Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Drive Home with Me

The commute home from work, from the other side of the river than I've been commuting for the past year, is wonderfully pretty. This evening, I tried to take tons of pictures of what I drive past.

This is my view after I lock the gate. Having looked at the flat river and bright sun all day, there's something wonderfully appealing about the hill and trees:

As I drive through the little community up the hill, there's a long driveway that leads to a historic cemetery, as well as a butterfly exhibit (which, holy cow, looks like it's closing in June! That's a shame):

Once I leave town, it's flat fields (mostly growing grass seed) with hills in the background:

I love this corner. Not only is the sign for Rogue Farms great (Rogue makes beer, and grows hops at the farm, as well as has a tasting room for beer and spirits!), but when I look at the house to the left, they have two small signs, which I like:

Can you see them? I love "Life is an Adventure," but I'm somewhat suspicious of "Beacon of Promise," it seems oddly religious in nature. The hardscrabble farm attached to the signs is fun to look at each night. The cows have free reign over the place, and I often see them in the driveway, munching grass, with nothing between them and the road.

Just past the house with the signs, is a lovely falling down barn. Neither picture is great, but I'll put them both up. I think it's the prettiest thing I past every evening.

Pretty soon, I come to the house where I get my eggs each week. I love having farm eggs to buy. $3 a dozen is great, and the eggs taste like sunshine and are deliciously fresh. Only as I took this picture, did I realize that their sign looks like they painted the headboard of a twin bed and hung it up as their sign:

Pretty soon I cross the bridge over the river. This is the same river I run the ferry across, only the river is much narrower here. Once over the river, I'm in flat farm fields for a bit:

As soon as the fields end, I'm in hills and twisty turny roads until I get into town. I drive under two train bridges, with extremely sharp curves and narrow road:

One of the first signs that I'm into town is this house, which is so huge it's just ugly. I'm so not a fan of huge new mansions like this.

Pretty soon I'm driving past suburbia:

And then I'm into town and home!

It feels so different, this commute. I'm on small roads, I pass people's houses the whole way. I drive more slowly because of the twisty road. My old commute, on the interstate and then flat, empty roads, made me feel like I was the only person on the road, that it was extremely early and that I was the only person awake. Now, on these surface roads and back hills, there are many more cars on the road, kids waiting for the school bus, people going to and fro. It's really a nice commute. I do worry about the roads if we keep the boat on this side year round. Those hills and twisty roads would be treacherous in the winter. Other than that, it's really quite nice.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Birds and Other Random

Every afternoon, tons of small birds, mostly swallows, I think, play around the river, swooping low to the water to catch bugs. They play on the boat too. I've been able to catch a few pictures of them lined up on various cables.

The first picture is a tree swallow. They're the most common. Their backs are a slightly shimmery dark green. I'm not totally sure what the birds are in the second picture. They have brownish red breasts and a dark gray or black back and wings. Here's another picture, a slightly better profile:

The ospreys are still building their nests like crazy. I don't know if I'll be able to tell if they've laid eggs yet, there is usually someone in the nest, but not always.

We had to replace a window on the boat. Frustratingly, they've temporarily put a plywood window in it's place. I demanded that we get a window in the plywood, and this is what was delivered:

The problem is, the window is located too high, high enough that I can't see what I need to for landing. Of course, I can figure out a different way of landing, but it's frustrating. Even worse than that, when I'm sitting at the desk when there are no cars, I can look through the window and see if there are cars on the other side. Now, with the plywood window, this is what I see when seated:

Hmmm, not very useful!

It's memorial day weekend right now. I work Sunday and Monday. I'm expecting a ton of traffic, though the weather isn't all that great, so I'm not sure if we'll get what I'm expecting. Even so, I get bonus pay for working on a national holiday on Monday, so that'll make for a great paycheck.

In other news, evidently the news magazine Salon.com publishes transcripts of some of the interviews on The Story, which I was featured on last week. Last weekend, I got a message from a friend that she saw me on the front page of Salon! I went and looked, and lo and behold, there I was! I was flabbergasted! Their article is just a transcription of a portion of my interview, but regardless, I was stunned. And several friends made sure to inform me that my story was on the same page as an article about a vibrator museum! HA!!!!! I've placed a link to the article, as well as my interview on The Story, in the right hand column.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Change in Procedures

Because of some issues we've been having with after hour visitors down to the boat, we're now parking the boat on the opposite side of the river. Tomorrow morning is my first shift driving to the far side. I drove down there today on my way to see my parents, and it's about a ten minute longer drive, which means waking up 10 minutes earlier each morning (as in, 5:10 am). It's a pretty drive, and it'll be nice just to have something different to look at. Polk County, which I'll be driving through, has pretty rolling hillsides. I won't be driving on the interstate at all to get to work. It's all back highways and farm roads, which I vastly prefer. I'll be driving through the community that the ferry gets it's name from each day. I really like that. I know many people who live there, and it makes me feel safer knowing that they're there.

