Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Down in the Goondocks / Olympic National Park

Today was a special day. In fact, today was the day the t-shirt I bought way back when at Target, months ago, would finally pay off. Why, you may ask? What day is today? Well good sir, or madame, I will tell you. Today – is Goonies day!

Today we would leave the blessed Portland behind (just when I find out I have a contact in this city... shucks.) and head off to Astoria. Astoria, for those born in the 80s, may be better known as the Goondocks. This is where the movie “The Goonies” was filmed. This is where it took place. Astoria, Oregon. For so many people coming out here has been a right of passage. To visit these shores is what many have dreamed of.

Alright – that may not be entirely true, but few who know the movie can come within one hundred miles of this city and not take make the excursion out to 38th street, and up the dirt path.

There was a labor day festival in town, but I cared nothing for that. I was wearing my oh so special, “Goonies Never Say Die,” t-shirt and I had to put it to good use. There were sites to see. Exciting things to do. Exciting thing number one, running away from the jail, to mirror the scene from the movie. Now sure, in the movie the Jail sign didn't have the words, “Oregon Film Museum” over it – and in the film there wasn't a big red white and blue flag flying from the building reading, “open,” but that didn't bother me (much.) As luck would have it they were repaving the parking lot, and while this meant getting some sticky black goo ever so slightly on my shoes, it also meant the pictures were clear of obstructions.

Exciting thing number two: Go to the museum that the father worked at. It's just across from the Jail, so getting there didn't take any effort. Neither did passing the bowling alley – nothing like a drive by (photo) shooting to speed up progress.

The final stop was the pilgrimage to 38th street. This is where all Goonies fans eventually end up, much to the dismay, I'm sure, of the people who now occupy the two houses.

Rumour has it that the current occupants knew nothing of the importance their houses held in the hearts and minds of people the nation over. Well they know now. As we pulled up, no less than six people were walking down the dirt path back to their cars. Private property signs line the road, but any attempt of keeping said property private dried up this year when the 25th anniversary of the movie past a few months back. Rather than trying to fight the inevitable, the occupants simply want to cull the traffic. A sign at the bottom of the hills reads, No cars: Goonies on foot acceptable. There are silhouettes of all the Goonies there too. Including big ol' Sloth.

I might should take a moment to explain just who the Goonies are. Think Indiana Jones, but for kids – and lots of them, including Short Round from Temple of Doom. Mix in a little Cyndi Lauper for good measure, and there you have it.

In this movie there are two main houses – the “Goonies house” and Data's house. Trying to explain to people who Data is was a mistake. While I stood taking photos a dozen others walked up the path – none really sure what house to take pictures of. I explained the blue one was Data's. Blank looks. You know, Data – Short Round from Indiana Jones? More blank looks. Ohh! Data! From Star Trek! ...No. Did anyone watch this movie?

I'll be honest – I didn't recognize the Goonies house for sure either. Memories fade, and without the Rune Goldberg machine... I may have done the truffle shuffle anyway. I'm not saying I did – but it was a distinct possibility.

The Goonies house now proudly flies the flag of Israel and The United States. With that knowledge you can't miss it. Data's house, when I was there anyway, comes complete with a woman cutting her husbands hair on the porch. I wonder what she must think of all this foot traffic. I wonder if she's watched the film?

As I finally left, more people came up the road. This is a constant stream. Is there something special about today, or has this just become the norm?

But Goonies day couldn't last forever. Not when there were other places to see, and things to do. We jumped in the car, travelled across the big ol' bridge, and hit Washington. There we pulled into a McDonalds, having just missed Ronald McDonald live and in person. His wacky Ronald Mobile was still there.

Where had he gone to? My best guess – the parade which had shut down the highway. Yes, the main highway runs through a small town for three miles – but there was a parade being held there, with no thought given to through traffic. Detour signs would have been nice, but clearly they were thought unnecessary. Some cars waited, others drove in circles. Using our GPS we plotted a course that took us up and over the hills, a wee bit, across a slight dirt road, and beyond the high school cheerleaders prancing proudly in their thousand dollar uniforms, marching to the beat.

