Tuesday, June 11, 2013


              Flame on! Burning out while cutting to the heart of the matter. And worth every mile.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, I saw only satisfaction. Fourteen days of jangling in and around the Portland/Vancouver area had been fruitful. I got a lot of writing done, savored reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, shot nearly a thousand photos, and survived the Lord of the Flies experience with Bailey and Murphy. All positive. The lone sour note was a nagging jones for my girlfriend Shellski, dog Sheila, and cat Bob. But that would soon be rectified.

I was cleaning up for a farewell dinner with CC and family when the call came. My cousin Darryl - an inveterate vintage tin sleuth - had made an amazing discovery in remote eastern Oregon. He called to insist that I cover it before heading south. A few frantic phone calls later, the secret photo shoot was locked in. All of that dialing had worked up a powerful appetite. Murphy and Bailey were snoozing on the couch when I silently slithered out the back door, driven by a hundred forms of hunger.

A true blue to-the-bone hot rodder, CC has a dirty little secret in his garage. The Super Beetle was his dad's daily driver for years before it did the same for CC. It's currently being prepped for a thorough mechanical and cosmetic freshening (its third, at least). "Don't worry man, there isn't even any film in the camera." I love digital.

  Celina Clark ("Lil CC") ran time trial laps around the garage while CC and I bench raced. Her badass ride has custom paint and a high performance bell. Celina also has a fish named Sparkles. 

  The Son of Godzilla Morris Minor hasn't aged a day while in CC's care and I'm so grateful. True confession: The Morris reunion was equally emotional to the human ones I experienced on the trip. Lil Zilla is in need of some carb tuning and street therapy, but is otherwise ready to run nines. Sadly, neither CC nor myself have time for it right now. I hope it doesn't rot into the floor, turn to dust, and blow away - a tragic end for a storied veteran street fighter.

Late the next night, the Kiwi Metal Fab crew finally returned from New Zealand (and brutal multi-day layovers in Hawaii). Seconds after their arrival from the airport, two weeks of dog training went out the window. It was almost worth it to see everyone so happy. What a reunion it was...

In the morning I packed up and headed east - straight into the last vestige of the untamed west - and my own past. I stopped for lunch in The Dalles, Oregon - snuggled up to the Columbia river, in the shadow of Mt. Hood - where I was born and raised. It was disappointing to find the little town that time forgot, slowly affecting a tourist-friendly makeover. But enough of the old hometown remained to trigger emotional memories, pro and con. I aimed the Honda up into the agricultural hills beside the river and watched time melt away to reveal forgotten America. This is where my folks came from. My dad quit school in the fourth grade to help out on the farm, outside of Dufur. My mom was from Wasco. Both towns remain mostly unchanged today. Reassuring stability.

Any trip through the Columbia Gorge requires at least a cursory stop at Multnomah Falls (in background). This is where the memory banks began to stir...

As a kid, I found these barren hills (scrubbed clean of most life forms by non-stop howling winds) to be excruciatingly depressing. The epitome of loneliness. Today, besides wheat, they're also farming electricity out here. I'm proud of the effort, but feel empathy for the tireless windmills. They deserve a parade or something.

  Candid out takes from the secret photo shoot. My hosts, Kenny and Debbie, alerted the neighbors that their car was being shot for a magazine, and I soon had an audience to perform for. Other than nearly being blown off a ladder by wind gusts, I didn't put on much of a show. But I got to hear a lot of great stories. Without giving anything away, here's a few more out takes...

                   This last shot is dedicated to the memory of Grandpa Clark (for CC).

With the shoot in the bag, I went south. Destination: Bend, Oregon. I was completely covered with heavy dust from the shoot, but didn't care. It was a great experience.

With Mt. Hood overseeing some green on the hills, things were looking up. How many miles had I put on these roads over the years? Many of them were spent testing flat-out on deserted straights for endless miles. Bliss.

One way to pass the time out here is to contribute to the shoe trees. Locals and tourists are artisan peers at these roadside attractions - by and for the people.

Bend, at last. I scored a great room at a Motel 6, right beside a strip club and a sex toy shop! A biker gang meeting was just breaking up as I arrived, but dubious behavior in the rooms on either side of mine made for cheap entertainment, all night long... 

And finally, home to southern Oregon, via 97 South. Crater Lake, Diamond Lake, and Mt. Theilson all whizzed past my windshield, and presto - I was sitting here writing this. Glad to go, glad to return. Lots to do, as always. Stoked for the days ahead. Meanwhile, I'm savoring today. And so I remain - the luckiest guy in town...