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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Returning Home

Returning Home

Sayonara, California
Two weeks ago, we made what I believe to be the final move from California to Bend, Oregon. The proverbial bottom line of an otherwise very long story is that we moved to Bend in 2005, but subsequently ended up moving back to the Bay Area for jobs and the economic downturn in 2008. Ridiculous tax rates everywhere you turn, a crazy economy on a grand scale, an unfathomable cost of living, layoffs, and corporate politics, and simply way too much population has tarnished any luster that the Golden State once held for this San Francisco native. So, it’s back to the beautiful house across the street from the Deschutes River, and all the wonders that the beautiful state of Oregon has to offer. 


The Move
I decided to do a “pre-move” trip in the little GTI, which is a total blast to drive through the Sacramento Valley, up over the Siskiyou’s, and up through Central Oregon. Keep a diligent eye on the speedometer and the rear-view mirror, and it can be a very fun trip. I’ve gotten so used to making the trip, that the whole thing seems to fly by (in 8 hours). I pack a few diet coke’s, crank the tunes up, and just go. The only mandatory stop is of course Granzella’s Deli in Williams, for a quick sandwich to go. 


I spent a busy week at the house, arranging the garage, carrying in and unloading the 30-40 boxes of items that we’d been storing out there for the last two years. I’d originally planned to drive back, but it made more sense to fly, and leave the GTI in the garage (which now looked like a garage again and would keep the two cars out of the snow!). So, it was back to the Bay Area for another week of packing and getting everything ready to load up and move. 


The 2005 move north was done by the nice people at United Van Lines, who for the sum of nearly ten-grand were happy to load, move and unload our 18,000 pounds of “stuff.” Let me say up front that you never have a true idea of how much you’ve accumulated, until you must pack and move it. Crazy! But this time I decided to do it myself, since we were able to move everything to California in a couple medium truckloads. 


I flew back to SFO with the intention of loading up a huge 26’ truck and driving the remainder of our worldly possessions from Belmont to Bend. But it became evident about three quarters of the way through the load up process that this was not to be. It was going to require an additional truckload to get all our stuff home. So, move day #1 began with loading up the monster truck and driving the 525 miles north, which unfortunately began during San Francisco’s famous rush hour, at 4 PM (something else you never give any thought to, in Central Oregon). Ten hours later, I pulled into our little track of homes in Bend. We hired “loaders and unloaders” to help with this portion of the move, so I only had to do 1/3 of the work myself. Still a lot of work, though, considering I did the bulk of the packing, and all the driving. We unloaded the big truck the following morning, turned it into U-Haul, and reserved a 14’ truck for the following Tuesday, since there was snow expected on Monday and there’s no way I was going to drive a moving van through snow in the Siskiyou’s. 


Tuesday morning … up at 4, on the plane at 6, Angela picked me up at SFO at 7:45 and drove me to the U-Haul place in Millbrae, back at the house at 8:45 and began loading it up with the remains of our worldly goods in the garage. My friend Danny was kind enough to drive over the hill from Pacifica and help with the heavy stuff, and I was able to get out of Dodge by 10:15. Eight and a half hours later, I was once again in Bend, hopefully for good. 


I generally love the drive to Bend. And it’s not just because I’m heading back to the place I now call home, but in fact it’s the ride itself. Several years ago, when we first started making this 500+ mile trek, it seemed to be a long arduous ride that couldn’t end quickly enough. But I began looking at it in more of a positive light (what else was I to do?) and began enjoying the many “chunks” of scenery that this ride provided. 


The first hurdle is always the same … getting out of the Bay Area. Same thing when you’re traveling north to south … it can be a beautiful ride for 400 miles, and then you hit Vacaville and it’s anybody’s guess how much congestion you’ll run into for the final push. But once you’re through the traffic of the greater Bay Area, and make the turn from Highway 80 to 505, it’s generally smooth sailing. 


