Posts Tagged ‘history’
I used to be crazy-patriotic. I walked precincts for the party when I was eleven, voted in every election since I’ve been able (wearing pajamas to the dorm polling place to be first in line at age 18), and I know every flag etiquette rule and the harmony part to This Land is Your Land. I grew out of it though, jaded in recent years by my understanding of the bigger world, media massaging, and our electoral system.
But, this Independence Day I had to turn my head so no one would see me choking up over a red white and blue birthday cake.
As I can’t resist a “world’s largest” or “home of” roadside attraction, I swerved off the highway in Iowa and followed signs to Winterset— birthplace of John Wayne (American). There I encountered bustle and excitement: bunting around the courthouse, a cavalry encampment, a Rotary-sponsored fun run, a band assembling in the town square, and everywhere, flags flying.
“What’s going on?” I asked a local Rotarian. “Memorial weekend?” He blinked at me. “It’s John Wayne’s BIRTHDAY,” he said.
Oh. Sorry! Didn’t know.
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’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.
Later: “Donner, party of 84…” (And so on. Ha! I never tire of this joke, once told by restaurant lounge cover bands who used to call names when tables were ready.)
Returning from Bend during a holiday snowstorm on the Santiam Pass (my knuckles are still white), the subject of the ill-fated Donner party arose. What would that trip have been like without a heated, 4WD, 8 cylinder SUV with traction tires?
Well, it was unpleasant.
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.
Traveling to Regina? (What an embarrassing name for a city. Like that Seinfeld episode. “Mulva?”) Don’t miss the contemporary Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Saskatchewan where you’ll learn about the formation of the original 300 Mounties in 1873, what the RCMP is up to today (with a force of nearly 5000), and how you’d look as a Mountie in that smashing scarlet tunic and Dudley Do-Right hat.
Back to back theme rooms explore aspects of RCMP history including their presence during the Klondike Gold Rush (when the worldwide image of the Mountie was formed).