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wood duck, no color adjustment

Friday, July 20, 2018

Oregon bound


I am back from my long road trip to Portland. Unfortunately the show didn't really fire for me, barely made expenses, not figuring cost of goods. But I can't say that I hadn't been warned. I am not going to get into a lot of spleen venting today, don't think you require a full post mortem, do you?

In any case, I made the best out of the excursion anyway. I am just back yesterday afternoon but will try to touch on some high points. I am very happy that I made the trip.

I picked up some paintings on the way up in Santa Barbara and then stopped in Oakland and stayed with Melissa and Gary the first night.

Melissa is of course, the best chef and cook Leslie and I know. She made eggplant parmigiana and polenta. Beurre de baratte from Normandy and good bread. Still like my Belgian butter better.

The next day I drove up to Redding to stay with a friend who had recently lost his wife. Hung out in the pool, visited the Sundial Bridge and took a few pictures. Stephen made some great steaks. Nice to chill and not push it. Smell the roses.


Day three and a relatively uneventful drive led me to Portland. Portland has a reputation as a weird town and it stayed true to form.

Passed a guy under a bridge dancing on the top of his car. Marijuana dispensaries everywhere. I smelled weed practically every place I went. I am no prude but must admit that I am taken a bit aback by our brave new world. I like pot as much as the next guy but it is an occasional indulgence, not my entire life. Read a book, or maybe even a newspaper, learn a little geography, darn a sweater, perhaps even consider getting a new hobby. Weed, weed, weed is a total bore. And all the dabbing and waxing, honestly I find the stuff pretty dangerous, frankly. Far too strong these days, I am worried we are breeding a new zombie race of stoned idiots. I am strictly old school, a joint guy.


I get the entrepreneurial opportunity but is there anything we have to look forward to in this country beyond weed and tattoo shops?

I stayed the first night in a 50's motel on Capitol Hill that had been renovated very nicely. And conveniently located right next to a tawdry looking dispensary. Which I did not visit.

I set up my booth the next day. Uneventful. Sort of a junky show, lots of old signs, knick knacks. I quickly became aware that these folks were not exactly servicing a high end clientele.

Perhaps that collecting culture does not exist in the northwest, or if it did, was well buried. I had heard that the residents were quite cheap and it was borne out in my experience. I had to give it a shot, the summer is long and there are fewer and fewer opportunities extant in my business. Now I know.

Did see a lot of folks I hadn't seen in ages, decades in some cases. Felt like I was back on the old gypsy caravan, I have a lot of respect for those hardy souls who are working it somewhere in the nation every month. Met some folks I knew in their eighties who drove out from Alabama. Now that is a far piece. I am sure that there are lots of wins and losses and that they are better emotionally prepared for defeat than some of us "softer" folks.

My hotel was said to be 1.6 miles from the show. That 1.6 miles took over 26 minutes to drive the first night. Traffic in Portland is excruciating, especially on the 5. When I got to the hotel I quickly became aware that I was in a foreign land. I had to sign a paper attesting that I would not be vaping marijuana in the room. That is a first for me. When they told me to sign the bottom of the page I mentioned that there was no line, they said that I was in Oregon and they were environmentally aware. It would have taken a second piece of paper to create a signature line so I was told to just sign it anywhere.

I helped save a tree. Nice.

I had some real characters set up near me at the show from Montana. Very fun people. Babbs here liked to have a few pops to smooth out the workday. Went to dinner downtown one night at Sue and Dains'. She cooked a pheasant that Dain had shot, cacciatore style. Our chef Sue also made an incredible home made apricot tart with a flaky crust with almond paste filling. So delicious, awesome meal.

I went out on their balcony and discovered that while I had brought my tripod, I had forgot my arca swiss plate. Shit.

This was a serious fail, I would not have my tripod for the trip and a lot of the photography work I had planned on doing would be seriously curtailed. Oh, well. Have to settle for snapshots. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again.

Dain helped me set up my booth and assisted me throughout the show. Wonderful friends those two. Went out one night for a great Japanese meal at Afuri Ramen and dumplings.

