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On the Road (again?)

Writing this entry from Portland, Oregon, a city I’d only passed through quickly prior to this visit. I’m going to put up a bunch of photos so get ready.

I left home last Friday, visiting my friends Tracy and Ferd in Boonville first. As I drove up route 128 into the Anderson Valley, under grey skies, intermittently rainy, snow on surrounding hilltops, the brilliant moss draped over oak forests grabbed my attention. Here’s a shot that doesn’t do justice to the stunning color created by the light and shadows of the late afternoon:

This is part of the California countryside that I just cannot get enough of. Not much of a nature boy (stop your chortling, all you people who know me!), but in spite of that there are some parts of our land here that hit me in a deep place. Moss-covered oaks are one of ’em; oaks on rolling hills in general make me oddly content.

Tracy and Ferd live on a hilltop on 80-some acres (I think), which Tracy took me on a tour of shortly after I arrived in late afternoon. It had snowed the day before (weird Alaskan weather slamming the whole west coast, which made my journey a beautiful snowy wonderland in many spots that rarely see the white stuff), and after showing me her captured feral pigs

we took a ride in the “gator” straight up muddy steep hills to their recently restored pond. Here is Tracy in the gator followed by a wild photo that barely captures the drama of the setting sun behind the approaching storm clouds, the fog, the silhouetted shack and mirror pond…

On Saturday I turned 49. I woke up to crystal clear blue skies and this brilliantly blooming California buckeye outside of their guest house.

Spent my birthday on a 7 hour ride from Boonville to the Seiad Valley in the far north reaches of California. To get there I had to cross a snow-covered pass between Boonville and Ukiah, and then straight up 101 to Arcata before heading east into the mountains and a long beautiful ride up the Klamath River, passing through the Hoopa reservation. Here’s a couple of shots from that part of the ride.


I gave a ride to a hitchhiking woman, an Indian who lives in Eureka and works as a minimum wage daycare assistant. She didn’t have much to tell me, but after passing a dozen old alcoholic white guys along the road during the day, I was glad to give someone a ride finally. I’m glad to be alone on the road though, so I did it more out of a sense of fairness and duty than desire for conversation. Driving through Hoopa I hoped she might have some news or insights for me, but she knew as little as I did. She was coming to see her teenage son compete in an Indian basketball tournament…

Had a lovely visit with Bill and Laura and their 3-year-old Lily in the Seiad Valley before blasting up to Portland a couple of days ago.

Yesterday, Rae Sue and I took the South Portland walking tour designed by the Urban Adventure League of Portland. Before we did that she took me and Liz Worthy to see a nearby intersection that has been made beautiful by the neighbors. Here I am standing on one of the four beautiful corners:

Yesterday we spent 4 and a half hours walking the south Portland tour, starting in the downtown area that was built as a redevelopment project in the 1960s (it is remarkably sterile in the same way as San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center, its contemporary). Crisscrossing two freeways and various high speed boulevards, we kept dropping into small remnant pockets of the old Jewish and eastern European neighborhood. In the Lair Hill market we stopped for a coffee and found this amazing ancient stove in the back, which makes the ultimate claim: Invincible and Universal!

I have spent a lot of time investigating the nooks and crannies of San Francisco and figuring out how to excavate the urban archeology of various neighborhoods. This South Portland tour is a brilliant example of such an excavation. A few blocks here and a few blocks there, all hemmed in by insane spaghetti bowls of freeway ramps, abandoned factories, long-lost gulleys and creeks, even former dumps. Here’s a shot that captures the edge of a recently painted old house sitting above an abandoned Greyhound Terminal, the whole area now quite desolate, but among the several dozen homes in this pocket some life still stirs.

A bit later we were in another dismembered piece of the old neighborhood, in fact very close to where Rae Sue’s grandparents used to live (if she lived here permanently she would be a 6th generation Portlander) and came upon this house, which is fairly typical of a lot of the houses that are clinging to life in these pockets.

Here’s Rae reading the guidebook next to the community garden across the street from the red house.

We did all the optional extensions, looping around and seeing urban layers that are otherwise quite invisible. Rae rides her bike past this area all the time and had no idea about all the hidden treasures we would find there. Fairly far south we headed west into the Grimes park, up under the interstate and then giant old railroad trestles that now hold up a major thoroughfare. The walk ends at the top of the wild canyon, a fun climb through nature to top off the altogether informative and well-designed walk that reveals so much about stages of urban development, historical succession and lost cultures and neighborhoods, once vibrant communities replaced by the endless streams of metal boxes hurrying from one point of purchase to the next.

Still here in Portland for a couple more days before blasting home on Thursday.

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One Response to “On the Road (again?)”

  1. 1
    Praba:

    Love the picture of the moss covered oaks – I’ve never laid eyes on such a wonder. It looks magical. Thanks for posting it.

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