The Oregon Trek
The move is done.
The Des Moines landlady, having new prospective tenants, agreed to combine their showing with our final walk-through on Friday June 1, giving a badly-needed extra day for the packing & cleaning crew (motto: Don't put it there! You're not the boss! S/He's driving me crazy!) to finish up. The young couple agreed on the spot to rent the place next, raising hopes of getting back my deposit even though the sharp-eyed landlady seems to spy a multitude of flaws that were invisible to her upon renting the place to me three years earlier. She deducts for bird poop on the shingles.
Despite the delay, we made it as far as Lincoln, Nebraska, that night and saw the Platte River brimful with floodwaters, final proof the region's 7-year drought is over. The Motel 6 pool was about 33 degrees and they didn't actually have wi-fi but a strong signal was available from Doctor John's House of Lingerie and Marital Aids, right next door. We would not kid you about a thing like this. Photos will be posted soon.
Saturday took us through the Sandhills, and Stella decided she'd always been intended to live in Wyoming with its magnificent vistas and endless grassy hills, as long as the future included a private airstrip to cut down on travel time to actual civilization. We roasted in the non-air-conditioned 24-foot rental truck, froze in the mountain breezes at a gigantic Lincoln monument and in Laramie nearly came to blows over the choice of another damn Motel 6. Dinner, thoughtfully chosen by being the one place within walking distance, was at Dixie's Bar & BBQ, which rather astonishingly turned out to be a Mongolian Barbecue, complete with cheesy Korean decor and a costumed waitress who's a 22-year-old botanist from Minnesota. She (and the authentic octopus appetizers) clashed severely with the general Westernness of the place, as everything for 100 miles around seems to be the site of drilling for oil or maybe uranium. The spirit of John Wayne is alive and well in Laramie. Landscaping is not.
Sunday it was on to Burley, Idaho, the smallest of all possible towns with a magnificent Best Western -- a pool and manicured grounds worthy of a Hilton, restful for the crew (motto: If I don't find my cellphone someone's going to be bleeding before bedtime) and close to a good restaurant, though the joy of finding a Perkins with a bar was offset by the local blue laws that had the aforementioned bar closed on Sunday. The potato fields are full of irrigation rigs apparently compiled from the rusted iron remnants of Conestoga wagons that broke down and spawned the town right there.
I have enough photos of the route to restock Google maps, if anybody else ever wants to look at any of that part of the world, which has way more geology in any given mile than the total of every state I've ever lived in before...though many are blurred shots because of the motion (motto today: If you don't keep your eyes on the road travelers from now on can look out at your tombstone) and Monday was the only near-disaster, a blowout in Boise. The Budget folks promptly sent a repair expert bearing a new wheel for the car-towing trailer, while our heroic driver stayed with the rig alongside the Interstate with high-speed traffic rocketing past inches away, to get some peace and quiet. The rest toured a delightful local Boise candy shop and stocked up on the wierdest brand of bottled water you've ever seen -- www.liquidsalvation.com -- yes, it's nothing but water, graced with a smart-alecky marketing scheme.
Monday night we pushed on through a terrific lightning storm while careening down the mountains in drenching rain, only to wind up in Boardman, Oregon, (motto: Ha! Ha! You're too tired to go any further so you have to stay here and it's really the middle of nowhere!) I think for dinner we ate crumbs found under the seats.
Tuesday we finally pulled into Salem, installed half the party in another damn Motel 6 for the night and the other half in the new rented house, with furniture thrown from the truck by a surly crew being rained on (motto: The kitchen, the garage, it doesn't matter, just DO NOT ASK one more time where you should put it, the answer you get will offend you). Surviving members of the Donner party were not this happy to reach the end of the trail.
So the trek was a marvelous voyage, Oregon is lovely, I'll find a job, pictures will be up soon, and by Christmas or so the members of the moving party, especially the severely abused volunteers, will all be friends again.
Click here for photo slideshow.
The webcam's up.
and we really all love each other very much although none of us will ever move anybody's stuff again or stay in another damn Motel 6 even if it's raining frogs.
