Lunch with Zoot Horn Rollo (Aug 8 2016)

Today we are going to Eugene to have lunch with Bill Harkleroad aka Zoot Horn Rollo. Music buffs will know him as the guitarist for Captain Beefheart who played on seminal classics such as Trout Mask Replica. Big Dog was friends with members of the band during his teenage years in Lancaster, California, and some of them, including Zoot Horn Rollo, did the music for his documentary on the pyramids when they all lived in Humboldt County.

Big Dog has not seen Bill for decades – they both left Humboldt in the late 70’s – and so naturally he does not want to be late. We rush out of the campground, drinking our coffee along the way.

It seems that you can camp almost anywhere in Oregon, at least in these forests. I see several cars in turnouts, with tents in the woods. At one, I see people in sleeping bags, right on the ground, tentless.

OfficeCoveredBridge3LowellCoveredBridge1We pass more covered bridges, now spanning different forks of the Willamette River, and make it into Eugene around 11. With time to spare, I navigate us to the University of Oregon, my one-time college of choice. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea in my senior year of high school except I was really into forests then and the idea of living surrounded by forests appealed greatly.

College football fans will know them for their team, the Ducks. (“They’re famous for having the loudest fans,” says Big Dog’s father every time his team, Cal, plays Oregon.) Comedy aficionados may know it as the location for “Animal House.”

DuckCrossing2Lunch is at a cafe on the southern end of town and we get there a few minutes before Bill shows up. He is tall, intelligent and easy going. To me, he does not look like the guy who has done all that original, creative music. I mean, didn’t everything done by Captain Beefheart feel like Creativity on Steroids? He looks more like a…sports coach? He’s open and friendly and fun. Lunch is a gas for everyone, especially the two friends reconnecting after four decades. They trade stories about growing up in Southern California, the 70’s Humboldt scene, how their lives unfolded since then.

“Since you did that music, we expanded the movie and went to Egypt to shoot,” explains Big Dog. “We spent the night inside the Great Pyramid.”

“Did you make any money on the film?”

“Are you kidding? We lost tons of money. But I always tell people that if the movie were as good as the music, it might have gone somewhere.”

Big Dog is no longer making movies but Bill seems to be on a creative roll. He shows us covers from his new albums and promises to send us copies. It’s already after 2pm when we part.

We are haing dinner with Mrs. A, Big Dog’s brother-in-law’s mother who lives in Grants Pass, so we continue south on the I-5. Along the way, we are drawn by a billboard advertising the town of Cottage Grove and its covered bridges, and get off the I-5 for a look.

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Buster Keaton filmed “The General,” a train wreck movie here, so there are many references to Keaton through the town. The big draw, however, are the covered bridges.

ChambersBridge2CurrinBridge1CurrinBridge3There are 7 or more concentrated in this town and we get the scoop at the visitor’s center. 3 of them are within walking distance — one being the only remaining covered railroad bridge in the West — so we walk to them, not realizing how far they really were — too far for flip-flops anyway and my feet hurt. Plus it is hot. And now, quite late.

On top of that, as well head south, our fuel lamp comes on for the first time. Uh-oh. I had found $2.19 diesel in the town of Roseburg but that was probably too far so we get off at Sutherlin for gas at $2.37.

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“Gifts from Oregon” along the I-5

It’s actually 6:30 or so by the time we reach Mrs. A’s house. She is as chipper as ever, once again entertaining us with stories about her wacky friends while we have dinner at Taprock. It is getting dark when we say goodbye, without having a clue as to where we will spend the night.

We find a park by the river, away from downtown, in a residential area. Big Dog chats with a couple of joggers about the area.

“Can you ladies tell me what this means?” he points to a sign saying it is unlawful to pass out anything from your vehicle.

“Oh, that’s to discourage pan-handling,” they tell him and they discuss the homeless problem in Oregon. Is there really a huge homeless population here? Or maybe they are not as used to it as Californians?

“Do you think it’s alright to park here overnight?” he asks.

“Sure.”

