Gold Beach Thanksgiving (Part 5)

The Reverend saw a sign that read: Reedsport Lanes. He looked right and surveyed a cinder block building with two large white bowling pins painted on a wall. He hadn’t bowled since he was a kid. He hadn’t seen a bowling alley in two decades. The Reverend decided it was time to go bowling again because there was nothing better to do and he had all the time in the world, or at least all the time ten grand would finance. After that? Maybe a great notion would come to him when he wore the weird bowling shoes and scored a strike that made that special smacking sound.

An hour later he emerged from Reedsport Lanes into a light rain after bowling a 112 game with no strikes, but no gutter balls, either. He’d consumed a single beer in the tiny lounge and admired all the faded photographs of bowling teams from a half century ago. He’d talked to himself aloud while bowling, but only about bowling, not about Kari. It was good conversation.

The Reverend drove the Navigator out of the parking lot to Highway 101. He turned right, continuing south. He would keep driving in that direction until it got dark and then find a cheap motel. That gave him four hours of light, so he picked up the pace. He wanted to at least walk on the beach before the sun went down.

Passing through Lakeside, the Reverend saw a sign that read: Gold Beach, 93 miles. Gold Beach! It sounded heavenly or at least a reprieve from the hell of a disastrous breakup. He floored it and was fully prepared to lay on the horn in the event some pilled-up granny cruised her Buick Skylark 30 miles under the speed limit.

Heading to Gold Beach, the Reverend drove into Coos Bay and saw two young men passed out in sleeping bags, surrounded by their possessions scattered at the base of a 40-foot high triptych mural of Steve Prefontaine, the legendary long distance runner. On the mural was a quote from Prefontaine: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

In Port Orford, the Reverend saw a young homeless couple pushing grocery carts full of gear on the shoulder of Highway 101. They were followed by their two dogs and a goose.

Near Ophir, the Reverend saw an elderly man sitting on a guardrail. A toy wagon laden with possessions was next to him. He just sat there, staring at the ocean. The Reverend stared at the ocean, too. It was summoning him.

The Reverend saw about a dozen battered RVs in gravel turnouts and waysides. He observed how their occupants had set up living quarters around the rigs.

At one point, he said aloud: what is happening to people in Oregon? He’d never said such a thing before. No sermons on that subject. Were other preachers and priests talking about such matters from the pulpit?