Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Road apples

The wonderful thing about vacation is that nothing is familiar.

Every mile that passes brings a new visual experience. I'm excited to be in any two-bit town for the first time. Crossing a state line gives me a thrill completely out of proportion to the triviality of the achievement. I think most of us feel this way.

Admit it, you just have to read the "Welcome to Oregon" sign to the family in a loud, happy voice, don't you?

Yesterday Carolann and I awoke in Klamath Falls. This morning, a couple hundred miles north, near Madras.

I watched the sun rise on a panorama of lush, green farm land along a wide rushing stream called Crooked River. Isn't that delightful? Of course it is.

Along the road just south of Redmond we visited the Petersen Rock Garden just because we could. For sixty years it has stood as a mind-numbing four acre collection of self-made tributes to the ambitious eccentricity of a Danish immigrant named Rasmus Petersen, who picked up a couple of rocks one day and decided that building miniature cities out of small stones was his divine purpose on Earth.

Scoff if you will, most of us never figure out why we're here. Few have the dedication to spend a lifetime stacking rocks upon rocks, ending each day knowing our prescribed day's work has been well done.

A few miles farther north brought us to Shaniko, an old West town that sprang up during the 1860s.

Originally called Cross Hollow it was renamed after the town's postmaster, August Scherneckau, who must have been a swell guy to receive such an honor but the locals apparently (and reasonably) decided trying to learn to spell his name properly was too much to ask of anybody.

But here's the best thing about road trips:

Some of the most awe-inspiring sights you stumble across have no explanation, no real purpose, indeed no reason whatsoever for existing except that they do.

This tree, for example...

We came upon it unexpectedly. Without fanfare, announcement; with no roadside glorification plaque nor explanation it just sits there, adorned with hundreds of shoes passersby felt compelled to deposit in its branches.

There's a wonderful story here but I can't find it.

And for some reason that makes it all the more wonderful.

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