Monday 14 May 2018
We spent the weekend in Singapore with a visit from old mate, Ru, which included a Saturday dinner at Level 33 with its stunning view over Marina Bay and the light show. On Sunday we caught up with another mate, Chris, and his brother, Paul, for a tour of the Battle Box followed by a couple of drinks at our place.
We caught our flight to Portland Oregon, via Amsterdam, just after midnight Sunday. The last leg was on Delta airlines, where we experienced some of the best service and food we have had for a while on an airline. Well done Delta!
Landing late morning Sylvia and her colleagues, who had joined the flight in Amsterdam, went straight to a meeting at the Banfield head office in Vancouver, Washington State. I headed to the Sentinel Hotel in Portland. After checking in I took a stroll to the local Nike shop. As Portland is the home of Nike I expected a huge range of shoes but no such luck. I did however establish from the very knowledgable assistant that walking shoes are good for about 800kms. I realised mine had done probably at least four times that in the last two years. As they didn’t have anything suitable when Sylvia finished work we wandered to the REI store where I found a suitable pair of walking shoes.
Tuesday 15 May 2018
Sylvia and the team headed off to meetings early and, after a leisurely breakfast, I headed down to the Willamette River, which runs through the centre of the city and joins up with the mighty Colombia river a few miles down stream. At the river I turned right (south) and headed upstream. in a park on the river bank there were police assembled in various uniforms. I stopped and chatted to a sergeant at the back of a squad with various flags to discover it was an annual parade to honour the fallen. Parts of the park were covered in Canadian geese who barely moved as one walked through them.
A nice path headed alongside the river with lots of runners and walkers on it for the first few kms, then I was pushed away from the river through office and industrial areas and eventually I again found a park running alongside the river. I was surprised at the 12 vehicle bridges running across this river, from the north to the south end of the city, a distance of about 10kms. Several are double decked and many have lift up sections to let ships through. The oldest of these was built in 1910, the next a double decker steel bridge, also with a lift up section, was built in 1912.
Reaching the southern Sellwood Bridge I crossed over and headed back north along a sealed bike trail that ran alongside a rail line for several miles. Reaching the city I followed a walkway alongside the river until reaching the Broadway Bridge, which I crossed allowing for a good view downstream. This bridge also has, as many do, tramlines, with the centre span double-leaf bascule draw span opened for a ship to pass.
A path along the river’s edge lead me back up river until I turned off and strolled through Chinatown, then back to the hotel.
Wednesday 15 May 2018
I took an Uber across town where I picked up a rental car at Enterprise. I was expecting there to be a catch as the price quoted on line for 3 days was 65 USD. There was no catch just great service and soon I was on the road heading alongside the Colombia river.
I am heading for a town (population 46) called Antelope. The reason to make what is a long interesting journey is a few weeks ago Sylvia had headed to Tokyo and I was in Singapore with a few hours to spare before heading to NZ. I found a documentary on Netflix called Wild Wild Country. Thinking it was only one episode I started watching. Five episodes later I had to head to the airport so watched the last one in NZ. The story was about a Cult, started in India, called Rajneesh. Having got on the wrong side of the system in India they bought the Big Muddy River ranch near Antelope (for USD5.5 million) in the late seventies and set up a community. The conservative locals didn’t like the idea too much especially when they bought up most of the houses in Antelope and took over the town council, changing its name to Rajneesh. There was lots more too including a hotel they owned in Portland getting blown up, their attempt at assassinating a local councillor, bringing in thousands of homeless to get the town numbers up so they could take over the local Wasco council by vote and poisoning part of the town of Dalles, the county capital. I wanted to see what had happened to the place since 1985 when they were finally run out of the country.
Leaving the river at Biggs Junction and heading south the ground rose up to over 3000 ft. It’s large rolling cattle country where one can see for miles. Antelope is now a pretty derelict town with the church and the fire station the only well kept buildings. The cafe, school and the shops are run down and closed.
I headed out to Big Muddy Ranch about 18 miles away, most of it on a shingle road. The land out this way is a little steeper with rocky outcrops and deep gullies. The first evidence of the ranch I came across was the dam they built at the head of the valley. Dropping down into the valley there are a large grout of buildings at the southwest end of the sealed mile-and-a-half long runway, which is now cracked but still usable. I drove around amongst the large number of buildings until a guy in a pickup stopped me and said “hey man this is private property.” Oops! “Just trying to find the reception I replied” to be met with “just go up to the house and see Erika – she may give you a tour.”
I did just that and Erika was extremely helpful, she put me in her car and drove me around the place. I was the second visitor today; the other one was from Taiwan. She said before the documentary they got 2 visitors a year, now its two a day.
