And so it was that on the second or third day of lounging around I decided to break with tradition and go for a ride. Then, a couple days later, I went on an even longer ride which lasted well into the evening. Instead of doing my usual minute-by-minute recount of events, I'm just going to describe the photographs I took, and whatever other details they bring to mind.
This is what you see when you look up the road after exiting the gated community. Those kids play ball in the street a lot, I'm told.
This is the view from the top of the hill, leading down into one of the valleys that Roseburg is spread across. There's still some nice color in the trees, even in November.
This big section of drainpipe was sitting off the main road in a beat-up looking field strewn with litter and glass. Roseburg, or perhaps Oregon in general, has a strange dichotomy between conservationist people who are more serious and well-informed than their California equivalents, and rural folks who are content to abandon trash anywhere and leave old structures to dissolve and corrode slowly into the ground.
Sometimes I think the real difference is just one of money. A shorthand rule I've discovered is that the smaller the lot, the dirtier it tends to be. I passed huge tracts of farmland without so much as a gum wrapper by the roadside, then came upon little square plots just big enough to hem a manufactured home, choked with garbage.
I rode past a dilapidated home and saw four little kids playing in the back yard. The area was ringed with hurricane fence which ended flush with the walls of the house, like a prison exercise yard. The four kids had taken a bunch of long flat boards from a collapsed storage shed and were laying them at an angle to the fence. As they passed from my sight, I saw one of the kids try to walk up the ramp, only to lose his balance and fall back onto the grass. A few more boards and they might make it over the fence.
I didn't know whether to shout a warning ... or shout encouragement.
Alright... See that little box with the three holes in it? Can anybody tell me what the heck that box is for? I can't figure it out.
Also, on the subject of things I can't quite figure out, my only theory for this is that the little cement wedges stop brush from piling up all at the same time, so the drainage pipe that passes under the road doesn't get plugged up. Am I guessing right?
Lots of rolly hills around here. The grass has thick roots to survive the snow, and my theory is that the roots hold these little hills into shape despite a lack of trees or bushes. Elsewhere on my ride I saw open ground that had been flattened into pools of mud by the rains, but each time it was on a construction or refinery site where the vegetation had been torn away.
Mmmyep. Rolly poly. Pardon the oversaturation; I was processing these pictures on an old fuzzy monitor with poor colors, and the camera I used was rather noisy to begin with.
Mmmmyeah. Come see the three arks. Please. We need the business. Buy a Noah Burger or whatever the hell we serve.
I enjoy the juxtaposition here. Religion and power mix easily.
Squash for sale! Or gourds! Or mini pumpkins! I'm not sure what these are, but the sunlight made them look taaaasty.
The fire department was supervising a controlled burn of some kind in a local park. The smoke from the fires caught the light nicely.
This appears to be a railroad-mounted snowplow. It reminds me of something a four-year-old would play with in the living room, except this one is "actual size". I can practically taste the rubbery paint over the cool die-cast metal, and nubby sound of the wheels rolling over the carpet.
I didn't have to ride through this, thank goodness. Just saw it while taking a breather.
Some wheels take more energy to turn than others!
This vehicle is probably known by it's owners as "The Woodchucker". Bicycle included for size.
Dig those crazy spraypaint colors, yo. And those hornet's nests. I'm not entirely sure what this doodad is for, actually. I'm guessing it has something to do with guiding very heavy cables along mineshafts.
Hand included for size. That's some bigass chain. Probably a valuable amount of metal just lying around, if anyone had the means to shift it. I could probably carry ... let's see ... four links of it home, on my bike. Any more and the weight might blow a tire.
The ritual mantra reverberates around the hillside, as Smokey bellows it out:
DROWN! STIR! DROWN!
DROWN! STIR! DROWN!
I was gonna keep going up this road to see the view from the top, but a large dumptruck rolled by, fully loaded with grey mud that slopped over the edges every time the truck hit a bump. It ground to a halt halfway off the road, then began beeping and reversed across the other half of the road, then a hatch sprang up on the back and the grey mud went jetting out under pressure, spattering on the hillside. It matched the mud of the hill exactly, and seemed to merge with it as I watched.