“I know some people park at Walmart but it’s full of bums and meth freaks there,” another lady adds.

We sit inside Sprockets looking out for a while — it is almost completely dark — when Bailey starts growling. I look out and can barely make out the silhouette of a grazing deer, until another vehicle pulls in and the headlights hit it. Did Bailey see it first? Hear it? Or smell it?

Just when we are ready to go to sleep, someone raps on our door and Bailey starts barking like crazy. It’s a policewoman who tells us we can’t be parked here. “Go to Walmart,” she says, and Big Dog explains how the residents thought it was okay here and how he was told Walmart was filled with bums and other unsavory characters, making us sound like decent folk who just needed a safe place to park for the night. Yeah, like sleeping in your vehicle is what decent folk do! (At least outside a campground.)

I guess I was wrong about “camp anywhere in Oregon.”

We find our way to Walmart – it’s right next to the I-5 – and see that we are not the only boondockers here. There’s a handful of small RVs as well as a couple of big rigs. I don’t see any dangerous types lurking about. They must all be asleep.

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A Night in Hippie Hollow (Aug 7 2016)

DrakePark8As soon as we get up, we drive back to Drake Park where there are real (and real clean!) restrooms. I make coffee for us and we take it outside to have in the sun. It’s another one of Bend’s 300 days of sunshine and a nice slow Sunday.

DrakePark5After coffee, we stroll around, meeting ducks and geese, wander through downtown some more…then back to our rig for breakfast of fruit and cereal before heading out. On the way, we drive up to Pilot Butte where you get a huge 360 view of the area. From this vista point you can see all the mountains, cinder cones, forests, etc. out there.

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A circular marker in the center has lines radiating out to various mountains. You can even see the Southwest-ish walls of the rocks at Smith Rock State Park way off to the northeast. Mt. Washington is jagged and black. Mt. Jefferson, the second highest mountain in Oregon at 10,497 feet, is craggy, glacially scarred and snow frosted.

We get a great view of the Three Sisters, the volcanic trio rising beyond 10,000 feet. And slightly to the south, there’s Mt. Bachelor, another popular ski spot.

Mt.Washington&Lava1We backtrack to Sisters, then, take Route 242. The road gets very narrow at times and is closed to vehicles longer than 35 feet. It also goes through a lava bed. Dee Dwight Observatory is in the middle of this ancient lava flow. I say ancient but then I read that this lava is from one of the most recent examples of volcanic activity in North America. We thought the observatory was one in the astronomical sense but, no, it’s a lava rock tower from which you can see various mountains through cleverly positioned view ports. A small interpretive trail takes you through the lava bed.

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Oregon, we find out, is also Land of Covered Bridges. They date back to the mid-1800s and were covered to protect them from the damp climate. During their heyday, there were about 450 covered bridges in the state, though by 1977, there were only 56. Still, Oregon boasts the largest collection of covered bridges in the West and we come to a few along this route. The Belknap Covered Bridge has been around since 1890 but the one you see today is a newer one built in 1966. The original one was washed out during a storm and flood that wrecked havoc all along the Pacific Northwest.

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ViewFromCougarDamFR-19, known as the Aufderheide Drive, is a scenic route going south from Rainbow, along the McKenzie River. It goes by Cougar Dam where we stop for a look. There’s a display showing you how they are preserving the salmon eco-system (despite disrupting it) by creating ladders for them to go up and getting the water flowing back into the river at the right temps for the fish. Just past the dam is Terwilligen Hot Springs. Apparently there are several pools of varying temps. However, the parking lot is packed and we can find nowhere else to park so we have to blow it off. I am hoping that maybe we can go in the morning so we stop at a campground not too far from it. Cougar Crossing Campground AKA Hippie Hollow. It’s a simple campground with pit toilets and no running water but along a pretty river.

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Dinner is fresh wild salmon with pasta and zucchini. The salmon attracts hoards of yellowjackets and I have to throw them pieces of the salmon skin so they will leave me alone.

