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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



The MAiZE: it seems like everyone in the city heads to Sauvie Island this time of year to get lost in it. Mud, traffic jams and long lines be dammed, we Portlanders dig the hell out of a corn maze.

I wind up out the island every year or so. Afterwards, my cohorts and I inevitably wind up saying "never again." Still, we return like delusional moths to a holiday-themed flame. Last October I headed out there with friends. After an hour of standing in line for the MAiZE, we had moved only fifty feet. With at least a thousand people and two-thousand feet still standing between us and the entrance, we decided our weekend night would be better spent back in the city pounding pints of Henry's Private Reserve.

I never learn. On Sunday afternoon I found myself again driving west towards Sauvie Island with my parents in tow. Traffic was backed up for a mile on Highway 30 near the bridge and it took 30 minutes just to make it over to the river. In light of the popularity of the MAiZE, several other farms have created their own corn mazes and pumpkin patches. Once over the bridge a series of confusing signs point to "the corn maze" in opposite directions.

We made the mistake taking a left and heading west on the island. Maybe it was serendipity but we wound up passing Kruger's Farm. Much like its more popular neighbor to the north, it too had a pumpkin patch, a maze and a petting zoo. Rather than jump back into traffic, we decided to settle for it. All things considered, this was the right decision. Sure, we had settled for Knott's Berry equivalent but, when it comes to pumpkin patches, they're all pretty much the same. As Linus once pointed out, it's not the size of the patch that counts, it's the "sincerity."

Krueger's patch is located a hundred yards from the parking lot, much closer than the half mile slog that stands between pumpkin hunters and their Hyundais at the MAize. Distance is something to consider when you're faced with the task of hauling two twenty pounds pieces of fruit back to your car. Sure, both farms offer a convenient hayride/tractor shuttle but, as we all know, hayrides are for old ladies and suckas.

Too stubborn and impatient to wait for the tractor, we hiked back after picking out our pumpkins. Completely indifferent to this entire adventure, my father had chosen a small one, making his trek back an easy one. I wound up hauling my mother's pumpkin and my own. Of course, she picked out one that weighed at least twenty pounds. I had wisely picked out a pumpkin the same size with a stem covered in tiny spikes.

I rolled up to the cash register with an expression reading: "Why yes, I did carry these two all the way over here from the pumpkin patch. All by myself, I did, with these scrawny things I call appendages." The lady working the cash register wasn't impressed. I soothed my ego with a Pepsi, which they were selling for a buck in old-style bottles. Who still sells soda in these? Where had the Kruger family found them? An inscription at the bottom explained everything: "bottled in Mexico." As far as I know, I haven't contracted any stomach maladies. I should have bought their entire stock. I'm convinced Pepsi and soda in general tastes better coming from a glass bottle...probably in the same way In and Out somehow tastes better than McDonalds.

We had arrived a eighteen hours late for the hoedown so we hit the corn maze. The Kruger's maze is much smaller than the island's infamous one. Still, instead of losing interest after an hour of hitting dead ends and stomping around in the mud, we made it to the exit in twenty minutes flat. Had we brought a machete with us one year during a trip to the MAiZE, we would have carved our own exit. That second wing is pure sadism.

Corn mazes and pumpkin patches are "fun" in the same sense that cross-country skiing and biking uphill are fun. But heading to Fred Meyer's and buying a pumpkin with a full stem and without mysterious green splotches doesn't come with the same sense of accomplishment. Getting out to Sauvie Island and returning with a pumpkin should be enough to earn someone a badge or at least a gift certificate of some sort, possibly to Applebee's. We came, we conquered a corn maze, we have pumpkins! Carpe diem! Facta, non verba! Also: fac fortia et patere!

Hauling two heavy pumpkins a hundred yards provided my ego with a brief boost. Still, all things, considered, I think I'll opt out of the family's annual to trek to chop down a Christmas tree.

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