Friday, November 13, 2020

Into the Valley of Fire: Southern Oregon

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Interstate 5 is giving us a front row seat to disaster. Burned up hulks that used to be cars on the right. A debris-strewn hell landscape to the left that, only a week ago, was a thriving residential neighborhood. A blackened field with only a chimney denoting where a house had been. A rushing creek flowing through two black banks.

A week ago, all was normal in the towns of Talent and Pheonix, here between Medford and Ashland, Oregon. Now, over two thousand homes are gone and three people have lost their lives to, what authorities belive, is a human-caused fire that swept through the towns and over the freeway we're now driving on.

After six months of staying at home due to the Covid 19 pandemic, a few places are starting to slowly loosen up. My wife is itching for a little change in scenery and either Idaho or southern Oregon seems to be the safest options within driving distance for us so we'll dip our toe into the water for a short getaway.

Then, Oregon caught on fire and we pushed the trip back until some rain came to dampen the flames.

Before we cross the border, though, we stop in the town of Weed which has a nice cottage industry of double-entendred souvenirs trading on the town's unusual name. There's even a cannibis dispensary (La Florita) downtown so you can get your weed in Weed.

The town sits right at the bottom of the massive Mount Shasta, a 14,000 foot plus snow covered volcano that juts up over 10,000 feet over the town in an impressive show of force.

For us, it's a halfway point where we can fill up on gas and get something to eat. There's not a lot to choose from here, so we get a nice lunch at the Hi Lo Cafe before moving on.

We pass the Jackson County Fairgrounds on the right, which has now become a giant evacuation and aid center.

A park alongside the road is filled with tents of those displaced. 

It's a dystopian landscape for a few miles along the busy freeway.

Once in Grants Pass, it's not long before we find our hotel, the Riverside Inn on 6th Street, at the west end of the historic downtown. The name fits as it sits on the banks of the Rogue River. Every room faces the river for some fantastic views.  It'll be our home for the next four nights.

The room is on the 2nd floor, with two queen beds. Barely accessible, it's a tub with a shower chair and bars, but it'll work for what we need. There is a balcony overlooking the river and the beautiful Caveman Bridge.

Covid precautions at the hotel include masks required whenever you're out of your room and in the vicinity of other guests or staff, sanitizer stations, plexiglass barriers in the lobby, no housekeeping (you can request towel exchange, trash service, etc) except for every four days, and you need to pre-order your continental breakfast and arrange a time to pick it up in the lobby.

We unpack. Still full from lunch, we settle down to watch the geese and ducks splash in the river while having a glass of wine from our balcony. Time to rest up before we start this trip in earnest.

Darryl Musick
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