Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
Wednesday, June 9 2010

location: northeast Portland, Oregon

Today Gretchen and I would driving nearly to the California border (42 degrees North) so we could spend the night in a treehouse in southern Oregon. We were starting in Northern Oregon not far from Washington State, so the drive was going to take something like five hours. Before we left, Ray called to tell us that the landscaping people were calling and wondering why we hadn't paid for the recent job they'd done. Gretchen had assumed they'd send a bill, but the landscaping dude had told me we should go to the office and settle up that way. When I'd told this to Gretchen, she'd dismissed it as a ridiculous way to pay. But evidently that was really how they'd wanted to be paid. At some point in the phone call it became clear that Ray hadn't been continuing Eleanor's course of antibiotics (to fight off infection following her recent mauling). There'd been some sort of miscommunication with Sarah, who had told him that the medications had changed. So we freaked out, thinking perhaps all was lost. But then Ray called our vet, who told him that things would probably be okay so long as he resumed the antibiotics course immediately.
Later Gretchen called the landscapers, and it turned out that the billing was all screwed up. The prices were all different (mostly higher) than originally quoted, and a 10% discount had been mysteriously forgotten. This was proving to be a grand lesson in never arranging expensive work without a contract. Though Gretchen had written down the original prices she'd been quoted, that was the only paper trail she had to work with.

