Quit boasting about how great it is to live here
This year rather than New Year's resolutions, I'm voicing my New Year's gripes.
This approach should be better therapy for both me and you, dear reader. And, who knows, unlike resolutions, maybe going this gripe route will actually produce some beneficial results for all of us.
Gripe No. 1: No more boasting
Would you please stop telling everyone how great it is to live here?
And, furthermore, why must we always overlook revealing our dirty little secret?
West Side Rain.
The Bull Run Watershed, located just a few (soggy) Doug fir cone tosses north of us, gets from 80 to 170 inches of rain every year. That's more than 14 feet of rain, honey.
Wouldn't you rather send people over to trendy, scenic Bend where they welcome a mere smattering of 12 inches of rain per year? "Here Comes the Sun" is playing there nearly every doggone day. How absolutely delightful, no?
But, meanwhile, over here beneath our never-ending tide of ominous black clouds, we are eking out our waterlogged existence in a verified dark and dreary rainforest. Pass the darned snorkel, please.
I've lived up on the mountain long enough to remember more than one "summer" when it rained every day in July and most of August. That, my friend, is unimaginably rude. And those distant out-of-staters looking to relocate their families to a brand new Zip code have every right to know this.
So why, when that curious person from Chicago or Schenectady or Orlando or wherever asks what it's like living here, must we always reply: "It's great!"
Our roadways are already way too overcrowded. Driving into Portland used to be a snap. It's now a veritable nightmare, no matter what time of day or which day of the week. Our local Mount Hood National Forest trailheads, which for years and years might host one or two cars — if any — now look like Walmart parking lots.
Enough is enough. Let's not beckon anymore newcomers here.
Starting in 2018, let's ditch that typical chamber of commerce shtick and start to tell the truth: "Here in Clackamas County it rains so much … " you fill in the blank. And you can also remind the person who is thinking about moving here how our constant assault of rain causes our abundance of wild waterways to rise, which threatens road banks, bridges, houses, and even peoples' lives. (Which, of course, is no joking matter.)
And speaking of best kept secrets, let's not forget that all of us living here in this newspaper's coverage area are raising our children in the immediate strike zone of an active — overdue to erupt! — certified volcano.
Don't think it will ever happen here? That's exactly what they thought about Mount Saint Helens. And you know the rest of that sad, catastrophic story.
Gripe No. 2: Traffic lights
I moved up to the mountain in 1974. For the next 10 glorious years, every time I'd be driving back home from Portland, and I'd approach the stoplight that's still there at the intersection of Burnside and Powell Valley Road (right beside the Freddie's), it was always such a relief.
Not only was I heading back to the allure of yonder Cascade Mountains, once I had negotiated that traffic signal on Gresham's eastern edge, I was home free, partner. We all were. The next traffic light was more than 100 miles away, waiting for us over there in faraway Madras.
Oh how I long for those unencumbered pedal to the metal, kick back and relax, nonstop highway travel days.
Now, as you well know, between that same Gresham traffic light and Government Camp there are a total of 10 others disrupting our forward progress, telling us when to stop and when to go. (Seven of those stoplights are in Sandy. But when you're in a real hurry they can sometimes feel more like 700.)
I remember in the early 1980s when we first heard that they were planning to install a traffic signal — think stop light — at the junction of Welches Road and U.S. Highway 26, I got a little nauseated.
At that time, I was living on the Salmon River way down Welches Road.
The thought of Big Brother suddenly telling me when I could and couldn't drive out onto my highway just didn't seem right. Invading our mountain domain with this contraption from the city was infuriating, to say the least. It was one of those terrible "there goes the neighborhood" traumatic, transitional, truly achy moments in life.
But, alas, full confession time. Once that stoplight was erected, it turned out to be a good thing. This conundrum ties back to my previous "gripe" section on our overpopulation. As more and more traffic took to our Highway 26, the more it was necessary to get people to stop so us locals could access our roadway.
Gripe No. 3: Make Rhody a Speed Trap
This one's been percolating inside me for many years. This situation isn't getting any better. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. I hope an Oregon State Police Trooper is reading this.
For the last few decades, I've been receiving my mail via a Rhododendron Post Office box. That means many, many trips up to Rhody and back.
The posted speed limit through our mini mountain hamlet with so many syllables is 40 mph. But tell that to the myriad drivers who like to sprint full-speed-ahead down off Mount Hood's shoulders, endangering everyone in "downtown" Rhododendron. Today, there's really no excuse for this. On the eastern outskirts of Rhody not one but two large traffic speed signs announce: "40 MPH". The second speed limit sign even has one of those electronic readout boards right beside it informing you how darned fast you're going.
How can so many — law breaking — people absolutely ignore these signs?
And, believe you me, the worst culprits are the big tractor-trailer rigs.
Just about every time I pull up in front of the Rhody P.O. onto that not very wide parking apron, squeezed just a couple whiskers away from the always-busy downhill westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 26, I feel like I'm suddenly on the launch pad deck of an aircraft carrier.
As I get out of my vehicle, here comes — only a few precious feet away from me — yet another semi barreling past in a typical blow-your-hat-off thundering wake. It's obvious these jokers aren't going 40 miles per hour. More like 60.
(Right here, let me acknowledge I realize that not all big tractor-trailer drivers are breaking the speed law when traveling down our mountain. And thank goodness for those truckers who are slowing to pull into the Rhody store for a pit stop. One of my best friends is a long-haul trucker who lives in Montana and drives to Oregon every other week. I would hope that while propelling downhill through the wild Cascades off Mount Hood, sensible Charlie would know to obey that 40 mph sign that welcomes everyone back into civilization.)
This potentially lethal circumstance is getting so bad that lately I've taken to waving my arms and yelling "Slow Down!" at these lawbreaking big rig drivers as they blast past. While I'm certainly tempted, I don't make any offensive hand gestures. I'm merely trying my best to get their attention, to snap them out of their runaway speed syndrome.
Maybe in 2018 we can somehow encourage all drivers to obey the law here?
For, should a child or a dog — or anyone — ever make the mistake of darting out in front of one of these huge machines . . .
Like I say, let's hope an Oregon State Police Trooper is reading this. If our officers of the law did frequent radar speed checks in Rhododendron, I have no doubt that they could be writing a bazillion speeding tickets. More loot for our lacking public treasury.
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, before Sandy had traffic lights, our "Gateway to Mount Hood" berg was known all over the Portland metropolitan area as a "speed trap." The skiers, especially, knew that if you forgot to slow down driving back through Sandy, our local police were faithfully there to pull you over.
It worked. This widespread "speed trap" reputation convinced the speeders to slow down through Sandy.
Like I say, I hope an Oregon State Trooper is reading this.
Hey, I almost forgot. Despite all my griping, here's to a happy and prosperous New Year to you, dear reader, and to all your loved ones, too.
Longtime mountain resident and former Sandy Post editor Paul Keller pens his "Beneath Wy'east" column once a month here on the Post's editorial pages.
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