One thing I've been hoping to find ever since I lost my job in the Planning department is somewhere to get fresh eggs each week. We had a lovely lady (aka, the Egg Lady) who would deliver eggs to us each week, they were delicious and super fresh, and only $2 a dozen. I've missed those  Egg Lady eggs ever since I've been on the ferry. When I drove to the boat today, I was happy to see a large sign selling eggs, and a refrigerator full of eggs right there in their driveway. They're not as cheap of Egg Lady Eggs, these are $5 a dozen, but man oh man, farm fresh eggs are totally worth it! I'm very excited to have access to good eggs again.

I'm also hoping to see farm stands selling peaches or blueberries, which I also see growing alongside the road.

The other nice thing about ending my day on the Polk county side is that, if I want to go to my parents for dinner or to spend the night, I'm a good 15 minutes closer. I love that. A lot. It's rare for me to not talk to my mom almost every day, and I try to see them at least weekly. Sometimes my mom comes up with her knitting (or knitting problems!) and we sit and drink coffee and knit. My mom and stepdad usually stop by on their way home from Portland or points north, and my dad likes to swing by to hang out, often taking me by surprise. Last summer, Dad would bring his guitar and serenade the cars crossing the river. Surprised the heck out of people, but was so lovely to hear.

The main thing I'm bummed about is just the longer commute. It's hard enough getting up at 5:20 four days a week, now it'll be a bit earlier. Doesn't seem like much, but I'm usually so tired to begin with, I'm already a bit bitter about losing those ten minutes. I know I'll get used to it, and maybe I'll actually start forcing myself to get in bed earlier!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Summer Tease

It seems like every spring, we get a week or two of summer. Real summer. 80 or 90 degree weather, bright blue skies. Everyone's happy, they can't wait to be outside, tans and sunburns start appearing. And just as quickly, the sun and blue sky disappears, and people grab their sweaters for the next month.

I think that's what we just had. The last week or so has been utterly glorious. It's been amazing to sit outside on the ferry in the late afternoon, watching the lazy slow river amble by. Today, of course, it's dropped about 20 degrees. While the sun's still out, it's not nearly as warm. Still, though, it'll be coming back again soon.

I had a crazy busy Sunday, but Monday and Tuesday were pokey. About 50-60 cars each day. I keep a camping chair in the back of my car, and sat out on the deck of the boat, drinking iced tea, reading a great book (Paul Theroux's Happy Islands of Oceania), watching the river. It was that type of warm weather where you're happiest sitting still, just enjoying it. The river is the lowest it's been since early fall. Because the height of the river is down, the velocity and speed is down too. It's like giant sheets of glass placidly flowing by. It was wonderfully delightful.

Of course, it's supposed to rain all next week. I'll be back to hand-knit socks and a polarfleece instead of shorts and tank tops. But summer's on it's way no matter what.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'm on the Radio!

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to my broadcast on The Story. I'm not horrified at how my voice sounds. I'm so excited, and when I sit back and try to forget it's me Dick Gordon is talking to, it's a darn good story.

To listen straight from the website, go to  http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_051712.mp3/view , and click "Listen Now" on the right. If you're on iTunes, you can also download the podcast.


I'm going to be on the radio TOMORROW!!! Thursday 17th. Absurdly stupid levels of excitement going on here. And mega nerves. I wasn't nervous before I was interviewed but I'm terrified to hear my voice and whatever the hell I managed to say. You can click here to see when and where it'll be broadcast in your area. You can also listen to it on the website, or download the podcast. Holy crap you guys!!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Finally, for the first time in an extremely long time--maybe December?--I worked a regular week. 12 hour days for four days straight. And man oh man, I'm feeling it. But it's great to be back to a regular schedule.

