Constance Ore is a retired Teacher, Choir Director, and Organist. And a formidable cook.

July 29, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 11:35 am on Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yesterday we went down the Avenue of the Giants, a winding road that went through more of the redwoods. The sun was shining, so this time, there was a completely different experience of sunlight and shadow. Today we continued all the way down to San Francisco on Highway 1. . what a trip! You think you have seen the most beautiful sight ever, and then you round a corner, and there is the next one. Charles drove the curving road with caution and care, and it seemed as though he was constantly doing hairpin curves on a rolling road. I exclaimed at one point, “Oh look! Did you see that?” and he replied, “The only thing that I am seeing is this space right in front of the car.” Of course I immediately offered, “Would you like me to drive for a while so you can gaze about at all the wonders here?” His response of “Heavens, no!” was a trifle too fervent I thought, but then I was relieved that I could continue to look and look.

In the little town of Manchester, someone became very creative with topiary trees, and a bit later along the road, someone else filled a yard with metal dinosaurs and gorillas and such. At such sightings, one thinks well, with a little effort, we could make our yard a very interesting space, too. . . but then, on second thought. . .

As we came southward, the trees changed to cypress and eucalyptus, both of which appeared in wonderful rows along the roadsides and in groves going down to the beaches. When we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, it was great fun to be physically in the space that is so often photographed and filmed. Saturday crowds were gathering around the city, and our progress was slow. Once south of San Francisco, we made better time, though many cars were parked around each beach entrance as people were out enjoying the water. When we entered the Salinas Valley, we came upon miles and miles of truck farms. It was good to see the incredible operations that produce most of those fresh vegetables that we so take for granted in our year round eating.

Now we will continue southward to Santa Barbara to visit dear friends for a bit, then do one last journey up Highway #1 for a wedding of our goddaughter next weekend in San Francisco. Charles is the organist, and the processional will be the piece he wrote for her baptism. That will be the conclusion to this adventure which has been a grand experience from the very first day.

July 27, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 10:35 am on Friday, July 27, 2007

When we began our day on Wednesday, we started with a walk through a myrtle wood forest near the sea. The path led us toward the ocean, and ended by huge dunes covered with sea grass. We saw a pair of golden eagles leading their single offspring in flying lessons; it always looks like a splendid thing to do, floating out above the land and sea so effortlessly. Going southward on #101, half of the drive took us under tunnels of grand trees, and the rest of the time, we hung on cliffs that had the entire breadth of the ocean to our right. The beaches are sweeping and mostly uninhabited with rock formations standing out in the water; there is an overwhelming beauty in the visual vastness. When the sounds of the wind and crashing waves are added, the experience is one that I wish to remember exactly so that I can recall it on hot and dusty days. Along the roadside, the little roads that went into the mountains were named, and at one point, “Shingle House Lane” was followed by “Slaughter House Lane” and then “Promise Lane”. I thought how differently the implications of residence might be as revealed by those titles. Mostly the roads were named in a more prosaic fashion, eg., “Paul’s Lane” or “McKinley Lane”, etc.

[SOUNDS OF SEAGULLS] We spent the night in Brookings, OR. in a motel that named itself the closest to the ocean of any along the entire coast. It was indeed that, and we had a third floor room with a little balcony. There was a boy standing on the second level of the adjacent motel building throwing out food for the sea gulls. We could see the gulls lined up on the roof peering over and when the boy came out, they immediately flew down below to position themselves for the handouts. There was much screaming and crying by the birds, and several of them flew up to catch the tidbit in the air immediately after it had been flung out. The next morning we walked the beach on the packed sand near the water’s edge, again to the sound of wind and waves and seeing where sky and ocean met.

Driving south, we soon crossed into California where the border was filled with billboards and small and dreary looking tourist businesses. One sign called out, “First Chance Liquors! 70% Discount for Seniors or By the Case!” In spite of the attraction of that, we didn’t come across any golden agers tippling and stumbling about – of course, it was early in the morning.

This day was dedicated to seeing the Redwood Forests. We were directed up a narrow and winding road prohibited to campers and trucks, and here, on the mountainside, we saw a parade of gigantic old growth trees with their huge trunks going straight up 200 feet and more. Large ferns were on the forest floor, and when we stopped the car to walk a path, the silence was complete. Not even song birds or rustling leaves made sounds, and our own breathing became loud. Later, we went to the Lady Bird Johnson Redwood Grove (dedicated in 1968) just 2 1/2 miles off Highway 101. We followed a very steep and narrow road leading to a mountain top. This place was heavy with fog and moving white mists that shrouded the tree tops. The silence and the other worldness containing the presence of life that began over 1000 years ago to stand so large and still made us walk and breathe as quietly as possible. It is an experience that one would wish for everyone because it is so grand.

July 25, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 10:03 am on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When we left Ennis, MO. on Sunday morning, it was already getting hot, and by the time we arrived in Missoula, we hurried out of the sun into whatever shade we could find en route to restaurant and store. The far off mountain ranges were hazy with the smoke from multiple forest fires, and the nearer hills were golden brown and dry. As we drove, a subplot to our trip was listening to the book on CD, “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan, which had been highly recommended to us. The story formed a fine counterpoint to our visual experience as we passed the huge wheat fields in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. There were acres and acres of land lying fallow because of the lack of rains, and their surfaces appeared barren and gray. Since Egan’s book is based upon true tales by the survivors of this disastrous ecological event in our country’s history (The Great Dust Bowl of the 30’s), we had to stop listening to it every few chapters because the intensity was so great, we had to talk about it before we could go on. We finished it just as we were entering the green mountains; this wonderfully told story spoke of a time that touched both our families in Kansas and Iowa as well.

We continued our drive into Idaho on Highway #12 which followed the Clearwater River – the same route that Lewis and Clark took on their northwestern passage. Here, the heat and forest fire haze continued, but the scenery was breathtaking. The river was much wider than any we had experienced through the mountains, and the evergreens were tall and healthy. We spent the night in Orofino, a tidy little place tucked between the steep foothills leading up to steeper mountains. At first our plan had been to spend more time in this state and in eastern Oregon, but the heat and the touch of ash in the air made the cooler coast more inviting so we chose to go as directly west as possible.

The color that defined Monday, July 23 was gold. At first it was the darker bronze of dry grasses that covered the treeless rounded hills on both sides of the road, then huge wheat fields began to replace the grass, and we saw combines climbing in places that appeared too steep to accommodate the machines. These delivered sights of different shades of gold; the ripe grain was almost white, and the stubble was ridged with darker bronzes. There was very little traffic along the highway, but we did meet a troupe of Model A Fords coming over the hill one after another. Clad in shiny black coats with polished chrome and carried on dainty little tires, they looked like a procession of older ladies going out for a special occasion.

We followed the Columbia River on the north side – a lovely road that often went high up the side of the embankments. Far below on the surface of the water, people gathered to wind surf, and from where we could see them, they looked like giant dragonflies skimming across the river propelled by the wind in their brightly colored triangular sails. We spent the night in Portland, much cooler and pleased to finally wear the jackets we had packed. As we left the city, I did note a church sign that said, “Be ye fishers of men – you catch them, He’ll clean them.” It’s not a strictly Lutheran sentiment, the “you catch them” part, but perhaps one could be worked in as bait.

Today we took ourselves out to the coast to beautiful Highway 101. There are so many sights to see along this drive that you could spend a month going back and forth experiencing each State Park beach along the ocean or hiking on trails into the mountains. The trees near the coast are all leaning inland, for the wind is fierce and demands deep respect. Places like “Devil’s Punchbowl” and Cape Perpetua’s “Devil’s Churn” attempt to give title to the wildness of water and wind hitting the rocky coastline.
Tonight we are in Florence, where sand dunes are piled up in great heaps in back of the town. These travels are grand and my health is improving – I am beginning to hope for a lovely normal future. It is the first time in a long while that this has seemed remotely possible, but it is a fine, shiny thing to contemplate. To LIFE!