The “chunks” I’ve referred to in earlier pieces include the 505 connector from Vacaville to where it meets Highway 5 (my sister refers to this stretch as the Nurburgring, since the 70 mph speed limit and long straight expanses of road tend to encourage a lead foot), the long ride through the valley to Redding, the winding road through the Siskiyou’s and around Mt. Shasta, the turnoff onto 97 at Weed which provides some phenomenal views of the north side of Shasta, as well as the high plains and the lower section of the Cascades, and finally the turn from northeast to due north at Klamath Falls and the last 135 miles to Bend. See how easy it is to make a 525-mile trip seem like a piece of cake? But three times in two weeks, and twice in three days was plenty, and I’m staying put for now.


Back on the Deschutes
After several days of unloading and feeling the full impact of packing and moving the entire house full of “stuff,” (not to mention the afore-mentioned three driving trips), I was ready for the first real nice day outside, and the first walk along the Deschutes in quite some time. I often refer to our home as being “across the street” from the river, which technically it is. But it’s down a bit of a gorge, and to get to it requires a walk around the corner, and a small hike down to the path that leads along the Deschutes into town. It literally takes five minutes to get to the path … a huge plus!  


You’re greeted at the beginning of the path with a rushing of water that is split off of the river and into a massive ten-foot round metal pipe, which then carries a portion of the river runoff through several smaller tributaries around town. Like any runoff, it’s regulated from high in the mountains (in this case the Cascade Lakes) and varies with need and time of year. But the spring runoff is in full force currently, so the water in both the river itself, and the split off mechanism were impressive. The Deschutes (and several other rivers in Central Oregon) runs south to north, which I’ve always found fascinating for some reason. It just seems that “downhill” would mean the opposite direction of flow, but such is not the case. The Deschutes starts on the south side of Mt. Bachelor high in the Cascade Lakes, and flows north to the Columbia Gorge, which separates Oregon from Washington. 



This day’s walk along the river would be about a mile each way. I didn’t have the time (or energy) to do the full walk into town, which is two and a half miles each way. But I enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the way, and the views that range in elevation from nearly even with the water, to maybe a couple hundred feet up. Wildlife is ever present, particularly in the spring and summer months, and today was no exception. Deer are sometimes seen on the other side of the river, but generally only at dusk, not mid-day. Ospreys are common, and there’s been a family of them nested at the top of an old hollowed-out tree every year we’ve been here. Great blue herons are a rare spectacular site, butterflies and dragonflies are everywhere, and of course the path is heaven on earth for all forms of dogs. Some of them are content to walk and explore with their “people,” but some of the retriever-types can’t resist a romp in the river, which is abundantly evident by the wet canines along the way. The river moves at a good pace, so I’m sure they have to “sneak” a quick swim in the water before they’re told not to by their owners. Go for it, guys! 


Central Oregon’s weather is famously unpredictable. The local saying goes something like “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll totally change.”  And there’s a lot of truth to this. In the three weeks since I drove up in the GTI, we’ve seen four days of pretty good snowfall, several days of rain (which we need – this is after all, high desert), a little bit of wind, and days like my afore-mentioned walk and today that are totally gorgeous, warm, with nary a cloud in the sky. Days like this beckon you outdoors. Among the many things we love about it here is that there’s so much to see and do, so close. The river’s always an easy choice, but brief rides in any direction can provide some spectacular scenery and outdoor activity. Tumalo Falls, the peak of Mt. Bachelor, the Cascade Lakes, Sisters, Lava Butte, and some amazing views of the Cascade Range are all within a very few minutes’ drive. The Old Mill District and an outdoor restaurant seat with a river front view is within walking distance. Our great little two-block Downtown is another mile. 


So, we’re back for good, and obviously enjoying it. My years in California and high-tech management are history. The politics and layoffs of the Silicon Valley are a thing of the past. With any luck the real estate industry will return to some semblance of normal, and I’ll be able to make a living here!  And although we’ve only been back for a couple of weeks, we’ve already seen a good number of our wonderful friends, and have had a couple of dinner parties, as well as being invited to a great “welcome home” party at our friends Bob and Chris’ house. It’s nice to be home. And it’s once again time for a walk along the river!


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