March 16, 2018
Memaloose State Park, near Mosier OR
I put up an Ask Metafilter question about whether my plan to go to Yellowstone National Park on my way back to Asheville was feasible and got back not, actually, much that was super helpful alas but a definite feeling that it is not a good time of year to visit Montana and North Dakota. This is a pity, but since I have been having this crazy homing instinct lately telling me to GET BACK TO ASHEVILLE ASAP (perhaps it is the goose tattooed on my arm) I am going to go with a slightly more southerly route. Not all the way southerly, mind, I’m not retracing my steps through New Mexico, pleasant as they were, but on or around Interstate 80 across. I had never before noticed how the interstates are numbered, by the way – I knew the odd numbered ones were north south and the even ones east west, but I didn’t realize that the numbers go up as you go north, so the great roads across the country are 40 and 70 and 80 and 90. I don’t know what happened to 50 and 60 although I wonder. Maybe they fell into an alternate dimension. It happens, with roads. I’m going for 80 in the hopes that it might be springlike enough to offer open RV parks and non icy conditions. It might still be a little early in the season but I do not care, I’m on it. If it pulls me into another dimension where Trump is not president, that’s gravy.
Well, actually, right now I’m on I-84, or just off it and by just off it, I mean that the entrance and exit to this state park is through an interstate rest area. I drove here from Astoria yesterday, about 160 miles, which is farther than I meant to go, but the park where I was planning on staying was closed. This is not what they said when I called, but in keeping with our current national ethos of selling the country to the highest or most convenient bidder just as fast as possible, you can’t call state parks anymore. You must call Reserve America, a private for profit contractor that handles campground reservations. I don’t like making reservations, because I like to reserve, ha ha, the right to stay in one place in inclement weather, and once you have a reservation you are stuck and cannot change it. Reserve America, who is also not based anywhere nearby but, I imagine, in some horrible bunker in a tax haven deep underground, does not actually know the conditions at any of the parks or, in fact, anything about them. So if you call to see if a park is open, they only know if they can make reservations for that park. And then they make reservations and the park, although they are closed because of a fire, must honor them, but they won’t let me, for example, just drive up. It all becomes confusing as hell and is the reason why you have to pay for your campsite every morning instead of just paying once for the three days you are planning to stay.
This park is nice if not exciting – although there are geese and trains! – but before we get to discussing the Columbia River Valley, let’s talk about Astoria! I was there for three days, or right next to it anyway, and I find I did not take hardly any pictures, which was dumb because Astoria, a small city on the mouth of the Columbia River, is ultra scenic. It is right on a steep hill and the the houses and streets sort of spill and climb over each other in a completely fabulous way. If it looks familiar, it’s because Astoria is where they filmed the much beloved movie The Goonies and there is even a small museum devoted entirely to that. I didn’t go because while I too love the movie I don’t honestly remember it well enough to make a museum much use. I did however go to a dive bar – very good – and a coffee shop – even better, may have been the best cup of coffee of my life, no, seriously – and the Astoria Column, which is a gloriously tacky enormous phallic public monument featuring a lot of shapely naked native Americans being enlightened by Lewis and Clark (OK I know this is thematically problematic to put it mildly but I couldn’t help but enjoy the awfulness of the art. I’m sorry, but it’s just so. . so. . over the top.) And I went to the Flavel House Museum, which is a house museum in a downtown Victorian mansion. The house itself is lovely but it feels sad and probably is just as haunted as hell. They let you wander around it on your own, which is wonderful and so I spent quite a lot of time looking at an inexplicable stuffed parrot and the photo of one of the daughters of the house sporting a neat 1906 moustache. I also walked along the river for a while and listened to invisible sea lions having a lengthy and somewhat contentious conversation. I didn’t go into the underground tunnels, which I should have done, but I will get there yet because I’m planning, gods and the economy and all that other stuff willing, to move there next year if I don’t end up moving to Portland. As you may have figured out, I love Oregon and, as you can see from this TOTALLY REALISTIC travel video, there is good reason for that. And, as I am finding out by wending my way deeper into eastern Oregon, the amazingness does not end at Portland and the coast.