July 21, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 8:42 pm on Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vistas, grand beyond simple descriptions, have filled our last two days of travel. We climbed out of Sheridan, WY. into the Big Horn Mountains in gentle swoops on the northernmost highway west. A feature of this drive was the recurrence of mountain meadows filled with wild flowers in purples, yellows, whites and pinks. Cattle were grazing along with herds of elk. When we reached the Medicine Wheel National Monument, we drove up the narrow gravel road to the entrance 1 1/2 miles from the Wheel. Because of the walk at the end, there aren’t a huge number of people who choose this place, though the whole drive is spectacular. The view from the top looks out over the 100 by 140 mile elliptical valley to the west and south, so it is easy to imagine the native Americans finding this place one of mystic power. I walked up the path about a third of a mile, then sat on a convenient bench and watched Charles continue onward and upward. After a bit of a rest, I walked very slowly back down to the gates – contented and happy to look closely at the wildflowers and the butterflies and moths that were busy around them. I visited with the Forest Ranger; found out that she was from New Jersey, a history student at Rutgers, and interested in the history of the West. She told me that when her mother drove her out in June, it was snowing and her mother kept saying, “I can’t leave you here, I just can’t leave you here” because of the isolated vastness. Of course, the young woman stayed though she admitted to some hard won adjustments to solitude. She concluded that the beauty of the place trumped everything else, and that she would likely return for another summer.

We drove on, down through a hot and dusty Cody and on northward to Red Lodge, MT. On this part of the journey, the mountains stood off on both sides of a broad, semi-arid valley and the road went north in a straight line; occasional ranches appeared near the green line of trees that outlined the river. As we were driving mile after mile, suddenly a large red sign with the words, “Wonderful Banana Cream Pie Up Ahead!” appeared on the side of the road. The thought came that this had to be someone who was lonesome and bored and wondering how to make a little cash. Another sign appeared several miles on, “You Are Closer to Having Wonderful Banana Cream Pie!” Not having thought about banana cream pie for a very long time, it seemed very desirable on this late afternoon, driving across the wide dry plain, and visions of the lovely meringue atop a fine creamy custard were appearing in the mind’s eye. Finally, just as we began the upward climb into the western mountains we saw a few buildings on the roadside, and on the face of a faded café with a “Closed” sign in the door the last notice still called out. “Get Your Wonderful Banana Cream Pie Here!” With regrets, the vision died as surely as the dream of serving such culinary delights must have died some time ago.

We arrived at Red Lodge in the evening, and as we came closer to the town, we noted an ever increasing gathering of motorcycles. By the time we drove down the main thoroughfare, there were hundreds of them parked on both sides of the street, and we read the signs strung across from one side to the other that said, “Iron Horse Rodeo, July 19-21.” Since the appearance of such a large number of “Hogs” tends to alarm older citizens of rural Nebraska, it was gratifying to find that these were the more refined and orderly types, including a goodly number of the BMW brand of cycles that went “Hmmmmm” as they drove by, instead of the “Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!” of the Harleys. Charles assured me that this was obviously a gathering of mostly doctors and dentists and accountants rather than the Hell’s Angels variety. When we heard a loud peal of female laughter, he said, “Dental Assistant. Showing off her molars.”

On Friday, we drove over the Bear Tooth Pass which leads right into Yellowstone Park from the northeast. The pass was high and grand, though the vistas were becoming hazier with a yellowish color around the edges as the smoke from the numerous forest fires to the west and north came closer. Now a constant stream of motorcyclists became a part of the day, many without helmets and all in a hurry. When a large group came by, passing us one after another, Charles said, “Here comes a swarm of cyclists” because most of them were in the black leather and did bring to mind hornets heading out. We drove through Yellowstone Park with the only delays caused by the usual tourists armed with cameras who would stop in and on the road to photograph any moving creature. After seeing this a number of times, I am convinced that one could stop, leap out with a camera and rush to the side of the road, and immediately, many would also stop, arm themselves with cameras and follow, saying, “What, where?” (And one could say, “There! Just behind those trees! The biggest white buffalo I’ve ever seen!” Oh my.)

Now, this afternoon in Ennis, MT., we are in the guest cabin of good friends looking out the windows that frame the Madison River just outside. There are hummingbirds at the feeders, and finches singing in the willows. It’s a scene and setting that one usually sees in tourist brochures and we are delighted to be a part of it. My cough has been receding and my energy seems to improve. Our leisurely manner of travel is ideal though now Charles is saying that we have to begin to get serious about getting on toward California.

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