We—Bill and I, Beatrix our Toyota Highlander, towing Marion our Trillium trailer—left Whidbey Island Sept. 15 as the sun was rising. We noticed the mist floating low above fields—a sign of autumn approaching. Another one is an abundance of spiders.—The Sound was calm and smooth as we sailed away on the 6:30 AM ferry from Clinton for a trip that will take us far away for the next three months. Photos by Kate Poss, unless otherwise noted.
As we drove toward Seattle, we listened to Classical KING FM. We were taken by Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. We wondered if he was in love when he wrote it. Mozart was 29 when the piece was performed in1785 to critical acclaim.
As KING FM’s signal faded to static south of Olympia, we fired up my iPhone, whose Audible app broadcast U2’s Bono narrating his memoir in Surrender. Bono’s poetic voice and thoughtful words highlight 40 songs broken into chapters, which are touchstones of U2’s 40+ year history.
At one point, Bono talked of his dad Bob’s passing, and how just before he did, they were able to connect on a deeper level. Before then, there was emotional distance between father and son. As a proud Irish man, Bob Hewson rarely talked about his feelings. Bono’s tale got me thinking about how I feel disconnected when Bill and I are not clicking. That disconnect feels lonely, and Bill and I talked about the importance of telling one another when we feel separated in the moment as disturbances in the Force occur. My ego sometimes declares I’m right, but that voice does not make me feel good.
What was coincidental as we listened to Surrender, was a lesson, which became reality for us as it did years ago for the late singer and activist, Harry Belafonte. Bono recalled an unforgettable moment that raised his awareness following a visit with the man from Harlem.
Harry recalled a time in the 1960s when he felt embittered that the newly appointed Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was unsympathetic to people of color, and complained about it to Martin Luther King. Martin advised Harry to find a door to open a dialogue and find a way through the problem. One was found—please read the book!—and Robert Kennedy later became an advocate of civil rights.
We had our own door opening just as we were listening to Bono recalling the story.
Caught in traffic on the southbound I-5, just past the Portland Bridge at Rosa Parks Way, a driver passed us, pointing to our trailer, mouthing that the door was open. Yikes! We pulled over on the freeway shoulder and found the door would no longer latch. Fortunately nothing fell out of the trailer. We cut three strips of duct tape to hold the door closed, and drove to Corvallis OR with a worried mind—how would we get the door repaired late on a Friday afternoon? How to find a part for a 1979 trailer that originated from Canada?
While camping at Benton Oaks Fairgrounds in Corvallis, we were assigned to a parking lot space, sharing a light pole and electrical hookups with five big rig trailers filled with Oregon State football fans gathered for the OSU vs San Diego game.
We grumbled about being overshadowed by the towering motorhomes, which were parked in a circle, the inside of which the fans gathered and talked. We felt excluded outside the walls of the tall shiny vehicles. As we quietly read in our trailer that night, we heard the voices of the partiers enjoying themselves within their circle of modern wagons.
The following morning, we called locksmiths and could find no one available to repair our door, at least until Monday, when we planned to leave early for southeastern Oregon. Would we have to attach a big bolt to our fiberglass door to get us through the trip? We thought about buying one at the local hardware store.
Recalling the ‘open door’ lesson Harry Belafonte related to Bono, I walked over to the group, about a dozen or so, gathered and visiting on camp chairs. I asked if any of them could help us with our broken latch.
One gentleman, Doug Putschler, stood up and said he’d take a look and see if he could give us a hand. We learned Doug’s been meeting up with this group of OSU friends the past 25 years, and now lived with the lovely Vicky Comē in Bend OR.
Doug examined our problem and suggested we move the latch plate—which was bolted to the door frame—over so that it could catch the broken latch and keep the door closed for the remainder of our trip. He walked over to his RV and returned with a portable drill, using it to drill out the plate’s bolts and sliding the plate over to the point where the latch could catch. Voila!
When asked how we might thank him, Doug told us there was no need, as this was the first camping trip he’d taken in a while, because he’d been spending time with his daughter—who had recently received a liver transplant, and was finally recovering.
“We’ve had so much good karma, we like to pass it on,” Doug said. “Our daughter had a liver transplant at the age of 52. First trip since her surgery. We’re so proud of her. It’s been quite a journey. You get blessed like this, this (repairing the door) is nothing.”
Speaking of being blessed, Bill and I felt blessed while attending the wedding of Robbie and Lilly, our daughter Gillian’s friends and house mates, the night before.
Robbie and Lilly, who have known each other more than 15 years, were celebrating their love with family and friends.
The yard was filled with flowers grown by Robbie’s aunt Tina and his mom Joyce. Tables were set up with food. Lilly designed and knit her wedding dress. Robbie calculated a formula by which she could expand the wedding skirt so that it was twirly.
The evening light shown golden on the wedding guests.
Bill and I have visited Gillian and her friends since she moved to Corvallis with them in November 2008. The wedding was heartfelt and original. The couple celebrated their unity by spreading jelly on a slice of bread, and peanut butter on the other. They joined the bread together and then shared a bite of the sandwich.
“I’ve never seen two people love another as you do,” said Cary, their friend who married Robbie and Lilly.