Show was a funky blur. One morning I went up to the river to see if I could catcha bird or two. Guy rode up on his bike and asked what I was doing. "Nothing." I said. Nothin? With that lens?


I told him that I liked to shoot birds and raptors and he directed me to a spot a mile down the road where there was an osprey nest he had been checking out with at least two chicks. Told me where to park and walk.

It was cool. Saw five ospreys around this nest, didn't get a great look at the two chicks, a little too high for my vantage.

Ospreys are everywhere on the multitude of rivers in Portland. Will take a while to see what I have captured.


Brad was a cool guy, originally from Montana. He had fallen off a cliff some years ago and was paralyzed for five years. Ballooned up to 475 lbs. He rehabilitated. Now he was walking and has dropped over 250 lbs. Great guy, great story.


After the packout Sunday night I followed Rick's advice and drove out on the old highway to the Vista House at Crown Point on the Columbia River. Visited Multnomah Falls for a quick shot first.

Postcard pretty. Kicked myself again for forgetting my arca swiss plate.
The beautiful jugendstil style structure was designed by Edgar Lazarus and built in 1918. It affords a great view for sunsets. I had a lot of company.


Caught the Venus/Moon conjunction on the way home.

Next morning I decided to make a management decision. Even though my show was less than I hoped for, I could still have a nice trip, with or without my tripod.

I proceeded to head forty six miles north to Longview, Washington and then west to Astoria, Oregon. I would slow play my return.

Fairly close to the coast I saw a sign that said Eagle Preserve. I doubled back. Hot damn.

I stopped at the Twilight Eagle Preserve, named for a famous pair of eagles that returned year after year to the Columbia River.


I saw eagles in the mudflats but they were pretty far away.
Which was okay. Not like they were performing for me. No one signed a contract. I am not desperate for money shots. I enjoy taking it as it comes. I hung out for about forty five minutes and simply felt great to be alive.


Astoria is a cool town. Parked near the Maritime Museum. I stopped at a place that has been cold smoking salmon for about a hundred years and bought a variety of lox, maple wine, basil, pepper and traditional. I had great plans but it didn't last very long.

Stood on the beach and watched the terns fly elegantly overhead. Dangled a few participles.


I watched herons fly over and saw eagles perching on nearby rocks. Just really liked the feel of the place.


I slowly made my way down the Oregon coast. And I mean slowly. Had I made a mistake attempting this? Road was stop and go and quickly stopped being fun. But eventually things cleared up and the cars started moving.


I ended up stopping at a huge number of bays and vista points. It was so awesome I just couldn't drive by and not stop.


Picture postcard pretty, even in the morning fog. The Oregon coast is just really beautiful. And I drove practically every inch of it. And the more I drove, the happier I was to have made the trip. Good for the soul, if nothing else.


I really hadn't spent much time on the Oregon coast since I hitchhiked through in 1974. Those experiences, along with Klamath Falls, were the worst hitchhiking experiences of my life, people trying to run me over on at least five occasions in both Gold Beach and Newport.


People spitting at me and throwing beer cans at me, even shooting rifles over my head once in Klamath Falls. I had a pony tail then and they didn't really take to hippies. Finally rescued by a cop who told me he thought they would kill me and that he had to get me out of there.



Much better now and more beautiful then I remember. I stopped in Bandon mid morning. An interesting rock arch there that I wanted to shoot. A gorgeous locale. Had to put a coat on for the first time in a couple months, California and Portland both suffering under the same intense heat, this place downright chilly.

Classic Oregon flotsam.

And offshore structure.


I walked up the steep stairs three different times to grab lenses. Don't know how I missed it, it was right in front of me.

Blind I guess.

But the air traffic controller turned ranger I had spent five minutes talking to had walked right by her too.

Get back, get back, get back to where you once belong...

A stranded harbor seal pup. Slightly distressed. I found the ranger and walked him over to the poor creature.

