Mike and I have had a bizarre summer, involving several solo out-of-state trips to non-vacation destinations.
When I say solo I mean we each went separately.
When I say non-vacation I mean Iowa, Nebraska and New Jersey.
I will wait while you recover from the shiver of relief that our summer experience was not your summer experience.
Add to that that Mike has spent every moment studying for the GMAT and you have yourself a less-than-ideal situation for those golden Seattle months of July, August and September.
So last week we looked at each other and decided there was only one thing to do that weekend: get out of town. We wanted to stay within driving distance to keep costs low, so we ruled out anything involving a plane. We considered going to Victoria, BC, but we had been before and it didn’t feel compelling. I suggested we head to wine country because it’s crush season (harvesting grapes) and it’s over the mountains so it would be 80 degrees.
Done and done.
We drove to Richland, WA early Friday afternoon. Before we even hit the pass, we felt the champagne-like bubbles running through our veins, the near-forgotten tingle of escaping the city and going somewhere new. Neither of us had visited this part of the state before, unless you count the two visits to Yakima during high school for state-wide track meets. Mike and I met during high school track, and we both distinctly remember riding in the bus together to those meets. We also remember where the coach always took us to eat: Miner’s Drive-In Restaurant.
Restaurant is a really loose term. When I have to order my food at a counter resembling McDonald’s, I struggle to refer to it as a restaurant.
It only just occurred to me: why was our track coach feeding his athletes fatty burgers during a meet weekend? Nevermind.
The nostalgia overwhelmed us so we pulled over in Yakima and visited Miner’s. As I got out of the car Mike warned me, “Don’t be alarmed if people ask you if this is your Prom night. It’s just because you’re so overdressed.” I was wearing jeans.
After arriving in Richland we checked into the hotel and then cruised around to see if there was anywhere fun to go at 8PM. It didn’t take long for us to notice that Richland is not a city, it is a town. One that closes at 8PM.
We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some wine and then went back to the hotel. We went to the hot tub and were having a splendid time when Mike decided to jump in the pool. I had zero interest in giving up my little hot heaven for a cold splash of agua, but — am I alone in this? — what is it about watching someone else have fun in a pool that makes you feel like if you don’t jump in this exact moment you’ll always regret how you weren’t living life to the fullest and you’ve become that adult who never gets in the pool?
Needless to say, two minutes later I was acting like an eight-year-old in the pool and loving life. This is so much of why I married Michael — he’s gifted at getting me to lighten up.
And I think after frolicking in a pool together, we’d really set the tone for our weekend. Therefore, the next day we joyfully shimmied through the following wineries: Goose Ridge, Tapteil, Chandler Reach, Terra Blanca, and Hightower.
It was astonishing how gorgeous the vineyards were, how diverse the wineries were and how much money we felt compelled to spend after tasting people’s wines. We quickly realized if we were the only people at one winery, there was almost no way to escape without a purchase. However, if the place was packed wall-to-wall, we could taste the wine and then leave without feeling pressured.
I’m pretty sure we bought at least one bottle per stop, however. At least now we have a collection.
And why not go for the cheesy attractions? Why not stomp with the best of them? Apparently saying to everyone, “I feel like ‘I Love Lucy!'” is neither unique nor witty. In fact, it’s incredibly cliche. Oh well. Live and learn. Oh wait, that’s another cliche.
On day two we visited Mercer, Airfield and Two Mountain. On the way to Two Mountain (which was in a really rural area, comprised mostly of residences) Mike suddenly whipped the car in a U-turn and I started exclaiming, “what? What’s wrong!?”
“Didn’t you see that sign!? Back there! In the driveway!” Mike yelled.
“What sign? I’m trying to read you directions!” I replied.
“FREE BLACK LAB PUPPIES!!!!!!!!!!” he exclaimed (there are no number of exclamation points that can capture the look in my husband’s eyes).
I had to cover my eyes with my hands because I couldn’t think of a better way to react to the news that I am totally and royally screwed. It’s one thing to have a husband who constantly begs for a dog; it’s quite another to put five puppies of the breed he most wants in his hands and tell them they are his for free.
We pull into the driveway and see two women come out of a double-wide and wave us over to their backyard. I look into the backyard and see one little black furball laying in the grass and realize this is going to end badly. Very, very badly.
It’s not just one puppy. It’s five puppies. And they are perfectly black, perfectly perfect, and rolling all over each other to get to their mom. There is a large red tractor that they all scramble under for shade and in two seconds Mike is on his hands and knees reaching for them like Lenny in Of Mice and Men.
It’s not long before the begging begins.
“Babe, please! This is perfect! It’s meant to be! They’re free! And we weren’t even looking for them and here they are and they need a home and maybe we could take two and if we don’t take them who will and we could just drive them home right now and I already have a name and…”
I stare into the sky wondering what these ladies are thinking of me, the monster woman who won’t let her husband have a free puppy. I turn to the lady to my left for a distraction and instead she is standing there with a box of six-day-old kittens.
I burst out laughing. Is the other lady going to appear with a crate of newborn bunnies for me to also turn down like the animal-hater I am? Is the whole world uniting to bring me down?
I realize that if we don’t leave quickly we will soon be the parents of five puppies. I turn to Mike and ask him what the dog would do while we are at work every day from 8AM – 5PM. Isn’t it mean to take the puppies when they would be alone and inside all day every day? Is that really the best thing for them?
But he’s just staring at me with a puppy in each hand.
Eventually he agrees and we walk back to the car. When I say “walk,” I mean I walked and Mike did the Charlie Brown sulk. I finally know what it feels like to be a mom and tell my child he can’t have something he would die to have. It is one of the worst feelings I’ve known.
But one of the other reasons I married Mike is that he gets over things remarkably quickly. We were only in the car for five minutes before he said, “OK, where’s the next winery?”
That’s my guy.