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Lake Bob

21 Oct 03

Lake Bob, Oregon

Whenever you head south on Hwy 35 out of Hood River, the first thing that smacks you in the face is Mt. Hood. It takes up half the sky. Floating above the fruit stands and orchards, it seems supernatural. I kept looking for a place to pull over and take a picture, but there was always something nearby in the way, like a building or trees.

I wonder if people around here get to where they never see it? It would mean walking around with your head down. Which is common enough. Hood River itself is built up the side of a cliff, which hides the mountain. They turn their backs on it, and watch the river.

I finally got a Verizon signal, for the first time in days, on the south flanks of Mt. Hood. I stopped by the side of the road and sent off some adventures that had been stacking up, and called home. My brother informed me that my decrepit old dachshund was doing fine. It seems she has even discovered a cure for cancer. She's 17 years old, blind, incontinent, crippled up, and apparently immortal. So far. The vet gave her 6 months, a year and a half ago.

And what, you ask, is the canine cure for cancer? In Sugar's case, it seems to involve sleeping 23 hours a day, and believing she's the center of the universe the rest of the time. I've sometimes suspected that a few people on the newsgroup have taken up this regimen. I may try it myself, one of these days.

I took forest roads south. One of the surprises of my return to the mountains, in both Washington and Oregon, is that many of these roads are paved. Even the narrow, twisty, one-track wonders, with turnouts that force you to the edge of a cliff halfway up a mountain, are often smoothly covered with tarmac. My expectations rose from the familiar nightmare of Colorado gravel and mud, not the smooth pleasant dream of Oregon pavement.

I don't know who pays for all this, but it is an incredible luxury. In Colorado, most back road maintenance falls to counties with a tiny tax base, and little of it gets done. You learn quickly to be grateful for the annual grading. The humpy, jittery, disintegrating roads of backwoods Colorado informed my original idea of Rving. These were the only roads that lead to where I wanted to go.

Eventually those roads will shake any ride to pieces. If you are going up there, forget about motorhomes. They don't articulate on turns. They are made to go only from one parking lot to another. Many don't even allow a quick way to jump out just before you go over a cliff.

Imagine that.

There are two working philosophies of transportation in such places. One is to spend a million dollars, more or less, on something like a tank. The other is to buy cheap, maintain like your life depends on it, and throw the thing away when more of it eventually comes to lie in the ditch than on the axles. If seat belts should happen to inhibit your ability to instantly abandon the vehicle, be very careful when you wear them.

I paid $13,000 for this 5th wheel Behemoth, and a little more than twice that for the pickup. Maybe $6000 more for improvements and taxes. I figured from the start that if I got 5 years out of that $50K, I would then be content to throw it away.

With luck, I'll get 8 years. I am now almost 3 years in, and it's holding up about as I expected.

But if my understanding of back roads had been formed here in Oregon, I might have bought a motorhome. The only problems you seem to encounter here have to do with clearance, the tendency to get to moving way too fast, and the off chance you'll run round a blind corner into a log-hauler, or a van full of nuns on an outing.

C'est la Rue.

Up here in Oregon, roads seldom lead to rue, and they led me, around 3 pm this afternoon, to Timothy Lake. All the campgrounds were closed, of course, but there is a parking lot next to the boat ramp, right along the shore. Nobody else to be seen on the whole lake. Only the wind and a few bobbing ducks. Sunshine on the water.

It looks like a Naming Destination.

I'll let you in on a little secret. When I arrive somewhere like Timothy Lake, and it is beautiful, quiet, and empty, after a celebratory beer or two I am apt to conduct a short Ceremony of Naming.

Timothy can take a hike. This is Lake Bob.

If someone else should come along, it will unfortunately fall suddenly short of those criteria, and I'll have to take the name back, store the place in memory, and wait for Lake Bob to turn up somewhere else. Lake Bob is a hidden place, and only I know how to get there. If someone else is there, it ain't Lake Bob.

Eight o'clock, and the stars are out. Looks like a long untroubled night at Lake Bob. Sweet.

Which reminds me of Sugar, the immortal dachshund. Maybe that's her secret. She lives no longer than other dogs. But she only counts the years on Sugar Lake.


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