Blood, Bears and Golden Tee, Not Necessarily in That Order
This guy’s blood squirted pretty much on me at the start of our honeymoon. I was a brand-new tech in an ER and I wanted this healthcare/emergency services gig to bolster my resume as I attempted to enter the fire service despite a healthy fear of heights, fire and driving oversized vehicles. Wanted it so bad that when a scheduling error resulted in my required presence during what should have been my first glorious night of matrimony I instead found myself clamping my hand down on the arm of a very hairy man with bad veins.
My wife was safe and sound in the Salish Lodge & Spa where we checked in earlier as part of our first day of Honeymoon Spectacular-ness, possibly snuggled under warm blankets next to a toasty fire given it was October. After holding that guy’s veins closed, helping restrain a violently delirious meth addict, getting reprimanded for giving a homeless guy a sandwich (long story), changing a colostomy bag, getting offered $500.00 to swap pee with a guy who rolled his car at 90 miles an hour on I-5 (I didn’t take him up on the offer so I’m assuming he failed his drug/alcohol screen), inserting some catheters, getting yelled at by a cop for almost using an alcohol wipe before a blood draw on a DUI suspect (defense attorney would claim the alcohol wipe influenced the blood test), and almost vomiting while collecting a stool sample (that bodily emission was the only thing that made me queasy), I had just enough time to drive the 30 miles back to my new wife, have a celebratory cocktail, and pass out.
She probably would have preferred I change out of my bloody scrubs but I was tired.
Not ones for dismay-ment, we awoke at dawn, day two of The Most Fantastic Honeymoon Ever Recorded, ready to get the party started. We had a tight itinerary with the first stop (well technically the second stop) being a one-night stay in a Bed & Breakfast located at the universally accepted World’s Greatest Winery in Yakima, Washington, which is actually one of the principal drug distribution centers in North America. In fact, the Sinoloa Cartel smuggles heroin and meth in 18-wheelers and cars with hidden compartments from Mexico up I-5 then through Yakima and onward. Which is, well, probably not conducive to Yakima’s wine industry or any certification of being The World’s Greatest anything but it didn’t deter the likes of us.
Our Honeymoon Vehicle of Choice, well really of no choice, was my wife’s 2000 Volkswagon Jetta. It turns out the 2000 Volkswagon Jetta was the First New Model Year in a while. Which means it was a new design, and in this case of new manufacturing location. Namely, Mexico. Now, despite the drug reference I have nothing against Mexico or its manufacturing industry. However, I now have something against the first time something from Germany is manufactured in Mexico. My first clue that something was amiss was the fact that the interior driver’s side door handle came off in cartoonish fashion when one attempted to close the door. Wires hanging out and everything. Furthermore, given that Washington is a community property state, I realized that perhaps a dowry would have been a nicer addition to my marriage rather than a German/Mexican import, but my love knows no bounds, as she will attest to.
On the way to one of the principal drug distribution centers in North America, the water pump in this Jetta gave out. We’d made it about 18 miles from the Salish Lodge & Spa, where obviously we should have just stayed and ordered massages and room service.
We limped into Scenic North Bend, Washington (home of that café in Twin Peaks if you’re old enough to remember that series which you’re probably not which makes me mad. And birthplace of Salvador Dali who also appeared in the series, you can look it up).
Fortunately, and we were ripe with fortune, we found a lonely, non-violent seeming mechanic open on a Saturday. We dutifully awaited his verdict for our repair timeframe in a cozy dive bar that featured Pabst in plastic pitchers and everyone’s favorite bar game, Golden Tee. I’m fairly certain I lost every game to my betrothed, thus I refuse to play with her ever again because I’m a sexist and a sore loser.
