First Day of the Cross-Country Roadtrip

May 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm | In yulelogStories | 5 Comments

Packing the car was at times a panic-filled struggle.

No, wait. Thinking about packing the car was a panic-filled struggle. Once we actually started, we just plain freaked out for a while because it looked like so. very. much.

We made a couple of purchases (both necessities and one or two “nice-to-haves”) during our five-months-long stay in Portland. And, because up until about the middle of March it wasn’t clear to us that we wouldn’t actually settle there, buying a few bulky things seemed harmless.

Of course each additional cubic inch turned into a potential assassin when it came time to load the vehicle. But we did it.

Finally, just after noon we set out.

Can I just say that Oregon is beautiful?

Our route took us slightly south and around Mount Hood, along US-26. We passed through the Mt. Hood National Forest, we glimpsed amazing valleys and shuddered at the close-up view of snow-capped mountains just behind pine forest armies. We stopped at view points with drops of several hundred feet, drove curvy highways up to elevations of 4,000+ feet, and drove curvy highways about half-way down again till we were in the Oregon high desert. We marveled at buttes barely held together by titanic geological pressure and stray grasses.

Self-Realization Tycoons and Railway Workers

We didn’t drive far, only to Madras, where it’s as spring-warm as one might imagine Chennai’s to be. Madras isn’t too far from the ranch where Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh set up his commune Rajneeshpuram in the early 1980s. Bhagwan must have made serious money in the self-realization business, for out in that Oregon desert, he personally owned a fleet of forty Rolls-Royces (and a couple of airplanes, too). Sadly, we didn’t discover any orange traces of his legacy on our drive to the motel, which, it turns out, we were sharing with a small army of hardened railway workers.

At around 5:30pm, they started arriving at the motel, brought there by the trucks that would take them away again the next morning: sun-burnt, grimy, squinting, and clearly worn out from their long day’s work. It was a mixed crew: a few of European descent, a number of Hispanics, a couple of African Americans, and several Native Americans. They’re replacing the steel on the railway, and I guess they travel as they work – hence the motel stay.

I talked to one worker, who looked Native American. He told me that some of the gangs work on replacing the ties, but that his crew does the steel.

“Tough job,” I said. “I guess you don’t need to go to a gym to work out, do you?”

“No,” he laughed. Then he added, “And I guess I’m not going to get diabetes, either,” which I took to mean that diabetes is a serious problem for his community.

Score one for a car-centric “culture” built around junk food (even if you are a railway worker), and zero for Bhagwan’s vision of super enlightened self-realization.

Maybe, when (or if) I get around to posting about Day Two, I’ll have a few more choice words about the often miserable culture we’ve built in contrast to the endlessly astonishing beauty of the land.


  1. I love road trips. Hope you will post more.

    Comment by melanie — May 2, 2012 #

  2. More, more, more! Link to it (or post via Notes) on Facebook.

    Comment by Dean Landsman — May 3, 2012 #

  3. Thanks, Melanie – I hope I post more, too. The last couple of nights I’ve had a hell of time getting on the internet with my laptop (my iPhone works fine, as long as AT&T doesn’t let me down and there’s adequate reception, which also happens often enough). This is frustrating, obviously, especially since it takes FOREVER to upload photos.
    Tonight I have decent wireless, but I’m too tired to write! 😉
    And thanks, Dean! Yep, I’m posting photos and short commentary (along with the photos) to Facebook (strangely enough, uploading a photo via the Camera+ app on my phone to FB goes quickly, even when I’m in an AT&T limbo-zone).
    I do treat the links and photos I post to my FB account as mostly public (it’s my default setting – only occasionally do I set something to “Friends only” etc.), so if anyone wants to see the photos I’ve posted there, go to (I think you have to have an account in the first place to see anything, though.)
    We’re in Omaha (well, outside of Omaha) right now. It’s already 11pm here (Central time), and I’m calling it a night!

    Comment by Yule — May 3, 2012 #

  4. Yule, before you set out, did you map out the trip based on dog-friendly (read: welcoming) motels, inns, B&Bs and such?

    A lifetime ago, as a carefree single young man (that post-college/pre-adulthood period — a phase that now seems as though it is a permanent slacker life choice for many) I set out on what became a 6 month road trip. It was me and the dog, a variation on Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, A Search for America. I was less searching for America than searching to see if there was something out there at all to find. In my early 20’s, I had both business and romance on my mind.

    What I found was that the dog was a great companion, that I had friends scattered all across the country (as was then the norm for anyone in the Radio business), and despite making tons of business contacts, was that all I wanted to do was return to home with the dog, get my life started and move my young consulting practice into high gear.

    Having the dog with me (care, feeding, responsibility) was both a challenge and a source of insight. Friends (especially women!) said it indicated a domestic bent, made me seem like a family oriented sort of guy, and seemed to belie my post-hippie, long haired free and easy manner.

    I did successfully sneak the pooch into any number of not-so-pet-friendly motels along the way.

    Nowadays I imagine perhaps at some point retiring, or at least taking an extended summer off. Mrs. Yankfan and I would rent an RV,and go visit major league ball parks (and some friends, too) across the country.

    Comment by Dean Landsman — May 5, 2012 #

  5. Love the comment, Dean – thanks! I have this image of you and poochers now, on the road, together…!
    We “planned” our first 2 nights, but sort of stopped after that. There’s a blog post waiting about this – again, I’m too bushed to write it just now! Basically: on night 2, we stopped at the “inn” I had booked ahead of time, and it was such a dump (“awful” doesn’t begin to describe it) and the town was such a disappointment that we decided to play it more by ear from then on.
    The basic constraint: it has to be pet-friendly.
    That’s huge, for sure, but we’re following the advice of a Portland friend, Suze, who said, “use Best Western.” Not every Best Western is great, but each and every one has good rooms, the rooms have a good lay-out, and the beds are great. What varies is the quality the managers put into the individual hotels/ motels. Some have nice breakfast bars, others are total crap. Some have working wifi (like this one, in Norwalk OH), some don’t (like last night’s). And some are in strip malls on the borders of actual towns (like this one in Norwalk OH), while others are in hellishly depressing parking lots alongside highways (which isn’t anything the managers can control)…
    By not planning the route exactly, we can sort of calibrate our distances. We had no idea when we started what sort of distance would actually be comfortable to drive. So now we just plonk down in the evening, cross our fingers the internet works, and try to plan the next leg based on how tiring or inspiring or whatever the leg we just finished was.
    Overall, I’m loving this road trip – it’s an inspiration, and it’s also a bit saddening often enough (like I said, there’s a post there, if I ever get around to it). Everyone should do this at some point: see the country at ground-level (even if DOTs like Ohio’s are trying to make highway rest stops look like airport terminals: it’s still a road trip, eh?).
    And for the record: I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m thinking that I want to do something like this annually, it’s that much fun!

    Comment by Yule — May 5, 2012 #

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