Exploring Newport’s Yaquina Bridge

IMG_20140114_115206724Yaq. bridge 71417F

The Yaquina Bay Bridge that links Newport, Oregon with South Beach has been called The Green Lady for the green arch that rises 600 feet into the sky. One of five Oregon Coast bridges designed by Conde McCullough and erected between 1934 and 1936, the bridge bears the marks of 81 years of weather, waves, birds, cars, and people. Memories flood my mind, even though I have only been here 21 years, not even a third of the bridge’s lifetime: Marches to celebrate sobriety and to protest war, a parade of old cars and people in costumes celebrating the bridge’s 75th anniversary, flowers tied to the posts in memory of six-year-old London McCabe, whose mother threw him off the bridge to his death in 2014. Police reports document others who committed suicide by slipping over the side of the bridge.

Countless tourists have walked the bridge, stopping to take pictures of the bay to the east and the jetty leading into the ocean to the west, of the marina, the coast guard station, the fishing pier, sea lions, and fishing boats followed by flocks of gulls. Others walk or jog the bridge for exercise or simply to get to the other side. Yaq. bridge 71417P

Yaq. bridge 71417EI have been reading a book called Crossings, about the construction of the coastal bridges. Written by Judy Fleagle and Richard Knox Smith, it tells the story of McCullough’s designs and how hundreds of workers laboring through fog, sun, rain and wind made them real. Before the bridges, travelers on the Coast Highway were forced to take ferry boats across the bays and rivers in Newport, Waldport, Florence, Reedsport, and Coos Bay. It made for a mighty long trip, and if you missed the last ferry of the day, you had to stay the night. A friend of my father’s who lived here in those early days remembers taking blankets when he went to town, just in case he couldn’t get back to the other side of the bay before nightfall.

All but one of the five bridges are still in use. The Alsea Bay Bridge in Waldport was replaced by a new bridge in 1991, but the builders left some of the gothic pillars and other markers in place. Someday The Green Lady will go, too. Highway experts are already warning that, despite frequent maintenance, it’s getting too old and too narrow to accommodate modern traffic loads, especially as development increases in South Beach. A strong earthquake or tsunami might take it down. But today it stands as the symbol Newport uses as its logo and the one thing everybody wants to photograph.

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I cross the 3,223-foot Yaquina Bay Bridge nearly every day by car, but I recently walked it for the first time. I’d always meant to but never got around to it. Getting new tires at Les Schwab, right at the northern end of the bridge, gave me a perfect excuse. It only took a half hour to cross the bridge and come back, feeling triumphant. Also tired. I never realized how much of the bridge was uphill.

The weather was sunny with a light breeze as I played tourist, noting the sights on and off the bridge that I can’t see from the seat of my car. No wonder the tourists gawk and creep along in their cars. Below, I saw a lone guy clamming at low tide, fishermen on the pier, a family on the beach, a gull cruising to a landing on the sand, and tsunami evacuation signs pointing to the hill southwest of the bridge. Inside the little “houses” under the obelisks near the center of the bridge, graffiti told stories the writers felt compelled to share.

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Back in the ’30s, McCullough surely never dreamed there would be a “webcam” attached at the north end of the bridge to feed pictures to the Internet, that bike racers and marathon runners would include the bridge in their course, or that a steady stream of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs would fill the air with exhaust fumes. But The Green Lady is still a beauty and worth the walk.

Text and photos copyright 2017 Sue Fagalde Lick

 

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Blessings Overflow During ‘NotMom’ Trip

IMG_20171006_113139494[1]I was sitting at the corner table at the Portland airport Radisson’s Lakeside Restaurant yesterday, devouring my pancakes, eggs and bacon when I saw someone who looked familiar a few tables down. As the woman and her companion got up to graze at the buffet, I realized I knew them from church. I had traveled across the country and was still 150 miles from home, and there were Ron and Sandi from Newport. After we all had a chance to eat our last pig-out meals before heading home to real life and diets, I joined them for a wonderful visit.

Ron and Sandi had been to Colorado and New Mexico. They were very interested when I told them I was returning from the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio. Sandi’s situation is similar to mine. She’s a stepmother, but never had her own children. I shared some of what I had learned.

It was a long and expensive trip, but worth it. I returned feeling stronger, prettier, and far less alone, with my notebook full of writing ideas. The high is fading a bit now in the rush of mail to read, bills to pay, clothing to wash, and work to get done. Rejections and deadlines loom, and I’m in charge of choir practice tonight. When I called Dad, he was full of the usual complaints—but he’s okay, and he was glad I had a good time.

