Tag Archives: California

June 1: Too much driving for one day, and it probably won’t be the last time that happens

I really didn’t mean to drive 320 miles today. I’ve been averaging less than 200 a day so far, but, well, California is like Ohio, and I’m not sure I can unpack that enough to make sense for anyone but me. Let’s just say I’ve been having some really weird flashbacks today and let it go at that.

Anyway. They weren’t having guided cave tours at Lava Beds NM today, unfortunately, so I decided to head on out. Basically what I did today was go down the eastern edge of California from the far northeast corner down to Lake Tahoe. I’d had it in my mind that I wanted to visit the northern end of the Gold Country tomorrow, but by the time I reached the turnoff, the idea of going back west just felt seriously wrong, so I didn’t, and came down to Tahoe instead, and found a motel on the north shore.

Tomorrow I escape California and head east into Nevada, on a highway called The Loneliest Road in America <g>. We drove it once when I was a kid, and it really is the shortest route between here and Great Basin National Park, where I plan to spend a couple of days (and go in a cave I know has guided tours).

Anyway, this is some of what I saw today. I think I took maybe six pictures all day, which is also seriously weird.

A scrub jay at my campsite this morning.
A scrub jay at my campsite this morning.
What most of the day looked like.  Pretty, but it got monotonous after a while.
What most of the day looked like. Pretty, but it got monotonous after a while.
Mt. Lassen looming over Lake Almanor.  When I was a teenager, we came here to go fishing.
Mt. Lassen looming over Lake Almanor. When I was a teenager, we came here to go fishing.
A really lousy shot of Lake Tahoe.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.
A really lousy shot of Lake Tahoe. I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Oh, and Merlin now has 2000 miles on his odometer (he had almost 1000 before I left).

The trouble with geography is that you can’t take it with you

I hated the Midwest the entire six years I lived there — and, no, hated is not too strong a word — but now that I’ve been back in the Pacific Northwest for over twenty years, I can admit there are some things that I miss about the landscape there. Spring wildflowers carpeting the ground under the bare-limbed woods. The colors of fall (but not trees after the leaves fall, which then proceed to look dead for the ensuing six months). And the wide-open spaces. I even took a vacation to North Dakota summer before last, and reveled in a sky that looked like it took up more than 180 degrees horizon to horizon.

It’s not that I want to move anywhere else, you understand, but there are aspects of all the places I’ve lived that I wish I could have brought with me.  Well, except for Louisiana, but we left there when I was three and it didn’t make much of an impression.

  • Southern California gave me a need for color all year round.  My father used to prune the roses in our yard there back every January, not because they’d gone dormant, but because if he didn’t, the bushes would grow so tall that the flowers would bloom six feet over our heads, where we couldn’t appreciate them.
  • Colorado showed me what seasons are like.  I still remember my mother waking me up before dawn the first day it snowed in our yard, so that I could see the flakes falling.  And living so close to real mountains is very different from just visiting them from time to time.
  • Northern California isn’t at all like southern California.  Not desert, but fertile farmland.  I’d never been to a place where I could pick my own produce before.  And while neither were in my backyard anymore, both the ocean and real mountains were only a day trip away.
  • The Willamette Valley of Oregon is so, so green and lush.  More fertile farmland, but the mountains wrap around the valley like a hug.  I was back in the land of seasons, too.  They were called About to Rain, Rain, Showers, and Road Construction <wry g>.
  • And then somehow I left that glory and moved to the Midwest, first Indiana then Ohio, which turned out to be a colossal mistake.
  • When I finally escaped back West, I took a job in Montana.  Not the wide-open spaces of eastern Montana, but to a small town in a claustrophobically steep-sided river valley in the far northwest corner of the state.  Evergreens as far as the eye could see.  I wasn’t there long enough to experience a winter, but I suspect claustrophobic wouldn’t have begun to describe it.
  • And then here, in western Washington, where I have volcanoes, an inland sea, an ocean two hours away, and, you’d think, just about anything a person could want.  Except those wide-open spaces and early spring wildflowers.

