I honked the Toyota’s horn when I crossed into Oregon from Nevada on Monday afternoon, near Denio, a silly ritual I follow whenever I’ve been away from home for more than a few days. Don’t tell me sagebrush all looks the same—I could feel the difference as Kathy and I drove north to Frenchglen and the old Hotel. We stopped for a milkshake and malt in Fields Station, quiet without the bird life that makes that small oasis so lively in April and May, and walked through the cottonwoods across from the Station, remembering other times. To the east Steens Mountain wore a crushed hat of snow, while heat wavered above the pavement under an unseasonably warm sky.
Following supper that evening we walked a short ways down the gravel road across from the hotel and, returning, were greeted by the full moon rising over a distant hillside dotted with juniper trees. We waited until it cleared the horizon before going inside, where the weariness of the road caught up with us.
Tuesday morning arrived sharp-edged, with sunrise light that caused every thing to glow, and no object was mundane. Breakfast was a pleasant blur of oatmeal and sausage, of small conversation with other guests, and then it was time to reel in the miles, through more sage and juniper to Burns before the turn westward to Bend, a hundred miles away. Often described as boring, this portion of the drive melted away as easily as the chocolate in my Clif Bar, and we were in the tall Ponderosa pines that announce the small town of Sisters, at the eastern edge of the Cascade range. We were surprised, and pleased, that autumn’s colors were so abundant and fresh this year—aspens in many places, and once across the Santiam Pass and along the route to Eugene there were golden maples everywhere, lighting up the dark woods and crowding the highway, part of a great, welcoming parade that swept us along.
Home. Our cats feigned disinterest in these people, as they always do when we return from a trip, but returned quickly to their lovable, self-centered selves. I brought our luggage in and dumped it in my office. Sleeping bags and tent, anything that still has Southwest sand in it, can wait for a proper cleaning. I offloaded memory cards yesterday to a hard drive, and might get around to renaming the files today. Maybe. I’m going to rewind my experiences one day at a time, in no particular hurry, the way I approached them. Savor the flavor, as I told my granddaughter when she was little and ate too fast. I’ve a lot to chew over, but it’s November, and raining, and I’m home again.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” —Lin Yutang