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Oh, Boy Trains!

My friend, Bernard and I head out of Portland up the Columbia River to Stevenson, Washington, to The Timbers (now the Columbia Gorge Riverside Lodge), a cluster of modern two-story log cabins nestled in a grove of oak trees at the Columbia’s edge. The location is perfect, hidden, and beautiful, but we know there will be trains. The tracks are right in back and the innkeepers provide earplugs. We relax a while on the deck, watching mallards and Canada geese drift by, then drive a couple of miles to Skamania Lodge for dinner and drinks and the overview of the gorge. The backwash of sunset on the gorge turns everything rose-gold and we can’t drag ourselves away until the last light fades.

In the middle of the night, in utter silence, the trains come through, howling like lost haunted animals, huge and thundering and troubled. Then they are gone. And I am awake. 3 a.m. I get out of bed go out on the deck and slip into the hot tub. The Columbia is calm, a lake. The moon is so bright it casts shadows on me through the budding oak limbs. It is enchanted and I imagine I am a salmon gliding effortlessly upriver in the silent night, nothing but water. Silk and quiet, moon blessed.

The next night, it’s Hood River Hotel where in the middle of the night, trains! And the next night to the Lyle Hotel, where in the middle of the night, we joke, “Oh, boy, trains!”

We contemplate traveling on up river seeking out every motel, cabin or inn that would put us near the railroad tracks. A contest of will to see how far we could travel until we were a frazzled mess of jangled nerves, numb or dead.

We do not do this.

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