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There and Back Again

Yeah, I’m stealing the title for this post from a Hobbit, but he’s dead now and it seems a shame to let such a good title to to waste.

I was too messed up from the trip up the mountain to take a better picture. Sorry.

Let me tell you about my weekend.

A few months back my wife and our friends got it in their heads that we should go up to Oregon and watch the eclipse. For my part, I kind of hoped it would turn out to be a pipe dream. I’m sad to say that all the travelling I did in my youth has burned any desire to go places out of my soul. My idea of a great weekend is one where I don’t have to leave my property.

Yeah, I’m boring.

Anyhow, the plan picked up steam and soon became unstoppable. Charlotte made arrangements for a campsite in Albany, OR (more about that later), a town right on the Path of Totality. Resigned to my fate, I spent a lot of last week getting the trailer ready, and our good friends drove up from Long Beach on Friday. It was great to see them again, and they had a wonderful adventure driving up here.

(A quick aside: The Path of Totality is an awesome name. Somebody needs to use it in a Kung Fu epic or something. “Qang Che, the time has come for you to walk the Path of Totality,” Master Pong intoned.)

On Saturday, we took the day and did some sightseeing. There’s a lot to see around here. We ended up hitting the beach, the Farmers’ Market and The Trees of Mystery.

My kid mugging with Paul

Trees of Mystery is, let’s be honest, a tourist trap. It’s a good one, though. They didn’t put the coastal redwoods here, but they made an attraction around them that’s been pulling in people for over fifty years, so they must be doing something right. In the parking lot is a giant Paul Bunyan and Babe statue, and what’s cool about it is there’s a guy on duty that eavesdrops on the people in the parking lot and adds his own comments. The little ones got a big kick out of this. It’s fun just to hang out there and listen to the children talk to big ol’ Paul. There’s a trail through the redwoods that takes you up to the skytrail gondola. This will take you to an observation deck on top of the mountain. There’s a great view up there, and that’s what the attraction is all about.

The Brotherhood Tree. So named because it is big and round. If you figure that one out, please explain it to me in the comments.

It’s also the part I hated. I do not do well with hanging suspended over certain death with absolutely no control over the situation. The view at the top was spectacular, but getting there and back was hell.


Anyhow, I survived that, and we all made it back to the Thrakka Ranch safe and sound. My plans to have a cookout on the deck went sideways due to the Chetco Bar fire, which dumped ashes all over us, but we had a nice dinner at the Good Harvest Cafe in town. My prayers are for our neighbors to the north who have one hell of a natural disaster on their hands.

The next morning, we got up early, hitched up the trailer and set out on the long trek to Albany. Now, I kind of expected a few things: Lots of traffic, stifling heat, and a campsite. Well, it was warm, in the high eighties, but that was it. The drive up was pretty much just normal traffic. I guess all the travelers came up on Friday, leaving us a nice, clear road. We didn’t have a campsite, though. We ended up with a space on the street in front of an AirBnB some other friends were staying at. Not terrible, mind you, just not what I was expecting. The only problem was getting the trailer level. The street was on a downgrade, and if you’ve never had to level a 23-foot toy hauler on a slope, you’ve lived a blessed life. I eventually got it, but I swear I was sweating bullets all night worried that we’d fall off the jacks and careen down the street in that thing.

Sorry. This post qualifies as vacation photos, so I have to put in pictures of my offspring.

We made it through the night without any disasters, got up and had a little eclipse-watching party. Now, I’d have been perfectly happy to watch it from home, but Albany was on the Path of the Totality, which is why we did this trip. I suppose everyone and their sister has written about this, so I won’t belabor the point. I’ll just say that seeing the total eclipse with the naked eye (during the totality, you get about a two minute window where you can watch it without the special glasses) was incredible. Both families had a great time. My nine-year-old went nuts. I mean, I’m not going to say it was worth all the hassle, but it was a hell of a payoff.


The main event

If our trip up was easy, getting back was a different story. We had the crazy idea of getting breakfast after the eclipse, and that alone was enough to quail the hearts of stouter men than me. Everything was packed. If there’s anything that I have a greater distaste for than travel, it’s waiting to be seated at a restaurant.

Naturally, we figured if a leaf could be an eclipse viewer, then a colander would be even better! #SCIENCE!

I got caught unaware by this. The leaves acted as a pinhole eclipse viewer.

No camping trip is complete without some sort of equipment failure, and on this trip, it turned out to be the electrical system on the trailer. For some as-yet unknown reason, the shore power failed to run the 12VDC circuit, killing the RV battery. This wouldn’t have been a problem, but the tongue jack on my trailer is electric. For the life of me, I couldn’t find any manual way to retract it. This led to some scrambling around to try to fix it, and in the end, we had to get another guy’s car, jumper cables, and a good sense of humor to finally break camp and get on the road.

By this time, it was about five PM. Traffic was insane, and Waze redirected us through some of the most beautiful farmland I’ve ever seen to route us around Eugene and get us back to the I-5 South on the other side of the madness. The rest of the way home was more or less mundane, getting us back to the ranch at around midnight.

So, there you have it. Not exactly the Odyssey, but it will have to do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a twelve volt circuit to troubleshoot.


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