The protocol is to leave them until the next tide. Unfortunately that was about eight hours in the future. The ranger brought a wheelbarrow of barricades to surround the seal and give it a safe space.

Up close and personal with my zoom lens. And so damn cute.

Can I tell you that we bonded? Sort of a special moment.


I know that I felt something. You will have to ask the seal if she felt a spark as well. I know that it is very anthropomorphic of me to think that she is necessarily a female, but if I am accused of being in love with a member of the pinniped family at least in my current narrative it is not a gay pinniped. My homophobia is of course reserved for this species.


And sea gulls of course. Seriously, I hope the baby seal eventually got back in the water without much distress.

I took my leave and continued, taking pictures until the early afternoon. I think I stopped in Newport for chowder and the best crab cocktail I have ever eaten. Horseradish blew a piece of my lip off. Waitresses may have been a bit skanky and dentally deficient but you run into that in Oregon. Hit a lot of cool towns. Like Florence a lot. Could probably live there.

Day one ended up holed up at a cheap motel in Coos Bay.

Speaking of teeth, I met some interesting folks this trip. Stephen said I am not supposed to make friends with them, I am supposed to sell to them and he is of course right. But I find people interesting occasionally.

This particular one was a college offensive lineman in the sixties. Logged for years, said the mortality rate in the profession is much higher than Vietnam was. Had a big old gold tooth right up front, white guy.

Ended up salmon fishing, but the farmers shut the taps on the rivers and the fish and business suffered. So he sold his boat. Now he helped his wife sell antiques and junk  Instantly liked this guy. Real people, hard worker. Met a black dude who chastised me for saying african american.

"Well what is it?" I asked nervously. "What would you prefer, colored, black, negro?"

"We're Israelites man. The jews stole it from us. They all from Europe and sh*t."

Was flabbergasted. I sort of hauled off and let him have it verbally. Both barrels. Went into a minor dissertation. Explained how my endogamous genetic E M-34 branch had left Somalia 22,400 years ago and I had proof of same.

He looked at me and said, "I dig, you're dark, look at your curly hair, not talking 'bout you, it's those other ashkenazi cats..."

I gave him a quick jew 101 primer, told him there were plenty of us came from the motherland and he really softened. He came back the next day and sincerely apologized. He said, one race, human race and I heartily concurred.


I continued down the coast, really settling into a groove.  Something pretty around every corner. My only regret is that my wife could not share it with me but I hope that we can make the drive one day together.  Maybe my aesthetic standards are exceptionally low but I saw so many things I found visually interesting and took literally thousands of shots.


I explored the Oregon coastline. Even in the rather harsh midday light, the natural bridges north of Brookings are spectacular.



I stopped for lunch in Brookings, the best crab melt I have ever tasted at the Albatross.





I headed south and was quickly in the redwoods. They are very intoxicating. I was blessed with a heavy fog which caught the suns rays just right.

I lowered the windows and sucked in the beautiful clean air. Redwood habitat is not just redwoods, it is ferns, mushrooms, a whole natural biome. Hope it manages to stick around. Lost one of my redwoods this year and frankly it hurts.

They do not do well with climate change and drought, nourish themselves in a foliar way. May not stick around for the good lord's return.

Some redwood facts: The coastal redwood is the tallest living thing on earth. They lived 160 million years ago in the Jurassic era. Approx. 5% of the world's old growth redwood survive. 95% are in California.

I made my way to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Drove the dusty and tough six miles to Gold Dust Beach and back.

I photographed three Roosevelt Elk herds in the park.

Ranger told me there was a black bear sow and cub around but I never saw them.



I continued down the coast, making various and frequent stops. Damn prostate.

Boogied down to Eureka where I dined on sumptuous duck in cherry sauce with haricort vert at Oberon.  One should not live entirely on crab.

I left Eureka at first light. Not my favorite town, lots of street urchins on the corners, especially near the courthouse, was glad my van was intact. I parked right next to the office so that they could keep an eye on it.

I followed the slower Avenue of the Giants at every opportunity, all the way to Garberville where I bought coffee and a pastry.

