Day 39. Monday 26 September.
Some more impressions:
- The military is well regarded – actually, more than that. There are discounts for active duty military, including no cost, and for veterans. There are many wearing caps with ‘Veteran’ or ‘Vietnam Veteran’ or ‘Disabled Veteran’ and the like;
- And there is a strong sense of patriotism, in a very positive sense;
- D is reminded of the advice that Admiral Yamamoto gave the Japanese government prior to WW II: ‘don’t awaken the sleeping giant’. There is a sense of the same potential today: latent power – hard to define, but definitely there;
- A bit of resignation from the locals about the political shenanigans. We heard a comment today about the inadequacies of those aspiring to leadership (sounds familiar?).
The last few days have gifted us with wonderful changing scenery – and some scents to go with them. There has been the strong aroma of the diesel exhaust of huge locomotives mixed with the exhausts of the semis, the sweet smell of freshly mown greenery, the agricultural ‘tang’ of dairies, the surprisingly sweet smell of a 20 ton lorry of brown onions and the overwhelming pong of cattle manure in feedlots. Transport seems to be the key. People and stuff are constantly on the move. Big, well-maintained roads straddle the continent. It seems that there is no barrier to moving.
Dropped into Baker City after several hours on the motorway. Much was closed because it was a Monday, and the historic area was quiet. But the downtown had a lovely sense of the preservation of the old, buildings of stone with pressed metal ceilings, Victorian architecture in timber homes… This has been a rare find in our month of north-western roaming.
Mostly, the smallish towns we’ve passed through have been ugly, sprawling and characterized by 1960’s chain store malls and fast food outlets. And today we found a good coffee in a store that had a curious mixture of delicatessen, kitchenware, wine, coffee and cards.
While there, we put the motorhome through the truck wash point (we are required to return it clean). It took about 45 minutes, mostly done manually, the team speaking Spanish although in conversation with us their English was very good. Good outcome, except for the door catch broken by the wash broom – and the thousands of bugs that sacrificed themselves on our newly pristine home on the next leg! And we have another day of driving to go.
The Oregon Trail Interpretive Centre provided a terrific story of the hardy emigrants who travelled the almost 2000 miles track from about 1840 until 1870, mostly on foot, with a ton+ of supplies in wagon trains. Hardy? Well, there was a grave every 80 yards for the roughly 300,000 who started out. Why did they do it? Why didn’t they stop and settle on the way? They were desperate for a fresh start, economic times were bad and there was the lure of free good land in Oregon. Their six -month ordeal makes our six month odyssey in Gloria, with its problems, look like a picnic.
We mentioned the smells. The scenery has also been constantly changing. Rolling hills – perhaps the road south from Adelaide to Victor Harbour? Long straight stretches of sagebrush – perhaps the Hay Plain? Into the Blue Mountains – that’s their name, and not like our version. And for a while, passing through forests of spruce.
The manager of KOA Pendleton where we are tonight is the son of the manager (owner) from last night in Boise – a chip off the old block. Like his dad he entertained us with stories for well over an hour. Travis had completed his mission as a Mormon in Tasmania in the late 1990s, so well understood Australians, and their sense of humour.
Tomorrow we’ll head straight for Seattle, our wagon drop-off point. Don’t think we really qualify as Oregon Trailers.