Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest

Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 1) — Even though I have lived in California for 25 years, the area between Sacramento and the Oregon border had been unexplored territory for me until today. (I know. Ridiculous.) I discovered today that far Northern California has far fewer Amish than rural Ohio — the venue of our last hippie college tour. Also, Ohio is shockingly devoid of volcanoes. (WTF, Ohio?) Boo and I took an 8 hour drive to our first pit stop, Roseburg, Oregon. It was the first time we have taken a road trip where she did half the driving. (Yay! My first significant step toward fulfilling my dream of being driven like Miss Daisy.) We had a full 8 hours of listening to the Sirius XM “On Broadway” channel. I’m pretty sure we got hippie demerits for that. But our nerd ratings are through the roof. We are now comfortably in the Comfort Inn in Roseburg which is conveniently located just steps away from a cannabis dispensary. (Open 7 days!) Boo asked me what the legal purchase age is. I told her 40. Thanks to my awesome street cred, she did not question my response. Tomorrow, we visit our first hippie college of the PNW — Willamette University.


Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 2) — Today we bid a tearful goodbye to the cannabis dispensary, packed up my brownies, and hit the road for Oregon’s capital, Salem, to visit Willamette University. Salem has all the charm and sophistication of Sacramento — only with fewer celebrities, more rain and a capitol building that resembles an Art Deco prison. Right across the street from the Erte-meets-Alcatraz Capitol is Willamette U. I’ve started to judge colleges exclusively by the level of torture involved in locating the admissions office (Hampshire College, I’m looking at you), and Willamette’s was clearly labeled, so I was sold before we exited the parking lot. After our tour, however, Boo declared Willamette “not hippie enough.” I’ll concede that there WAS an awful lot of discussion about the exercise science major (totally not a hippie major; oppression studies — THAT’s a hippie major) and no mention of gender neutral bathrooms (which is pretty much de rigueur at any school that claims to be a hippie college), so I could understand Boo’s point of view. The tour was followed up by a chemistry-free interview with an admissions officer. As a result, Willamette has been crossed off the list, despite its superior labeling. Tonight we’re in Portland, resting up for a double header of college visits tomorrow. If Boo tells me that Portland is not hippie enough, I’m giving up.


Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 3) — Today was a double header of hippie colleges — Reed followed by Lewis & Clark. Both colleges got off to a somewhat shaky start as they were not labeled as clearly as I like. But they were no Hampshire in that we found the admissions offices without too much difficulty, and I did not feel like punching the first person I saw. Unfortunately, that feeling did not last long at Reed. I think I discovered a new subspecies of homo sapiens today at Reed which I am calling the western homo sapien-more-than-you. The eastern variety is known to frequent the area around Harvard University.  #sorrynotsorryHarvardfriends #youknowitstrue‬. The western variety thinks as highly of its intellectual prowess as the eastern variety only with extra heroin. (I later discovered — via the always reliable Wikipedia — that Reed’s school song is literally written to the tune of “Fair Harvard.” That explains SO much.) Reedies may look like hippies on the outside, but in their heart of hearts, they are massive gunners. No wonder Reedies have a reputation for taking lots and lots of drugs. In fact, the pressure cooker atmosphere was so intense that *I* was ready to scarf down a whole pan of cannabis brownies by the time we were halfway through the information session. To Reed’s credit, the subject of agendered bathrooms WAS mentioned on the tour, but that and its lovely campus were among its few redeeming qualities. Lewis & Clark was much, much better. L&C satisfied the bathroom gender prerequisite needed to be considered a “hippie college” and was way friendlier and more laid back than Reed. I don’t feel like Boo will turn out to be a pretentious drug addicted twit if she goes to L&C. Plus, L&C also has a lovely campus. I will have to check to make sure that they have not plagiarized their school song from Wesleyan or Brown, but even if they have, the source material is much better. So, we end the day with one thumbs up and one thumbs down. Tomorrow, no colleges! Instead, we have a morning in Portland with old friends and then an afternoon drive to Walla Walla for a Thursday visit to Whitman.


Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 4) — No colleges today. Instead, this morning we met up with our old friends and recent Portland area transplants, Anna and Olivia Church. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Poor Oliviia had to go to school to take a standardized test in the early morning. Then, poor Olivia was not allowed to play hooky for the rest of the day because playing hooky is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. So instead, poor Olivia had to leave school to do four hours of “field work” in the “hospitality industry” with a couple of dumb tourists named “Page” and “Boo.” First, we met for coffee in a warehouse downtown. (Boo thought Anna might be pranking us with the location, but it was delightful inside.). Then, Anna helped us complete the donut tour of Portland. The verdict? Blue Star > Voodoo. No contest. Next, we did a driving/walking tour of the city and confirmed that there are, indeed, many, many man-buns on display in Portland. We then had some delicious tapas in the Pine Street Market and finished up with a tour of the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. After giving Olivia an A+ grade on her “field work” and bidding the Churches a tearful goodbye, Boo and I hopped into the car for the drive to Walla Walla. The first hundred miles are a lovely drive up the Columbia River Gorge but after that, it turns pretty bleak. I made the mistake of trying to pump my own gas at a service station and was severely rebuked by the attendant who told me that pumping your own gas is “highly illegal” in Oregon. Since I try to keep my infractions to those that are, at most, “moderately illegal,” I felt duly chastened. I can only hope that no one rats me out to the Oregon gas station authorities as I do not want to go to prison for such a shameful transgression against the glue that holds the fabric of our society together. I, with my libertine gas pumping ways, am apparently why America is no longer great. Finally we reached Walla Walla, the home of Whitman College. The bad news — Walla Walla is in the middle of freaking nowhere.


(The view from our motel window — proving that Walla Walla is, indeed, in the middle of nowhere.)

The good news — Whitman is lovely and the town of Walla Walla itself seems quirkily charming — which is a good thing for the students because there is no easy escape. Hey, wait a minute! Maybe Walla Walla is where they send service station scofflaws to serve out their terms. I guess we’ll find out when I attempt to leave town tomorrow.


Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 5) — Today was our last official college visit of this trip at Whitman College in Walla Walla. Despite the absence of a billboard and flashing arrows (my preferred geolocators), we were able to find the admissions office with no difficulty. The college is lovely and does not seem to be an academic pressure cooker. Our tour guide was super friendly and the deal was sealed when she brought up the bathroom (a)gender issue without prompting. After the info session, we took a quick look around Walla Walla. The good news is that about every 4th storefront is a wine tasting room.  My kind of town!  I then decided it was time to try to make my escape from the Gas Station Stasi who I suspected might be building a wall around Walla Walla to keep gas pumping dissidents like me contained. So I threw a blanket over my head and told Boo to floor it on the way out of town. She gave me the usual teenage “what the f*** are you talking about?” stare and calmly drove out of town. (BTW: the movie rights to my riveting escape story are now available to the highest bidder.) We then retraced our steps back toward Portland and finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Hood. I kept telling Boo that there was a huge volcano nearby but because we hadn’t been able to see it, I think she thought that my stories about Mt. Hood were like my stories of having my Miss America crown taken away because of acts of moral turpitude. But tonight we sleep in a motel on the slopes of said volcano before our wild girls’ weekend in Ashland commences tomorrow. Nighty night, sleep tight.  Here’s hoping the pyroclastic flows don’t bite.


Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 6) — Today we were dull. We ate. We drove. We were not killed by a volcano. The end.


Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Final Day) — So we actually weren’t completely dull yesterday. Just mostly dull. We got to Ashland in time to drop off our bags at our Airbnb. (A first for us. I’m feeling like quite the middle aged sharing economy hipster except that the bed is so high that I have to do a Fosbury flop on to the bed, landing backwards on my shoulders and then pray that I have the abdominal strength to get my legs into the bed too.) We then headed into town to see “Great Expectations” at the Oregon Shakespeare festival. This is my first trip to Ashland, but Boo has been here before and loves, loves, loves it. Not surprising. It is hippie central with fantastic theater so it’s right up her alley. She says she might like to live here someday, and since I’ll be moving in next door to her wherever she lands, that works for me too. Tonight, we’ll be bringing this hippie college tour to a close with one last show — Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Yeoman of the Guard” set in the Wild West. Really. And even though this tour is wrapping up, stay tuned. The Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast Tour (Part 2) starts in less than 3 weeks.

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