Editor's Note: Vignettes from a Northwest tour

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate March 15, 2012 12:00 am

“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 Lady.”

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.