Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Oregon on fire

“Fire on the Mountains”

            SANDY, OREGON  --  Up until five hours ago, I didn’t know Oregon had a Sandy. Not only do they have one, but Kay and I are staying at the town’s Best Western located behind a McDonalds and Taco Bell.
            We generally don’t stay in a hotel/motel without first making reservations. We were forced to barge into this Best Western unannounced, because we never anticipated needing to stay overnight in a town with a little girl’s name.
It’s perfectly okay to name your child after a city, but cities should never be named after a child – Tommy, Ronnie, Jill, Sandy… How on earth is a high school supposed to come up with a mascot with names like that? – The Fighting Tommy Trains! The Clawing Sandy Crabs!
Try to forget all of that. This story is not about Sandy. It’s about Crater Lake. Tonight, we had reservations at a Lodge in Crescent, OR… home of the Fighting Crescent Wrenches. Crescent is a town near Crater Lake. Kay had booked us a room for two nights, with an option for a third.
We were headed for Crater Lake at the urging of Jim Jackson. Jim is a friend at church. When he heard we were going to be staying in the Northwest for a few months, he told us to visit Crater Lake. Didn’t ask us. Told us. – “You’ve gotta go! Don’t come home until you’ve seen it! Most beautiful place ever!”
Due to Jim’s constant carrying-on, Kay and I incorporated a trip to Crater Lake after our visit with my sister, Susan, and her husband Col. Don in Tacoma. The average citizen of Tacoma owns two cars and drives each at the same time. I’ve been trapped on the Southwest Freeway out of Houston, and I’ve sat in traffic on I-10 at the end of the day on a Friday. Yet, none of that compares to Tacoma at practically any time of the day. Every highway in and around Tacoma is too often in rush-hour mode. Same with Seattle.  
Kay and I had a great visit with Sue and The Col, but after our short stay, everything went all Targaryon us. I calculated that we could travel the 340 miles to Crater Lake in six hours. Turns out, after six hours we were still stuck in Portland. Let it be known that our slow go had nothing to do with the fact that Kay was navigating. Little to do with that.
My wife is a jewel. I love her dearly. Yet, she has two flaws. She will not argue, which makes it absolutely impossible for me to vent. The second thing is that, while navigating, she’s good at telling me what road I missed… but only if I ask. – “What? Uh, oh. You missed the exit a mile back.”
In truth, while navigation was a major problem, it didn’t have a lot to do with my lovely navigator. The major problem Monday was the fact that everything was burning. The first fire encounter had to do with a truck-fire in the middle lane of I-5.  If you’re going to catch fire on the freeway, you need to combust on one of the far lanes. That way the police might allow cars to pass on the opposite far lane. That makes a bad situation almost tolerable. In this case, the police closed both sides of the freeway.
After an hour of inching down the road, we arrived at a point where the freeway was blocked, and the four lanes of traffic had to funnel down to one lane feeder. The problem with the “detour” was that there was no indication of where to go next. The feeder was bumper to bumper, as were all side streets.
The roads going south were blocked because of forest fires. The haze of smoke had been a menace during most of our stay in Washington. Washington, Montana, Utah, Oregon, and California are on fire. Not the entire states, you understand. It just seems that way. The Northwest is experiencing a drought. Seattle hasn’t had rain for at least three months. It’s the worst drought in Seattle’s history of droughts. (Seattle has received rain since the publication of this article.)
After six hours on the road, we pulled into West Linn, a small town a couple of miles southeast of Portland. It was here that we entered Shari’s Café and Pies. We brought our map, phone, and independent GPS device inside the place so we could plot our next move.
While inside the restaurant, I tackled a smart-looking man and begged his help in mapping a route to Crater Lake. He squeezed into the booth next to me, because Kay’s purse was preventing him from snuggling with her. The man turned out to be a meteorologist for the state. He immediately pulled up a satellite view of Crater Lake on his cell, and showed us the fires on three sides of the park. He told us that the entrance to the park might still be accessible, but the lake would be hiding beneath a cloud of smoke.  
He then informed us that it could conceivably rain tomorrow, which might kill the fires, thus making everything right as rain. Instead of slapping him, I chose to shoo him out of the booth. Fortunately, at least one Oregonian meteorologist has a good sense of humor.
 Having no hope for rain in the foreseeable future, we plotted a route back home, and managed to drive 24 miles to Sandy in a little under two hours. Hopefully we’ll go farther than that tomorrow. Not to worry, there’s a Taco Bell just across the parking lot.
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