We started driving at 10:31 AM. I don't think I took note of the time of our stops or our arrival. We got on I-5, crossed the Willamette, and exited onto US-26. Our first stop was in Beaverton for gas. We had about half a tank, maybe more, but I insisted we stop because I didn't want it to turn into the Donner Party. Or at least, I didn't want us to find ourselves in the deep, dark mountain forests staring hopefully through the darkness hoping to catch a glimpse of The Elderberry Inn and paying at least 30 cents a gallon more for gas than we'd pay in Beaverton.
Shortly after you exit the suburbia of Beaverton, which reminds me of New Jersey in a nice way, you drive through what a friend recently (accurately!) described as "Catan." There are fields and farms and sheep before you enter the forest whose resource is indeed wood. It makes me think again of New Jersey, but this time of Sussex County's farms and the rolling hills of Vernon, a town of apple orchards, farms (including a world famous cheese farm), state park land, and the last place to have someone else pump your gas before crossing into rural Warwick, NY.
At some point, the forest grew less dense and the speed limit dropped to 50. I knew it could be a long time before we saw another public restroom, so I asked if we could stop.
At a convenience store, I bought a Pepsi and asked, while checking out, where was the restroom? Vague instructions told me to go "around the corner." She did not offer me a key.
We walk outside and saw that the walkway into the store jutted out just slightly, like maybe three feet, and around that corner was another door and a window showing a hallway. It was a hallway that looked likely to lead to a bathroom. Alas, the door was locked. We continued along the length of the building.
Rounding the corner, we found only brick wall. Opposite was a chain link fence through which we could see some rusty, broken-down machinery. We continued along the brick wall. Rounding a corner to the back of the building, we found a large metal door. I don't think it even said "Restroom" or anything to indicate the function of the room its other side. It was locked.
Back around the corner, back along the brick wall, back around the first two corners, and back into the store we went. I asked the same women from whom I'd bought a Pepsi and asked for directions to the bathroom if there was a key to the bathroom. She handed me the key dispassionately. As I thanked her, she spoke up, slowly and loudly as though my stupidity was the problem, as though I would not have had to locate the door to determine its locked status, "Around the corner."
The restroom was disgusting of proportions that would have been epic had I not experienced this ten months ago. The toilet seat, however, was sparkling alabaster. Its purity and pallor was nearly blinding amidst the dank dingy brown of the rest of the room.
My time in the restroom was enough time for my boyfriend to notice and become entranced by Cooterville City Hall. Sadly, despite their OPEN sign, the owner had stepped out. We walked around outside and I managed to take only the following picture:
...before a car pulled up. A woman stepped outside and told us that the owner would be back in an hour and we could wait if we'd like. We decided to continue to the coast, and that I would take over driving. So we walked back to the car, I took my pillow out of the backseat, arranged it on the driver's seat, and with that we were ready to go.
As soon as we pulled back out onto 26, a huge sign with huge lettering proclaming JERKY MUSHROOMS LOCAL HONEY JAM!!!!! beckoned us to immediately turn left into the parking lot. I can't remember the name of the store, nor can I remember the name of the closed tavern across the street from it, which is strange because I kept reading the sign and saying, "With a name like that, I wish it was still open so we could have lunch there!"
With several types of jerky (alligator! antelope! wild boar!) and dried mushrooms (porcini! maitake!) now in our possession, we got back on the road.
It was here that my boyfriend's and my ongoing debate revived itself - was either of us a redneck or city folk, and if so, which one?
I am from the rural part of a state typically associated with "city folk," and my boyfriend is from a city in a state typically associated with cowboys and open spaces. Forgetting that antelope are at home "on the range," I expressed something that put me in the "city folk" category. (Or perhaps merely the "idiot" category.)
"I've had antelope jerky before," my boyfriend informed me, explaining that it was from an antelope that someone he knew had shot.
"What?! Where did he shoot an antelope?"
"Colorado," he said slowly, looking at me like I was nuts.
Or maybe it wasn't Colorado. It might have been Wyoming. It was some state that has Rocky Mountains in it. It dawned on me before I could give voice to my idiot conviction that of course antelope are native to North America. Yet my boyfriend pressed, knowing by the expression on my face that there was more to my ignorance.
"I thought antelope came from Africa."
Also, once when we were in Medford, I saw a wildlife crossing sign with the silhouette of an elk on it and said, "Look! Moose! I've always wanted to see one of those! And they just walk across this highway?"
Not much of note happened before we arrived in the parking lot of our hotel at about 12:30pm. We did pass the Elderberry Inn and I would like to note that not much had changed. This includes the outdated police car facing oncoming traffic with an alien mask propped up on the driver's seat. It also includes the permanent, gigantic sign advertising alleged FREE KITTENS.