Speaking of couples who love each other, Bill and I are friends with a couple named Sheila and Ray Hiebert. I met them when they were guests aboard the Snowgoose, an Alaska adventure boat, when I cooked for them in 2009, and some of Ray’s former journalism students from his days teaching at the University of Maryland.
We’ve been friends ever since, and have visited them at their home in Carmel. Well, Ray turned 91 this year. Then I received a message from Sheila Aug. 5: “The angels came for Ray today.”
Oh, we will miss Ray, and his love of life and adventure. We celebrated his life by virtually attending his memorial service Sept. 16 at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Carmel. Sheila had emailed a link whereby we could watch the service via YouTube from where we camped at the Benton Oaks Fairgrounds.
We placed our beach chairs beneath the shade of a venerable Sequoia tree near the fairground office. Laptop on the arm of a beach chair, we watched the service while acorns dropped on the ground all around and Acorn Woodpeckers called to one another.
During the service, Ray was remembered for his gratitude in life, for his sense of adventure, for his inspiration to others.
Ray’s granddaughter Sienna Hiebert read a poem Ray once wrote about the ancient Bristle Cone Pines growing in the Eastern Sierra:
This is how you live four thousand years.
You get your seed
to the top of White Mountain
where the air is pure
and the wars are far away.
You sink your roots into the granite soil
until they find firm rock through sun or snow.
You can always see Death Valley in the distance far below,
a view with no dominion here where eagles ride the wind.
Later, Rev. Laurel Coote spoke about Ray and his wishes for those of us who will miss his physical presence, but remember his spirit: “He would invite us to embrace our lives fully. Finding sacred ground, sacred space. Find your sacred space so you can be free to experience God’s goodness. Call upon Ray and go forward using your gifts to raise others up and send them soaring to their vocations as Ray did for others. Let us live generously with intention.”
Meanwhile we visited with Gilli, her friend Thomas and her dog Cocoa, who sits like a person revealing all sorts of expressions. Good to start the trip spending time together.
We left early Sept. 18, stopping for breakfast at the Cottonwood Cafe in Sister. Smoke from a months long Lookout Fire stung our eyes and throat. I ordered yams, and bacon cheddar grits. Yummy! Bill enjoyed a Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Our server Laura told us her husband is a chef at the cafe. We mentioned to her how we felt the love in the food.
Bought supplies at Oliver Lemon—Not Your Usual Grocery, and drove east and south toward Crane Hot Springs, where we planned to camp for the night and take the healing waters.
Wanting a cup of hot coffee, we stopped at the Starbucks, located in the Safeway in Hines, OR. Surprisingly—because I haven’t even considered partaking in smoking pot in a very long time—I mentioned to Bill that I’d love to find some happy herb.
While waiting for our pour-over coffee to be prepared at the Starbucks kiosk, we noticed a pair of women. Bill and I instantly had a feeling of friendliness toward them. I asked if they knew Janet Hall from South Whidbey, as Julie—as we came to find out her name—looked like Janet’s sister.
It turns out that Julie Beitzel and Anna Iverson (CEO of Anatopia, a metal artworks studio Anna owns in Eagle, ID), are co-owners of Tumbleweed Cannabis Co. in nearby Hines. They escorted us to their shop, a bar they restored 17 years ago and have since turned into a successful business. Julie recommended we try the Candy Lemon herb.
I sampled a bit before floating in the healing waters of Crane Hot Springs that evening, gazing up at the Milky Way. The herb has a nice lift! Our campsite #10 was across from the clean outhouses and gave us a 360° view of the rolling sage and juniper desert steppe country.
We left early Sept. 19 for Montour Campground, operated by the US Bureau of Reclamation in Black Canyon Parks, Idaho. We admired the rolling, folded hills and golden light of the countryside. The campground was only $4 a night with our Senior Pass! Immaculate vault bathroom and friendly host.
Leaving camp at 8:15 AM Sept. 20, it was 40° outside, sunny and beautiful with shadows on the soft rolling khaki colored Hills
As we drove south on I-84 we noticed a rain shadow to the west. Bill said that is where we were heading. The rain sounded like bubble wrap popping as it hit Beatrix’s roof and windows as we drove toward the City of Rocks National Park Service headquarters. We admired the lines of the sloping granite that rose from the ground, giving the area its name.
Camping Sept. 20 at Smoky Mountain Campground, Castle Rocks State Park, which is shared with the City of Rocks National Reserve, we were nestled in among shaggy barked junipers, pine and sage. Site 22 is steps from the impeccable bathroom with flush toilets and hot showers. That evening I wrote this story at the National Park Service visitor center, just minutes from camp, and the only WiFi provider for miles around. Meanwhile, Bill sat next to me in the driver’s seat, solar lanterns lighting the iPad so he could see the keyboard while conducting business as a board member with the Saratoga Water District.
That evening after his meeting concluded, we drove back to camp. Grateful for electric hookups, we plugged in our space heater for expected cold temperatures during the night. The rain pelted Marion, letting loose a barrage of raindrops rat-a-tat-tatting on the fiberglass roof.
The following morning, the air smelled fresh of juniper, sage and pine. We drove toward our next destination, camping at Wasatch Mountain State Park, near Park City UT. I’m currently at the Park City Library typing these words. The oak and maple on the ski hill framing the town have turned red, pink, orange and purple.
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