November 23, 2011 by David Gillaspie
by David Gillaspie
This time of year, a longing for home knocks louder.
If you hear it, go ahead and answer. Your home wants to visit.
Do you think of home as a safe place where you learned how to be yourself? If that’s who you still are, home is never far away.
Even if you tell others your hometown is “a good place to be from,” remember your roots. Make peace with your home, it’s the only one you’ve got. Besides, what makes where you are now any better?
Did you grow up in the rain and now live where it snows? Be thankful you don’t have to shovel the inch and a half of rain one morning accompanied by howling winds. If you do miss the rain, look a picture of clouds and hold a glass of water. You’ll feel the connection.
If you are one of the many not in the family fold at the moment, find a place in your life that feels like hitting the home stretch after being away. You want to get home, you’re close, but not quite there.
Maybe it’s a river, or a bridge crossing a river. Maybe a freeway. It’s something the makes the journey more important.
Growing up in North Bend meant no freeway, but we had Highway 101 and it was enough. The valley had I-5, the big ride from Canada to Mexico. If you don’t drive the big road regularly, it’s as exciting as a roller coaster.
Since every family or school trip from North Bend seemed to include Eugene Oregon, getting back home meant a drive south on the interstate. It went like this:
I-5 past Curtin-Lorane to the Drain exit and Hwy 38. Turn right in Drain on the main road, or take an early right on the backstreet to avoid traffic and show off your local navigation skills.
Cruise through Elkton past Arlene’s on the left. Just outside of town it starts feeling like the road never ends, but you can’t stop.
Cross the Umpqua River past Scottsburg and start the dark drive on the south side of the river. It’s spooky. Now you know the trip has gone too long. Huge rock walls hang over one side of the road with the river on the other; you start feeling one twitch away from being crushed or drowned.
Suddenly the Umpqua flood plain opens up from the claustrophobic miles. If you’re lucky, an elk herd roams the left side of 38, brilliant rhododendrons border the right, with a steep hill in front. It’s a wilderness moment you wish you could share, but you hit the gas for home.
Over the hill and down the back side drops you into Reedsport. Turn left onto Highway 101 towards North Bend and you’re in the home stretch. No matter where you’ve been, you take an easier breath.
If you had to, you could walk from there.
Memories of other drives on 101 start piling up: Winchester Bay on the right where the old man fished on a charter boat named the Impy Poo; Lakeside where you learned to water ski by watching the old man fall so many times he couldn’t walk right; Eel Lake where you sat with a dead deer so the old man could rush to town for a tag.
From there you wait for the North Bend Bridge. It never shows up soon enough. Get that in your sights and every trip seems worth it. The anticipation starts on 101 at Reedsport, half an hour from home, but the bridge makes it real; you feel home.
No matter where you live after North Bend, certain landmarks feel similar, the transitions too familiar. A regular bus commute in Philadelphia from the south side to Center City feels like a ride on the Bangor bus. Take the subway from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn enough and you start timing the landmarks and stops.
The clock is always running and all you want to do is speed it up. The best you can hope for is a half hour from home. Do that and you’ll feel like you’re hitting the 101 turn in Reedsport no matter where you are.
You may not be headed for North Bend every time, but you are headed home.
Every Bulldog should know that feeling.