Thursday, May 5, 2011

The who, the what, the where

Note: I've decided that, since I haven't mentioned to my boss or really anyone in charge at the ferry, that I don't want to be specific about where the ferry is located. But you know where I live, it's not too hard to figure out exactly where the ferries are. It's more that I don't want to use the names of the ferries a lot, since that would get them into google searches, which gets more notice than I think I want. So, the ferries will be known as the WL and the BV. 

A friend on facebook recently asked me to describe more about where the ferry is and who rides it. And really, since ferries are sort of unusual, and because the ferry isn't right in town, it's a good question!

The WL ferry, where I've been working, and will until the new boat arrives for the BV, is about 15 miles north of town. It's in a rural area, surrounded by farms. There's a very tiny community on one side of the river, with about 6 houses. Mainly though, it's farms. On the east side of the river, it's mostly hops, which look amazing growing. There are filbert (hazelnuts to you non Oregonians) orchards, cherry orchards and apple orchards. On the west side of the river, it's more of the same, plus wheat fields, wine grapes, corn fields and a small cheese factory, which is spectacular.

So because of all the agriculture, a lot of the passengers are farm related. In the early morning, big vans come through, full of field workers. There are also tractors, farm trucks, and farm related businesses. There's a guy with a big weird truck that holds cows so he can trim hooves. His truck stinks like cow poo. There's a guy with two trucks with apiaries--beehives. He takes them around to different farms. There are always bees on board when he's been across.

There's also a cement factory just around the corner from the west bank of the ferry, so it's common for fully loaded cement mixers to come across. I HATE cement mixers! They scare me, they're big and full and heavy, and when I'm next to one at an intersection I always imagine the mixer will come loose from the truck and squash me FLAT! Today there was one and it was full, and you could hear the cement rumbling around inside. My stomach turned as I walked around it to take tolls.

There are also a lot of regular non farm people going back and forth. Evidently, certain trips on certain GPS units direct you via the ferry, especially if you select "shortest" rather than "quickest." There's also a fancy rural private school near the east side of the ferry, so students come across before and after school. Some people commute via the ferry, they live in towns or rurally near the ferry and it's quicker to take the ferry than go about 15 miles south or 15 miles north, to the nearest bridge. For certain locations, it makes a lot of sense.

Most of the travelers are regulars. You can buy a toll card, which is reloadable online. Probably half of the travelers have toll cards, which I simply swipe through a machine. You can also write a check to reload the card right on board. I've gotten quick at that. The people who aren't used to the ferry are the ones that hand me a pile of coins, or scrounge around in their car, hoping they've got the cash. Earlier this week, someone didn't have enough. She forgot her toll card at home, and only had $1.20. I gave her a bit of a lecture and let her go, since we were in the middle of the river. We're supposed to be firm, and other operators have been known to go back to the shore and get off. But the secret is that we have a small tin with change in it, for just that situation.

I've only taken one picture of the inside of the wheelhouse. Click on this pic to enlarge it, I've described some of what you see.

It's a really tight space. I haven't tried it, but if I stand between the desk and the stool, I think I could stretch out my arms and touch both walls. So it's about 5 feet wide, and maybe 15 feet long. A very tight space. If you're sitting on the desk and you want to get your lunch from the fridge, it's easier to go outside and in the other door, than to climb over the other person.

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