As unbelievable as it is to me sometimes, I have a daughter who is now a high school senior, and our lives over the last couple of months have been filled with college catalogs and financial aid forms.

Back during Christmas break, Alice and I took the first of a couple of trips to visit some colleges. On that trip, we went up to Bellingham, a town that I had never been to before, to wander around the campus of Western Washington Univeristy, which had a promising looking theater program. This was the first campus we visited, and we just wandered around on our own, rather than getting a guided tour, but what we saw looked pretty nice. The theater infrastructure was impressive, and so was the huge library.

Alice in the Library at WWU

On the way back south, we stopped and got a guided tour of University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and Alice had her first of several admissions interviews. UPS has a beautiful campus, and the adjective “bricky” got its first use by us. “Bricky” would come to be a theme of our college tours.

Last week, Alice cut school for a couple of days, and we went on a little longer trip. We started out with a guided tour and interview at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, another beautiful, very “bricky” campus, with a nice looking theater and a fantastic looking study abroad program. The admissions building at L&C is an old mansion previously owned by Lloyd Frank, as in Meier and Frank department stores.

For some reason, even though I had a camera in my pocket on all of these tours, I usually seemed to forget to get any pictures. Too bad in the case of L&C, as there were some great photo opportunities there.

After our morning appointment in Portland, we hopped in the car and drove east to Walla Walla to visit the Whitman College campus.

We are pretty serious coastal people, I and my family, and to cross the Cascades, or even to travel very far east of I-5 is kind of a big deal. We tend to get all nervous and unsettled when we suddenly find ourselves in dry grass and brush lands, with few trees and little rain.

But Whitman came highly recommended, and I’ve been feeling like I really should learn to broaden my own personal horizons as long as I’m advising my kids to do the same, so off we went, into the eastern side of the state, where there might as well “be dragons”.

Horseshoe Falls, Columbia River Gorge

We went out east on I-84, through the Columbia River Gorge, and stopped along the way to look at some amazing waterfalls, and the snow and ice that was everywhere.

There were also huge windmills, stretching for miles along the hillsides in SE Washington. I’ve been watching the parts and pieces of these travel past Skamokawa on ships for years, but I’ve only seen them in place a couple of times, and never in such great quantity.


We stayed the night at the La Quinta Inn in Walla Walla, the site of part of Mike Birbiglia’s great Moth Podcast story “Sleepwalk with Me”, which was also featured on This American Life. If you haven’t listened to the Moth before, you should. I could not resist the opportunity to stay there, in spite of the fact that there is absolutely nothing special about a La Quinta Inn.

Alice was pretty eager to establish whether or not she could live in such a town, so far from the coast, so we went out walking around that evening, looking at downtown and looking for something to eat. We finally found Phosho, which had delicious pho, and some pretty excellent sake, too.

sake and coconut juice

Next morning we headed over to the campus, where Alice had yet another interview, and then we got a guided tour for just the two of us, led by a Whitman student who was also a theater major. So far, out of the ones that we’ve visited, Whitman is the one that struck me as maybe the most likely good fit, in spite of its great distance from the Pacific Ocean. We’ll go back in March for another visit and a scholarship interview.

On the way home, I decided to go a different route, and we went up through Yakima and over White Pass, a road I had not been on since I was Alice’s age, on a high school field trip. Six hours later, we were back in Skamokawa, where it was pouring rain and all the coastal streams and rivers were approaching flood stage.