It’s on. We’re about to do this. Wish me luck!
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One of the perks of parenthood is lying to your kid.
“Dada! What’s that?” Ivor asks, straining in his seat to get a better view of the wood mill, a huge plume of white vapor billowing skyward from its chimney stack.
“That, Ivor…is a cloud factory!”
We’re in Scotland for a rare summer visit and we’ve deplaned from KLM flight 929, Amsterdam to Inverness, on May 28th 2016. It’s Ivor’s 3rd birthday and he is psyched. But my bag is stuck in Holland and as we talk to the KLM agent about lost luggage retrieval it suddenly dawns on Ivor, his birthday present is in that bag. He throws his head backwards with the sudden, jolting, seizure-like movement of a lamb in a slaughterhouse. It’s a reaction of utter mortal fear. He emits a blood-curdling scream full of pain and suffering. Philippa struggles to hold him. During these moments he’s like an umbrella in a hurricane.
“NOOOO!” Philippa yells. “Stay calm. We’ll get the bag. You’ll get your present. One day you’ll do this freak out thing and I won’t be able to hold you. You’ll be smashed on the floor and that will NOT be good.”
I’m not sure Ivor can hear these words amid his screams and sobs.
“Waaahhhh waaaaaannnntt maaaaaaaaa peh sent!” he yells through bubbling snot and tears.
The KLM agent lady doesn’t understand what he’s saying. She can’t comprehend his garbled three-year old language. She stares. I stare. Ivor’s a mess. Think fast, how do we solve this problem? Yes, the first-world quick fix: cold hard cash! “We’ll go to Sainsbury’s and see what toys they have, ok?” This is not a lie. This is a sacred promise that must be kept. An oath. Ivor’s face begins to return to normal.
“Awwww. It’ll be ok, wee man.” says the agent lady, smiling, calm and professional. She looks at her screen, taps in a code and looks up at me. “Can you fill out this form please?”
As we all know, having a kid marks the death, destruction & total annihilation of your old life. It is done, gone, over, finito. That’s not to say your new life after birth can’t have its bright moments. They’re just a little different from the old bright moments.
For our 13th wedding anniversary we’re trekking to Jawbone Flats in the Opal Creek Wilderness Area, to a tranquil & beautiful solar & hydro powered education center deep in the old growth forest of the Pacific North West. Ivor is 2 and it’s clear this is not the wedding anniversary trip of 5 years ago. This trip is altogether more…midlife. The crew: Philippa, Ivor, myself and Jennifer, the Mother-in-Law. Off we go.
Thumbs down from Ivor.
Old growth all around us.
Back in the day there were mining and logging operations down this way. They dragged a load of heavy gear down. These cogs are apparently from the USS Oregon.
This old steam engine powered the saw mill maybe.
The storage shed’s not looking too bad. A dab of paint, it could be quite lovely.
Here we are. Electrics powered by solar and hydro. No internet for guests unless it’s a life-threatening emergency. Set phasers to airplane mode.
It’s important to always travel with these essential survival items known as Monster Trucks.
I call this one Killah Bee. Ivor calls it Dragon Fly. We’re from different eras.
Raft racing with a small log that looks like a hot dog bun.
Old rusty stuff everywhere.
Cabin 7. Very nice.
Off to Opal Pool. It seems to be this way.
Old Pelton Wheel.
Always try to remain as it suggests.
So it goes.
The chocolate thief.
Things to do with no internet.
As mentioned, the cabin is wonderful.
Wherever you go, skateboarding is with you. Random Toy Machine art, spotted in the wilderness.
The final meltdown.
Can’t say it’ll get any easier, little man.
Having a kid really changes things. You could say fucks things up. The bright side is that there’s less time to do dumb shit and every spare moment increases in value like the work of a good artist who just bit the big one. Certain stuff is out. Staying up late partying at the bar is a no go, not too much of a bummer there. I definitely skate less, not a terribly bad thing; I’ve been skating for years. The little dude pretty much needs to be home for a nap every day by 2 or else total nuclear meltdown occurs. So on those bases this is the first of a series of posts about shit to do around Portland in your new life after birth. Installment 1, the Historical Highland Stillhouse loop trail.
