The following morning I headed north, to Portland to see Fernando. Fernando had been working in the dorms for part of the summer, and was going to come home for a while when his time there finished. He had to wait a few days however to get his last paycheck, so he and I would hang out and wait.

Our plan was to go to Seattle for a day, then up to Vancouver B.C. for a couple of days, swing back to Portland, pick up Fernando’s check, and then head back to Redding.

I left Eureka about 11 o’ clock in the morning. I was on vacation, and in no hurry, so I figured I’d take the scenic route to Portland, via highway 101.

Highway 101 is a long, twisted b***h of a road. There are very few passing lanes. The roads are jammed with RV’s, and trucks dragging trailers to campgrounds up and down the coast. Needless to say the journey wasn’t progressing at a reasonable rate. Hours had passed and I had gone maybe 120 miles. I had to get to I-5.

Somewhere around Reedsport Oregon I cut east, back to I-5. After some minor diversions I hit the multi-lane magic of Interstate-Five, and cranked the brother up to 75. As the sun was setting, I entered the lovely city of Portland.

I found Fernando at his old dorm building, working. He finished up his post, and we left north.

It was getting kind of late, and driving all the way to Seattle didn’t seem like a good idea. We hadn’t really had any time to lay out a plan of attack. We got a hotel in Vancouver Washington, and crashed there for the night. We spent some times discussing what our trip would entail.

In the morning one of our first problems arose. I had left a check at home to deposit, so I’d have money for my trip. Somehow when it got deposited, the funds never registered. The fine folks at Bank of America held onto my check for a long period of time, before they credited my account, which caused a check to bounce, which caused more holding of the funds, which led to me, being stranded in Washington, with no money.

I called my mother, and thankfully she wired me some cash Western Union style. It was like a bad commercial. The whole process was painless, and only took about 45 minutes.

Financially sound, Fernando and I headed to the Emerald City. We parked the car, and wandered all over the downtown Seattle for the better part of the day. We saw Pikes Market, museums, took pictures, ate lunch, it was fun. In the mid afternoon, we left for Vancouver B.C.. We had planned to spend the majority of our time there, and hit Seattle in more depth on the way back. Neither one of us were of legal drinking age, so we longed for Canada, and its 19-year old legal drinking age.

We hit the border, and waited an eternity for admittance in to Canada. Apparently Canada was a popular place. I hadn’t been to Vancouver since I was about 4 years old. I was curious to see it again. I remebered it being very green, and pleasant. We planned on going to the aquarium, the zoo, Victoria Island, and just spending a few good days there, sightseeing, and relaxing. The plan was good. What actually happened was not.

The 3-hour wait at the border finally ended and we drove the 100KM into Vancouver. Neither Fernando nor I knew our way around Vancouver. The harder we tried to get downtown, the further away we got. It was getting close to dinnertime, and we weren’t even close. Eventually we went against our better male judgment, and asked for directions. Funny, but that helped, and we found downtown.

We parked the car, and set out for our first order of business, finding a hotel room.

This was a lot harder than we’d figured. Every place we checked was full. We called on payphones, went to about 6 different hotels, and always the same answer, “Sorry, we’re full.”

One hotel had a lovers suite available for 200$ a night, but we weren’t really hot on the idea of shelling out our entire trip budget for one night’s sleep, some champagne, and a whirlpool bath. We asked around to find out why all the hotels were booked. Come to find out, there was a Global fireworks competition going on that week, and it had brought people from all corners of the world to watch. As a result we were without a place to sleep.

We went and had dinner and discussed out options.

Our plan was simple. Maximize our goals, and objectives.

Our objectives were as follows. (Keep in mind we’re both 20 years old, and lived most of our lives very sheltered.)

1) Drink.
2) See some “exotic” entertainment
3) Drink some more
4) Go to a cool dance club.
5) See some touristy sites if time allowed

We ultimately decided we could do 1-4 just as well without a hotel as we could with a hotel. The plan was to do 1-4 until early in the morning. When morning arrived, people would be checking out of their hotel rooms, and we’d grab the first available rooms, sleep, then do #5 that afternoon, and the following day.

