It is noon on the first day of November at an Interstate rest area near Eugene Oregon. On this gray day I did not crawl from my warm blanket cocoon until eight a.m. I am getting more oblivious to the steady moan of gray traffic sounds at the rest areas just a hundred yards from the interstates. I had only five minutes of diesel engine clatter last night before the driver shut down his engine and crawled into the cabin built into his big rig.
Here I have kicked back to munch on the memory fragments of the last few days at the rally of the North West Trek Fun Club and to work on the drafts of the articles I’d started. I am ready to post “My First Rally” to my blog as soon as I can get to a decent internet connection. And, The King of the Bookdockers, now in second draft destined for submission to an RV travel magazine.
I walked to the rest room, it is tidy as they all seem to be at the rest stops in Oregon.
Without staring I passed a man standing with a large sign on yellow pasteboard. “Lost job. Need Help. Anything”. At the curb was a mini-motorhome built on a19’ Toyota chassis that appeared to be about 25-30 years old with New Hampshire plates. Another large yellow sign pleading for help. This sign added, “God Bless.”
On my way out of the bathroom a woman handed him an energy bar and I noticed a small box that had accumulated 40-50 brown and silver coins. He wore a jacket with a patch that said “United States Navy”. He was stocky, and healthy-looking except for his gray skin, gray hair, and gray demeanor.
I walked back to my coach and made a CARE package of rolls and cream cheese, a can of soup, and one of salmon, a few hot dogs from my freezer, and some of my stash of energy bars, and a piece of roast beef leftover from last night’s BBQ.
I took the small box to him and put it in his hand. His face expressionless, our eyes froze the moment.
“God bless,” he said.
I thought about engaging him but I was not of a mind to ask the intrusive questions necessary to draw out his story. This man is part of America, too. The America Steinbeck went in search of 50 years ago and which I, too, feel a gentle yearning to connect to. People like him are only one of my agendas for this chapter of my life.
I came back to my motorhome thankful for my roof on wheels. I opened my laptop to peck out these notes. After a bit, I noticed a man get out of his faded red and white Dodge Ram pickup truck with a brown paper bag. Blue jeans, suspenders, a bit of a gut, a goatee, and an expression that seemed angry at first but them I decided it was just a Don’t Mess With Me Look. He carried the bag to the needy man and I watched them speak for a few minutes before each went back to the next minute of their separate lives.
There will be no shortage of people for me to meet in the next year and those who are down on their luck are ever more evidenced in our landscape. Next time I may be more in the mood to invade their life and pull out their stories, if they are inclined to give me for the small payment of five bucks worth of groceries.
Out my window I watch a state employee leaf-blowing acres of grassy tree-lined meadow. I am glad he has a job, even one that requires he wear protective plastic earmuffs, and spend precious gasoline to blow leaves as though someone is unaware that dropping leaves is what trees do.
After a hour of reverie, it is time to move on. In the last hour big rigs have moved tens of millions of dollars worth of cargo through the rest stop. Two 42-foot motorhomes are shuffled into the line of pull through spaces. They look like they’d tip the scales at $300-500,000.00
I tidy up and take out my trash and stop to look at a small trailer from British Columbia, a pleasant, tidy rig even more modest than mine. As I walked around the rig a couple of times one of the one of the motorhomes pulls out and as it passes me, the driver tips his hat to me.
Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd. Lake Creek Oregon.