After Africa, Vienna then San Francisco.
This is a page, where I tell you what happened after we left Bamako, Mali until I finally enter Mexico. It is a boring page, it is winter and my computer breaks, I go to Eugene which is a boring little village with hippies turned capitalists, it also rains all the time and I really recommend you better never go there. Actually I recommend you don't read this page, skip it; else you'd never ever log back onto the great fab trek site.
So, in brief, what has happened during these almost one and a half months? Mali 7th of March we are still in Bamako, 6th in Casablanca and Milan, the night on a train to Vienna; I am so glad to see my boys and they are asking serious questions now. A week after the Tsunami waves rip Japan apart Christina and I take a flight back to San Francisco, this is the 17th, my computer breaks down on the morning of the 18th, Christina leaves for Eugene on the 21st when snow flakes fall in San Francisco. I have the Chevy van repaired, remember, the one we left here before Christmas, I leave Frisco myself on the 28th for Ashland, fall into the hole of Eugene on the 29th. It rains! All the time! End of story! In Eugene I hand in my car registration papers and wait – while it rains. More on how it rains and why it rains and its effect read below in the long section below if you can take it! Frustrated and bored by the waiting game I leave on the 13th of April for freezing cold Bend, via Fort Rock, an old crater and the Oregon desert to Burns the 14th where it pours, to Baker City on the 15th where it pours. I reach Hells Canyon and have a glance at Idaho on the 16th and the 17th when I receive Christina's call that the car papers have arrived. So back to Eugene on the 17th, Ashland on the 18th, San Francisco on the 19th. Ensinitas near San Diego on the 21st, Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico on the 22nd and finally Mexican Pacifico beer and a Cuban Romeo y Julieta for me.
Eugen: The short story, it rains. The long story read on.
The long and so boring version, … skip it! Ok, you stubborn read on then!
While the Japanese tidal waves and destructions are on TV every day, here in SanFran a different kind of flood makes life miserable, 20 odd days of rain lay heavy on mood and mind in California. Here somewhere in Berkeley we had left the Chevy van before Christmas, my chosen car for the Americas journey. I cannot wait to go south into Mexico, just not yet. I have to get the van properly registered under my name first. This would lead me to Eugene.
Frisco, the heavy rains cause a pool of water outside the van in Sara's backyard, first morning I check the oils, attache the battery again, the good Gladiator starts, the engine hums, it backs out nicely, out of the mud. In contrast my computer, some 20 minutes later in the Amsterdam cafe on University won't come up, stubbornly refuses service. It did that before, but this morning and afternoon is different, gets hung on every upstart, the thing with Windows machines is you cant tell if it it has hung or just slow. The Lenovo held almost 3 years, not so bad considering it took all the children's honey milk, the dust from Bamako, the crash from a trolly in Rome; on the other side the piece of sh!t kept me sitting for hours all these years, waiting for it to switch off or turn on; MSFT updates stole my time - how funny can it be when in an internet cafe in Turkey the owner wants to shut shop for the night, just my computer won't (for hours!). This rainy Berkeley morning I almost feel a sense of relief. Closing eyes I buy an Apple a few days later and jump into reinventing my life; there ain't no geek no-more or is a new geek just born?
A day later C. leaves for Eugene when tiny snow flakes blow along the streets of la mision. I stay behind.
I like this San Francisco, find my way round the Mission, its Salvadorian and Mexican breakfast and lunch joints and its cafes and bookstores on Valencia where I try to figure out my new aluminum baby, leave over many teas and coffees the outside to the hail and the snow and the rain. After dark the Homestead Pub on Folsom becomes my home which is packed any day of the week; watching the thousands of drinks crossing the counter with every drink carrying a tip of one dollar it daunts me that there is no business like bar business. Yes, I am searching for a pleasing way to make some bucks one day realizing it is not photography that will make me; - it won't be the barman either as I prefer the side of the counter that I know well already.
Yes, yes Monday 28th of March comes and I wish I'd be going south but instead go north, the sun is up but short-lived, Eugene on Tuesday in Oregon is where Christina has a base and I try to register my van; Eugene sees twice as much rain as SF and also Eugene one might say is the saddest place on earth. Here everybody is a hippy and still sells you junk as jewelery, everyone is a weirdo and still system conform, everybody is happy and nobody drinks as there is marihuana. Everybody is green and still a capitalist, everybody tries to live on organic food and still watches TV and buys into its ads and industry PR. Everybody thinks he is watched by the government, everybody thinks Oregon is a guinea pig for radiation experiments in Alaska (HAARP), everybody thinks the earthquake will come and shatter California and send its tsunamis to Oregon, everybody smokes dope in Oregon, everybody is a fool in Eugene, believes in UFOs, has a guru and meditates, goes to yoga and Reiki healing classes, smokes hash and is watched by the government and loves bluegrass music and is watched by the government and is watched by the government, - but hey, I love bluegrass but actually doubt being watched, not for reading Wikileaks!
