Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To The End of the Road

   We've been here for five weeks or so, long enough that it's getting hard to keep track.  I have been working nearly full time for three or four weeks.  The house isn't quite organized still.  But it is livable an we've started to relax rather than shuffle furniture around and dump out boxes of books or clothes or records.  It seemed like time to get out of this daily reality, even for just a day. 
   Our plan was to head out to the coast, complete the journey and touch the Pacific ocean's frigid waters.  Saturday we were warned early by a friend visiting in town from Portsmouth, that there would be snow in the Coast Range passes and the roads were slick.  That gave us pause but only for a moment.  We needed to get to the Pacific Ocean. 
   Late breakfast and a little morning scrambling put us on the road around noon.  There was sun shining but the gray clouds were not far away.  Through the city center, the tunnel through the west hills and out the other side in a down pour we drove west.  At Burns we cut off onto Highway 6 bound for Tillamook.  Weather alternated between bouts of rain and bright sunshine.  All in all things seemed promising.
   Ascending into the coast range the rain did get thick until we were being pelted with slush and then snow until we were crawling along at 35 mph along twisting mountain passes.  The mountains were beautiful under a layer of snow hanging heavy on the boughs of the Douglas Firs.
   The snow-phobic pick up didn't slip once and with some patience we got through it.  Down the other side carefully and eventually the snow was behind us.  Such rich colors all shades of green reflected back at us from trees, grasses, ferns, and moss.  It all looked familiar and yet new to me, like seeing the face of a long lost friend who looked the same and yet has changed.
   The road eventually straightened out and became flat as we entered the farmed flood plains east of Tillamook.  Once into town we got out and walked around getting a feel for the town which appeared to be holding on if just barely after all these years.  Eli and I made the usual stop into the Tillamook cheese factory north of town to watch through the windows as the cheese maker people in their lab coats and hair and beard nets, formed and bagged, weighed and checked the blocks of orange cheese.  These people were probably lucky to have such a job in a place like Tillamook, mundane as the work is.  Many of the jobs had been automated and the remaining employees seemed to mostly be working at quality check.
   Some postcards and ice cream cones later we were on the road again headed up to Nehalem Bay State Park to see if we could secure a yurt for the night.  We drove into the park and up to the check in kiosk only to read a sign that stated "No Yurts Available".  So we headed north, ending up next in Manzanita in search of dinner.  The sun dropped into the drink until we were sipping the last drops of light when we walked into El Mariachi Loco.
   After dining it was time to explore the town a little to see if we couldn't find a room in our budget.  I was skeptical judging from the number of spas and acupuncture clinics, yoga centers, and the like, packed into this small village.  One motel quoted $70 and we should have taken it, rather than getting back in the truck to drive north past Cannon Beach, through Seaside, before finding an available room for $60 in a dilapidated weekly rate joint in Ghiribaldi.  Turns out our chosen weekend to visit the coast coincided with the Seacoast Jazz Festival, a highschool basketball tournament and the Fisher Poets gathering.  The inns were booked.
   We backtracked the following morning to Seaside to dine at the Pig N' Pancake before back pedaling further to visit Oswald West, my favorite spot on the Oregon Coast.  The beach is at least a 1/2 mile hike through the state park campgrounds.  Through the mossy forest walking beside the giant Douglas Firs until the forest gives way to a long stretch of sandy beach tucked in a cove and punctuated by large cliffs on either end.  A gigantic pile of drifted trees lies at the bottom of the trail on the beach as if piled for a fire by creatures of enormous size.
   To one end of the beach and back we walked, getting closer looks at some details like the many waterfalls that end a river's path, or the beautiful rocks, the cliffs themselves, all of it almost too beautiful to be real.  The sun was out and only occasionally did a rain cloud pass to remind us it was in fact, still February. Even those were never a surprise as we could see them coming from a mile out to sea and plan accordingly.  It is these moments where I realize what a special memory this will be.  I try to pay close attention to the smells, how the sun and the breeze feel, the sound of Eli's voice mingling with the crashing waves and  the breeze through the pines.  I try to capture every sense of the present in hopes I will someday be able to return here in memory, when I am physically far away.
ELI, Northwest
      Back to the truck and north bound we headed for Astoria, the Crown Jewel of the Oregon Coastal towns, still a working fishery with visible reflections of the Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns that came to settle there long ago.  A stop at a thrift store and a small grocery for dinner were all we had time for.  The sky was darkening and we still had 95 miles to go.  Eli drove us home on Highway 30 along the Colombia River and landed us back at the house by 7:30.  Not bad for a first approach.  Next time we'll plot our time out a bit better and perhaps keep our feet in the sand a little longer. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Portland Is Still Portland

