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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Snake Eyes

During the week before Memorial Day, Sean and I took five days off to go on a cheap bookseller vacation:  camping.  This was car camping, so we had all the accoutrements, including the necessities of tent, stove, two coolers, and a pile of books.  Our plan was to camp first at Cooper Lake, only about two hours away, just the other side of the Cascade Mountains.  This was the lake where on a previous camping trip, Sean was almost scooped out of the water by a fire-fighting helicopter's big dipping bucket (really!).  This time it was too cold for swimming, with snow still on the ground in places, and the first trilliums peeping out.  The campground, in fact, was officially closed, which meant it was free, as the national forest payment drop boxes were covered with plastic and taped shut.  We weren't the only campers, though.  As I was unloading the car, a young couple carrying a wine bottle asked if I had a phone.  I didn't.  They were the owners of the spray-painted pick-up truck parked nearby and said that their brakes had gone out.  Later in the evening, Sean went over to their campsite to see if they needed anything.  He returned saying they seemed pretty well set up:  they had an axe, a roaring campfire (ours was small and smoldering, having been built from scavenging what leftover damp wood we could find at other sites), and they offered to give him some great one-inch thick steaks.  Sean declined politely, without mentioning we were vegetarian.  Then the guy came over to our camp to chat, which disconcerted me a bit because he had a hunting knife strapped to his leg.  Okay, I'm from the city.   Next day they apparently made it out okay, as their truck was gone by mid-afternoon.  Some new neighbors had arrived, however, one of them being a guy with a boom box playing classic rock.  Ah, nature.  He declined to turn it off when asked, but did say he'd turn it down.  A couple of his buddies arrived later and instead of hearing owls and frogs, we went to sleep to the tune of a thumping bass.  The next day we decided to move on.  We went to Sun Lakes State Park in central Washington.  This is a giant 200 space campground  next to lakes carved out by ice age floods.  The places to set up your tent were in gravel right next to the parking spaces in a vast parking lot/campground.  Normally, we wouldn't camp in such a developed spot, but this time of year it was almost empty and the scenery was quite dramatic. Plus, there were showers!  Here we came across a couple of large bull snakes, many yellow-bellied marmots scurrying across the road, a very aggressive raccoon who clambered all over the car determined to get into the cracked windows and thus the coolers, and lots of birds, including seemingly out-of-place seagulls.  On our third morning out, we woke to rain.  We decided to continue east and went all the way to Spokane, where the rain just got heavier.  We went to the visitor information center and used their computer to Priceline a three-star hotel for $70.  The check-in process involved giving us warm chocolate chip cookies and the elevators were full of advertisements for thick steaks (was this a theme?).  Spokane was the site of the 1974 World's Fair.  I remember seeing "Expo" stamps by Peter Max as a child.  The Spokane Riverfront Park, left over from this event, is quite lovely with lots of public art, bridges, and walkways.  There's also a brand new food co-op (Spokane's first), The Main Market, and a big independent bookstore, Auntie's Bookstore.  The next day was even rainier, so we cut our trip short and returned home.

Reading Notes
Around the campfire and in our tent, we read stories aloud from T. C. Boyle:  Stories.   This is a fat book of stories, 704 pages, and the stories are organized by theme: Love, Death, and Everything In Between.  A particularly creepy story (appropriate for campfire reading)  was "Bloodfall" about a group of rich young people (maybe they're in a band?) trapped in a house as blood and gore rains from the sky, flooding the basement, and spraying from the shower-- particularly apt as oil now rains from the sky in Florida.

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