Monday, October 17, 2011

Moving to Portland: Part Three

([Dramatic Voiceover] Last time on No Hippie Johnny, J.D. drove through scenic Colorado and was attacked by a mountain power plant in Utah. Our hero finally made it Idaho, where he is now sleeping in a Walmart parking lot. Part One of the trip can be found HERE. Part Two is HERE.)

I woke up in Jerome, Idaho with Catface playing the role of "guard cat." Not really. He was just awake and sitting there. As you can see in the accompaining photo, I slept across the front seats. Not exactly so comfortable. My head leaned against the driver's side window all night. Apparently, Idaho is very cold. I knew this of course, and I could deal with it, but I probably should have brought an extra pillow to protect my head from the cold window.


I parked in at the end of the parking lot and a Walmart employee parked directly in front of me as she went into work. Eventually I managed to get up and brush my teeth. I took a bottle of water, opened the door and rinsed off my toothbrush. The air was refreshing, though cold. Then I decided to go into the store to buy the cell phone charger I needed because my phone had no battery left. I gassed up at a nearby station and hit the road. The goal was to be at the apartment before the main office closed. If I did not make it, I would have no place to stay for the night.

Jerome struck me as a city of greyness. At least in the part I was in, all there was surrounding me was concrete. Fortunately, outside the city was nice and green. I drove along and stopped in Boise for gas. That city looked pretty. I did not spend too much time there though. I did not have much breathing room to make it to the apartment on time.

Everyone said it rains in Oregon all the time. People who had never been anywhere near Oregon would tell me this. So it was funny that the second I passed over the Idaho/Oregon border, it began to rain. It seemed to only be raining over the highway; I could see the rest of the beautiful landscape resting under a bright blue sky.

I mentioned in the last post how important it was for Jackie that we be in the same time zone. She lived in Portland and we had been very close best friends since we met in El Paso in February. She kept asking if I was in the Pacific time zone, so I was excited to inform her I had passed the line and my phone had gone back an hour.

Via deanstucker on Panoramio 
A little ways down the road I passed by an interesting looking abandoned factory and ghost town. I texted Jackie that we should come back and photograph it, but we never got the opportunity.

Via deanstucker on Panoramio
Via Lyzadanger on Flickr
While looking up this area I found a great blog post with many more pictures and a history of the abandoned plant, ghost town and surrounding region.
There is a sense of the eerie here that piques the attention of ghost town and paranormal aficionados. Chatter on online forums posits about odd histories and hauntings; the monumental, vacant, human-inhuman landscape gives ghost hunters frissons of inspiration and sparks conversations about "energies" and "presences." It’s hard not to get absorbed. During our visit, a corrugated tin door to nothing near the roofline of what might have been a machine shop scream-slammed on its own accord about once every two minutes, prefaced by a short but utterly convincing series of tones that imitated childish singing.
Despite the concrete monstrosity off to the side of the road, the entire scene is beautiful. I drove and drove and drove. The river followed me most of the way and the rain fell off. Eventually I needed to fuel up again and was able to experience my first time not putting gas in my own car. I pulled up to the gas station in what had now become a bigger storm. I was surrounded by hills. While trying to remember where I put my camera to take pictures, I pulled up to the pump on the wrong side. The attendant, a young man, informed me of this thusly, "Yo, dawg, wrong side." Slightly embarrassed, I pulled around and got out to use the restroom. I came back and hoped the guy would not be waiting for a tip, or standing near my car. I would not know if I should tip him or not and that would just be awkward. Fortunately, he went inside, so I just got back on the road.

Catface sat in the passenger seat and watched the rain. He seemed to be enjoying himself more now. That was a load off my mind. As I read the information signs on the side of the highway, I noticed that maybe I had cut this too close and I would not make it to my new apartment before the office closed, effectively causing me to be homeless for a night. I decided to speed up my drive. The rain came down harder, but I pushed ahead. One of my windshield wipers stopped working so I could not see much out of the passenger half of the windshield. Great. Nevertheless, I kept pushing my speed. I am not much of a speeder, so I really only went 10-15 over the limit. Still, that was more than I wanted to do because, one, I did not want a ticket, and two, the rain was making it a bit dangerous.

I make it past a bunch of farm land and suddenly pops out a large (to me) body of water. It is the Columbia River Gorge.
Via ricraider on Panoramio
Via BeauImage on Panoramio
Via Ralph Maughan on Panoramio
This part of the drive was especially calming and enjoyable. I had never seen anything like this. Yet I could not stop to truly take in the scenery like I would have wanted to. I had to run. At this point I tried my hand at finding a good radio station. Quite a few decent ones appeared! The rest of my drive to Portland was taken alongside sports talk radio, public radio, oldies and classic rock. It was a nice change of pace from my mp3 player.

Finally, the Portland area broke in front of me. I moved through Northeast Portland, past where I stayed when I visited months earlier, and entered downtown. Driving across a bridge to the downtown side of the river is interesting. Again, I had never driven over something like that before. The Portland skyline is what I like to call "the opposite of boring." That phrase is currently being trademarked.
Via james.white on Panoramio
One point on the highway confused me and I stayed in the wrong lane, sending me way out west when I wanted to go south. I ended up by the Oregon Zoo. It looks like a great zoo and all, but I was rapidly running out of time to get to the apartment before the office closed. The pressure began building greatly then. I had to call one of the utility companies to get some information so I did it there in the zoo parking lot. Then I got back on the road and tried, sans map, to find my way to my new home.

I ended up in downtown and off the highway. The trying to get back on the highway was a challenge. Not to mention dealing with all the one-way streets. I drove around in circles and discovered I was next to Portland State University. The number of college students tipped me off, the huge building with "Portland State University" written on the side confirmed my suspicion. Eventually I simply took a chance and guessed which way to go without paying attention to the signs. I ended up heading in the correct direction. Hooray for me...
Via scollins on Panoramio
Now it was nearly completely dark and the rain had picked up again. I worried I would take a wrong exit again and get lost. Again. To make sure the apartment manager would still be there, I called her and confirmed I was close. She said she would wait for me. I arrived 15 minutes after they closed, but, true to her word, she was waiting for me. She showed me to by garage and I went to sign my lease in the office. Catface stayed in the garage (with the light on) for the time being.

After reading and signing a stack of papers as thick as a really thick thing. A snake? A fat snake? Or perhaps a book that is both popular and long. War and Peace? Yes, that one. Okay, so after reading and signing a stack of papers as thick as War and Peace, I took Catface into our new home and called my mom.

Jackie, who I had not seen in many months, was still working for a few hours. We were best friends seemingly from the first time we hung out in El Paso. I decided to take a shower because I had not had one in a couple of days and it is not my style to go days without showering. Alas, there was no shower curtain and I was not about to go searching for a store that would sell one. I had no internet and could not search online for a store either. That forced me to take a bath...

Pizza was what Jackie and I decided on for dinner. That meant I had to call. She texted me the number to a couple places and I called. Unfortunately, I have a hard time hearing on the phone and got frustrated when I could not understand the person on the other end multiple times. After calming down, I called Pizza Hut and ordered something for us. It arrived thirty minutes before Jackie. The delivery guy was a nerdy looking kid who immediately commented on what a beautiful cat Catface is, specifically his pink nose. He informed me it is not totally common. I did not know that. Nice to hear I suppose.

Jackie finally came home and we ate pizza and watched my Mad Men dvd. She helped me bring some of my stuff in from the garage. And we started what has proven to be the rest of our lives and continuing future together.



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