At Least I'm Not a Californicator
I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington with the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) ("The Old Reliables") from June 1988 to December 1989. I was assigned to B Company, 99th Support Battalion which provided direct support to the 3rd Brigade ("The Go Devils"). I worked as a warehouseman in Tech Supply which dealt primarily with automotive and weapons repair parts. Most of our stock was stored in all-weather containers mounted on flatbed trailers so all we had to do was hook up the tractor and hit the road: instant combat warehouse that could go anywhere a goat path led!
I always meant to get a "Seattle Rain Festival January 1-December 31" tee shirt for the edification of those not fortunate to have experienced life in the Great Pacific Northwest. When my fellow soldiers and I were watching TV in our dayroom and some inane bubblehead news anchor would refer to "life here in the Great Pacific Northwest" during a promo, we would yell in unison, "What's so f***ing great about it!?" Mostly it had to do with being in the Army. Having lived through one and a half rainy seasons, I know that it usually only drizzles or mists with occasional showers for only six months (October-April) of the year instead of the full twelve. Even so, there are always sunbreaks which are brief gaps between storms that usually last up to no more than thirty minutes. Sunbreaks serve to remind one that there is a Sun and have a salutary effect on the mental health of most residents of the Great Pacific Northwest. I still enjoy explaining sunbreaks to people and that they're actually part of the forecast! Actually here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, we get at least two or three inches more annual rainfall than Puget Sound; it just comes in bursts. My fellow soldiers never believed me when I told them this.
Actually, I liked the Puget Sound. Tacoma is about the same size as my hometown and has the same feel. Even with the rainy season, the weather was great. The winters, though very damp, were quite pleasant with temperatures usually above freezing. The summers were absolutely perfect: warm and sunny with moderate humidity. I was always amused when natives would complain that it was "so hot and humid" when the thermometer managed to reach 80°F. I never tired of telling them that "hot and humid" was 95 degrees-plus with 100% humidity like the Dog Days back home in the Sultry South. They obviously couldn't begin to imagine it! There were plenty of green trees year round even if they were just conifers. The late winter/early spring period was perhaps the best time of the year. Clear, sunny days became more prevalent. I have a glorious memory of the morning sun illuminating the Olympics which were covered with a full winter's accumulation of snow. Of course, Rainier is at its best prior to the melt. Even now, I think it would be most pleasurable to sit on a deck in the sun drinking coffee and meditating on the snow-covered peaks. Alas, the North Carolina red clay is imbedded too deeply into my being. Tar Heel born and Tar Heel bred!
As one would expect, most of my time was spent on post, but I did see a bit of the Evergreen State. Whenever I needed a break from Ft. Lewis, I'd just go driving. I got up to Sunrise on Mt. Rainier. I went to Mt. St. Helens twice. I remembered the 18 May 1980 eruption so I just had to see it for myself. I will never forget driving through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and going from primeval forest to catastrophic destruction in a single curve. No warning, just BOOM!
I drove down Whidbey Island once and took the ferry across to Everett. The summer sun, the rumbling engines churning up the Sound, the salt air in my nostrils: so what if it cost me five bucks. Another time, I was going down I-5 and decided I wanted to see the Pacific, so I headed for Grays Harbor, then drove north to Aberdeen. (Ugh! If I were a heroin addict from Aberdeen, I'd probably blow my brains out too.) After Aberdeen the trip got worse; I went back to Ft. Lewis.
I got halfway across the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula once but had to head back as I had started too late in the day. I returned to Ft. Lewis by way of the Kitsap Peninsula. I got to drive over the floating bridge. Unfortunately, I didn't see any Trident subs as I was going through Bremerton. (This is a state-of-the-art ballistic missile submarine and could blow your country clean away, so go ahead and make my day you commie bastards! Oops, there's that Cold Warrior mentality again!) I remember reaching the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and being astonished that I would have to drive UP(!) it as well as over it. At least I didn't have to deal with the harmonic disturbance that destroyed the original.
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