Mid-Life Crisis Trip
Entry 19: Speeding couches and flat pennies
Fri, Aug 4, 2006
Have you ever wondered what a penny looks like after it's been on the railroad tracks?
So did Robert. Here's the result: It's very, very flat. An oblong piece of thin copper. The cool thing is that you can still make out the surface markings (although they're now very faint impressions on the surface of the copper) and see a very smooshed-looking Lincoln.
This has, of course, sparked Robert's curiosity. What does a nickel look like after this process? A quarter?
Look for further scientifical results...
Robert decides to take the scooter over to nearby Independence because it keeps showing up in the newspaper as the location for various places of interest.
Note to Independence Chamber of Commerce: While we understand the idea of having a detour around construction, you don't want to actually detour people AROUND YOUR ENTIRE FREAKIN' TOWN. You want to have a sign or a clue or something that says "Town back this-away" at the end of the detour.
Just a thought.
Wow. This is like getting into your DeLorean time machine and heading Back to the Future. Or like the catalog entry for "One (1) each, small American town."
Robert stops at Taylor's Soda Shop because there was a front-page article in the Salem newspaper about how it's going out of business after 61 years. Sure enough, this soda shop features a counter with stools and you can order a sundae or a phosphate or even a sasparilla(!).
But you better hurry, because there's only 88 days left before they close. (They're going out of business because the owner has decided to retire. It's sort of the downside of a small business—when the owner calls it quits, the business goes away. Still, it's better than having a standardized McSundae served by a corporate drone.)
Robert saunters over to the used bookstore, which has one-half of its floor space taken up with romance novels. And, apparently, there are now categories of romance novels—western, contemporary, even time travel and science fiction romance novels ("He interfaced with her pulsating circuits as their data flowed furiously!").
On the way out, the shopowner said that Robert should visit the coffee shop on the corner, "because I promised Ridgely I'd try to send people his way." Well, you don't have to say "coffee" to Robert twice and before long he's ordering an Americano from Ridgely and settling into one of the big comfy chairs.
This is (no surprise) a neighborhood coffee shop and Ridgely seems to know everybody that comes in and he chats with them. He's thinking about maybe opening up tonight, because there's a concert nearby and maybe he'll be able to sell some coffee (he stayed open late Thursday night and did pretty good).
Saturday, Aug 7, 2006
Laura attends her last women's basketball game of the season for the Seattle Storm. She and Elizabeth have been women's basketball season ticket holders since day -1 (they got stiffed on season tickets when the Reign went bankrupt). One or both faithfully showed up at each home game, even after they spilled beer on each other.
They bid a tearful farewell to Key Arena section 104, row 7, seats 10 & 11 at the end of the Storm's last regular season game. The team made the playoffs, but tickets are out of reach (physically and monetarily) this year. They don't feel too bad about it, because they were there for the 2004 championship run where they got to see the trophy and holler and speak hoarsely for days afterwards.
They'd like to hear from anybody who passes by section 104, row 7, seats 10 & 11 at future Storm games to make sure that the seats are being properly respected.
Sunday, Aug 6, 2006
Robert leaps onto the trusty scooter (and then moans and more carefully mounts it) and heads over to nearby Silverton for "Homer Davenport Days." Mr. Davenport was an editorial cartoonist about 100 years ago and was the first person to import Arabian horses into the country. Most importantly, he was from Silverton and the folks there haven't forgotten.
Robert arrives at the local park where there are many booths set up selling jewelry and toys and food—your basic street fair/farmer's market/festival set of booths.
He asks around to locate the Homer Davenport geek ("if you want good information, find the geek" is our motto) and finds out about Homer's editorial cartooning (since everybody else is enamored of the horsies, which, Robert points out, are smelly and can't draw).
Seems that Homer worked for William Randolph Hearst in the late 1800s until he got fired for a cartoon he did about Prez. Roosevelt. This means he was in the early days of editorial cartoons and was there at the start of Yellow Journalism (which involved circulation battles between Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers). At one point, he was the highest paid editorial cartoonist in the country. He was so good that New York state tried to pass a bill outlawing political cartoons.
Homer's work is particularly notable because it's all done with a fine, constant-width ink line. He builds up his drawings with intricate cross-hatching and the results are very striking.
To commemorate Homer, Silverton every year has: couch races!
Yup, because his last name is Davenport, the good folks of Silverton decided that racing couches should be a centerpiece of their celebration of life of Homer. Now, your standard issue couch is none too speedy and in most situations can best be described as "stationary." So the Davenport races allow a few couch modifications.
Such as adding wheels and a steering wheel. All the couches are powered by people (two or four, depending on the category) and race two at a time down Main Street for about 100 yards. The sidewalks are lined four deep with people, cheering for their favorite teams (or runners).
At the beginning of each heat, the announcer officiously asks "Timers ready? Starter ready? Couches ready?" which is about the only time in Robert's life he's heard the phrase "Couches ready?"
Okay, Oregon, can we have a word?
You see, sometimes people visit who aren't from within 10 miles of a particular spot. And they haven't grown up driving these roads to the point where they know them as well (or better) as the back of their hands. As a result, THEY NEED SOME FRIGGIN' ROAD SIGNS ALREADY!
Apparently, it's against the law in Oregon to mark the highways with any kind of sign indicating what road it is or where it goes to. Consequently, Robert has managed to end up in some kind of state park, which doesn't appear on his map.
Fortunately, there's a State Trooper nearby, writing up tickets for scofflaws who didn't get their day use permits ("Shoot their tires out, officer!"). He has a better map than Robert does (the trooper's map is a brochure, which gives you some kind of idea of the quality of Robert's map).