A few hazy hours later said verdict came in – our Mexican car was going to be stuck in Scenic North Bend for several days. My wife’s tears (genuine) encouraged this isolated fellow to give us a loner car. He didn’t have loner cars, it was a Honda Civic he just sort of realized he had in the corner. Which upon reflection makes me realize there was likely no title or insurance or anything legal about it, kind of like when someone pulls up next to you in a van and offers to (cash) sell you new stereo equipment they somehow just found (this has happened to me about six times in my life, if it hasn’t happened to you there’s something wrong with you). We gladly accepted the legal risk and sprinted the remaining 114 miles to our winery Bed & Breakfast/drug distribution hub.
Our room featured lots of drapes and other fabrics adorned with images of stemmed cherries, which is weird and instantly made me think this was a Cartel operation because it’s not like they’re going to interior design their safe houses with images of needles and opium poppies, no way, they’d use fresh fruit. But we were out of options, and it wasn’t like I was going to make my wife sleep in the car (I waited a few years later for her to be pregnant to do that, but that is another story).
Given we had to depart at 4 a.m. the next morning for leg three of our journey and would thus miss the implied Breakfast portion of the Bed &, the matron had prepared a fancy, honeymoon-worthy dinner for us. Which we missed, as we had rolled in about six hours late, roughly 10:30 p.m.
Never to be…dismayed, we slept maybe four hours and awoke for the…157 mile drive to Lake Chelan, Washington for our date with The Lady of the Lake, a mighty interior oceangoing vessel with a departure time of 8:00 a.m. Destination – the Honeymooner’s Paradise of The North Cascades, Stehekin, Washington.
As we gathered on the dock, exhausted and starving, we noticed a distinct absence of young, vibrant, extremely attractive honeymooners such as ourselves. In fact, the observable passenger population consisted of about 40 significantly senior citizens, eight bearded deer hunters, and a fortunately sober-seeming captain. But we were almost to paradise, time to press on.
Lake Chelan runs roughly 55-miles long amidst the mountains of north-central Washington. Really pretty. We had plenty of time to take in this natural splendor as The Lady of the Lake is not one to rush; bubbling along at 13 miles an hour (I won’t do the knot conversion), for a total cruising time of four hours with no food or drink or I’m pretty sure a bathroom. Of course there was a faster boat, called the Cheetah of the Lake or something, but we weren’t adept at interpreting metaphors at the time. Then there were the float planes, but what kind of snob takes a float plane to commute? A rich, smart one, it turns out.
Plus the Lady of the Lake makes stops along the way. Two maddening, long stops. The latter of which involved beaching on the shoal at the base of this terrifying mountain where I anticipated a counterattack by jug and banjo-wielding hillbillies. Non appeared, so the crazy deer hunters waded ashore with all their gear, the youngest of which looked terrified as this was obviously his first week-long wilderness deer hunt, which undoubtedly involved lots of gas, body odor, and other camaraderie from his older, more well-seasoned mates.
Eventually the Mighty Lady berthed at the dock of our Honeymoon Arch d’ Triumph, the Lodge at Stehekin. As our senior citizen companions happily hopped, well kind of hobbled onto said dock with the help of the Lodge staff, we kept kind of looking beyond the weathered, dilapidated structure in hopes of catching a glimpse of the 21st or even 20th Century Updated Nice Lodge that surely lay in the trees beyond or something. After careful consideration of the likelihood of going insane by taking another four-hour boat ride back to civilization, we succumbed to what by now could only be described as our Honeymoon Fate.
Upon check-in at the Official Reception Desk, we were greeted by a lovely junior college student wrapping up her tour of duty at the Lodge. I can still see her completely terrified expression upon learning we were there on our Official Honeymoon, coupled with her words, “You’re here on your honeymoon?” Pause as she furtively glances at the confused seniors milling about. “I’m sorry.”
Stehekin can only be reached by boat or sea plane. There is approximately six miles of paved roads, with another six miles of unpaved Forest Service roads. The few cars in the area harken to the Castro regime, complete with registration tabs from the 60’s and 70’s. Hiking and outdoor activities are the main pastimes, but there are more civilized amenities, including an outdoor pool and supposedly amazing bakery, all of which closed for the forthcoming winter season and subsequent heavy snows two weeks prior to our arrival.