This morning, the dog greeted me with kisses as I finally stirred in my warm, soft bed. Out the window, I saw evergreen trees and gray sky. No more big-city views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie out my window at the Hilton. What a beautiful city it is, full of   old buildings and fascinating public art.

There was a scary moment when I went walking Friday night. I was crossing a street at a crosswalk with a blinking warning light for oncoming cars. I walked right into the side of a car that had failed to stop. It took the breath out of me, but I was not injured. The driver apologized, and I staggered back to the hotel to sit shaking for a few minutes. It could have been all over in Cleveland before I even had a chance to give my speech. The picture above could have been the last one ever taken of me. But no, God was watching out for me. I took some deep breaths and went back to the conference.

This was not like writers’ conferences, where everybody is trying to get published. There, it’s all about what we do. But here, it was about who we are and how we live. I made about a hundred new friends as we sat around sharing how we happened to not have children. We came from as far as New Zealand and as near as Cleveland. I shared my session on aging without children with Gisele from Montreal. I met the fabulous Jody Day from the UK. Our accents varied, but we had this giant thing in common: we were all “NotMoms.”

God, how we talked. We discussed our families, our periods, our friends who are obsessed with their kids and grandkids, the stupid things people say to us, and so many other topics that we don’t usually feel we can talk about with other people. All the workshops were really discussions, with the women in the audience offering as much as the women up front.

We got drunk. We wore our pajamas to watch a documentary film called “To Kid or Not to Kid.” We ran around with giant bingo cards looking for women with various qualities to fill in the squares. I was the NotMom who played an instrument. Our keynote speakers taught us and inspired us. They made us laugh, and they made us cry. We talked about the hard stuff, the tragic stories of trying and failing to get pregnant or trying to get people to understand why some of us never wanted children. We asked each other whether having stepchildren means we’re not childless/childfree. It’s not the same as having our own, we agreed.

We gave standing ovations to Karen Malone Wright, founder of the NotMom organization, and her assistant Laura LaVoie, who made the conference happen. It was top-notch all the way. We pledged to come back next time and stay in touch in-between.

I also happily signed copies of my Childless by Marriage book and met readers I previously only knew online.

The hardest part was saying goodbye and walking out with our suitcases at the end. But I was blessed to spend the first leg of my trip home with Audrey from Olympia, Washington. We had met at dinner the first night, and now we discovered we were seated next to each other on the plane from Cleveland to Houston. I am so happy to have her as a new friend, along with so many others.

From Houston, I was finally on my own for the four-hour flight to Portland. That was a long one, with a lot of turbulence and a crying baby. But back in Portland, there were Ron and Sandi from Newport, making me see how the circles of my life intersect. I am so blessed.

In a bit of ironic timing, my step-grandson Brandon and his wife Ashley gave birth to a baby boy early this morning. Welcome, Kayden. I wish Fred were here to share the news.

Thank you all for being here.

In Spite of It All, We Still Have Hope

Sometimes our world seems hopeless as we watch people getting shot at a country music concert, wading in waist-deep flood water with no home left to go to, or fleeing wildfires that seem impossible to stop. Our government, however you feel about it, is in constant turmoil. We face so many challenges close to home. A friend just had a stroke. My neighbor just told me about a husband and wife who were both diagnosed with cancer on the same day. One of my father’s caregivers crashed her car into his garage door. It all seems hopeless, right? Let’s just go back to bed and stay there. But no. We still have hope.

It shows every time my father does his leg exercises in the hopeful belief that he will soon be able to let go of his walker and tell his caregivers not to come back. I’m not sure it will happen, but he has hope. It’s what keeps him going.

I thought about this the other day as rain soaked the chaise lounge cushions on my deck. I ought to admit that summer is over and bring them in, but no, I had hope that we would have some more sunny days. And we do. I see blue sky out my window right now.

I started making a list of the things we do that show we have hope that whatever the situation is now, it’s going to be all right. The list got long. I’m sharing some of my favorites here, and I invite you to make your own list and share it in the comments.

1. Hope is continuing to water the African violet although the leaves are turning brown and you haven’t seen a flower in a year.