Really town? You can do this? Shut down the highway? Well – it didn't hurt us, but I imagine some frustrated drivers going slightly mad with rage.

This was the last instance of note until we reached Olympic Nationa Park a few hours later.

Our Lonely Planet told us the visitor's centre closed at five. It was with much relief when we showed up at five thirty, finding the hours extended until six. We asked about tent sites, and were directed to one near by – but we should hurry. Today being the Sunday of Labour Day Weekend, sites were filling up fast.

There was no wasting of time. We found a site, filled out the registration card, put twelve dollars (including many quarters) into an envelope, and dropped it into the trusting self serve deposit bin.

Now that we had a site, and the light was still good, we hurried up to hurricane ridge to look out over the park. This was the reason for coming in through the North entrance.

As we climbed higher and higher we watched as the clouds became closer to us. I remarked that soon we'd be driving right into them. A few turns later and we were. All was obscured. The world was white, with a few silhouetted trees to the sides. At one moment we hardly realized there was another car in front of us – it was white, without any lights on.

As we crested a hill, the sun trying to cut through the white, but only enhancing its brilliance, I thought of an animation cell, with its background frame forgotten. This was the world we seemed to be in.

And then we broke through. Suddenly the clouds were below us, and us on top. Mountains all around. My mind went, instantly, to Switzerland. Not only did the snow capped, rocky peaks, remind me of Interlaken, but the temperature was starting to match. There, I beleive, I may have been wearing warmer clothes, while these days I have but shorts and t-shirts, but as summer gives way to fall, it's not as warm as it once was.

Signs were posted warning people of a cougar that had been bothering people as of late. There was also a posting about a mountain goat who was no longer afraid of humans, and had taken to the fun sport of charging them when approached. I thought of the two in combat. While it's likely the cougar would take down the goat in a heart beat, I couldn't help feel that any goat willing to mess with an entire family of European tourists was one that might stand a good fighting chance. For one of the few times in my life, I rooted for the vegetarian. In a fictional fight. So I don't know if that counts.

The clouds below still obscured the land, but its beauty was possible to extract. I pictured what this place must look like on a clear and sunny day. Still – all was not lost, as on our way down the hill, we saw a number of people on a pull off. They seemed to be holding their arms out for birds to eat from. This seemed a fools idea to me – but, Katherine became very excited. She doesn't understand the inerrant Hitchcockian evil within the beasts quite like I do.

After watching these, in now way small, fluttering monsters land and eat, Katherine decided to give it a try. Using popcorn left over from Portland's Saturday market she put out her arm. “Ow it hurts!” came her cry as the bird landed and ate. When it flew away she asked if I'd like a go at it.

“It doesn't hurt!” she stressed. That's not what I had just heard. Still I was not wanting to show fear - after all these are small birds which I could squash like Doomsday in his first appearance, if need be, not giant sting rays from the Cayman Islands – so in my hand went the popcorn, and then the birds came flying over flighting for what I had. Their talons pinched slightly, but it was not too bad. Still – I was not a believer in the good of these creatures. They were testing us, and when the time was right, they would swallow our souls.

Wild animals. Playing with them – no matter how great it seems – is rarely a good idea. Still, I fed a bunch, I was glad I did, it was neat – but... evil, these flying creatures. They think they're better than us. I'm sure of it. And when their moment comes, not even the glass enclosures of telephone booths will provide safety!

The real question is, how did everyone know about this place? Some people came specifically with food. So many rangers preach not feeding the animals – it seems odd that that's where the information would be coming from. But if not them, then whom?

Back at the site we still had to set up our tent, and it was not getting warmer. One quick game of Gloom, and then another, and it was time for bed. We each curled into our sleeping bags. Me, with relatively little on – so I could layer if I got cold in the night. Katherine decided to go in fully layered, with two shirts, a sweater, and shorts, and socks. All I'm saying is one of us slept fine, and the other did not. At one point in the night, I gave her a pair of my thermals – this helped a bit. There's a lesson here, which I learned from a homeless girl a decade back – put your clothes on in layers, and you can make it through the coldest of nights in relative comfort.

Sound advice to be sure.

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