Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whistle while you work...or else!

We stayed in Rogue River, Oregon two nights ago. Nestled in the mountains along a river, the location offered lots of promise. However, when we crossed the bridge to enter the town, Gerry and I both felt uneasy. Yards were overgrown dumping grounds for pickup trucks, buses, and deep freezes in various states of disrepair. Fences were full of holes and broken pickets and houses had layers of paint peeling off them like the hardware store had run out 20 years ago and never gotten new stock. The local store had a spray-painted sign that proudly boasted of "Jelly Bellys and Olives," items that are apparently hard to come by on that side of the river. The town seemed to be gunning to be included in the remake of Deliverance.

Yet when we walked into the RV park, we received the warmest welcome and biggest smile from the grey-haired lady whose whole body tremored with signs of Parkinson's. I couldn't help but admire her diligence and the pride she took in showing us around the campground and offering us freshly-made cookies, brownies and muffins. I love seeing people who love their jobs and as she slyly told me which of the washers and dryers were her favourite in the laundromat, it was obvious that she loved her job.

We had an incredible drive yesterday. Near the snow-capped Mount Shasta in Northern California, the Canadian in us shone through and we pulled over and built a snowman, a bit of a tough task without gloves. The foot-tall snowman we made on top of a giant rock was melting quickly in the sunshine as we stuck a Canadian flag in it and took a picture. Immediately afterwards, Jaxon started chasing us around and pelting us with snowballs--something he's been wanting to do all winter in Vancouver but hasn't had the chance to yet.

We drove on past Shasta Lake and Redding, California--a place I'd spent a week at 10 years ago when I was installing software at cement plants in the States. The red rock all around and the glistening water on Shasta Lake were incredible.

Further on, the drive turned into flat, straight highway with miles upon miles of tidy, perfectly-planted crops. It reminded me a lot of Saskatchewan but with fruit trees instead of wheat. Gorgeous at first but it did get a bit monotonous after awhile.

We ended up staying in a small RV park down the road from a farmer's field and took a bike ride in the evening (it was +21 after all, our first real taste of the warm weather we came south for). Bike riding is one of our favourite things to do as a family and it was the perfect night for it. We made a couple of stops along the way to check out cactus plants and point out the beehives near the fruit trees. Without realizing it, our bike ride turned into a mini-science lesson and any worries I may have had about taking Jaxon out of school for a few weeks quickly disappeared.

Today, we gave Jaxon the choice of a tour of a gold mine at Sutter Creek or a ride on a zipline further south. Gerry and I were really rooting for the zipline but the picture of a "dune buggy" ride at the gold mine sealed the deal for Jaxon--no way was he going to miss a ride like that! It was a cool ride and Jaxon's exclaims of "AWESOME!" as we rode the buggy underground convinced us that we'd made the right choice.

Interesting fact that I did not know: The song "Whistle While You Work" really comes from old mining practises. Apparently, powder monkeys, the young boys who carried dynamite, were required to whistle all day long. If they stopped, it was a sign that enough of the nitro from the dynamite had seeped into their bloodstream to make their face numb. After face-numbing would come fainting, causing the dynamite to fall and possibly explode. Not good.

We're not too sure where we'll end up tomorrow but hope to be in Tombstone, Arizona in a few days. The promise of an old-fashioned gun fight outside the OK Corral is almost as exciting as Disneyland for Jaxon right now. (Although I think he might change his mind once he realizes just how cool Disneyland is.)

Things are going fantastically well and Jaxon is proving himself to be a great traveller which helps make everything much less stressful.

Until next time...make sure you whistle while you work lest people think you're about to keel over and kill them.

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