Mount Rainier

The photo above, of Mount Rainier, just east of Washington state’s capital, Olympia.

Olympia’s situated south of Seattle, at the southern end of that big, fingered bay hemmed in by Vancouver Island. And it was one of the cities mentioned on one or more of the “best cities to live in in the USA” lists I recently perused. Or “best economy” maybe.

I bring it all up because I’ve fantasized about the Pacific Northwest for a long time. And I’m contemplating a road trip to tour the US, maybe even finishing with a move there.

A pollution map of the United States, which I saw about a decade ago, amplified the desire to visit the Pacific Northwest. That region had just about the best overall pollution rating in the continental United States. And, somewhat more recently, after watching the Ken Burns documentary “National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” moving west (where pretty much all the national parks are), became an even more appealing idea.

National Parks

A dear friend got me a year-long pass to the national parks, for Christmas or my birthday, almost two years back.

It remains in a “to be activated” state. It came with some Southwest Airlines credit.

I’ll have to track down the pass info: nothing physical came with the gift, just words and a promise. I never activated the pass because my finances at the time wouldn’t have allowed me to make much use of it. But that’s about to change, for various house-selling, inheritance, debt payoff, income and game-selling reasons. So yay travel!

A neat, quiet film I saw years ago, with Michele and her daughter Lisa, took place somewhere nearby.

“Old Joy.”

Old Joy

Two very different men, with very different strengths and weaknesses, on a hike to a mountain spring.

Anyway, after I boil down my possessions to a “fits in one car” level, after decades of carting around tubs of stuff I don’t need, I should be good to go. Olympia supposedly has a great economy, if “settling” works out. And seeing how maybe social things feel different in a vastly different part of the USA should be a kick.

And there’s always meetup.com and FaceBook to find events and make friends.

And all my possessions?

I’ve always loved the line from the movie (and probably the book) “Fight Club” that goes….

Fight Club Things Own

More and more, recently, after carting around all those tubs and things, from home to home, move after move, I’ve felt it.

The… weight around my neck. The… lack of freedom. The inability to change, or to change direction any easier than an aircraft carrier.

And it impedes truly creative recreation too.

Golfcraft Carrier

Now that would solve things!

Anyway.

You ever read the late John Steinbeck book “Travels with Charley”?

I read it in high school, and it made a mark. Years after losing touch with the America he wrote about so famously in “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men,” Steinbeck, in the 60s, built a sort of mobile home into the back of a pickup truck and traveled the country to get to know it again.

With his dog.

Charley.

Travels with Charley

Always struck me as a cool book.

And, while I’ve often been a homebody, linked closely to movies, TV and mostly videogames, the loss of interest in those solitary pursuits since the breakup has freed me to crave adventure and new people.

So maybe my 2013 Mazda3 has, or can get, a trailer hitch. Maybe I can get a small camper trailer.

Maybe I can become mobile.

Maybe I can switch identities, as Waylon Jennings suggested a man couldn’t, in his song “Drinkin’ and Dreamin’.”

The line?

Jennings Free

Good line.

And forgive me, freedom, but possessions truly make a man feel tied down.

Obligations too.

Family, children, a house, a certain career, etc.

But, as my jealous he’s-selling-my-games coworker Steve said, he wishes he could do it too. But he has obligations. Two kids mostly.

Me? If I have any, the women have kept it secret. To the benefit of my adventure.

If not my spawn.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

Funny Rut

And, if one does, it’s easy to have a dulling of the senses.

Become numb.

It’s very, very hard to see the World as an amazing banquet, daily, if routine sets in. There’s no counting how many days it took Phil Connors in “Groundhog Day” to figure out the way to see vitality in everyday life.

Beer Grounhog

Should I challenge myself to such minimalism?

Or should I have an adventure? Learn very new and different things, instead of looking for the new (which is there) in the everyday routine?

I’m still young-ish.

And I look young. Usually feel it too. Thank you yoga and this book bride of 17 years….

Ancient Secret Book

And now money, so long a future-blocking burden in my life, is swinging in my favor.

I don’t have anyone to go with, nor do I have contacts in Olympia (I could find them elsewhere, and ask FaceBook friends), but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it. I can sometimes get lost (mentally and spiritually) when alone and without the crutches of my routine, but my hope is that “adventure” would keep me energized and awake.

There is precedent.

Do you have the feeling that I do? In an airport? Ready to fly?

I don’t travel very often, and maybe that’s why when I’m about to fly far away… the world gets brighter and more tingly.

