Even at the very start of this haphazard trek across the country, I seem to be following the nature of the trip. A happily drawn-out going-away party on Sunday and excited plans to leave Monday morning became a growing realization that we wouldn’t be packed until at least Tuesday. A quiet Tuesday led to completion of a few projects (like mudflaps) I’d been meaning to get to.
Finally, two and a half days after our supposed embarkation, the mule is fed with diesel and laden with clothes, food, cooking gear, photography equipment, computer paraphernalia, and us — my mom being the first passenger on the first leg of the journey, down through Northern California.
After a sad goodbye to my friends Carrie & Arawen, who will be staying in my house, the housetruck roars to life, and chugs up an utterly quiet Norway Street, down the hill through Silverton, and head across the Salem plains to the freeway towards California and points beyond.
At Albany, we head west — probably the only westward heading for the next few months — through Corvallis to wind along Highway 34 in the the beautiful Alsea River valley. Climbing the slopes of the Coast Range we enter the western Oregon jungle: maidenhair ferns lie across the rich earth, and moss covers everything from rocks to the wildly branching oaks and arching Douglas Firs. Modest houses dot the landscape, mostly along the river, fronted by docks. Old gas stations and stores now decay into the earth, or are covered over by fragile resort communities.
A little campground along the river, a few miles from the coast, becomes our first stop. With the sound of the river below us, and a light drizzle in the darkening sky, I start up the charcoal grill and cook risotto. We eat in candlelight, drinking a bottle of wine whose label bears the name ‘Gypsy,’ and whose illustration is a woman riding a chariot.