Regardless, it's been a bit of an odd week. Some big stuff, lots of little stuff. Like:

A couple came across one way, scrounging for coins to pay the fare. I got 30 cents in pennies from them. They came back the other way about 20 minutes later, asking if I could break a $100 bill. When he opened his wallet, it seemed like he must have had at least $1000 in $100 bills. Hmmm. Rather suspect. My first thought was a drug deal…

I went across the river to get a minivan with an older couple in it. They had come from Portland, and were heading to Dallas. If you don't know the area, coming across the ferry was the long way--they came too far south, and would cross the river just to go north again. The wife, in the passenger seat, was insistent, and kept asking me, "Isn't this stupid? Don't you think this is stupid!? Our GPS sent us this way! It's SO STUPID! Don't you think this is Stupid?! My husband and I argued the whole time you came across the river over how STUPID it was." I was cracking up the whole time. I'm sure what happened is that they missed a turn north of Salem, and by the time they got through town, this was the route the GPS had re-calculated them onto. 

A car came on board, a big SUV with two couples, all in their 50s or 60s. As I was approaching the driver's window to get the toll, someone in the backseat rolled down the window, held up a big bulky life jacket, and said, "Do we need to put these on now?" I cracked up. Evidently, it was one of the guys playing a trick on everyone else, getting them to think they needed their own life jacket to cross the ferry. It's a great trick actually, something I could see my step-dad pulling off. The couples all got out and took pictures of each other in the life jackets. I was laughing SO HARD the entire time across the river, and snapped a picture of them too: 

On Monday morning, about a half hour after opening, I’d only carried three cars by that point. I’m going across the river empty, for my favorite place to sit when the boat’s empty. I flip the switch that raises and lowers the aprons…and nothing happens. What should happen is that the apron—which is the part of the boat that hangs out past the hull (the body of the boat) and is the part that actually touches shore—goes down, or up, according to what I tell it to do. You want it down when you land, otherwise, you slam the hull into shore. Not fun. So it wouldn’t move. This is something we’d all talked about happening in the past, and I didn’t really know what the solution was. So I called the boss, and he basically said to close up, close the gates, and he’ll come down and we can see if we could fix it.
Electricians came down, and couldn’t quite figure it out. We needed it fixed soon, so some guys from one of the crews came down, and we adjusted the height of the cables that held the aprons up, finally figuring the heights enough to be able to land the boat without lifting the aprons at all. It took about 8 hours, all told, and it was a long day of lifting, turning, pushing, and basically working my butt off.

It seems like ever since the boat has been open, we've had problems with the toilet. It seems like possibly, just maybe we've got a fix. The pipes are very small, and get clogged easily. So the new rule is that the toilet is now “Costa Rica Style.” When I first went to Costa Rica, I was surprised that you don’t flush the paper, you put it in a garbage next to the toilet. It was the same way in Belize. And now it’s the same on the boat.

Wednesday, late in the afternoon, I noticed a lady on one shore taking a heck of a lot of pictures. More than the usual tourist. Pictures of the towers, the parking area, the signs, the boat. Finally she came down, and told me that she’s scouting ferries for a car commercial shoot. How odd! But cool, regardless. I told her that my boat’s the cool boat, and they should film early in the week cause that’s my shift!

Wednesday, right before I closed, I got a van full of people who I swear, were all tweaked out on meth. The ran around the boat, jumping up and down, and even when they stood still, it seemed like every muscle in their bodies were tense, ready to run, fight, go crazy. I got them across the river as quickly as I could, and was happy to see them go.

One night, right before closing, I saw a car on the other side pull up, stop, then park. I didn’t think anything of it, it’s closing time, they’re parked, no biggie. I walked up the hill and closed the gate, and when I walked back down, they were out of the car and standing on the ramp, down at the river. I closed up the boat and headed that way, where my car was parked. Halfway across the river, they walked quickly up the ramp, got in their van, and pulled the van up to the stop line to board. Oh dear. When I got to shore, they tried to come down and onto the boat. And when I told them I was closed, since it was now 7:06, they got really angry. They actually yelled at me, that they were here before 7. And they were, but I couldn’t tell that they wanted a ride based on them being parked out of sight. I do hate that, when people get to the boat just after 7 and I’m already locked up. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Summery Day