We decided on Oregon City because I’d like to see the Falkirk Wheel, a wonder of engineering, but it’s in Scotland and we’re in Portland. From Philippa’s research Oregon City sounds like it has some industry, and also a municipal elevator on a vertical street called elevator street. That sounds wonder-of-engineering enough, so we bundle the little man into his padded restraining seat and hit the road.
If we were looking for something reminiscent of Scotland then we’ve made a good choice. Driving up McLoughlin Blvd by the Willamette past the Oregon City Bridge reminds me of the River Dee at Riverside Drive near Duthie Park in Aberdeen.
We pull off into this handy little car park and screech to a stop right in front of this historical-fact-packed wooden sign, where a craggy old balustrade runs along top of the steep riverbank overlooking a barrio-load of ramshackle mill houses. It’s like the Aberdeen paper mill on steroids.
Mad industry surrounds a section of river that looks as though its bed got stomped on by some giant rampaging toddler. It’s a strange sinkhole and if you happen to know the geology that created it then please let us know in the comments. Especially if the geological process was actually a load of dynamite.
McLoughlin Boulevard is the section of highway 99E that links Oregon City and Portland. It runs into Martin Luther King Boulevard and Grand Avenue just past the Ross Island Bridge. The bomb-ass graffiti on this plaque would be all the more bomb if it wasn’t being thoroughly interfered with by a bunch of historical info about pioneering, indian language knowing, fur trading, medical licence having, murder rap beating, long-haired french canadian scottish dude Dr John Mcloughlin, after whom this section of highway is named.
He looks pissed about something or other.
And Ivor decided to wear his fox sweater for the day. We turned round and walked back down to find the municipal elevator when all of a sudden we got stoked to find even more historical info on the other side of that wooden sign we’d parked by.
A little further east along the pavement we could see that there was a walkway up on the bluff. It had to lead to the municipal elevator. It just had to. We ran boldly across the highway by this spider’s web and into the dirty soft mud by those bushes beneath the east end of the Museum of the Oregon Territory. The Museum looks sinister on a day like this. Note: if you don’t run across the highway there’s a footbridge just a little further down the road. The walkway that runs along the top of the bluff is McLoughlin Promenade. Somewhere along here has to be the municipal elevator and Ivor intends to find it.
Tight views of the sinkholey bit.
The only Blue Heron we saw.
Aha! The 1954 observation deck of the municipal elevator!
From up top.
From down below.
The first elevator went into operation in 1915. It was a wood, steel, hydraulic contraption that took up to 5 minutes to ascend the 90 feet and caused all the nearby water pressure to drop; when it worked. When it failed you had to squeeze out the trap door and back down the sketchy ladder. 9 years later they went electric, got efficient and in the 50s did the full rebuild. The whole story – with its local house of cards style political shenanigans and a load more fun historical details – is on the little History of the Oregon City Municipal Elevator pamphlet you can get from inside the elevator right next to the attendant. He’s got local knowledge and directed us to a kids play park back up top in the town. That’s where we headed next.
OG bluff ascent.
That’s just how he do.
Decorative cast iron tree grates by Olympic Foundry! Boo Ya! In case you’re unaware Olympic Foundry’s been busting out products metal style since 1900.
Didn’t go in here but here it is.
Ice T never mentioned this in his biography.
Fire engines. Always thankful for those.
Local corvids at 5th and Washington.
Nice old Ford pickup on High Street by 3rd.
Cut back through to the bluff top.
Made use of the footbridge this time. If you’re a skater then it’s worth noting that if you had the right skillset, plywood (or maybe just brass balls) and a good photographer you could get a wild photo here. Gravette?
There’s that museum again. Sinister but probably full of interesting historical stuff.
The walk loops us all the way back to the Highland Stillhouse, a Scottish pub that I’ll go on the record and say is legit.
Is this the hoe?
It’s often advisable to maximize screen time in these situations.