Travel Log - Oregon
Oregon, June 21

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 Seno westward.

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 26 route. 

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.  Don't suffer. 

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 that last 
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 enough. 

Alyce and Seno land in Portland, Oregon.
Dale Matthews examines the damage and admits that mnost of the people he sells vintage cars to don't drive across the USA in them...and live to tell about it.
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