Back in the days when American pioneers loaded all their stuff into Prairie Schooners and ambled their way westward, the wagons were driven by men like Mr. Dave. They were a breed of tough, ex-navy guys who used their native instinct instead of paper maps. They didn’t have GPS with cute little car graphics. They had only the sun, the moon, the stars, and a gut feeling that the path west was sort of in the direction they were going.
That’s why we ended up traveling on what I like to call the everlasting road to nowhere. Mr. Dave, Earl the truck, and I became new age pioneers traveling westward on a roadway that Mr. Dave had a “gut” feeling was the right path to get us to Coos Bay.
Two hours into our westward journey, I made some verbal observations for Mr. Dave’s benefit.
“We are lost and my knees hurt.” I said.
“No, we are not lost,” replied Mr. Dave, “look at the compass, we are heading west.”
“What compass?” I asked.
“The compass that is imbedded in Earl’s rear view mirror,” replied Mr. Dave.
I looked. Damned if there wasn’t a tiny little compass imbedded in Earl the truck’s rear view mirror! My respect for Earl increased in every direction. Earl is a true motorized version of the classic Prairie Schooner; only, without the canvas covering. And Earl wasn’t loaded down with all our stuff. All our stuff was at home with the senior citizen kitties. The kitties who were probably beginning to wonder where we had run off to.
“Just because that compass thingy says west doesn’t mean we are anywhere close to Coos Bay,” I said. “It is quite obvious that we are climbing a mountainous region here, I continued. “We are on a road that is spiraling upwards. I do not like this road. It has no signs telling us how far away we are from the next town. We are lost in the boondocks!”
“We are traveling west,” Mr. Dave replied, using his know-it-all voice. “West leads towards the Pacific Ocean where Coos Bay is located. I feel it in my gut. You can check the GPS and see the little car icon moving forward in a westerly direction. We are not lost”
I checked the GPS on Mr. Dave’s phone. The little car thingy that represented Earl the truck was moving along the line that represented the road we were on. I wasn’t certain if it was moving in a westward direction, but at least it was moving.
Forty minutes later we were still spiraling upwards and the terrain had changed from grassy hills to a massive mountain range covered in a forest of huge trees growing so close together that their branches overhung the road like a canopy. It was rather a lovely sight to see, but it also indicated to an astute observer, such as myself, that humanity of any kind was probably not present in this vicinity. No houses, shacks, or log cabins existed here. With the exception of an occasional heavily loaded log truck going by in the opposite direction, Earl the truck was the only vehicle on this road. Nor did a road sign appeared on the horizon to let us know how close we might be getting to Coos Bay.
I was giving up hope that we would ever quit climbing upwards when we came to the ‘sign’. A dust encrusted, rusty, yellow diamond-shaped road sign peppered with about a dozen large bullet holes. I personally believe that this gun blasted road marker was a message from God gently informing us that we were approaching the entrance to the road of the damned.
Mere moments after Mr. Dave guided Earl the truck through the curve, the road ended. Well, not the entire road, just the paved part. We were now spiraling upwards on a narrow, dusty, gravel road. Then we passed the other sign. The sign that read:
OK, maybe the sign didn’t quite read those exact words, but its basic meaning was clear to me. We had traversed beyond the boondocks. We had crossed into the forest primeval. We were entering Sasquatch country.
As many of you consistent readers are aware, we watch a lot of reality television in the Halverson-Morgan household. We try always watch only the truly informative stuff like Housewives of Orange County and Lizard Lick Towing in order to keep abreast of what is going on in those parts of the States where we do not reside.
Amongst the reality television offerings that Mr. Dave and I often watch are programs which feature seriously dedicated humans who believe that a creature known in these parts as Sasquatch exists. The dedicated Sasquatch hunters always refer to Sasquatch as Squatch. They spend a half hour every week trying to prove this theory to us viewers. They interview folks who claim to have had a Squatch encounter. They also investigate the pastures and forests of America searching for signs of Squatch activity.
Those of us who watch these shows regularly have learned that most Sasquatch spend their days avoiding mankind and their nights making whooping like howls and smacking tree limbs against tree trunks in order to communicate with other Squatches who reside in forests and meadows located in other areas of the state.
I stared out the window in a daydream state recalling everything I had learned from television about Sasquatch encounters. Mr. Dave was probably hoping I would remain silently pondering, only I didn’t.
