I just got back from a week out with the truck and, I gotta say, it was a pretty darn good week. Summer with a capital S. And a capital U-M-M-E-R. Daytime highs around 102 degrees outside (about 104 in the truck) meant it was a sweaty, sweaty week. But there’s something kind of refreshing (in a sense) about just accepting the summer heat and diving right in. It’s also your only option when you’re driving a truck with no air conditioning. I had a cooler full of ice, a giant jug of water, and a pile of sweat-mopping bandanas within arm’s reach of the driver’s seat.
First stop was Pendleton, Oregon. Home of the famous Pendleton Round-Up, one of the biggest rodeos in the country, but probably most famous for the Woolen Mills, maker of iconic blankets and shirts. I had coordinated with Roberta Lavadour at the fantastic Pendleton Center for the Arts to set up the truck – not at the art center, but at the farmers market, which happens every Friday evening during the warmer months. This particular Friday also happened to be the grand finale performance of the kids’ Rock Camp, and an outdoor stage was set up in the middle of the street, one block down from the market. The entire town was out to support its young musicians that night. Rock Camp is a week-long program that encourages kids to pick up an instrument – guitar, mic, drum kit, camera, or pen – and learn how to use it. There’s music instruction, of course, but there are also workshops in performance, songwriting, music journalism, and promotion. By the end of the week, the kids have put together bands and perform original music in front of a live audience of their families, friends and neighbors. It is an awesome thing to witness.
The next day, I made the beautiful drive up to Spokane, Washington to finally connect in person with my e-friend Patrick, who runs Platform Booking. Patrick had set up an event for me in Spokane last spring, at the very end of my big tour, but he couldn’t make it out that night, so I was looking forward to actually meeting him in real life this time. He arranged for me to set up shop outside a show at a pizza joint. It was a loud show and a beautiful evening, the pizza was good and the beer was cold, and I think everyone had a great time. The night ended with a campfire, which is pretty much my #1 ingredient for a good night.
Next stop: Enterprise, Oregon! This was a harrowing drive. It started out pleasant enough, heading south out of Spokane, but then the route ducked into the Hell’s Canyon region of the Snake River basin, at the border of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. It’s beautiful country, but that road… in that truck… it’s a good thing my destination was a brewery, because I definitely needed a drink. I made my way to the Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise. It was a pretty quiet afternoon, but I made some coasters with the few folks who stopped in to check out the truck, and got caught up on my trip-planning for the rest of the week. My event in Bend had been cancelled, so that left me with three full days free to explore this gorgeous eastern part of Oregon. My priorities were hiking, swimming, and camping. These are not difficult things to do in this part of the world.
I made camp that night and, after getting the truck tuned up a bit the next morning, I headed south of town to hike up Hurricane Creek. This was a lovely hike through forests and meadows, finally opening up to a series of waterfalls and icy cold pools. It had been HOT in town, but up here the air was cool enough that I didn’t really want to submerge myself in the water… but I put my feet in and had a snack and hung out with this cool old dog who had wandered up the trail away from his human companion.
The next day, I drove down through Baker City and started to head west into the Umatilla National Forest. I stopped for a long, ambling stroll along Phillips Lake, and jumped in the water before looking for a place to stop for the night. Crashed out early that night, and got up again the next morning ready for my next adventure – John Day Fossil Beds!
The John Day Fossil Beds are records of the Cenozoic Era (age of mammals, going back 40 million years!), and are made up of three separate areas – I stopped at the Painted Hills Unit. The Painted Hills, as you might imagine, are brightly colored hills, striated with soil and stone deposits from different geological eras. The photo above shows off the gorgeousness of the landscape, but doesn’t really capture the colors of the hills, so here’s another:
I camped that night and prepared myself for the next day’s re-entry back into civilization. One last gorgeous drive through the Cascade Mountains and into the Willamette Valley’s wine country. I was headed to the town of McMinnville, to set up the truck at Third Street Books. McMinnville is a cool little town about 45 minutes SW of Portland, and Third Street is an awesome bookstore. The ladies there curated a special display of letterpress books in conjunction with my visit. It was also discovered that Kate, who works at the bookstore, and I grew up about 3 blocks from one another back in Washington, DC. And her sister and I went to college together, had many mutual friends, but never met. We had a really fun evening, which ended with me visiting the open house for Type A Press, a new/old letterpress shop in town! Chelsey was raised surrounded by printing – her family has been in the newspaper business for a few generations, and she has inherited some of the presses, type, and equipment that her grandfather used. She’s been running her own print shop for a couple years, but just recently made the leap to doing it full time. Her shop is lovely, and she does beautiful work. Good luck, Chelsey!
Last stop on my mini tour was back in Portland, at my friends’ studio, Magnetic North. This place is rad. It’s a shared studio and gallery, specializing in illustration, screenprinting, block printing, hand-lettering, and letterpress, and featuring the abundant talents of BT Livermore, Mary Kate McDevitt, Fred DiMeglio, KB Sawyer, and Lacey Van Nortwick. It is also the world HQ of Man’s Face Stuff, purveyors of fine mustache wax, “Fighting Irony since 2009″. It was a sublime Portland evening, and we had a super fun night of printing and hanging out. Now I am exhausted, but also really excited to announce that BT will be painting some signage on the truck. FINALLY! This will be happening sometime in this next month – photos to come, of course. Happy summer to you all!