January 6, 2004

We left last night in the whipping winds and blowing snow of an unusual and unexpected winter storm. Lately Portland has felt very much like the Northeast, with snow that actually sticks to the ground, blustery winds, grey skies, and jarring temperatures. The city totally shuts down in the snow. Rumor has it that there are three snow plows, but I've never seen one. This is quite a change from New Hampshire, where the plow guys perform elaborate snow dances and hit the roads as soon as the first flake falls. I have abundant early morning memories of giant snow plows thundering past my house while their bright orange lights illuminated my bedroom walls. In Portland, however, the roads remain completely covered with snow and ice, and everybody just stays inside.

On one such day earlier this week, Sam and I took the bus downtown to catch a movie, but the movie theaters were closed. (Closed! Movie theaters don't close!) Instead of going to the movies we has a snowball fight out on the street with mischievous strangers, one of several snowball fights we have had recently. (Portlanders are known for being relaxed and laid-back friendly types, but as soon as the snow hits the ground, look out).

The tour bus is a loose and lumbering giant, and traveling in it feels akin to riding in an old cardboard box on top of a really fast elephant. The cacophony of rattles, clicks, clanks, squeaks, and jangles combined with the swaying of the cabin walls and the teeter-tottering of the chassis left me feeling slightly uneasy, and so I hid out beneath my snowman blanket and put on my headphones. Sam and my mother, Christmas conspirators, gave me an iPod this year. I can now play 1400 great songs at random. I call it Radio Kerry. (I love Radio Kerry. They play all of my favorite songs.) I listened to a few tunes before Enya piped up and, though I sometimes try to resist the pull of her music, I was inevitably swept up into a big ball of hope and inspiration. And suddenly the bus didn't feel quite so scary.

[On a side note: a few summers ago I worked at a hopelessly ridiculous ranch a.k.a. a gift shop and a few cabins on the side of the highway on the edge of Glacier National Park. On one of my days off from standing around and telling people where the bathrooms were (I'm serious), I hitch- hiked into the park with a car full of lesbians (who told me they weren't going to pick anyone up, but couldn't resist when they saw a fellow dyke like me). I asked to be let off at the continental divide, and proceeded to hike up to a nearby glacial perch. Seeking a soundtrack, I flipped through my CDs and settled on Enya's "Paint the Sky with Stars." And, let me tell you, when I crossed the deep green fields with the clouds trailing behind me and stepped onto the ridgeline with its views of mountains, waterfalls, and a really, really big sky at the EXACT SAME MOMENT as one of Enya's famous key changes, it was, well, it was fairly glorious.]

Back on the bus, however, we drove over the coastal range amid deep darkness, snow drifts, and black ice. Our route to Newport was closed due to hazardous driving conditions, so we took a harrowing alternate route. We made it to within a thousand feet of the hotel before the bus slipped on black ice, jackknifed into the trailer, slid backwards downhill, and stopped at the curb. It was a slow and peaceful crash. Neither the bus nor the trailer sustained any damage, but there was simply no way to get the rig to the hotel, since the roads were covered with about an inch of ice. And so we left everything as nature wanted it and skated to the hotel (which, incidentally, is on the ocean and has a fireplace in every room).

The show has been moved to tomorrow because of the weather, so we spent today loading in, eating, swimming in the pool and the hot tub, napping, walking along the windswept beach, watching the sea lions with intense amusement, and playing Trivial Pursuit. Not half bad for our first day on tour.