“Are you sure we are going in the right direction?” I asked.
“Of course we are,” replied Mr. Dave. Mr. Dave glanced at Earl’s tiny little compass. We are going a bit east now,” said Mr. Dave, “but that’s probably because the road here is heading in an easterly direction just now.”
I sighed and returned to staring out Earl’s windows searching the area for road signs. That’s when I noticed that there were serious dangers lurking on the roadway ahead…
“Oh my god,” said I, “Slow down, Mr. Dave, there’s a tree limb smack dab in the middle of the road! Jeeze Louise!!! Look to the right, Mr. Dave! Landslide debris! Small boulders and chunks of mountain soil have obviously been sliding down from the hillside and onto this road! We are in doomed territory! We are either going to get squished by falling tree limbs or entombed by a pile of landslide debris!”
Mr. Dave’s calm demeanor cracked for a second. I had irritated him…….
“I don’t know where we are,” snarled Mr. Dave slowing down and deftly maneuvering Earl around yet another fallen tree limb, “because there aren’t any damned road signs to tell me where we are. “What I do know is that you are not helping matters one iota by using terms like “squished” and “landslide.”
“Is it me or is this forest getting really dark and claustrophobic,” I said, ignoring Mr. Dave’s attempt to steer me away from further thoughts of roadside related disasters that might feature Earl, Mr. Dave, and me as likely victims.
“It’s just a regular forest with trees in it,” sighed Mr. Dave.
“Yep,” I agreed. “Gigantic trees that are concealing wild critters like Sasquatch and grizzly bears.”
“There aren’t any grizzly bears in Oregon,” replied Mr. Dave, avoiding yet another fallen tree limb.
“But there could be,” I insisted. “Grizzly bears have feet and feet can move you in any direction you care to travel in. I imagine most grizzly bears know this, and I expect that some of them possess a pioneering spirit not unlike your own. I bet there are a number of grizzly bears that have made the journey into these woods using no maps or technical devices to assist them in their travels.”
“Oh lord,” muttered Mr. Dave.
I pretended I did not hear that…..
We drove onwards and upwards, coming at last to the top of that thickly forested mountain that we had been climbing for the last hour. Behind us was a noticeable thick cloud of whitish, dusty dirt created by Earl’s tires moving over a dry, gaveled, dirty, dirt road.
At the top of the mountain, Mr. Dave braked, bringing Earl to a stop.
“Why are we stopping?” I asked.
“Just look at this view,” said Mr. Dave, rolling down his window, “It’s spectacular!”
I looked. Surrounding us was a thick cloud of dust which was quickly being wafted away by a warm, forest scented breeze. As the dust settled, I had to agree with Mr. Dave; the view was pretty darn spectacular. We were surrounded by God’s country. Above us was a massive clear blue sky; below us, a forest that looked to be untouched by ax or chainsaw. A forest containing impressively sized fir, pine, oak, and dogwood trees. Some of the dogwoods were still in bloom. Lovely.
The forest floor was cluttered with brushy stuff and ferns. Lots and lots of ferns. There was a creek running along the right side of the road. During the ride up the mountain we hadn’t seen it. Traveling down the mountain we would drive beside it nearly the whole way down.
“This is a beautiful view of the world,” I said.
“Yep,” agreed Mr. Dave, “This is definitely Squatch country.”
With that being said, Mr. Dave, cupped his hands around his mouth like the Sasquatch hunter guys on television do, stuck his head out the window, and then began making loud whooping sounds.”
“Why are you doing that?” I asked.
“I’m communicating with all my Squatch buddies,” smirked Mr. Dave.
“Quit doing that,” I grumped, “What we do not need at this point in our journey west is to encounter a lividly angry Sasquatch.”
“Oh piddle,” responded Mr. Dave, leaning out and whooping some more.
“I mean it. Quit doing that,” I said, “You don’t know how to properly whoop in the language of the Sasquatch. What if what you are whooping is an invitation to all Squatches in the vicinity to come and engage in a fight to the death with the occupants in the blue truck? We would lose, Mr. Dave. We are not equipped to fight to the death with mythical critters.”
“Geeze, you’re no fun,” mocked Mr. Dave.
I glared. Mr. Dave chuckled, started up Earl, and began the drive down the mountain.
The drive down the mountain was better than the drive up. At least from the passenger’s perspective. There was that lovely fast-moving stream on my side of the road, and there were dozens of picturesque forest-related vistas that we happened upon as we made our way down the mountain. I saw crested blue jays, and chickadees and robins chirping in the trees.
