Saturday: Arriving in Portland

Flying to Portland from Kansas City required a layover in Dallas. The monorail between concourses challenged my frail arms to maintain stability. The airport must have bought this rickety ride from Six Flags. I learned many scenes from the movie Loganís Run were filmed here. Eating at the airport Pizza Hut challenged by stomach too. I get so nervous flying, I shouldnít eat. On the plane, I sat next to a woman who excitedly told me about the restaurants in Portland, as if I looked like the kind of person who would eat fish at breakfast. I saw lightning from desert thunderstorms during the flight. We flew past Mt. Hood, which the setting sun cast in a deep shade of pink. Still functioning on my overnight shift, I found it difficult to sleep. I recorded an aircheck of KINK at five in the morning.

Sunday: Portland to Seaside

The weather is cloudy, with rain so occasional I wonder if the clouds will make up their minds. I slept for a few hours, then grabbed a large cup of coffee. I drove through Portlandís northeast side, eventually stopping at Safeway for bread, peanut butter, and bottled water. I passed Portlandís ABC affiliate, located in a shoddy building, just before crossing the river into downtown (referred to as ďcity centerď on highway signs). Homeless people slept in front of many of the closed businesses. Steep, nearly vertical bluffs rise on the west side of downtown. I drove up the bluffs, wondering how the expensive homes didnít succumb to erosion or foundation collapse.

Not knowing the time required to reach the coast, I snaked through the city center to Highway 26 around noon. By this time, I noticed the sad limits of the Kia Spectra allocated to me by the rental car company. The car does well in an urban setting, but struggles mightily on modest inclines. Furthermore, the car didnít contain cruise control.

There are only two towns between suburban Portland and Highway 101. However, one can take advantage of free water stations in various turnouts. The rain restarted as I reached the coastal area. Much to the surprise of the hostel operator, I checked in during the middle of the afternoon. I suppose she expected people to return at night. I grabbed my pack and walked two blocks to the river, providing opportunities for waterfowl pictures. Two more blocks allowed me to reach the beach and the Pacific Ocean. The cloudy, occasionally rainy, cool weather made it a dismal experience. I donít think people maintained the beach very well. Trash, both human and natural, littered the sand. I snapped a picture of the tsunami evacuation route sign, which displayed a large arrow pointing away from the water. No kidding.

I returned to the hostel and the Spectra for a short drive down the coast to Cannon Beach, knowing full well I would visit the next day. On a private road, I took a picture of Haystack Rock at high tide, with some of the neat houses in the foreground.

Monday: Coastal Oregon

So I fell asleep at seven in the evening the previous night and woke up at 5:45 in the morning. Damn overnight shift! Enough daylight existed to mistake it for seven or eight in the morning. I grabbed an apple and a granola bar and walked the length of Seaside, mostly on the boardwalk. The primary downtown street is too skinny for cars, but that doesnít stop anyone. I returned to the hostel, grabbed the Spectra, and hit the road.

I drove south to Cannon Beach again for a more thorough tour of the town. Whereas Seaside resembles a rusty beachfront enclave that hasnít progressed in years, Cannon Beach is Oregonís equivalent to Carmel, California. Each block contains an art gallery, a coffee shop, or an art gallery that sells coffee. I stopped inside one of these coffee shops for a cup of Irish Hazelnut. The beach here is much, much wider than Seaside, but perhaps it seems that way because I walked onto the sand at low tide. I sauntered out to Haystack Rock for pictures of the creatures adhered to its surface or lollygagging in the tidal pools. The top of the rock is basted with bird guano.

I returned to the car (no parking meters!) and drove to Tillamook. On the way, I discovered the joys of driving Highway 101 in the rain. It is a two-lane road with the occasional passing lane. On one side, heavy trucks lumbered in my direction. On the other side, there were some long vertical drops to the rocks or the water. I stopped briefly in Wheeler to throw out my coffee cup. An old industrial chimney stack dominated the skyline, juxtaposed against the steep seaside cliffs. I didnít see anyone walking the streets. Wheeler resembled a ghost town abandoned after World War Two. Speaking of the war, when I reached Tillamook, I stopped at the Naval Air Station museum. I took several pictures of Douglas planes painted with naked ladies. I sat in the cockpit of one of them I returned to the hostel that evening. Many people were watching ďOh Brother, Where Art Thou.Ē I fell asleep early again.

