A Song Cycle In Four Parts. Part Three
So let’s review. Oregon is largely on fire. There are four of us in the car. All vital personal equipment including bladders are all well over 60 years old. We’re out of sandwiches; we are three baggies of provisions to the good (pistachios, M&Ms, cherries); and we are currently parked on a four-lane highway in dimming light. The little shithead that lives in Linda’s phone now suggests we are going to arrive at our destination at 7:30pm, but has developed a smirking tone when she is permitted to speak. We have traveled almost ninety miles in six and a half hours and zero miles in the last thirty minutes. Dinner options, according to Yelp, include an establishment renowned for its chicken-fried steak that is either two miles or three hours away, depending. The pistachios look good.
I was still puzzled by this exodus to the south, until the brake lights illuminated a sea of California plates. In a flat tone, Linda updated our ETA to 9:24. Ignitions turned off. Ahead and behind, men extracted themselves from their cars and walked to either side of the road, where they turned their backs to traffic and stood quietly with head bowed and hands folded in front of themselves, probably praying. A half hour later women went to pray a little deeper into the woods. I remained in the driver’s seat, alert to any opportunity to half-inch ahead, and monitored the condition of the sciatic nerve in my right buttock. It was not ideal. Perhaps, I thought hopefully, a medic could do a root canal on it and pack it with ground glass for a little relief.
All around us, people meandered around and between cars, exchanging pleasantries. Two sylph-like sisters strolled the shoulder singing an angelic duet. The car in front of us had a nice dog and a promising cooler. Biff and Skippy were a hoot. No one’s navigation app had any helpful advice, but Moonchild was going to get back to us after she studied her eclipse-day star chart. That bird lady? There was no getting her down. I took down Hank’s address for my Christmas card list. The Hankster!
The hills to fore and starboard were ominously filling up with what appeared to be smoke. I turned to Linda. “What does the little shitty person in your phone say now?” I queried, possibly with an edge.
She glanced at her phone, snapped it off, and turned to the window with a look like a mother whose child has been caught pooping in the city pool.
Hours later, we approached Chemult, which I had thought we had passed already. And hours after that, we finally reached our turnoff highway in dead dark. I pasted my attention to a fuzzy white line, dropped the accelerator to the floor, and rocketed to our destination (or, as my vintage eyeballs would have it, hurtled into the void).
Actual time of arrival: 11:00pm. First beer down: 11:02.
Too bad you didn't have those beers in a cooler in the car. You could've popped a few while stuck in traffic. It's not like it's "drinking and driving", 'cause obviously no one was driving anywhere.
Yeah… I'm BIG on rationalizations.
We stopped for gas and Max got some beer and popped one open in the car. "MAX!" I said. "THAT'S ILLEGAL!" I said. He gave a puzzled look and continued to drink his beer. It did make sense to me.
So … was it worth it? You can tell us; we're all friends here …
What is left for Part 4, I wonder? Now I won't rest until next Wednesday!
Of course it was worth it! Two minutes of totality, and anyway any day that ends with two beers down in five minutes toward midnight is a good day.
How hellish. My non beer drinking self might have been tempted to join you in your arrival celebrations/libations.
I could bring you over to the dark side, I'm pretty sure.
I'm so sorry. And I should apologize. We took a look at the roads from our mountain top view and laughed and laughed and laughed. I didn't know we were laughing at you;I would have stopped if I knew.
We started drinking right after totality and watched birds, played with beetles and frogs, and let the world do its thing.
We left our campsite after dinner and saw more owls than cars until we hit Pendleton going north.
It was a trick staying awake past our usual 8:30 bedtime, but we still had straight espresso from the quart jar so we were all good.
Sounds perfect. And I don't ever mind if you laugh at me.
It's probably at least 50 years since I drank beer at midnight. I have adulted somewhat since then and am more likely to be in the grip of the grape.
I am a simple soul. Even simpler after a few beers.
Whew! I was holding my breath for Part III — I was afraid that it was going to have something about an empty gas tank.
Aha! We pulled over at a station and drove right up to the tank. I have no idea what those other people were thinking, passing it by.
I have been on 97 more times than I can count, north and south. Chemult, Gilchrist, etc. I have never seen a syph in the 65 plus years that I remember things on that road.
What I do remember as a 12 year old is tapping my foot impatiently as my dad tooled his '48 buick towards bend at 50 mph. I am fairly sure I'll never see my 'hometown' of bend again….it being 9K people when I left after high school in '64. It ain't the place I remember, and I no longer feel a connection to Oregon, other than the large Mulligan plot in Laurel Hill Cemetery, just outside of Springfield.
I'm glad I no longer live there, the memories and current realities just wouldn't mesh.
Montana is different, less people, but smoke and heat…..today visibility is less than a half mile. We had 40, count em', 40, new fires in the state.
I'm feeling ready to go reminisce with the Mulligans, but just not yet.
Oh, and Chemult used to have a place that had great biscuits and gravy.
Now you have Lake MacDonald on fire. And here some kid just set off fireworks at Punchbowl Falls and so Eagle Creek, Wahclella, and a bunch of other trails are on fire. I'm not even going to think about any other favorite places lest a thunderbolt get sent their way.
Emergency supplies should always include a good book to read, or two, and a book of crossword puzzles, plus pencils/pens.
We did that game where you say an animal and the next person has to come up with one that starts with the last letter. The license-plate game isn't as much fun anymore since all the states have fourteen plates and THEY'RE ALL CALIFORNIA ANYWAY.
You're just trying to make me feel smug for staying home and taking in 89% totality, then eating chicken tagine and peach pie. It's working. It's working. xoxoxoxo jz
You're just trying to make me look up chicken tagine. (Which autocorrect just fixed up as "chicken tagging.") Guess what? It's a real thing!
Pocatello was the place I thought we'd passed three hours before we actually did….
We're creatively inattentive, ain't we?
All that just to look up for a few minutes. I hope it was worth it. I mean huddling with all those Californians.
Oh Californians are adorable. They're kind of mucking up our real estate market but they mean well.
I love your artwork and follow you pots this very minute!