We love Hood River, or we wouldn’t live here. And we love helping visitors have a good time in Hood River, or we wouldn’t be in the hospitality business.
But here’s a little secret: Around about Labor Day, we’re beat. If you run across one of us sporting that Zombie Stare, don’t take it personally. It’s the exhaust fumes talking.
It’s about running 150% for three months, bouncing around a dining room, pulling sheets and mopping shower stalls, schlepping plates and platters and pans of food up and down hillsides in the heat for 200 wedding guests from New York and D.C. and Atlanta and yada yada.
Labor Day is NOT a holiday for us in the business of helping you take a break and relax before heading back to life, autumn leaves, school and chilly days.
For us, Labor Day is … well, it’s laborious. Things slow down just a bit in mid-August, but during that deep breath, we’re all like people at the bottom of the slope, looking up at the wall of snow heading their way. We know you’re coming. We know when you’re going to hit. And thennnnn … wham, it’s Labor Day.
People everywhere, walking and talking and gawking, shopping and hopping and bopping, sliding and gliding and flying across our big river (uh, that would be the Columbia).
Bikers are biking and biking and biking, going out and back all head-down and spandex up, rigorously masochistic, lean and lithe, hunched and hungry.
A hundred people, wet and bedraggled, cold and hungry show up in our dining room, craving breakfast, stat, just minutes after swimming across the Columbia River in the annual Roy Webster Cross-Channel Swim.
“Um, we’ll have your table ready — in about an hour.”
For the more sedentary and chill among our guests, all the wineries are pouring, all the eateries are feeding face, all the country properties with scenic views are thronged with brides and grooms and hungry hordes of inlaws and outlaws.
For one, two, three days at the tail end of our peak summer season, this insane frenetic buzz settles over our little zone, like a cloud of bees dropping in to the picnic.
And then it’s gone. People pile into their cars and RVs and aim their hoods toward home. The freeway fills. You can almost hear it happen, like a whooshing sound, the air going out of the balloon.
As if someone flicked a switch, a benign calm settles on the town. And, after a day of work, one of our number loads his board on his car and heads a bit east, to a favored windsurfing spot near Rowena.
The parking lot, jammed with cars two weeks earlier, holds four. Stragglers. One of the locals sits, watching the whitecaps. There’s a steady breeze. Our boy rigs his sail, heads out in swim shorts and a cut-off T-shirt. The air is warm. The water is … comfortable.
His board pops up onto a plane and heads toward Washington at a brisk clip. And back. And forth. In the zone, he revels in the moment, the lowering early-autumn light throwing shadows off the basalt outcroppings and scattered pines, illuminating the golden grasses and flicking diamond sparkles off the brisk blue water.
As the seasons slide one over the other, he is overcome with gratitude.
A visitor once himself, he counts himself now among the more fortunate few.
Home. Here. Lucky. So very very lucky.