2. Hope is buying two chicken breasts in case company comes.

3. Hope is showing up at a dance alone.

4. Hope is leaving the door unlocked.

5. Hope is casting your line out again.

6. Hope is planting two-year-old seeds in a muddy yard.

7. Hope is pruning your artichoke plants down to sticks.

8. Hope is unhooking your dog’s leash.

9. Hope is buying a lottery ticket.

10. Hope is calling him (or her) one more time.

11. Hope is getting a mammogram.

12. Hope is stepping on the bathroom scale.

13. Hope is going to get the mail.

14. Hope is pouring your heart out and hitting “send.”

15. Hope is taking your turn at a four-way stop.

16. Hope is buying jeans that fit a little tight.

17. Hope is putting a roast in the electric oven during a storm when the lights are flickering.

18. Hope is making a dentist appointment for six months from now.

19. Hope is buying a Christmas gift in August for someone who is very old.

20. Hope is leaving your jacket at home.

21. Hope is saying “I do” again.

22. Hope is stepping into the plane.

23. Hope is not defrosting anything for dinner.

24. Hope is leaving your birth control in your purse.

25. Hope is getting out of bed anyway.

Okay. Your turn!

Unleashed in Oregon blog book is born

Unleashed PB coverWell, I did it. Soon I’ll be holding a paperback book copy of Unleashed from Oregon: Best from the Blog. It will have tangible form, unlike these weekly blog posts in cyberspace, which could disappear if something happened to WordPress, Wi-Fi or the Internet. It will also put together related posts from various times and places to create a new story.

What’s in it? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more. What is a Californigonian? What was waiting by the door that night? What possessed us to adopt two puppies at once? How is playing the piano like ice skating? Why stay in Oregon when it rains all the time and the family is still back in California? Chapters will look at the glamorous life of a writer and the equally glamorous life of a musician, true stories from a whiny traveler, being the sole human occupant of a house in the woods, and dogs, so much about dogs.

With over 500 posts published over the last 10 years, I had to leave a lot out. Frankly, many of those posts deserved to be left out. They made sense at the time, but now not so much. The photos in the book are black and white because the cost of color photos was prohibitive and this isn’t a coffee table book. I refuse to charge people $40 a copy. I wanted it to be fun and inexpensive. And it is.

Putting Unleashed the book together has been a challenge. The cover I loved for the e-book didn’t work for the paperback, so they’re different. Choosing the posts, finding the files, and finding the original photos (I need a better system!) took time. Remind me not to try formatting another book with pictures. Also remind me to use a real camera instead of my phone. Getting photos, page numbers, and headers to line up, yikes, but I think you’ll like the result.

The e-book is already available at Amazon.com. The paperback will be there soon. Click on my name and take a look at my other books while you’re there. It’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas presents. If you can’t wait, you can buy copies of the paperback right now at CreateSpace.com.

Here Comes That Good Old Oregon Rain

Sunrise_92117[1]It was like God flipped a switch. Overnight this sunny beach town turned into the soggy Oregon coast, complete with hard rain, wind, and thunder. Note dog under the desk. Summer was so good it’s hard to be easygoing about losing it. I did not want to stash the lounge cushions or strap down the hot tub cover. I did not want to stock up on pellets for the pellet stove. I did not want to wake up to darkness and spend my day in storm-cloud gloom.

Tough, says God. Lots of people have it much worse these days, with earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. And didn’t I pray hard for rain to put the fires out? Yes, I did. I even cleaned out my gutters and stacked my wood in preparation. Before you know it, I’ll be making soup.

But I’ve already got two pairs of soggy shoes and two pairs of soggy socks and one pair of soggy jeans hanging up to dry from our recent rainy walks. Annie, my canine personal trainer,  does not cut me any slack for rainy days. Yesterday’s trek through the woods may have been our longest speed walk since her knee surgery at the end of May. That dog was truckin’. The rain soaking into her fur didn’t seem to bother her. Me, I could have done without it.

I wore one of Fred’s old hats, his old rain jacket (I wore mine out), and my own jeans and tennies. The rain soaked into the hat and cascaded down the jacket onto my pants. It leaked into my shoes. I shivered now and then, even though it was still 60 degrees. Wait till December when we go below freezing.

My hat knocking against my raincoat made a noise that convinced me a bear was watching us. No. Bears are smart enough to stay in when it rains. We saw the usual collection of dead newts, squashed mice, and discarded fast-food containers. The blackberries are gone, and the first mushrooms have sprouted up. The neighbors’ RV is wrapped up in a silver tarp, vacation time over.  The yellow school bus rolled by us, depositing its last passenger on Birch Street. School is in session. We have started religious education at church. I have traded sandals for boots. My online piano lesson featured the song “Autumn Leaves.”

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn. But who cares what the calendar says? We need only watch the sky. These days, it keeps changing. When I woke up this morning, we had blue sky. Now it’s all clouds. Yesterday, before the sky turned black and it rained, I saw bright pink clouds above the trees. “Annie, look!” I said. She was too busy staring at her empty bowl to appreciate the sunrise. Nor was she interested at lunchtime when at least five different kinds of birds congregated in the back yard. Stellar’s jays, robins, flickers, juncos, and sparrows. The birds are getting ready for winter.

