The Swat Team Swarmed Walmart!!!

“Sometimes your whole life could change for being in the wrong place at the wrong time” Santana

State 20: Oregon - November 8, 2017


After spending a day off the road in a hotel to nurse our colds, we were feeling much better and were off to continue on! Today, we drive South, and enter the 20th state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; Oregon: "We Love Dreamers". What an awesome state slogan! While it doesn’t necessary tell me anything specific about Oregon, it speaks volumes about the people whom live in the state. 3 years ago, Lori and I had a crazy dream to quit our jobs, liquidate 99% of our worldly possessions, live in a cargo van and travel the US for a year in search of a new home! Even as we are in the midst of our cross country adventure, we are hard at work dreaming our next dream! We should fit in very nicely with the state's culture. In addition, Oregon is a very progressive, vegetarian friendly, sustainable living state with a temperate year round climate, and a lifetime of beaches, mountains and forests waiting to be explored! Oregon was on our short list as a potential candidate for new home prior to departing on our trip, but the state will have to woo us in person to actually be considered. We can’t wait to see if Oregon will end up being the future home state of these two dreamers! We are dedicating 2 weeks for the exploration of Oregon.

First task of the day was a 55-mile drive South to Salem, OR to first tour the State's Capitol, and then State's Museum. The building we would be visiting is Oregon’s 3rd capitol. The 2nd capitol burned down due to an electrical fire in 1935, and the 1st capitol burned down by an unknown arsonist who felt the capitol should be located elsewhere in the state. The external construction of the capitol building was of Art Deco design, and featured an external marble façade. Flanking the base of the external grand staircase were 2 massive marble sculptures depicting 2 significant events in Oregonian history. One depicted the Lewis and Clark expedition through the area, and the other displayed a covered wagon and pioneers migrating along the Oregon Trail. There was a tall cylinder on top of the capitol but no external rotunda. Perched on top of this cylinder is a 22 ft tall 8.5 ton hollow bronze gold gilded sculpture of a lumberjack known as the Oregon Pioneer. The lumberjack is illuminated at night by flood lights powered by solar panels on top of the capitol building. The solar panels produce 3 times as much energy as needed, and the additional energy is sent back to the power grid. Oregon has the distinction of being the first capitol in the US to have solar panels installed on their roof! Good Job Oregon! We love a green state! Please see the pictures below.

We ascended the external grand staircase, and were happy to find there was no security guards to search us at the door. Upon entering the building, we found ourselves in the central room, surrounded by 2 classes of high school students whom would be joining us on the tour. Soon thereafter, the guide began the tour in the central room, and we discovered one of the classes only spoke Chinese! It was interesting to hear the teacher translate after the tour guide had finished speaking. The first noteworthy point in the central room was a large raised brass medallion depicting the Oregon seal polished to the point where it looked like gold! It's appearance commanded your attention! It was quite the focal point! The seal was surrounded by unsightly portable poles to ensure no one walked on or tripped over it. You know, the type of poles you would find while waiting in line at your local bank. To make matters worse, the banks waiting line poles were connected with red, white, and blue Christmas garland being used commemorate veteran’s day. While it's admirable to celebrate those whom served and sacrificed for our country, the Christmas garland recycled for veteran’s day décor, appeared cheap and detracted from the rooms ambiance. A much more aesthetically pleasing option would be to build a permanent oak guard rail encircling the embossed state seal. Please see the pictures below.

One thing we immediately noticed about this capitol's central room was the lack of illumination. Usually, the apex of the internal rotunda is surrounded with large windows flooding the central rooms with natural light, but the windows on Oregon’s internal rotunda were too small to provide sufficient light. There was a large wall of windows on the front entrance of the building, but even this did not provide enough illumination. What it did create was enough glare to make taking photos a blurry and blinding experience! The apex of rotunda featured 33 stars set against a blue background signifying Oregon being the 33rd state admitted into the Union. The corners of the central room featured 4 murals depicting important scenes in Oregon history. The murals appeared dark, faded and in need of restoration, or it could just be my perception due to the lack of lighting. Perhaps they could have taken some of that extra power from the solar panels on the roof and installed a couple extra lights inside! Please see the pictures below.

