Old Dog New Tricks: Exhibit D, Shuttling Pizza

Least exciting new tricks post ever.  I'm sick.  I've got a bad cough and zero energy.  Last night, out of exhaustion (me from being sick, Barry from travel), we did something we haven't done since we moved to Portland ten years ago.  We ordered pizza for dinner and had it delivered to our place.  Pizza delivery!  Incredible!  While will we think of next?!?  Forty is shaping up to be quite a ground-breaking year.


Old Dog New Tricks: Exhibit C, Indulging in Aloneness

Barry and I spend lots of our free time together, but we also spend plenty of it apart.  When the two of us aren't together I occasionally hang out with friends, but more often than not I like to spend our time apart alone.  I often go to cafes and restaurants by myself.  I enjoy going to the movies on my own.  I like a solitary run or hike.  But I can't remember the last time I traveled on my own.  Barry has been out of town this week for a fun work-related trip, and I took this alone time as the perfect opportunity to get out of Portland on my own mini (very mini) solo vacation.  I planned a two-day, close-by getaway near Mt. Hood for my weekend.  The following will read like my old diary entries from elementary school in which I described every single thing I did and ate in a day.  The detail will probably be annoying for anyone other than myself, so you should probably stop reading here.  Scroll down for photos if you care to.  I'm documenting all of these details for myself because I had such a wonderful getaway that I may just replicate this easy little trip again.  The Old Dog is all about this New Trick.

I drove out to the Gorge for a hike at Hardy Ridge Loop.  The hike overall was nothing spectacular (there are others on the Washington side of the Gorge that I prefer, but I was looking for one I hadn't done before... New Tricks).  It was nice, though, to be outside under semi-clear skies with occasional views of the Gorge, surrounded by the fresh scent of fir needles, doing what I wanted to do at my own pace, which meant running at times and pausing to snap photos whenever I felt like it.

Several hours later, I was back in the car on Washington's Route 14 (a scenic drive that I love), headed to Everybody's Brewing in White Salmon.  I chatted with a couple gals sitting near me while I ate lunch, then headed over to Hood River where I'd stay for the night.  I checked in to my new favorite hotel and beelined it for their hot tub, which is set right on the Columbia River.  So, so good.  Once I'd had my share of water jets, I went to my room and took a bath in some amazing smelling salts from Barry that I'd packed for this getaway.  I lounged in my river view room (free upgrade!) and started reading The Association of Small Bombs.  When dinner time rolled around, I headed to Celilo for a glass of wine and a plate of gnocchi that was so damn tasty.  Back at the hotel, I read for a couple more hours and contently drifted off to sleep.

I woke in the dark early the following morning, read in bed for a while, then headed to the hot tub and then the hotel gym.  The gym also overlooks the river, so I was able to watch the sunrise while I worked out.  I had a delicious breakfast of granola and Greek yogurt at the hotel, went back up to my room, and applied a clay mask that I'd packed for optimal weekend indulgence.  I pulled out my jewelry-making supplies (who packs jewelry-making supplies for a two-day getaway?  I do!) and worked for quite a while on new earring designs while my mask did its work and old tv shows aired in the background.  Cable tv in hotel rooms is one of biggest guilty pleasures.

When it was finally time for me to check out, I headed out of town down Route 35.  I stopped at a favorite spot on the side of the road near a bubbling spot on the Hood River.  I ate a picnic lunch and continued down to White River where snow was lightly falling.  I strapped on my snowshoes and hiked for quite a while, enjoying the stillness and silence.  Eventually I made my way back to Hood River where I grabbed a beer at Pfreim, sat outside enjoying the fire pit all to myself, and read for an hour and half before returning home to Portland.

The solo weekend away was good for me for several reasons.  It was incredibly relaxing and decadent-feeling, even though it was easy, nearby, and relatively inexpensive.  More than that though, it was good for me to depend on myself for things that I often defer to Barry to take care of, things as simple as planning our hikes and driving to our destinations.  I've always considered myself independent, but I've fallen into the habit of letting Barry handle certain things that I don't care to and over time that habit has made me less confident in my ability to do those things.  Confidence restored, hikes taken, jewelry made, and (thanks to that clay mask), skin exfoliated, it was a damn good weekend.


Old Dog New Tricks: Exhibit B, Trading Wet for White

Instead of hanging out in Portland on rainy weekends this winter, looking for new indoor activities to keep me occupied (which I've been doing every winter for the past 10 years), I've taken a page from Barry's book.  I've joined him in seeking out snow adventures on Mt. Hood.  Snowboarding lessons were a big part of that, but I've also been enjoying snowshoeing, sometimes with Barry while he backcountry skis, sometimes on my own.  We recently climbed our way up the Tilly Jane trail, taking a lunch break in the A-frame shelter and playing around on the slopes for a bit before I snowshoed back and Barry skied out.  Spending winter days on Mt. Hood, enjoying the brightness of white snow (which is so much better than gray rain), and stopping in a brewery in Hood River on the way home has been the perfect antidote to the winter blahs.  I know it's officially spring, but it will be a couple months before it really starts to feel like it in here Portland.  Until then, I'm heading for the mountain to play in the snow as often as I can.


