snow into slush in the parking lot.
Charlize’s cold nose on my cheek got me up and moving at 6 a.m., and at 6:59, with Charlize fed and walked and my traveling cup filled with a two-Splenda® latte, we were on the road traveling south by southeast through forested lands. Clouds hung on the road in the distance ahead of us, turning to mist as we embraced them, the heavy sky overhead. Then there was an opening, a donut hole in the dark cover, and blue-gray light reflecting off puddles on the pavement rushing past.
There is something about driving back roads and empty highways early in the morning that makes me feel free and righteous, a lightness in the chest akin to watching your offspring win at something you know is important to him or her. Anyone who has experienced that feeling knows what I am talking about. If you don’t I have sympathy for you.
We arrived at the Columbia River and Charlize asked to get out to check out the view, she loves the snow.
We stopped for lunch in Bend, Ore., at the Big Belly Grill House. Who could possibly pass up a place with that name? I let Charlize out of Whitey for a quick walkabout, then put her back in.
“That’s a beautiful dog, is she friendly?” asked the waitress.
“She’s very friendly,” I responded, “especially to good-looking women.” Dating seems to have sharpened my repartee’.
“Can I pet her then? My name is Lise.” She held out her hand.
I took her hand. “Lise, not Lisa or Alicia,” I asked.
“No, L E E C E, pronounced the way it is spelled. It used to be Lisa, but I changed it.”
“OK,” I said and let go of her hand but not before she gave mine a squeeze. “I’m Dave.”
“Please to meet you ,Dave.”
“Likewise.” Again note the sharp repartee’.
It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and the place was empty except for one customer. Leece asked him if he needed anything else and he responded in the negative. She told the cook she would be back in a moment. We went out to Whitey and I opened the hatchback, telling Charlize to wait. Leece petted Charlize after asking her name. Charlize leaned into her and absorbed the attention. When both had their fill of petting, leaning, touching and licking, I told Charlize to get back in and closed the hatch.
“I was afraid of dogs for a very long time,” Leece told me.
“That so, why was that? Did something bad happen to you?”
“When I was about 7 years old I watched as a Rottweiler attacked my cousin and practically chewed his arm off above the elbow. His mother was a Christian Scientist and refused to take him to a doctor and he eventually lost the arm.”
“That’s a horrific story, I can understand why you were afraid of dogs. What happened to change that?”
“Well, my second husband had two Golden Retrievers and they were very sweet dogs. They were much sweeter than the oaf turned out to be. Leaving those two dogs was much harder than leaving the oaf. Anyhow I’m now a dog person.”
After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross has a new dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.