Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

"Grand Tour of the Northwest." That's how I describe a recent road trip north. It was designed with family visits in mind, but provided some surprises.

First to the scenery out car windows. It doesn't matter how long the journey, if it starts out at the western terminus of U.S. Highway 199, the first five miles are the best. There's just nothing to compare with that serpentine weave through old-growth redwoods and walls of ferns.

Beyond that, the city skylines were most memorable: Portland's watery glitter from the Marquam Bridge in the morning darkness, even-taller Seattle in 360-degree glory from a water tower atop Volunteer Park, and Spokane's urban compactness (it makes a great snow globe) from nearby Riverfront Park.

To the surprises:


I'd seen exactly one of the films nominated for Best Picture, so when

my brother invited us to an Oscar night party at a Portland-area

winery, I went into heavy research mode. Okay, I borrowed a magazine and

followed the experts' picks in filling out my Oscar ballot. That's

probably what I should be doing today in filling out my basketball

brackets, but I fancy that I know something about college hoops.

The festivities were informal, so I shouted out "Moneyball" whenever

it seemed appropriate, but my ballot was pure Hollywood advice-driven. I

ultimately broke away from the crowd with one minor upset, taking Meryl

Streep for Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in "Iron


I left Ardiri Winery with two free bottles of the good stuff and laughable cinematic bragging rights.


Bowling is hip again. My Seattle sons told me so, then proved it by

taking me to a place in Capitol Hill that was packed on a Thursday

night. The wait was fortuitous, allowing us to view the action from a

bar alongside the alleys that afforded a cool view of the balls nearing

the pins and the resulting collisions.

When we finally stepped up to the line, there was no magazine to help

me out. My bowling skills, never steady, had languished over the

decades. Fortunately, Steve and Dave had never bowled much, so I caught

up with them by evening's end. Winning the last two games, I secured

what I called the family championship.

When they implied that the title might still be up for grabs after my

departure, I threatened to secure a trophy commemorating the occasion.


I didn't win anything in Spokane, other than cheap downtown lodging through Priceline.

com and the chance to get reacquainted with stepchildren and grandchildren.

Still, a walk through Riverfront Park and alongside the Spokane River

falls brought back the charm of the place I lived for nearly 15 years

while working at The Spokesman-Review.

I also tasted the past, courtesy of Zip's, a Spokane-based network of

burger joints. Three times in four days, to Laura's disgust.

When my sons were young, one of our rituals was gong to Zip's for the

five-burger special. At first they'd eat only one apiece, leaving three

for me. I became well-acquainted with this particular culinary delight,

and when I bit into it last week, I time-travelled. The young men who'd

taken me bowling a few days earlier were kids again, seeking quarters

for video games as we awaited our order.


As editor, I never completely leave the workplace behind. I was

actually at the aforementioned Oscar party when I learned of the

Sacramento Bee article about District Attorney Jon Alexander.

It was a pretty typical example of a big-city newspaper parachuting

into a small community and writing an overview about something the local

press had mostly reported incrementally. Nothing wrong with that, and

since there were a couple of new wrinkles, we wrote our own story about

the Sacramento story.

Still, it seemed like over-reaching when the Bee ran a follow-up

editorial calling for the DA's resignation or his removal from office.

Most of Alexander's background was well-known when local voters elected

him in November 2010. The Bee reported some new allegations and cited

anonymous sources saying they were being investigated by the FBI and the

State Bar.

Is that enough to overturn the decision of voters? The Triplicate

endorsed Alexander's opponent in that election, but we've still got to

wonder about that.