Monday, July 05, 2010


I needed an adventure.

Friday I worked until noon with the intention of hitting Hwy 26 east at 12:02pm (I work on the fourth floor and sometimes you have to wait for the elevator), but I hadn't had a chance to tan the night before so I thought I would tan before hitting the freeway (this doesn't matter at all to the story except that instead of hitting Hwy 26 east at 12:02pm I hit it at 12:45pm, and that doesn't even matter either). There wasn't as much traffic going east as there could have been (plenty heading toward the beach, though), and I made pretty good time to my first stop at The Dalles (I realized I didn't have anything to drink at all for the road, so I was drinkless for two hours. Again, completely useless information). The whole trip east was fairly uneventful traffic-wise, until roughly La Grande, when I started to hit construction. Also it rained directly over Boardman, and then also sprinkled some throughout the construction areas from Baker to that horrid stretch right before Ontario. At one point about five miles west of Ontario it was raining so hard I should have pulled over. I didn't, because good Lord it's July. I pulled into Helen's at around 8:15 Mountain Time (I was on Pacific Time, you know, Ontario is an hour ahead of us here) or so, it was windy (and dry) and cold. We had some dinner, sat up and chatted, and went to bed at a reasonable hour. I read, and then slept like a rock.

Saturday didn't have too much of an agenda for the day, so we lazed around Saturday until 5:30pm when it was time to go to her sister's ranch for a family celebration that involved the 4th of July, her brother-in-law's 89th birthday, and her sister and brother-in-law's 63rd wedding anniversary in the little town of Jamieson, Oregon. Jamieson is about an hour's drive from Helen's house in Ontario, if you are Helen and drive 55mph the whole way. I am not Helen. We got there a little bit early (the others were going to 5pm Mass in Vale and Helen figured we would all arrive at the ranch at roughly the same time). Since we were early (way), and I had never been to the Maags' spread, Helen took us on a little driving tour of the operation. We stopped first at her sister's house (huge, sweeping views, fabulousness. This is what ranch houses will always be to me), then decided (for some reason) to take the "back way" over to Doug and Terri's house. This is a big spread, so though you could see Doug's from where we were, it was like a little dot in the distance.

Things were calm as we set off on the dirt road that farm vehicles use to get from field to field. Doug does a lot of farming, and this place seriously is huge. We were meandering around for what seemed like a long time, still keeping Doug's house in sight, while the road started to get rougher and rougher. We got to a point next to Willow Creek (river. It was a river down a steep embankment that one wrong turn could only mean certain death) where the road was pretty much flooded and muddy and impassable, so we drove right into it.
Luckily there was a farm hand (wearing hip waders, just for the record) standing in the middle of the field (were they onions? I have no idea) watching this all go down. We didn't actually get STUCK in the mud, but we were close to it, and there was a lot of panic and pandemonium going on inside the car, because for God's sake I grew up in Beaverton, I don't know how to drive through this kind of crap, next to a steep embankment where one wrong turn or loss of traction would mean certain death. Not to mention I dream about this stuff all the flipping time. To say I was kind of flipping out is kind of an understatement.

Helen bodily through me out of the driver's seat (she's 78 so that's actually kind of funny) and we sank to our knees (tops of our shoes) in the mud. I got the Mexican farm hand over to the car and desperately tried to communicate with him (again. Remember my time in Mexico? I can get myself around in a taxi, I can buy groceries and get my laundry done, I can pay my bills and take a telephone survey, but I never ONCE had the opportunity to practice phrases that might have ANYthing to do with backing out of a mud bog and finding a better road to get to Doug's house). I wanted him to drive the car itself, but Helen wasn't having it, as she grew up in Juntura Oregon and apparently that place was a mud bog from 1931 to 1960, and if anyone could get us out of this mess it was Helen. Angel (seriously, that was his name), instead, had the daunting task of trying to direct us out without careening off the embankment, and since Helen doesn't know right or left either (I don't) (not that that mattered much, there wasn't a ton of verbal communication going on), and it finally worked, and after he assured us of a route that was a thousand times dryer for our ultimate destination, we set off with Helen of Juntura driving on a REALLY narrow dirt road that was so close to the creek's embankment I couldn't look pretty much the whole time. We got to a bridge. Crossed it. Made it to the house. Parked. Walked around back so we could take our shoes off. It was only 6:45 but everyone was home and most of them had been watching us.

The good news is that both Doug's son AND Angel had encountered similar issues with that particular stretch of "road" earlier, so we didn't look like COMPLETE morons, though many were thinking Helen would NEVER have attempted to take the farm roads to the house.. so while I was in the kitchen singing Helen's praises for saving the day, she was in the living room telling everyone that despite having lived in Mexico for nearly two years I couldn't speak a word of Spanish.

It was a very festive affair, there were tons of people and Doug and Terri's house is huge and fabulous, again with the sweeping views of their land and seriously, this is just God's country. There was a Cornhole tournament (I realize this is eastern Oregon, but it's not what you think, and anyway eastern Oregon is nothing like the deep South) before and after dinner (my team was ahead for most of our game until my cousin Brian and Terri came from behind to win.. crushing.), a big spread of food that you can only get from ranch country, and much fun and laughter. Seriously, it was a blast.
Look at that view!

By the time the mud dried on our shoes it was time to go back to Ontario, so off we went. We chatted for a little while before going to bed, exhausted from the ordeal and the festivities.

Sunday morning we went to church (I have been to Blessed Sacrament more in the last year than I have been to St. Cecilia's in Beaverton in the last 15 years), and I left Ontario at about 10am local time. There isn't much to say about the drive home except I took the Burns way and it took me for FLIPPING EVER to get home. Eight hours. Insane. That's probably another blog post, if I'm up to it.

In summary, a happy holiday weekend with people I should be spending more time with. That country isn't about all the bullshit I have to put up with here. But, you know, I like making money, so I guess for now I'll just have to settle for the occasional thunder run.


At 8:41 AM, July 05, 2010, Anonymous Jackie said...

Sounds good. I wanted to see a video though of the mud bog debacle.

At 9:04 AM, July 05, 2010, Blogger JJ said...

I've always said I should be wired for video at all times..


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