Oregon vacation

I took my Oregon vacation last week. It was the first big trip that I’d planned and taken by myself.

I set off on Monday morning for Roseburg, where my grandparents (Mom’s parents) live. It took about 4.5 hours to get there from Arcata. As soon as I left the coast, I was sweltering. The heat was difficult to handle (seeing as my car has no A/C) for an hour or so, until I adjusted to it. The drive was uneventful. I made a few brief stops to change CDs or buy something to drink. I spent two nights with my grandparents. I’d seen them only twice in the past five years, so it was nice to catch up with them and find out what’s happening on that side of the family. On the first day, we just stayed inside the house and talked, and my grandmother and I took a walk around the neighborhood when it had cooled down (to the 80’s).

We started the second day by going to the fish ladders at the dam on the North Umpqua River. There were a few steelhead swimming around behind the viewing window, and a Pacific lamprey attaching its mouth to the glass. That was really cool. We also saw a great blue heron out on the river. After that we drove down a highway to the Umpqua National Forest to check out some hiking trails. We took a trail to Deadline Falls, which was more of a rapids than a falls. Our guidebook said that we might see salmon and steelhead jumping over the falls as they made their way upstream, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. Then we took a trail to see Fall Creek Falls. It was one mile round-trip, according to the signs, but it felt longer. It wasn’t too strenuous, but it gave us some good exercise (and a lot of mosquito bites). The falls were kind of small, but very picturesque…. Oh! I almost forgot the coolest thing about that hike: we saw an owl, and I believe it was a Northern spotted owl. It sat on a branch, awake, right next to the trail. A small crowd of people gathered quietly to watch it, and it barely moved. It was the first time I’d ever seen an owl in the wild. Awesome!

After the hike we had lunch at a restaurant, then spent a quiet afternoon at home. In the early evening, my grandpa saw that his neighbor across the street had taken his restored Model A Ford out of the garage and was showing it off to some friends. I went over there with him to check it out, and ended up being taken for a ride! We got up to 45 miles per hour on those residential streets (which, luckily, don’t have a lot of traffic). That was fun.

The next morning, I drove to Portland to visit Jenny. It took about three hours. I got a bit lost on the way to her apartment, for two reasons. First, I missed the exit I thought I was supposed to take, because I’d gotten faulty information from Mapquest. When I did get off the freeway I knew where I was, because I had a map of the area, but I panicked because I was almost out of gas. I hadn’t gotten any since Trinidad, because I was determined to make it from Arcata to Portland on a full tank. (Technically, I did.) The needle dipped below the “E” on my gauge, and I nervously chewed on my paper and pleaded with my car to not run out of gas. Then I found a station, got some gas, and continued driving in the wrong direction. See, the second reason I got lost was that I had the wrong street number for Jenny’s apartment. I thought she lived on 102nd, so I was confused when I got to that street and didn’t see any apartment complexes. I pulled over to call her, and found out that she lived 60 blocks in the other direction. I found her place with no trouble after that.

It was wondeful to visit Jenny. She was a great hostess. She’d gotten a guidebook and a map, and located some places that we might visit. That afternoon we went to the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Tea Gardens. Both are part of Washington Park, which is on a hill with a gorgeous view of the city and Mt. Hood. The Rose Garden is probably spectacular in the spring, but even in midsummer it was beautiful. Over 500 varieties of roses are grown there. (By the way, Portland is called hte City of Roses.) The Japanese Gardens were beautiful, too.

On our way back we stopped at Powell’s bookstore downtown. It’s the largest used bookstore in the country, but it sells new books as well. We didn’t have a lot of time there because we were parked at a meter, but we could have spent hours browsing its three floors. I found a British paperback of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for only eight bucks. I wanted to buy it, but I thought I should save my money for other things…. Anyway, we got pizza for dinner and spent the evening watching Sex and the City and playing Scene It.

Our main destination the next day was the Oregon Zoo, which is also in Washington Park. It was really cool. Some exhibits didn’t have good signage, so we couldn’t always identify the animals we were looking at, but that was our only complaint. Some highlights: sea otters feeding, a polar bear swimming right up to the glass, an underwater view of sea lions, an orangutan sitting right next to the glass, and a pygmy marmoset. It is a really neat zoo. We spent at least three hours there.

We had lunch at a floating restaurant on the Willamette River, sitting outside. After that we walked around the downtown for a bit. We wanted to check out a couple museums, but not so badly that we were willing to pay nine bucks for admission. (Cheapskates, aren’t we?) So we wandered the streets and ended up getting lost. Actually, we were only a block up from where we needed to be, but didn’t realize it until we asked a passerby for directions. It was okay because we got back to the car before the meter ran out. In the evening we went to see The Devil Wears Prada, then played another game of Scene It. The next morning, I had to leave. I was sad, but I had a great time and was reminded that some friendships don’t end after college does.

The trip home ended up taking about 10 hours. Somewhere between Portland and Salem, I realized that I had to stop because I was about to fall asleep behind the wheel. I think my nap lasted about an hour, which was more than I’d intended, but oh well. I got delayed again on Hwy. 101 north of Orick. I knew that there was an accident because they’d put up a sign on Hwy. 199, near the state line, saying that 101 was closed with no alternate routes available. I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of spending the night in Crescent City, but I drove on because I thought they might have cleared it by the time I got there. When I arrived, I found that southbound traffic was back up for several miles. It was so bad that people stopped their engines and got out of their cars to walk around. A car drove past on the northbound side of the freeway, and the driver yelled “Two more hours!” at us. I really hoped that he was wrong, because I had to go to the bathroom. Fortunately, it took just a little over an hour to get through the bottleneck. The wreck had happened on a curved, two-lane stretch of the highway. The road was cleared and all emergency vehicles were gone, but on the roadside I saw two pieces of twisted wreckage and a pile of logs that had fallen off a logging truck. I’m glad that I hadn’t come through earlier, when the road was closed.

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