Saturday, July 02, 2005

#48 - Always Awe-Inspiring

Yesterday we travelled a short way up the Columbia River Gorge to take a ride on a stern-wheeler. The boat, appropriately named "Columbia Gorge," is an authentic recreation of the river boats that once chugged up and down the mighty Columbia, and the two-hour ride offers some impressive scenery.

Amusingly, I tend to be just as entertained by the mechanical workings of a boat as I am by the truly beautiful surroundings along the river banks. Grandpa had a boat while I was growing up, and I spent many a day on the Seagull III. Grandpa had a fly bridge, which we were not allowed to call it. He preferred to pilot from the bridge rather than the main deck because it afforded him such a wonderful perspective. For my part, I was just as happy on either deck, so long as I could watch Grandpa at work. By far the most intriguing aspect of the boat, though, was the engine. I loved the fact that he actually had to lift floor panels in order to service it, and I never tired of the spectacle.

Thus, I can be just as happy watching a paddle wheel do its thing as I would be admiring the tall cliffs and lush forest surrounding the Columbia River. Equally fascinating to me are the dam and power plant close by the landing, and the old locks that once serviced the river but are now obsolete.

Another favorite activity of mine is sailing underneath a bridge. The Gorge has several, of course, at various points along the river. But the tour only sails underneath one, and it's very evocative of a bridge Grandpa used to sail under at San Pedro Harbor. The bridge is constructed of trussed steel, and the road is meshed, so that you can see the undersides of vehicles as they pass overhead. As we passed beneath this bridge on the tour, I was instantly transported back to my childhood and the Seagull III. For a moment, I could see Grandpa, tall and dapper beneath his captain's hat, piloting carefully beneath a similar bridge, and expounding harbor etiquette to a very riveted nine year old boy.

This, to me, is one of the essential purposes of a good vacation. Yes, we must rest and relax as far as that may be possible. Certainly it's good to cast off the stresses of job and daily living. But to be able to relive, with only a single sight or smell, the joys of childhood is a real treat.

It makes me hope that I can give the girls equally stimulating childhood experiences so that they, too, can recall them at special times.

Unlike the experience I just had of sending Jelly to the corner for deliberately poking her sister. Again. That, I'm hoping, she'll forget.

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