I had forgotten what a summer weekend day was like. Yesterday was a huge reminder. I had about 80 cars, 30 bikes and 20 motorcycles. 130 vehicles in all. It was hectic! By the end of the day my legs and feet were exhausted. But at the same time, it was great fun. I saw regulars I hadn't seen since last summer, talked to a ton of people who were happy because of the sunshine, and enjoyed the sunshine on my shoulders. Every Sunday, it seems that I forget something. My first work day of the week, I bring a full backpack and full food bag. I fill my backpack with entertainment (knitting, books, ipad, ipod, etc), and my food bag contains 4 lunches, fruit, snacks, drinks, silverware and dishes. Except that, of course, this week, I left all silverware at home. Fork, knife and spoon, all at home. I couldn't find anything on the boat, not even a spare gross plastic spoon that's usually behind the microwave. I ran up and scrounged through my car, hoping to find old used fast food plastic silverware. Nothing whatsoever. And I didn't have a lunch I could just eat with my fingers. I had stirfry. Rice with tons of veggies and chicken. Not the easiest of foods for finger food. I realized I'd have to improvise, and ended up finding two small branches and shaving one end of each down and making chopsticks. They were hilarious looking:
They worked pretty well. The larger branch was a bit curved, which was a pain, but I got my food from the dish to my mouth. Unfortunatly, the wood on both branches was green. I looked for old wood, but with all of the high water we've had, it's all been swept downstream. And new wood, when you take the bark off, has just about the most bitter taste ever. I ended up basically dropping the food into my mouth. Still, I managed to eat lunch. Of course, about a half hour after I ate, a dear friend, Jen, had seen my silverware complaint on Facebook and had driven over and gave me a baggie full of plastic sliverware. Awwwww. It was really sweet. I'm going to keep it all in my car, just in case. I think I'll also toss in a coffee mug, plate, and some other supplies. I realized this last weekend that it's now been a year since I started working on the ferries. Isn't that crazy? When I left my planning job, I felt like it was the end of the world. I felt like I was being exiled to some faraway place of torture. And now I've been here a year. Some days, it does feel like a torturous exile, but for the most part, it's decent. Still, not something I want to do for the rest of my life, but it's a job, it pays very well, and now we're coming in to summer, which is the best time to be down here. Right now, as the mercury slowly makes it's way up to 80 degrees today, I'm sitting here with the sun shining on me, I can hear at least 5 different kinds of birds, fish are jumping, the sky is stunningly blue, and I'm getting paid to sit here. Life could be a heck of a lot worse!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On the Radio

This morning, I drove up to Portland to the public radio studios, and sat in a studio for an interview with Dick Gordon, host of The Story. It was amazing. I had the radio technician take a picture of me in the studio with the headphones and mic, but the picture turned out terrible so it'll never see the light of day. I sat there, and the tech connected me with the host sitting in North Carolina. Maybe it's because I'm so used to listening to his voice, but I felt instantly at ease. We chatted a bit first, he said he was really glad I emailed in because it sounds like I have a really fun story. Which made me even happier. I swear, through almost the whole interview, I had a huge grin on my face.

At first, his questions had me walk through ending up on the ferry chronologically. He asked me what a planner does, what the budget cuts were like, and how I ended up on the ferry. My planning coworkers will be happy, I sung their praises. Cause really, they're awesome. He asked me what my first day was like, how intimidated I was, how hard it was to learn to land the ferry. He asked about how it was different operating in lower water and higher water. I talked about how much I've learned and gained from my year on the ferries. How I'm stronger, much more willing to fix broken things in my own house, can diagnose problems on the boat. How I'm not afraid to get dirty anymore, how I have a separate wardrobe of grungy clothes just for work.

I was amazed when suddenly we'd talked for over 45 minutes and it was all over. How was that 45 minutes? When I was waiting to start, I was nervous that all I had to look at was the screen over the microphone and the blank wall ahead of me. But suddenly he was thanking me, and his voice changed from the serious, mellow interview voice to a slightly more chipper mellow normal voice. He told me I was a great storyteller! Dick Gordon called me a great storyteller!!! I was wowed. I had such a great time, I wished the interview could have continued. I felt like I had so much more to say. More about operating the boat, more about the funny customers, more about the wildlife. I did tell him he could put a link to my blog on his website. That'll be fun.

He said that the producer will contact me and let me know when it'll be aired. Tentatively, it should be May 16th, which is Studs Terkel's 100th birthday, but that may change.

And of course, since I was already up in Portland, I took myself out to a great lunch, and bought two pairs of shoes. It was a very good day.