Not wanting to disturb this ceremony, I about-faced and went back down the hill. I passed the fork in the road that I'd turned up earlier, and arrived on the back lot of a lumber processing plant. I'm not sure where they get so much mud or why they need it - or perhaps it's a byproduct - but apparently, when they're done with it, they spill it out over yonder.
All kinds of weird old equipment here.
The plant covers many acres. No one on the grounds paid any attention to me.
They keep the ground constantly wet to prevent the wind from blowing away their land and dirtying the lumber stacks. Judging by the algae, this pipe has been gushing water constantly for several years at least.
There is an incredible amount of wood here. I've gone browsing through satellite pictures of Oregon and seen the sad patchwork of barren or scrubby land that much of the state has become, in the regions set back from the major highways where the tourists don't go. I wonder how much of that forest has lain stacked on this lot over the years, awaiting transformation into houses, scaffolding, and cardboard boxes.
I had an encounter with a security guard here, who rolled up in his truck and politely asked me to delete any photos I'd taken of the buildings. He was almost apologetic about the security condition, though I could sense he was working under strict orders and could really screw me if I became belligerent. He recognized my camera by model, and we chatted for a while about amateur photography and wildlife before he gave me directions to the road.
One of the interesting things he said was that it was illegal to take a picture of the facilities even if the picture was taken from adjoining public land, like a highway. He said that the law was partly in response to "those eco-terrorism people". He spat the phrase, like it was an epithet.
Something about that made me quite angry, and I wanted to say something, but I knew that this security guard was not the person I should be saying it to. I don't know who the right person would be, really. But when private citizens destroy private facilities with the intent of interrupting what they see as environmental wrongdoing, I am not comfortable calling it "terrorism", as if it were equivalent to detonating a bomb in a concert hall. "Sabotage" would be a good word, and I could definitely use "misguided" and "unproductive" ... but "terrorism"? Is Al-Jazeera airing talk shows where furious extremists call for the destruction of lumber mills? I don't [expletive] think so.
Use of that label is just ... sad corporate bullshit.
Mmm, delicious mud! Note the charging wire for the iPhone. That goes to the battery in my saddle bag.
The refinery was spraying a huge amount of hot water into the air. My guess is that they were exposing some additive in the water to oxygen, or carbon dioxide, in order to safely neutralize it. Sure looks pretty though.
A few pools over they were spraying the water out of long pipes.
I found this fellow just a few steps from the road while I was taking a break. I'm guessing it was a sheep, about a year ago. Now it's an art installation.
Just after finding this, I rode down the hill on a two-lane road into the forest east of the highway, and began listening to an old vinyl production of "Murder In The Cathedral", by T. S. Eliot. I was expecting some kind of lighthearted comedic mystery in lilting prose, but that was because I hadn't done any research whatsoever. "Murder In The Cathedral" is not a mystery, not comedic, and definitely NOT lighthearted. But what it does have is some deliciously creepy, brooding, atmospheric verse about poor devout farmers and the haunted gothic countryside they inhabit. The sections of the play are framed by a chorus of three women, speaking in rounds, lamenting their fate and the fate of the archbishop, and a plague of foreboding omens. They moan for a while about "living, and partly living", a phrase which rang like a bell in my brain. I've heard it somewhere before...
Hearing this, and seeing the hillsides roll around me in the gathering dusk, spotted with animals and broken-down stables and mist, was clearly the highlight of the ride. Once I went down a huge hill and spilled out into a small valley that was lit by the barest yellow light along the fringe of the oak trees to the west, and everything was dead quiet except for rushing wind and the occasional very distant "moo". I played some piano music and wished there was some way to bring all my friends here, and stack them up in sidecars along the bike, so I could share this perfect moment with everyone. But it was just me.
Perhaps some other time, friends.