Packing the car was at times a panic-filled struggle.
No, wait. Thinking about packing the car was a panic-filled struggle. Once we actually started, we just plain freaked out for a while because it looked like so. very. much.
We made a couple of purchases (both necessities and one or two “nice-to-haves”) during our five-months-long stay in Portland. And, because up until about the middle of March it wasn’t clear to us that we wouldn’t actually settle there, buying a few bulky things seemed harmless.
Of course each additional cubic inch turned into a potential assassin when it came time to load the vehicle. But we did it.
Finally, just after noon we set out.
Can I just say that Oregon is beautiful?
Our route took us slightly south and around Mount Hood, along US-26. We passed through the Mt. Hood National Forest, we glimpsed amazing valleys and shuddered at the close-up view of snow-capped mountains just behind pine forest armies. We stopped at view points with drops of several hundred feet, drove curvy highways up to elevations of 4,000+ feet, and drove curvy highways about half-way down again till we were in the Oregon high desert. We marveled at buttes barely held together by titanic geological pressure and stray grasses.
Self-Realization Tycoons and Railway Workers
We didn’t drive far, only to Madras, where it’s as spring-warm as one might imagine Chennai’s to be. Madras isn’t too far from the ranch where Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh set up his commune Rajneeshpuram in the early 1980s. Bhagwan must have made serious money in the self-realization business, for out in that Oregon desert, he personally owned a fleet of forty Rolls-Royces (and a couple of airplanes, too). Sadly, we didn’t discover any orange traces of his legacy on our drive to the motel, which, it turns out, we were sharing with a small army of hardened railway workers.
At around 5:30pm, they started arriving at the motel, brought there by the trucks that would take them away again the next morning: sun-burnt, grimy, squinting, and clearly worn out from their long day’s work. It was a mixed crew: a few of European descent, a number of Hispanics, a couple of African Americans, and several Native Americans. They’re replacing the steel on the railway, and I guess they travel as they work – hence the motel stay.
I talked to one worker, who looked Native American. He told me that some of the gangs work on replacing the ties, but that his crew does the steel.
“Tough job,” I said. “I guess you don’t need to go to a gym to work out, do you?”
“No,” he laughed. Then he added, “And I guess I’m not going to get diabetes, either,” which I took to mean that diabetes is a serious problem for his community.
Score one for a car-centric “culture” built around junk food (even if you are a railway worker), and zero for Bhagwan’s vision of super enlightened self-realization.
Maybe, when (or if) I get around to posting about Day Two, I’ll have a few more choice words about the often miserable culture we’ve built in contrast to the endlessly astonishing beauty of the land.
The First Day of the Cross-Country Roadtrip by Yule Heibel, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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