So there we meet friends in McMenamin's Pub and Brewery on the river. I have a fruity, raspberry red Ruby beer, then a delicious IPA, regular as should be and finally a Workingman's Red, very misty, more like a milk shake but light and fresh. America has the most fantastic micro breweries and beers, Oregon just one out of 50 states has more brews and breweries than Germany, McMenamin's has 16 breweries in Oregon state alone, Eugene, this small town of weirdos and hippies is home to Ninkasi, Steelhead, Rogue, and many more, a small town of 150,000. So how weird exactly do you have to be to make great beer?
We change to Wow Hall for a night of Women in Blues, starring celebrated Karen Lovely, by some measures best contemporary Blues artist. I like her amazing strong voice, I like the blues guitar, I like the screaming Korg; just Wow Hall is a strange kind of Rock house, more a communal space where to enjoy a Ninkasi IPAs you have to go in the cellar, since upstairs where the music plays is "absolutely alcohol free" - so the hippy and granny folk can bring their kids, or better their grandkids; but then maybe one day I will have to learn to enjoy blues without a beer in hand.
Late we change to Sam Bonds Garage for some authentic bluegrass; brilliant and simple American roots music. At this late hour in Sam Bonds a fresh four piece band, Conjugal Visitors (myspace), jerk out a very original root brew of sound. With dreads down to his knees, full beard and a cowboy hat the guitarist strums in stoic pose, his main man plays a mandolin, shrieks in a high pitched voice, a contrabass gives all the dun, dun, bass and rhythm it needs, a lone fiddle for the soloing; so is the setup. Unpretentious, clever, fools play for fools, I think slyly when I have my first sip from the darkest and smoothest Ninkasi stout out of a pickled cucumber glass; so much better than Guinness, probably because it comes from just around the block. And surely an hour after midnight some bald head walks up and tells me he is being watched.
Yeah, yeah I am being introduced to the most boring place on Earth. And I am dammed, 'cause I need to hang in Eugene till my paperwork arrives, like you my reader, dammed because you are reading this. Well yah, I need time anyway to set up the aluminum apple lady, the sun shines for some 5 minutes every 3 days, then it pours again for some 36 hours non-stop, the Pacific wet pounds, one wave after the other. I figure what to do; I long for Mexico, but long for the road in general. One day I close my eyes (prices are high due to the Japanese disaster) and buy a new camera (D700) and a new lens (24-70mm f/2.8), all Nikons; The pervading idea after the computer investment: Spend as long as you can! Or, spend out of frustration, like a pink sissy in denial?
The same afternoon I drive up the Cascades. Weather is snowy such that I have my serious doubts, think all the way, one more mile then I turn round. Surprise I get to the top, surprise the other side is pretty dry. I get to Bend, it is a freezing 0°C, in a bar I get 5 pints of delicious Bone Yard IPA, think I needed that for a good night sleep.
Bend is still full of trees, pine woods are thick, I drive south then a bit west and all of a sudden the woods seize to exist and make room for an empty void, the scrub of the plains, the prairie, the desert, soon even sand dunes; I am amazed how quick the change. While I drive the snow covered mountains stay always a bit far or behind deep hanging clouds, Fort Rock (wiki) the eroded caldera of an old volcano appears on the horizon, rises above the desert ground. I go for a walk, the 5 pints still hurt.
Later in the day sun makes a brief appearance. A good sign for my times ahead? Na, not so!
A glance at Hells Canyon, the Snake and Idhao.
When I wake up next morning in Burns it pours and all is still freezing cold. So I drive north past John Day, no point to look for the fossil sites, it keeps pouring almost without a break; while I drive one pass after another, the woods are back.
When I wake up next morning in Baker City, all is misty but dry. I roll down to Hells Canyon, along Powder River, no trees, almost no scrub, high plateau, snow covered mountains in the distance. Slowly to lower elevations I enter Hells Canyon and first all is dry and warmer, I open a Papst Blue Ribbon, toast to the Snake River and thank God that he made me drive on, my joy though is short lived, evenings the drizzel, again, my campsite is a few meters away from the shore of the Hells Canyon dam reservoir. The hellish Snake River is a still damed lake here. Still, quiet and all I hear are the drops of rain. I am too early by 3 to 4 weeks, only then all will be in full blossoming tells me a retired Idahoan, he's visited all 50 states and all 6 Can. Provinces, he's been to Mexico many times but he's not going there anymore, they're killing themselves and we, the US are responsible as the biggest consumer of the drugs they provide.
Well, I am still going to Mexico and I still cannot wait. What am I doing here? Idaho, the beautiful, spectacular Rocky mountains state, I cannot be bothered, just cannot be bothered right now, it is worth a months journey itself, and beyond Idaho comes Wyoming and Colorado, - one day I'll get back to you.
17th and C. calls, the papers have arrived and I had straight back to Eugene, what a senseless undertaking this tour has been. Ashland on the 18th, San Francisco on the 19th. Ensinitas near San Diego on the 21st, I am close now, the evening I watch the migrating pelicans fly south to north. The 22nd I enter Mexico and Baja California at Tijuana, drive to Ensenada and finally enjoy some Mexican Pacifico beer and a Cuban Romeo y Julieta.
Those migrating pelicans, southern California.
I could watch for hours. D700, 2x Teleconverter and 24-70mm f/2.8.