It’s funny the way things work – we have been hanging out in the ten mile stretch of beach on the south Oregon coast for almost a month now, and we are starting to get visitors, not just Roadtrekers who follow the Facebook group stopping by, but locals who recognize me, and have always been wondering who this guy is.
Astute observers notice that I show up year after year, even though I switched Roadtreks two years ago. They know it’s the same guy because of the satellite dishes. After seeing me moving back and forth for week after week curiosity gets the better of them, and they pull in and strike up a conversation.
About a week ago I talked to one of the local bar owners in Gold Beach. Bob Butterworth. he rides his motorcycle up and down the coastal highway for entertainment, and so had seen me more than most people, and decided to pull in and say hello and ask a few questions. Like most people, it’s the satellite dishes that he’s wondering about. I explained that we haul these around so we can always be connected, and no, we’re not doing research or monitoring the whale migration or work for NOAA or any of the other hypotheses I have entertained over the years.
Bob’s a friendly fellow, and I tell him I like his town. I’m not just being nice: Gold Beach is a great place and has the small scale small town charms that are all to rare in today’s world. They have a local high school of which they are very proud, with a coach who puts together a team from the small pool of local talent and performs well in football and other sports. I had a conversation with the laundromat operator a few years ago, who pointed out that coaching is easy in schools with 2000 kids – you just hold tryouts, send 99% of the kids home, and coach the ones with developed talent. In small towns where you only have a few dozen kids, you develop whatever talent they have. It takes work, but it’s very rewarding work.
There’s always kids running a bake sale or car wash or something at the local grocery store. The funniest thing, though, was when we went into town just at dark on the 4th of July one year, and the single checkout cashier was a very disconsolate high school student, who got the bad schedule and was moping around. All of her friends were out having fun at the fireworks display down at the harbor, and she was stuck at work. I think she had a point – there are only so many summers in your youth, and once they’re gone you realize how special they really were.
I got another visit out here from Fred, who works for the Curry County maintenance department, who was lobbying me to visit Alaska. I told him I hadn’t gone yet. He was born here in Gold Beach, and has returned from Alaska after a dozen years up there. He has fond memories of his time in the great wild north, and may be feeling a little tied down now that he’s back working a job in his old hometown. I told him about fulltiming, and he was very receptive to the idea of being able to go wherever you want.
It’s all a tradeoff – I get to sample these small town communities for a few weeks, and then I’m off to the next one. Sharon grew up in a small town, and when we visit, there are the same people she grew up with. It’s slightly scary to me to be around people who know every single stupid thing you ever did in your whole life, but maybe that’s just me. I like to keep moving.