Monday, May 24, 2010

Washington at Last

December 1, 1970 Tuesday
Lordy – amongst all the hail, lightning and thunder last night it also found time to snow.
The Family Dog's battery is shot. Old Oatus had to be employed to shove him 50 yards down the road before he finally kicked over. We were finally ready to go by 08:00 but Felix went over the hill and it wasn't until 09:15 that we located him, slam dunked him into the truck and split for the highway.
At Neskowin we left the coast and moved inland towards Tillamook. The hail started coming down so heavily that it was all my wipers could do to keep the windshield clear and before long, the road had all but disappeared. For twenty miles we sloughed and skidded through the slush, stopping occasionally to pour another gallon of bulk oil down Oatus' craw. Finally we careened into Tillamook and stopped to fuel Oatus. Five miles further on, in Bay City, we stopped to fuel ourselves at the local greasy spoon.
At Warrenton, after fighting our way over four or five lofty, snow-covered peaks, we discovered that one of our undersized pistons was clattering like hell and threatening to disintegrate along with the recently replaced water pump. It looks like we're down to the wire and it's going to be a close finish, if we make it at all.
At 15:30 we made it to Astoria, got soaked $3 to use their bridge into Washington state and found ourselves on the final leg of our voyage. Like an omen, the setting sun dropped under the clouds and drenched everything in a golden glow creating a beautiful double rainbow, the ends of which fell onto the shores of Washington and seductively beckoned us onward.
At the north end of the bridge we turned right onto Highway 401 and hit the nearest rest stop long enough to call Lou. He wasn't home but his wife Rita said she would start thawing the Thanksgiving turkey which would take about three days. Should work out fine.
At Highway 4 we came left and soon joined Highway 101 once again. No dry firewood to be found anywhere so out of frozen desperation, I ripped up a 4” x 4” highway sign and we continued on into the night looking for a berth.
I ran on ahead in the Dog to scout for berths while Oatus plodded along behind, smoking and clattering. This went on for some 28 miles and before we knew it, we were pulling into South Bend, totally beat. We gassed up here and learned of a rest stop outside of town.
Finding it was another matter that took us another hour. After questioning a number of the local natives we found that it wasn't even labeled as a rest stop and in fact turned out to be the parking lot of the Bonneville Dam power substation.
Too exhausted to care, we pulled in and cut the engines only to have their noise replaced by the staccato blasting of a bunch of rednecks having their evening target practice at the Willapa Harbor Gun Club about 50 yards away.
“Great,” said Chris. “When they get done they'll be able to continue practicing on us.”
But for some reason, they didn't. Imagine our relief.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's Cold, and the Law of Gravity is Temporarily Repealed

November 30, 1970, Monday – somewhere north of Gardiner, Oregon
Awoke to hail pounding on the roof and thunder and lightning splitting the skies.
Oatus' oil is down to the halfway mark on the stick so I went into town and dug up 5 gallons of bulk oil while Chris stayed aboard and cut the new gasket for the rear end. Money's getting short - after buying the oil I was left with $10.
At 12:00 we were underway. The weather has turned bitterly cold and Chris is having a miserable time of it with no window on the driver's side.
Oatus' tank went dry six miles south of Yachats, and a few miles before that, coming out of a tunnel, a freak wind bore Chris's hatch covering over his bunk straight up into the skies, never to be seen again.
Once we got to Yachats Jeri Ann treated us to a chicken dinner and we rolled off again, happily strewing the roadside with chicken bones. The crows and vultures that have been following us since we left Marin seemed satisfied with our offering, at least for now.
The weather became an on-again, off-again, type of thing throughout the day. You name it – sun, rain, hail, terrific winds...we spent the day sweating firewood.
Outside of Depoe Bay we got stopped by a friendly deputy sheriff who apparently just wanted to assure himself that we were for real.
“I don't know whether to laugh or just smile,” he said.
“Go ahead and laugh,” said Chris.
He was Good Folks and told us of a rest stop we could hit for the night, since darkness was coming on. Chris and Jeri Ann drove on while I hit a much-needed rest and gas stop in Depoe Bay.
This is a good night to be ashore. The rollers are thundering into the beach pushed by a howling wind filled with stinging sleet. We located Highway 18 and grudgingly crawled eastward. I say “grudgingly” because we are extremely opposed to every point of the compass except north. Finally, we ran into the rest stop a mile west of the Tillamook County line and tied up for the night; then came the nightly sortie for firewood. I located some green alder which all but smoked us out of the truck; so we were forced to cannibalize wood from the truck. Alas, but it was necessary. The temperature was miserably low.