Mann Overboard: Roadside attractions and more distractions

Posted 2/6/19

Like many in Port Townsend, as the locals say, we get out of Dodge every winter. We’re just back from paradisiacal Sonoma County after a month away.

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Mann Overboard: Roadside attractions and more distractions


Like many in Port Townsend, as the locals say, we get out of Dodge every winter. We’re just back from paradisiacal Sonoma County after a month away.

And even though Sonoma is, for many reasons, one of the most desirable places to live on the planet, we’re not sorry we moved to PT. And besides, I’m not overly fond of la vie du vin. In fact, I’ve long been tempted to walk into a tony eatery down there in the Wine Country with a bottle of Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck (Three Buck in Washington) and pay the corkage fee.

We usually rent a house in Oakmont, a pleasant senior community near Santa Rosa — lawn bowling and pickleball! — and I swam outdoors all last month, even in the rain (heated pool).

Millennials call Oakmont “Croakmont.” Yuk yuk.

But even in a retirement village, the California ethos intrudes. My fellow grayhairs drive well over the posted speed limit, the same legal speed, 25, as in PT, but hey, it’s California. People got things to do and people to see, and that doesn’t vanish at age 60. Tailgating there is largely de rigueur.

I like our much slower pace here, and no, kids, I don’t drive around with my turn signal on. And now I come to a full stop at stop signs. OK, usually.

About California’s decidedly faster pace of life, one San Francisco comic jokes that, “Here, you can gas up, get beer, rob the place, get drunk and be back in bed, all within an hour.”

We felt a couple of moderate earthquakes while down there, something we long ago learned to shrug off. (We lived in the shaky Bay Area for more than 20 years.)

There is so much routine seismic activity there that another SF comic jokes, “The drunks here are all earthquake-conscious. They sleep in doorways.”

OK, a few notebook entries I made on the drive to and from PT:

— Kiss my ash: Ever notice that big pile of ash along I-5 at the Toutle River crossing near Castle Rock? The one from the huge 1980 Mount St. Helens explosion? Well, it’s shrunk to about half its former size. It’s being mined/bulldozed. For what? To make souvenir ashtrays? Hey, just askin’.

I still remember David Letterman’s funny line about the one good thing about that eruption: “For a brief time, local bowling scores rose dramatically.”

And I recall scanning the sports page the day after the dramatic May 1980 eruption and noticing among the Pacific Coast League scores this one: “Tacoma at Portland, postponed, volcano.” (Now THERE’S something you don’t see very often, baseball fans.)

— Sign of the Wartimes: Then there’s that big sign on a barn near the California-Oregon border proclaiming the “State of Jefferson.” No, not the old Sherman Hemsley CBS sitcom. That came later.

Movin’ on Up: This wannabe state was named after the same founding father as our own beloved county. In 1941, a bunch of local yokels decided to split off from California and Oregon to escape the oppression of them big-city legislators in Salem in Sacramento. They declared their own state. Talk about bad timing: Jefferson was to become a new state on Dec. 8, 1941. So the idea, well, bombed. As Emily Litella might say, “Never mind.”

— Bill Bored: You can’t drive I-5 without seeing the two-sided roadside billboard in central Washington owned by a MAGA crackpot. The current illuminating dimbulb message posted on the roadside is “Schumer and Pelosi live in gated communities behind a wall.” Hey, that one’s so catchy I think I’ll have it laminated for my wallet.


Bill Mann of Port Townsend has written the humor column for USA Today and was TV critic for three major dailies.


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