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Excerpts of Oregon Travel Diary
State 15 - OREGON 19 OCT 98 - 23 OCT 98

 

The wrong side of the tracks . . .

The problem with RV traveling is that most RV parks are located in the crudball part of town, the area tourists never see, travel brochures never mention. This perpetual perspective of the town's underbelly can be quite trying even for the most lighthearted of souls. Before RVing, we had always stayed in cute little inns or B&B's. These sweet homes added a nice charm to the visit, and usually offered pleasant views as well as tranquil areas for after-dinner strolls or a night out on the town. But, staying in an RV park, for the most part, means staying in. Rarely do we venture out at night. Often we are pinched off from the central area of activity. For a short visit, or for a typical two-week vacation, RV vacationing is okay, but as a steady diet, it can become quite depressing. This very moment, as I write, a nightly freight train rapidly clunks along the loud rails, as the growling diesel engines of my neighbors' trucks thunder past my window, rattling the RV . . . and my nerves.

Pressed between the pages . . .

Sure glad that back in South Dakota I decided to begin collecting flowers and press them in books. Today I took out the "Sheep" book I bought a while ago and found some of the South Dakota flowers I had picked along the road and pressed between the pages. Oh, it's a great way to relive the day. I see the pressed flowers and all the scenes and scents from that sunny South Dakota day scroll pleasantly before my mind, along with the happy feelings associated with the day's events. It's like finding an old photo, only better, because the scent of the flower makes the memory stronger and more vibrant. Wish now I had started doing this sooner. It being October, I doubt I'll find anymore flowers until we head to the southern states after Christmas.

It can always get worse . . .

Today is the day I've been waiting for. Today we drive the Mt. Hood Scenic Highway. Can't wait to see that big white snow-cone up close. It's frosty peak has been following us everywhere. Now I want to see the whole big chunk of whiteness. The ultimate destination is the Treeline Lodge on the side of the mountain. But, as luck would have it, the weather changes as we approach the mountain. The flirtatious sun peeking in and out of fluffy clouds all morning now ducks behind thick gray clouds permanently as fog turns to mist then rain. We arrive at the lodge, the closest point to the mountain, but cannot see an alpine thing. The mountain is there alright, in its crisp, bridal white surrounding the lodge. I know it's there cuz all the postcards in the lodge attest to its presence. A gorgeous, glistening giant of pure white, ankle-deep in green pines surrounds the lodge in these 25-cent postcards. But we cannot see it. Not a thing. It's cold. Terribly cold. And wet. The snow and ice are piled up in the parking lot like a miniature moonscape of icy craters. It's slippery. It's miserable. We leave Mt. Hood with a void and proceed, unsatisfied, to the next item on our list of things to see. What's next? Oh yes, the magnificent Columbia Gorge. Yeah, right. Again, can't see a thing. The fog is impenetrable. Occasionally we see some gigantic rocks and cliffs and can only imagine what a view it must be if we didn't have this persistent fog. Discouraged, we go to the next item on our list: the Historic Columbia Highway. This old road is supposed to pass five waterfalls. Angry with the weather and mad that Mt. Hood hides behind the fog in my once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it, I grumble to Ken that the waterfalls aren't going to be any great reward either. The whole stupid day is a waste. I pout. We arrive at the first of five falls, The Horsetail Falls, but the rain is razor sharp now. Thousands of arrows of rain attack like they are being hurled by Thor himself, furious at our audacity to tour this area. Defeated, we decide to make some tea in the parking lot and wait for the rain to let up. Ken naps at the wheel while I fix tea from the glovebox. Suddenly a woman walks in front of our truck and impolitely stares in through the windshield at us. "Steven!" She shrieks as she points a rude finger at us. "Here are some people sleeping in their truck. Ask them!" (Ask us what? What in the world can we offer this woman?) The women walks around to Ken's side of the window and peers in at him while he sleeps. I shoot her a "do you mind!" look. She darts behind the truck and screams again, "Steven! C'mon. ASK THEM!" I wake Ken. "Hey, Ken, someone is going to coming over to the truck to ask us something." On cue, a man knocks on Ken's window. The truck has automatic windows so we rush to find the car keys to turn on the car, to open the window. It's a rather awkward moment. Some strange guy standing outside our truck with rain cascading off the brim of his hat as he waits for us to open our window so he can ask us something. (God knows what.) Keys found. Engine starts. Window opens. The rain-soaked gentleman tells us his tale of woe.Turns out that while he was hiking, his car was broken into and someone stole all his things. He asks if we saw anything. I suddenly recall all the signs we saw at every site today: "Do not keep valuables in your car." Feel terrible that we have nothing to report, as we have only just arrived. Really want to help somehow, and yet somehow can't shake the feeling that we, too, are suspects. His eyes, at first, wide, hopeful, pleading, narrow quickly to suspicion when we have no clues to help solve the crime. He leaves. Window is closed. Incident is over. For us. But surely not for "Steven." It could have been us. And instead of just bad weather, we'd be dealing with thievery. And insurance companies. (Are the two mutually exclusive?) Just a few minutes ago I thought today was unlucky because the weather prevented me from seeing once-in-a-lifetime scenery. But of course, luck is relative. And no matter how bad a day may seem, it can always get worse.

Message repeated

Today we drive down the Oregon coast. We are lucky. The sun is shining brightly and the temperature is about 78 degrees. Perfect beachcombing weather. After a fantastic day -- incredible, really -- we watch a blazing sunset on our way down Rte 101 to Cannon Beach. A restaurant on it shore invites us to come in for crab cakes. I've been aching for crab cakes since we hit the Pacific coast. Seated in the restaurant waiting for our meals, the waitress makes an announcement: "Does anyone own a small black pickup truck parked out front? The alarm is going off." A couple a few tables from us exchange quick, apprehensive glances at each other. "That's us!" The woman exclaims. The man jumps out of his seat and runs outside to investigate. We receive no further information, but the incident, so close to the one the day before, makes us wonder if God is sending us a warning.

Homesick

The RV park this week was once a mobile home park. Because of its history, it offers more conveniences than typical RV parks. Instead of the standard paved or gravel rectangle to park the RV, for example, we have a a gravel lot for the RV, a paved driveway to the right of it, a shed in back, a patio coming off our front door, and a walkway to the community sidewalk. In our "yard" is a large oak tree, now clothed in brilliant autumn colors. At the end of our drive is a red brick flower box filled with flowers and a little gas light. The place looks like a cute little neighborhood. In fact, tonight, we actually had a knock on the door. (It's so unusual to get a knock on the door, especially at night, that the rapping shocks us for an instant.) Tonight it's a teenager selling subscriptions to the local paper. This homey little place, including the teenage solicitor, maybe even especially the solicitor, makes me miss home.

Or-eh-gun

Discover I've been mispronouncing Oregon. It's not Ore-re-gone, its Or-eh-gun. Habits are hard to break and every time I pronounce it Ore-re-gone, Ken corrects me. To help me remember, he tells me to think of what Mae West said to W.C. Fields. "Either you're happy to see, me OR A GUN is in your pocket." (The actual quote is "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?") But believe it or not, Ken's mnemonic device does help me to pronounce Oregon like a native.

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