Getting Ready in Portland

Getting my new truck on April 1 (hah -- April Fools!) had been a huge milestone. Finally I had freedom, and no more rental cars. For the next six weeks, until I left Portland in mid-May, I worked almost every day on Gigi, customizing her and getting her ready for my road trip. I’ll describe the work I did in my next entry – and probably in more detail that you want to know!

After getting my truck, I started eagerly waiting for my shipment from Qatar to arrive because I wanted to take several things in that shipment with me on my road trip, especially a foam pad that I was going to put in the back of my truck and use as a bed. The shipping company told me that my 20-foot container from Qatar would arrive on May 4, so I set May 5 as my departure date. But I didn’t sit around waiting for it. Nope, I had a lot to do, and every day was like a marathon preparing for my road trip. 

For most of those four weeks, from early April to early May, I lived at Champoeg State Park, located about 20 miles south of Portland. It was a great location, being close to Portland, and I drove into Portland almost every day and made frequent trips to a number of places. Honestly, I’ve never run so many errands in my life, making the considerable transition from living in Qatar to taking a road trip around America.

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Above: Volleyball is my favorite sport, having played it in high school, college, and every week for over 10 years after college. In early April, I watched a college sand volleyball tournament, hosted by the University of Portland. (0:52)
   
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One place I visited early-and-often was my storage unit. Before moving to Qatar, I’d stored half of my stuff in a 15 x 20’ storage unit in Portland and had the other half shipped to Qatar (which was now being shipped back to the US). My Portland storage unit, as drab as it was, was as close to a “home” as I had during my prep work:  a place to drop things off and store them for a day or a week. I visited it almost every day and the friendly folks managing the storage unit saw me so often that we were soon on a first-name basis. I have a lot of friends in Portland and I probably could’ve stored my stuff at their places for a while, but I didn’t want to bother them. I’m a pretty independent person and I like doing things myself, in my own way, and not having to rely on anyone for anything. So using my storage unit worked out great.

Another place I visited frequently was Fred Meyer. No, it’s not a person; it’s a store. For those of you not lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, Fred Meyer is the epitome of the phrase, “one stop shopping.”  Fred Meyer is a Northwest institution and is oodles better (yes, oodles is a quantitative term) than Wal-Mart, Target or its ilk. You can get almost everything at Freddies and I stopped at one of their stores – Tualatin, Newberg or Tigard – almost every day. 

And then there’s REI, the camping and outdoor recreation store, where I loaded up on camping supplies. One of the cashiers at the Tualatin REI saw me so often, he asked for updates of my trip planning. He was from Indiana and took a real interest in my “Extreme Geography” adventure. 

And finally there’s Home Depot. What would I do without that place?  There were two stores I really missed in Qatar; one was Fred Meyer and the other was Home Depot. Every few nights after I got back to my cabin at Champoeg, I emptied my pockets of Home Depot receipts that I’d collected that day from my various truck projects. 

So yes, I spent a lot of time running around to these various places and many days it was like a connect-the-dots:  “First I’ll go to REI to get a cooler, then Home Depot to get bolts and caulk, then Freddies for groceries, and then I’ll swing by my storage unit and drop off my tools.”  Repeat that almost every day for nearly two months and you get the idea.

Getting Ready -- And Having Fun

 

 

Back to the Coast -- Twice!

 
 
Above:  In April I took two more trips to the Oregon coast. In early April I visited Beverly Beach State Park near Newport on the central coast. A few weeks later, I headed to Cape Lookout State Park near Tillamook on the northern coast.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, Champoeg State Park was pretty much my home during April and May as I got ready for my road trip, but most weekends I had to find another place to stay, since the campground there would fill up with folks who’d made reservations months earlier. 