Before setting out on items 1-4 we decided to watch the fireworks show that was the primary reason for us not having a place to sleep. I can honestly say it was the most impressive display of fireworks I’d ever seen. Ships from different countries dock out in the bay, and light off a fireworks show synchronized to different songs. It was really cool. That lasted for about 3 hours. There were thousands of people on the beach, and streets watching. When the last ship finished its performance, we set off to take care of items 1-4.

We headed straight for the seedy part of town. Once there, we proceeded to drink and wander around various “dancing” establishments. The quality of entertainment varied wildly from place to place. At one place we sat stage side. The music started, and a lower-grade of entertainer began to dance on the mirrored stage. In my possession at this time I had one, Crochet James.

Crochet James is a yarn finger puppet who has accompanied Paco and I to all corners of the globe. He has a gambling problem, and an affinity for trashy women. He actually is worthy of his own topic, and probably page. He heard the music, and knew he needed see the action as well.

I whipped out the yarn doll, and sat him on the edge of the stage. At least someone would get some enjoyment out of this sleazy dancer. Her gaze met his yarn eyes, and magic was made. She picked him up off the mirrored surface, and proceeded to insert him where no man or muppet should ever EVER go. I was shocked.

It was one step backwards for man, and one huge leap for Muppet kind.

After the “act” was complete, she flung his lifeless, violated body back to me. Honestly, I didn’t want to touch him. But because of all we’d been through, I couldn’t just leave him there either. I wrapped him in a napkin, and put him back in my pocket.

The whole time Fernando was in a state of shock and denial.

“Did she just…put..she did She…she didn’t put him…oh my…she…wha-…the..she..where…why…oh crap…she just put him in…”

“Yes Fernando…she did.”

After a few more beers, and a few more entertainers we left to start #4 on our list. We were both stumbling drunk, and honestly, not real sure of where we were going. We got further and further into the seedy part of town. Inhibitions lowered I decided to again do the unmanly thing, and ask for directions to a club. I saw a few girls on the street corner I decided to ask them. Fernando was mumbling something at me as I approached the ladies.

“Hey, You know where we could find a good dance club?” I asked

“You wanna dance sugar?”

“Yeah we’re looking for a dance club.” I said.

“I’ll dance with you sweetie…”

“No, I don’t wanna dance with YOU, I want a dance CLUB.” I said in a sloshed voice.

“Come on baby, I’m a good dancer.”

“If you want to go to the club with us…fine, I’ll dance with you there…. but we really just need to find a club.”

Remember earlier when I said we lived sheltered lives. We really did.

I argued with this lady for about 10 minutes. Then it dawned on me…she was a hooker.

IT MADE SENSE NOW. She didn’t want to dance with me…she wanted to hump me. EWWW!

Once I realized what I was doing, I left to find a more reliable source of information. Fernando laughed at me the entire time.

Eventually we found someone who gave us legit information, and we found a dance club.

We walked in and the place was jumping. House beats filled the air, and smoke machines provided the ambiance. The place was packed with bodies convulsing to the rhythmic beats. Fernando and I were ready to get our respective grooves on. We started off by going to the bar, and grabbing a bottle of ice-cold beer. Once our beverages were in hand we sat out to find some ladies to dance with. Almost on cue, the moment we stepped on to the dance floor, the house lights came on…and the smoke began to dissipate. The DJ thanked the masses for coming out, and the evening ended. WTF?

There we were, drunk, ready to rock, and without the proper arena to do so. It was more than a little discouraging.

It was almost 3am, and we had a good 6 hours before anywhere might have a hotel room for us. We decided to go to Denny’s and have some “breakfast.” Denny’s would be a good place to sit and try and sober up. We could easily waste 3 hours there, drinking coffee, eating, and regaining the second wind we would need to make the final push to 9am.
The waitress came, we ordered some food, and a couple cups of coffee. As we ate I overheard the people at the table next to us discussing some “gay guys”

“Hehe fagg*ts…”

“Lil’ Queers…is your food good…is your food good queers?”