At that point my plans had been to bolt home, maybe even cut over to the five at some point to save time.

But it was so beautiful, I had to keep the buzz going. Impetuously, I hooked over to the twisty mountain road that said Ft. Bragg, 49 miles. May have been 49 miles as crows fly but it took a couple hours. But I was loving every second of it. I would drive down the Mendocino coast too, When would I get another chance? No time like the present and all that. Supportive wife, go for it.

I did.


It was a beautiful drive out to the coast.

I hadn't been to Mendocino in decades.

A heavy fog occluded much of the coast.

I chanced upon a sad memorial to a suicide.



I made the company of a pony. After many years of owning and working with horses, I have an exceptional and very credible whinny.


Hard to decide which pictures to share, there were so many gorgeous vistas and experiences. I only wish I had more skill as a photographer and could better convey what I saw with my own eyes.

Hope that you have gotten a taste and if you have not visited, can see it for yourself one day.

Westport, Fort Bragg, Elk, the towns and vistas rolled on by. I was to drive about fourteen hours this day, ending up in Santa Nella.

The road between Ft. Ross and Jenner was treacherous, the fog obscuring what was already a steep and dangerous road.

No choice but to drive right through the fog.


Like one or both of the Baggins said, "I'm back."

6 comments:

Jon Harwood said...

Nothing like forgetting the camera to tripod interface plate. I think I have forgotten just about every little peripheral camera doodad at one point or another. I think that has something to do with me finally going to a very simple minimalist outfit with as` few parts as possible. Everything fails or gets lost (My digital camera is down, so now I am on film.). It does tend to remind me that photography is primarily an art of observation not of technology and that, used within its limits, any camera can make grand images if the observer has her brain switched on. PS Cali was very smart in going slow with legal pot.

Isak said...

But one COULD live entirely on crab! This was such an enjoyable read, Robert, even if it weren't such a profitable show. You profited in so many other ways--clearly. Some stunning shots as usual, my favorite one of the coast, its lilt of the land and sea with something akin to queen anne's lace in the foreground. Gorgeous. A place to die at. Worry for the little seal. Hope he did make it. In one photo he has drool coming from his mouth. Normal? Stress? Here's hoping he swam off into the deep blue. Your eating journey always parallels your road trips in importance. A bit like our own Anthony Bourdain but breathing thankfully. How ever do you eat so much and so fine and stay as svelt as you do? I should follow you, carrying your bags so I can learn your secret. (Only the birds and Leslie know!)

island guy said...

Enjoyed reading of your trip, thanks. In the ‘70s I bicycled the entire Pacific Coast of the US, and the places you mention (Oregon central coast, Northernmost Cali) stood out as some of the prettiest parts. Very nice to be reminded of them again.

Ken Seals said...

Very enjoyable account and photos!!

Anonymous said...

The one and only time I went to Multnomah falls was with my ex wife and brother in the mid 80's.
We were driving to Milton Freewater to attend my cousin Ray's wedding, and hiked the trail to the top of the falls. When I got to the top at the overlook, there was an elderly couple standing there. I nodded at them and received a friendly greeting. The old boy proceeds to tell me a story about how the last time they were at the waterfall was in 1945. He had just returned from serving in Europe in the US Army. They had just gotten married and were on their honeymoon, were driving by and decided to hike to the top of the falls. As they neared the top of the falls on the trail, he lost his footing and took a terrible fall down the slope. He survived, but was seriously injured with numerous broken bones, and ended up spending six months in the hospital in Portland recovering. That day that we met was their 40th wedding anniversary. They appeared to have had a very happy marraige together and the old man seemed perfectly fine despite his unlucky stumble. Max

Margaret Harwood said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your photos of the trip, especially the ones of the redwoods and the Mendocino coast. They made me quite nostalgic. I grew up in Mendocino county. Haven't been back since the early 90's. Thanks for sharing them. BTW, I also dearly love your bird photos. I never get tired of them.

Margaret Harwood