Around one bend, we encountered an unexpected, incredible waterfall in the middle of the stream. It was such an impressive sight that Mr. Dave stopped Earl, exited the cab with his phone, and photographed the scene.
We continued downwards stopping here and there to marvel at the scenery. I have to admit that this part of the trip was well worth it even though my knees hurt and I was starving. Did I mention that due to the needs one of my doctor appointments I hadn’t eaten any breakfast and we hadn’t stopped for lunch? All I ‘d eaten up to that moment in time was a little packet of M&M’s peanut candies and a bottle of water that Mr. Dave had purchased for me when we gassed up Earl at the start of our drive to the Wildlife Safari place. As well, I didn’t eat the whole package myself. I shared four of them with Mr. Dave.
“If we ever get to a city after we get off this mountain, I would like to stop and eat,” said I, using my polite voice. “I am very hungry.”
“I, too, am hungry,” replied Mr. Dave using his polite voice, “and when we get to Coos Bay, we can have a yummy seafood dinner.”
“That would be lovely,” I cooed.
That is so not the conversation we had. It went more like this:
“Jesus God! When the heck are we going to get to Coos Bay? My knees hurt and I’m hungry! I’m so damn sick of the sound of gravel hitting the underside of Earl, and I’m even sicker of not knowing where the hell we are! What’s wrong with these Douglas County people? Don’t they pay their taxes? Do they not erect signs on the roads in this county that inform drivers where the hell in this god forsaken place they are at?”
“How the frick do I know when we’ll get there? I’ve never driven this road before. You think I’m some sort of frigging road psychic or what? I can’t wait until we are out of this frigging county. It sucks! And quit complaining about being hungry. I’m just as hungry as you are!”
“No you’re not just as hungry as I am. You ate a breakfast and you also ate four of my peanut M&M’s. “
“So what. That was like nine hours ago,” grumbled Mr. Dave
“Still more calories than I’ve had,” I snarled
“Boo hoo to you,” snarfed Mr. Dave.
The conversation could have progressed from spiteful to mean, but it didn’t. This was because we drove past an unexpected distraction in the form of a habitable home, snuggled into the side of the mountain.
“That was a house,” I gasped in amazement.
“Yeah, it was a house,” agreed Mr. Dave.
“Houses mean there are people living in the area.” I said.
My low spirits instantly perked upwards…….
“No duh,” said Mr. Dave as we drove past another family sized dwelling.
“People mean a town is likely to be someplace nearby.” I said using my eager voice.
“Yeah, maybe,” agreed Mr. Dave. “Hey, look to your left. That’s a road sign!”
“Halleluiah!” I cheered.
We slowly drove by the sign post so we could read each and every word it contained.
There were no words on the sign. Just a standard squiggle indicating more sharp curves ahead.
“Crud.” I muttered.
“Just our luck,” grumbled Mr. Dave.
“Well, at least we are encountering signs telling us there are curves ahead. That is a significant improvement from what we were experiencing.” I tried to remain cheerful as my left knee twinged painfully and my stomach gurgled, reminding me that I was still hungry.”
“Yeah,” agreed Mr. Dave, “That’s way better than it was before.”
Suddenly, the irritating rattle of gravel hitting the underside of Earl the truck ceased.
“Oh cool, we’re back on a paved road,” said Mr. Dave.
“Thank God,” I said.
As Mr. Dave directed Earl through a series of sharp curves, we passed another sign, a small green one attached to a rail guard.
“Oh lookie,” I said excitedly, “that sign there says we are traveling on the Coos Bay Wagon Road.”
“I told you we were headed in the right direction,” bragged Mr. Dave.
“Phish,” said I. “You do realize we spent almost two and a half hours or more being lost and we are not out of the woods yet, it seems. We are climbing the mountain again.”
“We were not lost,” disagreed Mr. Dave, “you saw the sign. We were traveling on the Coos Bay Wagon Road, only we didn’t know it. It’s just probable that this is the very pathway that the pioneers used to journey westward to the Pacific.”
“You do realize,” I said, “that if we had gone in the direction I wanted to go when we left the Wildlife Safari place, we could have hooked up with the freeway and we would have already reached Coos Bay, feasted on something sea foody, and would now be on our way home.”