Grab your raincoat. Here we go.

***

The ebook version of The Best of Unleashed in Oregon is online now at Amazon.com. Only $2.99. Grab yourself a copy. If you prefer a paperback, that’s in the works. It should be available next week at the same place.

 

Unleashed in Oregon book coming soon!

The Unleashed blog has been going for 10 years now, with more than 500 posts. 500! No wonder I’m tired. In celebration, I am putting together a Best of Unleashed in Oregon book. I am revising and reorganizing my favorite posts so that you and I can find them all in one place. The text isn’t quite ready yet, but today I have a cover. Guess who’s on the front? Annie. Of course. The e-book will be available soon at a very reasonable price, to be followed by the paperback in plenty of time for Christmas. Thank you, readers, for sharing this journey with me.

The blog is not over. I plan to keep posting here, offering new stories and photos because this life in Oregon offers new revelations every day.

Drum roll . . . Here’s the cover.

Unleashed cover

 

 

 

Choking in Smoke as The West Burns

IMG_20170905_184257376_HDR[1]As I get ready for church choir practice, it seems unusually dark for 6:30 p.m. I leave the porch light on for the first time this summer. The reason for the darkness becomes clear when I turn west toward Highway 101. “Oh my God!” At the post office, I stop the car and fumble for my cell phone to take a picture.

The sun hanging over the ocean is red-orange, discolored by the smoke from the wildfires burning in Oregon and throughout the western United States. Unlike the eclipse two weeks ago, I don’t need special glasses to watch it because the light is muted, not bright enough to hurt my eyes.

My photos don’t do it justice. I turn north toward Newport, frequently glancing left at this sun so like a harvest moon but redder and on the wrong side of the road. When I look again in the church parking lot, the sun, still an hour from sunset, is nearly hidden in smoke.

When we come out, it’s dark. I see neither sun nor moon. There are no stars. There is only smoke.

Unlike the eclipse, this sky show does not bring me joy.

We are over a hundred miles from the closest fire yet the smoke has turned everything gray since Saturday. In brief moments when the sun breaks through, it tints everything a strange orange color. My nose keeps running. I miss my blue summer skies.

But this is just the smallest taste of it. Inland, where the fires are closer and the temperature has been in the 90s and 100s, ash rains like snow. The smoke is so thick it’s not safe to breathe. Like heavy fogs, it covers everything but without the cool refreshment of fog. And the fires, my God. Judging by the photos, all of Oregon is burning. And not just Oregon. Fires rage in California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. See the map here. The fires are so big the only hope of putting them out anytime soon is a monster rainstorm to rival the one that flooded Texas and neighboring states with Hurricane Harvey.

Not long ago, my brother Mike’s home was threatened by such a fire burning around his home near Yosemite. His family was ordered to evacuate. They stayed with my niece in Merced, but Mike kept returning to his mountaintop home to check on its status and protect it from looters. At the same time, Mariposa, the town where he works as a superior court judge, sat in the fire’s path, evacuated but for a few people helping to care for the firefighters. The historic courthouse could have gone up in flames. In the end, his home and his town were spared, but the blaze, labeled the Detwiler fire, destroyed 63 homes and burned more than 81,000 acres. The miles of blackened landscape come within 200 yards of Mike’s property, a constant reminder of what could have happened. They’ll never forget the fear or the taste of smoke in their mouths. But fire season isn’t over. Another fire is burning today near Yosemite.

The biggest fire in Oregon right now is in the Columbia River Gorge. It is burning on the Pacific Crest Trail, around Multnomah Falls, and even across the river in Washington. It was started by kids playing with fireworks, a stupid, horrible thing. A cigarette reportedly sparked the Mariposa fire. Lightning started many of the other fires. Some say the fires are a natural process, designed to clear out the forests and start fresh. People and their buildings don’t fit into that equation. Nor do people help when they ignore firefighters’ pleas not to burn ANYTHING.

It has been a crazy year. After four years of drought, California experienced epic rains. So did Oregon. Day after day after day. Then came weeks of extraordinary heat. The result: wild growth of grasses, shrubs, and trees that make perfect fuel for fires. Now we’re burning.

Out my window, it’s as gray as any winter morning, but the grayness is smoke, not moisture. I like sunshine. I like to sit out in the sun, to bathe in its warmth. I dread winter. But today I’m praying hard for rain to put out the fires and clean the air, to give us back our sun and moon and to help all those people losing everything to the flames. If you are in the path of the fires, floods or hurricanes, you are in my prayers.

What is it like where you are? Are you or your loved ones in danger? How are you coping?