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May 24, 2004: Ashland Trip - Back where we started

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It is strange to be home, and somehow a bit of a relief. There is a part of me that wishes above all else that we could have stayed another week, although by the time we left we'd seen everything there was to see in the little downtown and a few more days of milling aimlessly would have started to drive me batty. But if faced with impending boredom I'm sure we could have broken the 'no driving' rule and headed off to check out the surrounding area; see a little more of Oregon than what was along I-5, and the few blocks of Ashland where the theaters and our hotel were located.

Sunday was a day relegated to doing nothing but relaxing and being pampered. Somehow and I am still trying to figure this one out Richard agreed to do a spa package with me. So Sunday morning we walked across the street from our hotel to the spa, signed in, and before we knew it we were whisked off to a little room, where we changed into robes and slippers and then were given warm pillows to drape around our necks that smelled deliciously of cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves. This was followed by a brief stint in a steam room an experience that reminded me rather uncomfortably of my trip to Singapore, what with the heat and the extreme humidity. Luckily it only lasted just about as long as I thought I could stand it, and we were ready for the next phase a salt scrub that left my skin all tingly and soft. We showered off all the grit, and then settled in for a nice long massage, which was followed by the final step a soak in a relaxing whirlpool tub full of steamy lavender. It was several hours of sheer bliss.

The rest of the day was devoted to quiet and relaxation. We ate at what became our favorite place to lunch a completely vegetarian restaurant called Pilaf's and then settled in at the English style pub for some pick-up Celtic music, which consisted of a group of musicians who wandered in, joined the group, and sometimes even played the same song the rest of the group was playing. Richard poked around on his Clie, making use of the free wireless connection while I propped my feet up on another chair and happily knit away in time to the music. We had the most marvelous Italian food for dinner pasta in sauces so creamy I had to savor every bite, followed by pears layered in chocolate cake. Throughout the day we did nothing in a hurry just took our time and drifted from place to place.

Today was a little less relaxed, if only because today we drove back home. We would have managed to get an earlier start if I'd not noticed that the t-shirt I bought for myself at the guild gift shop was actually a child's shirt, so we had to wait for the shop to open so I could exchange it. That gave Richard a chance to pick up a Shakespeare action figure, however, so I guess not all was lost. And then we stuffed everything back into the car, finished off the last of the Moose Munch, and got back on the freeway to head home.

The detour today was a stop to the caverns at Lake Shasta. I only knew they were there in the first place from a flyer a coworker had picked up for me when he was in the area a month or so ago, and we had seen a billboard for them on the way up. But on the way home there was not a single sign, and it was only through luck we happened to remember the name of the road we needed to turn on to. Once at the turnoff, it took a little bit of searching until we found some clue that we were headed in the right direction. There on the road sign, underneath all the little universal symbols for boating, camping, restrooms, and picnic tables, was a little outline of a person crouched over, wearing a hat with a lamp on it. Ah. Who knew there was a universal symbol for spelunking?

We got there a little too late for the 12pm tour, and were all set to sign up for the 1pm tour, except that it was chock full of hordes of extremely excited (and thus very energetic and noisy) second graders. So instead we bought tickets for the 2pm tour and set off again to find somewhere to get lunch. We found a restaurant by a bay full of houseboats and sat by the window while we ate, eying the boats and pondering what it would be like to live on one. And then we returned to the caverns, this time not needing to look for the sign of the spelunker to figure out where we needed to go, and joined a very small group of others as we trouped down to the lake's edge and boarded the boat that took us across the lake to the caves. But not before I first climbed into a very cool tree house built for people far smaller than the average adult so Richard could take my picture. Is it not a nifty tree house? Yes. Yes it is.

Once off the boat and up a fairly steep hill we next boarded a rattley old bus that drove us up a windy and very steep road to the cave entrance, but then, finally, we got to go inside.

It's dark in the caves, of course, and damp, since the constant dripping of water is how all those marvelous stalagmites and stalactites are formed. The tour guide was a cheerful young woman who rattled off all the important facts with good humor, and very nicely warned us every time we hit another round of stairs. There were, I should add, one heck of a lot of stairs. We started at the bottom of the caves and climbed up and up and up with every turn. I'd worried it would be chilly inside, but with all the climbing we were all plenty warm enough by the time we hit the largest cavern the cathedral room. She turned on carefully concealed lights and pointed out clusters of bats on the ceiling that were so high up they looked like nothing more than oddly shaped ants crawling across the surface. Richard and I were good little tourists and took copious pictures, which was actually rather a test in faith. It was too dark to see anything through the viewfinder, so I resorted to pointing the camera in the general direction, pressing the button, and hoping when the flash lit up that I'd captured what I'd intended to photograph. Surprisingly, most of the time it worked. See?

And then it was time to leave, climbing back down just as many stairs, but all at once this time, and on the outside of the mountain, with occasional stops to look out over the beauty of Lake Shasta. Back down the hill on the bus, back across the lake on the boat, back up the ramps to the car, and back onto the freeway, on and on and on through a whole lot of small nondescript towns and great, vast expanses of boring nothing, until we finally made it home.

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