I first moved to Western Oregon in 1961 and things have changed…drastically!
Our trip began with sage brush covered hills and green valleys spreading before us. On the small secondary roads, we were passed by vehicles doing ten or fifteen over the speed limit. An hour later on the freeway, speeding horse trailers pulled by 4x4s and RVs rushing to and from fishing trips morphed into subcompacts and 18 wheelers. Even at the freeway speed limit, we were still being passed. Blue sky turned to gray fog that would be with us the rest of the drive west.
At higher elevations, patches of snow were in the shade and Tamaracks (Western Larch) stood out like giant gold/yellow torches in the green of pine and fir. I wished I could drive and take photos but, like people in the left lane, we were infected with Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit Syndrome. We have to visit other relatives on the way, we just have to! And, we need to be at our destination by a specified time! I was worn out from six weeks of frenzied building activity, trying to get a garage built for our motorhome before the snow and almost opted to stay home and cat sit. But, how would that have gone over with relatives flying in from Hawaii and Southern California.
After lunch we headed back to the freeway, The Columbia River Gorge, heavy rain, dusk, speeding cars, blinding mist from passing trucks and hydroplaning. The freeway, stretching into the distance, resembled a snake with thousands of brightly shining white eyes coming toward us and red ones going away. Dusk is a difficult time and rain so heavy the windshield wipers can’t keep up made it worse. Cars dancing around ahead gave an indication where water was standing and where we’d be hydroplaning too. But, we didn’t dare slow down more than we had for fear of being run down from behind. Where everyone was going at 7:00 pm I couldn’t guess. Not everyone could be headed to a family reunion at your wife’s sister’s house.
When we stopped for gas, the lights of Portland were reflecting off the thick cloud cover and I needed to walk out the tension in my muscles from sitting, on the edge of my seat. Years ago I raced cars in the Northwest rain but was a different kind of adrenaline experience. Or, reflecting back, did it only seem so?
Back on the freeway things had changed, rain was lighter and traffic was heavier. Hoping the heavier traffic was a Portland thing, we looked for the 205 cutoff that would take us around the city and south toward Salem. Right hand exits from the far left lane are apparently a normal occurrence, even for big 4×4 pickups pulling 27′ travel trailers.
Are most motorists really pack animals when they get a steering wheel in their hands? It seems so. Groups of ten or fifteen cars passed with gaps in between before the next pack arrived, and it was the same in both directions. Maybe it’s a monetary survival thing…There aren’t enough cops to pull everyone over and give tickets to every speeder. If you’re a loner and going the same speed as the pack, you’re an easy target. Once out of the Portland area and on the freeway headed south, the traffic lightened up, a little. The silver snake still slithered toward us across the valley floor while the red-eyed one quickly pulled past and away. There just couldn’t be that many family reunions.
Once off the freeway and on the back road, we could slow the pace and see the puddles in time to avoid them. With so many cars in such close quarters earlier, avoidance hadn’t been a choice.
After arriving at our relative’s house, and hauling more stuff than we would possibly be able to use to the guest room, it was time to grab a quick meal and collapse into bed. The next day we were off to Eugene for a whirlwind visit with more relatives. On the way, we needed to connect with a friend’s cousin and pick up a sewing machine that would be carried back with us. Two hours later we finished the fifteen minute side trip.
After a nice visit in Eugene, we climbed back in the pickup and with the white and red eyed serpent still stalking the freeway, we headed north into light rain . My back was starting to seize up and I needed some time on my feet.
With the world population having more than doubled since 1950 and seeing changes that happened in the last 49 years to an area once mostly country, the question arises whether more is better. With more is better dogma no matter the source, whether political, religious, spawned by corporations for power and profit or by people who believe surrounding themselves with stuff leads to fulfillment, the results are still the same.