National Treasure and I recently took a road trip to the Oregon coast, then east across Oregon, into Idaho, down through Utah and back to our home in Tucson. Hours of pre-planning, map questing, 3500 miles driving ( he would say 3493, I’m better at rounding off), two weeks, 600 photos later, we’re back. And we both agree it was a great vacation. Not without its tension, but we’ve learned that after  a time out from talking about ‘it, ‘ (whatever the ‘it’ situation was) ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours, we can see the humor in, not the situation but, how we reacted to it.

view of blue lake thru treesThe Oregon coast is visually and physically beautiful. If you’re driving, most bends in the road elicit an “ooh” either from the dips, curves or elevation, or the view that emerges after the curve. Huge forest green trees, growing thickly together, waves ranging from pale blue to grey, to dark blue roll in onto long wide sandy beaches.

pink orange and purple sunset sky over the Pacific OceanWalking the beach at 7 AM is like being set down in a gauzy setting of misty fog, wind, and later sun peeking through. And a sunset walk with almost flat waves promises a reflection of orange and pink off the water.

Hank had divided up the days needed to get to our coast destination near Newport. The first two days were hours long- about eight hours each day. Not my favorite way to spend time. But we both agreed that would give us more time to meander up the coast.

I was prepared. I had read the manual for our new KIA ( which by the way, is a fantastic ride). Music was ready, AAA maps in glove compartment, Apple CarPlay hooked up to show each exit for Rts. 10, 215, 5, and giving me a heads up on the twists and turns in the road on 101 in Oregon. Our excitement kept the conversation lively for the first four hours. Food, coffee, and bathroom stops broke up the ride.

Around about Hour 5 ½,  I need diversion.

“Hank, how about a game?”

“I don’t like to play games.” Now longevity in a relationship has taught us the nuances and quirks of successful interactions. I know this is the standard response to a game request.

“OK, I’ll do this by myself.” I begin “Stream of Consciousness.” You pick a word and the player says a known phrase, title, or proverb, etc, with the word in it. The next player uses that to respond keeping using the chosen word. To keep the game going and to reduce poor sportsmanship, changing the key word in the phrase was declared legal several years ago during very long road trips. The round continues until someone cannot think of a response.

So, I begin. “The word is cross.” I continue solo play as Ethel 2. ” Red cross.” “Cross my heart.” Cross is a versatile word, wonderful for solo play. Soon Hank cannot resist. His competitive streak kicks in. “Cross-polination.” I’m thrilled. We’re playing. Soon he drops out. “I’m done.”

Not a problem. I can go back to solo play. Ethel 1- word. Ethel 2- word. Ethel 1- word. Ethel 2-  Uh… blank.  Incredible. I’ve lost a game I was playing with me as my opponent.

Next diversion. I text my sister to send me a Combo. Combo is two nouns that must be used to create a name of a fictional person. The bonus is to send a bio along with the combo. Her combo to me- something sweet and something in the kitchen. My response- Honey Mixer, a chef at the little restaurant where we stopped at for coffee. Honey is saving her tips to get out of “this godforsaken town.” You get the idea.

I also read aloud from my iPad about some of the towns we drive through. Or what the states’ names mean. Did you know Oregon has been alternately traced back to Sioux, Shoshone and a French corruption of “ouragan” (hurricane)?

The scenery inspires me to sing about “purple mountains’ majesty” and “she’ll be coming ’round the mountain.”

I take pictures of passing scenery, vista stops, and closeups of Hank’s hands, glasses, and right ear.

As the hours 7 and 9 roll in,  we lapse into contented silence.

I take photo bursts of fields, farms, and creeks in California. Once we hit the Oregon coast, it’s hard not to stop for photos at every vista. What a fantastic trip! And that was just the first three days.view of wide beach through trees



Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.