“Yes, I do realize it, and thank you for bringing it up for the thousandth time,” Mr. Dave miffed. “But we would have missed seeing a lot of neat stuff if we had gone your way.”
“Yep,” I agreed using my drippiest sarcastic voice, “we saw neat stuff, and thank you for allowing me to experience those same sort of starvation pains the Donner party probably felt before they began eating one another.”
“Ah geeze,” groaned Mr. Dave, “get over it. We are having a great adventure!”
“Harummph!” I replied.
I could not entirely disagree with Mr. Dave. We were having the perfect adventure. Had not both my knees hurt, and for the fact that I was hungry to the point where I was avidly searching the passing brush on the sides of the road for signs of ripening blackberries, I might have totally agreed with him.
We passed several more inhabited houses, a school bus stop sign, and then to my utter joy, an exit roadway sign indicating a city was in the vicinity.
You might understand why I was beyond flabbergasted that instead of exiting to that city and locating the nearest MacDonald’s, Mr. Dave guided Earl the truck upwards and onwards, following the path of the pioneers.
“I thought we were going to stop to get something to eat,” I whined.
Yes, I whined. I freely admit to it. You would have done the same thing had you been in my place.
“We are almost to Coos Bay,” said Mr. Dave. “I want to continue on so we can get there before dark. I want to see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.”
“Oh, sweet Buddha, I so wanted to throttle the man……..
“You do realize that you haven’t any idea as to how long it will be before we reach Coos Bay,” I snarled.
“Doesn’t matter,” we will get there soon,” replied Mr. Dave.
“It’s after five already,” I said, adopting my naggy wife voice. “We have been driving for hours and hours. You have already experienced the fact that there is an incredible lack in this area of the state of informative road signs, and you have the audacity to not stop for food? What kind of a sadistic savage are you?!!!”
“A married one,” muttered Mr. Dave. “A very, very married one.”
I pretended I didn’t hear that………
“Why don’t you check out the GPS map on my phone,” suggested Mr. Dave. “See if it shows you how close we are to Coos Bay. And you should call your sister and tell her we are adventuring. She’ll be happy to know you are out and about.”
I knew what Mr. Dave was trying to do. He was trying to distract me and keep me from further wifely commentary. He was correct in suggesting I phone my sister, Judy. Judy would, indeed, be pleased to hear that I was out of the house and adventuring.”
I picked up Mr. Dave’s phone and poked the buttons until the GPS application with the little blue car icon appeared.
“OK,” I said, “Got the GPS turned on and the little blue car icon is spinning round and round in the center of the screen and there is no map. Why is there no map?”
“No signal,” replied Mr. Dave using his knowledgable guy voice.
“Huh?” I said.
“There’s no satellite connection,” Mr Dave said. “We’re presently out of range of any phone tower or satellite.”
“So that means this fancy cell phone map is useless?” I asked incredulously.
“For now,” Mr. Dave replied as he directed Earl through another set of sharp downward curves. “As soon as we are in range of a tower it will work again.”
Not wanting to distract Mr. Dave from his driving duties by pointing out that had we procured a paper map as I had suggested we do hours and hours and hours ago, we would know for sure where we were lost at. I sighed as I entered in my sister’s telephone number. My sister would understand my irritation with Mr. Dave. She, too, is living in wedded bliss. I held the phone to my ear waiting for the ringing sound phones make to let you know your call has connected.
“What are you doing?” asked Mr. Dave.
“Calling my sister,” I snarled. “Maybe she has a paper map at her house and she can check it out and tell us where we actually are.”
“Uhmm, you do know the phone isn’t working.” Mr. Dave said.
“Huh?” I said.
“Is it ringing?” asked Mr. Dave.
“Not yet,” I said.
“Well it’s not going to ring because we are out of tower range.” Mr. Dave said using his let’s educate the moron about cell phone technology voice. “If the GPS isn’t working, why would you think the phone would?”
“Did you not tell me to call my sister?” I snarled.
“If the GPS doesn’t work neither will the phone,” Professor Dave smirked.
I disconnected the call and shoved the phone back into its holder. I was so aggravated at this point that I had no words I could coherently utter to express my outrage. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere. We were phoneless, mapless, and, possibly, utterly and forever lost……
(Coming Soon — The Wildlife Safari Post — Part 3 — Wherein the journey West is concluded, Rennie is fed, and Mr. Dave is confronted by a squirrel. )