I’d love to sustain that feeling.

For ages now, maybe 3 years, I’ve fantasized about… starting maybe a monthly routine of… finding the cheapest flights to literally anywhere in the USA, cost being the selling point, not location, and flying with just a backpack for even just my 2 days off.

I don’t even need to eat, for that short a window. I’m fasting-able.

But the idea was to… just go, no plan, and wander.

See what happens.

Never did it, partly because the money stuff still seemed unbalanced. Better to get ahead of debt first.

Debt Country

But now that’s nearly done.

I’ll soon even have a big, checking account cushion. Yay me!

So where should I visit?

Here’s a good link:

https://livability.com/best-places/top-100-best-places-to-live/2017

If you don’t wanna click, the first 6 cities (to include another from WA) are….

Rochester, MN

Population: 110,275

  • Courtesy of Josh Banks.

    LIV
    SCORE
    695

    Four-time recipient of the Best Places to Live honor, Rochester earned the top spot for the second year in a row due to high scores for its health-care scene and a diverse range of affordable housing. Home to the Mayo Clinic, Rochester is also an entrepreneurial powerhouse, with many new businesses and a wide variety of things to do that keep residents entertained and engaged.

    Iowa City, IA

    Population: 71,832
    Courtesy of Alan Light under a CC 2.0 license.

    LIV
    SCORE
    678

    Home to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes as well as Kirkwood Community College, Iowa City features a college-town atmosphere with big-city cultural events that are attractive to both locals and students. Quality of life conveniences include multiple shopping choices, arts and entertainment attractions, culinary options from fine dining to pub food, numerous nightlife spots and top health care at several hospitals. Iowa City perennially ranks high on the Best Places to Live list.

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Population: 116,194
    Courtesy of Nekonomist under a CC 4.0 license.

    LIV
    SCORE
    674

    Known largely for its 40,000-student University of Michigan flagship campus, Ann Arbor is a city that also houses two of the nation’s top hospitals – St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and University of Michigan Medical Center. Prognosticators rank U of M’s 2017 football team as one of the best in the country, and Ann Arbor enjoys amenities like well-regarded art galleries, performance venues and restaurants. The city continues to attract more and more high tech companies and consistently ranks as a Top 10 College Town.

    Olympia, WA

    Population: 48,941
    Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau
    LIV
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    672

    As the capital of Washington, Olympia’s major employers are state and local government. Residents have access to 25 hospitals within a 60-mile radius, and beautiful scenery highlights include Puget Sound, Turnwater Falls Park, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and Wolf Haven International. Olympia has a top transportation system in place, and students have the convenience of Evergreen State College, Saint Martin’s University and South Puget Sound Community College.

    Charlottesville, VA

    Population: 45,084
    Courtesy of Bob Mical under a CC 2.0 license.

    LIV
    SCORE
    670

    Nicknamed C’ville, Charlottesville is home to Thomas Jefferson’s famed Monticello residence as well as the University of Virginia, and the city is graced with many impressive historic buildings. Two of the largest employersare University of Virginia Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital, and Charlottesville offers a variety of independent restaurants, shopping opportunities and entertainment venues. Shenandoah National Park has excellent hiking trails, and city officials make parks and green spaces a priority.

    Bellevue, WA

    Population: 134,630
    Visit Bellevue, WA
    LIV
    SCORE
    669

    Across Lake Washington from Seattle and French for “beautiful view” is Bellevue, which has appeared on the Best Places to Live list four consecutive years and features some of the best public schools in America (along with Bellevue College). A high-ranking healthcare system exists along with a downtown district that accommodates 1,300 businesses, and shoppers have choices like Bellevue Square and three major malls. An annual Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair has occurred since 1947.

Not a bad list.

Now, I don’t really wanna be anywhere too hot or dry. I suppose… a place that’d counter my tendency to be reclusive. Maybe help me be social and make friends. Hopefully stimulate community.

And lots of places listed on that website:

https://www.ic.org/

That’d be a boon. And, according to the state-by-state map on the site, Washington does have a lot. Not surprising, given the “hippy” concentration in the Pacific Northwest.

Maybe a good touring plan, in addition to national parks, would be to map out a route that hits lots of those best cities. Happy, livable, economic or whatever.

And maybe I should get a dog first….

Wanted one for decades.

Ironically… I’d wanted to wait until I was “settled.”

Happy Dog

That could be the base of Mount Rainer.

Right?

I thought so.

Good dog.

Now let’s travel, Charley.

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