Now, unlike the Wagon Wheel Motel on Route 66, I haven’t stayed here, so can’t vouch for the place as a whole. But its spiffy new paint job and its place on my other favorite historic highway give it a permanent place in my heart, nonetheless.
If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you’ve seen this picture before—and others like it. My car, Wild Blue, has made many appearances here over the years, because she’s as much a character in my stories as any place I’ve visited.
In fact, she’s sometimes the star—though even when she isn’t, she’s never far from my mind.
She’s even made some cameos in my studio work.
She was the first and only car I’ve ever owned (thanks to years of living in dense cities, I didn’t need to buy one until my mid-twenties), and she took me nearly everywhere. I always thought I’d drive her to the moon, but it doesn’t matter that we fell a little short. She was the beating heart of my adventures, each highway another artery feeding our little love story.
Yet all stories have to end. Back in February I was gearing up for another big solo trip—a doozy this time, with 6500 miles of mostly remote mountain and desert roads. Blue already had many costly age-related repairs coming due, and I didn’t think she had another trip like that in her. So we took one last winding local drive together, and then I put her out to pasture.
Goodbye, Blue. Hello, Silver.
This new gal and I have had plenty of time to get acquainted—after all, she got well and truly broken in this spring with that big trip (more on that next time). And she’s the first car the Tailor and I have bought together, as we want to remain a one-car household. We had to make little compromises over what we each wanted, of course, but the biggest one was the compromise I had to make with the auto industry: I had to give up my stick shift. We really wanted this model, and a manual transmission simply isn’t an option anymore for this one.
For all I had to give up, and for all the frills and furbelows that seem to accompany all new cars (though I’ll admit I love having USB ports at last)—this car has plenty of qualities that fit my personality. No GPS, for one thing—you all know how I feel about that (the Tailor and I agreed that if that had come standard, we would have paid to have it removed!). And plenty of nooks and crannies for holding all my paints and things while I sketch.
Yet while Silver is pretty and sleek and reliable and powerful, she’s not my Blue. I’ve already put close to 10,000 miles on her, but I’m still finding it hard to make the transition. Driving an automatic feels so different to me, so less engaged. And I have a lot of trouble finding her in crowded parking lots—I’m usually great at remembering where the heck I parked, but finding a silver Subaru in a sea of other silver Subarus (welcome to the Northwest) is hilariously difficult. Still, I’m sure we’ll grow to know and trust each other over time. It’s just hard to give up your first love.
Thank you, Wild Blue, for taking me here, there and back again—and for always keeping me safe along the way.
Here’s to the next quarter of a million miles, and my shiny new steed. Hi ho, Silver.
Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. All of America seems to be celebrating right now, and rightly so. In my opinion, our wildest pockets are our true national treasures, and our national parks, as Wallace Stegner said, our best idea.
Olympic National Park, WA
So since I’ve spent a good chunk of my sketching life in national parks both close to home…
Arches National Park, UT
…and far afield…
Crater Lake National Park, OR
I figured I’d add my voice to the celebratory din, in the form of a little sketchbook retrospective.
Badlands National Park, SD
Redwood National Park, CA
but I also sometimes think they’re the only thing standing between wildness and destruction.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
And anyway, I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m a total park nut myself. It’s my goal to visit every NPS property before I die, including national parks, historic sites, national monuments, everything. (Actually, I’ve crossed a goodly chunk of them off the list already—
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX
—and I even have the stamps to prove it.)
Olympic National Park, WA
I know I have a long path ahead of me before I reach that goal,
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
and getting there won’t be easy.
Big Bend National Park, TX
Yet I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the opportunity exists in the first place—
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
that so many people have fought to preserve these wild places, and won.
Saguaro National Park, AZ
Best of all is the feeling that no matter how long it might take me to get to each park with my sketchbook,
Glacier National Park, MT
I know it’ll be there waiting for me, as close to unchanged as humanly possible. Thanks to the National Park Service, the window of opportunity remains open.