One fantastic amenity for non-woodsy, civilized folk turned out to be the lack of television inside the green pool-felt colored carpeted cabins, combined with a plethora of board games. Thus I learned my wife who hadn’t divorced me yet was an adept, if not ruthless Rumiikub player. And Trivial Pursuit player. And Blackjack player. And Monopoly player.
Luckily breakfast and lunch featured a fabulous buffet in the dining hall, the majority of which consisted of previously frozen and boxed delights from prominent National Foodservice Distributors including U.S. Foods, Sysco, and to a lesser degree, Costco. I was actually in heaven. My bride, not so much.
During our second night (my mind has wiped itself clean regarding the total length of our stay in an effort at self-preservation), a man emerged from the woods on some insane hike from Canada to Mexico or something. A real provider. A real man’s man. I made sure my wife didn’t see him out of fear of comparison. This same night the Lodge staff made a lovely announcement regarding our recent vows, to the applause and delight and occasionally dirty old man catcalls of our fellow, albeit quite older, guests.
Which turned out to be an omen, for at breakfast the next morning a table had been reserved for a true Honeymoon Breakfast of heat lamp-warmed sausage patties and hashbrown rectangles. And, as it turns out, 40 handwritten notes from our new friends at Stehekin Lodge wishing us the best for our future together, including general lovely wishes, sage advice and several dirty limericks. Luckily they did not include drawings. By now I knew who the prime suspects were.
After realizing we were on the honeymoon equivalent of Gilligan’s Island, we finally decided to make the best of it and go for a hike. Hitchhiking is legal in this lawless land, apparently having 12-miles of roads in total makes the area exempt, and I’m certain there are no revenue generation requirements for local law enforcement, if there even is local law enforcement, which is why if I ever have to make my first hit to join the Mafia I’ll do it in Stehekin. Thus we started up the paved road that turned into a dirt road and caught a ride from a Forest Ranger.
Unfortunately he decided to regal us with stories about the abundance, I daresay bunny-like proliferation of bears in the area. During this time I noticed my wife became somewhat pale and wide-eyed, but I assumed she was experiencing the cascading elation commonplace when spending significant amounts of time with me.
It turns out she’s scared of bears. The Ranger dropped us off at a trail head six miles up the road, and we began a beautiful, easy ascent into the (eerily) quite pine woods of the region. As soon as the forest enveloped us, my wife froze and declared it was time to return home. Which home, I wasn’t sure, but I did know the trail was a horseshoe loop, so either way we had to walk six miles in the woods.
Luckily she came up with and incredibly practical solution. She picked up two rocks, and every 50 feet began clacking them together and shouting, “No bears!” Over. And over and over. I explained that bears really aren’t interested in people, they’re interested in garbage cans and potentially picnic baskets, of which we had none. Furthermore any bear within 25 miles is sitting on its haunches having a good laugh with its bear friends and other fellow woodland creatures, and possibly a piglet.
All to no avail. The clacking and shouting continued through the pristine landscape. That is until my wife, who is extraordinarily fit and determined, grew fatigued and asked I resume the cacophonic march. Which, as a new husband and generally considerate person, I did, although somewhat abashedly given I consider myself a bit of a hunter and light outdoorsman.
Obviously we made it through this hike and encountered nothing short of incredible views of the lake and the occasional bee, which were not at all impressed or intimidated by our rock-clacking security measures. From this point on the rest of the trip is a blur. At checkout we anted up and took the Cheetah of the Lake back to civilization – we’d had enough of our Honeymoon Destiny. We did keep all the notes from the old people though, including the dirty limericks. They’re down in the basement somewhere.
Oh! Our car wasn’t ready when we arrived back in North Bend so a few days later I had to go back and pick it up (secretly sneaking into that dive bar for a pint and solo game of Golden Tee, just so I could win).
Technically, 15 years later, I still owe my wife a replacement honeymoon in Italy, something we came up with on the drive home. But I have to be honest, one of the reasons I haven’t booked it yet is it can’t possibly be as interesting, no matter how old that place is.