Finding Independence

I missed my turn the other day on my way from a doctor’s appointment in Corvallis to Fred’s place in Albany, but it turned out well. Shortly after I decided I was about to end up in Portland if I kept going, I turned east and discovered Independence, Oregon. What a great place. It’s farm country, with signs advertising blueberries, peaches, and raspberries, with furrowed fields of squash, corn, hay and perhaps hops. Googling the town’s history, I find this town of 7,905 souls was once the hops capital of the world. It’s beautiful, and they’ve got beer; what a place.

Located 10 miles southwest of Salem on the west bank of the Willamette River, it was first settled by Oregon Trail travelers in June 1845. They named it Independence after the Missouri town where many of them had started their journey. Over the years, it’s had its ups and downs. A flood in 1861 devastated the town, but the people rebuilt on higher ground, and many of the wonderful old buildings there now date back to the 1880s. New highways took traffic away from Independence, but that allowed it to keep its quiet, old-time feeling.

Independence has preserved its . . . well, its independence. It’s got all the amenities of a great small town, libraries, parks, an outdoor amphitheater, stores, banks and all that. It’s close to Salem, only an hour from Portland. Yet it looks like a small country town, much like my native Santa Clara Valley looked before the electronics industry turned it from the Valley of Heart’s Delight to Silicon Valley.

Driving down the old Corvallis Road, I passed vast fields being watered by giant sprinklers on wheels, horses, cows, the Hilltop Cemetery and even a housing subdivision named “Green Acres.” I wonder what houses cost there. I plan to go back with my camera, but this time I won’t be lost.

What’s a Califoregonian?

That’s what I am: a California native turned Oregonian. I have roots in both states, but after 44 years in the Golden State, I moved to the Beaver State, specifically the central Oregon coast near Newport. Many others have made the same move. In any gathering where I ask how many came from California, at least half the people raise their hands.

Well, you can take a woman out of California, but you can’t take California out of the woman. They say we change cells completely every seven years. Having been here 12 1/2 years, I should be completely Oregonian by now, but I don’t think that will ever happen. Except for a dear stepson who lives in Portland, my family is still in California, mostly in the Bay Area. I miss them terribly and have traveled back and forth far more times than I ever expected to do. But when I’m there, I miss Oregon. When I’m here, I miss California. I talked on the phone the other day to someone from San Francisco and thought, “Oh, San Francisco.” But I was in Portland last night and thought, “Oh, I love this place.” And I do. When my plane lands at PDX, I feel as if I can breathe again.

Why did we move here? Quality of life, lower cost of living, affordable homes near the beach, clean air, and no traffic. Also, we discovered, no nearby shopping malls, medical specialists, major airports or universities. Jobs are scarce. What we do have is weather, lots of it, tsunami warning signs all over the place, and gigantic slugs.

But I have not started this blog to complain about what the Oregon coast has or doesn’t have. It’s to share the discoveries I make here every day. That’s the exciting thing about exploring a new territory. I look forward to telling tales, publishing photos and perhaps offering an occasional poem.

I look forward to starting a new conversation with readers who will keep coming back to see what else I’ve discovered.