The Halloween-Oregon Trail

Updated: Apr 14

In Primary School and in Jr. High, I loved computer lab. I was a natural when it came to typing. I wasn’t good at sports like the other kids, or math, or not much of anything so, it was lovely when I floored a teacher with my skill. My typing speed and accuracy was so good, I was done with my lessons well before computer lab was over. So, I got extra time to play The Oregon Trail, which was a favorite of mine. Of corpse I was always killin' it because of how accurate my typing was. I always loved the few rainy days we got because it cancelled recesses, so we were given free time in our classrooms, and sometimes computer lab. The Oregon Trail was my go-to. I loved buying oxen and carting my pixelated family and fellow travelers across the Willamette River and I often made it to Oregon. I believe my love of the Pacific Northwest was born from playing that slow-placed and historically-inaccurate computer game. It certainly made me curious about the Willamette River and the forests of Oregon.

Simultaneously, The Goonies, was often playing on TV and I think we can all agree this movie embodies the carefree nature of our 80’s childhood and imagination. I know that’s quite an understatement as both The Oregon Trail and The Goonies are important staples of our childhood. But, I want to focus on location. I may be the only one but, I find watching The Goonies on a rainy day adds to the magic of the film and playing The Oregon Trail during those rainy days made it easier to visualize the journey that the Colonizers were on.

Later, Kindergarten Cop came out and again, I found myself watching this perfect and majestic seaside town feeling like it’s a place I know I would love but, would probably never see. I visualized Astoria as being a mythical place. A place that you needed a special road and a particular magical energy to access. I loved that it rained throughout the film and then when it needed to have them, it had sunny days too.

As I got older my curiosity and draw to the Pacific Northwest only grew. I embraced El Nino in 1997-98 as it gave me a sense of what it would be like to live under constant rainfall. Another movie, Fear, had me determined to go before I died. I felt better when it was wet outside then and, even more so, now that I am an adult. When I met my now Husband, we didn’t have much in common but, the one thing we did have was our love for rain and interest in the PNW. In 2013 we took our late honeymoon to Seattle, Washington. Seattle felt like home from the moment our flight descended from the clouds. Neither one of us had been before, so while wandering the City I often pictured us looking like a pair of Goonies as we ran in and out of Pike Place.

Shortly after that trip, I began incessantly using Zillow to look up rental homes all over Washington. The more I looked, the more frustrated I became as the cost of living in Washington was about the same as Southern California. So, I began to turn my focus South and that is when I had an epiphany. We could live somewhere in Oregon and be in-between our two favorite Cities. Los Angeles and Seattle. My Husband and I would tell our kids, family and friends we were going to ultimately move to the PNW. Then, for a time, I had a love affair with Downtown LA and Hollywood and, I put the PNW aside. I wasn't done with LA yet. When things got hard between my Husband and I, he would often say, “This would be a perfect time to fuck all this and move our assess to Oregon.” He craved a new beginning where it rains most of the time as well. It was a place to start over and live how we want to. I want accessible and full creeks that are natural and not man made. The endless sunny days in Southern California drain my energy. If you know what it feels like to take a glimpse at the sun then you will know what I mean when I say that is the sensation I feel when I simply go just go outside midday. But, the moment a cloud covers the sun, my energy is instantly lifted and I look up literally, and metaphorically. I need to be under constant grey clouds to feel alive anymore.

There are a few reasons why my family and I decided to spend Spring Break 2021 taking a road trip up to Oregon. But, I want to tell you about the trip before I disclose those reasons. I have been privileged enough to visit Orlando, Nevada, Washington DC and Seattle (twice). Yet, nothing was like our 14 hour road trip North. We were embarking on our own Halloween- Oregon Trail.

Weeks before the trip I was riddled with anxiety of epic proportions. I literally thought everything was going to hurt or kill me. I would lie awake and have to tell myself, out loud, to get a vision out of my morbid head before it actually manifested. I thought I would be rejected when I showed up to get my first COVID Vaccine shot because it felt like my “ongoing medical conditions” weren’t good enough to earn the vaccine. I was afraid I was going to miss something while we were gone, or we’d forget a child. Fourteen hours in an extended cab truck was daunting to visualize. Yet, the late night worrying brought me back memories of road trips I had gone on as a kid. I remembered how I was anxious I was during my first road trip to Yosemite. My Grandmother ( a single Mother and overall bad-ass) took me and, my two oldest cousins in her 1989 Toyota Tercel, all the way up to Yosemite. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was worried how we would deal if we got stuck on the way, or what would happen if I would fell over a waterfall. I actually counted the time between call boxes as my Grandma drove us North. I was afraid when I felt car sick as we winded up the road just before the entrance of the park. I was even more freaked out when my cousin announced she was feeling nauseous. It validated my fear. I was always afraid as a kid. But, lying in bed before our trip to Oregon, was when I realized I made it out ok from those imagined situations of terror. I lived through it all and I had so much fun! My anxiety is a fucking douchebag that sometimes but, cancelling the trip was not an option and I told my anxiety to "fuck-off".

