So, for my birthday weekend, I went with my mom and a mutual friend to the Gorge. We had planned on leaving early and driving up to the gorge and then going back, but earlier this week I was told by our pastor that a group of people was going to Hood River and was asked if I was game to give the sermonette. I was . This, though, necessitated a change of plans. After all, it would make no sense to drive out to Hood River and then back and then out again the next morning and to be in a mad rush all weekend. No, I wanted a more relaxing birthday weekend. After all, if I am entering middle age (having turned 35 yesterday), I should at least make some concessions to age. And so it was that I found myself having a relaxing Sabbath where I had to do less running around than usual–I led songs, gave the opening prayer, and then gave the sermonette, something that happens when there are only a few men in a congregation and all but one other people are unwilling to give a prayer.
After services, while we were waiting for our host family to pack up their vehicle, I was asked if I wanted to take the scenic drive to the Dalles, and I agreed, as did the other vehicles, and so we did. It was a lovely route, passing through some of the prettiest studio apartments in Mosier that I have ever seen, and even having some close encounters with some timid deer. After a bit of a drive we ended up crossing the Deschutes River and ending up at a state park where we had a picnic dinner and where I got to hold an adorable seven month old for some time and enjoy some conversation while others ran around and swam and played soccer. I was feeling in a bit of a calm mood, but all the same it was an enjoyable park with beautiful views, and in the evening we went back to our base and divided up the bedroom space among the many people who were staying there. I read some and relaxed and went to sleep, waking up and finishing the book before changing, eating breakfast, and playing some games and touring the bus of the people I was staying with, which was enjoyable, but which ensured a late start to the morning of exploring.
As it was, our first mission was to get to Maryhill, where we took some photos and explored the World War I memorial at Stonehenge to the people who died in WWI from Klickitat County. Having had World War I cause major damage to my own family , it was a place that struck me rather personally. After that we drove to Maryhill Museum, where we spent some time looking at the exhibits, enjoying the engineering references to the Scenic Oregon Highway we would later drive , and looking at art from Queen Marie of Romania as well as some of the sculptures and watercolors of Rodin, including the Burghers of Calais and the Thinker, perhaps his most famous work. In visiting the museum, it was striking that Sam Hill, who was responsible for the WWI memorial as well, had a striking tendency to make friends with beautiful and unconventional women. Admittedly, it would be hypocritical of me to insult another guy for being particularly friendly with women, given my own well-earned reputation for the same, but it was something I noted.
After driving on SR-14 to US-197 at the Dalles, we returned to the Oregon side of the gorge and then drove down the scenic portions of US 30 that were accessible. We passed some beautiful falls, taking photos of some of them and even doing some short hikes. Since I was at least mildly gouty today, I didn’t feel like doing too much walking given the way that my foot was feeling and the fact that I was doing all of the driving. By the time we arrived at the Vista House we were just early enough to go to the restroom and to look out over the Columbia River, which was in fine form this weekend, before returning along our way and stopping to eat dinner.
As someone who enjoys traveling and has taken a few interesting car trips over the past month , there are some ways to keep such traveling as enjoyable as possible. For one, there is a lot that is not too far away from home that is worthwhile from a tourism perspective. Seeing an area through the eyes of a tourist helps keep things new and entertaining, and keeps us from taking for granted the beauty that is all around us. There are also ways that one can keep driving from being too tedious, by counting the number of unhappy pedestrians one sees (4), the number of suicidal squirrels  that run out in front of the car while one is driving (3), or the unhelpful signs from various state departments of transportation about the obvious rocks beside the road, as if I would not have noticed them without the sign. In such little ways trips are improved, and what could be tiring or boring is made fun and a little quirky, just like the sights that can be found in the Columbia River Gorge, for those who are so inclined.
 See, for example: