Kate here –  The first destination as our Econoline Airstream pulled out from our northeast Portland home pointing toward I-84 east was breakfast in Mosier at 9:30am.  Two of our oldest friends, Mike and Mimi, awaited our arrival with a breakfast of fancy sausage and red-peppered eggs surrounded by toast, juice and coffee.  Their house is a peaceful place by a ravine on the top of a tree and brush covered hill overlooking the Columbia Gorge.  Mosier is the meridian between the wet weather and sun in winter, the turning point between the moist valley and arid high desert at the mouth of eastern Oregon.

Mimi & Mike had prepared special gifts in a basket of energy drinks, a glittery pouch of safety pins, chocolate bars, a tire pressure gauge and a headlamp for seeing in the dark.  Two little folding camp seats tucked into the back of the van, Mike’s find at REI.  All of these items would come in handy in the days ahead.  After our meal we gave them a tour of the van.  Mimi smiled with her brown wool shawl wrapped around her arms like bark on branches and lit the bundle of sage she was holding in her fingers.  She began to smudge the inside of our little house on wheels with a small smile as smoky waves of protection spun and lifted off the tips of the fragrant burning sage.   Fed and nourished, we hugged, soaking in their long and strong friendship to carry in our bones as we climb into our seats and buckled up for the ride ahead.

Driving through the Columbia Gorge is never ordinary.  The Gorge is one of the wonders of the world, a spectacular path between heaven and earth, it’s a place that feels made by and for the gods.  The weather is good.  Steve and I look at each other and grin.  Our eyes are tired with sleep-deprived lines but there is excitement there and the lights are on.  Here we are, no longer in Portland and on our way to greet the next 70 days in transit.  Our friends have given us the send off and we are on our way.  The van climbs to higher ground and the air has a sunny, brisk shine that comes with autumn on a good day.

The first day is a wide-eyed experiment.  We  look at the fuel gauge and hold back the gasp as we realize that this load is going to cost us a pretty penny as we cross the land ahead.  It’s an old van, 1990, but was somebody’s chariot once.  55,000 original miles it has plenty of tread and in some ways has been barely broken in.  Still, it’s from another age.  How can it be that everything in a car has changed that much in 20 short years?  The switch for the windshield wipers is on the dashboard left of the steering wheel.  The high-beams click on and off under the ball of the left foot on the car floor.  Boy, these ARE the good old days, huh?  It’s been a long time since I turned the high beams on that way.  A flash of being a young driver figuring out the feel of power steering comes back to me as I remember driving around in my grandfather’s big Buick.  Back to the front seat, I check out the windows as they go up and down by pressing the automatic button on the door.   That is about as modern as it gets.  There is a tape cassette player radio.  We have lots of tapes back home but not one of them made it to the inside of the van.  The cruise control switch is on the steering wheel and it works!  This will make it easier.

We stop in to visit our friends Greg, Dan & Shirley at Columbia River Music.  We have ten Kala travel tenor ukes to drop off to them.  While we’re there they buy a bunch of Ukalaliens Songbooks for the shop.  Greg and Dan treat us like family and we love visiting them.  They come out to look at the van and marvel over all the gadgets and geegaws that make it what it is.  Airstream didn’t make very many of the 160 conversion model and we felt lucky to have found one.  With its solid oak cabinets and cupboards, the inside feels like a boat.  The couch opens into a comfy bed.  The Wedgewood 4-burner stove and oven invite all kinds of ideas for meals ahead.  The little sitting shower and toilet in the back are a big hit with our visitors.  It’s like a traveling amusement park that makes sense.  This will be some ride.  It tickles the imagination and everybody checking it out is smiling.  Maybe this IS a good idea.  Time will tell where it brings us.

The needle on the gas gauge moves slowly to the left before our watchful eyes.  We started out with two gas tanks for a total of 25 gallons.  We run both through the gas in both tanks by La Grande.  We decide that we’ll switch to the second tank when we’re in a pinch but otherwise we’ll just fill up when the first tank empties.  That way we won’t run dry in the middle of nowhere.  One small piece in the puzzle of our new routine.  First fill up is in La Grande.  Steve gets out from the driver’s seat and checks the tires.  Everything looks good.

The gas receipt is $80.  We say a prayer of thanks out loud for all the people who decided to pitch dollars into our online donation bucket for our tour expenses.  It’s clear that nearly every penny will go to gas to get us east, north, south, west and home again.  THANK YOU donors, friends and patrons!  We do not take your contribution lightly.  If it wasn’t for you, we might have chickened out long before this!  Your contributions not only give us the means to take this trip, it fills the tank of confidence that this is something we should do.  We do it for all of us.  There are a lot of people who are “on the bus” and contributing to this adventure.

This adventure is one that people are joining in all kinds of ways.  It’s humbling to know that this trip to harmonize community has meaning to a lot more folks than the two of us.  We represent a lot of life in Portland as we venture out, two folksingers, to parts unknown with our instruments, songs and open invitation to sing and play.  We hope we’re not too crazy for the world out there.  Making music is a compelling force inside us these days.  It has been ever since we got together all those years ago.  It’s what we do and what we want to share.  It’s medicine music.  It won’t hurt anybody.  Maybe they’ll even like it.  Portland’s used to us as we are.   How we translate outside the comfort of home zone remains to be seen.  As quirky as it may be, the new Ukalaliens Songbook & CD packed up top gives us one more legitimate reason to walk in and start the conversation we’re about to explore with just about anybody anywhere.  The future is bound to hold some interesting conversations and intersections.

Next stop is Pendleton.  It’s dark and we’re hungry.  We see Hambley’s and pull into a parking spot across the street.  We go in and order up a couple of burgers and root beer.  We notice the overhead music is folky, the stuff of singer-songwriters.  It’s nice.  Hambley’s is a cowboy’s dream, filled with mission oak and gorgeous western decor.  It looks like a place that Pa, Adam, Hoss & Little Joe would go for dinner on Hopsing’s night off.  Next year is Pendleton’s 150th birthday.  Visions of the rodeo roundup ahead skirts my minds and I wonder where we’ll be on the calendar by then.  It’d be a sight to see, that rodeo.

Our friendly young waitress turns out to be a transplant from our neighborhood in Portland.  Her homesickness is plain in her expression on her face.   We eat our meal glad to be ambassadors and reminders of the place she came from, the place she loves.  We are smitten with our Portland roots and ties.  It’s an old love affair of more than thirty years.   More than a few miles from home, this night is the first.  We can still feel the proximity of Portland sitting here in the booth with a homesick waitress.  Before long, Portland will be far behind us.

Fed and tired, we climb back into the van and drive up Cabbage Hill on Meacham Pass.  We pull into a rest area at an overlook on top of the pass.  This is a good resting place.  We will wake up to a great view and our first morning coffee on the road.  We did it. We got this far.  We make the bed and tuck under the sheets covered with two good wool blankets.  I wonder if we should have brought three without any idea where another folded blanket would have fit and drift into dreams of cowboys and asphalt.