Well, my two favorite cities in Oregon were Portland and Ashland. I started out in Portland and ended up a little over a month later in Ashland, which is in southern Oregon.
When Bob and I finished our 32-day hike at Fish Lake, we got a cab to Medford, Oregon, and Bob paid for two rooms in the Holiday Inn Express. The next morning he flew home to Minnesota, and I decided I'd go to Ashland (I didn't want to skip Ashland, if I was already so close, like 15 miles away...) Bob so generously prepaid by phone for me to stay at a Holiday Inn Express in Ashland and gave me some cash, and I set off from Medford by bus. Well, I meant to go by bus. But near the bus stop was a grocery store, and I went in to buy a snack and ask which side of the street the bus will be on. A woman answered me, and as I was walking back to the stop, she was driving out of the parking lot with a man. They stopped and asked if I want a lift. The man said he was driving all the way to Ashland (but that he'll be dropping the woman off and then stopping at home first). I said sure, that's where I need to go, and got in and stuffed my backpack in next to me. The man dropped the woman off somewhere in Medford and then we continued on. We stopped in front of a small house and the man hopped out. "By the way," he said. "That's a loaded gun over there."
Right next to me was a fucking loaded gun.
I wasn't scared, more flattered that he trusted me. I trusted him.
I wondered why the heck he thought he needed to go around with a loaded gun (I did ask him about that afterward. Seemed like he felt he wants to be able to "save the day" and shoot down a crazy gunman if one happens to show up somewhere).
My oh my.
We got to Ashland, the guy let me off RIGHT in the center of town, which was awesome. Downtown Ashland is pretty much three blocks long, with shops and restaurants. Many of the shops are vintage/artsy-craftsy shops, and hippies sat and played music in the main square, which gave the whole downtown a nice atmosphere.
This day and the next day were probably the days I felt F R E E S T on my whole trip. I really felt so wonderful walking the streets alone, being surrounded by friendly people, nice weather, plenty of vegan food, cute shops... This is what I love, really. But most importantly (above the physical surroundings), I was internally free, at that time and space.
And that was good.
From the hotel to downtown and back, twice, I ordered a cab from the same company. And all the drivers were women, and with all of them I had interesting conversations.
Maryann said she's also active, but in something else. She's actively against abortions.
Eventually she asked me if I believe in god, if I believe in a higher spirit. "Well, perhaps," I said. "I'm not religious but I'm spiritual."
With Dana I also had an interesting conversation but I don't remember it anymore. Oh right, she had a dog kennel. And there was D.J., but I don't remember what we talked about.
I told the three of them about the trek.
Maryann couldn't believe.
When I got into the cab with Maryann, I told her last night I drove with Dana, and then she was on the phone with Dana and said "I'm with Miriam... You know, the hiker from Israel!" And then I could hear Dana laughing happily on the other end and Maryann laughing too. They were two sweet women.
Maryann said to me, "I'm gonna remember you for a long time!" When I got out of the cab.
So that was Ashland.