Monday, June 04, 2007

A Visit to Vernonia, OR

By Alan Burkhart

Vernonia, Oregon sits comfortably in the rocky hills northwest of Portland. My first impression was that it's a quiet and friendly little town, and from all appearances I gather it has a rich history. I delivered a load of transformers today to the local electric cooperative there, and while things went relatively smoothly, the road into the co-op was a bit more adventuresome than usual, as you'll see in the photos below.

I arrived in town before daylight and parked in front of the coop's office. I had been informed previously that someone would take me to the "pole yard" to unload the transformers around 9:00 AM. With a bit of time to kill, I waited until the local businesses began to open, and then struck out on foot in search of a cup of coffee. A local out for her morning jog was glad to point me to a small coffee shop in the next block. The little place was already busy, and the smell of fresh coffee mixed with the soft jazz floating from the hidden speakers almost caused me to be late returning to the truck.

I'd been back in the truck only a few minutes when a co-op employee showed up and I followed him to the pole yard. When the guy turned off SR 47 onto the little gravel driveway, I thought at first he'd taken a wrong turn. The hill was about as nearly straight up as I would want to try in an 18-wheeler. I engaged the "differential lock" (a semi's equivalent of 4-wheel drive) and crawled up the hill. You'll note the images here show me going down the hill, not up. I didn't have the time or inclination to grab the cell phone and take pics on the way in.

In places, I had to hug the left side of the road to the point that the trees were shoving the left mirror out of adjustment. By the time I got to the top, there were small limbs hanging all over the front of the truck. And since the road is cut into a hillside, I had a dirt wall on one side and steep drop-off on the other. I did at least manage to get a couple of pics on the way out.

At the pole yard, there was no dock and no fork lift. The guys used a "boom truck" to reach into the trailer and drag the transformers out, then swing'em around and set them on the ground. This method of unloading is fairly common in both rural areas and job sites, although it had been awhile since I'd unloaded this way.

Vernonia is located on SR 47 about 15 miles north of US Hwy 26, west of Portland. It's a pretty drive from Portland, especially after exiting from 26 onto 47. If you're traveling in the Portland area, I heartily recommend a side trip to Vernonia. Nice folks, nice town (and great coffee).

See you on the road...

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