In early April, shortly after I got my truck, I headed back to the coast for the weekend and this time stayed at Beverly Beach State Park near the town of Newport. I love this State Park, partly because there are a couple loops in the campground that are set aside just for tenters like myself – no electricity or sewer hookups that the RV’ers always demand. If you don’t camp much, you might think of campers as all being the same, but in my mind there’s a big difference between tenters on the one hand and RV’er/trailer folks on the other and I’ve always considered myself squarely in the tenters group.

A few weekends after that, in late April, I headed back to the coast and stayed at Cape Lookout State Park near the town of Tillamook, a few hours north of Newport. To many Americans, Tillamook is synonymous with cheese and I must admit those Tillamook cows make a mean cheddar. I’ve been to the Tillamook Cheese Factory countless times and I try a different ice cream flavor each time. This time it was Oregon Blackberry. Blackberry as in the kind you eat, not the kind you hack.

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Above: I visited Cape Foulweather and Cape Meares on the Oregon coast two weeks apart in April 2016. Cape Foulweather was named by Captain James Cook in 1778. Cape Meares was named after the English sea captain, John Meares, who explored this area 10 years later. (0:49)
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During that same weekend, I spent a day at the wonderful Tillamook County Public Library. By this time I was starting to learn web design, since I wanted to create a website to document my upcoming travels. Or I should say “relearn it” because I first learned some web design back in 2001 when I created my DelsJourney website using Microsoft FrontPage (does anyone even remember that software?), then in 2012 I learned a web package called Joomla and developed several personal websites with it. 

From my experience in 2012, I knew I wanted to use Joomla to create my new website, ExtremeGeographer.com, but it had been a while since I’d used it and, unlike riding a bicycle, I’d forgotten most of Joomla. So at the Tillamook County Library that rainy Saturday afternoon, I opened my Joomla book and, starting on page 1, began teaching myself Joomla again – a task that would continue off-and-on well into July. By the way, the Tillamook County Library is a real gem and if you ever need high-speed Internet while traveling on the north Oregon coast, be sure to stop in. 

It rained all day as I worked in the library and it didn’t let up that evening as I drove back to Cape Lookout State Park, about 20 minutes away. I got to the park and hopped in my tent – I hadn’t gotten my truck canopy yet, so I was camping in a tent – then I turned on my laptop, huddled in my warm sleeping bag as it got dark, and watched the movie, “The Revenant” while listening to the steady light rain outside. If you’ve ever had a miserable day, you should watch “The Revenant” because nothing puts life in perspective more than watching a guy crawl 400 miles after being attacked by a grizzly bear. I’d first read the true story of the 1800s fur trapper Hugh Glass when I was 11 years old and couldn’t believe he actually did that, so I wanted to see the movie -- even if it did star Leonardo DeCaprio. Watching a movie about grizzly bears while camping in a tent surrounded, quite possibly, by bears perhaps wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. I enjoyed the film certainly but sleeping afterwards was a bit of a challenge.

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Above: I've driven by Cape Kiwanda on the northern Oregon coast about a hundred times. This time I actually hiked to the top. (0:47)
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The next day, Sunday, was drippy like the day before and I drove back to Portland, since the weekend crowd at Champoeg State Park had once again dispersed, like the ebb and flow of a tide. Champoeg was really starting to feel like home and I was getting to know the campground hosts there pretty well. It was now late April and according to the shippers, my stuff from Qatar was supposed to arrive in about a week. 

I spent that last week of April working on my truck and continuing to learn web design, this time in the Tualatin Public Library. Yep, when you’re homeless like I was, libraries become your friend. Several years ago I lived in Tualatin (pronounced “too-ALL-a-tin”) before I bought my house in Portland and I still love that little town. I also got ready for my first “Extreme Geography” adventure, an upcoming weekend jaunt to the Olympic peninsula in northwestern Washington, where I hoped to bag my first four extreme compass points:  the westernmost, NW-most, WNW-most, and NNW-most points of the contiguous United States. But I’ll tell you more about that trip a bit later!

Getting Ready -- And Trips to the Coast