If you've ever gone horseback
riding on a rental, then you've probably experienced the back-to-the-barn
syndrome--that's when you're headed back and the pony picks up the pace
(despite your efforts to hold 'em back) and pretty much races back to the
barn. You thought you were in control, had your stirrups adjust just
so, etc........but no, the horse knows the way back and knows that soon
you'll be off and there's oats for reward. Well, this syndrome (I
think) took over somewhere outside of Nampa, Idaho and propelled me and
But there was no taking the
same route home as the route out. No sirree. After 25 years
of living and loving Oregon, I really needed to see parts of it I've never
seen before. I took I-84 outbound so that left Highway 20 or 26 as
a return. Still one more museum to see, I chose the John Day Highway
The Kam Wah Chung & Co.
Museum is the only Oregon museum listed in the book called "Offbeat Museums,"
a special source of inspiration for this Alyce Adventure. A time
capsule that stayed sealed up for 20 years, the little home/office of Chinese
doctor Ing Hay and gambler/bon vivant Lung On is well preserved thanks
to the cool, dry climate of Eastern Oregon. The tour mistress was
unable to I.D. what religion the good doctor was even tho there is an alter
in every room--4 rooms total. This was a gathering place for Chinese
immigrants when they outnumbered everybody else 4 to 1. I suspect
that you could scrape the blackened walls and still get enough opium to
go on quite a trip without ever actually leaving John Day.
Over $20,000 worth of uncashed checks were found under the docor's mattress--he
hadn't bothered to cash them and lived simply, grinding up lizards and
bear claws, making tinctures with alcohol soaked in rattlesnakes and curing
anyone with herbs and probably acupunture. The whole place reminded
me of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, a wonderful place I discovered
about 18 months ago that cures without side effects. Allergies?
Don't walk, RUN to your nearest acupuncturist and Chinese herbal specialist.
Why change? "I lost my
will to suffer." What a great line that is! It can be the inspiration
to change jobs, start your book, leave a blicky relationship, lose 100
pounds. Think about it.....
While I had my hands full of
twists and turns and deep canyons of Central Oregon, I didn't have much
time to think. Just drive. There were so few people out there
and this is fabulous country with exciting land formations at every turn.
I drove and filmed (video'd) at the same time and I could have just strapped
the camera to the front bumper. The drive to Mitchell and then Prineville
was like watching an IMAX movie unfurling in front of the car. Intense
dark greens (trees), neon chartreuse (grasses), eye blue (sky), radiant
white (still a little snow) and brand spanking new asphalt still jet black
laid like a wet ribbon on this rough and exquisite landscape. (Did
sentence have a subject and
a verb? Who cares?)
The sign said "Mount Jefferson"
but I knew it was Mt. Hood. Around Madras you begin to see the back
side (do mountains have sides?) of Portland's mountain. I call it
Mother Hood because it seems to watch out over all us Portland folk and
sort of spreads out, with slopes that are like wings. Seno and I
had been on the move for about 8 hours at this point, not stopping for
snacks (just gas) and eating the last of the provisions--carrot coins,
jerky, power bars and gum. But the back-to-the-barn syndrome was
fully in effect.
Clearing the summit at Government
Camp, my cell phone dead as Doctor Hay's bear paws, I found a pay phone.
I got the news that Gracie, THE granddaughter, was jetting off to San Francisco
in the morning! Now you can add Grandmother-itis to the mix and I
think the car could have driven home on no gas at all. "Traffic fines
double in the safety zone." Not a sign I wanted to see when exceeding
the speed limit was ALL I wanted to do. I flew formation with a jeep
that WAS speeding, thinking, of course, that they'd get the ticket instead
of something as cute as Seno. No fuzz. So unless there were
cameras issuing tickets, I can safely say I made the entire trip without
getting any kind of citation.
6,421 miles solo. 30
states. 8 friends. 5 hostels. 4 campsites. 153
different bathrooms. Seno looks like he has been delivering ammo
in a muddy war zone...but he's parked in my driveway on Ladd Avenue in
Portland, Oregon. Gracie remembered her grandmother and wouldn't
let go until bed time.
Now, when do YOU leave on your
cross country trip? You know, I could take the same routes and in
the same car and start out again next week--and still have a completely
different experience. Because of the people I met. Who helped.
Who fixed. Who encouraged. Who hosted. Who prayed.
Who waved. Who fed. Who listened. Who "thumbs up'd".
Who welded. And the literally THOUSANDS of people who smiled when
they saw the car.
Life is short, but it's wide.
You only get one Life, one shot....and if you do it right, once is quite