We left at 3am Friday morning March 19th, 2021. The entire family was awake and in good spirits. Our beloved Puppy was comfortable and stayed quiet and still while my Husband drove us on the 5Fwy North. It was my 41st Birthday and I felt at ease not long after we took off. I realized right there my anxieties were unfounded and they disappeared like mist for the next eleven hours. After the Sun rose we realized it was a cloudy and rainy day in Central California and my mood improved even more. This was a good trip. Time seemed to move steady and swift like I how imagined the Willamette River appear. As we got closer to the Oregon border we were able to drive through Mount Shasta and see Shasta Lake. I could feel the grey clouds, the rain, the flowing creeks and miles of forests getting closer. I pictured a huge sign over the 5 fwy saying “Welcome to Oregon” and the dark clouds would be waiting on the other side. The rain too. We had a song prepared to play as we crossed over. “Hearing Damage” is one of the greatest songs ever made in my lifetime and is the sound and essence of the PNW.

Anyways, as the State line approached we counted down and there was a sign welcoming us to Oregon. It wasn’t what I pictured in my head and there were no dark clouds waiting for us. We found ourselves winding through the forested Cascade-Sisikiyou mountains. Then the clouds began to appear. We actually had to question if they were clouds or smoke because of how they touched the trees and were moving so fast. That was worth laughing over as we sounded like true Californians who can’t tell if thunderclouds are actually plumes of wildfire smoke. And yes, I know that Oregon catches on fire too. But, let me have this.

We stopped at a nice Rest Stop in Ashland and I was thrilled to announce to our tour that this was where the movie Coraline was “set.” This rest stop was right off of our Oregon Trail (the 5 Fwy) and it was there that I felt my first drop of Oregon rain on my cheek. My first Oregon breeze felt like a hug and tickle which had nothing to do with the fact that my vagina was visible though the open fly of my lounge pants. Hey, I wanted easy access so I could use my She-Wee when needed. A method of road trip, social distancing, ya know?

It was more of the same the next hour or so.

“Look! Our first glance at an Oregon Creek!”

“Oh, our first Oregon downpour.”

Passing Medford and ascending into Grant's Pass. the world around us darkened. The darkness came from the deep grey clouds but, also from the forests that lined the road. It peeked out from behind the trees and blended in between. I can only describe the feeling as nostalgic and it felt like a familiar childhood fear of mine. I can’t pin point it and maybe it was from one of my nightmares as a kid. I can’t describe the darkness I felt any other way. I did what I could to ignore it and enjoy the heavy rain that was falling all around us. It wasn’t as comforting as it was in Seattle. But, I tried to hold on to the simple, present moment. Living in SoCal my whole life, I've had to embrace every rainy day because it could be a year before seeing and feeling it again.

We descended from Grant's Pass into a more flat landscape that was dotted with large meadows and small rolling hills. Some houses and barns were atop of acres of land. There were farms and ramshackle trailers. Perfect places to buy property and build upon. Our dream and absolutely beautiful. That is except for the homes that still had their Trump Pence 2020 signs still displayed proudly. Thats when I remembered to Google what the "Oregon Push Back" signs I saw meant. These were dotted along the 5fwy too. I was baffled. More that the "You-wont-take-my-second-amendment-rights-from-me" idiots actually figured out how to put together a website. Unlike in SoCal (specifically speaking about Rancho Cucamonga and Upland), the defeated Trumpians have put their propaganda away. These fools along the 5fwy between Medford and all the way up to Salem have this shit all over. I knew it was still bad in Oregon, but this was more than I expected. But, its no wonder. Despite their acreage, their worlds and point of view is so small why would they open their minds to real-life truth and humanity? Miles of this shit was speckled along the sides of our Oregon Trail. It gave me the feeling that we fucked up and chose the wrong place to visit.

In addition, I was taken aback by the wide open landscapes. So far, Oregon was cloudy, rainy and green but, I didn’t expect so much open space. It was like driving through what I dubbed “Wet” Bloomington, CA.

When we got to Salem. My Husband and I had the hope that staying in Oregon’s Capital would fare better than what we saw on the way in. We really just wanted to eat and sleep as it was almost 7pm when we arrived. Everyone did so well, so that was a relief. My husband and I left the kids to get settled into our hotel room and we went over to the local pizza joint to get dinner. The staff was friendly but, the restaurant patrons were a bunch of Karens and "I'm a proud gun owner" sweatshirt wearing folk. Were we visiting my Husband's family?

Clearly, Salem was not better than the towns we past on the way in. I blamed my exhaustion but, I really wanted to go home at that point. Thankfully, my Husband reminded me that we have so much more to see and that Portland was obviously diverse and loud about it, so we will be fine. We ate some damn good pizza and went to sleep.

The next morning I had to remind myself of the images and coverage coming out of Portland during the Summer of 2020. I was proud of the strong ally ship. and raged in finding out how protestors were abused and abducted. Yet, when the dust settled the boarded up businesses still chose to colorfully display their pride with paintings and murals of love, equality for all, End APPI Hate, Support Trans lives and BLM. I was about to see it for myself. But, first we had to get coffee from Dutch Bros. which I heard is the most delicious coffee you’ll ever have. When the Ghoul came to take our order, she asked us how we were, and we proudly stated we are from SoCal and are here exploring our own Oregon Trail. She hooked up all of our drinks and I am positive that had nothing to do with how delicious the drinks were. But, it was rad all the same.

