Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Welcome to Oregon!

That day we crossed into the state of Oregon, thanks to Bill. He quickly extended his gratitude beyond giving us a ride, inviting us without hesitation to spend the night at his house in Port Orford, still over an hour away. We would think about it until then. But with his gentle, innocent, and humorous nature, we couldn't turn down a chance to stay with him and get to know him more.

We drove along the coast, peering out the window at beaches and cliffs. The entire coastline was so windswept, more so than we had witnessed in California. Because of this we rarely even got out of the truck, except for along this beach where we briefly watched some windsurfers in the distance.

As we talked more, Bill revealed more about himself. Ever since he was 14 years old, he had to work to support himself. Later he was drafted into the Vietnam War and had a difficult time recovering from that. Ever since then, he's explored much of the United States, always on the move. He's never settled in one town for more than ten years. He recently moved into a new house in Port Orford.

Entering Gold Beach, Oregon.

Crossing Rogue River.

Arriving in Port Orford, Oregon.
Upon entering town, Bill took us to his place. He gave us a tour of his house and showed us his rock collections. Then, noticing that I was a bit chilly, he gave me a blanket and started a fire in the wood-burning stove. He left out a massive bag of local, fresh-picked grapes and let us use his laptop while he went to the hardware store. When he returned, by his recommendation, we went out for dinner at a local seafood restaurant on the bay.

There's nothing like fresh seafood! Just when we were finishing our meal, we saw some spray coming out of the harbor. Whales! We went outside and found a sheltered place from the wind where we could watch and listen to them surface. For a long time we observed what appeared to be two pods, which we believe to have been orcas and gray whales.

Then we drove north to Cape Blanco Lighthouse, swinging over to Bill's to pick up the camera.

No longer wanting to deal with the wind nor with the camera anymore, my go-to photographer 
took over. Bill and I stayed in the truck, content to be sheltered from the wind. 

Two couples parked their SUV near us and went to open the tailgate. Several of their belongings were whisked away by the wind. One of the women tried desperately to catch a pillow and chased it  as it rolled across the road. Unable to even grab it, she watched sadly as it tumbled over the ridge.

Cranberry fields.

Next we returned to town and visited Battle Rock.

Again, the wind was too much for me and I dove back into Bill's truck. He then took us to a beach just west of  Port Orford. Just as before, Freebird was the only one to get out of the truck and actually explore the beach. He took the camera with him, as still I could care less about taking pictures. Aside from wanting to escape the wind, I needed to take a break from all the sight-seeing at the moment. While we waited in the truck, Bill and I snacked on some Tootsie pops, watched passersby in amusement, and mostly just giggled about nothing specifically, having fun with each other.

After Freebird's walk on the beach, Bill's tour was finished. We returned to his house for the night.

Picking huckleberries in Bill's backyard.

Bill told us to take all the huckleberries that we wanted; he was the only one picking them, and they were growing all over his yard. We then mixed them into some gelato that he offered us. While we were delighting in this treat, Bill quietly laid a huge pack of Red Vines beside me. I exclaimed, "Bill, you sure know how to make me happy!" His only response was a mischievous smile and a chuckle. That night we stayed up late, conversing and jamming out to some classic rock.

In the morning, after eating breakfast near the edge of Port Orford, we parted ways with Bill. His hospitality and willingness to show us around the area had been wonderful, beyond anything that we had ever expected. But now it was time to continue up the Oregon Coast, where the Hobbit Trail was calling out to us. We had first heard of this elusive place from Jasmine, who had taken us from Arcata to Crescent City just a few days before. She had highly recommended this place to us.

Bridge near Coos Bay, Oregon.
That day it took us a series of four hitches to arrive at the Hobbit Trail. Tim Palmer, a photographer and author of 22 conservation and travel books, started off the journey by picking us up at the edge of Port Orford. Next a man named John took us to Coos Bay, which was five miles out of his way. Following him was Perry, who was transporting his two cats. In the backseat I sat next to and played with them. Perry, just like John, felt compelled to take us beyond his original destination and left us twenty-five miles out of his way in the city of Florence.

Amid all of these hitches, the same RV passed us three times - before Tim, before John, and before Perry. They remembered us the second time they saw us and waved. Then the third and final time, they were cheering us on and wishing us luck! Somehow they couldn't offer us a ride, though it was evident by our northward movement that we were getting rides and hadn't murdered anyone!

Once in Florence, we needed to take a break. What began as a visit to a Mexican restaurant for some refreshing, ice-cold horchatas turned into splitting a burrito and eating entirely too many complimentary chips and salsa. We ate all of this even though both of us were still full from breakfast that morning. I felt like I was going to burst when we returned to the road to hitch! But that break was still much-appreciated after riding for hours up the highway in cramped vehicles.

For a long time no one would stop for us. We contemplated staying in a motel in Florence if all else failed; Freebird even walked next door to ask about their rates. But we were almost to the Hobbit Trail and persisted in hopes that we would camp along a beach that night. Finally, along came Matthew, a man from Florence who would drive us there.

Matthew, as he soon disclosed with us, once lived through a difficult past and made choices that led to much unhappiness. Eventually he found some peace when he accepted God into his life and began attending a church. He has since then accepted the role as a healer. Meanwhile he supports his family by harvesting mushrooms as well as by excavating stones and precious gems and selling them for profit. He told us that in October he would be attending a gem show in Tucson, Arizona.

Heceta Head Lighthouse.
After a long, adventurous day of travelling along the highway, over 100 miles later we arrived at the Hobbit Trail! Before we left, Matthew pulled out some shirts, unwrapped and revealed some recent finds, and showed us some of what he would be attempting to sell in Tucson.

Matthew gave each of us a piece of quartz. But as he unveiled more stones and gems, he had the feeling that he should give me something else. He asked me to hold out my hand, and in it, he placed a piece of ruby. He estimated what it would minimally be worth if I got it polished, basically enough for me to make several necessary bill payments. I couldn't believe it. I found it very shocking that he was willing to let go of something that could possibly significantly help his family.

On a side note, as I write this post months later, I have yet to see whether or not this ruby could sell for as much as Matthew believes. At the moment I highly doubt it. We'll see if anything comes of it, but if not, I'm fine with that. Even if I don't earn any money from this ruby, I know where the true worth of life is to be found - not in material, but rather in spiritual riches. 

What is important is that we truly love our neighbor and desire to help each other, just as Bill, Matthew, and everyone in between did for us that day. That's where real happiness lies.

As Matthew turned around and went back to Florence to be with his family, we joyfully walked amid the lush forest of the Hobbit Trail, heading to the beach to watch the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean.

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