Eventually we hit the road, dropping off Gilley at her workplace on our way south. We'd be spending most of this roadtrip on the southbound lanes of I-5.
As had happened on out last trip to the Pacific Northwest, our rental car came equipped with Sirius Satellite radio. Unlike last time, we managed to branch out a little from stations 7 through 9 (playing music from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s respectively). A few notches higher on the dial were stations playing more interesting subclasses of classic rock. The best of these was channel 16, which played "deep tracks." These were the obscure songs from albums whose singles had been played far too many times on the radio during our youths. I knew this was a good station when I heard "It's Up to You" by the Moody Blues. That is by far my favorite song from the album A Question of Balance, but I've never heard it on the radio. Somehow, though, we suffered from some sort of Led Zeppelin curse on this trip, always changing to a channel in time to catch the last few seconds of "The Ocean." The music up in these channels tended to be a bit too white for Gretchen, so sometimes she'd have to drop down to Channel 7 in hopes of catching some R&B or disco.
The scenery along I-5 would be considered beautiful in most parts of the country. It consists of large farms and occasional tracts of evergreen forest. Interestingly, though Oregon drivers rarely seem to exceed the posted speed limit of 65, I never once saw any form of interstate traffic enforcement. It could be that Oregon is too broke to field state troopers, but if that's the case they're just leaving money on the table, including some of ours.
We stopped in Eugene for lunch, eating at a vegetarian café called the Morning Glory Café, where I had an overly-rich mushroom soup and some sort of sandwich. Gretchen was going crazy over the salad, but it seemed like bunny food to me.
But lunch was only us getting started in our interaction with food in Eugene. Despite threatening rain, we walked some blocks southward to a cart called Cornbread Café, specializing in vegan soul and comfort food. Because we'd be spending the next two days in a treehouse, we'd be needing some food, so we got food to go. I ordered the "fish" and chips, and Gretchen got something involving tofu and corn bread. Next we went to another cart specializing in vegan barbecue to get another armload of takeaway. Both carts seemed busy, with queues of other hungry people forming behind our large orders.
We had no idea how far th e drive was down to the treehouses. We thought once we reached Grant's Pass we would practically be there. But no, we still have another hour of southwestward driving. As we continued in that direction, it was interesting to see the landscape looking more and more provisional, as if this was a hastily-settled frontier instead of a semi-suburbanized slice of America. It's difficult to describe what I mean, but it generally involves a lot of rock piles, exposed dirt, and crude signs attached to trees to indicate the positions of driveways. In some places people would make things out of junk or stone piles instead of supplies from a hardware store. I don't know if I saw it, but the image of a fence made entirely out of old car doors comes to mind. As for the houses, they too were looking increasingly desperate, often consisting of several mobile homes stuck together with scraps of plywood. Some people had scraped together the resources necessary to build actual houses, but these tended to be small and clad in asphalt shingles. In this way, the landscape looked more like Guatemala than a state of the union.
We pulled into a gas station to get some much-needed fuel, and then we walked next door to get some beer (a large 22 ounce bottle of local IPA and a six pack of Mirror Pond Pale Ale for me, and a six pack of Bud Light Lime for Gretchen, who had decided to sit out a very important aspect of the Oregon experience). The women waiting on us in both places were overweight and incredibly unhealthy-looking. We were entering Deliverance country. When I mentioned this to Gretchen, she remembered that Deliverance was one of the movies I'd loaded onto the laptop, and she'd never seen it. So we decided we'd watch that tonight.
Our destination was the Out 'N About Treesort (everything in their literature uses "tree" in place of syllables that contain the long-e sound). Without much going on economically in one of the poorest counties on the west coast, Out 'n About is a powerful economic engine. People queue up for months in hopes of staying in one of Out 'n About's many treehouses, and Michæl Garnier (the guy who started it all with his own technical innovations) continues to build more. At this point, there are a couple dozen treehouses and platforms, some elaborately interconnected with suspension bridges. The main office, though, is a conventional house equipped with an industrial kitchen serving non-vegan breakfasts. It looks positively elfin with its moss-covered roof. There are also horse stables, overweight dogs, and a couple machiavellian chickens on the premises. In the fields and forest above the treesort is an elaborate system of ziplines. More about that tomorrow.
We checked in at the main office, explored a couple of the suspension bridges, took advantage of the WiFi, and then drove to the The Lily Pad, a satellite location where we'd actually be staying. It was a little over a mile away. At some point it dawned on us that the hardscrabble people living in improvised shacks up and down Takilma Road were actually hippies, not rednecks.
At the Lily Pad, we were greeted by Sandy, the woman who runs it as something of a treesort franchise. She only has one treehouse, a structure impaled by a cedar about 25 feet off the ground and connected to the ground by a suspension bridge running to a spot some distance up a steep slope. Out n' About may be lots of cool things, but its system of command and control is not a perfectly-oiled machine. Nobody had bothered to tell Sandy that we are vegans. Initially she didn't even seem to know what a vegan was, wondering if we ate wheat. She sort of freaked out about this news, but then promised to cobble together some serial and soymilk for us. It was a little odd that our being vegan was proving to be such a curveball considering her evident hippieness (and all the oddballs she must encounter working in the Oregon treesort industry). She even asked us if we "smoke tobacco," evidently because it is the one form of "smoking" that is prohibited in the treehouse.
Our treehouse not only had electricity, it also had running water and a flush toilet. I kid you not. The sewage (and other services) ran down the backside of the trunk, hidden in some places behind pieces of bark (though I'm surprised such infrastructure, particularly a large box of circuit breakers, wasn't painted in bark-themed camouflage). Both Gretchen and I needed to use that toilet, if you know what I mean, but the only possible privacy was a thin little curtain one could draw shut. This wasn't the first time on this trip I'd found myself pining for my brownhouse. So I decided to take a walk up the slope and ponder the question, "Does the pope shit in the woods?" Despite the riotous floral diversity of the Siskyou, there weren't a lot of plants suitable for hygienic purposes. So I ended up besmirching a piece of moss.
At some point Gretchen went to explore the grounds, which feature a lovely semi-outdoor shower stall, a large (and seemingly brand-new) pavillion and gas-powered barbecue apparatus. Given all the infrastructure, it seemed that Sandy had plans of adding more treehouses to the Lily Pad.
Meanwhile I went around taking pictures, partly because I might be tempted to build our own treehouse some day. The one we were staying in had been built with Michæl Garnier's patented design. Four heavy steel bolts ("Garnier Limbs") had been inserted in the tree and then heavy pipes had been inserted over the bolts. The far ends of these pipes had been suspended from above using half inch cable, and a platform had been built on top of the pipes. The treehouse had been built on this platform and allowances had been made for the tree to continue growing.
At some point Sandy came out and loaded a net full of vegan breakfast items (including dry cereal and fresh blueberries), and we used a pulley system to raise that net up into our treehouse. She'd also included a fascinating book called Treehouses of the World. I'd be poring over that for the next couple of days.
So then we ate our vegan sandwiches, drank our beers, and watched Deliverance. It was a good thing we weren't hoping to make a romantic night of it after that. The tiny/tinny speakers on the U123 made the dialog a little hard to follow, but it was great to be able to carry around a library of watchable movies in such a small package. None of this would have been possible had we been following the letter of American copyright law.

I-5 south of Oregon.

A heavily forested stretch further south.

We ran into some rain.

Gretchen reminded me I had my camera when this ironic scene materialized in Eugene.

Our treehouse on the inside.

Our treehouse on the outside.

The structure keeping our treehouse up. The use of cables keeps the underside uncluttered.

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