Because of a speaking engagement in Oregon City at 11 a.m. last Saturday at the celebration of the reopening of the 90-year old Arch Bridge between Oregon City and West Linn, I decided to drive up Friday.
That way, I could also take in an exhibit about the 1962 Columbus Day storm that was opening that day in nearby Portland at the Oregon Historical Society. Then on Sunday, I also planned to take in Wordstock, a book fair at the Portland Convention Center. It would be a full weekend. As it turned out, the weekend was simply fabulous, better than expected in several respects. But in other ways, it was just too stressful, proving once and for all that I needed a GPS.
Friday––Because it was the first rainy day in a few months, I stopped at Les Schwab in Florence to have the pressure checked in my tires before heading to Portland. It was light rain until Salem; then it turned into a downpour. You know, the kind where the road disappears when you get behind a truck, and since it was a weekday, the road was full of trucks. The closer I got to Portland, the heavier the rain and the traffic. Definitely not fun, but I had my Goretex jacket and Google maps for every venue for the whole weekend. I even got into the left-hand turn lane 10 miles before I had to. I was so prepared. Until . . .
A readerboard caught my attention when it said that my off ramp was closed and to take Exit 299A instead of 299B. I actually could see it up the road a quarter mile or so—not on the left-hand side but on the right. Yikes! So I hit my blinkers and started moving over—three lanes. I made it just in time to dive off the road onto the off ramp. Never want to do that again! Then I was in “no man’s land,” nothing jived with my Google map. So I roamed around downtown Portland with its one-way streets trying to find any street listed in my directions. What I found was a Park Block and I knew OHS faced a Park Block, so I found a spot and parked. I was surprised to find no meter and then didn’t see OHS where I expected it. That’s when I remembered that there is more than one Park Block. Since the traffic was approaching gridlock on this rainy Friday afternoon, I set off walking and came to City Hall, where they gave me directions. I had parked six blocks from my destination
I arrived at OHS, drippy wet, but with plenty of time to enjoy the exhibit. It was quite wonderful with actual radio broadcasts and recorded sounds and film clips and interviews with several folks who lived through the storm. I was impressed with the wind speeds: 116 in Portland, 138 in Newport, 96 in Astoria, 127 in Corvallis. The Mightiest Wind––such an appropriate name for the exhibit.
Before leaving, I stopped by the museum store and asked if they needed more copies of Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges and they wanted six. Off I trudged back to the car and got six books in a box and slogged my way back. By now the museum had closed to the public and was in the beginning stages of a reception for members because of the new exhibit. I’m a member, but most folks attending looked a bit more presentable for the occasion. I took off my wet jacket, fluffed my hair, and attended anyway. I enjoyed lots of goodies at the buffet. I even sold one of the six books to a gentleman asking about them. It turned out to be a lovely evening so far . . .
I still had to get to my lodging in Oregon City. So about 7 (almost dark), I slogged though the downpour once again to my car—only to find a ticket. There were meters I learned. I should say there is one meter for the whole block where you put your money in, get a receipt, and put it on your dashboard. And it was a one-hour parking zone. I had been there 2 ½ hours. My fine was for $45. It certainly could’ve been worse––my car could’ve been towed. Live and learn!
I circled around a few times before finding the magic street, Madison, that took me in a straight line through town, onto the Hawthorne Bridge, and over to McLoughlin Blvd and a straight shot to Oregon City. Of course, it was very busy, very rainy, and signals every few blocks and half the time I couldn’t see the lines marking the lanes—more white knuckle driving. By the time I got to the motel about 8 p.m., I was totally stressed. It took two hours of zombie-like TV watching before I was no longer a basket case. The late news said that the 1.16 inches of rain that fell that day in the Portland area was a record. Go figure!
Saturday––I awoke to a sunny, beautiful fall day. I got to the Museum of the Oregon Territory early and as soon as it opened at 10 a.m., I was able to go in and start setting up for my PowerPoint presentation about McCullough and the coastal bridges at 11 a.m.
The presentation went well. The equipment worked flawlessly, the crowd hung on every word (or at least seemed to), and afterwards, asked many questions. Then I sold a few books.
Between 1–2:30 p.m., the PowerPoint presenters were Dr. Robert Hadlow, the acknowledged expert on McCullough and his bridges, who spoke about McCullough and the history of the Arch Bridge in Oregon City followed by Chris Leedham, an engineer who has worked as a bridge designer with ODOT for the past 30 years. He described in detail the restoration that has taken place during the past 22 months.