Oregon Trek II
Well, I've reset my watch.
There's enough stuff unpacked from the move now to survive day-to-day, and so it's time to accept Pacific Daylight Time. I can be slow to change; ask anyone who's watched me merge onto a freeway.
I rolled back the hands in resignation, and proceeded to get used to it. I've learned to quit glancing at the timepiece and subtracting two hours. Now I have to ADD two hours. "Hmm, it's noon here, so looks like it's midafternoon in Minneapolis and Lovely Liz will still be in her office in Louisville..." With cellphones and e-mail everyone's still in my calling plan. My imaginary friends and real ones, too, have long been on the Internet anyway.
The radio and TV networks randomly juggle their prime-time schedules for Pacific Time, so some prime-time series are still on a little after suppertime and others seem to have vanished. Some cable channels don't care when you're watching, which is great. They don't change a thing, from their point of view. Just add two hours and set the VCR, since your favorite program's now on before you get up, or after bedtime in the Pacific Time Zone. First time I've ever lived where the ZIP Code didn't begin with the number 5.
They don't even do the evening news here till 11 PM. I will never see Jay Leno again at his naturally time-delayed time. Then again, the upside of finding few TV shows to watch is that it leaves time to watch the few I may record. Yeah, that'll happen.
I was promised no tornadoes and no blizzards. So far the climate is mild here in the Pacific Northwest...or PNW as we locals call it. There hasn't been even a severe thunderstorm warning yet. Down at the coast I wandered past a small building that had a tsunami alarm bolted to it, so maybe there are other things to fret about. And the other day there was a small earthquake a ways up the road, but nothing fell off the shelves here, so obviously it's something you don't worry about, like tornado warnings in the Midwest. Almost always.
I keep watching for what might be different, so far from the Flat Rectangular States where I spent my whole life up to now. You have to watch out for assumptions, traditions, idioms and stuff that'll surprise you. Kind of like going to church with a friend and finding out the responsive readings are all a little bit different.
Folks are friendly and don't talk in funny accents. Some say "soda," but others call it "pop." And every single item in the spice rack of the grocery store's baking aisle was produced, it turns out, by Tone Brothers of Ankeny, Iowa. Cheerios are still round out here in the PNW, though they skim their milk funny and slice their butter wrong. And the houses don't have coffeepots, judging by the host of drive-through coffee kiosks on every corner in every town.
In South Dakota, even the smallest burg has a bar, in Iowa there's a church for every gas station, and in Minnesota you don't even need a semblance of a town to find a bait'n tackle shop, cobbled together out of surplus chainsaw carvings out there in the north woods. But even Minnesotans don't like coffee as much as coastal folks do.
I gaze at the town landscape as intently as the scenery. Some day I'll get to those mountain things, but for now I've assured myself that a mall is a mall, and Big Lots, Michaels Crafts, and Sears are all here, from sea to shining sea. Or border to Borders, with a coffeeshop inside of course. And another out in the parking lot.
Grass is grown on enormous turf farms outside town, but languishes in most neighborhoods. The soil's better suited to some ornamentals, and if I don't quit peering at the shrubbery someone's going to come out of a house and shoot me one of these days. I've kept my Iowa license plates, in hopes they'll take me for a tourist.
There are also herbs. Apparently they flourish in the 9 rainy months and 3 rain-free ones out here, and in the last two weeks alone I've seen a neighboring town feature a mint festival and three others base their town celebration around lavender. Anything will do as an excuse for Crazy Days and a parade. That's pretty universal, after all, and as they get ready for Corn Palace Days back in my old hometown, I ain't dissing nobody else's vegetation-based carnival.
They sure grow trees tall out here, and occasionally I have to park and go stare up at a Sequoia or something like it. There may be hobbits up in those branches. Or coffeeshops, right at the top.
Click here for Photos.
The job search continues, and I'm putting some heavy wear on my new library card while the summer vacation lasts. One minor disappointment -- I've gotten comically fat the last few years, and all the work of moving hasn't trimmed down my weight much. I'm still about...well, in Pacific time it's 13 kopeks.