Day 64: Seaquest State Park, Washington to Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon
After arriving at the campsite on the Oregon coast, I took Chesky out onto the expansive beach at low tide and let him off the leash. He ran in giant circles with a rocking-horse gait reserved for when he’s really happy, then pelted up and down the sand after seagulls. He attacked frothy bubbles in the shallows and generally played like a puppy.
Just after sunset, we drove into the prosperous and artsy coastal town of Cannon Beach, which could be engulfed by a tsunami any day. The sea was roiling and so very close, and while it’s been doing that for millions of years, it made me nervous. Driving in and around the town, there were signs warning of a tsunami zone and blue lines on the road delineating the boundary of death and destruction.
Despite the looming danger, the residents are very cheerful: as I drove through, a couple was doubled over, laughing hysterically, and lights twinkled merrily in the shops and on the streets. I parked and went into a bookstore, but Chesky screamed from the car and barked hysterically at everyone walking by and my dreams of peaceful browsing were nixed.
It was election day, and I had driven across much of America in the months leading up to it. If I had to base a prediction on what I had seen, I would have predicted Trump to win. I had seen thousands of signs supporting him and no more than a handful of signs for Clinton. And I mean this literally: on nearly every road I had been on, I had seen a Trump sign. It’s as if he was the only candidate. I saw people support Clinton on Facebook and, of course, the media was convinced she would win, but I saw a different America.
Day 65: Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon
I was up late last night (and several times during the night) to check on election results - much like most of America - so I took it easy this morning. I took Chesky to the beach for a while and then drove into Cannon Beach again. We went into a store that allowed dogs, and I bought Chesky a reflective orange vest for autumn hikes in the woods.
A man with a one year old child and a loose black lab came in as I was paying. Chesky was waiting for me on a very short leash, but I watched the Lab warily. Chesky can sometimes lunge at other dogs when he’s on the leash, but the lab wandered off into another part of the store. The man set his small child down on the floor, and the kid went straight to Chesky with teetering steps. I turned to see Chesky sniffing the kid’s face, and hurriedly pulled him back with some terse words for the dad not to allow his infant child to approach strange dogs. The man was offended that I had chastised him, and pointed out that Chesky was friendly (Chesky actually loves kids because they are easy to steal food from). It was wasn’t my dog I was worried about; the kid wasn’t going to hurt him. I was concerned for the human child. What if Chesky nipped at his face? Then he’s have a lifelong scar, emotional trauma, and I would have a dog that would need to be destroyed. No one would walk away from that happy.
Day 66: Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon to Portland, Oregon
The drive inland to Portland was through old-growth forests of monstrous trees and winding hills. Drive-thru coffee stands dotted the highway in unlikely and remote places. At times, the fog was so thick that I didn’t even notice I had come upon a town until I was almost through the single stoplight.
I took Chesky to a petsitter in Vancouver, across a double-decker bridge spanning the Columbia River, and Mount Hood watched me from a distance. The petsitter was a full-time dog care giver with a houseful of dogs, including an eighteen-month old German Shepherd mix who Chesky hit it off with immediately. I was free for the weekend with some college friends.
Day 67: Portland
In Oregon in general and Portland specifically, people were unfailingly friendly. It was like Britain, but not a veneer of politeness; I think Portlandians were actually happy. Signs in shops warned: “You’re in Portland. Be nice.” Drivers were slow. Mini houses abounded, men with large beards tended gardens in their front yard, and the populace was concerned with sustainable living, food preservation, and a sense of community and culture. Cats prowled the streets. Goats lived in city yards.
Day 68: Portland
A weekend with friends in Portland was just what I needed: I laughed a lot, ate and drank too much, and dodged the riots springing up in Portland as a result of the elections.
We went to Powell’s bookstore downtown, and on a Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people waited patiently in line to pay for merchandise. The stacks were crowded with people browsing. In the children’s section, little ones sat on the floor and thumbed through colorful books with indulgent parents looking on. It refreshed my hope for bookstores in America: Powell’s was a winding labyrinth of knowledge and surprise, and what I had hoped to find in the Amazon store in Seattle.
Chesky came home from the petsitter with a bad case of hives. He occasionally has allergic reactions to things, but this was a bad one: quarter-sized lumps covered his legs, his groin and belly, his snout, and his ears. Ever cheerful, he was obviously bothered by the reaction, especially in his ears. I wiped him down to remove any allergens and after an hour or so, the reaction had subsided.
Day 69: Portland, Oregon to Medford, Oregon
Chesky woke up with horrible hives, twice as bad as last night. I hoped it was a secondary reaction to whatever had caused last night’s episode, but after an hour he was still suffering. I gave him an antihistamine, and then withheld breakfast. He was fine an hour later.
Oregon gas stations are all “full-service”, meaning that when I pull up to the pump, a stranger comes right up to my car window. It makes me jump every time.
One memorable gas station between mountain passes was staffed by a man with a giant grey beard that reached the middle of his chest. He was wearing camouflage fatigues and a reflective orange vest. He and the other attendant were both openly carrying weapons on right hip, and he held a mini tablet attached to a white handle that fit in his hand. The tablet took credit cards, and when I asked for a receipt, it came from a small device mounted on his left hip. He was a trifecta of technology, rural-ness, and Oregon-ness.
It was difficult to say goodbye to my friends, but adventuring is a lonely business and I had countryside to see. I had to finish my journey, and I was on the way home. When I got settled into the campground just before dark, I was worried I would be lonely; but it was nice to reorganize the trailer and be back in my cozy little world. Chesky and I both fell asleep around eight PM, exhausted from our social interactions.
Day 70: Medford, Oregon to Beale AFB, California
I am happy to report that I drove 9,353 miles and went for 70 days without someone flipping me off. Until California. The sign said “through traffic use left lane”, so I did. The highway was very busy (route 99 through Chico) and a car darted past me on the inside and then took time out of his obviously hectic day to roll down his window and give me the finger. Even in New York, home of the angriest drivers east of Flint, Michigan, when I was on a highway that didn’t allow trailers and was actually breaking the law, no one felt the need to show me their displeasure. Other drivers likely harbored dark thoughts, but it wasn’t until Chico, CA that someone actually made the effort and rolled down their window. I guess everyone has to let the steam out somehow.
Chesky had mild hives again this morning. They seem to come on in the night, making him uncomfortable and restless. He was up for hours, shaking his head and scratching and rotating four thousand times before laying down in his bed. I found him this morning curled up in a sad little ball at the foot of my bed, but after a walk and breakfast, he seemed fine.
Ashland pass in southern Oregon was the most dramatic climb of the trip: eight miles and thousands of feet of elevation gain with spectacular views at the top. I descended into California sunshine and was treated to views of snow-capped Mount Shasta rising from the valley floor for the next few hours. Driving along Shasta Lake, California’s long drought and low water levels were evidenced by a large strip of brown separating water from the trees, and boats sat low in their moorings. I saw palm trees for the first time since Louisiana.
I turned off the interstate and went down the orchard-lined route 99 amongst a rich, fertile valley. Signs advertised pomegranate juice, almonds, walnuts, and pecans. The orchards were lush and plentiful, filled with well-tended trees of all sizes and bee hives.
That night, after dinner, we listened to the sounds of coyotes yipping in the fields around us. The trailer feels very safe and warm.
The states this week, in two words:
Oregon: Unspoiled coast
California: Mount Shasta