After cruising south through Portland my next firm destination was the city of Corvallis which is the home of my alma mater, Oregon State University.
I ran the nostalgia gauntlet by visiting the last house I lived in, eating a couple slices of American Dream pizza, and checking out some live music at Bombs Away Cafe. The highlight of my visit was going to the season opening football game against Weber State. My buddy Troy and his girlfriend, Lauren, made it down to the student section for the second half.
Most of my professors had not yet returned from Summer Break, but I was able to catch up with Dr. Nason who happened to be in town early. Dr. Nason was the instructor for my Material Balances course, and it was a a make or break moment trying to pass his class.
He’s a smart guy and a nice guy so I just wanted to give him a quick shout out.
From Corvallis I traveled east on Highway 20, a road I’ve driven plenty of times. It’s a neat drive, and I did a little exploring in Willamette National Forest.
Highway 20 dumps into the city of Bend. I stopped in at Deschutes Brewery before heading north to hang out with my buddy John.
On my way out of Bend I came across a hitchhiker, and I was in no rush.
I picked up Skip on the outskirts of town. He needed to get to the town of Sisters, which is about 12 miles east of where I needed to go, but by the time I figured that out he had already piled into my car and showered God and I with thanks.
He had a portly shape common to the average 55 year old American man, and he wore a camouflage pattern trucker hat with a flannel shirt. At first I thought he had a lazy eye, but by about my fifth glance of inspection I saw that it was an unmoving glass prosthetic. When he spoke his voice was strained and faint, and it couldn’t keep up with his enthusiasm for talking. Before he had managed to do anything but thank me, we had high-fived at least three separate times.
At my questioning his story began to unfold.
Skip had traveled from Detroit to Bend over the past eight days by hitching with truckers and sleeping at rest stops. He was caught in cold weather in South Dakota where he got sick and lost his voice. He explained that his sister had become seriously ill and he was desperate to visit her. When I asked him what he did in Detroit, he paused before explaining that he used to worked as an auto mechanic. I asked him what Detroit is like, because “All I have is what the news shows me.”
He answered by saying “Everyone’s broke” – “Everyone’s leaving because everyone’s broke.”
It was cool to be the one to drive Skip to his finish line. Our drive lasted only 30 minutes, but it was apparent how happy he was to find a ride before night came.
He’d say things like “You don’t have any idea what you’ve done for me, brother.”
Besides that there’s nothing too crazy to mention about Skip, but I think that’s my point.
The next day John and I went mountain biking along the Deschutes River before watching some NASCAR back at his place.
Oregon rocks. The people are kind and the scenery is rich. It’s my home away from home.