As we drove North of Salem, back on our Oregon Trail, I started noticing suburbs and shopping centers appear. This still discouraged me a bit. I wanted a change. So far, this trip had its beauty, with the large amount of full creeks and peeks at the Willamette River. The rain was steady and not overwhelming so, I tried to focus on those things to keep me from being disappointed and fearful of being lynched. As we got closer to Portland I began to feel the familiar excitement. It was beginning to feel like the first time I entered metro-Seattle. I love large buildings and this one had a huge river running through it. There were draw bridges and geese and those murals I was talking about. It was also so quiet. There were forested parks in City Center and so many places to eat! I could do Portland. I was even more delighted when my kids agreed because they are very hard to please.

We decided to explore the western neighborhoods of Portland, then on to Beaverton and Hillsboro - which we had to label as “Wet” Rancho Cucamonga and “Wet” Eastvale. We talk a lot of shit, my family and I, but we felt a sense of home in these areas. It was imperative that we get a second dose of Dutch Bros. which afforded us the opportunity to chat with another friendly Barista. She gave us her opinion about Beaverton and Hillsboro, which were positive. I found it cute she told us we would probably love Lake Oswego since we are from LA. It was a profiling I kind of liked for we are just middle-class humans who can’t afford to live in actual Los Angeles. Even more ironic is that we can actually afford to live in Lake Oswego. This is a manifestation of mine. Years ago, I would imagine our family living there. At the time, there was no way we could afford it. Now, we can. See what happens when you close your eyes and make a wish?

It was then time for us to hit Highway 26 to Astoria. All of us were excited and let me tell you, my kids are NOT easily impressed. I assumed they were excited to see the Walsh house and the school where they learned that "Boys have a penis and Girls have a vagina." Perhaps, The Goonies left their energy there and it was calling to my kids. I was just happy we were all on the same page and willing to spend even more time in the truck.

In my vision of Astoria, Highway 26 was the magical road to Astoria. My vision was met as both sides of the Highway were lined with enchanted forests. Still, they harbored a darkness but, it was only making their presence known. There was an area that offered free drinking water! My California friends and family know how unthinkable that is yet, in Oregon, it's right there. Families were filling up water containers. I cried a little. I deeply love my element and embrace each drop of it. There was a rest area that was clean and offered a small looped trail right there in the forest. A bridge crossed a creek and I felt so mystical. I felt transformed, like a deer in the wood. I left an offering there and made a promise to return. I will.

I will.

Back on the road, Google Maps had us turn left onto another road. I questioned it as I could have sworn that we were to take Hwy 26 all the way to Astoria. Besides, where we were headed was hypnotizing. It was the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen in this reality. I have seen it in my dreams, though. There were homes with full creeks just feet from their house. Land surrounded by lines of trees. Neat farms and so many sheep! My words don’t even come close to the beauty of this road. And, I am serious when I say that time literally stopped.

At some point, perhaps it when we stopped at the Elk Wildlife Preserve, the spell of this fantastical landscape had broken. I realized that we should have been in Astoria by now and I didn’t have service. My Husband left the truck on while we had our break as to not lose the GPS signal. I began to panic but, as I breathed I noticed my family was not concerned and they were still captivated by the journey. If they were in no hurry, then neither was I. Perhaps it was the road and it’s magick that I was inhaling. Still, my Husband seemed to slow down more and the curves sharpened at one point. On the straight road our phone service returned and we were nearing Astoria. I had a feeling we did something rebellious and risky. The movie Silent Hill came to mind. So, if what I was seeing was death, I was happy we were together and in trapped for eternity in Astoria.

It was even more majestic than I had ever imagine. You can sense it’s beauty and its, pull from the films but, that’s nothing compared to entering the town. There was a buzzing energy. The air was cool and clean. We all saw the streets we were driving on just as they were 36 years ago. Parallel Universe. For a moment, I concerned my thoughts on my disappointment with Southern and mid-Oregon. Would this perfect place be tainted with that evil? Then, as if Astoria heard my thought, one of the many signs we had seen in Portland came into view. Right there on on someone’s lawn.

“ We Believe Black Lives Matter. Love is Love. Feminism is for Everyone. No Human Being is Illegal. Science is REAL. Be kind to all.”

Just below and a few houses away from The Walsh house, there was a home that had the names of each Black person killed by the police. And upon further going back in time. I read that Astoria actually held a few Black Lives Matter protests. If this small remote fishing town had even a few residents who see the truth, then what’s to discourage my presence in Oregon? Thank you Astoria.

We parked and walked up to the Walsh house. You can’t drive up the driveway. A few other families were there and kept their distance. My Husband and I were pointing to where Chunk did the Truffle Shuffle and where Data broke through the screen door. The moment was timeless. Looking out to the gigantic Columbia River and hearing the seals from the shore was a scene I will never forget.