Old Dog New Tricks: Exhibit A, Snowboarding

On our birthdays each year, Barry and I talk about things that we're excited for in the year to come, things we want to accomplish, places we want to go, and themes that we hope to play out in the year ahead.  When we had this discussion on my 40th birthday back in October, I decided my theme this year would be Old Dog, New Tricks.  Not unrelated, I recently Googled midlife crisis (WebMD suggests midlife transition, thank you very much).  The Old Dog, New Tricks theme seems to fit nicely into several definitions of the midlife circumstance.  Midlife crisis, midlife transition, or just an innocent theme devised on a birthday... whatever it is, I've been serious in my approach to it.  I present exhibit A.

I've talked about doing it for years, but it took the declaration of the year of Old Dog, New Tricks to make me finally pull the trigger on taking snowboarding lessons.  I signed up for three group lessons at Mt. Hood Meadows, pieced together the necessary gear, and immediately worried that I was going to be so bad at the sport that I'd have a miserable time.  Lesson one started out tough.  It felt awkward being on the board and I fell a ton.  Getting up after a fall with both of your feet strapped to the same board isn't easy to pull off.  Forget pulling it off with dignity.  But after two hours of instruction and practice I started catching on to basics.  And I realized that dignity is overrated.  By the end of the lesson, I was having a ball making turns down the bunny slope (video evidence here), and there was so much powdery snow coming down and accumulating that when I did fall, it was actually fun.  I felt like a little kid again, and I had a permanent grin on my face for the rest of the day (photo evidence here).  A week later came lesson two, which was awesome.  The skills (very basic skills) I'd learned in lesson one were sticking and I was cruising down that bunny slope without fear.  That chance-taking confidence combined with icy slopes resulted in several falls and tender black and blue knees, but they were worth it.  I was actually learning how to do something that I thought I was never going to be able to do.  I took my third lesson a couple weeks later with a group of people who were a lot more skilled than I was.  It was disheartening at first, but I kept feeding myself quiet words of encouragement.  I intentionally talked to myself in the same way that I would talk to my students who needed a little extra support to keep from giving up at challenges back when I taught elementary school (which, by the way, was a decade ago).  I was able to keep up with the other students in the group, and I ended up making several runs on my own after the lesson was over.  When it was all said and done, I'd so much fun in each of the lessons and I was proud to see progress in my abilities from week to week.  It felt incredibly satisfying to challenge myself to try something new, and even more satisfying that this particular new trick stuck.  I had a dream about snowboarding last night in which I felt myself floating beautifully back and forth down a snowy slope.  Floating isn't happening yet, but I'm definitely going back for more.  I want to float someday.  And my bruised knees have already healed.


Superstition Wilderness, Day Four

We packed up our site, threw our packs on our backs, and headed down Bluff Springs Trail to get back to the trailhead.  It was a cool, sunny morning, and we'd had several days to ourselves in this beautiful wilderness.  We talked about the hike, talked about our youth and about getting older, and thought about the breakfast burritos we were going to grab in Phoenix before we got on the plane.  It had been a great getaway, although more stressful at times than I'd have hoped due to critters and weather conditions.  More than anything, it made us excited for our backpacking season in the Pacific Northwest to begin.  And those blue skies weren't too bad.


Superstition Wilderness, Day Three

We woke again to beautiful morning light, enjoyed several cups of coffee, and let the condensation on the tent dry before we packed up.  I was reminded that morning, while staring for several minutes at drops of dew hanging from the tips of bent grass, how wonderful it is to be in the wilderness with nothing more than the beauty of the big, wide world filling my mind.  We headed south through Needle Canyon on Terrapin Trail which became my favorite hike of the trip.  The sky was perfectly blue and the terrain was stunning with saguaro, ocotillo, and prickly pear cacti, huge agave plants, and piles of big rocks everywhere.  It was a desert playground.  We took tons of photos and laughed at how amazing the setting was.  Eventually we made it to Bluff Spring Trail which we took east, set up camp (where we saw our second exciting critter - a scorpion), and continued on without our packs.  Our destination was a dot on our map marked "Giant Saguaro."  I'm not sure that we ever found that specific cactus (there were so many that fit that description!) but the trail through Bluff Spring Canyon was stunning.  On our way back to our tent, we soaked our feet and washed up a bit in the prettiest little water hole.  Back at the campsite, we sat by a fire and watched the colors in the sky get dramatic as the sun set.  We were cozy in our tent when I heard a sound I hadn't heard all weekend - a loud screech.   I turned to Barry and asked if he heard it, if it was a bird.  He vaguely nodded and I drifted off to sleep.  The following morning, I learned that Barry had a fitful night's sleep.  While I'd slept through it, the screeching apparently continued all night long, coming from several directions in a wide circle around us in the canyon.  Barry was pretty confident that he knew what the screeches were, and they weren't coming from birds.  His thoughts were confirmed later when we found this video.