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I awoke at 7am in Ashland and found myself unable to sleep later as planned; there was too much possibility in the air. A few riders were stirring, getting ready to ride up Mount Ashland, an optional ride for those who needed less of a respite on this coveted rest day; the optional ride was a monster, a 5,000 foot climb up to to the local ski resort, with no break in the climb: ouch! More power to those brave cyclists, but this ride was definitely not for me, as other pleasures beckoned.
All the Way, by Robert Shenkkan. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Cycle Oregon had arranged for discounted theatre tickets in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Theatre, and I had purchased a ticket to see a matinee performance of a newly commissioned play entitled All the Way, about Lyndon Johnson’s epochal first 11 months as President, from Kennedy’s assassination to his election in 1964 for another term; the central focus of this period was the passing of the first of the Civil Rights bills. It sounded fascinating to me, as I have felt that Lyndon Johnson was both one of our best Presidents, due precisely to his pivotal role in passing the Civil Rights and social safety net legislation, and one of our worst, due to his dragging us into full on war in Vietnam.
I wandered over to the mess for a leisurely breakfast, and met Chuck, one of the truck drivers who transported our baggage from one city to another. Chuck grew up near Pendleton, Oregon, and worked on ranches and farms as a boy, then became a professional cowboy and part time rodeo rider, specializing in riding bucking broncos. I asked him how he had learned to ride bucking horses, and what life was like as a cowboy, and he said that he loved being a cowboy, but it was difficult to make a living or raise a family doing it. He learned to ride bucking horses the hard way, volunteering to get on the feistiest of the wild mustangs that were periodically rounded up for rodeo use, and being bounced off until he got the hang of it. Eventually, he sustained too many injuries, and stopped the rodeo riding, and left the life of a cowboy to do long distance trucking. He married his sweetheart, and they have been married for 18 years; he said that the best thing that had ever happened to him was to meet his wife and get married, and I heartily endorsed those sentiments regarding my own wife and marriage.
Lithia Park, Ashland. Attrib: Ian Sane, CC BY 2.0.
After breakfast, I dropped my Kindle in my pocket and wandered a couple of miles from the Cycle Oregon camp, situated on the Southern Oregon University campus, down to the town center, where the theaters and the beautiful Lithia Park could be found, along with bookstores, shops and restaurants. I found my way into Lithia Park and walked my way up along Ashland Creek a ways and sat down on a bench under a huge shade tree, next to a duck pond, and settled in to finish reading my Bertrand Russell book, Unpopular Essays, so entitled because Russell was leery of criticism for calling previous essays popular, only to be told that they were too complex to be appreciated by the average reader, so he deliberately eschewed the claim of popularity. Several of the essays were at the highest of Russell’s standards, very clear and logical; several were simply no longer relevant, having been written in the 1950’s and consumed with issues that were then important but are today passÃ©.
Angus Bowmer Theater, Ashland. Attrib: finetooth, CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Play time soon arrived, and I joined the audience in the Bowmer indoor theater for the matinee, and found myself seated beside an older couple who were season ticket holders and had seen 10 of the 11 plays offered for the 2012 season; this play was the last of the group. They said that this theater season was not quite as good as some years past, but they were hoping that this last play would make up for some of the disappointments. The theater filled, the play started, and the audience quieted into rapt attention. As the play came to the end of the first act and was paused for an intermission, the audience rose, including myself, and gave the cast a standing ovation for their first half efforts! This play was so powerful, so well written and performed, that for the first time in my experience a standing ovation greeted the end of the first half of a play! Remarkable! The couple beside me engaged with me in animated conversation for the entirety of the intermission around our mutual regard for this performance. The second half of the play was just as strong; it is the best dramatic play I have seen in years. My theatrical companions agreed, and after rewarding the cast with another standing ovation, we left the theater amidst the excited murmurs of an audience remembering why they come to the theater.
The play ran for three and one half hours, during which Tim and Laurie went on a Volksmarch up and down the length of Lithia Park, after which we met for dinner in a beautiful setting in an Asian restaurant with cafe seating right beside Ashland Creek in the shade of riparian vegetation and within earshot of the murmuring water. The food and conversation was good, and the local ales were thirst-quenching. Tim had recovered sufficiently to be ready to ride the next morning, fortunately, so we parted ways to get some sleep in preparation for the tough ride the next morning.