Speaking of incongruous dinosaurs, if you ever find yourself traveling up Highway 101 along the Oregon coast, you might be surprised to see a brachiosaurus head poking up through the trees. Just like the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon rainforest isn’t a place you’ll ever find actual dinosaur fossils. Still, there’s something about the misty hillsides and impossibly tall trees that make it easy to imagine yourself standing in a primordial place.
Even though we don’t exactly have a lobster industry here on the West Coast, we have our fair share of tasty crustaceans—and some extra-yummy signage to go with them.
You wouldn’t normally think of the Pacific Northwest as covered bridge country, but we do have a few here. Southern Oregon is home to a real beauty, and the last covered bridge still standing along old Highway 99. Of course, the rainy Northwest weather and towering conifers gave it away, but otherwise, the place made me feel like I was standing in a Vermont mountain glen.
June is the month of roses in the Pacific Northwest, and there’s no better place to see roses than the City of Roses. And there’s no better rose garden in the City of Roses than the diamond gardens in Ladd’s Addition. So in honor of my favorite Portland neighborhood, here are two midsummer sketches, done exactly three years apart.
Ladd’s Addition was the first planned residential development in the state of Oregon. Conceived in 1891 and mostly built between 1905 and 1930, the area is now a national historic district. In deliberate contravention of the city grid, the neighborhood is laid out in an “X” pattern with a circle park and rotary in the center. Where each diagonal street intersects one other at points north, south, east and west of the circle, there’s a small diamond-shaped garden that’s home to one of Portland’s many rose test gardens. And along every tree-lined and tree-named (though some have been rechristened in modern times; the map above shows their original names) street are many dozens of historic homes—many of which are unique or unusual examples of Craftsman-, Tudor- and Mission-style architecture.
Every part of this neighborhood is appealing to me—I’m a sucker for a good map, a Craftsman house and a pale peach rose. Put them all together, with a shady spot for me to sit and sketch, and I’m instantly in heaven.
I’m a bit of a movie nut—especially for anything shot on location. I’m a sucker for films that center around real places—and Astoria, OR has featured prominently in so many movies that the entire town has become a cinema icon. This Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the 1980s free-range-kid classic, The Goonies, so I thought I’d celebrate by posting my Goonie sketches from a few years ago.
First up is the most well-known location in town, and the one that’s easiest to find: the old Clatsop County Jail from the hilarious jailbreak scene. This building is so iconic that it’s now home to a museum centered around the movies filmed in Oregon.
Next up is Mikey and Brand’s house (with a glimpse of Data’s place next door). This house looks almost exactly the same as it does in the film—at least from what I could see below. I have a feeling the current owners put up with a lot of well-meaning trespassing from Goonies fans, so I wanted to be respectful of their property and stay on the sidewalk below. Oh, and incidentally, this house is literally around the corner from the school featured prominently in Kindergarten Cop (yes, I’ve sketched that, too—that’s a post for another day).
Finally, no Goonies pilgrimage would be complete without a side trip to Ecola State Park, about a half hour south of Astoria. This is the spot where the gangster hideout was, where the kids entered the underground path to pirate treasure. From here you can spy (through the holes in a 1632 Spanish doubloon, of course) Cannon Beach below, and the silhouetted bulk of Haystack Rock—which you might recognize as the seastack that looms above the final scenes in the film.
This weekend Astoria is having a big 30th anniversary celebration, but I won’t be able to get down there for the event. So instead, you can bet the Tailor and I are going to pop up some popcorn, fire up the DVD player, and have ourselves a blast from the past.
If you happen to follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll know I’ve just returned from a 4000+ mile road trip across the south and west of the county. One of the things I like to do at the end of a trip (and the end of my sketchbook) is a map and recap of the journey. Of course, there are lots and lots of sketches of the details along the way (I expect you’ll see lots of those in the coming weeks), but sometimes it’s nice to step back and look at the big picture.
Loch Nessie might know about her American cousin, but I doubt she’s met this gal, who’s named in her honor and who might just be a distant relation. Now that is a family reunion I’d like to see.