I will post more pictures when I have better wi fi!
Ashland, June 14-19
Walking the streets of my childhood in Ashland, I see a tree and know we called it a Mulberry tree when I was a child, but I think now it is some kind of ornamental plum or cherry. I pass by houses that I remember visiting as a child and a teen, “Heather used to live there,” or “That’s Erika’s old house,” but other people live there now. I see teenagers lounging downtown or walking in pairs looking like the same teens I knew so long ago, and maybe they are the children of those teens. It is strange to look at the faces of the folks I see and realize that instead of young people, my contemporaries would now be in their fifties, like me, which seems so impossibly old in the land of my youth.
Last time we were here together it was to get the Bus, a time so fraught with worry, and we were in Talent at the house on Autumn Ridge, but yesterday Paula drove me by there to see what the fire had done. It was shocking to see the scars of the burn in Talent and Phoenix—so many homes gone, and businesses, too. The fire stopped just after the house on Autumn Ridge, and I couldn’t help but wish it had stopped just a little sooner and spared the sanctuary Paula and Dad had found there. Paula told me that everywhere a house was still standing there was a fire team to thank, and that they had tried to save the house, but the fire was capricious, driven by an uncanny wind that blew this way and that, taking one structure and leaving another with no reason why. I am, of course, thankful for the efforts of the first responders, and thankful that my parents and Tucker the dog made it out, but I can’t help but wish it had gone differently and spared their lovely home.
Ashland is Ashland, of course. Driving into downtown it could be 2018 or 2010 or 2006 when we got married, or even earlier: 1990, 1980, even. The places look the same to me, and most of the businesses I remember are still there, except for the ice cream shop by the creek. When I was a child and teen and even as an adult, there was no greater summer joy than getting a soft serve cone dipped in chocolate or butterscotch at the Creekside stand and then dipping my toes in the creek, savoring the warm dip and the cold ice cream. Today there is a luxury home there…so I guess some things do change, and I know my oldest and best friend will be appalled to hear what happened to our beloved Creekside Café. I felt a momentary urge to pound on the front door and ask for my ice cream, although I suppressed that urge.
The days in Ashland have unfolded in Ashland time: drives, naps, shopping, lovely food, visiting, remembering, walking Tucker. Last night we saw two girls alighting with blankets, hippie skirts, and headdresses, headed to Bear Creek, and I thought how like the girls of my youth they were, as though Ashland has some kind of timeless, hippie force that populates it every year with new but familiar faces.
The time here is too short, even though looking at the days on the trip calendar it seemed like a wealth of days in Ashland: Ashland! Ashland! Ashland! Ashland! Ashland! But no matter how many days we had here they would not be enough. Today we will be taking Dad for a ride in the Bus, and going to Shop and Kart and Bi Mart to provision for the trip. After today we will be running down the coast, stopping at places we know so well, all the wonders of the trip before us, but also that moment of realization that we are halfway there, and that after this we will return home and go back to all of our regular joys and burdens.
I find myself both thankful Harold the Puppymonster isn’t here and also missing him a bit, although it is wonderful to spend time with Tucker. Tucker reminds me of Harold at times—the same playfulness—and just now he came clicking out here, ready to go out and hunt the gophers in the yard. If Harold were here he would BARK at the gophers, so I guess it is good he is safe at home. I am also so thankful to know that Harold has Nancy and Jimmy, and I hope he isn’t being too awful to them.
The days in Ashland passed so quickly—too quickly—but there are some highlights and at least one lesson to share. On Friday, the day to take dad for a ride in the Bus arrived. Robert had washed the Bus, even the top windows, to prepare for the honor. Robert says he is a “Bus pilot”,” and he was excited and maybe a little scared to drive the Bus with Dad, and I was worried about how we would get Dad in the Bus, but the worries, like so many worries, were grounded in nothing. Dad sat in the driver’s seat for a few minutes, and from the moment he swung his legs into place, his whole demeanor changed. The light came on in his eyes and he even bounced in the seat, the Man Who Drives the Bus back in the driver’s seat, and in that moment I could see superimposed over my father’s almost 90 year old face the shadow of the boy he was before I knew him.
Dad moved to the passenger seat and I got on board in the back, and Paula and Tucker settled in, and off we went. My father even sang his songs: “Off to see the Wizard! (although in my childhood he inexplicably always said Lizard)” and “Off we go, into the Wild Blue Yonder, riding high, into the sun!” We stopped to see Susan and Kevin and Harriet and even by the bookstore to blow bubbles at Linda, then back up to old 190 Wistful Vista, the old house of my childhood. The Bus charged up the hill, for of course he is used to hills as we live on one, and then we circled through town, avoiding speed bumps, and back for lunch. It was one of those moments you can photograph but never capture, for one of the primary lessons of every trip is that the things that matter most are impossible to capture on film.
The evening was a rush of tying up grape vines, organizing the Bus, and repacking the enormous duffle bag that will be out of order before we even arrive at our next stop for that is the nature of the duffle bag—it makes a stew of clothes and whatever you are looking for evades you (except the swim suit…you can always find that, except when you are legitimately looking for it). I was crossing things off my list, excited to be heading out on the road fro the first vacation vacation Robert and I have taken in some time, but also sad to be leaving. There would never be enough time to stay here and be sated because I never want to leave, but I will return later in the summer without the Bus, so this has to be enough for now, as we have places to go, and we have to turn South towards the Puppymonster and home.
I spent a restless night partly because I left the porch light on and it kept finding me, and partly because Oregon is home to the mosquitos of my childhood, bugs that bit and leave raw, itchy welts. I woke up thinking about Lesson 2: When sleeping in the van in the driveway, make sure to turn the porch light off, and wondering if I had ever recorded the foundational rule of camping, the Golden Rule: Pee before you go to bed. Once you are in the van or the tent, you will not want to get up again, but if you forget to pee, you also will find your sleep interrupted.
Now everyone is asleep and I am writing this at the table, the cuckoo clock marking time on the wall (really—it has little people who come out and dance on the hour), and my thoughts a mish mash. I am doing the thing I do in travel, making lists in my head, for I am my father’s daughter. Dad has been known to make lists of lists, so I come by this personality trait honestly. I know I need to stop writing this, “wrap” his Father’s day gift, shower, and get dressed for the day, but some part of me wants to keep writing to prolong moving on to the leaving part. Still, I have been promised a breakfast burrito from Ruby’s, and the open road awaits, so I guess I should get on my way. Most of all write now I am thankful for being able to be here with my father, with Paula and with Tucker, and thankful to Robert for being the Man Who Pilots the Bus now, for getting me here. I am also thankful that this isn’t the first trip in the Bus when we headed out for the coast on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride: no lights, no signals, no “Slow Moving Vehicle” sign, and Robert a novice at such concepts as shifting, steering, and braking. This time I know we will repeat our mantras (Where’s the wheel? Under your butt! And How do we roll? Slowly, steadily, safely) and this time they will be more like mantras and less like prayers. Above all, I am thankful to have such a father, and for all he has taught me, and so for all the dad’s out there, including Robert, father to Harold: Happy Father’s Day!