What I Used to Call Unusual

My neighbor's lawn mower saved the day.
Me Mowing the Lawn (Not on rental property, nobody to take it then.)
Me Mowing the Lawn
(Not on rental property, nobody to take it then.)

When I first moved to Oregon I witnessed something so strange that I actually broke into a huge belly laugh. I was driving on the south side of Eugene with my wife in the passenger seat of our car when I saw the most unusual, and to my mind, at the same time dumbest thing I had ever seen. It was late March or the beginning of April as the Spring rainy season was getting under way. As I was driving along enjoying the little bit of scenery visible through the sheets of rain flowing down my windshield and the whipping windshield wipers going back and forth I saw it. Burned into my brain was the sight of a man in his front yard mowing his lawn in the driving rain. I laughed so hard I swerved from the straight line I was  pursuing and made a quick correction. I even commented concerning what kind of an idiot mows his lawn in the rain, not alone in a driving rain storm.

Let’s move ahead about a year later. We found a house to buy and were moving out of the rental house we lived in for our first year in Eugene. As the slow move progressed we were running down to the last days left on our rental agreement. I was raised to leave a rented home in the same condition in which you found it. That meant I needed to mow the lawn to make it look like the day we moved in. Time was quickly running out and just like when I had a paper due in school I didn’t get to it until the last day I had left. The only item of mine left on the property was my lawn mower in the garage. This was the last day left to mow it before I would have to pay another month’s rent to give me the extra time to get it done. I had good weather the week before, but work and other commitments kept me too busy. On this, the very last day left, I started to mow the lawn on an overcast day with the threat of rain.

Since my job was to forecast the weather I knew only too well that the rain was a very short time away. About five minutes into the chore it started to drizzle, five minutes later it was turning to light rain, a short time later I was mowing the lawn in a moderate to heavy rain. It hit me like a bolt of lightning, I was lucky that there weren’t any of them around, I was doing exactly what that “idiot” was doing a year before. Lesson learned. If you can’t get out to mow the lawn in good weather you must mow it when you have the time no matter what the weather or you won’t get it done. Now I get the job done in whatever kind of weather necessary otherwise it will get so deep it will be difficult if not impossible to cut through with my mower.

My neighbor's lawn mower saved the day.
My neighbor’s lawn mower saved the day.

I just have to add another experience which just happened that continues the lawn mowing theme.

After having back surgery a little over a year ago and surgery to implant a neurostimulator to relieve numbness pain in my left leg and right foot (too complicated to go into a detailed explanation) I finally got permission from my doctor to mow my lawn. I knew my lawn mower died as I finished the last mowing last season and I assumed it was due to a bad spark plug. To start this season I took out the spark plug and cleaned it up expecting the machine to work. Wrong. It was a dry day and I was ready. I did get the engine to turn over so I figured it was fine. I quickly drove to the nearest gas station to fill my one gallon gas can. I returned , filled the mowers gas tank, and pulled the starter cord. It would only “putt putt” and not get up to full speed. I then drove to the neighborhood hardware store and thy didn’t have the spark plug I needed. That meant no chance to mow the lawn that day.

The next day, it was raining, I went to the store where I purchased the mower and their parts department had the spark plug I needed. Later in the week, another dry day, I put the new spark plug in after correctly setting the gap on the plug and still only “putt putt”. I gave up assuming the “Lawn Mower gods” were against me. My next door neighbor, Bob, had pity on me and let me use his larger and better self-propelled mower than mine to cut my grass. In the end I am so proud of myself for not letting this get the best of me. My lawn should be able to wait until I get my mower back from the service department of the store where it will be serviced.

Beach at  Driftwood Shores
Beach at Driftwood Shores

Another weather-related revelation was the first time we went to the coast. Growing up in Upstate New York it was understood that when you went to the coast it would be warm, if not hot, and the water would be warm at the beach level and a bit chilly farther out. The idea was to wear less clothing there than back at home.

Our first trek to the Pacific Coast took place in July. We decided to go on a Sunday after church. We came home, changed clothes and had a quick lunch then off we went. It was already quite warm in the Valley and we had the air conditioner in our 1976 Toyota Celica going full blast to keep cool. The drive was pleasant though I didn’t expect to spend so much of the trip on a winding road. We arrived in Florence and got out of the car. To our surprise it was downright cold. The air temperature was about  55 degrees F and it was breezy. Here we were in short sleeve t-shirts with only light wind breaker jackets in the car with us. Despite the much colder temperatures than we expected we headed to the coast and stopped by “Driftwood Shores.”

MosInFlorenceWe were amazed that we could get down to the beach without actually being a paying customer. How were we to know that the beaches of Oregon belong to the people and fences were not allowed to block beach access for the whole length of the state. That’s impressive.

Determined to walk the beach as we had planned we did just that. We shivered and desperately tried to keep the blowing sand out of our eyes and other uncomfortable places. We trudged for 45 minutes taking pictures and video while awash in the view of the beautiful Oregon coast. It was time to go to dinner so we got back into the car and drove to a highly recommended place, Mo’s.

Satiated after a great dinner of clam chowder and bread it was time to return to Eugene. The car’s air-conditioner was on its last legs so we thought it better to not turn it on until we got closer to Eugene when it would really be needed. We never did turn it on. It seems the goose-bumps we developed at the beach lasted for the entire trip despite the fact that it was still very warm when we got home.

"Elephant's Graveyard"
“Elephant’s Graveyard”

I have one more thing that surprised me upon moving to the Eugene-Springfield area. After having grown up through the hippy days of the 60s and 70s I wasn’t shocked seeing a myriad of tie-dyed clothing here. What did catch me unaware was a real blast-from-the-past. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Elephant’s Graveyard” where old elephants go when they are near death. I’ve seen PBS documentaries showing hundreds of elephant skeletons in one graveyard and a very weak and near-death elephant coming there to die. I could not believe how many old Volkswagen busses I saw in my first week here in the winter of 1992.

Volkswagen Busses
Volkswagen Busses

I decided that this must be the “Volkswagen Bus Graveyard” because in my lifetime  I have never seen so many of them in one place. In fact there are more here that I have seen all together in my whole life.

I have decided that Oregon is unlike anywhere else I have ever lived. I have seen more of this state than any other state in my 21 years here, but I still have so much more of it to see that it may take the next 21 years of my life to see all the rest of it.

Suggestions for future column topics are welcome. Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected]

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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