Let's see, where should I start? Eli and I awoke at the Silver Spur in Burns just before 8 as we have most days on this trip. I had already been awake at 4:32 AND 5:17 with wicked heartburn; thanks El Toreo.
I made a press of coffee with the hot water from the in room drip pot. We were drinking on that, Eli was in the bathroom when I decided to see what the world wanted from me on Facebook. So I found out about Dara. That's Dara Greenwald, one of my first friends at boarding school. Funny smiley big breasted Dara who made people laugh and joked about how unfunctional huge breasts were. I had heard from a friend that she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. There were online fund raisers, art auctions, and a list to join to get updates about how she was doing. Somehow I didn't get on the list. I tried, a few times. I hadn't heard anything in almost a year. And then this morning, on Facebook, I find out she passed away on Saturday. I don't know what to do with this. I mean, here we are, 8 days into a cross country life blender, about to land on the moon to build our colony there. During this process, everything else is supposed to remain in suspended animation, to carry on in a holding pattern until we can safely land the space ship and boldly step where no man has walked before. When I moved to Maine in 2007 I had only been on the East Coast for a few days before finding out that my friend Brett had been crushed beneath a garbage truck in Portland. Why? How? Why then? Why now?
Now I'm just confused. This day was to be our final, our arrival day, the grand finale. How can I carry that knowing that Dara has left this world and I didn't even know until I checked my Facebook messages? Hours later I caught myself texting a mutual friend about Dara's passing to ask if he was considering flying out for the memorial. Then I realized how crass that was, a text message. What if he didn't know yet? Since when has Facebook become an acceptable platform for communicating such news? Why didn't I know that Hospice had been involved for the last month?
We were departing Burns by 11am. Eli drove. I was, as I say, confused. The landscape in that part of Oregon is stunning, high desert scrubby sage and golden grasses spotted by occasional cattle and a tree here and there. Or maybe just there. We were amazed by the number of robins we saw. Whole packs of robbins, sometimes dozens all congregated beside or in the road. What was drawing them to the road? They would sit there until we were upon them in the Yellow Menace and they would scatter, just barely avoiding collision.
Eli pulled the train over on top of a climb and we switched seats. She needed to be able to see the world out there. I'd seen it before, already knew how breath taking it was.
In Bend I took a few wrong turns and we got a little lost which is stressful in the Golden Locomotive. After about an hour we righted ourselves and eventually found our way. Up I 97 bound for The Dalles.
We were climbing up epic mountain sides and snaking our way down the other side. The landscape continued to unfold in more magnificent views to the point of making me question if any place in the solid foundation of human reality could possibly be so beautiful.
For a little time we were on top of a small world and then we descended into a dense cloud and everything further than 50 feet disappeared into white. Down into the river gorge to cross over the Deschutes River and up the other side. Past Dufur and on. About 50 miles from The Dalles, we ascended a snowy mountain side and the snow would line the gray road the rest of the way to the mighty Columbia. The road became slick. Icicles were hanging like fringe off of the road signs.
We crept along, up and down, around the side of mountains. Plow trucks were navigating ahead of us at 20 mph. 10 miles out of The Dalles, we came upon two patrol cars on the side of the highway. It appeared that a car had vanished off the edge of the road and down the embankment who knows how far down.
Through The Dalles and onto the freeway where the road wasn't much more reliable than it had been up above the gorge. We continued along at our 40 mph pace, slowly making our way. Rain turned to frozen rain. We pushed on. Again we came upon two patrol cars, a tow truck, and a paramedic truck. A man was lowering himself down the embankment from the guard rail towards the edge of the Columbia River below, presumably in an attempt to rescue somebody whose car flipped the rail.
We pulled off 15 miles down the road in Hood River. I was vaguely familiar with Hood RIver from visiting our friend Damon when he lived there. For instance, I knew just where to go and park to be within two blocks of the Full Sail brewery. I pulled the Yellow Menace over and we stepped out into the street, trying to access the condition of the roads. All of the trees and power lines were coated in ice. In fact a layer of ice coated every surface. The streets were filled with dense slush at least 6" deep. The pub at the brewery had closed early because of the weather. So it was decided we would wait the night in Hood River before making the final 60 mile drive to our new home. Eli asked some people where to go for dinner and a beer. Another local brewery around the corner was recommended; Double Mountain. The place was packed. Apparently most of the downtown restaurants were without power. We ordered pints and sat on the couch to await a table. It wasn't long before we were sharing a salad that Eli could have designed herself. That with pizza and we were taken care of.
Damon had suggested a motel to us named the Lone Pine. The selling pitch was that it had always been a dive but he knew that someone had gone in and done a bunch of work on it. So that's where we headed.
We rang the buzzer and were greeted by a nice enough fellow. The lobby had a mold issue. What was hidden from sight could not evade the nose. The story was that this guy was watching the place for his friend who had to go to Minnesota. I made sure to pay in cash. I was given a receipt that had no information about the place on it. So I wrote the name and address on the receipt. Then we went to see the room. Super creepy. Crusty linoleum floors decorated with cigarette burns. The room was freezing. I consider my standards pretty low, especially after reading a lot of motel room reviews. But this place was too much. I suppose if it had cost $25/night it might have made sense. But we had been getting pretty nice rooms for the price of this dive up to now. I suggested we walk across the street to other motel. For an additional $20 we got a real sweet room with coffee service, fridge, etc. So we went back to the dive to get our money back. Now here we sit, dazed, confused, snowed in in a strange place. So close to the end, and yet, not there yet.
BIRD of the DAY: Robin
IN MEMORY OF: Dara Greenwald
DETAIL: Sage, rainbows, quail