Visit Oregon, but bring a good map. And a GPS device.
Wed, Aug 9, 2006
Now that Laura is back from Seattle and has had a chance to unpack, it's time to move on to the next phase of our Oregonization: license plates and driver's licenses.
Fortunately, in Oregon this is all done at the same building emblazoned with a giant "DMV" which is (like everything else in Salem) nearby.
We had a dream. A dream that, because we had driven in Washington for a long time (33 and 43 years, respectively) that Oregon would say, "Shoot, you guys can drive. Here's your licenses. Welcome to Oregon."
Ha. It is to laugh.
They won't give Robert a license because he can't prove that he lives in Oregon ("Why would I want an Oregon driver's license if I didn't live here?").
They won't give Laura a license because the only identification she has with her is (get this) her Washington Driver's license! Just because the US Government will let her get on an airplane with that level of ID doesn't mean that Oregon will accept that as proof of who she is.
Note to terrorists: don't try to hijack Oregon, you won't make it past security.
We do, however, have enough identification to prove who our car is, and they graciously allow us to give them $121 for our nice shiny Oregon plates (yikes! where's Tim Eyman when you need him?).
We are back at the DMV. This time, Laura is hoping they will accept her US Government-issued passport as additional proof of who she is. It's a close thing.
Those of you who have read these trip logs regularly will know that we have been to a few countries using this very same passport. For example, we've been to Greece, Italy, France, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, England, Spain and Newfoundland (definitely its own country).
Just because those yahoo customs inspectors in those backwoods countries believed that this was a valid US passport doesn't mean that the Oregon DMV is that dumb. They spend ten minutes and get three different inspectors involved (and use ultraviolet light) before (reluctantly) deciding that they'll accept it as a second form of ID (along with her sleazeball Washington driver's license).
To prove that he lives in Oregon, Robert brings a credit card bill. Recognizing that this is the sort of ID that every red-blooded American has, they wave him through the checkpoint.
Now, of course, we have to take the written driving test because—hey, Washington is a whole 'nother STATE and they have WAY different driving rules than here in Oregon where we have CIVILIZED driving rules and you better prove you know them, ducko.
Robert passes the written (actually computerized) test with 93%. One of the questions he missed: How far away should an oncoming car be before you dim your high-beams? His answer: As soon as you can see them (this answer was not one of the choices). The correct answer: 600 feet. Picky, picky.
Laura passes with 82%, which delights Robert who sees everything as a contest ("I finished first and I got more points! Woohoo! I win!"). Laura rolls her eyes.
But then we take the motorcycle license written test (because we need a motorcycle license to drive the scooter). We're not up on the intricacies of that instruction booklet (because we haven't read it) and all we have to go on is a couple of years of road experience and our State of Washington training.
We both flunk out with 75%. We decide to come back tomorrow and try again after reading the book.
Now, we're trying to get license plates for the scooter, but to do that, we need to find its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Because the scooter is designed by Italians, this is not in any kind of obvious location, or even many of the unobvious ones.
After a call to the dealer (and the person answering the phone has to go find somebody else who knows), we discover that you have to unlock the glovebox and then use a screwdriver to remove a plate at the back of the glovebox to get to the VIN.
We'd like to report what Robert had to say about Italian scooter engineers, but it's mostly a long string of obscenities that we're pretty sure would get us arrested in Oregon.
After a day of dealing with idiot bureaucracies, we're in need of something seriously spiritual. So we head to the local Methodist church to hear (why not?) a touring choir from Latvia called Blagovest sing Russian Orthodox sacred music. The deal is that Orthodox churches allow only singing during church services (no musical instruments). As a result, they get these pretty ornate songs going—complex harmonies, melodies, and dynamics.
Eastern European choral singing style uses a bit more "head tones" and a bit less vibrato, and this group raised serious goose bumps. Laura wishes that between the pieces there was more silence and less applause.
Robert likes that some of the songs have a solo by a Deacon who sings with the choir, and Laura has to restrain him from hollering out "Deacon solo!" whenever this happens. At the end, we all stand and they sing us a blessing. Best encore ever.
Fri, Aug 11, 2006
We're at the Oregon DMV again, ready to take the motorcycle written test for a second time. We're starting to recognize the clerks who work here.
This time, we've actually read the booklet and our scores are much higher (although Robert still wants to argue with them about one of the motorcycle questions). In fact, they are so high that we pass!
And even more amazing—Oregon isn't going to make us take the driving part of the test! For either cars or motorcycles! Although we had to prove that we knew all the Oregon laws (which are the same as Washington laws), they don't really care if we can put these laws into practice.
This is a huge relief to us, because we would have had to make four appointments to get through all of it (one each for the car, one each for the scooter). Whew!
We are now officially Oregonites (or "Oregonians" as Laura keeps calling us, but Robert's pretty sure that "Oregonites" sounds cooler), as Oregon hands us our brand new spiffy Oregon Driver's Licenses. Tada! We have been assimilated. (And it only cost $250 for our new licenses. Yikes!)
Lab results from the nickel/train interaction experiment are back. A nickel also gets very flat. Curiously, it's almost exactly the same size and shape as the penny, although it's thicker and larger to begin with. You can make out surface details easier on the nickel.
The force deforming the coin may eject it before it has a chance to reach maximum thinness. Probably, it's a time limited event—the train wheel presses down on the coin for a certain amount of time (one revolution of the wheel) and then the coin falls off the track. Still, you'd think the fatter nickel would end up larger than the penny.
A quarter and a dime seem likely candidates for the next round of testing.
[And for those people who are saying, "You could get into trouble for defacing US money, boy!" Robert says: "I'm not defacing it. The train is. You wanna arrest somebody, arrest the train."]