Salem, OR — 5-6 Aug 2005
One very important thing I learned on this trip is that I am no good at photography. As evidenced by all the out-of-focus pictures (most are not here), and by the fact that I lost a whole roll due to improper film loading. (Among the lost - a cool shot inside Portland's Union Station and a cute photo of me in my cowgirl hat.) I don't say this with finality, but as a caveat. I considered this trip as a sort of laboratory from the onset, and now it's so obvious to me that I've got a lot of learning to do. So, please, don't be harsh.
I was scheduled to depart Seattle on the Southbound Coast Starlight at 10 am Friday. When I purchased my ticket a few weeks prior, I had been warned that the northbound train had been suffering from major delays on a regular basis. Thursday night's train was no different. It arrived in Portland at 12:45 am, so they kept the train and crew there so as to be "on time" on Friday. Therefore, they bussed all of us down to Portland Friday morning. Caught the train there, and on to Salem.
I arrived around 5:30 pm - "Rush Hour". The station is at the edge of downtown, my hotel at the other edge; it took all of 20 minutes to hoof it from one to the other.
The hotel was owned by this crazy woman who was overly concerned with check out, which was at 11 am. After receiving my key and my TV remote, I settled in. Air conditioning consisted of a window unit that put up a valiant effort but did little more than push some air around. Did I mention it reached about 90 degrees both days?
I readied myself for the evening and headed out on the town. Friday night in downtown Salem - party central, right? . . . I felt like the dog in the British Airways commerical, "Where is everybody?" There was a sports bar I stayed clear of, and some other kind of bar I saw some of my - gulp - peers go into. I decided I should wander more. And the more wandering I did, the more desolate the area became.
Since I was hungry, I gave up on trying to find any gala events and concentrated on procuring dinner. I settled on La Margarita on Ferry Street. What attracted me - besides my undying love for enchiladas - was the phrase "Mesquite BBQ" on the door. (That could be a sort of pavlov's bell for Texans.) Let me just say the salsa was hot in a very good way. I broke my own rule to order Candelaria's Special - one cheese enchilada with mole, one BBQ chicken enchilada with crema, rice & beans. A margarita infused with hibiscus accompanied. Although I was stuffed (there will never be left overs of an enchilada plate of mine), I convinced myself to get the fried ice cream and a mojito. This was the worst of both I've ever had. The ice cream was coated in corn flakes - WHOLE corn flakes, which ended up kind of thick and rubbery. The mojito was cloudy and the mint tasted more grassy than minty. I was as gluttonous as I could be under the circumstances, and then I waddled back to the hotel.
It was still incredibly warm, so I got a bucket of ice to sprinkle over the bed. Sleep came relatively easy, and then it was Saturday morning. About 8:30 the phone rings . . . Reluctantly, I answer, thinking it might be the front desk, which it is. "Oh, you're still there. OK. Some one checked out . . . . . " Uh . . . OK.
I left the hotel around 9 am. The manager caught me leaving.

"Miss! Are you checking out?" Well, since I didn't have my gian tass backpack with me, I would have to say no, I'm coming back.

"OK, you're coming back. Check out is at 11." yes, I know. I'll be back before then.

"OK. Because some people don't check out . . ." I'll be back.

Saturday morning I have two goals. One is to get my daily coffee, and two is to see the capitol building. Since it is all about exploration, I didn't go to the first coffee shop I saw, and I didn't go to the Starbucks that were on either corner of the same block. I plodded on in the direction of the capitol. Much like Friday evening, there were almost no people out and about. The only significant event was a peace gathering at the corner of Court and High streets. The first weekend of August being the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were chalk outlines of bodies drawn all over the downtown area in commemoration. I took a photo of one with the write-up explaining the significance, but of course it was out of focus.
On my way, I passed one of the tallest historical buildings in the dowtown area. That, of course, being the bank. Who else has the money to build more than two stories?

I also passed the Historic Elsinore Theatre, which plays silent films every Wednesday with Rick Parks on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

Flowers on the Capitol Lawn.
I finally reached the Capitol Building.
The capitol building has an amazing amount of marble comprising its structure. I couldn't help but think there must be a humongous hole somewhere nearby.

I had to get back to the hotel before checkout, and I still hadn't had my coffee. Resigned, I traversed downtown once again and ended up at the first coffeehouse I saw - Coffee House Cafe on Liberty Street. Not that it's a bad thing. It was, in fact, very cool. Nice open space, woody interior, comfortable seating. I picked up a copy of Salem's free paper, the Salem Monthly. I guess that coincides with the activity level I witnessed.

I got back to the hotel in time to check out before the deadline. Apparently, checking out consists of handing the key and TV remote to the manager, who happened to be in the parking lot again when I was leaving.

With all my belongings strapped on me once again, I headed to Pringle Park.

I picked up some postcards at a little bookshop, wrote some silly stuff on them, then deposited them at the post office.

I tried my hand at photographing the weird little waterfall structures in this weird little plaza. The waterfalls were covered with spider webs, but I was not able to capture them.

There was also a duck crossing.

I sat in the park for about an hour, soaking up the sun and waiting in vain for a blue dragonfly to sit still long enough for me to snap its portrait. My feet were more cooperative.

I headed back to the station to check in for the ride back home. Rather than making me wait for the Coast Starlight, which was already six hours late, they rebooked me on a bus to Portland where I would board the Cascades line.

I had a few more hours to kill, so I headed to the Ram restaurant across the street. There I got a nice meal of Mesquite BBQ'd salmon, bourbon beans, apple/strawberry slaw (surprisingly very good!), corn on the cob, and corn bread muffin. I saved half to eat for dinner on the train.

I still had a couple hours left, so I went to the Mission Mill Museum, next to the train station. Apparently, Salem was settled by missionaries during the Gold Rush. After the missionary work turned out to be a bust (a lot of the Natives had already been killed by the diseases of the Rushers), they turned to wool to survive. Hence, the Mission Mill.

The mill used the power of water, which they call a "mill race".
Some pictures from the mill.
A wool comber above.

Making a warp to the right.

A band saw in the machine shop, far right. Everything was connected by a belt system.

A loom below.


Not to be confused with my sister's family.

After the tour of the mill, it was time to head back to the station and to Seattle.

This trip to Salem was the very first non-business trip I've taken completely on my own, and it was really awesome. Not very eventful, but for the most part I was very much at peace with myself. And more than anything, it has whet my appetite for the next one.

I may or may not be on my own for the remainder of the tour, but I'm definitely looking forward to more exploration.

Tally ho!

«Monica R. Neumann»

This way to Nevada! This way to Rhode Island!