After the Rajneesh left, the place sat empty for years and was eventually bought by Denise Washington, a Copper Baron and philanthropist, and given to the Young Life Group, who have many camps across the US. Many of the buildings built by the Rajeesh, which the local council wouldn’t provide consents for, are still standing and were passed retrospectively. This includes what was the communal hall over 150 meters long and 50m wide, which is now a recreation hall. A new new dining room has been built, which caters for 500 people, and there is also a swimming pool and a lake. The new mess hall has facades of the old town of Antelope inside it. It appears the local ranchers have come to accept this latest religious group. There are a couple of the original accommodation buildings still in use, which sleep 400 plus lots more of the original buildings scattered around the place. Up a valley to the south there are more original buildings plus lots of new ones being built for a new youth camp for older kids.
The Rajneesh had built a huge community here. Erika said some old members have returned and said all they wanted to do here was live a peaceful life off the land. Unfortunately the local ranchers and the people of Antelope and the surrounding county didn’t quite see it that way so it all got a bit out of hand. Erika also gave me a good rundown on the camps they run for youth here and the farming that still takes place on the 65,000 square mile ranch.
I headed south to a place called Crooked River to visit Walt, who is the father of Stacey, who works with Sylvia in Singapore. Walt is a snow bird meaning that he and his wife head down south to Arizona for the winter. Walt had just returned to the new house they built on the hill with stunning views over the valley. His wife is enjoying a bit more sunshine down south. After a beer and a yarn I headed the 3 hours back to Portland this time via Mt Hood and the forest.
Thursday 16 May 2018
After another big US breakfast I headed southwest to the Evergreen Aeronautical Museum. I had heard about this place briefly but didn’t really know what to expect. The museum is made up of four large buildings with quite a few aircraft scattered around the outside. There is also a waterpark building that just happens to have a 747 Jumbo on the roof.
In the main building is none other than Howard Hughe’s Spruce Goose, a project funded by the US government during WWII. Designed to cary 750 troops and totally build of wood, this amazing beast made only one short flight in 1947, after which it was stored in a large warehouse funded by Hughes until his death in 1979. It was on display in California for a while until Evergreen got hold of it and built the building it now, fully restored, sits in, surrounded by other aircraft. With its 8 3,000 horsepower engines, large fuselage and wing span, it is trully impressive. I paid the extra money for a tour of the cockpit and look inside the wings.
Next I went over to the second building that housed space rockets, fighter jets, helicopters and the SR71 Blackbird, which flew at a top speed of 36 miles per minute. Thirty two of these were built, 12 of which were lost in accidents.
I hadn’t realised that space walks were done from the tiny mercury capsules and also discovered that the management of NASA had instructed that if they couldn’t get the space walker back inside they were to attempt re-entry with the poor bugger still attached as they didn’t want the bad publicity of leaving a guy up there.
Next I headed over to the theatre where a movie called Fighter Pilot was playing. It is the story of a pilot who went to the fighter pilot training exercise “Red Flag”, which is held every year in the Nevada Desert to fine tune pilots from all over the world. The story and photography was pretty amazing with lots of shots of fighters and bombers in action.
In the evening Sylvia and I took a dinner cruise up the river on the Portland Spirit. It gave us a good view over the city and took us about 10 miles upstream. interestingly where large houses now stand was once an industrial area with foundries and other heavy industry. There are still piles that once hosted large cranes on the river’s edge. On the return we were allowed on the bridge where the Captian was more than happy to tell us about the many bridges and other things about the city. On the river are a number of floating docks with houses floating upon them. Apparently the river rose up so much a few years ago that the docks floated up past the tall posts they were on and they floated off down the river creating mayhem. They are now on taller posts.
Friday 16 May 2018
We took a drive out to the Colombia river, stopping at a little town town called Troutdale for brunch before driving around the edge of the city along pretty, tree-lined roads. Dropping the rental car off, we headed back to the hotel as Sylvia had an afternoon/evening bunch of Skype meetings to attend. I headed up river to a cablecar I had spotted on Tuesday. This took me up to the hospital on a hill from which I found a track through the bush back to town. One thing that surprised me about Portland is the number of homeless people around the town. As I walked through a nice park that runs between two streets by the university at least 10 homeless slept on the grass, some with dogs and few belongings, others with lots of stuff piled on carts. Over the previous few days we had seen homeless all over town. I asked the question why to a number of people but got no defined answer. Apparently the legalisation of marijuana has lead to prolific drug use among them. One guy told us that some other states apparently give their homeless a hundred bucks and a bus fare to Portland to add to the problem. Whatever the reason it is not a good look for what is a pretty nice town with wide streets, character buildings and lots of trees.