Crater Lake and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I just finished “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – probably the only person to have never read this book.  The characters follow almost the exact same route through Oregon and northern California as we did on our very own “Chautauqua” last summer.  I have always been drawn to Crater Lake – I’m not sure why.  But the following passage from Pirsig’s book has ruined it for me forever.




We arrive at the turnoff to Crater Lake and go up a neat road into the National Park – clean, tidy and preserved.  It really shouldn’t be any other way, but this doesn’t win any prizes for Quality either.  It turns it into a museum.  This is how it was before the white man came – beautiful lava flows, and scrawny trees, and not a beer can anywhere – but now that the white man is here, it looks fake.  Maybe the National Park Service should set just one pile of beer cans in the middle of all that lava and then it would come to life.  The absence of beer cans is distracting.

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At the lake we stop and stretch and mingle affably with the small crowd of tourists holding cameras and children yelling, “Don’t get too close!” and see cars and campers with all different license plates, and see the Crater Lake with a feeling of “Well, there it is,” just as the pictures show.  I watch the other tourists, all of whom seem to have out-of-place looks too.  I have no resentment at all this, just a feeling that it’s all unreal and that the quality of the lake is smothered by the fact that it’s so pointed to.  You point to something as having quality and the Quality tends to go away.  Quality is what you see out of the corner of your eye, and so I look at the lake below but feel the peculiar quality from the chill, almost frigid sunlight behind me, and the almost motionless wind.

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“Why did we come here?” Chris says.

“To see the lake.”

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