In the midst of the holiday chaos, both at home and at work, the VOR and I have taken apre Christmas mental break for the past several years. We used to head up to Canada, Vancouver, Montreal, etc., but since No1Son moved to Portland we've visited him and MsKattorney for the past 3 years. Two years ago we headed to the coast and ran into an outstanding North Pacific storm combined with the highest tide of the year. Last year we headed the opposite direction to Mount Hood and experienced a fine blizzard that forced us into a 30 degree lean just to make it into the ski lodge. This year we were heading south into the wine country of the Williamette Valley and the weather forecasters, with their usual confidence and accuracy, predicted either rain or heavy rain for the entire period. Readers of this blog will suspect what is coming next....wait for it......yes, it was either sunny or partly cloudy the whole weekend with two brief periods of rain on Saturday, light rain that could not even get a person wet if they were wearing a decent wool jacket. The weather was nice and so were most of the people we encountered along the way. Minnesota Nice is a myth, especially if you drive a car or try to board an airplane, while Oregon Nice seems to be the real deal.
The cornerstone of this trait is the Oregon Wave. When a person does something stupid, either driving or walking, an abbreviated wave and a sheepish smile seem to disarm the person on the receiving end of the stupidity. Forgiveness at its finest. I was able to formulate this observation from the passenger seat of the car as well as in front of the bar at a number of wineries. I noticed the trait on my first trip to Portland many years ago. Our traveling party of three was split up and poor Woody was sent to Seattle due to Northworst Airlines overbooking policy. The gate agent in Portland managed to reunite us in a calm and rational manner and after telling him of our cattle car experience (and this was pre 9/11) at MSP, explained that, "Things happen quite a bit slower here than in Minneapolis, we have a lot more time to think things through". Indeed.
The wineries were excellent as were their main product, the Oregon Pinots. This is not to say I was able to resist the siren call of DeSchutes Bitter and Black Butte Porter, or even McMennimans Hammerhead Ale or Terminator Stout. The town of McMinnville was both interesting and friendly, and we spent most of Saturday at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum. They have two huge hanger-like buildings full of aircraft and spacecraft, including Howard Hughes Spruce Goose, the SR-71 Blackbird and an Apollo space capsule. My most interesting conversation was with Barney, a WWII B-17 pilot who flew his 35 missions after D-Day and was serving as a docent in front of the B-17. He was interesting, unassuming, funny, and yes, he was a nice guy.
The last act of Oregon Nice occurred in the most unlikely place for any kind of niceness, the 'would you like x-ray, ion bombardment, or a vigorous crotch fondle' TSA security line at PDX. I had purchased a nested bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar at a olive oil tasting stop, where we cleansed our palates after all the wine. They were 1.9 oz each but were nested and fastened together, a sure bone of contention with a zealous security guy with 'three ounces only' tattooed on his bicep. The other questionable item was a cloth sack full of magnetic steel balls. Both of the ladies were a bit puzzled when I made this purchase but guys, you get it. Unlimited juvenile fun. Between the magnetic balls and the 3.8 oz of questionable liquid, I prepared myself for debate, obstinate rule interpretation, sarcasm on my part, and a phone call to No1Son to return to the airport after I refused to surrender my dangerous salad dressing and toys. To my stunned surprise, nothing of the sort occurred. The screener watching my bag go through leaned around his machine and asked, "Hey, what are those round things?". When I told him magnetic balls from the Evergreen Museum he smiled and said, "Cool!". I gave him an Oregon Wave and strolled down to the departure gate.