Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fourteen

Day 114 - The Road Less Traveled
I had the opportunity to accompany my friend and colleague, Joel, to a meeting with a large manufacturer with a view toward offering consulting services to them.  We left in good time, missed a turn, and thanks to his familiarity with rural Longview, Washington, found our way again without too much trouble.  The meeting went well, and although we may not see immediate opportunity with them, the door remains open.  At least ajar.
What I enjoyed most was the chance to take a road I’d never been on before.  We took Interstate 5 into Washington - a road I know pretty well - making good time (we didn’t hit the traffic we expected approaching downtown Portland, so the faster commute and missed freeway exit afforded us the ability to stop at a store so Joel could pick up a bottle of Squirt).  On our way back after the meeting, we crossed the Columbia River via the Lewis and Clark Bridge, and took Highway 30 back to Portland.  I had never driven over this bridge or on this stretch of road, so seeing the small towns along the highway was a new experience.
We passed through Rainier - a tiny hamlet whose market appeared to be the largest business around - and Columbia City, which isn’t a city so much as a wider part of the highway with a few structures.  We passed through St. Helens - again, not much to it, though we saw an interested old building that was may have been used in a movie but was now boarded up.  I imagine the town would have been prettier had it not been raining.  We passed the spot where the former Trojan Nuclear Power Plant once stood.  I have vague memories of seeing it as a child on a field trip; if Joel hadn't commented on it, I wouldn’t have remembered it at all.  
We stopped for lunch at the Dairy Queen in Skappoose.  Yes, now I can say I’ve been to Skappoose.  I asked the round woman behind the counter a question about the menu, and she answered by turning her back to me to look at the menu posted above her as she spoke.  I didn’t hear a word she said.  She turned back toward me, and I asked her to repeat what she had just said.  So she turned away from me again toward the menu and repeated her unintelligible explanation.  I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a side salad.
I know I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to good customer service, but there was something sweet and unassuming about this portly woman that kept me disarmed.  I couldn’t help but like her.  When I went back to order a "Blizzard," I asked her about the chocolate truffle variety vs. the double fudge cookie dough (it has been decades since I ordered a Dairy Queen Blizzard, and they’ve expanded the options).  She explained what each one had in it, but suggested the truffle-filled ice cream was more chocolatey.  I went with the truffles.  She even stopped by our table later on to see how I liked it.  
Joel and I had a great conversation on the way home, and I am going to enjoy working with him.  I was pleased to have seen a bit of rural Oregon with which I was not familiar, and to have had a chance to add another stretch of road to my experience.  While the Road Less Traveled may be more challenging and less popular, it seems to agree with me.

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