Friday, March 22, 2013

not my father's oldsmobile

This week we drove from Bend to Corvallis to retrieve my niece from Oregon State for spring break.

That means driving through the Cascade Mountains.  One of my favorite places in Oregon.  The scenery is always stunning.  Even when the snow decides to add its complications to the trip.

Oregon's history of European settlement is relatively brief.  But it is studded with fascinating people and events.  Lewis and Clark.  Jason Lee.  Joe Meek.  John McLoughlin.

And then there are those eccentric bits of the state's past strewn along its highways.  Take the photograph at the top of this post.

In 1904 Dwight Huss drove the first automobile from east to west across the United States.  It was the first car on the Oregon Trail. 

And then there is this rather odd fact.  "The first car to enter Portland on its own power from out of state."  There are enough modifiers in that phrase to qualify as a category on the Emmys.

Darrel and I marveled at the sign.  The snow may have added a bit of challenge to our trip.  But in 1904, there was no paved road.  No gas stations. Mr. Huss was a pioneer as much as the Oregon trail wagoneers.

Huss's car was a 1904 Oldsmobile.  We shared something in common.  My first car was an Oldsmobile -- a 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible.  A bit more luxurious than the runabout.  But it served me well in my first two years in the Air Force.

When I drove up to my first assignment at Castle Air Force Base in 1971, one of the NCOs called my red convertible "a whorehouse on wheels."  The phrase summed up his life aspirations more than mine.  But I knew what he meant.  The car was sexy.

And it served me well.  Until it was replaced by my favorite car -- a 1973 Datsun 240Z that shot me down Greek highways at 130 MPH, across Europe for two years in England, and then through my three years of law school. 

But I have never forgotten that Oldsmobile.  Well, not really.  Until Darrel mentioned it during our discussion of the historical marker, it was merely a vague memory.

But there you have it.  The true value of this trip.  Reliving shared values with my brother.

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