Yesterday, with Valarie out of town and work having slowed down for the first time in awhile, I decided to make the hour's drive down to my hometown of McMinnville to see my parents, eat at my dad's restaurant, and put my new car (new to me, that is) through its paces a bit.
The road one takes most of the way, Highway 99W, is always crowded these days. It gets particularly slow between Newberg and Dundee, the two small towns one encounters before McMinnville. People have been clamoring for years for the government to build a bypass highway so through traffic can avoid the towns; Dundee especially backs up cars, sometimes more than a half-mile outside its borders. But taxpayers are too cheap to approve the funds, and now the transportation department is talking about a toll road. Ugh. Anyway, with Yamhill County flourishing with both wine-country tourists and bedroom-community new residents, pressure on 99W is terrible and I think they should just build the damn bypass highway no matter what it costs.
Until then, though, instead of dealing with the Dundee stop-and-go, I cut off at Newberg and took an alternate route on a smaller state road between Newberg and Carlton - although I cut off from that road to Lafayette. Along the way, I stopped to snap a few pictures of the local agricultural sights. Anything big and rusty seems to attract my camera.
The Chehalem Valley Mills site was right in Newberg, just a couple blocks from the Gem 100 Ice Cream Parlor, where my friend Reese and I used to often go in high school for chili dogs on our way to the Washington Square mall in Tigard. Newberg was always McMinnville's arch rival, but I guess they had us beat on hot dog cuisine, because Reese was also exceptionally fond of the Coney Island foot-longs at the Newberg Dairy Queen down the street; come to think of it, I wish I'd photographed those places too.
After heading out into the country towards Carlton and Lafayette, my next set of shots came under duress. I'd pulled my car over to the side of the road and put the hazard lights on, but two guys in a gigantic extra-cab Dodge pickup pulling a horse trailer slowed down as if there had been an accident, and then shouted something obscene as they drove by. Lovely to mix with the local folk, isn't it? I had a great time taking the photos, though.
Downtown McMinnville was a lot busier than usual. Third Street (the town's main street) was closed for Turkey Rama, the annual three-day street fair and festival. As a kid, I had Turkey Rama circled on my calendar every year along with my birthday and Christmas. It was almost agonizing waiting, but when it finally arrived, I'd head first for the Walnut City Lions Club trailer, where they sold the best burgers. Later, I'd head to the McMinnville Jaycees for the best pronto pups, crispy and hot with a dab of mustard. That was only a warmup, however, for the Captain Funtastic carnival rides. The Scrambler and The Spider and the ferris wheel were the same here as anywhere else, but to the pint-size me they were top-drawer entertainment.
But Turkey Rama (which, incidentally, was named to honor the turkey farms dotting the agricultural landscape here, before they were largely replaced by vineyards) has changed over the years. It's arguably cleaned up a bit, but a lot of it seems pretty boring, like the local businesses (insurance, the steel mill) distributing brochures at little booths. There are still food stands, but they're just the garden-variety traveling ones that come with the carnival. I can tell they're not the real deal because they call pronto pups 'corn dogs'. The last thing I remember seeing was a local girls' dance troupe doing their act to Barry Manilow's "Copacabana".
Not eating at Turkey Rama worked out for the best, though, at least in terms of my lunch, because I'd come to eat at The Sage anyway. I love how so little has changed about this place over the years: the wheat bread, the soups, the antique wood tables, the weak coffee. Then there's the employees, some of whom have been there over two decades. Shirley, the dishwasher who still washes everything by hand without any automatic dishwasher equipment, has now been working in the steamy, cramped back room of the Sage kitchen for 28 years. Without any molecule of patronization, we've always found her longevity to be nothing short of astonishing. And Shirley never complains or seeks advancement. I struggled to do her job as a teen for a week or two in the summer, scrubbing giant soup pots with cream of broccoli soup burnt to the bottom, hundreds of pieces of silverware and glasses and plates and bowls; she's done it for four-fifths of my life.
A great benefit of being the boss's son is you can just waltz into the kitchen and make a sandwich. I always make virtually the same thing: a turkey sandwich with cheese, avocado and lettuce, butter on the bottom and mayo on top. I also managed to sneak across the street to Union Block Coffee for four peanut butter bars to take home. "Are these all for you?" the woman at the counter asked? Uh-huh. My idea was to have one or two each day, but I wound up having three last night.
Before heading back to Portland, I spent some time over at my parents' house going through boxes of stuff in my old bedroom. Three of the seven boxes I loaded into the car to take home were full of newspapers I'd saved during big world events like the fall of the Soviet Union and various presidential elections. Jokingly, I handed to my dad a New York Times front page about the end of Gulf War I. "BUSH DECLARES VICTORY", it reads, referring to our current president's father. "IRAQIS CRUSHED" As I handed the paper to my dad (a Republican, unlike me) I said, "Remember the good old days?" Funnily, though, both parts of the headline I quoted could be from today.
Perhaps best of all, after years of trudging along Highway 99 through the suburbs back to Portland, I also took a different route home from Newberg and may have found my new permanent path, right past Champoeg Park and onto the freeway right after the Shell station in beautiful Donald, Oregon, with which my dad shares a name.