Sunday, September 5, 2010

Portland For Sure

Yesterday we may have fallen a few steps shy of Portland, but today? Portland for sure! It just might take a while, that's all.

Six ten. That was when the alarm went off, and that was when we woke up – complaining and crabbing as we stepped from warm sleeping bags into the cold morning air. Twenty minutes to get the car packed, and a few more to break down the tent. With our site cleared off, we were ready to break out into the world once more.

First things first – yesterday we were unable to shoot Crater Lake from the East, as the Western setting sun obscured the images. This morning the light would be reversed. We would head out into the morning and see the lake from yet another angle.

“The sun creeps across the valley floor; a tomb opening to the morning light.” These words echo in my mind as the golden rays transform the morningscape with its early illumination. It is beautiful to watch as shadow stretch out over the treetops, and against the walls. With great speed the fog is burned away, and beauty takes hold.

When, finally, I approach the lake there are no words. Still, and calm, we are the only two around. Everyone else still rests comfortably in their tents. It is only the two of us looking out over the rim at a body of water, so still, it's hard to tell which is the real, and which is merely a reflection. In different light this lake can be many things, but right here, right now, it is a looking glass for the great forests.

Around we drive, watching the glow fade as the sun rises higher into the sky. And then it is time for us to say our goodbyes to the crater, leave the park, and return to our journey once more.

This park, visited by accident, based on misremembered information, has been a spectacular sight. But there will be more such sites in the future, without doubt.

Leaving the park we head out into the world in search of the fabled room saver. One visitor center provides us with a copy, one month old – most coupons now expired. in another there is none. Finally, at a rest stop just outside of Portland we find one. Hours of stress preceded this event. There are few things I dislike more than not knowing where I'll sleep, or not knowing where to find a place at all.

In the time between these two magazine spottings many hours of Radiolab were played, educating; entertaining. We also made our way into Eugene, and out – stopping just long enough to notice that everyone runs in this town. Everyone.

Soon we would be in Portland. Between Crater Lake and this new city on our horizon, there was only one stop of note. One stop I had not planned on, did not now we would pass, and to be honest – did not even know was real. All my life, I had assumed this location fictional, a product of the ancient floppy days, ruled over by Apple Iie machines. But there on my map, and then on my GPS, and then on my left, just outside the car's window was Odell Lake.

Anyone growing up in the 80s should know of this lake from the game which was set here. You take on the role of a fish and eat your wait, avoid your way, and outsmart your way through life in the lake. The game taught me two things – Rainbow Trout are king, and fear the osprey.

There was also an otter in there somewhere too – but it was the otter who grabbed you from on high, when you tried to be sneaky at the top of the lake, that filled all with fear.

Odell lake. Touching the clear, cool, water – I found myself lost for words. It's like seeing a dragon. How else can you describe seeing someone that you'd never thought real, which had had such an impact on your life? Imagine walking through the streets of Gotham City. In a way, this is what I was doing.

I wanted to jump in and swim, or cast a lure into the water. But I couldn't fish, wouldn't fish here if I could. In some small way, I am those fish. Those fish are me. In a strange digitized manner.

And then we were in Portland. The Roomsaver directed us to a motel, Super Inn, on the metro line. Tomorrow we'd rail into the city proper. Today, however, we would drive. Avoiding the main spots as evening fell, we headed out to the few places where driving would make access easier.

Stark's Vacuums may seem like an odd place for us to head, but this is not just an ordinary vacuum store. Oh no. Within these walls lies the free, small yet entertaining, Vacuum museum. Over one hundred years of the machines history is on display here. Enter, be amazed, and head a number of blocks down the same street, until you come to a strange red door with a sign taped to it proclaiming it to be a museum.

Knock knock Neo. You need to rap on the door, but when no one answers, don't know harder, else the lady who works there will give you an angst filled line about fearing you were going to barrel down on her with a shot gun – as if there were any way you could know she was there, and making her way over. As if there was any way to know why a museum would have a locked door with no windows.

But then you're inside. This is a Toy Museum, free of charge. Metal banks where stereotyped black boys eat your money are on shelves by the dozen. The names, too awful to mention, vary from one to the next, but most are the same.

Then there are the tin soldiers, the model trains. The creepy dolls. This is a place for all those born between the thirties and sixties to come and relive their past. And it was interesting to be sure. All these toys lined behind glass cases. But, while I enjoyed it, it did nothing for the nostalgia in me. This was not my era, these were not my toys.

For those born from the seventies to the eighties, Billy Galaxy is a shop in town which is set up much like this museum, but the pieces are for sale, if one would wish.

With these two places seen we ventured into the heart of Portland. This would not be a sight seeing expedition, but rather one with a purpose – to check out Powell's books. So much has been said of this store, that investigation was needed. But this was not a city for driving. No, pedestrians are so sure of their right of way that they will walk in front of traffic without looking. Bikes were everywhere. Now while I'm sure I will love this set up tomorrow when I am on foot, right now? Infuriating.

We circled the block once, twice, three times – and just as we set the directions on the GPS for home, a car left in front of us. We had a spot – we went into Powell's.

This is a book lovers dream. Four floors of books both new and used. There is a rare book section with one text dating back to the 1400s. And there were games. A terrible number of games. All of which I wanted.

I tried to resist, I did. But then I saw Chez Cthulhu. I had played Chez Geek at my buddies house in Silicon Valley and liked it. Combine that with the Elder Gods and I'm sold. But then if I was buying this, I might as well buy Chez Geek with the expansions too. And then, as I'm a sucker for alphabet books, I picked up Baby's First Mytho's – a Lovecraftian Alphabet Book.

This was an expensive trip – and there was so much more I wanted. I'd have to come back. But it was getting late, we had a whole day tomorrow, and rest was required – not sleep, but rest. Just a time to lay on a bed, and do nothing; lay on a bed, and think nothing. Just relax.

A whole day of this would be ideal, but I'll take the hour provided.

Of course this time never came as we played the Chez games until we fell asleep. Oh Portland. How I've missed you though I'd never met you before.

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