Thursday, July 28, 2011

(Day 45) CRCI, SFFC and the Pacific Coast...

It's been a long day... in order to beat the traffic through Portland I left the Shalom Centre at 6AM arriving at Columbia River Correctional Institution (CRCI) at 7:30AM as advised by Chaplain Larry Bowen.

I was greeted at the front gate by a staff member in a control pod who let me into the sally port.  From there I was allowed to enter the yard proper where I exchanged my drivers licence for an ID Tag.  An officer processed me through the metal detector and by this time Larry had arrived.

The tour of CRCI did not take long.  The facility is basically one long hallway (nicely flooded by sunlight) off of which program offices, classrooms and shops and other administrative spaces come on the main floor.  And on the second floor 800 men are housed dormitory style on bunk beds.  Each inmate has a foot locker and may purchase a TV from the canteen.  The TV (6" LCD) is mounted on the end of their bed on a pole and they may watch it by sitting on their bed or lying backwards on the bed.  At one end of the structure is a recreation yard (smaller than the inside yard at Springhill Institution and a sacred space for the Native Americans.  At the other end of the structure is the works shop and the parking lot for institutional vechiles... interestingly enough, most of the passenger cars used by DOC staff are "retired" police cruisers!

Larry popped into the A&O Class (Admission and Orientation) and spoke about the programs, events and activities offered by the Chaplaincy Department and as we do, really tried to just let the men know that he is there for them.

By this time the Chapel clerk had arrived and informed Larry that all was a go back in his office.  Heading toward the Transition Services Wing we saw where the chapel space was being constructed and it is clear that this space is going to add much to the work that Larry and his volunteers are going to be able to do.

Entering Larry's office I was welcomed by Troy (Chapel Clerk), Manuel and Ron, and Larry's wife, Julie who volunteers regularly at the Institution.  Larry invited me to share with the group why I was there and what I was hoping to find out... thus began and long conversation in which I think I talked far too much!

Having said this, I was deeply moved to hear the stories of the three guys and how their faith and the community of faithful folk have supported and encouraged them on their journey.  All of the inmates at CRCI are within 48 months of release.  These three guys are close to freedom... and I don't mean just chronologically!  It was clear to me from my conversation with the three of them that they have each gone deep and come out stronger and wiser as a result of their spiritual growth.  Thanks so much for sharing with me guys!  You have confirmed for me the value of what Chaplains do - dedicating time to building of relationships that provide community where change can be nurtured and supported.

Larry and I continued our conversation after the men returned to their units.  We spent time talking about some of the fiscal challenges we each face and how we creatively respond to those.  We talked of how we maintain connected to our respective faith traditions and how distant that relationship sometimes seems.  And then we made plans for the rest of the day - a drive up into the costal mountains where we would visit the South Fork Forestry Camp (SFFC).

It was decided that I would take my wheels so far, where we would have lunch and then I would ride the rest of the way to the camp with Larry.  He would drop me back and I was going to continue up to the coast so I could travel some of the Pacific Coast via Highway 101.

I'm glad we did it this way.  Following Larry through Portland made my life so much easier.  Late morning and the traffic was insane.  People say it is insane all the time.

Located off of Highway #6 SFFC is a jointly run operation involving Department of Corrections, Fish and Game and Forestry.  Housing 200 inmates the camp is a forest fire fighting outpost.  Each inmate is trained extensively and when they are not fighting fires they are working in a fish hatchery, planting trees or doing maintenance in the camp.  Their day begins at 5AM each day and ends at three and they work Monday through Thursday.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday is set aside for programs, education and family visit.  Many staff live on site because of the remote location.  This place is not for the faint of heart or the out of shape.  These men work hard and take significant pride in the fact that they are giving back to their community.  Larry told me of their involvement during a flood this spring - inmates in a village helping folk save what belongings they could from their homes.  The Mayor of the town wanted to give each of the men a watch... DOC said no to that and instead the town rented a hall and came en masse and threw a party for them!  How's that for good news story!

Driving back towards Portland gave Larry and I more time talk about issues and ideas... but the time ended much too soon!  Larry had a list of things waiting for him back in the office before a long weekend... and well... a twisty winding road beckoned me... thanks so much for taking time to share of your passion, vocation and ideas with me Larry.  The time together and the conversation we shared both on our own and with the inmates you brought together was a real gift.  Perhaps I can return the favour one day!

Rather then take #6 to Tillamook, Larry suggested that I take #26.  This was a better road he said, and I would get to see Cannon Beach.  I'm glad I followed his suggestion!  The road as far as Cannon Beach was in great shape and the curves and views were quite beautiful... except for the constuction and logging trucks!!  I dare say they were working on every bridge over every stream, creek or river that ran anywhere near that road!!

And the clear cutting!! I suppose there is new growth coming forth but there were areas on those costal mountains that I passed by that I wonder if they will ever see trees again - the wind off the coast seemed to sweep everything away!

Arriving at Cannon Beach I saw views that this part of the world is famous for!  The tide was on its way out so the surf was not as high as it might have been... but the smell... salt water, evergreen forest, cedar and camp smoke.... mmmmhhhh!!

Haystack Rock, Arcada Beach, Hug Point State Park... and the traffic started to back up.  By Arch Cape I had almost had enough.  Then I began to sea the ocean again.  At Nehalem Beach I stopped and went for a walk (and forgot the darn camera) thinking the traffic would pass...

It wasn't to be... I almost turned east at Tillamook... but then I reasoned I had travelled most of that road from the other way in... why go back that way?  So I stayed in the long line of traffic and wondered... if it is this bad on a Wednesday... I'm not coming near this part of the world on a Saturday!!!

At Hebo I turned east on #22.  This is rated as one of the best motorcycle roads in the Pacific Northwest!  And it does not disappoint!  Sweepers, tight lefts and rights, off camber turns, more scenery - rivers and streams and mountain views than you can really appreciate... an awesome riding road!!  Must do it again!!

Eventually I hooked up with #18 which brought me to Amity and down past Williamette State Park after I had crossed the Wheatland Ferry.  I must confess: by this point I was disoriented.  I didn't know if I was going east or west... looking at the track after the fact it all makes sense... but sitting waiting for the ferry I thought the GPS was cooked!!  All the little correction roads and roads that turn into new roads but don't really contributed to my confusion.

Arriving in Mt. Angel at 6PM I went directly to the Pizza Restaurant and got a "Butcher Shop" (use your imagination) and brought it back to my room where it went nicely with a Big Horn Blonde and a 17 Pale Ale from Barefoot Wit.

Tomorrow it is back to the "Dome" to learning about the "Home for Good" program.

...on the Sabbath Road...

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