Tuesday: Driving downstate

Initially, I wanted to drive the entire length of the Oregon coast. After my experience driving sharp curves in the rain, and numerous 25 mile per hour zones, I decided to drive back to Portland, drive down Interstate 5, and reach Brookings, Oregon, through California. I began to wonder if the sun would ever shine. Rain fell again as I returned to Portland. I probably averaged 80-85 miles per hour driving down Interstate 5.

The road I needed began at Grants Pass. I filled up on gasoline at the Fireball gas station. Iím not making that up. In Oregon, drivers can not pump their own gas. That is a law. I freaked out someone earlier in Seaside by pumping my own gasoline. He ran out of the convenience store waving his arms, begging me to stop. This time, I knew the drill. ďFill Ďer up!Ē I said. How nostalgic. The sun returned with a vengeance by the time I reached Grants Pass. The 55-degree days of Seaside were replaced with 95-degree days in southern Oregon. Highway 99 turned into 199 and took me through Cave Junction and some other little villages in Oregon and California. I passed through the redwoods and the Smith River recreational area. Thick redwood trees rested flush against the road at the intersection of Highway 197. One false move or lazy jerk of the steering wheel, and the Spectra wouldnít stand a chance.

I returned to Highway 101 to reach Brookings, just on the other side of the border. The sky is a beautiful deep shade of blue and thereís not a cloud in sight. The temperature is 65 degrees as I check into the hotel and head for the beach. While other people stood on the bluffs, I climbed down to the sand. I was the only person on the beach and I felt liberated listening to the waves crash against the rocks.

Wednesday: Return to Grants Pass

Okay, so it isnít sunny in Brookings every day. Thick fog greeted me as I woke up. I recorded an aircheck of KURY, the only radio station I could receive clearly that wasnít fully satellite-fed. I spent the morning hiking in the redwoods, and getting there was part of the fun. I started on a two-lane highway. Then I drove onto maintained gravel. Then I reached poorly maintained gravel and big potholes while climbing the immediate mountain range. The fog burned off by then I took some beautiful pictures. When I reached the redwoods, the canopy blocked out the sun. I took the lesser-traveled trail, long occupied by dangerous-looking spiders. After the redwoods, I drove to Crescent City, California, for lunch. The fog hung over the water while the sun warmed the coastal city itself. Driving inland, it doesnít take long for the temperature to climb 20 or 30 degrees. I stopped in the Smith River recreational area for one of the most beautiful pictures I ever took, and a dip in the cool, green-tinted water. It was nearly a hundred degrees when I reached Grants Pass again.

Thursday: Crater Lake

The sun is out again! I recorded an aircheck of KCNA while eating breakfast at the Rogue River Lounge. I passed through Gold Hill and Shady Cove, two towns with an Arizona desert feel to them. Wide irrigated fields dominated the landscape. The further into the mountains, the more the trees grouped together. Crater Lake is an awesome sight. The sky was clear and the water is among the clearest and purest in the world. It is so pristine and blue, dirt erosion from the rim easily stands out on the surface. I walked along the rim, gazing at the thousand-foot drop into the water. I walked up another thousand feet in elevation for a better view. Even though it is late June, snow still covers part of the trail. I ate lunch while sitting on the rim, making it a truly surreal experience. Returning from Crater Lake, I stopped at the Rogue River for pictures of the vicious rapids.


I returned to Portland by driving up Interstate 5 again. I think I knew every landmark on the road now. The sun remained out, and I could finally see Mt. Hood. From a high point in the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Portland, I could see Mt. St. Helensí familiar silhouette. There is a blues festival down by the river. I airchecked KINK again. My flight home leaves at six in the morning, so I must sleep early.

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