“Kiss your boyfriend fagg*ts.”

The conversation began to sound less like they were discussing homosexual people in general, but referring to us! Fernando was oblivious to what was going on…he was way too busy shoveling his face full of food. He finally noticed that I was pissed.

“What’s the matter?” He asked face dripping with syrup

“Those meatheads think you and I are gay.”

“Where?”

Fernando of course turned and looked right at them.

“Hey Fag!” one of them said.

Fernando turned around eyes wide.

“oh s**t” he said.

The comments continued, and pretty soon it was obvious, we weren’t going to enjoy relaxing at Denny’s for the next 15 minutes, let alone next 3 hours. We decided to leave.

It was now about 4am. Neither one of us were amped on the idea of wandering downtown Vancouver for 5 hours, waiting for 9am, and a hotel.

Having my sexual identity questioned in a sh*tty diner sobered me up pretty quickly. I decided we’d just drive outside Vancouver a few miles, and try and get a hotel there. Tony was too tired to even debate the issue.

We stopped at two or three different hotels…no luck.

Fernando fell asleep in the car. He was exhausted. I was still far too pissed to sleep. I pressed on looking for a hotel.

One after another, I stopped at various hotels. One after the other, I was denied. Each hotel referred me to another hotel further south. Each hotel was booked solid. Further and further south I went. I eventually came to the Canadian border.

“Evening’ Where you headed?”

“Seattle.”

“What was your purpose in Canada says here, you came in at 5:30 last evening. Why such a short stay?”

“We COULDN’T find a hotel.”

“Why’s that? Didn’t you have reservations?”

“Uhm No. There was a fireworks show, and everything was booked.”

“Any firearms, alcohol, cigarettes, with you tonight?”

“No.”

“Ok, drive safe.”

The border guard was pretty weary of us, but he let us go anyway. Fernando slept through the whole ordeal.

Once we hit Washington it was the same course of events. We stopped at hotel after hotel, and were denied. I felt like Mary and Joseph. I would have slept in a manger at this point. We figured we’d find a place near Seattle, and be right there in the morning to go spend some more time there.

The sun was now up, and I was still in my car, driving south. Fernando was passed out, and had no signs of waking. At 9am I found a Shilo Inn in Mount Vernon Washington. They had rooms that would be available around 11am. I said, I’d take one…it didn’t matter how long we had to wait.

Fernando and I slept in the parking lot until our room was ready. Once inside our room we slept until about 6 that evening.

We woke up, and went for some pizza. The weird thing was we had a full nights sleep. Granted, it was from 11am until 6pm…but we were totally rested, yet we had this room for that whole night. We ended up sitting around in the spa all night, shooting the bull. We went to bed early that night, figuring we’d earned the extra rest.

We woke up in the morning and set off for Portland, to get Fernando’s check. We picked it up nice and early, and had the full day to decide what we were going to do. We decided to take the Ferry From Seattle To near Olympia. Tony said it would be interesting, and cut off some of our drive. It was interesting.
On the boat we discussed what we sould do for the rest of the day.

On my way to Portland, on 101 I had seen several stops where you could rent dune buggies, and drive them all over the coastal dunes areas. I suggested this to Fernando, and we set off for the coast, and Highway 101.

In addition to picking up his check, Fernando had also picked up his car. He followed me westward from Portland…to the sea. Around 1 or 2 we hit the first dune buggy stand. It looked promising, we parked, and got ready to roll.

Dune buggies cost about 45$ for a half hour. It seemed kind of pricey, but the thrill of driving a juiced up lawn mower on the virgin white sand dunes, was too much to pass on. We paid the cash, signed a waiver giving our lives away, and got into the buggies.

We were given the following instructions.

