Last Thursday I drove to Grants Pass, Oregon. It was part of a trip I had planned, to visit my brother Russ and his girlfriend Lori, and to visit my parents, who were driving there as well. We had planned it for a few months now, originally to be in the small town of Shady Cove, Oregon, which is a few miles north of Medford, Oregon (which, itself, is a few miles northwest of Ashland, Oregon, aka the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival), but, as always, something Shady happened in Shady Cove and my brother and Lori had to move to Wolf Creek, Oregon.
To be clear: my brother and his GF didn’t do the shady thing. They were escaping a shady situation.
Thankfully, you can cancel hotels easily now so I swapped out the Shady Cove hotel for one in Grants Pass. I didn’t know much about Grants Pass other than that my friend Will was born and raised there and is thankful to be gone. GP was the hub, the HQ, so to speak, where we gathered before going somewhere else, so it’s not like I was going to spend a ton of time there. But I did end up spending more time there than I expected, and I have to say: cute little town!
The drive was down I-5 and was essentially two chunks: the Willamette Valley, stretching from Portland down to Eugene, and then low mountains (hills, really, to us Idahoans) until you reach the Rogue Valley, in which Grants Pass sits. The first half is farmland and the second half is “This is where people go to hide for the rest of their lives.” Lots of unincorporated towns nestled in the hills, the kind of places where you ask yourself, “What do people do for work here?”
Hotel was nice. Red Lion. I splurged and my parents paid for half since it was a double bed situation. It wasn’t anything epic, but good enough that I was glad to have picked it and not, say, a Motel 6. Sometimes you just gotta save up for a good hotel, okay?
It was immediately good to see my parents again. My dad had been doing fairly poorly the past few months as his gallbladder decided to fail him, and so I wondered for a while if he would even be able to make the 10 hour trip from Nampa to Grants Pass. But not only did he make it, he drove the entire time. What a trooper. Naturally, they were tired from the drive and I was tired from the drive, so we didn’t do much on Thursday other than meet Russ and Lori and eat pizza in a park gazebo.
Friday was Crater Lake. There honestly wasn’t much to this trip: we drove up there and saw the lake and then ate lunch and then drove home. Russ and Lori had their dogs with them, a medium sized black dog named Nala (dunno her breed) and a little chihuahua named Kenny. Nala is a rescue dog and kind of fidgety around people so most of the time at Crater Lake, for Russ at least, involved him keeping her from barking and being a nuisance.
Kenny, meanwhile, at one point slipped out of his collar and leapt up onto the stone wall separating the teeming masses from the hundreds of feet drop into the lake itself. He was seconds away from becoming a footnote in a Crater Lake pamphlet. Fortunately, he wasn’t a stupid idiot and, after jumping on the wall, immediately hesitated like, Ut-oh. Lori grabbed him up and that’s when we decided to head to a spot for lunch.
Honestly, I wish we could’ve had more time to hike around the crater, but it’s not like the lake is going anywhere anytime soon. Plenty of opportunities to return.
Saturday I did a 4 mile anaerobic run on a dirt track by a middle school. It was actually pretty nice. Ten minutes of warmup and cool down with 7×1:00 intervals at 8:45/mi, with 3:00 recovery in between. It was humid as hell that morning, 88%! But I got it done and then spent the next hour trying desperately to cool down enough that I wasn’t sweating all over the free continental breakfast. I hung out in the hotel for a bit as my parents had driven off to take photos of bears. In Grants Pass there are a bunch of artsy fiberglass bears placed throughout town. Here’s one that I took a photo of:
They’re everywhere and this was like the holy grail of parental activities. So they went off and did that and then when they got back I took mom to Ashland so we could see a play at OSF! We arrived in Ashland and walked around Lithia Park and then got some decent boba tea. It was a Thai iced tea from a fancy tea shop that would never dare to keep sweetened condensed milk, so we had coconut milk instead, which … didn’t really taste like Thai iced tea but whatever, it was refreshing.
This was my first time ever going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but my mom went once before–in 1966. Or 67. Somewhere around there. She even brought these brass bracelets that she had bought at OSF back then and gave one to me.
The show I opted to see was Three Musketeers. It was pretty good. Not great, and a little clumsy at times, but enjoyable overall. I think my biggest complaint is that I chose it because I assumed there would be sword fights, which there were, but they were very … slow and awkward. I felt like I was watching a fight rehearsal where everyone was going at 70%. The show had a primarily Black cast with a Black director and was inspired by Dumas’s book, but also contemporized with modern language and culture. Which was fine, but it also was telling the story of the Three Musketeers while also telling this meta narrative of Alexandre Dumas writing the Three Musketeers, which I felt was A) false advertising, and B) not very well constructed. But I digress, this is a trip blog and not a theatre review blog. I enjoyed the show overall!1But I kind of wish we had seen Twelfth Night instead.
Moreover, I was just glad to be able to take my mom out to see some theatre. She really enjoyed herself and after having to take care of Dad for a few months, I think she deserved a night to just relax and put her mind at ease for a few hours.
Sunday morning I ran a 4 mile base run. I wanted it to be 6 miles but Grants Pass is hilly and I couldn’t hack it. Then I went with my parents to continue their Pokemon-esque search for Art Bears. It looked basically like this:
I found a map of the locations of most of the bears and so we drove around and Mom snapped photos of the ones she hadn’t gotten on the first go around. I love my parents but this had to be the most Old Person thing I’ve seen in a while. Just driving around taking photos of bears.
Afterward we met up with Russ and Lori and drove to Eight Dollar Mountain, which has a “botanical wayside” just off the main road. There’s a walkway that leads to a ton of pitcher plants in a fen. A fen! A bona fide fen. I’ve never seen so many pitcher plants in my life.
We mostly moseyed around this section. High moseying quality here. The path couldn’t have been more than a quarter of a mile at most, but my mom and dad loved looking at all the plants and reading all the placards about the plants. My dad had an app which could tell you what a plant was based on a photo. It was nice.
Then we all drove back to Grants Pass and ate Chinese food at a place called China Hut. It was very, very good.
After that we said goodbyes to Russ and Lori and then Mom and I went and swam in the hotel pool for a bit. And then it was Monday morning; time to drive home.
Overall, a great trip. Wasn’t anything to stress out about, just a few days to enjoy family, the great outdoors, and the Magic of Theatre™. With my dad being 81 and my mom in her late 70s at this point, getting to spend a few days with them is always a blessing. I miss them, even when my dad annoys the hell out of me with his tomfoolery. It’s bittersweet, to remember that your parents are going to die one day. That your siblings are going to die one day. That you are going to die one day. It’s the only constant in the universe. So make sure your days on Earth count.
- 1But I kind of wish we had seen Twelfth Night instead.