I was really excited to meet both of them in person. I had quoted Dr. Hadlow over and over in my book and he had read over my entire manuscript before it was published. I had bugged Chris with questions more than once via email. Now I hung on every word during their presentations, and afterwards, more folks bought my book.
Then Matt Love, high school English teacher in Newport who had grown up in Oregon City, spoke on legends of the Arch Bridge. I know Matt and hearing him was great fun! And then I sold a few more books before packing up. I ended the day by going out to dinner. All in all, a totally wonderful day!
Sunday––After breakfast and checking out of the motel, I drove over and parked near the Arch Bridge. It was a beautiful morning. I grabbed my camera and walked across the bridge and back.
Since the restoration, it is positively pristine. For the three days of the celebration, it was open to walkers and bicyclists, and then on Monday, it would open to vehicular traffic.
I took my time walking across and thoroughly enjoyed inspecting every inch. I “oohed and awed” my way across. After all, it’s a McCullough Bridge!
This was the bridge that McCullough kept a photo of in his office. This was the bridge that first showed his design genius 14 years before he designed the coast bridges. It’s a gem!
After my walk, I headed for the Portland Convention Center to meet Dr. Veronica Esagui, the interviewer on the “Author’s Forum,” a program shown on public access TV in the Portland area. Since she interviewed me on her program, we’ve become friends. She had three of my books she was trying to sell along with other books at the Wordstock book fair being held all weekend. My plan was to hang out there a few hours before heading back to Oregon City for the afternoon ribbon cutting celebration at the Arch Bridge. Then I would high tail it home because another big storm was due to hit about 5 p.m.
I headed for the convention center with my Google map at the ready and was looking for a particular street to turn on. Then I saw a sign to turn at the next intersection for the street that the convention center was on. I hit my turn signal. It was a convoluted intersection with numerous choices. I picked the wrong one and ended up on the Morrison Bridge, heading to the west side of the Willamette. Before I knew it, I was back in downtown Portland. Lost again and this time no rain or traffic. Rather pleasant, but I still didn’t have a clue about how to get across the river to the convention center.
I didn’t like that sinking feeling of being lost again, so when I saw a sign directing me to I–5 and Salem, I took it. And I didn’t look back. I just wanted to go home. So I missed going to Wordstock, and I missed the final ceremonies on the Arch Bridge. I also missed the next storm. I did hit light rain from Eugene to Florence, but nothing heavy. I got home in time to go grocery shopping and be totally unloaded and settled in before the storm hit Florence that evening shortly after 5. If I had stayed in the Portland area, it would’ve been a dreadful ride home. Sometimes things happen for the best, even though we’re not aware of it. I was glad I’d come home early.
My neighbor invited me over for a potluck dinner that night along with a few friends. So I brought some fresh Artisan bread I had just bought. I knew everyone except one gentleman. During dinner, my neighbor asked me about my weekend and I told about my presentation. The gentleman spoke up, “Have you read Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges? You’d enjoy it. It’s about the coastal bridges and particularly the Siuslaw River Bridge. It’s an excellent book.” I told him I had many times . . . during the year I spent writing it! We all had a good laugh!
Next week––I intend to do some research on global positioning systems.
TO BUY JUDY’S FIRST BOOK
Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $4.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at http://www.connectflorence.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society; in Made in Oregon stores throughout the state; and more and more bookstores, libraries, and museums in western Oregon. This book makes a good coffee-table book. With the holidays coming up, it would be an excellent gift.
JUDY’S SECOND BOOK DUE EARLY DECEMBER
The second book The CROSSINGS Guide to Oregon’s Coastal Spans––will cover 15 bridges and have at least one color and one historic photo for each one. The cost will be $10 + $3 shipping. This book will also be published through Pacific Publishing. This guide with its sturdy cover will travel well. When heading for the coast, don’t leave home without it.
The half-hour interview with Dr. Veronica Esagui for the “Author’s Forum” program on public access TV in the Portland Metro area ended it’s two-week run June 1-14, 2012, but can be seen on YouTube in two parts: Google Judy Fleagle YouTube.
November 6, 5:30 p.m., PEO Meeting, private home––Twenty-minute talk on the book and the part it played in the 75th anniversary celebrations of 2011. Only open to PEO members.