We were then led to the House and Senate chambers, and both of which were largely unremarkable with one exception: the carpet! As silly as this is going to sound, the carpets of the House and Senate were my favorite part of the capitol tour! In most capitols, the carpet design usually features whatever was original to the building, or in some instances recurring patterns of the state seal. However, Oregon went in an entirely different direction! The House carpet depicted a recurring pattern of fir trees, and the Senate’s carpet featured bundles of wheat and smiling salmon! Together, the 3 commodities depicted on the carpet celebrate the 3 major natural resources of Oregon’s economy. Please see the pictures below.

After departing the House and Senate Chambers, we were lead into the Governor's Ceremonial Office, which had a fireplace, a podium, a bookcase, a desk and the state seal embedded in the carpet. The entire office was modern with clean lines and had a focus on functionality. The far wall of the office featured the Hall of Governors in a series of photos within a large multi picture frame likely purchased from Walmart. This appears to have been constructed as an afterthought, and was the most poorly executed Hall of Governors we have encountered. Please see the pictures below.

Unfortunately, Oregon does not have a state museum, but is in the process of constructing one. Better late than never I guess, even if it is 175+ years late! However, they did have displays on the first floor of the capitol behind the gift shop, and two of which caught my interest. One was a binder called “what law would you pass?” where visitors were encouraged to write their suggestions. Some of the children’s proposed laws were absolutely adorable. Please see the pictures below.

Oregon is one of only 2 states who do not allow their citizens to pump their own gas, and there was a display offering an explanation why. Passed in 1951, Oregonians were banned from pumping their own gas primarily out of safety, and environmental concerns. However, the law was also aimed to preserve jobs and to aid the elderly and disabled. While we like the aforementioned reasons, it has been a royal pain in the ass getting gas in Oregon! You would think that taking a break from pumping my own gas would be a delight, but you would be mistaken. Not only do I dislike giving my credit card to a total stranger, the lines for gas have been very long. Then they leave the nozzle in and forget about Rosie for a while as they are helping other customers. It has also become an annoying tradition to repetitively sing the “Final Jeopardy Song” (Dee, dee, dee, dee, doop da doop da dum dum dum) while waiting for an attendant to take the nozzle out of Rosie and return it the pump.


After departing the capitol building, we headed to the library for a few hours of computer work, and then began searching for a Walmart to spend the night. Salem, OR has 4 Walmart’s, and the reviews on each were inconclusive. This meant we were flying blind, and had to visit each one to ask for permission. Surprisingly, each of the 4 Walmart’s turned us away! Never before have we been shot down by so many Walmart’s in rapid succession. There is nothing more stressful and annoying than playing go fish with Walmart’s after a long day on the road! After wasting an hour engaging in a Salem witch hunt in search of the elusive friendly Walmart, we decided to try our luck in another town. We departed Salem and drove 37 miles South to a Walmart with favorable reviews in Lebanon, OR.

Walmart’s are usually safe, well lit, and open 24 hours, which is why they are our preferred place to spend the night. However, whether you are sitting on your couch, sitting in your van, or sitting on the toilet, there is always a slim chance of just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. On November 8th, 2017 at 9:30pm, the Walmart in Lebanon, OR was the wrong place for us to be! At 9:30 pm, a local man sent life threatening text messages to several Lebanon Walmart employees, one of which was his ex-girlfriend, and then showed up at the Walmart with a gun! The Walmart was evacuated, the police and SWAT were called, and all exits and entrances to Walmart and the parking lot were sealed off by cops openly displaying the largest guns I had ever seen! The Walmart employees were huddled under a bus stop on the far end of the parking lot to avoid the rain, while police searched for the armed man.

Lucky for us, we wasted an hour driving all over Salem, OR getting turned away from 4 Walmart’s. As a result, we arrived at the Lebanon Walmart at 10:30pm. Instead of 9:30pm when the incident occurred. On an average evening, I am at the customer service desk around 9:30pm asking permission to spend the night, and I may have found myself in a very bad situation! This is the 2nd time we have almost been at the wrong place at the wrong time on our trip. We also had a close call a few months ago in Alexandria, Virginia, which you can read about by clicking HERE! This year long cross country trip consists of infinite unknowns, and required a huge leap of faith! Before departing, one of the things Nate and I prayed for was safe passage on our journey, and clearly our prayers are being heard! Please click HERE to read the news story. With an armed gunman currently on the loose, we decided to leave Lebanon, and drove 38 miles South to Coburg, OR where we found a truck stop to sleep at for the night.

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