Stories

…Are the Luckiest People

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It’s not you; it’s me. I just don’t really like … people.

It’s not because of some shy, reactive response to being surrounded by people. Nor do people fill me with rage in a Lewis Blackian maelstrom of spat expletives, shaking hands and throbbing forehead veins that will result in an inevitable early demise via cardiac arrest. (In case I miss the moment it actually happens, here’s a pre-emptive “R.I.P., Lewis Black.” I love ya, you rabid little goofball.) I don’t like people because of our sheer quantity. So when I won a free trip to anywhere in the continental United States from Skyscanner, my first and foremost concern was getting far away from people.

No offense.

Skyscanner is one of those awesome websites that I, a semi-retired travel junkie, am always looking at to facilitate fantasies of destinations farther away than where my son goes for day care. I love websites such as Skyscanner. I love plugging in different destinations and comparing costs of buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel and renting a car. I take a screenshot of the final price and itinerary and store it away in a desktop folder titled “Future.”

My Skyscanner giveaway win, in some way, felt predetermined. As if one of the prankster Dreamtime creatures I had learned about when studying under an Aborigine in the Outback had been peering over my shoulder at the pathetically ever-expanding desktop folder of future adventures and taken immense pity on me. I like to think the little troll sneaked into Skyscanner’s offices and blew up all the computers that had documented the original contest winner’s name, used some crazy ninja voodoo trick to erase the memory of the employees and then fogged up the bathroom windows and wrote, “Katiedid wins. Or else.” But that’s probably not exactly how it went down. Obviously. I mean, where would those little mystical creatures have learned to spell?

After taking an obnoxiously long time to decide on a vacation itinerary, undoubtedly testing the unwavering patience and kindness of the Skyscanner team, I held the airplane tickets to Portland, Oregon, in my hands.

A five-day road trip into the peace, quiet and solitude of rural Beaver State areas. Far away from people.

Day one was spent hiking to and from waterfalls. They were exquisite and lush, and I had forgotten how fresh it is to breathe in the scent of moss-covered branches and stones. Huffing dried oregano in preparation for the trip was not the same. And it may have stung a little.

That night, not only were we the only guests at an amazing cabin retreat but also when the owners learned it was my birthday, they planned an incredible breakfast of blueberry creme brulee French toast and booked a massage for me to have out on the patio, overlooking the mountains and my giggling toddler chasing butterflies in the high grasses.

Then we headed inland, passing through 10-building towns sparsely populated with kind folk who made sure to tell us which town to eat in and where to get gas — one time informing us that the next opportunity would be three towns away and at least a 70-mile drive.

We stayed one night at a historical house near the Painted Hills that rents out its rooms as a hotel. Locals spent the evening in the hotel’s living room, playing cards, playing piano and watching television, merry and obliging to the dumbfounded tourists who struggled with the lack of cell service and Internet access.

We dined at a cafe where a woman drove in to pick up pie but realized she had forgotten which slice her husband wanted. She was about to drive the 30 miles back home to get his order, when the cafe owner said, “You can call him if you want.” The local looked in awe, “You got a phone here?”

“Sure do. Going on eight months now.” I smiled at the cafe owner, and she beamed back at me.

During the whole trip, we were given kind smiles and unsolicited travel tips, and keen interest in our origins and destinations was shown. The trip ended with our spending a day in Portland with a college pal whom I hadn’t seen in eight years, and I boarded the plane back home thrilled by how easy it had been to fall back in step with my old friend.

I went to Oregon to get away from people, but it was the people who made the trip.

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