While many travelers from the Portland area take the Mt. Hood route to central Oregon, I much prefer the Santiam Pass between Salem and Bend, Oregon (my hometown). Lost Lake, Suttle Lake and Detroit Reservoir are just a few of the beautiful lakes you’ll pass by along this route. Part of the journey has you winding along the picturesque north fork of the Santiam river. The mountain views are absolutely stunning. Three Fingered Jack and Mount Washington are breathtakingly beautiful. The snow park near HooDoo ski resort is a great place to stop and sled in the winter.
Along the way, there are several small towns. Gates (population 471), Detroit (population 202) and Idanha (population 137). As a child, it seemed we stopped at every spot along the way. Tumalo, just east of Bend, has a great small store to buy candy and a cold soda. According to my dad, this prevents low blood sugar. Sisters, Oregon has a grocery store with the most amazing donuts ever. Marion Forks used to be home to the only place along the route known for cheeseburgers and an amazing showcase of taxidermy. Idanha has a mom and pop grocery–the perfect place for more Pepsi. Detroit has another store with clean bathrooms and one of everything (I once found just the right brand of pacifier for my very pick daughter in this store). Mill City has a coffee shop, burger stand AND a bank with an ATM.
Gates, I’m sure has something wonderful for tourists to enjoy as well but I have no memories of this town. I should say, I had no special memories of this town until my last trip home.
Gates has a clearly marked change in speed sign. Like many small towns, if you blink, you might miss it. Because most of my life, I’ve traveled on the same days that all others seem to go, I’ve not paid close attention to expectations for drivers on this part of the route as I stay with the flow of cars. This is a two lane highway so the pacesetter is usually a big, slow moving truck. I know that traffic always slows in Gates because it’s just before the rest area and I always panic just a little as I think we won’t make it in time.
On my most recent trip to Central Oregon, the weather was unseasonably beautiful. It was dry, sunny and a balmy 45 degrees. This may have been my first ever WEDNESDAY to travel over the mountain. My dad had just had a minor surgery but didn’t feel up to the drive and my mom seldom goes faster than 35 miles per hour so it may have taken days for them to get home had I not volunteered to drive. I had packed a change of clothes just in case when I picked them up from where they’d spent the night near the hospital. I’d done this the last time too but that time, my dad was offended that I would even suggest that he wasn’t up for the trip. I’d gotten them out of the big city traffic and to a Wendy’s south of the city where he was able to fuel up on a Wendy’s double stack (he proclaimed this to be the best burger ever) and make the drive home himself. This time, I was shocked when he gave me permission to drive him home.
I’ve been driving since 1983 and except when we are in city traffic, I don’t recall a time where my dad allowed me to drive him. In all of his years of driving, he’s had an unblemished record. He is always prepared, extremely cautious and is the kind of person others can count on for help when they have a roadside emergency. My heart ached for my dad when he let me take the keys on the trip home. This was indeed evidence that CANCER TREATMENT sucks. For my invincible father to let someone take the wheel, spoke volumes about his pain, otherwise silent.
I was my father’s daughter until my son was born. When he arrived, I became the mother of my dad’s grandchild. I only realize this shift in roles when I am alone with my parents and my first identity sneaks back. It happens so seldom, it’s a special treat for me. In October 2009 and July 2017, I had a bit of time alone with my mom and dad. As I drove them home on a Wednesday in December, I was immersed in this role as we talked about everything under the sun. The mid-week traffic was light, the roads dry and the sun made everything, including my mood, sparkle!
I noticed the sports car approaching pull off to the side of the road before I noticed the lights on top. I had not adjusted the seat in my parents’ car so I had to duck my head a bit in order to see under the steering wheel to the speedometer. It may have read 60. Sixty in a fifty-five zone was too fast. Sixty in a 40mph zone was way too fast. The white Challenger or Charger, did a u-turn, the lights came on and I pulled over.
Gravel crunched beneath my tires. I had nearly rolled to a stop when I saw that I was parked next to a “No Parking” sign. I crept forward. The deep gravel may or may not have flown from my tires as I tried to navigate past the sign. It was then that I realized the uniformed man, right elbow bent, seemed to be trotting to keep up with the car.
“You should be aware that I’m recording everything on video.” His tone was serious–deep and firm. Naturally, my response was to giggle uncontrollably while gushing about how embarrassed I was to get pulled over when my dad was in the car–his car. I felt like I was so busted but it had nothing to do with the law enforcement official and everything to do with letting my father down.
My dad knew where his proof of insurance and registration were faster than I could find my driver’s license. With the contents of my purse, I can feed my family of five, attend to minor wounds, contain small oil spills on the water and provide fiction or nonfiction reading passages for up to 25 people if a reading emergency happens. This level of preparedness makes it difficult to find my driver’s license. It was a miracle indeed that I found it on my first attempt.
Within minutes, I’d been issued a citation (just for speeding, not parking in a no parking zone) and was on my way. I had barely pulled away when once again I noticed lights in my rearview mirror. The officer had identified yet another unsafe driver traveling through Gates, Oregon.
The cost of the ticket and the diversion class (so the ticket won’t go on my record–I aspire to be an Uber driver someday) were minimal compared to cost that could have been incurred if my driving had caused an accident or injuries.
The on-line driving class was exceptional and could have been written by my father. Everything he taught me about driving was included. Accidents can be prevented with proactive, defensive driving! I was surprised by what was NOT included in the class. According to my parents, most likely my mom, defensive driving begins when you get dressed each morning. Wearing clean underwear, just in case you get in a wreck, is the first step in setting the tone for how you will approach your day. Clearly my parents went above and beyond in teaching me how to approach safety as the foundation of ones day begins with proactive planning.
While there are many beautiful places in Oregon, it’s important to know that expectations for lawful behavior are enforced. For this reason, I encourage travelers to wear clean underwear. Pay attention to the beauty and posted speed limit.