I was noticeably relaxed as I set up a little day camp on a picnic table. All I wanted was to relax and enjoy a morning next to the Columbia. Logic said I should get my ass to the ramp and try to take advantage of the early start to get thru Portland, but my intuition was telling logic to go fuck itself! I decided to side with intuition. I fully charged my cell batteries, repacked the pack, ate, shaved, and just...was. It was phenomenal!
Zeno was a middle-age, pony-tailed former UN artist. Yes, an artist that worked for the UN, and on his way to pick his daughter up from the Portland airport. He was also one of the more fascinating rides ever, and set the tone for the rest of the day. Zeno had been wildly successful with the UN, and had traveled all over the world. He found himself on the floor of the General Assembly with regularity, and met numerous diplomats and world dignitaries. Zeno had also given all that up when he discovered he had a daughter who was in her early 20's, and moved to The Dalles, just to be near her. The transition had not been easy; his artwork was being held hostage because someone felt his quitting was, somehow, a breach of contract. His assets were frozen, and this man who had made a fortune was now scouring for work at places like McDonald's. It was odd to hear a well spoken, articulate, worldly man give an educated dissertation on Syria, then tell of applying at Burger King! After a short time, I greatly admired Zeno. He was a man of conviction who followed a distinct sense of right; "career" be damned. The conversation eventually transitioned into how to make money while traveling, and he was a gold mine of insight and information. Taking notes, I soon had a page full of avenues to follow. Avenues such as how to work guarding workers from bears in Alaska, and traveling to archaeological sites to work, paid, as a digger! I greatly enjoyed every minute of my ride through the Columbia Gorge with Zeno, and again wished he were one of the multi-hundred mile variety!
I had called Dave from Troutdale to let him know I was around, and to be sure he hadn't moved! We had not chatted since July '08, but had become good friends over the July 4th weekend I was there. As I walked up, it appeared little had changed in 14-months. Fred's Marina was the same, and I found him in the same spot I had last summer: manning the store. We quickly caught up, and exchanged stories before he invited me in to his floating home to meet his son, who is also quite a talented musician. Pretty soon, it was time to leave and continue up US-30 toward Astoria. We took a picture, but before we could exchange out proper goodbyes, a sudden influx of customers needing gas for their boats, or candy for their kids left me standing there feeling slightly awkward. Then, in pulled a blue and white Master Craft needing gas. Inside was an odd pair. One looked to be a middle aged, boisterous Italian, while the other was a dreadlocked young man who looked to be barely in his 20's. The kid saw my pack, and asked if I was traveling. I said yes and, just like that, the most extraordinary, random weekend of either summer commenced.
Fasten your seat belts and put your tray tables in their upright & locked position...