Portland or Bust….Behind the Scenes with Fiola

How about a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into Fiola’s trek to the Great Northwest? 

Twenty-two years has come and gone since I packed up the twenty-four foot U-haul and eleven year-old son for the trek to the Great Northwest. It had taken me much too long to realize how toxic Silicon Valley was for both of us, but was ascribing to the ‘better late than never’ theory of forward motion.

Once in a while you may get mired in doubts about making change – forge forward anyway!

When you have family members who make bad decisions, and you realize that by staying you’re enabling their decisions as well as becoming a victim to those decisions, the hard decision is the best – to say, “To hell with fishing, I’m cutting bait.”

It’s okay to remove yourself from bad situations – it’s not your responsibility to try to fix their issues, especially when they don’t want to have them fixed – only enabled.

The two years previous to the move was spent researching and traveling to find that perfect spot to settle down. For those of you young enough to only know “Googling”, research at that time consisted of frequent visits to the library, subscriptions to newspapers from far away cities, and interviewing people from those areas.

Origin of google: 1998; after mathematical term googol. I still go to the library, and googling something will never replace the experience of actually being there!

When I found a likely candidate, travel was booked. My son and I would land and pretend we lived there. I’d book a hotel in non-touristy areas and we would settle in for several days. I had a blast traveling with Cy!

Interesting places! Tucson, Austin, Corpus Christi, Seattle, Pendleton, Tempe, Phoenix, Paso Robles, Sacramento, Redmond, Spokane, Eugene and last but not least, Roseburg! Whew! Wait! And Portland!

Portland was one of those cities. It fit much of the criteria on my list of must-haves, and even my list of nice-to-haves. What clinched it was a board member of the company I was working at. He heard I was interested in moving and said he could offer me a job for three months.

Lists, gotta love lists: Air quality, lower crime stats, good schools, diversity okay but not the best, affordable to a single mom with no child-support, job for three months, mild weather, only a little rain. Wait! What? Okay, not sure how I missed that the rainy season is from October 29 ½ til July 5th, but oh well.

Having always had a fearless ‘I-can-do-anything streak’ I snatched up the job, made arrangements, packed the truck and put it in gear.

It was an interesting trip! Oh boy, was it interesting. On I5, at the top of the Siskyou’s, and smoke fills the cab of the twenty-four-foot truck. Miraculously, we were just approaching an off-ramp. If you’ve driven that freeway, you know just what a miracle that was. Stepped on the brakes.  Wait! STEPPED ON THE BRAKES. Oh shit! Put my foot to the floor on the brake pedal and the emergency brake. Truck rolled to a stop. Right at the top of the off-ramp. Whew!

This is where dad’s training came in handy – always have rations, something to protect yourself (he may have called them weapons), and blankets or coats or sleeping bags. Okay, I didn’t have the gun, but pretty much the rest.

We’re in the middle of nowhere! Picture this – it is BEFORE mobile or cell phones. I’m looking for change and a pay phone. You know, the kind that Superman used? Finally found one – another miracle – after tramping across a field to a campsite.

Unfortunately, Superman wasn’t using that particular phone booth at the time, so we were on our own.

U-haul arrived a few hours later, fixed the brakes – man, I pictured them not failing until after cresting the rise and rolling DOWN the mountain. Sweat beads on forehead.

Was I nervous driving the rest of the way? Hell yes!

I digress. We get on the road again, six hours later, spend the night in Grant’s Pass, and arrive in Milwaukie, Or-ee-gon mid-day the next day. I pull in front of the cute, nineteen-thirties house I’d rented, looked over at Cy, and said something like, “I didn’t quite think this far ahead. I’m not sure how we’re going to get the heavy pieces out of the truck.”

What? Something was missing from my list?

Yup, I’d moved over seven-hundred miles away where I knew NO ONE except the man I was going to work for, and I didn’t know him well enough to even let him know we’d arrived, much less ask for help unloading.

Another miracle arrived in the form of a neighbor and her fourteen-year-old, very tall and strong son. We were saved!

Sometimes neighbors can be amazing.

And the rest is history – twenty-two years of history! We of course have had our ups and downs – every roller coaster ride does –  but let me tell you – the moral of my story is:




~ Fiola

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