Go figure.

So, do you have geography from places you’ve lived that you wish you could have brought with you to where you live now?

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 45

Fullerton, California

Monday, July 30, 1973

HOME!!!”  Which is all that my diary says for that day.  And plenty.

Just out of curiosity, I put our itinerary into Google maps’ directions screen, and discovered that in 45 days, we went roughly 7600 miles, not counting side trips or out-and-backs.  That equals roughly 180 miles a day.  Which really doesn’t sound like much, until you think about it being the equivalent of 180 miles every single day for 45 days.

When I was forty years old, I made what I still refer to as my Long Trip (uppercase intentional).  I drove over 14,000 miles by myself in a little under three months.  I went from here near Seattle across the top of the U.S. to Vermont, down the east coast to Florida, then across the South and Southwest to California, where I rolled my car in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  I then managed to make my way to my sister’s home in the Bay Area and flew home from there.  A year ago I blogged that journey day by day.  Like our Alaska trip, this was another journey from which I still date events in my life.  It was one of the best things I ever did.  The really funny thing is, I drove an average of almost exactly 180 miles a day on that trip, too.  And I thought I was being leisurely about it.

I am hoping to make another Long Trip in a year or two, if I can afford the gas and figure out what to do with my two cats for the duration (for my last long trip, the pair I had at the time went to stay with a friend, but I don’t want to impose on her twice).  This time I want to drive across the middle of the U.S. and come back across Canada.  If I do, I hope to blog it in realtime, or as close as I can manage given where and when I can find wifi.

Anyway, for all of you who stuck with me through forty-five days of driving to Alaska and back, I hope you’ll stick around to see where I’m going in the future.

And I hope you will want to check out my novels:

Repeating History is the first of my Yellowstone stories, and is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.  It is about a young man, Chuck McManis, who, by virtue of being in absolutely the wrong place at the wrong time, is flung back in time from 1959 to 1877 in Yellowstone National Park, straight into the middle of an Indian war — the flight of the Nez Perce to Canada, pursued by the U.S. Army — and into his own family’s past.

True Gold  is the second in this series, and picks the story up in the next generation.  It is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  It is the story of Karin Myre, a Norwegian immigrant teenager living in Seattle, who decides to escape a future of too much drudgery and no choices by running off to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897.  Stowing away on one of the many overcrowded ships bound north, she finds herself trapped in the cargo hold with a crowd of second thoughts.  But her rescue from the captain and a fate worse than death by a determined young prospector from Wyoming and his photographer partner is only the beginning of her search for a future of her own making.

The third novel, tentatively titled Finding Home, picks up the story of the widowed father Chuck left behind in Repeating History, his search for his lost son, and what that search reveals to him about his own murky past.  It will be available for purchase in the spring of 2013.

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 44

Stockton, California

Sunday, July 29, 1973

“We drove 512 miles today.  We left around 7 am and drove till 6 pm.  We went through Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, Weed, Redding, Red Bluff, and Sacramento.  I am tired.”

And that was the second-to-last day of our trip, according to my entire diary entry for the day.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 3

 Sunday, June 17, 1973

near Chehalis, Washington

39 years ago we were camped a little over sixty miles from where I live today, having driven 450 miles to get there.  It was cool and rainy, which makes me smile given that the weather, locally nicknamed June gloom or Junuary, was obviously being typical for that time of year.  Summer in western Washington, as the cliché goes, starts on the fifth of July.

