Part 48: Oregon and beyond
Charlize and I are driving through southeastern Oregon and into California. The winter landscape is much like Eastern Washington — rolling hills, windmill farms generating electricity, creeks and washes home to cottonwood trees, bare and stark silhouettes in the winter sky. We drive past cultivated fallow fields but the rows cut with the slope, up and down rather than terraced, perpendicular to the slope to conserve the soil.
“Why do they cultivate like this?” I ask Charlize.
She doesn’t respond but I see her perk up her ears in the rear-view mirror. We slow to 25 miles per hour through Moro, Ore. Proudly emblazoned on the tall outside of the high school gym is an announcement that both boys and girls teams have won state championships. Even at 25 miles per hour we pass too quickly to note which sports or when the students accomplished those historic achievements.
Moro is obviously an agricultural community, the supply center for a region. Outside of town are sprinkler-irrigated fields, the rolling wheels and attached sections idle, resting for the spring and summer workload of providing essential water to the dark soil. I see no indication of what is grown.
At mile marker 231, still following highway 97 south, the evergreen trees on either side of the highway show the scars of a forest fire. The charred, blackened trunks of the surviving trees bear witness to the conflagration but I spot only an occasional skeleton tree, stark against the sky. Judging by the size of the new-growth trees, the fire must have happened eight or 10 years ago. Piles of logs not far from the road indicate logging activity but it is not clear to me if the scarred logs are being harvested for lumber or firewood and there is nobody around to ask. We are still about forty miles north of Klamath Falls.
We stop in Klamath Falls. Charlize has her walkabout and I opt for a slice of apple pie and two cups of coffee. The waitress is unable to shed any light on the mystery of the piles of logs we passed. I was getting tired. I presume, correctly, that the coffee and sugar fix will keep me going for another two or three hours.
It is almost 6 in the evening when we stop at the “Last Resort Inn” in Adin, Calif. It is another motel directly out of the 1950s. The young female clerk who shows us to our room welcomes Charlize. She seems anxious to engage me in conversation but my answers to her questions are dismissive and she gives up. I’m too tired to relate my story or listen to hers.
There is only one place to eat in Adin. The limited menu is displayed on the wall above the counter where I place my order for an “Ortega” burger, onion rings and a diet Pepsi. As I supposed, the “Ortega” burger features a slice of canned poblano chili pepper wedged between the hamburger meat and the other accouterments, enough said.
Before we leave, early the following morning, I take this photo while Charlize takes care of her postprandial business.
On the road early again, anticipating a long drive to Las Vegas. We motor through the Modoc forest with intermittent showers, gray, dark skies, mist and low-hanging clouds hugging the trees before us. The empty highway twists and turns but before too long we are in Nevada — long, empty high-desert valleys separating mountain ranges as we gradually progress south and east. As we climb up from the desert valley, devoid of interesting vegetation, we reach elevations above 6,000 feet and observe Joshua trees scattered occasionally amongst non-descript, ground-hugging brush.
The photo was taken through the driver’s-side window while whizzing past at 65 miles per hour, amazing and this from Rosalie’s five- or six-year-old small digital camera.
— By Dr. David Gross
After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross has a new dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.