“OK guys, here’s what you need to remember. Ain’t nuthin’ out there you cain’t go over, just ‘member to go straight up ‘em hills, and straight down ‘em…these babies will go all over that sh*t. Stay inside ‘em cones you see on the edges of the area. If you roll’ em member keep your hands in the straps. Get out, ‘n turn the car so it’s point’n down hill. If ye’cain’t move wait fer one of us to come ‘n git cha. Udder ‘n that have a good time.”

We got our helmets on, belted ourselves in, and took off down the trail for the dunes. We got stuck behind these huge sand crawlers. They were basically big vehicles on monster truck tires, that took visitors out on the dunes. They looked like they should be giving tours of Hoth, not the Oregon dunes. At last, the vehicle was out of the way and we were turned loose on the sands of Oregon.

These buggies really had some zip. Fernando and I tore up the sands. We went up 40 foot dunes, down the other side. We shot sand here and there, and really tried to see how fast we could go. The whole time the only thought in my mind was “Ain’t nuthin’ out there you cain’t go over, just ‘member to go straight up ‘em hills, and straight down ‘em” That’s what I did. Several times I got stuck about ¾ of the way up a hill, and had to get out and turn myself around. At one point I drove by this lady who had somehow gotten herself stuck at the bottom of this funnel. “Wow”, I thought I didn’t think you could get stuck out here. “Maybe she just has engine malfunctions” I kept on going. “Ain’t nuthin’ out there you cain’t go over, just ‘member to go straight up ‘em hills, and straight down ‘em”

Sand and snow are similar in the sense that in bright sunlight it’s hard to discern depth. You can’t tell if something drops off suddenly. I was flying along ” Ain’t nuthin’ out there you cain’t go over, just ‘member to go straight up ‘em hills, and straight down ‘em” I was on a straight away. I was going to open ‘er up, and see how fast I could go. I guess I was going near 30 or 40mph when all of the sudden the sand ended. I was totally airborne. The next thing I know I’m headed straight down.

WWWWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMM!

I smacked nose first straight into the sand. My head slammed forward. The buggie made a crunching sound. As I whipped back to the seat, my vehicle slammed back on all four wheels. Sand was in every orifice I had. I satthere, in my buggy, stunned, and covered in sand. I looked over my shoulder to see what in the hell had just happened. “Ain’t nuthin’ out there you cain’t go over, just ‘member to go straight up ‘em hills, and straight down ‘em” I guess this didn’t include the occasional 15 foot drop off, that was in the dune area. I waited a few minutes until I was able to see again, and my head stopped spinning, then tried to start the buggy, and get going. It wouldn’t start. I had bashed it better than I thought, and broken something lose. I got out and tried to wave down someone who worked there. Finally this guy drove up in a vehicle that looked like it should have been driven by one of the bad guys in Road Warrior.

“What’s the problem?”

“She just died on me..”

“Really? Didja crash or anything?”

“Nope, it just died.”

“Hmmmmm…”

I thought they were going to make me pay for the damage.

He got out and tried to start my buggie a few times. When he was confident it was not going to move, he strapped it to his ride, put me in the front seat, and took off. I think when the guy was telling us “Ain’t nuthin’ out there you cain’t go over, just ‘member to go straight up ‘em hills, and straight down ‘em” He was referring to the vehicles they drove. His was way faster, and way better handling than what I was driving.

I passed Fernando on my way back, he waved, but continued to tear up the dunes. After about 10 more minutes his time was up and he met me in the parking lot. We got in our vehicles and headed south. We stayed at some po-dunk hotel on the coast. We were pretty tired from an afternoon of sand and sun. We kept it mellow that night, and watched Miss America on TV.

We woke in the morning and cut back to I-5. We were going to finish the trip home that day. Other than the occasional stop for gas or food, we had no interesting events planned.

I drove back into Shasta County, listening for the familiar sounds of B94 FM, and the songs of the top billboard hits, but instead I heard country music. In 5 days Redding had gone from a nation of hip hop, and booty rock to one of cowboy hats and spurs. Maybe they were making men of the boys in Redding. Just as I had made a man of a small yarn puppet riding shotgun with me.