Archive for the ‘Northwest’ Category
From the moment I was informed by the nice gas station character that filled the trailer tires that 38 tornadoes just had their way with my eastern destination states, the hostile spring weather has tried to run me off the road: torrential rain in Washington; fat wet snow flurries in Oregon (is the west not aware that it’s nearly Memorial Day?); fierce winds in Idaho that actually BLEW A PART off the Airstream (hopefully they’ll reattach it at The Mothership); and fog so dense in Wyoming that semi drivers on the I-80 formed a 30mph protective convoy, hazards flashing.
I didn’t see another Airstream on the road until two days into the journey—they waved to me from the other side of the freeway where I was shipwrecked with a blowout.
This month we started the bassackward process of relocating our belongings to Bend, Oregon, a three-plus hour drive from Portland.
Why Bend? It’s a fishin’ hikin’ skiin’ bikin’ town, all activities Ralph enjoys and I will, too when the right loaded firearm is pointed at my head. Compared to hipster Portland (“a city where young people go to retire,” as observed in Portlandia), Bend culture can best be described as “emerging”. But I love the pine smells, the clean high desert ambience and relative lack of traffic #inBend. The new house, set back from the street and far from the neighbors, is surrounded instead by wildlife and easterly views, and came with a pull through driveway and civilized gravel pad upon which to park the DWR.
Laura and Kevin, the Oregon couple I interviewed for Airstream Life (“The Technomads”, Winter, 2010), own a stomp-gorgeous 2010 27′ International. I dropped by to spend a splendid morning where they were glamped at Champoeg State Park only thirty miles from Portland, where the couple enjoys taking their writing work while they take in the view. (Sometimes they tow over to the coast, for a different scene from their picture window.)
Both hightech creatives, they’ve upgunned their rig with sleek silver and chocolate upholstery, and the tastiest of household conveniences (down to the ingenious key holder by the door, magnetic spice jars, and wine rack under the bed).
Why we waited to replace a four year old battery until the day it died—the morning of a road trip—is indicative of how we roll. Ralph, not what anyone would describe as a grease monkey, struggled with the issues surrounding its replacement and we were off like a herd of turtles to The Dalles only three hours past ETD.
The Dalles, Oregon: the town that sounds awkward in any sentence.
Tillamook, Oregon is a depressing working class town with two agreeable ways to kill an afternoon.
According to the tourist brochure, the Tillamook Cheese factory is one of the top ten visitor attractions in Oregon. (California this isn’t.) Signage inside reads “nearly 1 million visitors stop at the Tillamook Cheese Visitors Center” (a day? a year? since the beginning of time?)
It’s easy to ignore the many badly-designed, text dense displays; the entire factory —packing machines, conveyor belts, workerbees—is visible behind glass from observation decks. (“Wouldn’t it be great if they piped in Raymond Scott music?” said Ralph.)
It was 21 degrees when we left Portland on New Year’s Eve day and it wasn’t much warmer at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast, but the sky was a promising blue.
We unhitched the Airstream and drove to nearby Netarts to celebrate over steak and cocktails at the fanciest lounge we could find. “A lot of people here, are, uh…missing teeth,” Ralph observed. Somehow the evening cartwheeled into a fireball and we returned to the trailer after a wicked argument and fell asleep—back to back—by 9pm.
New Year’s day dawned clear and cold, offering a fresh start.
It’s hidden in plain sight on busy Grand Avenue in Portland in an unmarked, windowless, locked building. To gain entry you must knock, wait, and the door will be opened (when I visited, by a woman who returned to an unseen corner after speaking her only words: “Set your umbrella down—no, not there,” (the dirty worn carpet). “There.” (The dirty worn linoleum.)
The silent cramped foyer smells musty and is lined with display cases packed with shadowy objects. Enter the first brightly lit showroom on the left and be overwhelmed by cases and cases and cases of…toys.
I fully expected the WBCCI Oregon Unit members to know how to have a good time when I met their club president at the International. Expectations fulfilled: The HiWay Haven rally in Sutherlin OR—a nonstop block party with Airstreams and the people who love them—pegged the fun meter.
A little Airstream history was thrown in between the eating and drinking; the weekend commemorated the 50th anniversary of the famous Cape Town to Cairo caravan with a special lecture and a screening of two films about Wally Byam and his followers to Africa and Mexico. Other movies on the old drive in screen included the unwatchable RV and The Long, Long Trailer, unwatchable for other reasons.
Grand Coulee Dam is 550 feet high! 5,223 feet long! Generates 6,809 megawatts of electricity! And other measurements as well. The best statistic comes from a jaunty pamphlet provided by the Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation: “Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. What else could you build with 12 million cubic yards of concrete? A sidewalk four feet wide and four inches thick and wrap it twice around the equator (50,000 miles), or a highway from Seattle to Miami.”
Ok, ok. Wow. A visit to Grand Coulee on the Columbia River sounds like it might be boring but it’s quite the sight and has the most fun visitor center.
When I first moved to Portland lo these many years ago, there was nothing to eat. A damning indictment, as I was fresh from San Diego where fish tacos and mud pie were as haute as one could go.
Now, you can’t open Sunset or the now-defunct Gourmet without reading an article breathlessly praising a Portland chef, or a gushy review of the culinary craze that’s been sweeping the area in recent years: the city food cart.
Until last Friday, I worked a stone’s throw from one of the main lunchwagon pods downtown but rarely visited, preferring instead to eat a piteous salad at my desk.