For instance, a little more than a week ago, Stella! and I headed down to Oregon City with a plan to ride 40 miles roundtrip, but our ride was cut short when a nail pierced Stella!’s tire – 15 miles under our belt, but 5 miles short of Oregon City.
Earlier this week, we headed out again, but I decided we could catch the train and pick up where we left off.
Seems Karma thought that it was cheating to leave out those first 15 miles.
Oregon City was established in 1829 by John McLoughlin of the Hudson Bay Company. In 1845 he paid the Hudson Bay Company $20,000 for the claim, placing the land in his name and building a home. Before biking down to Oregon City, I had read just enough to know that McLoughlin’s house was slated for demolition in 1909, but was saved by a community group, who moved the house from near the falls of the Willamette River to atop the bluff.
I arrived in Oregon City along Main Street down by the river, so to get to the house I would have to get to the top of the bluff. In the city’s early years, residents began to put in stairs that followed trails used by Native Americans. Today, the Grand Staircase is one way to get to the top of the bluff.
The first elevator opened in 1915 and the 89-foot ride could take up to five minutes. The elevator was platted as a vertical street named “Elevator Street,” which is supposedly the only vertical street in North America. A new elevator opened in 1955 and is one of only four outdoor municipal elevators in the world (everything I read keeps mentioning it is one of only four, but I have yet to find anything that mentions where the other three are).
Stella! and I took the elevator to the top and rode just a block or so to the new site of the 1846 McLoughlin House. As I approached the house, I suddenly noticed the familiar arrowhead of the National Park Service. When I read about the house, I hadn’t seen anything mentioning the Park Service. My first reaction was to be pleased. I was a Park Ranger at a historical park for years just after college, and despite the incredibly low pay, we had a crew of highly educated rangers leading our historical tours. It’s a level of quality among National Park Service rangers that I’ve come to expect at each of the natural parks and historic sites I’ve visited across the United States.
My second reaction was panic. I forgot my passport.
The passport is intended as an educational tool that includes maps and lists of the parks, but perhaps most importantly it includes space to have your passport canceled when you visit a park.
When I was a ranger, it was easy to spot the visitors obsessed with getting their passports canceled. As they walked in, they quickly scanned the information center for the stamps before making eye contact. And even then, they’d make a beeline for the stamp. If children forgot their passports, there was no consoling them. The parents would try putting a stamp on a piece of paper that could later be inserted into the passport. The kids, however, would look back at their parents with fury and contempt for even suggesting that a slip of paper could count.
I never appreciated the obsession.
Then, I finally noticed that the house was closed for the day and thought, “Ha! I have to come back anyway.” I’m pretty sure Karma didn’t like that, yet on the ride home I found a place making great milkshakes with fresh strawberries.