   Portland is known to be an attractive place for eccentric people to not only fly their freak flag, but to post it through the city with neon lights.  This is true to the point where coming upon a transgendered person with 5 day stubble and having a drawn out conversation about whatever seems just common place, just another person living their unique life here.
   The very first day I went to work at my old shop, who should be outside to greet me but Extreamo The Clown.  OK, he wasn't there to greet me.  In fact he was conversing on his phone.  And he wasn't actually done up as a clown.  He was in his work clothes.  Extreamo lives his life unincumbered by societal restriction by earning his wages as the best window advertisement painter in the city.  His work is perfect and can be easily picked out throughout the cities retail spots.  It's always nice to see him not just to be reminded that there is an Extreamo The Clown living among us, but because wherever Extreamo is, his crazy sculpture art car is not far away.  And parked infront of the otherwise asthetically conservative Bike Gallery shop it is even more beautiful to behold.   Painted on the side of this latest rolling creation is the assurance, "Don't worry, God knows it's on the road".  What a perfect welcome back sight to see.

   Upon getting to work the other day, this is the scene I came upon.  Not in clown attire, and not painting, but Extreamo dressed up as Spiderman, busting wild dance moves as disco blares from his crazy sculpture/minivan.  Not far away, is the very conservative I.T. person for the Bike Gallery company, the very person I would find out later, who first hired Extreamo 8 years ago.  The look on his face, pure frightened horror at this insane Spiderman, completely confused as to who the nut is and why does he have Extreamo's car.  Brilliant.  Welcome back to Portland.  Thank you Extreamo.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Work And Stuff

   Suddenly I realize it's already February 9th and I haven't posted in some time.  What can I say, we've been busy.   My service has been requested at two locations of the Bike Gallery, both by friends who are the service managers at the two stores.  My commitment was to Pete at the shop I had worked at from 2001 until I moved in October 2007.  But Pete being the sweet friend that he is, suggested I try both on part time for a few weeks and decide where I want to settle in for the season.
   The first couple of days at the old shop were strange.  A blend of familiar friends and new personalities are now working there.  I did my best to remember names or fudging it as needed.  Working with Pete is really fun.  He's upbeat and positive, but can crack and get cranky, reminding the world he is human and has limits.  Those first two days there wasn't much for me to do.  I checked over a bike being purchased, tried to refamiliarize myself with the employee handbook,  and propped up a bench until I left early.  The following day I got going on an overhaul which can be a pretty big undertaking.  I worked all day on this one bike that wasn't in the worst shape.  I stopped a few times to help customers at the counter.  And then the day was over, overhaul mostly done, but not test ridden.  So I had to leave it for Ben to check out the following day.
   The following day was Friday February 3rd.  Nate met me at 5804 N. Montana and we rode through North Portland down to the Broadway Bridge and downtown to the shop.  It was my first bike ride since getting to town.  The entire store was in a state of confusion resulting from the store manager being laid off the previous day.  In her place was James, a long time BG employee and manager of another location.  We had some repairs in the board to do but otherwise it was a pretty relaxed shift.  I got into a overhaul of a 30 year old Trek road bike that took some doing.  For lunch I walked down the street to a parking lot that housed about 6 food carts all selling different foods.  I decided on Yakisoba from the Korean place.  Greasy but delicious.  By the time I had gotten back to the shop and eaten, it was an hour later.  The overhaul took the rest of the day and I had to leave it to be finished the following day.
   The following day was Saturday.  Nate and I were the only people scheduled in the shop.  And the customers were coming in.  Coming back to the Service Department for brake pads, to schedule overhauls, flat tire repairs, purchasing brake pads, and the like.  New bikes were coming at us to be checked over prior to test rides, prior to purchasing with accessories to install.  I continued to work on that overhaul from yesterday until it was dark outside.  I test rode it in a parking lot under streetlights.
   The weather was sunny with occasional rain for the first 10 days and now we have rain with occasional sun; more appropriate for the season, anyhow. 
   We have acquired our Oregon driver's licenses and continue to go forth daily in search of the missing pieces that make up this modern life we are given.