I'm still in awe of what I saw on the way to work today.
Regular readers of this blog know I have a dubious relationship with animals, wildlife in particular, which is too bad, since I seem to have regular encounters with them. My commute to, or from work is littered with animals. There are cows and sheep, horses and pigs (although I can't see the pigs from the road). There are goats, chickens, dogs and cats. Nearly every day I must slam on my brakes for black-tailed deer, or a black bear, a bobcat or raccoons. Possums occasionally saunter across the road, and there used to be lots of tree frogs, hopping in the headlight beams.
I've recently heard the mountain lion population has grown considerably in the area, and they are opening hunting to include the big cats.
But never, in my wildest imagination, did I ever expect to see a zebra on my morning commute.
Conde McCullough (1887–1946) was a professor at Oregon State in Corvallis from 1916 to 1919. In 1919, he accepted an offer to become Oregon's bridge engineer in the Bridge Division of the Oregon Department of Transportation. He immediately hired four of the five graduating class members of the civil engineering department at Oregon State (the fifth declined). From 1919 to 1925, he and his staff designed and built nearly 600 bridges in Oregon.
I like to think about the types of vehicles travelling across the bridges during those times. Already old cars like this 1909 Pope Hartford, racing across in a blur of maroon and brass.
1909 Pope Hartford
Photo by Melanie Sherman
Or newer cars like this 1913 Case, rolling across on the huge, thin white walls and sporting beautiful wood spoke wheels and upgraded leather upholstery, filled with driver, spouse and four children out for a week's vacation at the coast.
Photo by Melanie Sherman
Or a brand new, spiffy Dodge with the row of oval rear windows and the fancy hood ornaments, and the family bundled in under wool, Hudson's Bay blankets.
But the depression arrived in 1929 and what did the Bridge Division of the Oregon Department of Transportation do? Did they collapse and go on unemployment? Well, they certainly slowed their pace, but they continued to build bridges throughout Oregon. Imagine the cement, lumber, gravel and sand industries thriving during this time period because of these bridge constructions. Not to mention the workers that built them. Twelve bridges, designed by Mr. McCullough, were completed between 1930 and 1936, most of them along Oregon Coast Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast.
Did he ever suspect the bridges would carry a set of doubles, or an RV bigger than many homes at that time? Did they have meetings to brainstorm what the future would hold, or what the bridges would hold in 2011? And yet they do hold. He designed them to last. And he made them pretty.
I'm rarely bored. I think it is because I find the simplest things vastly amusing, and I'm quite good at thinking up the simplest things.
It is a good quality to have. Right?
For instance, I used to walk every day at lunch, three times around the same .7 mile loop, listening to the same Caribbean beat CD. Was I bored? No. I'd think up interesting ways to amuse myself, such as plotting out stories or betting that I'd reach the third tree before a car went by, or deciding I'd reach the crosswalk before the particular song on the CD ended.
I've caught myself doing that recently when I return home at night. I keep track of how far I go before I have to dim my headlights. The Pacific Northwest is not as heavily populated as some parts of the country, so sometimes I can leave my brights on for two or three miles without encountering another car. One Saturday night, around 11pm, I drove nearly six miles with my brights on; with no cars in front, behind or oncoming.
As amusing as I found this, I'm worried it is time for me to get a life.
I've had a couple of people email me and ask what the Portland Spirit is, and how could I have not seen it until it was nearly on top of us.
I've included a picture below, but the reason I didn't see it is because I was watching the firemen on the fire boat. Need I explain more?
If you plan a trip to Portland, the Portland Spirit provides an excellent brunch cruise, as well as lunch and dinner cruises. I've done the lunch and brunch several times. Perhaps if you come to visit, I'll allow you to treat me to a dinner cruise. Who wouldn't jump at that chance, huh?
For my birthday, my sister, Nina, gave me a sailing trip. Not just any sailing trip, but sailing on the Willamette River right through the heart of Portland. The kind of trip you see others taking on a hot, summer afternoon, when they glide past, sprawled on deck in bathing suits, jaunty little sun hats poised atop stylishly windblown hair, and sipping piñacoladas with festive little umbrellas peeking over the rims. They are always smiling, without a care in the world.
That kind of trip.
We met for a Sunday brunch at the floating Newport Bay Restaurant, wedged between a boat-filled jetty at River Place and the I-5 bridge. My sister had brought Gore-Tex pants, jacket, hat and water boots. I glanced out the window. Something was amiss. Was that rain, coming down in sheets and spilling off the gutters of the restaurant?
I patted my pack. It contained a light jacket, and a wide-brimmed summer hat.
After the meal, we pressed against the glass doors and stared out at the dock. The rain eased until it was a fine mist, then stopped. We ambled outside and watched a 26 foot Hunter sailboat approach, its sails furled and the passengers huddled under tarps and jackets, their stringy, wet hair stuck to their heads under sagging hats.
After they disembarked, we boarded and sat on wet seat cushions in the cockpit. Within minutes, we shoved off, motoring out under the I-5's Marquam Bridge.
"Are we going to sail?" I asked Captain Shane St. Clair.
He glanced at the clouds breaking up overhead, and at the little ribbons hanging from the rigging.
"Well, I guess so," he smiled. "We'll set the jib, first, and see how that goes."
It was at that point he pressed Cort into the crew, assigning him the task of taking the helm, while he jumped up and unfurled the mainsail and checked the lines and sheets. Cort seemed perfectly happy to become a first-mate, however, and steered clear of any misfortune.
The sun came out and steam rose from the deck, and the squishy seat cushions. We raised the mains'l. Nina had arranged for a band to stand under the Burnside Bridge and play for us as we sailed past. She is so organized.
Burnside Bridge (with the little Bavarian Village tower)
The Burnside Bridge was designed by Joseph Strauss and built in 1926. His next bridge was the Lewis and Clark Bridge. After that, he designed a little bridge called the Golden Gate.
The Portland fire boat came out to greet us. I think Nina arranged this, too. They waved to us, and probably thought we were visiting celebrities.
Portland Fire boat
I was so busy doing the celebrity hand wave that I almost didn't see the Portland Spirit until it was on top of us.
Portland Spirit and Portland Fire
In the below picture you can see the Steel Bridge in the foreground. It may not be the most beautiful bridge, but it is one of the busiest. Across its spans run cars, buses, pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, railroad trains and light rail trains. Just beyond the Steel Bridge is the Hawthorn Bridge, and beyond that you can see the graceful arch of the Fremont bridge, the highest of the Portland bridges.
Steel Bridge, Hawthorn Bridge, Fremont Bridge
When we arrived back at the dock, and furled the sails, the sun was just about to be swallowed up by clouds. I expected to see newspaper reporters, longing to interview us, but they were curiously absent.
By the time we got back to our cars, it began to rain.