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Into the Mountains (Aug 6 2016)

In the morning, Bailey walks in to greet J with lots of wiggy-wagging. We’d be wagging, too, for the great coffee and hot showers!

Cleaned up and caffeinated, we are ready to hit Silver Falls State Park, not too far from Salem.

It’s all stunning farmland on the way, with lots of Christmas tree farms.

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The Park charges $5 to get in and has campgrounds but the campground is full this summer weekend. They don’t allow dogs on the canyon trails — although there were a few people breaking the rules — so Bailey has to stay inside Sprockets while Big Dog and I go on the 5 mile loop that takes you by 7 of the 10 water falls. Some of them you walk under! Deep down in the canyon, it is almost a rain forest, with trees all covered in moss. Once again, I am impressed at how WET Oregon is.

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This central part of Oregon is heavily forested but you can still see entire hillsides clear-cut of all the trees. (California tends to hide its clear-cut areas from highway viewers.) There are many active mills and you will see a few huge logging trucks as you drive through Oregon.

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Highway 22 takes us to Detroit, site of a big dam. Oregon has lots of these, too, which makes sense. Lots of rivers, lots of dams, lots of lakes. As you continue towards Bend, winding through the forest, you sometimes get a peek of the snowcapped mountains – most of them one-time volcanoes – Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters… The road goes through Santiam Pass, near the Pacific Crest Trail (450 miles of it run through Oregon and most of the movie “Wild” was shot here), and then to the town of Sisters.

Sisters, a pretty little tourist town deep in the Willamette National Forest, is a mecca for skiing in the winter and has a sort of Aspen feel. The storefronts are 1800’s-ish Western architecture and pretty shops line the main street, lampposts festooned with flowers. It all feels kind of expensive and gentrified.

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The town of Bend is not too far from Sisters, both in the Deschutes National Forest, but the outskirts of Bend are pretty bland. We are thirsty and stop at the first brewery we see, Bend River Brewery, for a sampler of 7 of their microbrews. One is called “300 days of sunshine” which is a strange name until you find out that Bend is known for its more than 300 days of sunshine.

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Bend Brewing Co. is in downtown Bend

Downtown Bend is several clean and tidy blocks. We cruise through, looking for a place to eat and settle in at the Bend Burger Co. for dinner. Since we are eating at one of the outdoor tables, Big Dog goes to get Bailey and once again, she is fawned over by locals and visitors. (All over Oregon, I’ve been impressed with how dog-friendly it is. Here in Bend, too, many places have set out water bowls for the animals.) After dinner, it’s a walk around Drake Park along the Deschutes River. It is gorgeous and there are lovely, nicely landscaped (and very expensive-looking) homes on the other side.

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A raucous group is pedaling a multi-passenger vehicle through town.

“Like Hobart Brown’s People Powered Bus!”

“If the vehicle were artier, it could be a kinetic sculpture!”

But this is not like any of the kinetic sculptures we’ve seen racing during the Great Arcata to Ferndale Kinetic Sculpture Race. It is a moving PUB. The passengers are also the engine (and driver?) as well as beer imbibers. Maybe other towns have these Cycle Pub Tours, too, but it seems to be popular in Bend.

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Not my photo — this one was taken from a site advertising Cycle Pubs

No idea where we are staying but it is too late to look around much so we just drive to a quiet neighborhood and park.

As we stroll around the ‘hood, the noisy Cycle Pub people appear. They are louder and happier than before. I guess with all the cycling, a little alcohol can go a long way.

We’re all ready to settle in for the night but the sudden burst of food in my stomach has woken up my digestive system. Uh-oh. Big Dog tells me there are porta-potties downtown so we start walking, but halfway there, we spot a porta-potty on the corner. There’s construction going on there, so it’s probably for the workers, but it’s after dark, the workers have gone home long ago, the porta-potty is unlocked, and most importantly, I am ready to GO, so without hesitation, I go in and do my business. Big Dog follows.

“You know, we were in the Old Mill section of Bend,” I tell him later. There were some cool bars, restaurants and B&Bs. We never did go into any of them. Just that porta-potty.