16 July 2007

Settlers in Salem

Sunday evening, I drove down by myself to Salem to start work on Monday morning. We had applied to our first choice of apartments, but between the time we looked at it and then went back to give them our application (less than 24 hours), someone else had applied for it. They took our app and said they’d see if the other one went through, or if the other couple might be interested in a 2br instead.

For the first week, I’d planned all along to stay at the Extended Stay hotel in Salem. I like these places because of the kitchenettes and they are usually not expensive. Even at the cheap rate, we were looking at over $225 for the week (I only planned to stay through Thursday night. If we didn’t have an apartment by then, I’d go back up to Washington to stay with my mother-in-law). When I got there, it was obvious that this room had begun life as a regular motel room, and had a kitchenette crammed into it when Extended Stay bought the place. It was also in a less than thrilling part of town, but I didn’t have any problems while I was there.

Since 4th July was on a Wednesday this year, I had a day off in the middle of my first week. It didn’t make sense to drive 400 miles round trip up to Mom’s for the day, so I posted a note to the local geocaching forums to see if anyone wanted to go caching. I was immediately invited on an all day run ending in a cookout at one of their houses. A family known as Team Kensquatch (husband in named Ken and he’s 6’9”!) took me under their wing for the day and gave me a guided tour of Aumsville, Dallas, and Independence, OR. The 22 caches I found easily bested my one day record and got me close to 800. They showed me a sampling of area hides and techniques, including one of the best disguised custom made micros I’ve ever seen. One local in particular makes some fantastic looking fake rocks. We also visited a trail system at the site of an old quarry. Rumor has it that the quarry owners “delved too greedily and too deep,” but instead of a Balrog, all they got was ground water. Unfortunately for them, the pit filled up so fast they didn’t have time to get their Excavator out, which remains buried under 40 feet of lake! This was also the place I made a mental note of as an ideal fishing spot!

Independence, OR, as one might imagine, hosts a highly regarded fireworks display on the 4th. Unfortunately, it didn’t start until almost 10PM, and I still had quite a ride back to my hotel, so I thanked my new friends for their hospitality and made my exit about 9:30. I moved north to get back to the main highway and had to go through “downtown” Independence. Cars lined both sides of every street as I simply tried to get out! At one point, I turned on a side street and got halfway down when someone turned in from the other end to face me. We sat for several seconds as “bubba” didn’t seem to understand that we could not pass each other. By this time, cars had followed both of us, so neither of us could back up, although “bubba” clearly had no intention of doing so anyway. After about 2-3 minutes of me sitting with my back up lights on, “dude” behind me finally figures out what I’m doing, and the line behind me starts to back up. I finally extricate myself from this Chinese Finger Trap, and take another side street. Two or three turns later, and I’m free on clear on a two-lane blacktop headed back to Salem.

By Thursday, the apartment had notified me that our application was approved and we could move in anytime. I went ahead and got the keys Thursday and moved a few things in so I could stay there on Friday night, waiting for [my now-ex-wife] and the kids to come in Saturday, 7th July.

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