May 14, 2010

Siren Call of The Road Trip


I want to throw my stuff in bag and drive away.

Shorts, tee shirts, sweatshirts, old canvas tennis shoes with holes in them, 80 SPF sunscreen, and bags and bags of soft red licorice...

I want to put my hand out the window of the Dodge Polera and let it surf the wind blowing past on the the highway, drink truck-stop coffee, and look out the window at the open road.
I want to buy ridiculous tiny spoons that have the name of the cities we've driven through on them, and collect paper napkins from diners, compare pancakes, pie and BLT's at small town cafes. I want to forget about regular life. Just for a weekend.

Freedom. Junk food. Bad coffee in paper cups. CD's with 80's classics burned onto them, wrinkled maps spread out on the dashboard, a rare sense of adventure and good company... these are the trappings that make up the ideal Road Trip.

Last year, to celebrate our fourth anniversary, Kevin and I packed the car and escaped to Eastern Oregon.
We had a cool and relaxed adventure in the Gorge, Eastern and Central Oregon, but not everything went as planned. By default, it turned out to be perfect, BECAUSE of imperfection. The absolute fun was in the flaws. Stories emerge from close calls with disaster, and I believe, on a road trip, you don’t want just roses and sunshine. Intrigue makes it memorable.

It makes it an adventure.

During the drive to take photos of the Painted Hills in John Day, we were lost for hours on a narrow unmarked dirt road. I imagined our romantic drive would end in something of a Cohen Brothers film plot when we asked two local guys in a graffiti covered truck with covered windows and plates for directions.

We ran out of gas in Shaniko. The locals who had just completed a staged gunfight at their annual Shaniko Days suggested we see Clive. He was the guy who owned multiple RV's, horses and the largest modular home who sold us a gallon of gas for $7. The sight of him in nothing but a coral Speedo bathing suit, all leathery-tan with white curly chest hair that resembled a mess of fishing twine burned itself into my mind. I couldn't take my eyes off of him.
I still wish, of all the photos I took that trip, that I had the wherewith all to take his photo. But, he stunned me to silence and I was frozen in awe, unable to document his leathery coral Speedo-d physique.

As we left, he threw out his arms and yelled “I’m sixty years old and I’m livin’ like I’m dyin’!”

We barely made it to our hotel room that night, a fabulous little Bed and Breakfast in Dufur. The Balch Hotel. We walked into the cool sitting room, sweaty, coated with dust, and stressed out from a day of being lost. Our eyes had the look of crazy, fed-up tourists high on truck stop coffee. The smell of warm chocolate chip cookies beckoned us and the hip young couple playing scrabble near the check in desk made us feel as though we'd found a serene oasis.

Samantha and Jeff greeted us warmly and insisted on bringing out freshly made Greek salads and ice cold Black Butte Porter Ales from the back kitchen even though it was well past dinner. They sat with us and laughed at all the right parts in the story of our adventure and especially loved the visual memory of Clive, the coral Speedo wearing philosopher in Shaniko.
We slept hard that night on crisp white linens in our little antique western hotel room under fluffy white down comforters and 500 count sheets, we gorged ourselves on a delicious breakfast with the other guests who’d spent the night at The Balch, and then relaxed in the hammock for a while in the back.

It was everything. Romance, adventure, intrigue, old men in bathing suits, new friends, and U2 God's Country blasting through the stereo speakers.

I want to go back.

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