We drove over Siskiyou Pass that day, which is a steep, winding climb and descent even on the Interstate, and often closed by snow in the wintertime.  We crossed the Oregon border and came down into the Rogue Valley, and drove past Ashland, home of one of the U.S.’s largest Shakespeare festivals, Medford, and Grants Pass, where my parents later lived for a few years after my dad retired before they, inexplicably from my point of view, moved back to Texas for the last time.  We crossed over the mountains between the Rogue and Willamette valleys, and traversed the entire length of the Willamette Valley.  That’s pronounced Wil-LAM-it, dammit, as the saying goes, as opposed to WILL-a-met, which is how the narrator of the audio version of William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways butchered it.  I wondered after that how many other place names he mispronounced that I simply wasn’t familiar enough with to recognize. 

But I digress.  We drove past Eugene, where I later lived for several years, and down the valley past hop fields and orchards, with the low Coast Range on one side and the Cascade Mountains on the other.  We crossed the Columbia River at Portland, where we had a peekaboo view of Mt. Hood.  The Columbia Gorge, just east of Portland, was where we were in the middle of a camping trip on July 20, 1969, which is why I didn’t see the live footage of Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon.  I heard the landing on the car radio.

It rained on us practically all the way through Oregon and we had a fine view of a rainbow, according to my diary.  My diary also says that we crossed a number of rivers on the highway, some of them multiple times. 

I can still remember what the Chehalis campground looked like that evening with the Douglas firs dripping and the salal all shiny.  It was a quiet campground, I remember that, too.  Both the Delano and Dunsmuir campgrounds were too close to railroad tracks, but not the one near Chehalis. 

Oh, and one other thing.  I don’t know if the year 1973 brings the words “gas crisis” to anyone’s mind, but one thing that slowed us down slightly on this trip was our inability to buy more than 10 gallons of gasoline at any one stop, due to rationing.  Considering that the Chrysler only got about 10 mpg while it was towing the trailer, this was a serious inconvenience.  It did not stop my petroleum engineer father from making this trip he’d planned for years, however, even though I do remember how horrible my parents thought it was that we had to pay almost 60 cents a gallon.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords.

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, Day 2

 Dunsmuir, California

Saturday, June 16, 1973

 Day two was another “let’s see how far we can get” day.  I do find it amusing that I thought I was on I-5, when judging from my comment about going through Fresno it was obvious we were on 99, but that’s just me.  We did rejoin I-5 at Sacramento.

 I have driven and redriven parts of that day’s trip as an adult, especially the section north of Sacramento, and while I didn’t have much to say about it in my diary, I can tell you that there really aren’t many drives as boring as the one lengthwise through the Central Valley of California, no matter which highway you’re on (well, U.S. 49 is pleasant as well as historically interesting — there’s a reason it’s numbered 49, even though that’s out of order geographically — but it’s in the foothills of the Sierras, not the Central Valley). 

 Highway 99, as I remember it, alternates between small towns and extremely flat farmland, with the Sierra Nevada barely visible in the hazy distance off to the east.  The ‘highlight’ between Bakersfield and Sacramento is the city of Fresno.  Well, and the signs saying this way to Yosemite National Park.  Field crops and orchards and farm stands and downtowns with one stop light apiece, mostly, especially back then.  Except for those downtowns, it was a great highway for making time, which we did.  456 miles that day.

 About an hour north of Sacramento, the landscape begins to change.  The northern end of the Sacramento Valley (the northern half of the Central Valley, as opposed to the San Joaquin Valley, which is the southern half’s other name) is roughly U-shaped, and just north of the city of Redding, the highway starts to climb and the last of the palm trees disappear.  Ten years after my trip to Alaska, my first husband and I moved from the Bay Area to Oregon, and managed a flat tire on that first climb out of the valley.  Changing a rear flat on a car with a U-Haul trailer attached in 95 degree wind was not fun, as I recall.

 By the time you get to the small town of Dunsmuir, which was our destination that night, you’re in the mountains, with junipers and pine trees, and canyons and rocky cliffs.  A whole different world.  There is a state park nearby called Castle Crags, which is lovely, but since we had the trailer, we stayed at a private campground in town.   

 And that was the end of our second day.

 True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords